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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, July 22, 2016

IndieLondon gleefully checks out the cream of the week’s singles

Agnes Obel, Familiar

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1 – AGNES OBEL: FAMILIAR: With Agnes Obel, you’re always expecting something different and so it proves with new single, Familiar, the first track since her UK breakthrough album Aventine (2013), which yielded the BBC 6Music playlisted singles Dorian, Words Are Dead and title track Aventine. Cinematic, beautiful, occasionally ethereal and sometimes even haunting, this opens amid some stunning piano arrangements and then ushers in the beautiful vocals that have become synonymous with the artist (along with an enticing opening line that asks “can you walk on the water with us?”). The record was recorded, produced and mixed by Obel at Aventine-Neukölln and BrandNewMusic-Studios in Berlin. Its further notable for featuring violin by John Corban and cellos by Kristina Koropecki and Charlotte Danhier. Obel herself provides keys, rhythms and the song’s mesmerising vocals. By altering the tone of her voice in the chorus, Obel is in effect duetting with herself. It’s mesmerising and totally original – for which we can really be thankful. Obel once more marks herself out as one of the most captivating artists of the moment.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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GUTS

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: GUTS feat LORINE CHIA AND TANYA M – REST OF MY LIFE: Ahead of the release of their new album Eternal on July 29, GUTS release the laidback summer breeze of a single that is Rest of My Life. And it’s a doozy. I’ve heard one description state that it’s a sundrenched laid-back soulful electronic-infused slice of chillout with instantly engaging hooks and a colourful feel. And while that’s true, there’s a lot more too it as well. Think Nightmares on Wax mixed with Morcheeba early on, before it diverts into more hip-hop/Jurassic 5 territory, and then re-emerges as the laidback soulful tune it started out as. It’s great just to kick back and listen to on a hot summer’s day, when the beats and female vocals can wash over you like the cool breeze that doesn’t always accompany the heatwave. What’s more, it gets better the more you listen to it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Crown The Empire

CROWN THE EMPIREHOLOGRAM: Following Weight of the World and Zero, rising rock band Crown The Empire now drop the incendiary Hologram as their latest single. A full steam ahead slice of rousing alt-rock, this is reminiscent of bands like You Me At Six and even Linkin Park (thanks to the way they combine goth-rock elements with something still loud but mainstream). The guitars are fiery, the choruses pack a lot of punch and juxtapose the wailing with the singing well, while there’s a sense of the epic and stadium filling throughout. As an antidote to some of the more mainstream pop fare out there at the moment, this kicks ass and provides a killer adrenaline blast. Says Andy Leo, of Crown The Empire: “Hologram could only be written after touring 200+ days a year for half a decade. It’s a self-examination of the people we’ve become and the relationships that we’ve carried through this period of growing up while a part of something more than ourselves.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jesse Mac Cormack

JESSE MAC CORMACKNEVER ENOUGH: Jesse Mac Cormack has unveiled a new track, Never Enough, from his upcoming EP, After The Glow, which is set for release on September 16 via Secret City Records. Drawing from his personal life to inform musical compositions, this track stems from an eruptive argument that took place within Jesse’s band. Hence, it opens with a punchy guitar blast and some edgy riffs, before ushing in the vocals around the minute mark. It sounds deliberately mixed up and enraged, with Mac Cormack himself singing of the anger and frustrations that informed the argument and its aftermath (“why would you put these two together when they’re meant to hate each other?”). And yet, it’s not completely angry. There remains a keen sense of melody and a toe-tapping quality that ensures the track remains easy to listen to, as well as – late on – an electronic element that adds a more rock-pop sheen. It could yet become an anthem for him – although one can only playfully imagine the emotions it stirs when revisited in live form with all band members present and correct!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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James Bay

JAMES BAYCRAVING: James Bay picks up the pace for his latest single offering, Craving, which drops an instantly foot-stomping beat and some rousing guitar riffs. Vocally, there’s a sense of yearning in keeping with the craving the artist is singing about, while the lyrics also tap into that sense of addiction and longing (“I never thought the night could get so lonely, until she called me up”). Bay’s vocals remain as distinct and gruff as ever, yet soar to almost falsetto heights over the chorus, which is shot through with ear-pleasing melodies. It’s an instantly gratifying listen… catchy, barn-storming and the kind of record that looks destined to win this already massive artist even more fans across the globe.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Major Lazer, Cold Water

MAJOR LAZER feat JUSTIN BIEBER AND MO – COLD WATER: Fresh off the back of their headline set at this year’s Lovebox Festival, international superstars Major Lazer – the collaborative project of Diplo, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire – release their new single, Cold Water, featuring the even more heavyweight line-up of Justin Bieber & MØ. Co-written with Ed Sheeran and co-produced by Benny Blanco, this drops toe-tapping beat and a super-charged electronic surge worthy of the Ibiza club scene, with melodic singing segments and wishy-washy romantic sentiments. In truth, it’s a hotch-potch of elements that are designed to appeal to as many people as possible – and it will undoubtedly succeed in becoming one of the biggest records of the summer. But for that reason, it’s hopelessly generic and – while admittedly catchy in that know exactly what you’re getting kind of way – largely forgettable. Speaking on the track, Diplo says: “I had been trying to link with Benny Blanco and Ed Sheeran for years to find the right song we could all work on together and the moment I heard this one, I knew that it was the one. The timing was perfect and when we approached Justin, he was also in love with the song we all had written. I thought it would be interesting to incorporate another vocal and seeing she’s family, I reached out to MØ and we decided to try our best to make something fresh and interesting as Major Lazer.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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John Parry, Love Drunk Punch

JOHN PARRYLOVE DRUNK PUNCH: 19-year-old singer-songwriter John Parry has released his catchy new summer single, Love Drunk Punch, as the follow-up to Enough, which was playlisted by BBC Introducing earlier this year. Boasting a groovy rhythm and lyrics about late nights, heartbreak and alcohol, Love Drunk Punch is designed to capture the essence of [young] summer in one song. Written by Parry and produced in collaboration with former Switches guitarist Oliver Thomas, this is an indie-pop song with a hook that keeps recurring long after the song has finished. Parry’s signature vocals breeze over the fast-paced guitar riffs, which are underpinned by a tight drum beat, and the song climaxes with a galloping, reverbing electric guitar à la The XX. It’s a likeable offering: breezy, observant, cheeky and reminiscent of acts like Jamie T and Jake Bugg. The single is accompanied by a video that features the antics of John and his friends on a weekend trip to Amsterdam. Housed in a luxury home just outside the city, the trio embark on a post-college adventure that leads them to experiment with various substances in the Netherlands capital. The video is a reflection of Parry’s brutally honest songwriting and his easy-going approach to the chaos that often surrounds him.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jamie T

JAMIE T – TINFOIL BOY: Jamie T is set to drop his new album, Trick, on September 2, 2016, and also releases Tinfoil Boy as its first taster. The opening track on the LP, this combines subtle, almost laidback verses with boisterous, punk-inflicted choruses that tap into the confusion and anger inhabiting the lyrics. As ever, it’s designed as a reflection on society and its ills (“it’s time like these I feel tricked into waking up”) and comes accompanied with a typically provocative video. It’s a proper statement of intent from Jamie T – as the album itself was inspired by claustrophobic London Summers. It’s being hailed as a proud, punchy summing-up of all Jamie’s unique signatures – Clash-like anthems, youthful reminiscence, high-speed raps, earworm choruses and snarky humour. If you like Jamie T, this will tick all your boxes. If not, the don’t expect to be converted here. There’s punch, audacity and quite a few elements to like; as well as one or two that might irritate too.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Stone Roses, Beautiful Thing

THE STONE ROSESBEAUTIFUL THING: Yet another new single from The Stone Roses… and yet more debate over whether they’re trading on past glories or enjoying a second coming of genuine quality. It’s actually a bit of both. By not straying too far from their signature sound, the band can be said to be giving the fans what they’ve been craving all these years. But at the same time, they have tweaked the formula to sound a bit more contemporary. It’s whether or not that’s enough to win over new followers that remains to be seen. Beautiful Thing is actually more of a throwback to their heyday than its predecessor, with Ian Brown’s vocals more hazy than ever. The epic length has that Fool’s Gold vibe, while the guitars and drum shuffles are all resolutely from the Madchester era. What is beyond question, however, is the quality of John Squire’s solo guitar moments, which – as ever – provide the standout moments of any Stone Roses track. Here, they’re expertly included to deliver a brilliant reminder of why he’s regarded as one of the world’s best players. The chorus, too, takes on an anthemic quality by the time the track reaches its climax, and is liable to have those arms in the air and fans singing along in giddy abandon. All in all, another successful return then.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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