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

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

The Kills, Heart of a Dog

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: THE KILLSHEART OF A DOG: The Kills have released a second track from their forthcoming album, Ash & Ice (out June 3) in the form of the gritty Heart of a Dog. A sense of brooding pervades the record, with the guitars threatening to explode to life without ever really doing so. Vocally, there’s a similar sense of restraint… the punk vibe remains, as does the punchy delivery, but there’s a bluesy quality too that – again – keeps things bubbling rather than fully coming to life. But the beats have a slick quality that lends the track a hip vibe, while the use of the guitars is admirable – it leaves you craving more, yet strangely satisfied to boot. It’s a mature sound that bodes well for the remainder of the album. Of the video, the band says: “We are very very especially pleased to release our new music video for Heart of A Dog! It was shot all day and into the night in Los Angeles by our dear friend, the tremendous talent, Sophie Muller. We love this video. We love it because it’s fucking fun. Muscle cars and backflips. Palms trees and cacti. Dogs and dice. Neon and sunshine. We hope you love it as much as we do. VROOM VROOM. Love, The Kills.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Meadowlark, Paraffin

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MEADOWLARKSATELLITE/PARAFFIN: Meadowlark – Kate McGill (vocals, keys) and Daniel Broadley (guitar, synths) – describe their new Paraffin EP as ‘an evolution’. Written on piano, the songs were then crafted into grand arrangements – the captivating pop melodies of Kate’s crystalline vocals accompanied by electronic flourishes that combine to form a rich, heady atmosphere. Gradually building the tracks from simple melodies into dense sonic structures was an experimental process through which Meadowlark have firmly found their creative voice. One of the EP highlights is the single Satellite, which expertly showcases the way in which they slow-build the tracks. Early on, there’s subtle piano mixed with Kate’s honey-dew vocals. But gradually, the beats and other electronic elements become layered in, allowing Kate’s vocals to build and soar. There’s a piano solo midway through, boosted by some beats, that also provides a cinematic flourish… something to savour and lay back with to ease the blues away. It’s a masterful record and further evidence of Meadowlark’s burgeoning talent. Lead single Paraffin is just as impressive, opening with a melancholy but hopeful “I won’t lose you to love… I won’t choose to begin” before blossoming into another optimistic, swoon-some offering that offers a tantalising showcase of Kate’s beautifully mesmerising, occasionally ethereal, vocals.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tanita Tikaram

TANITA TIKARAMTHE WAY YOU MOVE: Tanita Tikaram has delivered a deliberately upbeat new single as her latest offering from the album, Closer To The People. The Way You Move offers a breezy distillation of the more jazz and rhythm and blues-facing records that Tikaram has been influenced by on the new LP, pitching her distinctive, smoky vocals against a skittering saxophone solo, sitting atop a lush string section. It invokes a certain Tango spirit (evident in the accompanying video) and almost effortlessly makes you want to swing those hips in unison with it. There’s also a certain amount of sex appeal, not to mention a feel-good vibe that should easily put a smile on your face. It’s a slick, catchy, instantly likeable record. Of the single, Tanita says: “The Way You Move just wants to make you dance and feel happy. There is a lot of sadness in the world at the moment and I wanted to write a song that would make people happy, even for a minute or two, a song that everyone can dance to.”.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Natalie McCool

NATALIE MCCOOLFORTRESS: If Natalie McCool’s debut single was built on a foundation of deliciously dark, gloomy indie-pop, her latest, Fortress is an awakening – emerging from the shadows and rising victoriously. Produced by Rich Turvey (Blossoms, Clean Cut Kit, VITAMIN), the track swells and shimmers, culminating in a jubilant cascading crescendo. McCool’s rich, rousing lead vocals soar across an epic backdrop that’s comprised of slick beat arrangements (particularly late on) and melodic electronic arrangements. It’s every bit the empowering single that McCool has imagined – and one that’s sure to help raise her profile still higher. She says of the track: “For the release of Fortress I really wanted to do something that would embody the song and the message of the song. “Let’s build a fortress” is the strongest line for me and I decided to take this out to fans, to put together a very intimate set of gigs where instead of being on a stage in a venue which can sometimes be quite formal and indirect. I really wanted to be able to see everyone in the audience and be literally at arms length from people who connect through music, to be able to fully engage and have them involved as part of the whole set. The phrase “let’s build a fortress” being everyone in the room altogether, not just watching the show but being a part of the whole process, a real community feeling.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Wilsen

WILSENCENTIPEDE: Wilsen has unveiled a beautifully beguiling new single in the form of Centipede, another of those dreamily slow-building offerings that they seem to specialise in. Early on, it’s just Wilsen’s wistful vocals taking centre stage before the beats and electronic elements slowly become filtered in. By the time the record hits its stride, there’s a dreamy beauty to it, coupled with a sense of melancholy that enables it to beguile. If you’ve previously been a fan of acts like Lamb (especially when you hear the final 20 beat-based seconds) or even early Morcheeba, then there’s something here for you to savour. It’s a song that just keeps getting better and more satisfying the longer it lasts – a perfect kind of record to ease you into a relaxed state of mind.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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August Wells, Here In The Wild

AUGUST WELLSHERE IN THE WILD: August Wells finished 2015 on a high note, supporting Glen Hansard at a sold out show at New York’s legendary Beacon Theatre, before returning to Ireland and Europe at the end of January for a number of dates, including a several sell out shows. Furthering that momentum, they now release Here in the Wild, a thoughtful, piano and string-drenched track that bears the wistful hallmarks of songwriters whose place in a weary world is tempered by the acceptance of some of its fateful twists. Hence, there’s a melancholy undertow to the song (“people like us just don’t exist like before, we’re invisible now…. sweetheart we’re free, here in the wild”. But there’s also a sense of hope too, born out by the string arrangements and occasional blasts of flute. It’s got a country rock meets Elbow meets Noah & The Whale kind of vibe (no mean feat), with even a belated touch of Northern Soul. It makes for an interesting mix… one that confirms August Wells as one of the more interesting acts of the moment. The song itself may be something of an acquired taste, though.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Gruff Rhys

GRUFF RHYS – I LOVE EU: Gruff Rhys’ first release since 2014’s American Interior is described as “a love letter to an idea that crosses international borders”. It puts forward a positive case for staying in the European Union because of the many pros it offers (“I’d never tried pasta or baguettes, I’d never heard the golden call of castanets”). As a result, it’s likely to be divisive given the strength of feeling currently being expressed by the ‘out’ camp. But it was something that Rhys, by his own admission, felt compelled to write: “This song genuinely came to me in a daydream whilst I was trying to tune in my faulty DAB radio. I heard a snippet of news about this badly timed referendum on staying in/leaving the EU and suddenly it hit me hard how much I’d miss it if the UK managed inexplicably to kick itself out. It’s basically just an attempt to make an emotional case for Mother Europe – this flawed, fantastic, potentially Utopian mega-club that I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in.” The song itself displays Rhys’ trademark ability to marry wit with intelligence, even going so far as to acknowledge the flaws in our relationship with the EU. It’s set against a cheesy electronic bed and some easy-going hooks that are undoubtedly designed to give it a Euro pop flavour (not that far removed from something you might here on the Eurovision Song Contest). Heck, there’s even a nod to the French National Anthem right at the very end. But while cheesy instrumentally, it’s worth a listen for the arguments it puts forward.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Formation

FORMATIONPLEASURE: Formation’s growing critical acclaim has since the London-based twins earn an NME Award nomination for Best New Artist together with glowing comparisons to everyone from David Bowie to the Happy Mondays. Now the duo can unveil their brand new track Pleasure, a typically brash offering that continues their ability to make you pay attention without necessarily blowing you completely away. Produced by rising, genre-blurring producer Leon Vynehall, the track is designed to be a raucous cocktail of pulsating bass grooves, punchy synths, live drums and insistent cowbell topped with Will Ritson’s declaration: “We fall in love with the same old lies.” But while it certainly invigorates in terms of its beats, there’s something missing. The changes in tempo do it few favours, while Ritson’s vocals aren’t as punchy as they perhaps need to be at times, even though the chorus does come alive (with the help of those cowbells). Commenting on the inspiration behind the lyrics, Ritson says: “When we’re kids, we’re told that we can be whatever we want to be. But when you grow up you realise that you can’t actually be whatever you want: it’s determined by who you are; society; what skin colour you have; what sex you are. There are so many different things that stop us from achieving what we want to achieve that are beyond our control.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Band of Skulls

BAND OF SKULLSKILLER: Having just announced a run of UK shows in October, Band of Skulls also drop new single Killer ahead of the release of their new album, By Default (out May 27). The track is shot through with lively, spiky guitar riffs that explode to life around the large chorus. Prior to those outbursts, the song opts for a more slower-build approach, with slick bass stabs and brooding vocals. It’s at its best during the chorus, when the band declare “I’m your favourite enemy, I’m the leader of the pack” before catapulting full pelt into the killer chorus. Lead singer Russell Marsden describes the latest album as marking “a new era” for them and is a stand-alone offering that is in no way linked to the original trilogy of LPs. Killer is certainly a potent start that displays plenty of potential.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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