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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 23, 2017

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

Bell X1, The Upswing

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BELL X1 – THE UPSWING: Bell X1 are poised to release their seventh studio album, ARMS, on July 21. It marks the long-awaited follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed Chop Chop, which became their third No.1 album on the Irish Album Charts and their fourth consecutive album to be nominated for a Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year. As a taster, they’ve dropped a new single and accompanying video in the form of the beautifully bittersweet The Upswing. Combining some typically lovely hooks and melodies with a thoughtful vocal, this grows and grows on you with each listen by virtue of its heartfelt intimacy, lyrical honesty and engaging melodicism. Bell X1 have long been one of our favourite bands and this is yet another majestic return. Loaded with typically elegant songwriting and quiet determinism, ARMS is an album that the band freely admit was the hardest one for them to make, and one that singer Paul Noone describes as being about humankind’s desire to seek comfort in the familiar during times of hardship. Its been produced by the band and recorded in Dublin and Donegal by Tommy McLoughlin (from Villagers) and Glenn Keating (from Jape), and mixed by Peter Katis (The National, Jónsi).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kodaline, Brother

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: KODALINEBROTHER: Kodaline return with emotive new single Brother. A piano driven ballad, this is a deeply passionate examination of the ties that bind a brotherhood (“you would be the one to rescue me… and if you were drowned at sea, I’d give you my lungs so you could breathe”). The chorus, in particular, states “I’ve got your brother” and has that warm glow attached to it that genuinely endears. And yet there’s a sorrow underpinning it, too, which hints at an underlying tragedy. Singer Steve Garrigan’s vocals are as passionate as we’ve come to expect, laced with falsetto outbursts, which only heighten the emotion at times. But the pianos are nicely arranged, without being overly dramatic, while the belated beats add a nice backdrop and help the track to blossom late on. For the video, Kodaline have reunited with long-time collaborator, the director Stevie Russell, to create an incredibly moving film. But be warned, you may need a tissue…
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAIM, Want You Back

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: HAIMWANT YOU BACK: HAIM recently released Want You Back as the first official single from their forthcoming album, Something To Tell You, out on July 7 on Polydor Records. Produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, this is a song that’s rich in longing sentiment (“I’ll give you all the love I never gave before you left”), yet equally high on feel-good melodies. The combined vocals create a rousing chorus that’s enhanced by finger-click beats, tight melodies and an insistent guitar hook. And yet, throughout the rest of the song, there’s a sense of melancholy (“I had a fear of forgiveness, I was too proud to say I was wrong”), that is also enhanced by the stripping down of the instrumentals to allow the emotions within the vocals to ring through. It serves as a nice juxtaposition with that lively chorus, thereby instilling a keen sense of hope. The new material has already drawn favourable responses from other music press, with NME declaring that HAIM look set to “storm the summer”. On the evidence of the tracks so far, they could well do that. The video was directed by Jake Schreier (Chance The Rapper, Cashmere Cat) and was shot at dawn in Sherman Oaks, CA. The clip finds Este, Danielle and Alana joyfully strutting down the valley streets they grew up on.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAIM, Little of Your Love

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: HAIMLITTLE OF YOUR LOVE: HAIM continue their hot streak with the release of yet another new track to be taken from their forthcoming Something To Tell You LP in the form of Little Of Your Love. The new song premiered as BBC Radio 1’s Hottest Record earlier this week and has been hailed as utterly infectious. Displaying the same penchant for dropping infectious harmonies that was evident on former single Want You Back, this also changes tack somewhat by upping the pace. There’s a more insistent set of beats, some punchy brass and equally fiery guitar riffs (as well as a rousing closing solo), to offset those gorgeous vocal harmonies. The song has genuine bounce and widespread appeal, managing to sound both vaguely retro and highly contemporary. Based on the evidence of the singles so far released by HAIM, the new album could be something special. And they’re hotter than hot right now, given recent appearances on The Graham Norton Show and Glastonbury.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Howie Payne, The Brightest Star

HOWIE PAYNETHE BRIGHTEST STAR: Former Stands frontman Howie Payne has released a new single in the form of The Brightest Star and impresses. The track bears all the hallmarks of a classic Payne tune with its crystalline guitars, driving backbeat and an insistent melody that shines as bright as the song’s title. It’s just a really nice listen, with one of those central hooks to die for. What’s more, it’s timed perfectly to coincide with the kind of summer day this is made for playing loud on. Speaking about the inspiration behind the song, Howie says: “The Brightest Star was inspired by both a train journey, and a film I saw about Andy Warhol’s Factory. Someone said about Edie Sedgwick ‘Edie was Andy’s brightest star’, or something like that. It’s not about her directly or anything but I liked the phrase and it stuck in my mind.” The accompanying sun-speckled video is also worth checking out. Says Howie: “My wife, Jacqueline Passmore, is a filmmaker, and we were up on Hampstead Heath on a beautiful morning, one of those magical days that feels like first day of summer. I’d just finished recording the The Brightest Star and we were talking about how it might be fun to make a video together for it. As we were talking it just hit us, this is the perfect moment, let’s just film it now and catch it. So we grabbed a guitar and a bit of glass to use as a filter and Jac filmed the whole thing on her iPhone and then she added all the cool colour and superimposition stuff to it that evening.” The Brightest Star is the first taste of Howie’s forthcoming new solo album (TBA for later this year), which follows his Ethan Johns-produced 2009 debut Bright Light Ballads (No.1 on iTunes Singer Songwriter chart).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Daniel Alexander

DANIEL ALEXANDERDOUBLEGLAZEDGAZEDOWN: Multi-disciplinary South-London artist Daniel Alexander unveils his powerful new track DOUBLEGLAZEDGAZEDOWN, out on up and coming visionary French label Maison Ainsi. Throughout the solemn three minutes’ song, the singer-songwriter disassembles the idea of pop music as we know it, building the track’s structure by focusing on the lyrics as if they were “notes from the inside of a damaged machine”, he explains. The output embraces anti-sectional forms that retain very little of the traditional single structure, with influences bending post-rock, IDM and alt-R&B into an internalised 21st-century protest blues. If that sounds way too experimental to be accessible, then it’s credit to Alexander that he pulls it off. Part of this is down to a striking set of melancholy vocals, but also the way he constructs the beats and surrounding sounds supports the vocals rather than detracts from them. Hence, Alexander has created something very ear-catching and highly provocative to boot (as the frequent dropping of an F-bomb chorus attests). It’s designed to get your attention – and it does, in a good way.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Habitats

HABITATSTANGERINE DREAM: Tropical groovesters Habitats are a four-piece indie-pop band from Hampshire. Their new single Tangerine Dream is the second track to be taken from their forthcoming mini-album, entitled 409 (released on September 15), and sees the band take on a slightly different, more psychedelic Tame Impala vibe. That is to say, there’s some gloriously laidback, psychedelic harmonies that are accompanied by some slick guitar riffs and a boy-girl vocal that works well in tandem with each other. The fact that they’re talking about things such as “nostalgic haze” and “day dreamers” only adds to that trippy sensibility, meaning that this is a nice kick-back track to accompany a warm summer evening. As well as that Tame Impala vibe, there’s also something of a Screamadelica era feeling to it, especially in some of the beats and vocals. Put together, that comes as high praise. Habitats still very much relish the idea of not having a specific frontman, with each of them providing enough strong characteristics in the music to be able to swap microphones at will, forming an array of sunshine melodies and vocal harmonies over danceable, catchy beats. Oh, and their lyrics are ‘gathered from daydreams’.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Rhys Lewis, I Know The Feeling

RHYS LEWIS – I KNOW THE FEELING: Rhys Lewis had dropped a highly personal new single in the form of I Know The Feeling – and it’s worth hearing, if only to appreciate the timely message. The track was penned to help a friend that was going through a tough time – and Rhys hopes that the track will resonate with listeners, and help bring men’s mental health awareness to light. He explained: “I think there is a lot of bravado that surrounds being a guy and being macho that stems from a dated idea of what being a man is – brave face, man up, don’t talk about your feelings. But in reality, it takes a great amount of courage and bravery to be honest and vulnerable about how you feel. The pressure to be happy all the time and to be living the perfect life on social media is greater than ever, but I think if men could actually feel more comfortable being open in front of people or a friend, then that can change a lot of things.” Far from being too sentimental or touchy-feely, however, the track itself boasts quite a kick. There’s a stirring guitar riff, a toe-tapping beat and a rock-meets-Northern Soul kind of vibe. It’s highly catchy and both lyrically intelligent and endearing. Speaking about the concept behind the music video, Rhys continued: “I think there is always an element of sadness behind comedy, so the idea of a an with a clown-lie smile painted on his face is a really strong symbol for that. It felt like the right visuals and a powerful protagonist for the story.” Put together, I Know The Feeling is another impressive offering from Lewis.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Desert Planes, Hot Cars In The Sun

DESERT PLANESHOT CARS IN THE SUN: Produced by Rich Turvey (Blossoms, Clean Cut Kid) at Liverpool’s Par Street Studio, Desert Planes’ new single Hot Cars In The Sun is billed as ‘an infectious, hook laden slice of indie rock’. And it’s an apt description. Boasting an Americana vibe that’s part Springsteen, part Killers, the song also retains an indie-rock vibe that’s also very English (and quite possibly Manic Street Preachers-based with a dose of Lloyd Cole). It’s a rousing, driving song that combines some sharp, melodic hooks with a stirring set of vocals and an easy to get behind chorus (“these are the days I remember” is sure to be sung along appreciatively in live form). Speaking about the track, the band explain: “Hot Cars In The Sun came together by experimenting in the studio and jamming out the ideas. We wanted to try and conjure up something with a hint of nostalgia.” The mission seems to have been accomplished. Previously a two-piece, Desert Planes have now expanded to become four, adding guitarist Simon Bloor and bassist Dominik Hayman to the line-up. The London-based outfit have spent much of the past 12 months honing their live craft with shows around the UK, including support slots with the likes of Spector and KYKO. Hot Cars In The Sun has live favourite written all over it, given its anthemic qualities.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Hercules & Love Affair

HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR feat SHARON VAN ETTENOMNION: Hercules & Love Affair have announced the release of their fourth studio album, Omnion, on September 1 – and the title track has been made availale to hear now. The track is described as ‘a childlike dialogue with a higher entity voiced through the filter of a broken adult male’ and features vocals from Sharon Van Etten. The resulting track drops an almost haunted, late night synth sound with some subtle beat arrangements and a highly ethereal vocal from Van Etten, that immediately entrances. It’s a unique kind of sound but one that retains an infectious, hypnotic quality. And as the track gets more and more layered instrumentally, so too does the appreciation for it. It’s a busy, sometimes beautiful, often beguiling listen. Speaking about the track, Hercules main man Andy Butler said: “Sometimes songs are born out of an intense moment that has nothing to do with club music. I’m not just a ‘head’ (read techno-head, house-head, disco-head)… I’m touched just as much by, say, Sinead O’Connor accompanied only by a guitar, singing an intensely spirited message.” This has been proven in compelling fashion.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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