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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, July 14, 2017

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

Jack Johnson, My Mind Is For Sale

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: JACK JOHNSON – MY MIND IS FOR SALE: Don’t be fooled by the gentle beats, and easygoing acoustics, this is Jack Johnson in angry form. New single My Mind Is For Sale is actually an anti-Donald Trump rant that finds Johnson lamenting the thoughts and opinions of the controversial American President. As he states in the chorus: “I don’t care for your paranoid us against them fearful kind of walls, I don’t care for your ‘me first, gimme gimme’ appetite.” It’s an effective put-down, made all the more appealing for the way in which it still manages to maintain Johnson’s laidback vibe. Indeed, the gentle beats and warm acoustics remain intact and are as endearing as ever, giving this a campfire sing-along kind of vibe that will make its clever lyrics resonate even more loudly. The song, which marks a very welcome return for this artist, is taken from Johnson’s forthcoming seventh LP, All the Light Above It Too, which marks his first since 2013’s From Here to Now to You. Johnson recorded the album at his own Mango Tree Studio, playing most of the instruments himself. He says of the record: “This album shares what has been on my mind during the past year or so. A year in which I sailed through the North Atlantic Gyre for a documentary about plastic pollution in the ocean. A year in which Trump was elected as the President of the United States. A year in which I camped, surfed, got stitches, explored, dreamed, shared time and endless conversations with my family and friends … all of which inspired these songs. I usually make sketches of the songs first then set up a time to actually record the album. This time around the original sketches became the final versions. I didn’t want to lose any of the spirit that a song has in its rawest form.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Benjamin Gibbard

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BENJAMIN GIBBARDTHE CONCEPT: Benjamin Gibbard, the frontman for Death Cab For Cutie and The Postal Service, has announced the release of Bandwagonesque, a full-length cover version of Teenage Fanclub’s classic 1991 album. The first offering from that is The Concept, which is delivered in a slower, more mellow version than the original – almost ethereal in places. Gibbard has slowed the pace but retained the tight melodicism, lending even more warmth to the chorus (as well as a bittersweet undertow). He then opens things out a little bit for a big instrumental, which is augmented by some lush vocal harmonies. It’s a lovely re-imagining of an already great track – one that’s respectful of the original, while different enough to be worth checking out. Commenting on his inspiration for covering the LP, Gibbard explained: “Turntable Kitchen approached me last summer about being part of their Sounds Delicious Vinyl series and I was excited about the idea of covering an album in its entirety. Bandwagonesque is my favourite record by my favourite band of all time. It came along at a pivotal time in my musical life and I’ve loved it for over 25 years. It’s been such a blast taking these songs apart to see how they work and then putting them back together again.” Adds Norman Blake, founding member of Teenage Fanclub: “I was thrilled and extremely flattered when I heard that Ben Gibbard had decided to cover Bandwagonesque in its entirety. Needless to say that the reimagining of the album by this very talented fella is both inventive and deftly executed. Thanks Ben.” The result, as you’d expect from an artist of Gibbard’s quality, is beautiful.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alt-J, Deadcrush

ALT-J – DEADCRUSH: Alt-J’s latest offering from their Relaxer LP is the moody Deadcrush. Featuring a moody, hip-hop infused back-beat, some slick bass and a throbbing synth, the track also boasts an edgy set of vocals that eventually ascend to some falsetto highs akin to listening to a Scissor Sisters chorus. These elements combined serve to enhance the ethereal vibe of the track as a whole, given its themes of the undead and crushes. But then the inspiration behind the track is as bold as it is startling: “As we were finishing writing our second album, This Is All Yours, we came up with a quick jam which we luckily captured on one of our phones. This turned into Deadcrush, which is a word we made up to describe someone who is no longer alive that you fancy. Thus the first verse is about Lee Miller, Joe’s deadcrush, the second about Anne Boleyn, Gus’s…”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Coldplay

COLDPLAY & BIG SEANMIRACLES (SOMEONE SPECIAL): Coldplay team up with Big Sean for Miracles, the latest offering from their Kaleidoscope EP, which is out now. Again, it’s a departure from the sound of old, employing soulful electronic loops, finger-click style beats and just the odd guitar jangle. Chris Martin’s vocals are as evocative as ever, building to another of those trademark towering choruses, before stripping things back down. Big Sean eventually drops a trademark rap and this is incorporated well into the overall flow of the song, without losing any of its ryhthm or identity. It’s a nice touch to weave a guitar loop around it. Miracles isn’t, perhaps, as big and anthemic as its name suggests – but it does serve up a consistently empowering vibe that’s sure to go down well in live form. And it’s further evidence of just how impressive Coldplay’s evolution continues to be.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Arcade Fire, Electric Blue

ARCADE FIREELECTRIC BLUE: Electric Blue, the latest offering from Arcade Fire’s forthcoming Everything Now album, boasts yet another change of direction. Featuring Régine Chassagne singing in falsetto over funky drums and huge doses of synthesized bass, this is another of the album’s more frivolous offerings – more in line with the Abba-esque Everything Now than the darker dance tones of Signs of Life. Indeed, the highs of the falsettos boast something in common with the likes of MGMT at times, while tipping another obvious hat to the energy and creativity of experimental artists such as David Bowie. The disco elements, meanwhile, owe more than a passing nod to Arcade Fire’s own Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), which in itself referenced Blondie. It’s more pop than some of their material, and therefore more instantly commercially appealing. But while this may deliver one of the band’s biggest hits to date, complete with genuine crossover potential, the lack of much darkness or grit does place a marker against it. It’s fun but more forgettable than Arcade Fire’s very best work.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Nine Inch Nails, Less Than

NINE INCH NAILSLESS THAN: Nine Inch Nails’ new EP, Add Violence, will be released on July 21. The five-song collection is the second in a series of three related EPs. The first, Not The Actual Events, was released in December of 2016. Add Violence finds the band (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) becoming more accessible and impenetrable at the same time. The sonic palette expands significantly from Not The Actual Events, incorporating elements of beauty into the dark dissonance. The narrative arc linking the three records begins to emerge through the disassociated lyrics and the provocative and clue-filled cover artwork and accompanying physical component. Less Than, the first single, is almost quintessential NIN. There’s serrated synth work, a power chorus in which Reznor’s vocals properly get unleashed in potent form, and some driving, New Order-like basslines. The changes of pace also work to the song’s advantage, breaking things back down whenever they threaten to run away into complete walls of noise. The result is a track that boasts an exhilarating energy at times, coupled with the menace and edginess inherent in NIN’s best work. The fans will be rejoicing.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Wilsen

WILSENFINAL: Brooklyn trio Wilsen have unveiled the stunning music video for Final – a track taken from their recently-released debut album I Go Missing In My Sleep. Released to coincide with the announcement of their first ever North American headline tour this autumn, the video finds the heartbreaking track (written about a friend’s loss) set to a pas de deux choreographed by dancer Yury Yanowsky, who is featured in the video along with Rachele Buriassi. Both have featured in the Boston Ballet. Yury Yanowsky was a principal dancer in the Boston Ballet for over two decades, is on faculty at Harvard, and comes from a long line of dancers (he is the son of Anatol Yanowsky and Carmen Robles from Lyon Opera Ballet, and brother of Royal Ballet Principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky and Dutch National Ballet Soloist Nadia Yanowksy). The song itself is a stripped down, intimate track that finds a fragile set of vocals accompanied by a delicate piece of guitar (and later on, a whistle), as if to bring out the most from the sad lyrics (which reflect that tragic loss). It’s simple but highly effective – and a song made all the more rich for the presence of such a beautifully realised video.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Feist

FEISTCENTURY: Feist has shared the new video for her single Century, featuring a spoken word outro from the intimitable Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp fame). The stormy, brooding track is available on Feist’s new album, Pleasure. Perhaps fittingly, the song has a keen sense of edge to it, with an uncertainty born out of the emotions informing the songwriting. Instrumentally, though, the song has a raw, ragged vibe courtesy of gutsy blasts of guitar that carry a classic PJ Harvey vibe. The closing vocals from Cocker, meanwhile, have a haunted, thoughtful vibe that brings the song to a distinct close. It’s a potent cocktail that whips you into an emotional whirlwind. The Scott Cudmore directed video sees Leslie Feist come up against her doppelgänger for a dance battle which soon descends into choreographed chaos. The clip also features a cameo from Cocker. It’s well worth checking out. Feist’s first album in six years reflects on secrets and shame, loneliness and tenderness, care and fatigue and is at its core a study on self-awareness.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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George Glew

GEORGE GLEWBURY ME: Bristol newcomer George Glew releases his debut single, Bury Me, and immediately showcases a strong set of vocals. Born and raised in South Wales, his childhood love of folk, blues and soul was nurtured by his parents before finding his later love for rock and indie music. Hence, the new offering owes much to rock and blues as it does soul… the guitars have a bluesy undertow, while his striking vocals have a soulful quality that augment the song’s themes of losing one’s way. As the track progresses, the guitar becomes more pronounced, while Glew really lets rip with his vocals, hitting some emotive highs as he recalls the desperation of his situation. It’s an eye-catching offering from an artist who would appear to have a bright future ahead of him. The new single will be followed by the release of one new track every month for the next year and will be supported by George undertaking a monthly residency at The Gallimaufry in Bristol.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lana Del Rey, Summer Bummer

LANA DEL REY feat A$AP ROCKYSUMMER BUMMER: Lana Del Rey has dropped two tracks this week, both featuring A$AP Rocky – the first of which is Summer Bummer, and it’s a deceptive offering. Initially, it sounds as though it’s going to offer up something haunted and stripped back, with just Del Rey’s reflective vocals accompanying some atmospheric piano. But then a more lively back-beat drops and A$AP Rocky unleashes his lyrical flow. It immediately lends the track more urgency and makes it more interesting. Thereafter, the beat remains intact, while the lyrical duties are shared between singer and rapper, providing a nice juxtaposition of styles: one haunted, melancholic; the other more urban and immediate. It’s a decent offering from Del Rey, albeit one that probably won’t win too many more new fans. But there’s a sense of the singer stamping a signature style over proceedings, while still being broad-minded enough to allow some room for play by the presence of A$AP.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Lana Del Rey, Summer Bummer

LANA DEL REY feat A$AP ROCKYGROUPIE LOVE: The second Lana Del Rey/A$AP Rocky offering of the week comes in the form of Groupie Love, another glimpse from the forthcoming Lust For Life LP. Again, the song assumes a laidback, almost trippy quality that balances romance with something more melancholy. The chorus, in which Del Rey drops her “groupie love” refrain, is both soaring and soothing, and almost hypnotic. But it’s a more conventional song than Summer Bummer, with the duet-form of that track dropped in favour of reducing Rocky’s contribution to a third verse guest rap. It nevertheless remains an effective use of Rocky’s vocal prowess and, once again, lends the track some much needed edge as it threatens to run out of steam. It’s perhaps the lesser of the two songs, given that it follows a more recognisable formula as well as retaining Del Rey’s signature sound. But it’s still worth a listen.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Chris Reardon, Spiders

CHRIS REARDONSPIDERS: Chris Reardon released his new single Spiders last month, via his own Strange Comfort Records. Written and produced by Chris, Spiders was recorded in Brixton, and was mastered by Robin Schmidt (Ben Howard, Michael Kiwanuka, The Vaccines). The track is taken form the forthcoming From The Outside In EP – due for release in August. The track represents the sound of Reardon at his most enigmatic, adopting an incredibly vulnerable tone, both lyrically and vocally. In both the writing and recording of the song, Chris pushed himself – channelling an array of influences, and letting the song go where it needed to go without forcing the direction. The guitar has a bluesy quality that’s highly appealing, while the vocals are suitably husky to accompany the tone. It’s stripped back, slow-burning but – if heard while in the right mood – highly effective and affecting. A short film to accompany Spiders is streaming now. The film was made two years ago – Chris explains: “I was waiting till the right song came along before using the film. Spiders is that song. The video echoes some of the songs key themes – a personal journey, a sense of resolution.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, July 7, 2017

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

Liam Gallagher

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LIAM GALLAGHERCHINATOWN: Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher continues to build anticipation for the October 6 release of his debut solo album As You Were by sharing the new lyric video for his latest track, Chinatown. In contrast to the punchy Wall Of Glass, Chinatown is an atmospheric psychedelic slow-burner in which Liam utilises the more tender side of his inimitable vocal stylings. It’s a tender, highly appealing offering that drops a slow, steady acoustic strum, an atmospheric back-beat and some equally atmospheric – but understated – electronics. It also makes sure to showcase the strength of Liam’s vocals, which remain as distinct as ever but quite possibly with a more heartfelt edge here. As a pairing, the two tracks hint at what to expect from As You Were, with Liam adding a modern sheen to his passion for a wide-range of influences from the 60s and 70s. Chinatown was produced and written by Andrew Wyatt, the frontman of the band Miike Snow, whose previous credits include collaborations with the likes of Florence + The Machine. In addition to his work on Chinatown, Wyatt also co-wrote four other tracks on As You Were in the shape of Wall Of Glass, Paper Crown, Come Back To Me and Doesn’t Have To Be That Way.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Reverend & The Makers, Too Tough To Die

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: REVEREND & THE MAKERSTOO TOUGH TO DIE: Too Tough To Die is the first single from Reverend and the Makers’ new album, The Death Of A King – and it’s a fiery statement of intent. Featuring a blistering central guitar riff and a gutsy, swaggering set of vocals, this offers both a throwback to classic indie-rock as well as something fresh and appealing. It’s brash, loud and large, with those aforementioned riffs – some of which take on slide guitar form – getting bigger and bigger the longer it lasts. It’s the kind of track you can well imagine will set the live circuit ablaze. Vocally, it’s equally alive, with all of the band contributing at various points, thereby adopting something anthemic and chant-worthy. The video for Too Tough To Die is an extract from a film shot in Thailand and directed by Shaun James Grant. Following the critical success of previous album/film Mirrors, which saw the band decamping to Jamaica, The Death Of A King follows the band as they arrive in a remote fishing village in Thailand to record and film, however things take an unexpected twist when on the day of arrival the controversial king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, dies. It looks like Reverend & The Makers are about to make an emphatic return.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Coldplay, Aliens

COLDPLAYALIENS: Coldplay continue to illustrate their desire to keep evolving as a band with the release of new single Aliens. Notable for having been produced by Brian Eno, and taken from their forthcoming project, Kaleidoscope EP, this is reliant on an electronic loop, rather than their more trademark guitar sound and – admittedly – takes some getting used to. Indeed, you can tell this is an Eno produced record as the producer’s stamp is all over it, meaning that long-term fans of Coldplay (ie, their Yellow brigade) may have trouble appreciating it fully. But then Aliens is in keeping with their more recent turn towards pop and electronically-enhanced material, which has helped to turn them into an even bigger commercial property than before. It’s distinct, thanks to Chris Martin’s vocals, and it has a catchy quality. But while certainly endearing enough, and sure to court the popular affection, it’s a far cry from their very best material. Hence, while appreciating the band’s desire to keep current and to keep altering their sound, this is something of a bittersweet offering – good but not as great as their best material can be.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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GHOSTPOETFREAKSHOW: Following the announcement of his fourth album Dark Days & Canapés, due to launch on August 18, and the unveiling of the debut track Immigrant Boogie, Ghostpoet – Obaro Ejimiwe – drops new single Freakshow and its accompanying video. Brooding post-punk guitar lines provide the menacing landscape for provocative lyrics that create a typically striking offering from this acclaimed artist. If anything, there’s also traces of artists like Massive Attack here, albeit delivered in Ghostpoet’s own inimitable style. If you’re a fan, then you’ll dig this slice of lyrical and musical darkness. Newcomers may also be lured. The accompanying video is the second in a dystopian series directed by Zhang + Knight. It depicts a nightmarish pre-apocalyptic world, in which pleasure seekers and average humans alike search for relief from their synthetic reality. Shot between China and the UK, the film is another uncomfortably familiar vision of the future, following in the footsteps of the debut single, Immigrant Boogie. Both films exist in a world that feels outrageously inhumane and yet somehow familiar. Explaining his thoughts around the origins of the track Ejimiwe said: “Freakshow is a kind of commentary on modern consumerism – it sums up my general sense of unease in the way we buy our emotions these days, and the unstoppable cash-driven churn we seem to be caught up in as a society.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Soup J5, All Around The World

SOUP J5 – ALL AROUND THE WORLD: Soup J5 came up and found fame as part of the iconic, gold-selling Hip Hop group Jurassic 5. With over 25 years in the music industry, Soup has received gold records for his work on Wu-Tang’s debut album, Enter The Wu: 36 Chambers, and Mobb Deep’s sophomore album, The Infamous. Soup was also responsible for Jurassic 5’s first demo deal with Relativity Records. He is now taking that experience and word play and beginning to release music on a solo level too. His first offering is a blend of the hip hop and swagger that made Jurassic 5 a success, while also incorporating a touch of soul and classic R&B as he builds on his already famous delivery. Hence, All Around The World manages to slide between genres, offering a sluck, urban laced take on contemporary hip-hop eaely on, before then dropping a more soulful, and even pop-styled, chorus that’s augmented by supporting female vocals. It lends the track a greater accessibility, before then returning to the hip-hop elements that you’d more naturally expect from an artist of Soup J5’s background. It’s a decent showcase of this artist’s solo potential, without necessarily reaching the heights that Jurassic 5 are capapble of. All Around The world is a track taken from the EP Still In Fullee Love.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Charlie Straw, Running Through The Rain

CHARLIE STRAWRUNNING THROUGH THE RAIN: Running Through The Rain, the new single from Charlie Straw, follows recent singles All I Know and St. Ives; a DIY release that very quickly amassed over 400,000 streams (+ a top 5 placement on Spotify’s UK viral chart). Taken from his debut EP, The Rain (which was released last month), this is an atmospheric slice of folk-tinged pop that showcases a strong set of vocals and a really emotive set of lyrics. If you can imagine the intensity of Red Rain-era Peter Gabriel mixed with traces of Ed Sheeran and Seth Lakeman, then you’re close to what to expect. Straw, though, also maintains a keen sense of identity of his own and builds the song to some rousing emotional highs, stretching his voice to some impressive highs, while layering in the instrumentals to shimmering effect. Put together with his previous singles, Running Through The Rain showcases the emergence of another impressive new talent.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Fenne Lily, What's New

FENNE LILYWHAT’S GOOD: What’s Good, the new single from Fenne Lily, draws on her own personal experiences. The singer’s exposed vocals naturally reflect the heartbreaking, heart-on-sleeve honesty in her lyrics. Fenne herself explains: “Waiting for an ending hurts, sometimes more than the ending itself. I wrote What’s Good at a time when I was trying to allow myself happiness despite knowing that it would be short-lived. It’s about realising that something you trust in and depend on is coming to an end, and the feelings of helplessness and inadequacy that go hand in hand with this sense of loss.” The ensuing song is set against a subtle acoustic-folk backdrop, with Lily’s vocals almost whispered at times. There’s a fragility at play that fully conveys the sense of heartbreak inherent in the lyrics. It’s understated but achingly, almost beautifully sad. Recorded and produced at the home of Fenne’s friend and professional collaborator, Dave Dixon (aka Tamu Massif), What’s Good follows previous singles Bud and Top To Toe, which have now amassed a staggering 14 million Spotify streams – quite a feat for an unsigned solo artist self releasing her music. Lily has now unveiled her first ever official video to accompany the record. Filmed with Theo Watkins & Jamie Harding of Old Rope Films, the video features Fenne herself and speaking about the visual concept, Fenne has shared: “The idea behind the sportswear aesthetic was to visually reflect the feeling of something one sided. ‘What’s Good’ is about the loneliness of realising you want somebody more than they want you; of playing by someone else’s rules. We wanted the video to articulate that feeling of isolation and powerlessness by playing ‘team’ sports alone.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Oasis, Talk Tonight

OASISTALK TONIGHT: A blast from the past – but a worthwhile one, nonetheless. Brighton based animator Ste McGregor has put together a rather beautiful lyric video to accompany Oasis fan favourite Talk Tonight. Thought-provoking and simple, the animation provides a really nice accompaniment to a great slice of acoustic Oasis. A stripped down track, built around handclap beats and acoustic riffs, this finds Noel Gallagher on singing duties and putting forward lines like “all your dreams were made from strawberry lemonade” and “I want to talk tonight, until the morning light, about how you saved my life”. It’s a reflective, grateful, heartfelt song that still sounds great today (despite having been recorded during the brothers’ heyday). It’s well worth revisiting and checking out this video.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Arrows of Love

ARROWS OF LOVECOME WITH ME: East London art-rockers Arrows Of Love will release their eagerly anticipated second album, PRODUCT, later this year. As a taster, they’ve dropped the new single, Come With Me, which is “a collection of scenarios and themes personal to me,” according to singer Nuha Ruby Ra. “Ghosts from the past, wrestles with mental health, destructive patterns and loss of control. It plays out like a scene from a film noir – the story stems from manic depressive episodes characterised by two people who are really the same person; one in highest control while one is the weakest.” The disjointed nature of the structure certainly echoes the song’s themes, with stop-start, jagged guitar riffs working alongside – and sometimes against – the whispered, almost spoken vocals. There’s traces of PJ Harvey at times, albeit with an art rock sound that gets more and more frantic the longer it lasts. It’s certainly a take notice song. But it’s also one that eventually becomes a little too self-destructive and uncontrolled. The end is a mess.
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 30, 2017

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

Arcade Fire, Signs of Life

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: ARCADE FIRESIGNS OF LIFE: Arcade Fire continue to tease tracks from their forthcoming LP Everything Now with the release of Signs of Life – and continue to impress with another change of styles. If previous single Creature Comfort was all about futuristic disco pop, and its predecessor Everything Now was decidedly Abba-esque, then Signs of Life has a ’70s funk sound. Opening some tremendously slick beats and hand claps, the track then drops a genuinely cool electronic sound that draws on brass and bass, complete with smooth vocals that announce “we’re looking for signs of life every night, but there’s no sign of life, so we do it again”. At times, there’s an element of classic Primal Scream in the vocals, particularly in the use of soulful backing vocals over the chorus, but there’s also that overriding sense of the ’70s and a glam-funk combo that works a treat. A brass breakdown midway through is a classy extra that merely adds to the cool vibe surrounding the track. It’s another hit for Arcade Fire.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Wandering Hearts

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE WANDERING HEARTSWISH I COULD: Folk-Americana group The Wandering Hearts are bursting on to the music scene – signing a major new deal with Decca Records and releasing the new music video for their charming single Wish I Could. Very much mirroring the track’s heartfelt lyrics, the concept for the music video conveys the difficulty of going back to the start and rekindling a relationship once a series of actions have taken place. And while certainly reflective and more than a little melancholic lyrically, the accompanying instrumentals give it a breezy folk-pop kind of vibe, courtesy of some nice acoustic strumming, some slow-building [and eventually rousing] beats and a fine set of boy-girl vocals. The chorus, though, is all about regret, lamenting “I wished I could, but I know I can’t”. It’s anthemic and easily capable of finding a large and appreciative following on both sides of the Atlantic. Band members AJ, Chess, Tim and Tara are all grafters – working hard to hone their skills as musicians, and the standard is there to be seen. The band’s magic is in their live performances. Hearing how naturally their voices blend together, it’s incredible they met almost by chance 18 months ago.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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George Taylor

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: GEORGE TAYLOROPHELIA: London-based singer-songwriter George Taylor has been turning heads with a steady stream of singles released over the last 12 months – his debut release, Give It Up, promptly secured him a publishing deal with Warner Chappell after the track amassed over 2 million streams in just a couple of months. Zane Lowe then went on to premiere the latest Spotify-supported single, I Hear Your Song, Sweetness, on Beats 1. Now, he drops Ophelia, which embraces the same halcyon-spangled pop as his previous releases and continues to impress. Starting out in stripped back form, as if to suggest a thoughtful ballad, this quickly layers in the instrumentals and gains momentum, emerging from a track that’s initially haunting, to something quite expansive and sweeping. Speaking about the track, Taylor said: “Ophelia is a song I wrote after a girl I knew was very sadly sectioned and had to spend some time in hospital, thankfully she has since fully recovered. After visiting the hospital it was something I felt I had to write about as it gave me a much clearer insight on the issues surrounding mental health, and the stigma that comes with it. The name ‘Ophelia’ was inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet.” That sense of epic tragedy is to be found in the lyrics, as well as something quite heartfelt too. It’s a striking new offering from a very promising new talent.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Machinedrum, What Is This

MACHINEDRUM feat ROSIE LOWEWHAT IS THIS: Continuing his reign as the underground’s most consistent and chameleonic music-maker, Machinedrum drops new single What Is This, featuring Rosie Lowe, on Ninja Tune. The track picks up where the Los Angeles producer left off on April’s U Betta, with melodies programmed with razor-sharp precision and percussion snaking in and out quick enough to give you whiplash – but the exercise is decidedly sleeker with Lowe’s vocals in the mix, slicked head to toe in a warm, moody sheen. On the track and his collaboration with Rosie Lowe, Machinedrum said: “Rosie and I originally wrote this tune a few years ago in a London studio. It was originally quite somber and slow moving, a song about learning to trust the ones you love and to let go of jealousy. It also deals with obsession and all the confusing emotions you get when you first fall in love. When I was working on Human Energy I pulled up the vocals from that session and decided to give them new life. We are so happy to finally share this very special song with the world!” The ensuing track boasts a really good energy, with those slick beat arrangements working well against some fine electronic loops and a swooning set of vocals that lend the track a dreamy, late-night vibe. It’s another gem from Machinedrum.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Starsailor

STARSAILORLISTEN TO YOUR HEART: British quartet Starsailor have announced their new album, All This Life, is set for both physical and digital release on September 1 via Cooking Vinyl. The lead track, Listen To Your Heart, is available now as a taster. The stellar opening track from the album, it’s described by lead singer and guitarist James Walsh as ‘an energetic, emotional song’, that aims to get listeners super-hyped for the remainder of the new material. Hence, there’s some rousing guitar riffs, some gritty vocals and a soaring chorus that’s designed to whip the live sets into a frenzy. Oh, and there’s also an undercurrent of piano running through it, as well as sincere [as ever] lyrics that implore you to ‘listen to your heart’ and follow your own dreams. As Starsailor songs go, this one’s pretty decent. It’s an anthemic slice of indie-infused power-pop that finds Walsh elevating his vocals to some suitably inspiring highs. We prefer Starsailor on this kind of form, as opposed to some of their more ponderous slower songs.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lucy Rose

LUCY ROSEMOIRAI (BURBERRY ACOUSTIC): Lucy Rose, in collaboration with Burberry Acoustic, has unveiled a stunning live session video for a new track entitled Moirai. Named after the Greek God of fate, the previously unheard song is taken from Lucy’s forthcoming album, Something’s Changing, which is released on July 7 via Communion Records. Filmed at the iconic St James’ church in Islington, London, with its beautiful natural acoustics, this live version of Moirai showcases Lucy on piano and vocals, backed by a string quartet. It’s another stunning showcase of her intimate songwriting style and her beautiful vocals, which here take on an even greater fragility and vulnerability. The accompanying strings are nicely underplayed, while the sombre piano is also used sparingly, thereby allowing Rose’s vocals to take centre-stage. Commenting on the song, Lucy said: “When I wrote this I was thinking a lot about fate and destiny. Sometimes I feel like I live by ‘oh well, it wasn’t meant to be’ but what happens if it was and it’s just plain unfair that it didn’t? I often think about this when it comes to lost love, ‘the one’ getting away. It happens, wrong time, wrong place and I wanted to write a song about that.” Roll on the new album.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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OneRepublic, Truth To Power

ONEREPUBLICTRUTH TO POWER: Written for the soundtrack to Al Gore’s sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, entitled An Inconvenient Sequel, OneRepublic’s emotive new single Truth To Power is a fittingly sober song that demands to be heard lyrically, as well as instrumentally. Built around a sombre piano, and little more, this boasts lyrics such as: “I could tell you I was fragile, I could tell you I was weak, I could rat you out and leave you, Tell you anything you need,” before arriving at the stark realisation: “I’ve seen truth turn to power.” When that chorus lands, the lyrics adopt a falsetto high and are backed by some subtle gospel singers. It’s moody, thought-provoking and emotionally compelling, befitting the subject matter it has been written for. Whether it can emulate the Oscar-winning success of Melissa Etheridge’s track for the original movie remains to be seen, but in its composition, delivery and effectiveness, this bears all the hallmarks of bands like Coldplay for being able to reach out to the masses and be heard. Says OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder: “I wanted to take a break from writing songs about myself, so I took the point-of-view of mother earth turning the tables on those who’d betray her.” It’s a highly successful approach.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Dusky Grey, Call Me Over

DUSKY GREYCALL ME OVER: They may hail from Wales but pop duo Dusky Grey have adopted a distinctly tropical pop vibe for new single Call Me Over. Described as an effervescent new single, which has also been likened to a cross between AlunaGeorge and Clean Bandit, this has an undoubtedly summery vibe that’s kind of infectious. The chorus is a toe-tapping, head-nodder that is stupidly infectious, while the accompanying verses have a slower-build approach that offers a nice contrast (and some welcome sadness with lines like “I’ve been running from myself, feel like I’ve been someone else”). Speaking about the track, Dusky Grey said: “The song is basically about acknowledging that someone is bad for you and taking the necessary steps to rid yourself of who you feel may be toxic. And with that finding the people who become your support system.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Swimming Tapes

SWIMMING TAPESQUEEN’S PARADE: Produced by Adam Jaffrey (Palace, Gengahr, Leif Erikson), Queen’s Parade, the new song from Swimming Tapes, effortlessly oozes nostalgia with its lyrics about the Queen’s Parade in Bangor (Northern Ireland – where some of the band grew up). It’s best described as dreamy shoe-gaze, courtesy of its guitar riffs, but it also boasts an earworm of a chorus to boot. The guitars, in particular, may be rooted in shoe-gaze territory, but they also boast a summery breeze about them that makes them tailor-made for playing loud on summer days. The vocals maintain the shoe-gaze vibe but come together to form a highly engaging chorus. It’s like listening to J Mascis mixed with classic Stone Roses at times, with an always engaging hook to keep the track in your subconscious once you’ve heard it. Swimming Tapes first made a name for themselves as ones to watch with their debut EP, Souvenirs. They are now limbering up to release their second EP, Soft Sea Blue, on September 15, via Hand In Hive / B3SCI. The accompanying official video to Queen’s Parade oozes nostalgia and was shot in the band’s adoptive hometown of London. It’s a really good summer song.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Kinder

KINDERFEELING GETS TOO HEAVY: London-based Kunder has unveiled his new single, Feeling Gets Too Heavy, marking the first release through his own newly formed label, Lapsang House. The moniker of singer-songwriter Leo Wyatt, Kinder hasn’t wasted any time since last year’s debut EP and the new cut is a welcome reminder of the distinctive falsettoed soul that made Light so well regarded. A large slice of soul-infused pop, the track has a very easygoing vibe that’s perfectly tailored to be played on hot summer’s days, or amid a cool bar scene. It may come as a surprise, therefore, to hear that this head-nodder of a tune [instrumentally] stemmed from ‘a cry for help when stress and anxiety start to take hold of your life’. Wanting to learn and evolve from the sound he’d created for the first EP, the pulse of this new release beats with a newfound intensity, inspired by a sold out live date at The Pickle Factory supporting The Naked Eye. It’s a promising new direction.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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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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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 16, 2017

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

Meadowlark

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MEADOWLARKBODY LOSE: Meadowlark follow-up the official unveiling of the video for the album’s title track, Postcards with new single Body Lose, another gem. Another perfect slice of mellow pop from the boy-girl duo of Kate McGill (on keys and vocals) and Dan Broadley (on guitars and production), this puts the main focus on Kate’s crystalline vocals before swelling into a summery haze. It’s awash with sunny melodies, slick beats and an overall sense of mellowness that has the effect of a cool breeze on a hot day. It’s further evidence of why Meadowlark’s debut album is so keenly anticipated. Body Lose is available for instant download upon pre-ordering digital copies of Postcards. The album brings together some of the duo’s previously released tracks (including Headlights, Eyes Wide, Satellite) alongside new material written during various retreats the pair took around the UK, working from any cottage they could find that had a piano. Free from distractions and loaded up with ideas gathered from observing the world around them, they used such spaces to craft the songs that form Postcards.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Arcade Fire, Creature Comfort

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: ARCADE FIRECREATURE COMFORT: Having come over all Abba-esque with their last single, Everything Now, Arcade Fire now turn to futuristic disco pop with latest offering Creature Comfort – and it’s immediately more instantly satisfying. Built around a humming synth sound that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Blade Runner soundtrack, the track then builds into a bass-heavy crowd-pleaser that drops a huge chorus. There’s background choirs, Talking Head-inspired vocals and several bombastic flourishes that heighten the overall sense of grandeur surrounding the track. And yet, lyrically, there’s a darkness inside that talks of assisted suicides and making people famous. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition of emotion that whisks you on something of a rollercoaster ride – between the highs of the instrumentals and the harmonies, and the lows of the lyrics. It’s a typically complex, yet highly addictive creation from this Montreal-based outfit. But you can’t help but love it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Coldplay

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: COLDPLAYALL I CAN THINK ABOUT IS YOU: Taken from the upcoming Kaleidoscope EP, which is out digitally on July 14 and on CD and vinyl from August 4, All I Can Think About Is You is the new single from British super-group Coldplay. And it’s no small compliment to suggest that it emulates another of Britain’s massive bands, U2, in the way that it slow-builds to something quite emotionally compelling. Without touching the sort of euphoric highs of some of their most famous material, the track nevertheless remains highly effective in taking you on its journey. It’s almost comparable to a track like One in that regard. Early on, Chris Martin’s vocals are hushed, in keeping with the low-key beats and subtle guitar licks of Guy Berryman. But while the track does eventually open out, it’s perhaps not in the way you might be expecting. The guitars continue to be held back, allowing the piano to raise the tempo, along with Martin’s vocals (which become more impassioned). The guitars do eventually weigh in, but they’re backed by more electronics, piano and a brass sounding effect, before the track stops you dead in its tracks. It’s sure to be one of those weighty, anthemic offerings that slowly builds the crowds to a frenzy in live form. But it underlines Coldplay’s ability to deliver the goods slowly and effectively, thereby reaching the highest audience possible.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kasabian, Bless This Acid House

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: KASABIANBLESS THIS ACID HOUSE: Kasabian deliver another cracker of a guitar anthem in the form of Bless This Acid House. A seamless fusion of the band’s own signature style and something befitting early Beatles, this is a real good-time record that captures all that’s great about the indie-guitar scene when it’s on form. The hooks are instantly appealing, the chorus effortlessly crowd-pleasing and the song as a whole as sweeping and swaggering as we’ve come to expect from this band. As further evidence of this, just check out the final moments of the song, as a rousing guitar solo is accompanied by Beatles-esque harmonies, thereby ensuring you depart the song on the highest of highs. It almost goes without saying that this will be one of the new live favourites of their live set. It certainly stands as another instant classic from the new album For Crying Out Loud, which is available now.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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John Smith

JOHN SMITHLIVING IN DISGRACE: John Smith has released a new single, Living In Disgrace, as the latest to be taken from his new album, Headlong, due out June 30 through BARP Records. Produced by Sam Lakeman, mixed by Ruadhri Cushnan (Mumford & Sons, Flo Morrissey, The Maccabees) and featuring Cara Dillon on BVs, Headlong is dedicated to the memory of John Renbourn and follows Great Lakes, John’s widely-applauded and Radio 2-supported release of 2013. Speaking about Living In Disgrace – an homage of sorts to belt-tightening – Smith said: “It’s about me and my wife being skint, living in Liverpool before we got married. And thinking, I’d much rather be skint with her than be by myself.” The song has an acoustic-troubadour kind of vibe that should effortlessly appeal to fans of acts like George Ezra, Ben Howard and Newton Faulkner. The harmonies are tight, the husky voice highly emotive, the chorus melodic and ear-pleasing and the guitar work particularly effective in the way they cascade throughout. Smith has served up a real beauty here.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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George Ezra, Don't Matter Now

GEORGE EZRADON’T MATTER NOW: George Ezra unearths another summer crowd-pleaser in the form of infectious new single Don’t Matter Now. Featuring an almost do-wop style vocal harmony, some sharp stabs of brass and some lively guitar licks, this has an easygoing, laidback charm that invites the listener to put their troubles in the back of their minds for the song’s duration (something the world probably needs to be able to do right now). It may even encourage them to toe-tap and hum along at the same time, thanks to the sing-along nature of the anthemic chorus. Ezra also manages to conjure up the spirit of similarly laidback summer tunes such as Bruno Mars I don’t feel like doing anything standard-bearer, or the beach-front acoustic style of Jack Johnson, therefore creating something that is timeless and genre-defying. It’s the kind of track that should bring a wide and appreciative following.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Imagine Dragons, Walking The Wire

IMAGINE DRAGONSWALKING THE WIRE: Imagine Dragons continue their march towards anthemic act of the year status with new single Walking The Wire. Using the same kind of chant-worthy formula as former single Thunder (in that it delivers the type of chorus that’s effortlessly easy to sing along with), they’ve also rediscovered the knack for dropping an impossibly catchy melodic hook too. Hence, while you know there’s something cheesy about listening on appreciatively, or singing along at the top of your voice, there’s equally something unapologetically inspiring about being swept along by it. The guitars are big and brash towards the end, too, having been held back early on, while each individual chorus grows and grows in stature with more beats being layered in. It’s another pleasing headrush of a single that underlines how Imagine Dragons’ decision to turn more mainstream has really worked out for them.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Nikhil D'Souza, Beautiful Mind

NIKHIL D’SOUZABEAUTIFUL MIND: Here’s another song for the acoustic pop crowd… those who get their musical kicks from the likes of ballad-driven Ed Sheeran, acoustic pop Newton Faulkner and, yes, the aforementioned George Ezra. Recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles with producers Jamie Hartman (Rag n Bone Man) and Jeff Cohen (Macy Gray, Josh Groban), Nikhil D’Souza’s Beautiful Mind builds in emotive power from its stripped-back introduction into a crescendo of soaring vocals and sweeping strings. But crucially, it doesn’t overplay things. The acoustics are disarmingly simple early on, in keeping with the similarly affecting vocals, before the strings are intricately realised and used in a fashion that doesn’t detract from the subtle beauty of the rest of the song. As with former single Still in Love, D’Souza exhibits a sharp ability to express a maelstrom of emotion, from passion and yearning to love and sorrow. According to D’Souza himself, the song is about a complicated situation in which you want to be with someone, but she’s a close friend of yours. Who knows, maybe this song will swing the deal?
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Fickle Friends, Glue

FICKLE FRIENDSGLUE: Fickle Friends return with Glue – their biggest and boldest statement to date. Led by striking frontwoman Natti Shiner, Fickle Friends have spent the last 18 months releasing a string of popular singles, including Swim, Brooklyn and the most recent Radio 1 playlisted Hello Hello. Glue continues that momentum by serving up an unashamedly feel-good, sun-drenched synth-pop tribute to that person you’re inescapably stuck to. It’s loaded with easy-going harmonies, some ’80s leaning synth hooks and euphoric sing-along moments that declare “I want to love you, I want to love you”. Introducing the track Natti said: “After signing we ended up doing a bunch of obligatory writing sessions and nothing came from them… the more we got asked to do them, the more frustrated we became. In the end we were like, ‘Gah, we can write our own pop tune”. So, the day after another fruitless writing session we literally wrote and produced ‘Glue’ in one afternoon in Jack’s bedroom. I imagined the times I’ve been out (and inebriated) and thinking that I’ve fallen in love with someone after only 5 minutes of talking to them at the bar…so I wrote a song about it.” Mission accomplished in breezy style.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 9, 2017

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

Bonobo

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BONOBOSAMURAI: Having just completed immensely successful tours in Europe and North America in support of his latest acclaimed record Migration, Bonobo has announced a new three-song EP, out digitally now, featuring an analog version of Migration favourite Bambro Koyo Ganda, which heavily features Moroccan by-way-of New York City band Innov Gnawa, and the completely new song Samurai. The latter offering is an ecstatic track that was conceived in the same sessions that produced Migration, anchored by a stuttering vocal sample that unspools into a glorious melodic line in classic Bonobo style. It opens with a really insistent electronic hook, built around that stuttering vocal sample, before dropping equally slick beats and some typically cinematic electronics. It’s classic Bonobo – original, thoughtful and beautiful. Yet, it also has a greater immediacy than some of his more mellow offerings… meaning this surges into your subconscious and gets those toes tapping along in giddy appreciation.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Royal Blood

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: ROYAL BLOOD – I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU: Royal Blood continue to build anticipation towards the June 16 release of their eagerly-anticipated second album How Did We Get So Dark? by sharing the heavy new track I Only Lie When I Love You. Available as an instant grat track for fans who pre-order the album, it’s the third song to preview the album after the thunderous Lights Out and Hook, Line & Sinker. Produced by Jolyon Thomas and Royal Blood, the duo’s patented two-man artillery of carefully constructed melodic aggression powers, I Only Lie When I Love You presents a compelling cowbell-assisted reminder of the power of a stop-start riff and a strident chorus. Its immediacy is heightened by the band’s harmony vocals, which add a fresh element to Royal Blood’s sonic palette. Hence, while retaining the heaviness synonymous with them (and what fans crave), there’s also plenty of catchy hooks to broaden their appeal beyond the heavy rock crowd. Indeed, there’s an anthemic chorus (tailor-made for singing along in unison), as well as that kick-ass cowbell and some really adrenaline-infused stop-start power riffs. Royal Blood’s new album could really be a rock monster.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Meadowlark, Postcards

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: MEADOWLARKPOSTCARDS: Meadowlark have finally unveiled the accompanying video to their stunning single Postcards, the title track from their forthcoming (and keenly anticipated) new album. The song is a typically enchanting effort from them. For while the lyrics of the song may act as an ode to an ex-lover (in that it’s what you wish you could have said to someone but never felt you could at the time), it’s a somehow optimistic listen that’s dripping with ear-pleasing folk-pop melodies and serene vocals. There’s a classic vibe, too, which bears all the hallmarks of classic singer-songwriter acts, while the belated piano solo is beautifully delivered. When Postcards was first made available as a single earlier this year, Meadowlark called on their fans to be involved with creating the official video by urging their fans to write postcards to someone that’s impacted their life in a significant way, good or bad, and send them in. The anonymous postcard notes will then form the basis of the official Postcards video. Speaking about the creation of this video, Meadlowlark’s Dan said: “Postcards has such an honest and raw quality about it, both in the songwriting and the production,” says Dan. “I wanted the video to have these same qualities. Involving our fans has always been something I’ve wanted to do and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. We ended up receiving over 100 postcards, and each one was so beautifully written and so heartbreakingly honest. In the end we had to pick the final ones at random as we had too many favourites. I’m really proud of this piece.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Placebo, Life's What You Make It

PLACEBOLIFE’S WHAT YOU MAKE IT: Life’s What You Make It is Placebo’s cover version of a 1986 song by Talk Talk. It was chosen by the band because the song’s message of making the best of circumstances strikes a particular chord in the challenging era in which we live. “We covered Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It because it is a song from the 80s that we still liked, and wondered if we could replicate Gwen Stefani’s global smash hit with her band’s cover of It’s My Life. That remains to be seen,” said Brian Molko. Without tinkering with the track too much, this relies more on a strong electronic pulse than the original drums of the original, although the striking guitar riffs remain intact, as well as the soaring chorus. If we’re being ultra critical, then Molko’s distinct vocals carry less impact, surprisingly, than Talk Talk’s (which really carried a sense of foreboding), but thanks to the emphatic instrumentals and the keen sense of familiarity, this is a solid take on a really good song that should appease the fans and bring in some newcomers. For the accompanying video, Molko wanted something different. He had a concept in mind that was loosely based around the original 1986 Talk Talk video that was shot at night on London’s Wimbledon Common. It featured the band surrounded by nature, complete with, as Molko puts it, “little beasties crawling over leaves”. It’s also worth checking out.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lucy Rose

LUCY ROSE – NO GOOD AT ALL: No Good At All is the latest single to be lifted from Lucy’s forthcoming third album Something’s Changing, following the release of Floral Dresses (ft. The Staves) and Is This Called Home. As ever, the thing that’s most worth noting is the power of her soothing vocals, which drip beauty and quality and lend it a hynotic, even seductive quality. The fact that it’s also swathed in some gorgeous folk-pop melodies merely adds to the record’s overall charm. Commenting on the track, Rose said: “No Good At All is the oldest song on the album and was written just before I went on my first trip to Latin America. When I wrote it, I was kind of feeling that maybe I wasn’t good enough for music and was re-thinking everything. Part of me wondered if maybe somewhere down the line somewhere (my great great great grand-daughter maybe?), there would be a girl who had a little bit of me in her and could achieve everything she wanted. But it’s also got an element of love to it too, finding the one to start a new life with who one day you could settle down with and have a family with. There’s a fair amount of self-doubt in this song, but positivity for the future too.” The video is worth checking out too. Taking a step back in time, the video finds Lucy and her full live band performing in a 1970’s TV studio, complete with a pastel colour palette and confetti. The project is Lucy’s second collaboration with Dusthouse who previously produced her emotional video for Nebraska, which featured none other than Danny Dyer acting in drag
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Oh Wonder

OH WONDERHIGH ON HUMANS: Oh Wonder follow their returning single Ultralife, with High On Humans, a track that finds new pertinence in the world today, describing the extraordinary power of interaction with everyday people. Josephine explains: “High On Humans was inspired by a Tube journey. On the way back from Heathrow Airport, I eavesdropped on a conversation between two girls who worked in a sunglasses shop at the terminal. They were happily going back and forth discussing their favourite foods. When one girl declared that she didn’t like avocados, I rudely interrupted and said ‘what do you mean you don’t like avocados?!’. We then proceeded to have a 20-minute conversation about hot sauces and condiments, and the three of us exited the carriage high on adrenaline having connected with strangers. I then went on to talk to a man who had knocked all his teeth out and was covered in blood. It created a carriage-wide conversation about injuries and operations. Everyone’s mood seemed lifted by this random interaction with the unknown. On the way back home from the station, I sang ‘I’m getting high on humans’ into voice notes on my phone, and sat down with Anthony to fully write it the next day. This song celebrates the potential to ‘get high’ and feel liberated by talking to strangers. It’s something we all fear, and something we should all do more of!” The track has an ethereal quality that bears a Kate Bush-type quality (especially in the way it uses the female vocals), as well as some insistent electronic hooks. It also drops a great chorus, making it the type of track that gets into your head and refuses to budge in a good way.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Gorillaz

GORILLAZSLEEPING POWDER: It’s typical of Gorillaz that you never know what style of music you’re going to get… except that it will be different and boast something to say. Sleeping Powder, the latest offering from new album Humanz, opens with a tender acoustic lick, some grand piano and a laxadazical lead vocal from Damon Albarn, that suggests something of a slumber. But it then drops a hip-hop infused beat, allows Albarn to pick up the pace in the vocals, and gets a little more busy and crowd-pleasing. If anything, it’s their most accessible track to date from the new album, eventually dropping a really nice beat (head-noddingly good) and a rapturuous chorus that’s easy to get behind. At a time when they’d appeared to have moved away from the mainstream appeal of former tracks like Clint Eastwood, this recaptures that early vitality and reminds you of why they were able to capture so many people’s imaginations in the first place – that classic mix of the individual and the cool. Sleeping Powder is the best song yet from Humanz.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tombstones In Their Eyes

TOMBSTONES IN THEIR EYESALWAYS THERE: Los Angeles’ rock outfit Tombstones in Their Eyes have announced the upcoming Fear EP, to be released via Send Me Your Head Records. To wet your appetite, the band has dropped the first single, with accompanying video, for Always There. The result is utterly hypnotic, even beguiling. Recalling the classic likes of ’70s Pink Floyd, with a touch of Electric Wizard and Spaceman 3 thrown in for good measure, this combines some tranquil, almost celestial guitar hooks, with some equally spaced out, hazy vocals. The result is a song steeped in classic alt-rock values, which sounds like it was conceived in a different era, but which still manages to sound up-to-date as well. It’s the type of track that forces you to kick back, relax and reflect on whatever is occupying your mind. Tombstones In Their Eyes’ currently line-up is John Treanor (guitar, vocals, keyboards, songwriter), Josh Drew (guitar, backing vocals), Mike Mason (bass, guitar) and Stephen Striegel (drums). Their musical influences include The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Elliott Smith and The Melvins. Recorded at LA’s Kitten Robot Studio with Paul Roessler (Nina Hagen, The Deadbeats, The Screamers, 45 Grave), the accompanying EP follows up their huge sounding Bad Clouds EP (2016) and debut album Sleep Forever (2014). “Paul knows exactly where I’m coming from and intuitively knows how to make what I’m feeling come through the speakers,” says John Treanor.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Miranda Lee Richards

MIRANDA LEE RICHARDSTHE WILDWOOD: The Brian Jonestown Massacre collaborator Miranda Lee Richards releases new electronic-pyschedelic track The Wildwood from her upcoming album, Existential Beast (out on June 16 on Invisible Hands Music). Built around some driving electronics, and a psychedelic vocal, this is another song that’s steeped in classic songwriting values, combining some psychedelic, head-spinning elements with a trippy sense of the epic. Richards’ vocals also carry something of a PJ Harvey vibe about them, which makes them just as potent and worth hearing. But the accompanying instrumentals create a heady backdrop that lend the track real staying power. The mid-track guitar solo is particularly thrilling. Existential Beast is described as a political album, examining the issues of our time, but with the intent of tackling these difficult and sometimes taboo subjects in a poetic and heartfelt manner. The title is also a mash-up of terms, referencing the existential crisis that has in turn arisen. Says Richards: “In varying degrees, we are all still working with the animal urges of fear, competition, survival, and sexuality that are deep-seated and manifesting in different ways, depending on where people are at. Perhaps a more endearing outlook is to see this as an assignment in working with the inner child, who can at times behave like a wild beast. But like it or not, these tendencies have been revealed, within our leaders, our countries, and ourselves; it is indeed a pivotal and transformational time.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Zola Jesus

ZOLA JESUSEXHUMED: Zola Jesus has announced her new album, Okovi, will be released on September 8, via Sacred Bones Records, and has also shared the first single Exhumed. If you’ve never heard of Zola Jesus before, then you’re in for something truly epic. Combining the best elements of artists such as Bjork, Agnes Obel and Kate Bush, this is built around powerhouse vocals (that soar), stirring instrumentals and a grand sense of showmanship. The stabbing synths carry an orchestral quality, the drums cascade in ever more powerful fashion, and the vocals just keep getting bigger and bigger, with underlying harmonies to give them extra strength. It might not appeal to every taste (particularly those who lean steadfastly towards the mainstream), but for anyone seeking something brave, adventurous and powerful, this has the potential to blow your mind (especially the mid-track moments where some pounding drums accompany a sweeping vocal harmony). Commenting on the album as a whole, Zola Jesus explained: “Last year, I moved back to the woods in Wisconsin where I was raised. I built a little house just steps away from where my dilapidated childhood tree fort is slowly recombining into earth. Okovi was fed by this return to roots and several very personal traumas. While writing Okovi, I endured people very close to me trying to die, and others trying desperately not to. Meanwhile, I was fighting through a haze so thick I wasn’t sure I’d find my way to the other side. Death, in all of its masks, has been encircling everyone I love, and with it the questions of legacy, worth, and will. Okovi is a Slavic word for shackles. We’re all shackled to something—to life, to death, to bodies, to minds, to illness, to people, to birthright, to duty. Each of us born with a unique debt, and we have until we die to pay it back. Without this cost, what gives us the right to live? And moreover, what gives us the right to die? Are we really even free to choose? This album is a deeply personal snapshot of loss, reconciliation, and a sympathy for the chains that keep us all grounded to the unforgiving laws of nature. To bring it to life, I decided to enlist the help of Alex DeGroot, who has been the only constant in my live band and helped mix the Stridulum EP back in 2010. It will be released on Sacred Bones, the closest group of people I’ll ever have to blood-bound family.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 2, 2017

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

Foo Fighters, Run

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: FOO FIGHTERSRUN: Foo Fighters return in emphatic fashion with new single Run – and we mean emphatic. The opening riffs of the track may suggest a mellower, mainstream-friendly approach but once the track hits its stride, it’s all about power. Or, in this case, rebellion. The Dave Grohl directed video epitomises this too. It opens with a Nurse tormenting an elderly care home resident into taking his pills, before the patient trashes them by way of defiance. And it then proceeds to show a rebellion, in which the patient takes to the drums, climbs walls, jumps into the crowd and stirs up anarchy… much to the nurse and her staff’s dismay. Think One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest set in a retirement home. Whether Foo Fighters intend the track itself to represent an angry commentary on America and its political scene is debatable, but there’s a fury here that we’ve not heard from them in a while. Some of the vocal delivery verges on the Goth, with plenty of wailing to boot. But in spite of the heaviness, there remains that melodicism that enables them to appeal to the masses too. It’s heavy but empowering at the same time; never drowning you out in the way that a lot of metal acts do. And the changes of pace throughout ensure you’re kept on your toes, registering every change in tempo, while being able to catch your breath in between the louder blasts. It’s powerhouse stuff from one of the biggest bands on the planet.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The War on Drugs

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE WAR ON DRUGSHOLDING ON: The War On Drugs have announced their fourth full-length album, A Deeper Understanding (out August 25 on Atlantic Records), their first album since 2014’s universally acclaimed Lost In The Dream, and their debut album with Atlantic. Following the Record Store Day release of the 11-minute Thinking of a Place (a former IndieLondon single of the week), they now present the album’s lead single, Holding On – and quality is maintained. Boasting hints of Springsteen, this is another sprawling effort that delivers wave upon wave of glorious guitar riffs, on top of quality vocals and emotionally resonant storytelling. It’s not as long as Thinking of a Place( half the length, in fact), and moves along at a more spritely pace. But that, perhaps, makes it even more accessible to a wider fan-base, who can easily get behind the classic hooks, the soaring melodies and the overall beauty inherent in much of the track. If this kind of quality is maintained across the remainder of the album, then we could be looking forward to one of the records of the year.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Cribs

THE CRIBS – IN YOUR PALACE: Fresh from their recent run of sold-out shows celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their lauded third album Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, The Cribs share a new track In Your Palace. The track finds the brothers in typically potent form and partners the seriously limited and cryptically released one-sided 7” single Year Of Hate. Fans were able to purchase the single over the course of a week from 24 indie stores globally. The new track is powered by angry sounding guitar riffs and soaring vocals, which actually carry the whiff of classic Ash about them. They also contribute to a melodic chorus that, for all its power, maintain a mainstream energy that should guarantee widespread appeal. As always, it’s good to have them around.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Arcade Fire, Everything Now

ARCADE FIREEVERYTHING NOW: Now here’s something I never thought we’d be writing. Arcade Fire have delivered an Abba-esque new single in the form of Everything Now. WTF? Yep, the new song eschews the darker dance rhythms and pacing of their Reflektor material in favour of something more light, frivolous and playful. Is this a good thing? Well, a love (or even appreciation) of Abba helps, of course. But that’s only the half of it. Arcade Fire like to be unpredictable and even within the course of the song, there are several chagnges and nods. Early on, there’s a moody atmospheric that seems a million miles removed from fun. It’s about making it home; it’s about journeying… there’s a sense of uncertainty. And then the track seems to be overtaken by people talking over it, before breaking down completely and hitting you with those Abba-influenced piano harmonies. It’s then that you begin to wonder what the hell is going on. Who changed the channel. Well, the band themselves apparently. And they don’t sit still. If the melodies remain Abba-esque to a point, the vocals assume a 70s era Bowie quality, mixed with a little Talking Heads. And the instrumentals expand to include a pan flute. WTF indeed! But it’s oddly compelling and strangely exciting. You’ll be hooked in spite of yourself. For chutzpah alone, this has to be heard.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Liam Gallagher, Wall of Glass

LIAM GALLAGHERWALL OF GLASS: After this week’s emotional homecoming show at Manchester’s O2 Ritz, Liam Gallagher can now share his debut solo track Wall Of Glass as well as its accompanying video. If you had to make an equation of all the elements that made the early Oasis singles so apocalyptically good – huge waves of guitar hooks, a melody you can’t shake, a thunderous rhythm and Liam’s voice delivering an unbelievably catchy chorus – then who could forgive the frontman for employing the same formula on Wall Of Glass. Boosted by a bass-heavy production, it’s a track that provides a fresh new angle to Liam’s sound while maintaining the traits that made him such an influential artist. That is to say, more pop-friendly hooks, with a chorus that’s high on melody, as well as some crunching guitar riffs that tap back into that Supersonic-style era. Critics may lament the fact that Gallagher is still relying on a tested formula, given the similarities between classic Oasis and his solo material. But there’s no denying there’s a certain tinge of excitement in hearing those inimitable vocals married to new material. And Oasis did know how to rock. It’s a big, catchy and – yes – anthemic return… and you’ll be singing along in no time at all.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Eivor

EIVORSURRENDER: Eivør has aired the new video for Surrender, lifted from her much-praised new album – and UK commercial debut – Slør (out now). Filmed on the shores of Eivør’s native Faroe Islands, the video arrives amidst a current sold-out UK tour (including two London shows) – Eivør’s first run of headline dates in this country. A second run of UK dates through November is already on sale, including London’s Bush Hall on November 28, 2017. The track itself is steeped in the dark electronica that has become her trademark – combining ethereal tendencies akin to Bjork with something as sweeping as Imogen Heap or Sia. There is darkness but also a sense of optimism, making this a bittersweet offering in many ways – but a captivating listen nonetheless. Already a well-known recording artist of over 16 years’ prolific output in her native Scandinavia, Copenhagen-based Eivør has worked across a disparate clutch of collaborative projects since releasing her debut solo album aged just 16. Besides scoring the new series of BBC flagship The Last Kingdom with Ivor Novello nominee John Lunn (Downton Abbey, Waking The Dead), Eivør’s music has also been synced on Scorsese’s Silence, alongside trailers for Game Of Thrones and Deep Water Horizon (Mark Wahlberg). Surrender provides compelling evidence of why she is so sought after.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Hemi, Gentle

HEMIGENTLE: Hemi is definitely no newbie to the music business. From releasing records as Pineapple Pop on diverse labels including his own in the past, Hemi is additionally working as a successful DJ and booker. The charismatic artist decided to change his moniker to his given first name and kick-starts into 2017 with Gentle, an organic yet housy production which includes elements ranging from disco up to tribal and afro house. It’s a potentially potent cocktail of dance sounds, yet far from being too bombastic, this keeps things laidback and cool. The classic house element has a retro vibe, while there’s enough of a contemporary edge to ensure it still sounds relevant. You can well imagine hearing this as the backing music being spun by a DJ in one of London’s trendy bars, or a top restaurant. It has a cool vibe attached. And it’s the type of track that grows on you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Mount Song

MOUNT SONGROCKET RIDE: Swedish indie-rock band Mount Song have delivered an understated gem in new single Rocket Ride. Taken from the self-titled album (out now), the track thrives on its moody drums, laidback indie guitar riffs and amiable vocals, creating the type of song that could easily appeal to fans of bands such as Grandaddy, The Shins (especially) and The Flaming Lips. The chorus, meanwhile, has an anthemic quality to it, making it easy to get behind (whether to sing-along or merely shimmy along). The guitar riffs, on the other hand, have a warmth to them that is really endearing. Together with his band (Karl Vento, Knut Källgren, Lovisa Samuelsson) and co-producer Filip Leyman (Anna Von Hausswolff, Albert af Ekenstam, Det Stora Monstret), Jacob Johansson writes songs that are designed to both describe and question the world we live in. His songs are poetic, political and have been described by some as relevant on a global level. On the album as a whole, Jacob commented: “I write about that which feels urgent to me, the things that knock me out; my encounters with life’s monsters. That which feels most urgent for me in the moment becomes the content of the songs.” In spite of the seriousness of the song’s themes, it never feels preachy or over-bearing. Rather, it makes you think while entertaining.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Dears, All The Hail Marys

THE DEARSALL THE HAIL MARYS: New organ-backed slowie All The Hail Marys finds Montréal’s The Dears switching down the gears, with frontman Murray Lightburn coming on all soulful and falsetto-ed. And it’s highly effective, providing a sobering counterpart to some of their more recent material (especially when Lightburn laments “f*ck the pain”). Speaking about the track – a personal favourite of his, with lyrics that reference Peaches’ ‘F*ck The Pain Away’ – Lightburn says: “In my mind, I always imagined Jimi Hendrix singing this and always will. The second half really reminds me of The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin; I wanted that sweeping effect but not in too retro a way. We employed synthesizers and recorded that three-part guitarmony blend, and with that galloping acoustic guitar it kinda turns into like Heart’s Crazy On You.” With this last point in mind, it’s also a big, ambitious record that takes the listener on quite a journey, both lyrically and instrumentally. It already looks set to become one of the standout tracks from the band’s forthcoming album release Times Infinity Volume Two. The finale is particularly impressive and inspiring.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sleep Party People

SLEEP PARTY PEOPLELINGERING EYES: Denmark’s Sleep Party People have released a new track on the eve of their new album release in the form of the beguiling Lingering Eyes. Boasting fragile vocals set against psychedelic-influenced atmospherics, this has an other-worldly quality that’s oddly hypnotic. And yet there’s also a fragile beauty to some of the folsky guitar hooks and electronic flourishes that belatedly help to send the track soaring. Speaking about the track – which he wrote for his girlfriend – multi-instrumentalist Brian Batz (aka Sleep Party People) said: “I wanted to express myself in a more metaphoric way and let people know how I’m experiencing the impact of falling in love and letting go in a more visual way. And also how life suddenly makes more sense. Everything seems brighter and more colourful. Not only inside yourself but also how you look at the world. I think that’s the most incredible feeling that can emerge in life.” If you’re a fan of classic Pink Floyd mixed with trippy MGMT then this is one to check out.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 26, 2017

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

Broken Social Scene

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BROKEN SOCIAL SCENEHUG OF THUNDER: Hug Of Thunder is everything fans of Broken Social Scene (BSS) love from the Canadian collective and then some… an album overflowing with glorious open chords, multi-voice harmonies, spacious psychedelia-tinted breakdowns, and more. It is a panoramic, expansive album that manages to be both epic and intimate; and like all things BSS, in troubled times, it offers a serotonin rush of positivity. As early evidence of this, the band have unveiled the title track and immediately hold your attention. Built around some terrific layered beats, and some hushed vocals, this oozes class from every pore. There’s traces of classic acts of days gone by (Fleetwood Mac, for sure, as well as Vampire Weekend), yet this is steadfastly a BSS record. There’s storytelling craft, cute guitar hooks, subtle but compelling beats and seductive vocals that almost purr at times. The sudden ending leaves you wanting more… which is exactly what fans are about to get from the new LP when it arrives on July 7. Since their inception in the early Aughts, BSS have always pushed sonic boundaries while remaining reverent of a perfect chorus; almost 20 years down the line, Hug Of Thunder sharpens that balance. The record’s 12 songs refract the band’s varying emotions, methods, and techniques in ways that not only reference their other albums, but surpass them. Hug Of Thunder is righteous but warm, angry but loving, melodic but uncompromising. And if you’ve ever fallen in love with Broken Social Scene – as many of us have – it is a perfect return that was truly worth the wait.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: ALT-J – ADELINE: Alt-J are becoming more and more Radiohead-like if new single Adeline is anything to go by. Constructed around tender acoustic guitar licks and hushed, falsetto-style vocals that offer a loving but haunted sentiment (“I wish you well”), this is a beguiling slow-builder of very high quality. A hypnotic tale, the song slides its way into your subconscious and refuses to budge, holding you entranced as it weaves its intricate instrumentals around you. Inevitably, the pace does quicken the longer the track lasts, while the vocals become more pronounced (and eventually backed by a children’s choir). But Alt-J remain careful not to overdo things. There’s a sense of restraint throughout… and one that rewards the patient listener. It’s almost cinematic and elegaic in the way that it sucks you in and stays in your brain. But then this is true of a lot of Alt-J’s new material, which bodes extremely well for the rest of the new album, Relaxer, when it finally lands on June 2.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Stands

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE STANDS & NOEL GALLAGHERSOME WEEKEND NIGHT: Howie Payne has premiered The Stands’ Some Weekend Night (Remix) – a track originally from their 2004 debut album All Years Leaving – which now features lead guitar by Noel Gallagher. Explains Howie, who formed The Stands in Liverpool in 2002: “We recorded it at Olympic & Wheeler End, Oasis’ place, with Noel and Gem. Noel played a killer solo on it, a really heavy, vicious thing… stunning! Somehow, for some reason long forgotten it got lost in the mix on the record, and the first half never even made it on at all, so I’m properly happy to be able to fix that on this version. I played him the new remix version the other day and he was well into it.” The guitar work is the main hook for the record, dropping some serious Ennio Morricone vibes and making it ripe for pick-up on some future Quentin Tarantino movie. But Payne contributes, too, with some psychedelic vocals to match the cinematic quality of those instrumentals. It’s the type of record that just keeps getting better with each listen – and more spine-tingling the more the guitars are allowed to grow. Some Weekend Night (Remix) is taken from The Stands Recordings 2003-2005, a collection of 3 vinyl LPs, released on June 23 on Full Stack Recordings. The first two records feature alternate, rare, original, remixed and unreleased versions of tracks spanning 2003 – 2005, while the third features a whole host of Howie Payne’s unreleased demos. Curated and remixed by Howie, the LPs are remastered and presented on coloured, heavyweight vinyl with new sleevenotes, which detail the incredible journey of The Stands.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Buffalo Sunn, Idle Man

BUFFALO SUNNIDLE MAN: Buffalo Sunn incorporate sounds from the ’60s right up to the present day, and are firm favourites at SXSW. New single Idle Man is the first release from their 2016 sessions with Grammy award-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, Beck, Morrissey) at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. It’s a catchy mix of country guitars, folk-rock and pop that breezes along in endearing fashion. It’s a song that oozes American influence, yet one that could equally find a decent following throughout the world, given its upbeat disposition and fleet-footed delivery. It zips by and is toe-tapping as hell. Having found an enthusiastic audience for their full-length debut By The Ocean By The Sea on tours of the US, Asia, Germany, and Ireland, and at festivals and conferences such as SXSW, CMJ, and MUSEXPO, Buffalo Sunn are hard at work building on their successes and expanding their exposure.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Diamond Thug, Eclipsed

DIAMOND THUGECLIPSED: In 2016, the South African band Diamond Thug recorded their debut EP with the help of Dave Minehan (The Replacements) and released it to waves of support. They now look to introduce their music internationally with new single Eclipsed, an evocative track that takes influence from the likes of Warpaint, Atmosphere and Sibot. Boasting a set of soulful female vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Morcheeba or Massive Attack record, the track also drops some fizzing electronics that combine mainstream urgency with nods to their South African heritage (especially in its rhythmic structure). The result is a song that endears by virtue of its beautiful vocals, which retains a keen sense of its own identity courtesy of its distinct electronics. But it’s the way that it combines trip-hop tendencies with something more world influenced that really impresses. This is a band looking to break beyond its borders who have delivered a song capable of doing that.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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James Heather, Oizys

JAMES HEATHEROIZYS: Following a great reception for James Heather’s debut track Empire Sounds (as featured in Spotify’s ‘Most Beautiful Songs In The World’ curated playlist) and taken from his forthcoming Modulations: EP 1 for Coldcut’s Ahead Of Our Time records, Heather now unveils another new track called Oizys. Speaking about the track to Self-Ttled mag, Heather said: “Oizys is the god of anxiety in Greek mythology. I’m a pretty calm person these days, but I do know that after a near-death road traffic accident my journey back to a calm place of mind was a process that needed new strategies. Songs such as this I found are my way of reaching a peaceful state and hopefully others who hear it too.” A beautifully constructed piano piece, this is an instrumental offering that impresses by virtue of its relative simplicity. There are no beats, no vocals, no additional atmospherics. Just swirling piano arrangements that enthral from the outset and continue to get better, whisking the listener off into a peaceful state of mind where they can contemplate the things that have had meaning for them. It’s cinematic enough to find its way onto a soundtrack of some kind, too, even if it’s simply accompanying some amazing piece of wildlife footage on a programme like Planet Earth.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bleachers

BLEACHERS – I MISS THOSE DAYS: If you’ve ever found yourself contemplating what Pulp might sound like if they were mixed with a touch of the late David Bowie, The Strokes and The Shins, then Bleachers’ new single I Miss Those Days may provide an answer. A lively indie-pop romp, this drops vocals that wouldn’t sound out of place on either a Jarvis Cocker or Bowie record, while adhering to the kind of instrumental philosophy adopted by The Shins. It’s a song that doesn’t sound out of place on either side of the Atlantic, with some “la la la” harmonies to heighten the sing-along potential. The melodies are tightly constructed and quickly appealing, while the blasts of brass neatly offset the indie guitar pop sounds and lend it even more of an adventurous Pulp/Bowie vibe. If we’re drawing on a lot of comparisons, then it’s no bad thing. Bleachers would appear to be sharing breath with some excellent bands. It bodes well for the forthcoming LP, Gone Now, which lands on June 2 – even more so if you’ve previously liked Don’t Take The Money, Everybody Lost Somebody and Hate That You Know Me.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Milburn, Take Me Home

MILBURNTAKE ME HOME: Having reformed due to popular demand following a 10-year hiatus, Milburn return in emphatic style with catchy new single Take Me Home. Built around some robust guitar hooks and a big, expansive chorus, this combines power with cute melodies to offer broad appeal. The guitars are particularly impressive, fizzing their way in and out and delivering some great solo bursts (including an obligatory mid-track one). But the vocals endear, too, and contribute to the skyscraping chorus. It’s a big song, in many ways, that serves as a rallying call to the fans and newcomers that Milburn are back – refreshed, re-charged and ready to take on the world. There’s a lot to like about this belated comeback record. But it is worth the wait.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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GHOSTPOETIMMIGRANT BOOGIE: Immigrant Boogie marks the first new material from Ghostpoet since the release of his third and much lauded, Mercury-nominated Shedding Skin album in 2015. Swathed in post-punk virtuosity, the song is a narrative only too pertinent in 2017, as Ghostpoet – aka Obaro Ejimiwe – explains: “It’s a first person account of a difficult journey across borders, partly intended to ask those who have questioned the arrival of refugees in recent times what they would do in the same situation. The song is written in two halves – the first hopeful for a brighter future, while the second sees hope snatched away by forces beyond the control of the storyteller. There is an important story to be told there, but I wrote the song in a way that aims to capture a broader human truth: that while we are all working for a better life for ourselves, we have to accept that we are not in control of the outcome.” Even though Ghostpoet credits the first half of the record to be hopeful, there’s an element of danger in the jagged hooks that accompany it, even though lyrically there’s that sense of hope that comes with “searching for a better life”. But once the sound of the sea can be heard, the song becomes much more frantic, the guitar hooks much more pronounced and dangerous, building to a climax that ends all of a sudden. It’s a typically forthright, intelligent and take-notice offering from Ghostpoet, while the accompanying video is also worth catching. The post-apocalyptic nature of the visuals bring a new dimension of meaning to the provocative lyrics of the track.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Little Mix, Power

LITTLE MIX feat STORMZYPOWER: Pop queens Little Mix return with new single Power and bring urban/grime artist Stormzy with them to harden their pop sound a little. The track is described as a colossal, unapologetic pop song about girl power and the strength of a woman, featuring an effervescent production alongside Little Mix’s trademark vocals. Written by Dano ‘Robopop’ Omelio, Camille Purcell and JHart, this new version of the song features Stormzy, who recently hit No.1 in the UK Album Chart with Gang Signs & Prayer. Early on, there’s a keen sense that the girls are trying to toughen up their pop image, with some sharp guitar-like guitar blasts, while the vocals are belted out with all the powerful soul of a Motown singer. But the track can’t resist dropping in some more average pop elements, with the chorus softening things up somewhat to come over all breezy and catchy… and pop. Nevertheless, a cameo from Stormzy does succeed in returning an element of edge, making this one of Little Mix’s catchier offerings – and a track that boasts the most crossover potential of their career to date. If only they could concentrate on making their lyrics a little less cheesy…
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 19, 2017

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

Danger Mouse, Chase Me

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: DANGER MOUSE feat RUN THE JEWELS AND BIG BOICHASE ME: Award-winning producer and artist Danger Mouse will release the soundtrack for Edgar Wright’s highly anticipated film, Baby Driver, on his Columbia Records imprint 30th Century Records this June. The soundtrack for the music-heavy film, titled Music From The Motion Picture Baby Driver, boasts 30 multi-genre tunes in total, including 29 rare tracks and deep cuts, as well as one original song created by Danger Mouse specifically for the film. As anticipation heightens ahead of both the release of the film and the soundtrack, Danger Mouse has now released Chase Me, featuring Run the Jewels and Big Boi. The guest features on the song make for the perfect film tie in, as both Killer Mike of Run the Jewels and Big Boi have small but memorable appearances in Baby Driver. Chase Me samples Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and features additional production from Run The Jewels El-P. Given that Danger Mouse has long been one of our favourite producers, it’s no surprise that we highly rate this track. A heavy-hitter that’s high on attitude, urban urgency and rap (given its guest collaborators), this nevertheless still manages to drop funky back-beats and samples, adding grit and edge to a song not short of it anyway. Without even having seen the film, you can tell this will play a key part – and one can only imagine excitedly how Wright will employ it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Darlia, Beam Me Up

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: DARLIABEAM ME UP: Produced by Darlia’s own Nathan Day and Frank Colucci, Beam Me Up, the new single from Darlia, is about the catharsis of songwriting. In a very open account about the song Nathan explains: “It amazes me how brutally open you can be in songs and not even wince when it gets put out into the world. It’s like walking around with a sign on your head telling everyone what you’re secretly thinking but never actually saying the words in conversation. Soon, you’re gonna hear Beam Me Up. I wrote this song because I couldn’t afford a therapist. I’m lucky that writing songs is a legitimate coping mechanism cos I don’t know what the fuck I’d do if I couldn’t get it out. It deffo can’t stay in there though. I wrote the song on piano following a debilitating battle with my body and mind – felt like they were both failing me and literally falling apart before my eyes. I couldn’t afford the money to fix myself.” In spite of the sombre, and refreshingly honest, sentiments underpinning it, the track itself remains a big, expansive rock-pop offering that engages from the start. The riffs are solid and catchy, the chorus big and empowering in its own way, and the overall vibe one of empowerment (of rising above personal trouble). As a result, it’s a slow builder that becomes highly anthemic. And with mental health currently very much in focus, it couldn’t arrive at a more timely moment.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Muse, Dig Down

MUSEDIG DOWN: Muse have released their new single Dig Down to stream and download now. The track focuses on the themes of unity and survival – fighting for what’s right when your back’s against the wall. Dig Down was co-produced by Mike Elizondo and Muse and mixed by Spike Stent. It’s set against the backdrop of a really fat electronic loop, some slick beats and a chorus that has a hint of gospel about it. As usual with Muse, there’s big showmanship too, recalling memories of Depeche Mode and Queen at times. As the track progresses, the guitars become more pronounced, the production values more rounded and the choruses even bigger. It ends in epic fashion, ensuring that it delivers the kind of stadium-rousing finale they have long been associated with. The song is accompanied by an action packed video, which was directed by Lance Drake and features Lauren Wasser. Matt Bellamy said: “When I was writing this song I was looking to counteract the current negativity in the world and give inspiration, optimism and hope to people to fight for the causes they believe in; that as individuals we can choose to change the world if we want to.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Royal Blood

ROYAL BLOODHOOK, LINE AND SINKER: Rock sensations Royal Blood turn up the power considerably for new single Hook, Line and Sinker – and continue to impress. Opening amid some crunching guitar riffs and some powerhouse drums, the track then proceeds to deliver the type of offering that fans of everyone from Muse to Kasabian can get behind. The chorus, in particular, may well draw Muse comparisons given the way it adopts falsetto-style vocals and elevates the tempo to some epic, yet still melodic heights. While the verses are delivered with all the indie-rock swagger of bands like Kasabian in their prime. There is, of course, something a little more heavy than either of those bands – more steadfastly rock. But in our opinion, this adds to Royal Blood’s own sense of identity and delivers a punch that’s impossible to ignore. It’s got future anthem written all over it – and is sure to become a live favourite. The guitars, for their part, continue to grow in stature the longer the track lasts, and hit some exhilarating highs of their own. Royal Blood release their eagerly anticipated second album How Did We Get So Dark? on June 16. Expect it to be massive.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Raye, The Line

RAYETHE LINE: One of the UK’s most hotly tipped newcomers, Raye, has returned with her new single The Line. Co-written by Raye and produced by Fred, The Line boasts plenty of character and features Raye’s unmistakable swagger alongside lyrics about the hassle of club queues on a night out. The singer commented: “Going out clubbing gives you a cold dose of the expectation society has on women. To get into a club you have to kill yourself in heels, drowned in make up with a tight dress, maybe a bit of cleavage will help you out too. Me going as ‘myself’ wearing what I wanted didn’t cut it, you have to fit within the boundaries and expectations put on you. Watching all these casually dressed men waltzing past me in the queue really pissed me off, so I wrote this tune.” The lyrical honesty is eye-opening, but the delivery is what really impresses. This drops a funky horn-like electronic blast and then wraps playful, pop beats around it, building to a big, breezy chorus that eschews some of the more urban elements inherent in the verses in favour of a mainstream-style chorus you can easily get behind. It’s a real crowd-pleaser that looks destined to become a big dance anthem this summer.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Linkin Park

LINKIN PARKSHARP EDGES: Linkin Park may well have been rubbing their heads in disbelief at the mainstream nature of their new material but they’ll be really struggling to identify the nu-metal band of old when they listen to this album track, Sharp Edges. A tender acoustic ballad that wears its sense of unease and vulnerability on its sleeve, this is a highly appealing, effortlessly crowd-pleasing listen that is a million miles away from the gritty edge more commonly associated with this band. If you’re prepared to accept the new sound, however (and based on what we’ve heard so far, we are), then this new chapter is a highly appealing one when taken on its own terms. This is the sort of ballad that could just as easily appeal to fans of Ed Sheeran as it could Justin Timberlake or even One Direction (dare we say). Indeed, it’s the Linkin Park die-hards who lament the move away from nu-metal who may well be the most disappointed. But then again, a whole new fanbase may now beckon.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Oh Wonder

OH WONDERHEAVY: Oh Wonder have dropped a new track and video from their forthcoming second album, Ultralife in the form of Heavy. The accompanying video was recorded on set in London with photographer Josh Shinner. It painstakingly stitches together 2,665 individual photographs to create the allusion of the British duo dancing within a makeshift colour cube. Heavy is the fourth track to be previewed from Ultralife (released on July 14, 2017 through Island Records), and follows current single Ultralife, Lifetimes and My Friends. As with the previous tracks, there’s something likeable about it, courtesy of the sliding waves of synths, and the relaxed boy-girl vocals that ease into your subconscious. The chorus is appealing, too, dropping a similarly laidback sing-along vibe amid some slick melodies and addictive hooks. It doesn’t set the world on fire and is more of a grower – but it does the job and succeeds in making you listen. A mid-track electronic breakdown is also fun and adds an extra layer of enjoyment.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Embody, Lost & Found

EMBODY feat CLAIRE RIDGELYLOST & FOUND: Lost & Found, the new track from Embody featuring vocals from Claire Ridgely, is described as a pulsating mix of euphoric production juxtaposed with melancholic lyrics. The song itself is about missed opportunity and regret, setting in motion a what if? scenario that has no answers (merely speculation). But while Ridgely’s beautifully delivered vocals have a sense of longing, the accompanying synths and beats have a breezy, electro-pop feel that errs towards the euphoric. It’s the kind of offering that has a lot in common with acts like The Chainsmokers – easygoing hooks, breezy synths and sing-along style choruses. It’s designed to become a big anthem for Embody and could well light up the festival season whenever it’s played (as well as the club circuit, given some of its dance undertones, that feel ripe for remix). London-based producer Embody first released music online in July 2014. Since then, the Italian born producer has had over 45 million plays across his remixes and productions on streaming platforms. He has also remixed some of the biggest names in the industry, including Lana Del Rey, Rudimental and John Newman. With this single, his popularity only looks set to grow.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 12, 2017

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

Linkin Park

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LINKIN PARKINVISIBLE: After several pre-emptive album previews, Linkin Park have firmly established that they’ve abandoned the nu-metal sound for their new album, One More Light. With former singles Heavy and Good Goodbye, they’ve opted for a more synth-pop sound, albeit with some trademark edge (the latter included vocals from grime artists Pusha T and Stormzy). Hence, their latest album taster, Invisible, maintains the move towards the mainstream. It’s big, catchy, electronic and anthemic. True, the opening seconds suggest something harder from them, with an almost grinding electronic pulse. But then the electronics stop, the vocals begin and we’re in more rock-pop territory. But while that could be a criticism, in Linkin Park’s capable hands, it’s quickly transformed into a towering record that’s all about empowerment (of supporting someone who feels lost). It’s the type of song you’ll be singing along with after one or two listens – and it continues to bode well for the album as a whole. Die-hard nu-metal fans may lament the change of direction, but this is further proof that Linkin Park are not afraid to mix things up and deliver the unexpected, while maintaining the quality.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Swimming Tapes

SWIMMING TAPESQUEEN’S PARADE: Produced by Adam Jaffrey (Palace, Gengahr, Leif Erikson), Queen’s Parade, the new song from Swimming Tapes, effortlessly oozes nostalgia with its lyrics about the Queen’s Parade in Bangor (Northern Ireland – where some of the band grew up). It’s best described as dreamy shoe-gaze, courtesy of its guitar riffs, but it also boasts an earworm of a chorus to boot. The guitars, in particular, may be rooted in shoe-gaze territory, but they also boast a summery breeze about them that makes them tailor-made for playing loud on summer days. The vocals maintain the shoe-gaze vibe but come together to form a highly engaging chorus. It’s like listening to J Mascis mixed with classic Stone Roses at times, with an always engaging hook to keep the track in your subconscious once you’ve heard it. Swimming Tapes first made a name for themselves as ones to watch with their debut EP, Souvenirs. Their return merely underlines their quality.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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OUTLYA, Heaven

OUTLYAHEAVEN: Heaven, the new single from OUTLYA, is produced by Dan Grech-Marguerat and is described as a glorious, euphoric and rousing guitar jam. Speaking about the track, the band explain: “<>I>Heaven is a love song in many ways. A love song with a big fat guitar solo in it. Like many of our songs, it’s about escape. More specifically, the kind of escape you experience in the company of the one you love. Heaven wrote itself pretty quickly. We were listening to a lot of Weezer and Taylor Swift at the time and wanted something with big power chords and fizzy synths. The power chords acted like a gateway drug that led us to want a few more audacious elements, One guitar solo and a lot of gospel choir-ing later, the song took shape.” The song is as big and audacious as that suggests. And, yes, there are traces of the slacker rock style of Weezer, coupled with the catchy cheese-pop of Swift. And then there’s big guitar solos, which add the rock element and remind you of OUTLYA’s main passion. But in the main, it’s different. And it’s likeable. You’ll be chanting along in spite of yourself, occasionally lulled into thinking where did this new boy-band come from. Before then realising you’re in the company of an act that like to keep things fresh, unpredictable and highly enjoyable. It has summer sing-along written all over it, gospel elements and all.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Imagine Dragons, Whatever It Takes

IMAGINE DRAGONSWHATEVER IT TAKES: Imagine Dragons may have refined their sound somewhat to sound more populist but they remain a class act. Hence, hot off the back of recent new single Thunder (with all of its anthemic, chant-along elements), comes the equally robust Whatever It Takes. Built around sung-spoke vocals that take on a rap-like quality at times, this is also backed by big beats and an even bigger chorus, that proclaims: “Take me to the top of whatever I’m ready for, whatever it takes!” Admittedly, the track is a long way from the sound that they’re more commonly associated with thanks to songs like I Bet My Life and Demons. But we’re liking this new, bombastic sound. It’s clearly designed to broaden their appeal and it looks set to succeed. This gets into your head and refuses to budge. It’s a real grower.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Phoenix, J-Boy

PHOENIX – J-BOY: Ti Amo is Phoenix’s first album since 2013’s critically lauded Bankrupt!. Produced by the band and recorded at La Gaîté Lyrique (Paris) with the help of long-time collaborator Pierrick Devin, Ti Amo is – in the band’s own words – an album about simple pure emotions: love, desire, lust and innocence. It’s also a record about their European, Latin roots, a fantasized version of Italy: a lost paradise made of eternal Roman summers (hyper-light, hyper-clarity, pistachio gelato), juke-boxes on the beach, Monica Vitti and Marcello Mastroiani, fearless desire and Antique marble statues. Lead single J-Boy is awash with synths and ’80s influences and works on an instrumental level. It falters slightly, however, with the vocals, which sound a little too electronic and flat despite some falsettos over the chorus. The ’80s influence does eventually start to wear thin a little, too, making this an initially bright record that can’t quite manage to deliver on its early potential. The video for J-Boy is part of Ti Amo Speciale, a fantasy Italian TV show set in the early 80s. Directed by Warren Fu, it is the perfect visual complement to the song.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Avalanche Party

AVALANCHE PARTY – I’M SO WET: Hailing from the North Yorkshire Moors, five-piece Avalanche Party return with their brazen new single I’m So Wet, the follow-up to last year’s riveting Solid Gold. The track will be released just prior to a full UK/EU tour that will run throughout May and June, taking in a date at London’s Camden Rocks on June 3. Speaking about the single, frontman and guitarist Jordan Bell said: “Along with Leonard Cohen, Frank Sinatra and Etta James – we are highly decorated students of the University of Love, and so we bring to the world our Suzanne, our Somethin’ Stupid, our I’d Rather Go Blind. Forged from a desire for a hot opening statement – a throbbing, pulsating, slinking, rhythmic tour de force. This is a song born from staring at the Irish Sea, in all its frothing, rolling, flirtatious glory, battered and broken by the gale and rock to which it is eternally bound. A tempting, trembling, perilous vista which, direct to our brain, shouted ‘Yes! …I’m So Wet. Add to that a few verses inspired by our tour manager’s Army background and we were ready to go. With water comes life – and we are alive indeed.” Opening in head-spinning fashion, with a minute long instrumental, this sweeps you along before hitting you with some gritty vocals and a big, brash chorus that combines indie elements with punk edge. The guitars, meanwhile, nod to the kind of sound that bands like The Doors or James might employ, while the vocals embrace everyone from Tim Booth to Weekender (especially by the time it reaches its shouty climax). It’s big on ambition, alive with provocation and impressive on its own terms.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Yonaka

YONAKAWOULDN’T WANNA BE YA: Yonaka – a Brighton-based four piece – have unleashed their new single Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya and immediately signal intent with their heavyweight sound. Built around crunching riffs, which tear into you from the outset with foreboding, the track then sets in motion a soaring set of female vocals that energise things still further. It has shades of Smashing Pumpkins mixed with elements of PJ Harvey and Paramore, successfully moulding thunderous hooks with soaring melodic structures over the chorus. For anyone who likes their bands to be heavy, or even mainstream listeners who occasionally like to dabble in something harder, this delivers the goods. The chorus is particularly chant-worthy and anthemic. The track is produced by Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys). Having cut their teeth on tour with the likes of Drenge and, most recently, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, which saw the band perform at London’s KOKO last month, Yonaka are fast becoming one of the most exciting new names on the UK’s live circuit. The band will be charging headlong at the UK festival scene this summer with appearances at The Great Escape, Reading & Leeds, Download, Dot to Dot and many more.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Baio, Philosophy!

BAIOPHILOSOPHY!: Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio has just dropped the slick, horn-backed single Philosophy!, which is lifted from his just-announced new album Man Of The World (due out June 30 through Glassnote). Featuring slick beats (mostly of the hand-clap variety), sharp stabs of brass and bass, as well as the occasional stab of something electronic, this could almost be a Mark Ronson-produced offering instrumentally. But the vocals have more of an indie vibe, adopting a more subtle delivery. The result is a track that really grows on you – intelligent lyrically, funky instrumentally and toe-tappingly good fun. It’s also so layered that it’s constantly evolving, so as to keep you on your toes. Speaking about the album, Chris said: “Writing Man of the World was my way of processing 2016, a year that began with the death of my favourite artist, David Bowie, and ended with the greatest political disruption of my adult life – all while I was a nomad, an American living in London, touring two continents, never fully of either place. It’s particularly about being trapped in my own head, obsessing about things it was too late to change, feeling afraid and guilty and alone. It’s also my attempt to document a certain sense of loss that felt both intensely personal and like part of a larger collective experience many were going through at once.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Amber Mark, Can You Hear Me

AMBER MARKCAN YOU HEAR ME: “Well, I’ve got a lot to express,” states Amber Mark over the opening minutes of her new song Can You Hear Me. On the evidence of the music so far, yes we can. Built around her sultry, powerful soul vocals and some slick soul elements, this is an amiable listen that harks back to a classic soul-pop style, complete with sharp stabs of brass. It’s got a summer vibe attached too – courtesy of the breezy finger-clicks and fleet-footed piano chords, as well as the optimism inherent in Mark’s vocal delivery. It’s celebratory, feel-good, maintsream friendly and evidence of another promising new artist growing in confidence all the time. A mid-track breakdown in which she lets her vocals take centre-stage (asking “I’m crying can you hear me mother?”) also works well in underlining her vocal strength… before then picking up the pace for a rousing finale. Amber Mark is a New York-based artist who first broke through in 2016, earning praise from everyone from the New York Times to NME. She delivers music that boasts genuine crossover appeal, as well as heartfelt sentiments born from the ups, downs and inspirations in her life.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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