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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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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 5, 2017

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

Biffy Clyro

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BIFFY CLYROFRIENDS AND ENEMIES: Firmly established as one of Britain’s most vital festival bands, Biffy Clyro are set for another high profile summer which includes headline sets at Download and Glasgow’s inaugural TRNSMT Festival, plus a Sunday evening set at Glastonbury. They build towards those dates with the release of their new single Friends and Enemies – and it’s another barnstormer. Capturing perfectly the band’s inimitable clash of power and melody, with an immediately enticing hook that contrasts frontman Simon Neil’s vitriolic lyrics, this is a powerhouse offering that empowers and invigorates in equal measure. A crunching riff opens proceedings in rousing fashion, suggesting a really heavy track. But it then blossoms into a really chart-friendly, anthemic offering with a big, expansive chorus that eventually becomes augmented by a choir-like backing vocal. Neill’s vocals, meanwhile, are packed with power as he laments a poisoned friendship. It’s another great offering from a great band, whose new LP Ellipsis, is only broadening their appeal still wider. The track is produced by Rich Costey in a manner that is designed to make its driving rhythms recall Tears For Tears’ Songs From The Big Chair album.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAIM, Want You Back

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: HAIMWANT YOU BACK: HAIM have 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.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paramore, Hard times

PARAMORETOLD YOU SO: Following hot off the back of former taster track Hard Times comes yet another new song from Paramore, in the form of Told You So, from their forthcoming comeback LP After Laughter (out May 12). Exhibiting a few more of their more alternative sound than the previous track, Told You So nevertheless retains a keen sense of melody that looks set to lend it yet more crossover potential into pop territory. The central, tumbling guitar riff is genuinely catchy, while the keen sense of melody in the instrumentals belie some of the more angst-ridden, angry elements of the lyrics, which find Paramore berating a former friend/lover for not listening. The “I told you so” seems to come from a place of hurt (“I try to keep my cool when I’m thrown into a fire”). And yet in spite of this, Paramore continue to sound like they’re having immense fun with their new material – and that’s infectious.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ten Tonnes

TEN TONNESBORN TO LOSE: As the June 9 release of his new Born To Lose EP approaches, Ten Tonnes – aka Ethan Barnett – is generating significant upwards momentum. After launching the first track Silver Heat as well as its accompanying video, Ten Tonnes is currently on tour as guest to Will Joseph Cook. He now drops the title track from the EP and the result is an impressively heady, roughhewn take on his pop-informed hybrid of garage-rock and modernised rock ‘n’ roll. Barnett’s cultured skill for an elegant turn-of-phrase is also prevalent: “How do you expect me to trust the snake round my neck confessing her love?” The track is delivered with an indie-rock swagger reminiscent of acts like Pete Doherty and Jake Bugg, with the guitar-work – though less pronounced – similar in style too. It’s another tremendously likeable song from a rapidly endearing new act. The accompanying video is the second in a series of three videos which find Ten Tonnes performing in unlikely locations. This time around, he can be found in the narrow aisles of a pet shop that’s stocked with an array of reptiles and exotic fish. As with Silver Heat, Born To Lose was directed by Mark Kelly.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Niall Horan, Slow Hands

NIALL HORANSLOW HANDS: Slow Hands, the new single from former One Direction member Niall Horan, who co-wrote the song, is further evidence of why this singer-songwriter looks set to be massive in his own right. Niall’s assured vocal combined with an infectious guitar lick, and the syncopated bassline, underscore the simmering desire the song celebrates. Says Niall of the track, which he recorded at Los Angeles’ legendary East/West Studios: “I’m so happy to be releasing Slow Hands. I’ve been listening to a lot of early ’80s stuff lately and been inspired by that heavy bass and the funky guitar sound. It’s another flavor to my album that I’m excited to share.” Indeed, that funky guitar sound is evident in the infrequent blasts of guitar that pepper the song, while the slow beats augment the husky style of Horan’s delivery. There’s a hint of classic Bryan Adams, at times, as well as the ’80s influences that Horan cites. But without feeling too retro, or cheesy, it also boasts a strong contemporary edge that adds to the track’s vitality and immediacy. Slow Hands follows Horan’s hit single This Town, which is now certified Platinum in the US and has sold more than three million track equivalent units globally. Combined streams now surpass 350 million worldwide.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Dears

THE DEARS – OF FISTICUFFS: The Dears have announced the release of their seventh studio album, Times Infinity Volume Two, due July 14, 2017 through Dangerbird Records. The album is the second instalment of a two-album project from the Montréal band. Following a six-year absence, The Dears made their return to the UK earlier in 2017, with the much-applauded release of Times Infinity Volume One and a run of sold-out UK & Euro live shows (the band’s first since 2011), including London Village Underground. Volume Two sees the completion of a body of work which founding members Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak recorded over a two year period between Toronto’s Revolution Recording and Montréal’s Thee Mighty Hotel2Tango. New track Of Fisticuffs would appear to maintain the quality. Built around some rollicking guitar riffs, slick beat arrangements and a hazy set of boy-girl vocals that give rise to a highly melodic chorus, this is a musical maelstrom that delivers its fair share of highs. The guitar work, in particular, gets stronger the longer the record lasts, culminating in one solo that blows you away. But the harmony-strewn “do doo do doo” finale also sets things up for a rousing climax.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAUS

HAUSSAY WHAT YOU SAY: After performing across the UK on their maiden tour, HAUS have revealed the new single Say What You Say – complete with a new video. Described as a love letter to London, the track opens with a monologue/poem from spoken word artist Ceclilia Knapp (“They don’t want us to know we are greatness… we are a jigsaw of faces, whole cities behind our smiles and rebellion in our smiles”), before hitting you with some melodic guitar riffs and a set of probing lyrics (“tell me who won? Tell me who lost? Tell me who’s to blame?”). It’s an ambitious, intelligently composed track that nevertheless contains a catchy chorus and a generally upbeat vibe. As ever with HAUS material, it combines musical enjoyability with something to think about. Commenting on the accompanying video, the band said: “We wanted to capture London, and how eclectic it is as a place. All the different people, they’re all just as important as the person next to them. There’s just so many stories contained in just one street, one market, one pub, one corner. So many varied backgrounds, millions of childhoods, adulthoods, all united in their communities, our community. We wanted to highlight the importance of hearing and sharing our stories and how powerful that can be, how it can breed empathy and unify us, and how that’s a rebellion in itself, in a world so concerned with dividing us.” As the track proclaims midway through its chorus: “Now get your head straight!” It’s empowering, inspiring stuff.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sleep Party People

SLEEP PARTY PEOPLEFAINTING SPELL: Fainting Spell is the latest track to emerge from forthcoming Sleep Party People album Lingering (out June 2), which features collaborations with The Antlers’ Peter Silberman and Air vocalist Beth Hirsch. Speaking about the track, multi-instrumentalist Brian Batz (aka Sleep Party People) said: “My old battered piano in the studio needed to be tuned and fixed. After the tuning session a lot of the strings broke and left the piano in a terrible condition. But I’ve always had a weakness for broken instruments. They can give you something unexpected and eventually something useful. The sample you hear in the beginning and throughout the song was recorded using the higher octave on the piano although it was out of tune and strings were missing. The lyrics are about being the quiet boy in class and how dreadful it was for me to even speak out loud during class. I almost fainted every time I had to walk up to the blackboard and speak in front of everyone, because I was so terrified to fail or not deliver what was expected of me.” It’s a song born from anxiety that feels strangely empowering. Yet it doesn’t lose sense of the emotions involved, with the vocal delivery taking on a haunted effect. The piano sound, though, does give it an unusual sound, which makes for a striking backdrop, while the beats are lively enough (if mixed up) to further enhance that sense of listening to something different. If you’re a fan of acts like Gorillaz or the Ninja Tune label, then this is definitely worth a listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Simian Ghost, When You're Ready

SIMIAN GHOSTWHEN YOU’RE READY: Simian Ghost received considerable attention for the pop smarts of Stop Moving last month but have decided to up their ‘pop’ game even further with the hook filled When You’re Ready. Hence, while Sweden might not be the first place you associate with summer, Simian Ghost are working hard to change your mind. Built around an almost falsetto set of boy-girl vocals, some cute hooks and some bright and breezy electronics, this has a bouncy vibe to it that’s entirely infectious. And while elements of ’80s pop do underpin proceedings and lend it a certain cheesy value, there’s enough zip to keep it the right side of annoying. The chorus, in particular, seems designed to put a smile on your face (complete with cascading “la la la la” harmonies). When You’re Ready is the third track to be released from their upcoming self-titled LP, and Sebastian says this of it: “A couple of years ago we got this idea that we should write a song for Zara Larsson. She wasn’t super famous back then, and we were really digging her latest single. So, me and Mathias sat down with a couple of guitars and wrote When You’re Ready. Then we realised that Zara Larsson wouldn’t want a song from us – so we just did it ourselves instead. It turned out pretty good.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Luke Sital-Singh, Innocence

LUKE SITAL-SINGHINNOCENCE: Luke Sital-Singh is sharing Innocence, the latest track taken from his forthcoming second album Time Is A Riddle, due for release via Raygun Records/Red Essential on May 12. Stripped back, with Sital-Singh relying on his vocals and an acoustic strum for maximum effect, this is awash with heartfelt sentiments about the nature of love and its power to sustain through darkness (or “those long stormy nights”). The only thing about the song that gives pause for criticism in some way is that it is a very troubadour-style offering, with its ballad-style delivery more likely to appeal to a folk crowd only (no matter how much conviction Sital-Singh injects into his vocals late on). It is, therefore, an acquired taste and one that has to be heard in the right mood – rather than anything infectious or catchy. Sital-Singh says of the track: “Innocence was a gift of a song. It came to me fully formed out of thin air. I even think I was watching TV and noodling on my guitar when it fell out of me, music, lyrics, everything, as if I was just playing a song that was already written. Such a very strange and beautiful way to write, I’ll never understand how that works. One of my very favourite songs on the album.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 28, 2017

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

The War on Drugs

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: THE WAR ON DRUGSTHINKING OF A PLACE: The War On Drugs return with the new song Thinking of a Place, their first new, original material since 2014’s Lost In The Dream and their debut for Atlantic Records. Thinking of a Place was produced by The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel and recorded and mixed by Shawn Everett. It’s a typically epic offering, steeped in classic values that owes plenty in composition to the likes of Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac and more. The guitars are terrific, especially the solo that lands around the three minute, 15 second mark, and which – again – owes much to a more bygone era of songwriting – one where classic instruments such as the guitar are placed very much to the fore. The track clocks in at over 11 minutes, but it’s a sumptuous, sprawling offering, with Granduciel’s vocals – when employed – typically mesmerising (and again delivered in a classic style). There’s plenty to think about in the wistful lyrics, too, while the odd ambient interlude, when ethereal electronics take over, provide some nice moments of pause and reflection for the listener, before the track begins to build again. Not a moment feels wasted… and nor will your time.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bonobo

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: BONOBO feat INNOV GNAWABAMBRO KOYO GANDA: Amidst the waves of praise Bonobo has received both for the release of his latest record Migration and the live tour he and his band have recently embarked on comes a video for the new single Bambro Koyo Ganda, an expansive track featuring vocals from Moroccan by-way-of New York City band Innov Gnawa. Perhaps more than any other tune on the album, Bambro sonically embodies what Migration is – a journey through cultural and locational displacement and the strange familiarity that inevitably surfaces out of transient life. The single (a highlight of the live show) effortlessly weaves Moroccan styles into his signature dance music and culminates in a near-mystical experience as Innov Gnawa’s chants echo over a dizzying, house-driven groove that manages to mesmerize and relinquish in one fell swoop. It embodies a lot of Bonobo traits – the ability to fuse world music elements with his own laidback, chillout style, a well as something cinematic – but also feels fresh, invigorating and epic. It’s as beautifully put together as we’ve long come to expect from Bonobo. The video, directed by Stylewar, depicts scenes from around the world that unfold in synchronicity with the track, with the pulse of the environment lining up perfectly, and subtly, with the song’s beat. It reflects the universality and singularity of the world seen through the eyes of a traveller; no matter the disparate location there is a common rhythm.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Olsson

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: OLSSON feat DANIEL ADAMS-RAY – CA M’EST EGAL: Ça M’est égal, the hip new single from Olsson, is a must hear for fans of the classic ’90s indie scene. The track expertly revitalises those sounds, pulling together elements of trip hop and Britpop, as if The Stone Roses were partying with Gorillaz at a Haçienda rave. The beats are terrific, the guitars punchy and Stone Roses-esque, and the vocals equally hazy and laidback in an Ian Brown kind of way. The various background elements, though, are pure Gorillaz, with some backing vocal elements harking back to Albarn and company. The new song follows the release of singles One In A Million and Hold On, which have seen OLSSON clock up high profile support from the likes of Zane Lowe, Noisey, Thump, Resident Advisor and more. It’s clearly evident that this is a band who know how to appeal to contemporary listeners while conjuring a tremendous sense of nostalgia. Hence, as retro as some elements are, there’s an undeniable cool to the new record (complete with an almost rap-style outro) – and one that should get them even more noticed in hip circles. Ca M’est Egal is the latest single from OLSSON’s debut album Millions, which is due for release on May 12th through Universal.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Oh Wonder, My Friends

OH WONDER – MY FRIENDS: Oh Wonder have delivered another new single in the form of the tranquil, even sombre My Friends. A lament to missing friends and the toll fame can take, this is a heartfelt boy-girl ballad based around a sombre piece of piano that packs a potent emotional punch. It’s sincere, heart-on-sleeve stuff and further evidence of why Oh Wonder are amassing such a big following (tickets for their forthcoming gig at London’s Omeara sold out in just 56 seconds!). The track does build some momentum, but it remains an intimately constructed, touching piece that resonates by virtue of its simplicity and honesty. Speaking about the track themselves, Oh Wonder stated: “My Friends was written in New York after a teary morning walking around McCarren Park in Williamsburg, where we wondered why on earth we’d decided to spend our only month off from touring in America, rather than at home in London with our family and friends. Touring obviously cripples your social life, and this song is a little admission of how out of touch we feel with the people we love back home, and a plea of sorts to remember us whilst we are travelling around the world.” Ultralife is both Oh Wonder’s extraordinary second album and their debut proper. Its eponymously-titled predecessor, released in late 2015, was a collection of songs they had posted online at the rate of one a month, which millions of listeners fell in love with, turning London-based Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West into reluctant pop stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Afrojack, Another Life

AFROJACK & DAVID GUETTA feat ESTER DEANANOTHER LIFE: A super-group of sorts, Afrojack and David Guetta join forces with vocalist Ester Dean to bring a genre-crossing new track, Another Life, to the masses. Featuring elements of dance, trip-hop and soul, this actually manages to combine all three to pretty inspiring effect. The beats are slick and empowering, the dance elements never outdoing or smothering the trip-hop ones, while Dean’s feisty, soulful vocals flit between powerhouse and moody. It’s clearly designed with the mainstream in mind, and tailor-made for all manner of remix formats, but in original form this has a sweeping, invigorating quality that can’t help but get into your sub-conscious and stay there. It’s also got a touch of the cinematic about it, which means it could yet crop up on some soundtrack soon.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Imagine Dragons, Thunder

IMAGINE DRAGONSTHUNDER: Snappy finger-clicks, hip-hop infused beats and a chant-worthy chorus… welcome to Thunder, the new single from Imagine Dragons. As ever with this band, the sentiment is about self-empowerment with the lyrics about non-conformity and rising about scepticism to follow your own dreams no matter what people tell you. As lead singer Dan explains: “Who do you think you are? Dreaming about being a big star?… Now, I’m smiling from the stage…” It’s a typically anthemic offering from Imagine Dragons, albeit delivered in a different musical style to their biggest hits, I Bet My Life and Warriors. But it’s also evidence of a band not afraid to mix up their sound in order to deliver something that’s equally appealing and capable of widespread appeal. If anything, it could bring them more followers.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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HAIM

HAIMRIGHT NOW: HAIM will release their sophomore album Something To Tell You globally on July 7 (Polydor). The announcement comes in tandem with the release of a live studio version of new song Right Now, the first new music from HAIM’s forthcoming album. The song was released as a video of Este, Danielle and Alana recording the song in a studio. Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia) stopped by the session and shot HAIM while they were recording. It’s a typically impressive, impassioned offering, built around lush, beautiful vocals, and a keen mix of piano and electronics. It’s stripped back in live form so as to be equally haunting and inspiring… a song that lingers in the memory and possesses plenty of power, especially once the drums start to kick in towards the end. HAIM will release the first official single from Something To Tell You on Wednesday May 3rd. On the evidence so far, it promises to be another high class offering.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jessie Reyez, Gatekeeper

JESSIE REYEZGATEKEEPER: Jessie Reyez has shared the powerful new video for her new single, Gatekeeper. Based on her personal journey and brought to life through her raw and emotional lyrics, Reyez narrates through the dark corner of fame with a moving story about her early days trying to make it in the music industry. Taken from a short film that will follow the video’s release, the Gatekeeper video is an intimate first look through Reyez’s eyes, not only through music, but also through her storytelling and acting. Reyes elaborates: “Years ago I was introduced to a big producer… The devil tempts but he doesn’t win.” The song carries a lyrical potency that’s often startling, with lines like “30 million want a shot, how much would it take for you to spread those legs apart?” As if to add to the song’s power, Reyez sings part of the song in a very innocent tone, as if to capture the sense of exploited youth, before then breaking out into a more sassy rap that lends urban edge, and mature conviction. It’s an eye-opening offering that marks Reyez out as one to watch.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 21, 2017

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

Lana Del Rey

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LANA DEL REY feat THE WEEKNDLUST FOR LIFE: “Take off, take off, take off all your clothes,” sings Lana Del Rey over the chorus of her latest single Lust For Life. It’s an erotic kind of sentiment, which is almost immediately followed by the bittersweet sentiment “they say only the good die young”. But it’s also further evidence of that haunted, yet beautiful (and beguiling) sound that Del Rey has honed. A tragic love story steeped in cinematic values. What’s more, there’s supporting vocals from The Weeknd, which bring a nice amount of layering. It’s epic, it’s swooning, it’s beautifully melancholic and it’s utterly gripping. As the title track to Lana Del Rey’s forthcoming LP, it suggests that she’s set to deliver another classic collection of songs.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Saint Clair, Train

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: SAINT CLAIRTRAIN: Saint Clair emerged with singles Sailing and Heavy On My Heart, both produced by Ninja Tune’s Raffertie and Ben Jones, with over 300,000 streams online. She’s set to tie these together with Train on her debut EP release, D1 (out May 5, through Saint Clair’s own Dearly Beloved imprint). The track is built around the sampled sounds of trains journeying out of London Bridge station – captured from the nearby roof of Ben Jones’ Bermondsey studios. It’s yet another emphatic, emotionally-involving statement set to continue turning heads in Saint Clair’s direction. But it’s not just about the train sounds. There’s a hypnotic, yet highly melodic electronic melody underpinning the track which is very compelling, coupled with some equally hypnotic, even seductive vocals. The chorus, in particular, is beautifully developed – sending the track to soaring new heights and making it difficult to resist. The beats then also lend the track more energy and a vibrancy that’s empowering. Saint Clair – so-called after her mother’s Scottish ancestry – is the recording alias of French-speaking North Londoner, Emma Topolski. Having grown up surrounded by painters, actors, and journalists, Saint Clair became the first in her family to turn to music, pursuing a career trajectory that’s so far taken her on the road as a backing vocalist for long-time friend Laura Marling (in whose Reversal Of The Muse project she also participated, alongside HAIM, Dolly Parton and Marika Hackman), and seen her play keyboards and sing BVs for Ghostpoet. She has also supported Bastille on their most recent arena tour, as singer and bassist in emerging, Radio 1-supported rockers Childcare.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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OUTLYA, Higher (acoustic)

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: OUTLYAHIGHER (ACOUSTIC): Having recently released their second single Higher, OUTLYA have now released an acoustic version of the track – and it’s really rather great! Speaking about the new single, Will Bloomfield explains: “Higher is a song about that place we all go to when things get grim. It’s a song with a simple message: sometimes it’s ok to retreat into our own imaginations. We wanted the track to sound bold and have this huge vocal sound like Pastor T L Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir. We also wanted to create a strong tropical feel to help conjure up an image of our own desert island, the island of OUTLYA.” If Will’s comments reflect the big, thunderous nature of the original recording, then the acoustic version strips things down to a more reflective kind of offering – but one that’s much more agreeable and breakout worthy. There’s Feeder-esque ‘woohoo’ harmonising and Filter/Take A Picture style melodies, as well as something of a Mumford & Sons vibe to the vocals. It’s catchy during the chorus, honest and heart-on-sleeve during the build-up. But once that chorus does land, it’s reassuring in spite of the uncertainty inherent in the lyrics. You get the feeling that OUTLYA should do more of this acoustic thing.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paramore, Hard times

PARAMOREHARD TIMES: Paramore have announced the eagerly awaited release of their fifth studio album, After Laughter, which will arrive everywhere on Friday, May 12. The Grammy Award-winning band’s first new album in more than four years, After Laughter is available for pre-order now and accompanied by an instant grat download of the just unveiled new single, Hard Times. That single is an unexpectedly upbeat track for a song that suggests struggle. Indeed, some of the melodies owe much to the 80s synth-pop scene, as well as their own rythmic structure of Aint It Fun. Hence, there are some spiky hooks to augment the bouncy beats and generally infectious tone (just check out the almost loopy instrumental breakdown midway through). Lyrically, however, the song sounds a note of caution in the way that it suggests that depression can be lingering, waiting to consume, even when things look bright from the outside. It’s got that edge to offset the happiness. And it’s a great way to make a comeback. You should be almost immediately hooked.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Franklys

THE FRANKLYSWEASEL: The Franklys are a no-nonsense, all-girl set of rockers who nevertheless manage to combine punk and garage elements with something accessible to the mainstream. They call it pop-rock, with garage, punk, indie, hard rock and funk thrown in. New single Weasel, taken from their forthcoming debut album Are You Listening? (released on June 23), illustrates this nicely. There’s spiky guitar riffs that flirt with punk and garage, coupled with some tight melodies and a brash chorus that can certainly get toes tapping. If you think L7 mixed with Hole and then add some Souxsie and The Banshees for good measure, you may well be in the right ball park. And speaking of ball parks, the girls have delivered a vibrant, quirky and colourful video, featuring them limbering up for and participating in various sports scenes. It’s a fun watch to accompany a fun, if raucous listen. The Franklys are comprised of Swedish Jennifer Ahlkvist and Fanny Broberg, East Anglian bassist Zoë Biggs and drummer Lexi Clark.
Rating: 4 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, whose new material also heralds the imminent arrival of a new set of UK tour dates.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Pom Poko, Jazz Baby

POM POKOJAZZ BABY: Mix sing-song vocals with intense grooves, bouncy guitars and absurd riffs and there you have the pure Norwegian punky sweetness of Pom Poko and their new single Jazz Baby. Intensely bouncy, more than a little bit catchy and with some punk-pop intensity thrown in for good measure, this is a slick, cool offering that should go down well with the hipster listening crowd. And with lyrics that suggest “so you think I’m crazy”, there’s a nice line in juxtaposition that adds some bittersweetness to the mix. Put simply, the new track is an eclectic concoction of crowd pleasing vocal hooks, 70’s disco riffs and raucous rhythmic changes all of which combine to make this band a feat to behold live. Despite only forming 8 months ago, Pom Poko are on a rapid ascent. The Norwegian quartet released their first official single, It’s A Trap, back in January of this year and went on to be voted No.5 on the Norwegian music industry’s list of promising artists for 2017.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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ZAYN feat PARTYNEXTDOORSTILL GOT TIME: Former One Direction star Zayn drops his latest single in the form of the zippy Still Got Time. But while it does mark a departure from the boy band sound he used to be associated with, the track seems to owe more in style to the likes of Craig David. It also features a guest rap from OVO Sound luminary Partynextdoor, which – again – feels like an over-used device for the moment. In spite of these reservations, Zayn clearly knows how to create something that appeals to the mainstream sensibility and this boasts all the components required to make it a huge hit for him. The beats are slick and rapid (and get better and more pronounced the longer the track lasts), the electronics have a smooth groove kind of vibe and the central vocals also evoke that same smooth groove sensibility. It knows what it’s doing. Still Got Time is the first single from his highly anticipated second studio album, due out this summer, and it now comes complete with a video, which was filmed at Zayn’s home in London and directed by Calmatic (Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak). Of filming the video, Calmatic said: “I was asleep in LA when I got a call from Luti Media and Zayn’s management at 7am. They told me to hop on the next flight to London. It was my first time in London so I didn’t know what to expect. When I got there we met at his crib and he said he wanted to throw the wildest house party imaginable. So we invited everyone we knew and let the cameras roll. The rest is history.”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Playing House

PLAYING HOUSEJELLY LEGS: London-based trio Playing House make a triumphant return with their video for Jelly Legs (below), the lead single from their second EP Jocelyn (out now on Soft Belly Records). Mixing sturdy songwriting with the off-kilter art direction of long-term collaborator Ewen Farr (best known for providing creative visuals for Danny Brown, deadmau5 and Quelle Chris), the band dive further into quirkier, more exploratory ground to offer their own smart spin on classic and contemporary pop. If anything, there’s some guitar-pop nods to bands like The Kooks in some of the hooks, and Friday I’m In Love-era Cure at others, albeit mixed with a female set of vocals and some electronic elements that owe more to the 80s pop scene. The resulting record has elements of cool, elements of kitsch and is as art-pop as they come. It’s catchy but in small doses. Written after a period of intense grief and a loss of identity, the Jocelyn EP finds Playing House skillfully fuse red-raw, soul-bearing emotion with their signature art-pop tendencies. It’s astonishingly electric, refreshingly bold and a hell of a lot of fun – the sound of a band investigating the possibilities of the pop landscape.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Taffy

TAFFYMURKIII: Critically acclaimed Japanese indie-pop four piece Taffy returned this year with their fourth studio album, Nyctophilia (out now), and release Murkiii as their new single. Built around some insistent guitar hooks and a pounding set of drums, this is a relentlessly energetic offering that gets by on the strength of its guitar riffs alone. Vocally, though, it struggles to register as strongly, with the female vocals always in danger of being either drowned out or a little too wishy-washy. You struggle to hear the words. And the mix of sung and spoken sometimes feel lazy within the context of the instrumentals. The chorus has a little more zip, vocally, but the same problem exists with the ability to hear (or not hear) the actual lyrics. With sensibilities reminiscent of Elastica, Taffy have always been inspired by the works of British artists and in Nyctophilia they were given the chance to play homage to one of their favorites with a cover of Come Home Baby by The Charlatans. Tim Burgess has been something of a longtime fan speaking publicly of his fondness for the band, taking them on tour. Of the cover, he said “it’s an honour” but the band insist the honour was all theirs.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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

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

Linkin Park

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LINKIN PARK feat PUSHA T AND STORMZYGOOD GOODBYE: Three new tracks in and the omens still appear to be good for Linkin Park’s new album, One More Light (which drops on May 19). Admittedly, the heaviness more commonly associated with them appears to be absent almost completely, with a sound more mainstream friendly than ever before. But that doesn’t mean to say they’re not afraid to experiment. And new single Good Goodbye fuses genres, with their alt-rock, nu-metal elements now combining with an urban/rap edge courtesy of guest vocalists Pusha T and Stormy. Indeed, while most previous Linkin Park offerings have become associated with the type of thing you’d find an a Transformers soundtrack, this one belongs firmly in Fast & Furious territory. Stormzy’s presence, in particular, gives it a very contemporary edge (he is one of the grime artists of the moment), while adding some much needed attitude. But the chorus is chock full of melody, meaning that it can be embraced in an anthemic, even sing-along way. And while those who like their Linkin Park material to be heavy and Download [Festival] friendly, this is more Shadow of The Day/Minutes To Midnight era friendly.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Kooks

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE KOOKS – BE WHO YOU ARE: The Kooks have released their new track Be Who You Are as part of their new album, The Best Of… So Far (out on May 19) – and it’s a fun blast from the past. The band have long been known (and loved) for their breezy indie-pop energy and the elements that helped to shape such sizeable hits as She Moves In Her Own Way and Ooh La are here in spades. There’s a jangly pop sound, a “da da da da da” harmony, a colosally breezy chorus that’s all about empowerment and some edge, too, amid the heavier guitar riffs. What’s more, there’s even a mid-track breakdown into the type of territory that classic Beatles may well have inhabited. It’s a song shot through with undeniable energy that’s as catchy as hell – the sound of a band doing what they do best. And it’s a terrific track to be played loud in the sunshine. The greatest hits album is the usual assortment of their greatest hits as well as two new songs, Be Who You Are and Broken Vow. Lead singer Luke Pritchard commented: “It’s been the greatest pleasure to work, travel, fight, hate and love the best and most talented people I’ve met in my life. It’s the greatest job in the world and we don’t intend to stop any time soon.” On the strength of this new single, that’s very good news indeed!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gold Setting

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE GOLD SETTING – MY LOVE: The face and voice of The Gold Setting is Liza Colby. Channelling sensual 1960s soul, 1990s R&B and Tina Turner-esque swagger, The Gold Setting boasts a fluid cast of all-stars, including multi-instrumentalist/composer/arranger Todd Simon (Ghostface Killah, Sharon Jones, Lily Allen), Grammy-nominated Adam Berg (Decoders), and songwriter/producer/musician Richard Rudolph (Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, A Tribe Called Quest, 2Pac, Chaka Kahn, En Vogue). New single My Love is a delight. Built around a laidback beat, some fine stabs of brass and a set of vocals that are so sultry, they positively purr, this channels everyone from classic soul to trip-hop Morcheeba and mellow Nightmares on Wax. It’s the sort of track that’s designed with relaxation and positivity in mind (right down to lyrics that suggest “we don’t have to rush”), and which could well become one of the laidback anthems of the summer of 2017 for anyone who hears it. The track is taken from The Gold Setting’s debut EP, Volume and Tone, which lands on April 21.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Jesus & Mary Chain

THE JESUS & MARY CHAINMOOD RIDER: The return of The Jesus and Mary Chain with Damage and Joy – their first album in almost 19 years – feels as if they’ve never been away. Released to positive reviews across the board, the album saw the Reid brothers return to the Top 20 for the first time since the Stoned & Dethroned album in 1994. New single Mood Rider underlines that. Built around those same hazy vocals, and that inimitably psychedelic indie style, this also drops some great guitar riffs and a big chorus that gets better the more it rolls around. The guitars are as take notice as ever and come complete with a stonking solo midway through, which is accompanied by some woo-hoo harmonies. If you’re looking for comparisons to draw from, think Dinosaur Jr melded with Screamadelica era Primal Scream. It’s that good. The accompanying video features a rush of hallucinatory imagery as frontman Jim Reid performs the track, while its lyrics flash-up at an urgent pace.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Royal Blood

ROYAL BLOODLIGHTS OUT: After becoming the biggest breaking British rock band with their self-titled 2014 debut album, Royal Blood’s eagerly anticipated second album How Did We Get So Dark? will be released on June 16 on Warner Bros. Records. To celebrate, the album’s lead single Lights Out is now available and it’s immediately apparent that the track ups the ante from their debut with a wrecking ball of a groove cemented by Ben Thatcher’s thunderous rhythms, while Mike Kerr wrangles the twisted invention of his bass riffs to a whole new level. It’s a typically heavy offering but, crucially, there’s something melodic enough to keep it in tune with a certain mainstream scene. Think the kind of mainstream that embraces bands like Muse or even Kasabian. The guitars have punch but energy and are hook-laden and catchy, while the chorus – while big – enables the song to soar without becoming too heavy. Indeed, the guitars are great throughout, as evidenced by the solo element. Lights Out could well become an instant anthem for them that only broadens their following. The 10 tracks that feature on How Did We Get So Dark? were written in instrumental form during sessions in Brighton, Hollywood, Los Angeles and Nashville. Always trying to explore ways of stripping their enormous sound back to give it more space and impact, inspiration for the lyrics came from events in vocalist/bassist Mike Kerr’s life since the band first found huge success.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Hercules & Love Affair, Controller

HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR feat FARIS BADWANCONTROLLER: Hercules & Love Affair have debuted Controller as their propulsive new offering. The track features The Horrors’ Faris Badwan on vocals, thereby fusing his starker post-punk stylings with Hercules & Love Affair leader Andy Butler’s disco-house heritage. The ensuing track has a feel that’s both haunted and sexy, delivering the sort of late night dance-pop that Depeche Mode specialise in… at least until Badwan drops his vocals and a gospel backing also broadens the sound and appeal of the record still further. It’s a hypnotic offering that has been labelled sexy by several outlets. It has a sexual energy and edge that’s designed for the late night crowd. The accompanying video features direction from London artist Rei Nadal. Nadal has previously directed music videos for Primal Scream, Reptile Youth and Vaults, as well as fashion films for SHOWstudio. The result of her collaboration with Hercules & Love Affair is an edgy, voguish visual element which pairs frenetic wide shots of dominatrix imagery with striking close-ups of fluttering eyelids and lyricizing candy-red lips.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ten Tonnes

TEN TONNESSILVER HEAT: After launching his track Silver Heat, Ten Tonnes – aka Ethan Barnett – has recently been added to the bill for this summer’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, and has also announced a UK tour as guest to Will Joseph Cook. Produced by Hugo White, of The Maccabees, and recorded at the band’s storied studio The Drugstore, Silver Heat is billed as a moment-in-time snapshot that encapsulates Barnett’s breezy ability to fashion earworm melodies alongside lyrics which brim with both youthful exuberance and a nostalgia for a recent past. It’s energetic in the extreme, complete with rip-roaring indie-rock guitar blasts, brash young vocals and a brash chorus that’s designed to go down a storm whenever played live. It has traces of bands like The Kooks and The Kaiser Chiefs, with a punk streak that’s akin to listening to The Clash (come the livewire finale). The video, directed by Mark Kelly, finds the young musician playing the track in a claustrophobic restaurant kitchen while the staff members’ collective temper starts to boil over. Says Barnett: “I wanted to make a video that really captured the energy of the track and what better place to do that than in a tiny restaurant kitchen? This was my first ever music video and it was really fun to do, I hope everyone else likes it.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Atlas Wynd

ATLAS WYNDMONA LISA: Atlas Wynd have unveiled their latest cut, Mona Lisa, following an explosive debut which took them all the way to South Korea’s Zandari Festa. The Brighton-based duo of Peter Chapman (vocals/guitar) and Harry Sotnick (drums) are barely out of their teens but operate like seasoned professionals as they thrash and snarl on this absolute brute of a new single. It’s a heavyweight indie-rock anthem that’s built around thick, robust guitar riffs and some gutsy vocals – think Kasabian in all their swagger. It’s the sort of offering that’s designed to get them noticed – and which succeeds in doing just that in emphatic style, right down to the brilliant guitar ending, which even drops in some slide. Mona Lisa is only the second track to come from the young two-piece, but already there’s an unbridled power behind every bite of the guitar/drum marriage that promises to keep delivering for some time to come. The track was born out of long rehearsal room jams and simply having fun with a song without thinking too much about what it meant. Speaking of the murky finale, Peter explains how it started as ‘a poem I was writing in my head while pacing around the kitchen in our old house’, before taking on an extended outro, fuelled by raw energy. The recording is the result of a week long studio session with Irish duo St. Francis Hotel last year, and with the remaining half to follow soon, the band plan on getting straight back to sharing the new material in a live setting, the way it was always meant to be experienced.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Feist

FEISTCENTURY: Feist has shared the latest track to be taken from her forthcoming new album Pleasure, entitled Century and featuring a spoken word outro from none other than the intimitable Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp fame). The stormy, brooding track is available as an instant grat download upon pre-order of the album. 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. And perhaps fittingly, the new 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, providing enticing evidence that Feist’s new material could well be worth hearing. As the fourth full-length from the Canadian singer/songwriter born Leslie Feist, Pleasure builds off the warm naturalism of the Polaris Prize-winning Metals and emerges as her most formally defiant and expansive work so far. Recorded over the course of three months — in Stinson Beach, Upstate New York, and Paris — Pleasure was co-produced by Feist with longtime collaborators Renaud Letang and Mocky. In addition to re-affirming Feist as a cagily inventive guitar player, the album threads her shape-shifting and often haunting vocals into sparse and raw arrangements. In addition, Feist has now released the official video for Century, which you can now watch below.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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

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

Meadowlark, Postcards

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MEADOWLARKPOSTCARDS: Meadowlark have announced details of their anticipated debut LP, Postcards, which is set for release on June 30, 2017, via AllPoints (previously Believe Records). Marking this announcement, the album’s title track is now available – and it’s 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. Alongside the release of Postcards as a single, Meadowlark are calling on their fans to be involved with creating the official video for the track. They are calling on 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.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Noga Erez

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: NOGA EREZOFF THE RADAR: Continuing her roll of fierce singles, Tel Aviv’s Noga Erez has shared the title track from her forthcoming debut album, Off The Radar, due out on June 2 via City Slang. The track finds her continuing to pack punches amidst dance-heavy beats and dynamic melodies, her words cutting a savvy and forthright commentary on the world as she sees it. “Off The Radar addresses contemporary fears of being anonymous or forgotten, and our indecent urge to leave our mark by publicly sharing thoughts and ideas without due consideration, purely for the rush we get from approval and affirmation,” she explains. It’s a timely point, well made, but done so in a way that doesn’t sound preachy or condescending… more worth taking notice of and considering. The beats are prpopulsive, urgent and kick-ass cool, while the ballsy vocal delivery smacks of someone screaming out to be heard (and deserving to be). It’s undeniably catchy pop-rap that further enhances Erez’s rapidly growing reputation.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alt-J, In Cold Blood

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: ALT-J – IN COLD BLOOD: Hot off the back of their recent single, 3WW, Alt-J have now made In Cold Blood available – and it’s every bit as good. By the band’s own admission, the track was conceived in their ‘Leeds days’ but recorded in London, including at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, where the brass was added. It’s a laidback offering, delivered in typically hangdog vocal style, with some lazy beats and Heavy-esque stabs of brass. It’s also evidence of the band’s growing diversity, as well as their ability to mix a rock/alternative vibe with something melodic and radio-friendly enough to tap into the mainstream (something the presence of some sing-along ‘la la la’s’ helps over the chorus). The trademark guitar sound is also evident, which brings about that welcome ring of Alt-J familiarity, albeit liberally enhanced with electronic flourishes too. There are times it’s also psychedelic. There’s a lot going on. And we’re really liking the new material. Alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, drops on June 2. The countdown is well and truly on.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Oh Wonder, Ultralife

OH WONDERULTRALIFE: When we last heard from Londoners Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, they were capping an incredible year with a sold-out show at London’s Roundhouse. In the space of 14 months, they went from tentatively playing a first live show at London’s ICA to touring the world, playing shows across Latin America, Australia, Russia and Asia, and repeat UK, Europe, US and Canada tours to ever increasing rooms. Now, they drop the new single Ultralife, which marks the sound of a new confidence seeping into the pair’s songwriting. It is muscular in its delivery, celebratory in its message, and plays with a dizzying array of textures and sounds. The melodies are sunshine and breezy, the vocals sweet and textured, and the lyrics resolutely upbeat and optimistic. It’s the type of bright offering that puts a smile on your face and makes you feel good about the day; and it’s great for playing loud on a summery day. This could easily become something of a summer anthem for 2017 – breeze alt-pop that celebrates positivity.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Chainsmokers, The One

THE CHAINSMOKERSTHE ONE: Having turned themselves into global sensations with their singles Something Just Like This (featuring Coldplay) and Paris, the producing duo now return with new single The One – and they continue to impress. Admittedly, the formula here is pretty much the same – easy lyricism, catchy melodies, a sing-along kind of vibe. But the pace is slower, with less emphasis on the dance-pop formula and more on piano-soaked balladry. But the same indie spirit that has informed several of their records thus far (the notion of outsiders trying to escape the norm) remains intact and it’s that, more than anything, that helps them stand out from a lot of their mainstream contemporaries. So, while it is designed with maximum crowd-pleasing ability in mind, there’s that edge that keeps them fresh. And when those more dance elements do eventually kick in (albeit with darker back beats), it’s toe-tappingly, reassuringly good. The One is another success for them.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paul Weller

PAUL WELLERLONG LONG ROAD: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Paul Weller’s first album, In The City, which he released with The Jam in May 1977. For most artists such a landmark would be greeted with extensive retrospective celebrations: lavish reissues and all that jazz. But Paul Weller is not like most artists, instead releasing a new studio album. Always moving forwards, almost clinically averse to nostalgia or checking his progress in the rear-view mirror, A Kind Revolution (out on May 12) finds Weller delivering a new set of songs that fit the classic modern Weller mode, in that they’re instantly recognisable but in no way predictable. Evidence of this can be found on new single Long Long Road, which has a bluesy, piano-ballad kind of vibe (with a touch of R&B). It’s an earnest offering, reflecting on the past, which soars to some epic heights courtesy of string arrangements and a bold, continually growing chorus. Weller doesn’t often do the crooner thing, but here he does it well, injecting the song with a keen sense of nostalgia and reflection. It’s sure to become a firm favourite among the Weller fanbase.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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CHAMPS, The Garden Is Overgrown

CHAMPSTHE GARDEN IS OVERGROWN: CHAMPS, aka brothers Michael and David Champion, have delivered a new track in the form of the lively The Garden Is Overgrown. The track emerges into the spring sunlight with an exhilarating eruption of guitars and keyboards partnered with Michael on lead vocals cascading almost immediately into a hook laden, engaging chorus. There are traces of bands like James and Delays (especially when the falsetto vocals drop over the chorus), as well as the inimitable CHAMPS style. It’s a catchy offering that suggests the band have recaptured the energy of old, while playfully combining retro elements with something fresh and exciting. Indeed, the past year has seen the pair commuting between their home on the Isle of Wight and London whilw also venturing across South East Asia combining their love of travelling and surfing. Work on the follow up to former album Vamala begins in earnest and The Garden Is Overgrown, produced by Sean Oakley (Rick Rubin’s go-to engineer), is the introduction to the next chapter (which already looks an enticing prospect).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Ulrika Spacek

ULRIKA SPACEKFULL OF MEN: With their new LP set for release on June 2, 2017, via Tough Love Records, London-based five-piece Ulrika Spacek share new single Full of Men and instantly impress. Speaking about the new track, the band said: “Writing Full of Men came at an important time writing our second record. It was one of those songs that we knew quite quickly would characterise the second record, it pins a particular era for us. Lyrically, it’s quite aggressive for us. Sometimes I feel this world is just so full of men’.” In spite of those lyrics, though, the song itself has a much catchier, less attritional vibe. Indeed, with its slacker-indie guitar vibe, akin to acts like Jesus & Mary Chain or The Drums (or even The Shins or Rogue Wave), and its hazy vocals, this has a head-nodding, passive kind of feel to it that makes it utterly engaging. Indeed, the guitar sound is a major attraction, given that the instrumentals are very much to the fore; thereby letting the band off the hook somewhat for the vocals that sometimes are so laidback as to make the lyrics themselves hard to decipher. Nevertheless, it’s an amiable listen.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Feist

FEISTCENTURY: Feist has shared the latest track to be taken from her forthcoming new album Pleasure, entitled Century and featuring a spoken word outro from none other than the intimitable Jarvis Cocker (of Pulp fame). The stormy, brooding track is available as an instant grat download upon pre-order of the album. 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. And perhaps fittingly, the new 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, providing enticing evidence that Feist’s new material could well be worth hearing. As the fourth full-length from the Canadian singer/songwriter born Leslie Feist, Pleasure builds off the warm naturalism of the Polaris Prize-winning Metals and emerges as her most formally defiant and expansive work so far. Recorded over the course of three months — in Stinson Beach, Upstate New York, and Paris — Pleasure was co-produced by Feist with longtime collaborators Renaud Letang and Mocky. In addition to re-affirming Feist as a cagily inventive guitar player, the album threads her shape-shifting and often haunting vocals into sparse and raw arrangements.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 24, 2017

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

Michael Kiwanuka

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MICHAEL KIWANUKACOLD LITLE HEART: Michael Kiwanuka releases another highlight from his Love & Hate LP in the form of the epic Cold Little Heart. The track very much underlines the scope of his ambition this time around. Clocking in at 11 minutes [in album form, six minutes in video form], this opens with an instrumental that sounds more like a cinema soundtrack moment than a song (think Ennio Morricone). But it’s shot through with beauty, with swirling strings and beautifully realised piano arrangements eventually ushering in Kiwanuka’s distinct, even classic vocal style. It’s a song about regret and sorrow that’s shot through with the emotional conviction that Kiwanuka has made his own, not to mention that sense of the retro and the cinematically grand. The cinematic short that accompanies it is directed by David Helman and features fast-rising US actor, Lakeith ‘Keith’ Stanfield (Get Out/Selma/Short Term 12) in its lead role. Helman commented: “Since the narrative is rooted in grief and centres around the loss of a father figure from the perspective of a young teenager, I knew we needed to cast someone who would immediately connect with our audience on an emotional level. Lakeith has been a close friend who has continued to inspire me with both his talent, but also with his genuine curiosity. You can easily spend hours talking to Lakeith about almost anything and expand your perspective on everything from religion to Death Grips. I wrote this concept with Lakeith in mind from the start because every time we’ve worked together he’s always willing to make himself vulnerable and he’s absolutely fearless in front of the camera.” As ever with Kiwanuka, this is impossibly stylish. If you’ve not heard the album as a whole, then you’re missing out.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Rag N Bone Man

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: RAG N BONE MANSKIN: Rag’n‘Bone Man officially releases the new single Skin, taken from his debut album Human, out now on Best Laid Plans/Columbia Records. Following hot off the heels of his massive single Human, Skin again highlights why there is such a buzz surrounding him. An anthemic slice of blues soaked soul-pop, this is a record about empowerment that deservedly soars over the chorus. It’s then that Graham’s vocals hit some powerful blues highs, while being rousingly supported by a gospel choir. It’s the very epitome of anthemic. But there’s a lot of heart and soul in the lyrics, which reflect on a heartbreak and the effect of memory over the years. And the way it patiently builds, layering in the instrumental elements, is equally striking too. The accompanying video is something special, too, set against some striking landscapes and featuring some fine young performances. Rag n Bone Man is fully deserving of the success he is currently enjoying. The phenomenal success of Human has resonated around the globe on an equally outstanding scale, with the album surpassing an amazing 1 million sales worldwide and hitting the number 1 spot on iTunes in over 30 countries.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gorillaz

GORILLAZASCENSION/WE GOT THE POWER: Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz have unveiled two new singles from their forthcoming comeback album in the form of Ascension and We Got The Power. As usual with an Albarn production, it continues to evolve the creator’s sound, so that anyone expecting a sound on a par with Clint Eastwood had best think again. Ascension, in particular, is built around an almost urban set of vocals from Vince Staples, which give the track an immediate potency, as well as real edge. Albarn contributes some more familiar vocals midway through, which are typically distinct, but this maintains a speak-sing delivery throughout, complete with the odd shot of gospel. It’s typical of Albarn’s and Gorillaz musical sense of adventure that this straddles so many genres: pop, hip-hop, gospel and soul. It takes a little getting used to, but there’s something hip about it that’s difficult to ignore. We Got The Power, meanwhile, features Jehnny Beth as the focal point and a chorus by Noel Gallagher. It’s an impassioned call to arms for positivity in the face of diversity, offering some form of anthemic hope in the face of the current political uncertainty that seems to be gripping the globe. You can’t argue with a line that states: “We’ve got the power to be loving with each other no matter what happens…” And it’s delivered complete with a foot-stomping set of beats and some soaring keys, that contribute to something empowering and positive and even breezy – but not pop. Gorillaz don’t do pop, even though they know how to deliver something capable of appealing to the masses without sounding like anything you’ve heard before. And all power to them for that.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tei Shi, Justify

TEI SHIJUSTIFY: Following a week of acclaimed performances from critics and fans alike at SXSW, Tei Shi has shared Justify from of her highly anticipated debut album Crawl Space, out on March 31 on Polydor Records. According to the singer herself (aka Valerie Teicher): “Justify is a kind of protest song against the way in which we are categorized or judged by others based off of very superficial or one dimensional standards. It came from a place of rebellion against the insecurities and pressures that come into play when you put yourself in a position to be defined by another. For me, the song is a challenge against that musically and emotionally.” The ensuing song builds on the R&B pop formula that Tei Shi began to estabish on former offerings Keep Running and How Far. Vocally, she emerges as something of a cross between Prince and Janet Jackson, while the blips and electronic beats that accompany the song have a very polished feel… pop but with enough edge to enable her to stand out from the norm.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Freak, I Like To Smile When I'm Sad

FREAK – I LIKE TO SMILE WHEN I’M SAD: Freak – aka 19-year-old Connar Ridd – has dropped the explosive new single I Like To Smile When I’m Sad, available now on his FREAK Recordings imprint and Polydor Records. The track is another visceral slice of disaffection that’ll make you choke on your Fruit Loops… all abrasive riffs and cascading percussion, while the accompanying video sees Ridd hiding behind a grinning emoji face like a warped 2017 version of Frank Sidebottom. The singer has been described by The Guardian as a “one man Nirvana who hits hard” and there is truth in that. The guitar sound is very Nirvana-like, even if the vocals lack the grunge intensity of Kurt Cobain (or rather, sound more British and punk inflicted). A full-on guitar solo also enables the track to sound as furious and frustrated as the lyrics suggest. Its potent stuff – heavy but kind of catchy too. Speaking about the track, Freak said: “Out of all the songs I’ve written, this one is probably my favourite. I wrote, produced and recorded it all in my bedroom. During my days at university and working in the Co-Op, I was really frustrated about having to do things that I didn’t want to. All I really wanted to do was make music and not be stacking shelves or learning about stuff I didn’t care about. This song is about putting on a face which can totally hide what you are feeling. It’s about smiling when you are sad.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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ZAYN feat PARTYNEXTDOORSTILL GOT TIME: Former One Direction star Zayn drops his latest single in the form of the zippy Still Got Time. But while it does mark a departure from the boy band sound he used to be associated with, the track seems to owe more in style to the likes of Craig David. It also features a guest rap from OVO Sound luminary Partynextdoor, which – again – feels like an over-used device for the moment. In spite of these reservations, Zayn clearly knows how to create something that appeals to the mainstream sensibility and this boasts all the components required to make it a huge hit for him. The beats are slick and rapid (and get better and more pronounced the longer the track lasts), the electronics have a smooth groove kind of vibe and the central vocals also evoke that same smooth groove sensibility. It knows what it’s doing. Still Got Time is the first single from his highly anticipated second studio album, due out this summer.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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All Time Low, Last Young Renegade

ALL TIME LOWLAST YOUNG RENEGADE: All Time Low’s Last Young Renegade is the title track from the band’s upcoming album, available from June 2 on Fueled By Ramen – and it’s another breezy slice of pop punk that should delight their burgeoning fan-base. Owing as much to the likes of early, more mainstream Springsteen as it does the likes of Panic At The Disco and boy bands, this manages to be both catchy and punchy, thereby boasting plenty of crossover potential. If we’re being ultra picky, the boys could do with going a little harder on their sound, as some of the melodies are a little too lightweight and melodic. But they’re clearly writing songs that are designed to appeal to a more female demographic, with the sounds of a thousand screams undoubtedly ringing in their ears. Last Young Renegade is fine as this kind of record goes, but it’s very generic and merely sounds like it’s ticking all the right boxes for world-wide smash-hit success (right down to the cheesy accompanying lyrics).
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Analogue Wave, Hope

ANALOGUE WAVEHOPE: Analogue Wave is an Irish-based electronic duo, mixing dub and electronica with breakbeats, vocals and synths. After a three-year hiatus, the band have returned to the underground scene with a brand new single Hope. This is a sonic call to arms in a world spinning wildly out of control, both politically and climatically, with no hope of a positive ending in sight. Set against a highly insistent electronic bed, as well as some atmospheric, potent beats, this is clearly influenced by the likes of Leftfield, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode and Massive Attack, while also being capable of appeal to fans of Aphex Twin and Leftfield. Vocally, it’s arguably at its weakest. But the instrumentals give it a pumped up vibe that is difficult to ignore. “Hope is a sonic reaction to both the political and climatic turmoil currently threatening modern life as we know it,” explains vocalist Del Chaney. “It was written under the shadow of the farcical US presidential elections and the current fallout from Brexit.” Potent and timely, it’s well worth checking out if you share similarly disaffected political feelings.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 17, 2017

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

Kasabian, You're In Love With A Psycho

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: KASABIANYOU’RE IN LOVE WITH A PSYCHO: Kasabian are wasting no time in releasing their new material. Just weeks ahead of the release of their new LP, For Crying Out Loud, which will be released on April 28, comes the lead single You’re In Love With A Psycho. And, as is this week’s norm, the sound seems to have mellowed somewhat. The guitars are still present, along with the trademark Kasabian background electronic whine, but there’s also more of a pop twang to proceedings that could yet yield big dividends in terms of the track’s commercial success. It’s a bouncy, catchy slice of rock-pop that zips along in ear-pleasing fashion without completely compromising the band’s harder edge. If anything, this is the band’s attempt to keep guitar music contemporary… hence, according to Serge Pizzorno, there are elements of ESG and Talking Heads in the songwriting. And if that’s not necessarily immediately apparent on this release, it’s the type of offering that fills you with a certain amount of optimism. It’s sharp, catchy, slickly produced and trades well on the familiar as well as ushering in something new (and evolving). Kasabian may not be back with a bang… but they’re back with style. And the track really does grow on you.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Linkin Park, Battle Symphony

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: LINKIN PARKBATTLE SYMPHONY: Hot off the back of their surprise single Heavy, Linkin Park serve up another offering from their forthcoming album that would seem to confirm the heaviness more usually associated with them has been put to the side for the new material. Once again, the guitars are kept on the chain, allowing for a more synth-based, pop sound to emerge. Whether that will please the die-hard fans remains to be seen, but this certainly boasts wider, more universal appeal. And, as with Heavy, there’s another catchy as hell chorus. The beats are subtle but toe-tapping, the synths pop but bright and the chorus shot through with enough melodies that this could well become one of the band’s more sing-along anthems. The title does, admittedly, suggest the type of guitar-led anthem that could land a place on the new Transformers film (and it still could), but this is an entirely different beast. Some may argue that Linkin Park seem to have sold out and gone more commercial; but if they are, they’re doing it well. This has big hit written all over it. The new album, One More Light, drops on May 19.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sylvan Esso, Die Young

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: SYLVAN ESSODIE YOUNG: Underpinned by some typically beautiful, spell-binding female vocals, Sylvan Esso’s Die Young is a bittersweet slice of electro pop that endears from the first moment you hear it. Opening in low-key, minimalist fashion, the track slowly drops the layering, with a distinct synth also creating a strong hook. The beats, meanwhile, are similarly subtle, even sparsely employed, leaving it to the vocals to create the fireworks. But when the chorus lands, the track really takes off, thereby also allowing room for more electronic activity. Hence, while the song may have an air of melancholy with lyrics that talk of dying young, the song itself never feels depressing or sad. Rather, it’s perversely celebratory. And that chorus is insantly catchy. The North Carolina duo are gearing up to release their new album, What Now on April 28 and on the evidence of this latest offering, it could be well worth a listen.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bear's Den

BEAR’S DENGREENWOOD’S BETHLEHEM: Bear’s Den have unveiled a video for their new single, Greenwoods Bethlehem. Released on April 7 via Communion Records, the track is the latest to be taken from their top ten charting second album, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, which is out now. Channeling the likes of The War On Drugs and Bruce Springsteen, the anthemic Greenwoods Bethlehem has become a firm favourite amongst live audiences and sonically portrays how the band have grown. Recorded with the band’s long-term producer Ian Grimble (Laura Marling, Daughter), Greenwoods Bethlehem retains the heartfelt lyrics that have been synonymous with Bear’s Den since day one, set against a powerful backdrop of driving rhythms and emotive melodies. In our review of the album, IndieLondon’s Jack Foley wrote: “The lush, gentle acoustics of Greenwoods Bethlehem boasts a somewhat breezier sentiment with lyrics that recall running in the rain and potentially happier times – albeit tempered with a bittersweet element that notes how things have changed. It remains a more upbeat record instrumentally and is further evidence of this band’s ability to create soundscapes that entrance.” We couldn’t agree more with him! It’s another instant classic from this consistently impressive band.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Weezer, Feels Like Summer

WEEZERFEELS LIKE SUMMER: What’s happening to the established norms this week? Linkin Park have mellowed and now Weezer have abandoned their slacker rock sound in favour of something more akin to clap-happy cheese-pop meets hip-hop. Driven by that hip-hop styled beat and some day-glow melodies, this finds Rivers Cuomo almost sing-speaking at times. It’s big, brash, even euphoric at times, especially when dropping the chorus in the latter stages. And it’s designed to be anthemic. But it’s not Weezer… at least not the Weezer of Buddy Holly or Island In The Sun or countless other tracks we’ve come to know and love. Yet while the ‘new style’ may take some adjusting to (especially for die-hard fans), there’s a celebratory, feel-good element to it (which is, kind of, Weezer-esque). It’s the kind of song, with its insane harmonies and trip-happy beats, that leaves you feeling good about yourself and pining for those sunshine rays. Now, throw your arms in the air and sing along please!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Agnes Obel

AGNES OBELSTRETCH YOUR EYES: Stretch Your Eyes is the fourth single to be taken from Agnes Obel’s critically acclaimed new album Citizen Of Glass, following the BBC 6Music playlisted tracks Familiar, Golden Green and It’s Happening Again. It’s a typically classy affair. Built around a vaguely African sounding instrumental backdrop, that flits between the edgy, the tribal and sometimes sinister, this again makes striking use of Obel’s distinct vocal style. If anything, her dreamy, wistful delivery serves as a nice, even soothing, contrast to those instrumentals, while the inclusion of piano and violin also does much to enhance the overall feel (which transports you on a journey of the mind as only Obel knows how). Indeed, those violins grow in stature the longer the record lasts, interweaving their way around the lyrics to hypnotic, even threatening effect. It is, as we’ve come to expect, kind of cinematic… and incredibly ambitious. Citizen Of Glass has been Obel’s most successful album in the UK, doubling the first week sales of her last album, 2013’s Aventine, and giving the Danish artist her first Top 30 album – and deservedly so.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sea Bed, Silent Song

SEA BEDSILENT SONG: Pulsating, sparse and occasionally spine-tingling (especially during the chorus), Sea Bed’s Silent Song may be the B-side to their recent single Pretender (released last month) but it’s further evidence of why this band continue to draw so much positive praise. Atmospheric, love-lorn yet hopeful (“will you ever change your mind for me?”), this makes striking use of Lizzie Massey’s powerful, borderline ethereal vocals, while also employing some orchestral back-beats (think Depeche Mode meets OMD). It’s great for listening to on a late night drive. Commenting on the track, Sea Bed said: “Silent Song is about the unique insecurities and hushed vulnerability we feel when we’re falling in love. The song is like a love letter that can never be sent, because the truth is too exposing and unguarded.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Fenne Lily, What's New

FENNE LILYWHAT’S GOOD: What’s Good is the new single from Fenne Lily. Drawing on her own personal experiences, Fenne’s exposed vocals on What’s Good 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.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Noga Erez

NOGA EREZTOY: Tel Aviv’s Noga Erez is back with another gutsy statement from her hotly tipped debut album Off The Radar (set for release on June 2 via City Slang worldwide) in the form of the provocative Toy. “Toy is sung from the point of view of someone who has inherited leadership, regardless of their talent or experience” explains Erez. “The lyrics, while short, are meant to show the contrast between someone who disowns his ‘crown’ vs. someone who embraces the privilege, entitlement and influence and uses it for their own personal needs. They become self-absorbed and destructive. Showing how quickly and easily power can corrupt a person.” It’s a timely release from an artist who is not averse to making bold political and social statements. What makes it more striking, however, is the way in which it is deliverd. The beats are spliced together, to create a very distinct, almost stop-start sound. While the abbreviated vocals have an edgy, atmospheric quality that demands you pay attention. It’s a highly addictive, highly unique sound that Erez has created – but one that succeeds in capturing your attention. The video is directed by Hen Makhluf and edited by Noga’s musical collaborator, Ori Rousso. “I am the son of your leader/Give me your love, and I’ll spare you,” sings a hooded Erez on a Tel Aviv rooftop, delving further into her compelling world of poised and innovative political pop.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Be Like Pablo, There She Is

BE LIKE PABLOTHERE SHE IS:There She Is is the best Be Like Pablo song to date,” says lead songwriter, Ewen Watson, of the mischievous Scottish band. A bold statement to make for a band with a consistent record of quality music behind them. But with influences like The Rentals and The Cars, the band’s interest in retro imagery and sounds are prominent in the track, complete with their trademark Moog synths and fuzzy power chords. The sleek sweet video, produced by the award-winning company, Freakworks, and starring Jerry-Jane Pears (The Royals, Survivor), depicts a Notting Hill-like tale of celebrity vs ‘normality’ and how images in the media blitz society. Watson explains this further: “There She Is tells the story of a high-school crush who left home and grew up to be the most famous person on earth. When writing the song, I could see a music video in my head from the outset: billboards and magazines spectacularly coming to life with their star – a glamourous model – breaking from her still-image form and reaching out to the real world.” The ensuing record is a retro-soaked breeze. If you’re a fan of The Cars, in particular, this has the same kind of retro pop-rock vibe, which translates well to the listener and becomes utterly infectious (right down to the woo-hoo style headrush harmonies). And that video is great fun too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, March 10, 2017

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

Alt-J, 3WW

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: ALT-J – 3WW: Alt-J have returned in style with the release of new single 3WW. Based around a subtle, repetitive beat and some sparse acoustic guitar, this has a prog-rock vibe at times but also embraces many of Alt-J’s hallmarks. It’s low-key but beautifully delivered over five minutes, during which time the layering gets better and better. Midway through, for example, a simple but oh-so effective piano arrangement drops, to add an extra element, while the arrival of female vocals precipitates a change in vibe. Without ever resorting to anything grand-standing, this track continues to surprise, suddenly bursting to life, before almost withdrawing to a whisper and imploring the listener: “I just want to love you in my own language.” The song ends with a duet betwen Roswell and Newman, before the looping beat cuts out and leaves only a harmonica. Again, simple but oh-so effective. Alt-J’s new album, Relaxer, is due out in June – and it’s so far, so very good.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kyko, Wildlife EP

EP OF THE WEEK: KYKOWILDLIFE EP: Having released his infectious new single Dive In on March 3, through LAB Records, Kyko now releases his Wildlife EP. The EP comprises of previously released EP tracks Nature and Horizon, which again demonstrate just how much of an ear this artist has for a sharp pop melody. Nature, in particular, rises from some bittersweet lyrics (“you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, gone, gone”) to deliver a genuinely catchy and upbeat chorus that’s perfect for singing along with. Dive In, meanwhile, once more rises from the uncertainty inherent in the lyrics to offer something uplifting and inspiring. It’s got another big, melody-filled chorus that’s all about taking ownderhip of one’s life and going for it. The previously unheard Drive features sprawling pop textures and addictive, body-shaking rhythms to create another winning entry. Of the four tracks, all are highly engaging, head-noddingly good listens. Born from a desire to move away from the confines of standard ‘singer-songwriter’ conventions and connotations, Scott Verrill – aka Kyko, the 20-year-old talent behind the project – looks to forge his own path in the world. Kyko will be heading out on his debut headline UK tour at the end of March, including a date at London’s Omeara on March 30, 2017.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Stepbrother, Ivy's House

STEPBROTHERIVY’S HOUSE: Inspired by everyone from Green Day to Haim via Foals, Ladbroke Grove’s Stepbrother play post-core alternative nu-rock – and they do it well. New single Ivy’s House has a very alternative vibe, akin to the American sound you may hear regularly played on a radio station like K-ROQ. There’s some striking guitar work, a lot of atmosphere, some moody female vocals and a genuine sense of the cinematic at times. The finale, meanwhile, really transforms the song into the realms of UK rock, unleashing the guitars, ditching the atmosphere and slipping through the gears (complete with pounding drums) to deliver a headrush. It’s a grower of a track, particularly if you’re a fan of the alternative nu-rock scene. The name Stepbrother came about as Casper (bassist/musical genius) is Nina and Stella’s ‘Stepbrother’ at heart.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Nelly Furtado, Phoenix

NELLY FURTADOPHOENIX: The Nelly Furtado rennaissance continues apace with the release of new single Phoenix. The message behind the lyrics could easily be a metaphor for her own career, as much as it is a rallying call for anyone who has triumphed over any kind of hardship or adversity. Instrumentally, the song takes the form of a sparse piano ballad, with the chords barely there at times. It’s beautifully composed. Furtado’s vocals, meanwhile, come armed with an emotional sincerity that’s highly endearing. If anything, you could compare it to the kind of timeless ballad style of a track like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours. It’s that simple, disarming and emotionally effective. When Furtado sings “you’re going to be alright again”, you tend to believe her.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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British Sea Power

BRITISH SEA POWERKEEP ON TRYING (SECHS FREUNDE): British Sea Power precede the release of their sixth studio album – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party – with a new single and video entitled Keep On Trying (Sechs Freunde). Described as a paean to perseverance, the song takes the form of a rocket-powered love letter to enduring friendship. And it’s accompanied by a surrealist exercise video where a silver clad sextet jog alongside assorted representatives of the animal kingdom and a crew of military men who pull dancefloor moves against a solid gold backdrop. An average night out in Sea Power world, then! Keep On Trying’s Europhile chorus rings with a collective Deutscher cry of ‘Sechs Freunde’ – the German equivalent of the six degrees of separation concept; six friends being the constituency of British Sea Power. It’s a highly catchy slice of indie-pop that drops sharp guitar riffs, ever sharper melodies and some endearing vocals to create a giddy blast of energy that’s genuinely feel-good.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Goldfrapp, Ocean

GOLDFRAPPOCEAN: Goldrapp have made a take-notice return with the pounding new single Ocean. Arriving like waves crashing against the rocks, this is awash with striking synthesizers, throbbing electronic undercurrents, slick beat arrangements and a foreboding set of vocals from Alison Goldfrapp herself. The song is supposedly indicative of the tougher sound that Goldfrapp have promised ahead of the release of their forthcoming new LP, Silver Eye. And coming off the back of former release Anymore, which also signalled a return to a more harder, synth-based sound, the omens appear very good for something a bit special across the whole of the LP. Speaking about how the song was created, Alison recently told Billboard: “I remember coming into the studio one morning and I think we just had a few drums going and it was really basic. Will [Gregory] said, ‘Do you fancy doing some vocals this morning?’ I was really pissed off, in a really bad mood. I was having a bit of a weird time. So I was like, ‘Alright then’ and slightly reluctantly I went into the vocal booth and the words just came out. We tried to re-record the vocals four or five times but never quite had the same sort of atmosphere as that original vocal, so in the end we decided to keep it.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Fickle Friends, Hello Hello

FICKLE FRIENDSHELLO HELLO: Hello Hello is the bright new single from Fickle Friends, which is available to hear now. It follows their last single, Brooklyn, which was released at the end of 2016, and which became their first single to be added to the Radio 1 playlist whilst also being heavily championed by the likes of Mistajam, Huw Stephens, and Alice Levine. On writing the track, Natti Shiner says: “Hello Hello was one of the first songs we wrote this time last year during our first trip to LA. The track came about in the home studio we’d put together in an Airbnb and it was one of those sessions where a song comes together super quickly, it just flowed. It’s about sticking with someone who’s lost sight of who they are and what they’re worth.” The ensuing song is alive with fizzing synthesizers, cheesy pop beats and vaguely ’80s styled vocals. And yet, in spite of some of those cheesy elements, the song succeeds in making you head-nod along. It’s a sugary confection that leaves you feeling bright and breezy, without sticking around in your head for too long afterwards.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Dark Dark Horse, Frontiers

DARK DARK HORSEFRONTIERS: Dark Dark Horse are a Leicester duo comprising of Jamie Ward (Producer/multi-instrumentalist) and James Stafford (singer) who collectively create a strand of cool self-assured indie married with electronic-pop. New single Frontiers is an interesting introduction to them [for us]. Stafford’s vocal flows over Ward’s piano melodies, while shimmering synthesizers compete with dance-hall tinged beats. Transcribed from music Ward heard in a dream and then deliriously mumbled into his iPhone, it’s billed as the sound of otherworldly electronica with real depth and warmth, a sound that the duo describe as “electronica with a human heart”. And while there is a late night sound that could well be born from a dream, there’s also a warmth to some of the melodies, which could well appeal to fans of anyone from Pet Shop Boys to Moby. The Western-inspired video is worth checking out too, complimenting the glacier indie-pop sound. Dark Dark Horse released their debut album Centuries via Function Records (UK) and Rallye (Japan), it was described by Sputnik as “one of this year’s true stand outs”.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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True Moon

TRUE MOONSUGAR: Swedish dark-pop/post-punk outfit True Moon deliver a far from sweet confection in the for of Sugar, a raw, ragged, edgy offering that encapsulates their sound. By their own admission, True Moon’s sound is designed to offer a reflection of vocalist and bass player Karolina Engdahl’s frustrations with the similarities present in the current Scandinavian music scene. Hence, it’s designed to offer something volatile, non-conformist and different, combining elements of dark pop (akin to early Kate Bush or Blondie) with a post-punk sound befitting early Cure. It’s striking in the way it screams out to be noticed, taking a sweet title and sprinkling it with that aforementioned frustration and some cutting post-punk guitar riffs. But it does tend to make it the kind of track that will struggle to offer broad appeal. Aside from Engdahl, True Moon are backed by Tommy Tift (guitar), colleagues in Swedish melodic punk collective, Vånna Inget. At home, they were nominated for ‘best rock album’ at the Manifestgalan Awards in Sweden (which is like the alt-grammy awards).
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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