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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 15, 2018

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

Imagine Dragons, Born To Be Yours

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: KYGO & IMAGINE DRAGONSBORN TO BE YOURS: An all-star collaboration, Imagine Dragons now team up with electro-pop producer Kygo for the chart-friendly Born To Be Yours. And, as with previous material (such as Thunder), the Imagine Dragons sound continues to evolve away from the arena pop-rock vibe that brought them to everyone’s attention into something more pop and club ready. This has bouncing beats, electronic flourishes (courtesy of Kygo’s production values) and vocals that drift between heart-rending and falsetto. It’s got a catchy chorus and a toe-tapping vibe that belies the sense of uncertainty in the lyrics. For the song, as a whole, is about trying to save a relationship that the singer knows is in danger of failing (and which is echoed in the anguish injected into the singing). That said, it’s the type of anthemic offering that’s still designed to fill those stadiums, albeit with less and less rock tendencies. The new Imagine Dragons sound is every bit as good and satisfying as the old one.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Cigarettes After Sex

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: CIGARETTES AFTER SEXCRUSH: Cigarettes After Sex have shared a new stand-alone single entitled Crush to celebrate the one year anniversary of their self titled debut LP. Crush was written and recorded alongside the tracks on the debut album but has been kept under wraps until now. The track is typically hypnotic, combining a melancholy guitar riff and sombre beat structures with a wistful, sorrow-laden vocal. And yet in spite of the sadness inherent in the sound, there’s something also disarmingly beautiful about listening to it, too, with lyrics such as “I can’t wait to feel your love inside me now” offering something in the way of hope. The melodies, too, are warm enough to enable the song to impress without making you feel too sad… and that includes the terrific guitar solo midway through. This Autumn, Cigarettes After Sex will play a limited run of live dates with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, including Barclays Center in Brooklyn and The Forum in LA. They will also perform alongside The National, Jason Isbell and more at Forrest Hills Stadium in late September. These dates follow the band’s recent sold out headline show at Brixton Academy in London and a busy summer of European festivals.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Death Cab For Cutie, Gold Rush

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIEGOLD RUSH: Death Cab For Cutie return in emphatic fashion with Gold Rush, the first track from their new album, Thank You for Today (out August 17 via Atlantic). A rambling alt-rock track with some robust beats, this finds singer Ben Gibbard confronting a sense of loss and alienation derived from watching his hometown change. It’s a track that harks back to the past, and which contains a keen sense of nostalgia, as well as sorrow for how things don’t always change for the better. Lyrics include lines such as “and now that our haunts have taken flight, and been replaced with construction sites, Oh how I feel like a stranger here, Searching for something that’s disappeared”. It’s a feeling we can all relate to, as we return to childhood haunts, or favourite coming-of-age places, yet thanks to the urgency of the song’s pace, it doesn’t become too depressing as a song – rather, reflective. And your toes will still be tapping along. It’s a great record. Alex Southam directed the accompanying video, which finds Gibbard singing the song while walking down a busy city street that delivers various blasts from the past, whether in the form of construction or nods to fashion. It’s as clever visually as the song is intelligent lyrically.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Novo Amor

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: NOVO AMORBIRTHPLACE: Novo Amor, aka Ali Lacey, has unveiled a remarkable and poignant video for the title track from his anticipated debut album Birthplace, set for release on October 19, 2018 via AllPoints. The video highlights the monolithic problem of plastic in our oceans and was shot in Komodo and Bali, Indonesia, with production duo Sil and Jorik who previously worked with Novo Amor and his collaborator Ed Tullett on the emotional and cinematic video for their track Terraform. Sil and Jorik shared their thoughts on the concept behind the film: “We want to make films about stories that matter, especially when those in disadvantage can’t speak for themselves. The pollution of our oceans is one of the most important stories of our time. They are under attack by a rapidly growing tumour of plastic waste for which we are responsible. We’ve been exploring ways to make a video that touches on this topic for a while, and when we heard Ali’s music the specific idea came to us almost in a flash.” World-renowned freediver Michael Board stars as the character of humanity in the video. He performed over 250 freedives during the shoot which involved the crew spending 35 hours underwater. Board appears alongside a 13-metre bamboo humpbacked whale sculpture, covered in plastic that was collected by local children in return for schoolbooks as part of an environmental initiative started by a local primary school. Sil and Jorik continue: “On the last day of filming the whale, we disassembled it and took it out of the water. We removed all the plastic and nets and transported the segments back to the mountain village where it was created. Here, the builders will add extra, woven bamboo to replace the plastic. Soon, it will find its final resting place on a waterfall near the village where it will become a permanent tourist attraction with a water fountain shooting from its mouth.” The song itself is just as beautiful and poignant, built around ethereal, even fragile vocals, some subtle guitar licks and a nice combo of pianos and electronics. It has that other-worldly vibe that translates well to the undersea video, making this a beautifully realised song and video experience that hypnotises, entrances, captivates and beguiles. It’s a song that’s as beautiful as it is important in what it has to say.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Fickle Friends

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: FICKLE FRIENDSSAY NO MORE: Fickle Friends have premiered the video for Say No More, a fan favourite which originally appeared on their debut full-length, You Are Someone Else (Polydor Records). The self-shot and self-directed video features footage from their first three American shows, which sold-out in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and glimpses their US television debut on CBS This Morning’s Saturday Sessions. Speaking about the video, the band said: “Jack got a new hobby. He bought a camera and documented our time over in the States a few weeks ago. We loved all his footage (there was A LOT of it) so much he made it into a video. It just seemed to fit Say No More so perfectly because it’s about escapism and getting perspective by living somewhere new.” The track itself comes from their forthcoming release, You Are Someone Else (Versions), an EP featuring special versions of select tracks from the album. As Fickle Friends records go, it’s right up there among their best. There’s an infectious, celebratory energy that underlines the feeling of empowerment that the lyrics are driving at, with sunshine synths, vibrant vocals and a genuinely feel-good vibe. It’s little wonder the track has become such a firm fan favourite.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Klara, Broken

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: KLARABROKEN: Swedish singer/songwriter Klara has belatedly released a video for her stunning single Broken, which has already been an IndieLondon record of the week. Self directed by KLARA, the video for was shot in Northern Sweden, showcasing the vast swathes of beautiful forests, frozen lakes and stillness of winter in Dalarna. With drone cameras capturing the magnificent scenery and epic snow-covered landscapes, KLARA floats by on a kick sledge, contemplating the emotional fragility in the story of the song. KLARA commented: “I lived in Dalarna when I was 10 and it really gave me a love for nature. When I finsihed recording Broken, I knew it was the perfect setting to shoot the video. The endless white, contrasting with the vibrant colour of the forests prefectly reflect the spirit of the song.” Since meeting Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, at Glastonbury in 2015 and being invited to spend time with him and his musical cohorts at his Eaux Claires Festival, Swedish singer/songwriter Klara returned from Eaux Claires Deux in 2016 with a clear vision for her own music. Broken first started percolating in Klara’s mind as she travelled through the beautiful green expanse of the Wisconsin countryside on her way to Justin’s hometown festival and further evolved as she then made her way down the well-travelled Pacific Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, breathing in the nature and epic views that surrounded her. With lyrics and melody in place, Klara finished writing the track in London in Paul Epworth’s Church Studios, before recording the track at Peter Gabriel’s wonderfully tranquil Real World Studios in the Bath countryside. The result is quietly stunning. Ethereal yet beautifully involving (in spite of the sorrow inherent in the subject matter), this is like listening to a female version of Jose Gonzalez (an IndieLondon favourite). It’s soothing, thought-provoking, beautifully poignant and cinematic to boot.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jason Mraz

JASON MRAZUNLONELY: “I’ve been chasing summer around…” So sings Jason Mraz over the opening moments of his new single, Unlonely, an upbeat romp that seeks to offer a comforting arm around the shoulder (or musical hug) for anyone feeling lonely. As ever with Mraz, the vibe is sunshine heavy, with cute guitar hooks, slick beats and a vibrant lead vocal combining to create something that is tailor-made for the description ‘feel-good’. And with lyrics that reference Chachi and Joanie, as well as “never second-guessing the friendship connection”, it’s a resolutely positive offering that strives to overcome any feelings of solitude or uncertainty. It’s a summer anthem, for sure, but one that transcends time or place, to offer something upbeat and enjoyable for anyone who happens to catch it. Mraz has delivered another slice of musical magic. Mraz has also announced the release of his new studio album, Know. The singer-songwriter’s sixth studio album is being released on all music retailers and streaming services on Friday, August 10, on Atlantic Records. Coming off the back of comeback single Have It All and now Unlonely, it could well be worth getting your hands on.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDSGOD HELP US ALL (DEMO): Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have released the demo God Help Us All along with an animated lyric video directed by Ste McGregor. The track is a B-side for the recent single It’s A Beautiful World. An acoustic offering, the song questions life and the existence of the Almighty, and is shot full of deep themes. But it’s nicely delivered in a style befitting classic Gallagher songwriting, whether that be for his latest incarnation or during his Oasis heyday, when B-sides were as much an event as that band’s A-sides. The acoustic strumming is breezy and light, while the melodies are tight, often making a mockery of the questioning lyrics. But even then, Gallagher can’t belatedly resist dropping in some “sha la la” harmonies to add to the sing-along vibe. It’s very much a shimmering piece of work that should become a favourite for both High Flying Birds and Oasis fans.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Rudimental and Major Lazer

RUDIMENTAL & MAJOR LAZER feat ANNE-MARIE AND MR EAZILET ME LIVE: Rudimental, the BRIT-award winning collective and global dancehall masterminds Major Lazer, have just unveiled a collaborative new single, Let Me Live, featuring Anne-Marie and Mr Eazi. A combination of new-school pop sensation Anne-Marie (dropping some dusky vocals) and afro-beat star Mr Eazi’s flawless tones, this has a celebratory, even Caribbean infused vibe that’s all about cherishing life and the opportunities it affords. It’s a song about empowering the individual, celebrating diversity and creating a feel-good vibe befitting the diverse spectrum of singers and musicians performing it. As if to underline this, the song features vocals from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an incomparable five-time Grammy-winning South African male choral group. If, ultimately, it’s not doing anything amazing, dazzling or particularly innovative for this kind of thing (it bears all the Rudimental hallmarks, as well as plenty of traces of Major Lazer), it’s an enjoyable enough listen with a strong message behind it.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Emika, Close

EMIKACLOSE: Now here’s something a little different. Close, the new single from Emika, is a sensual electro mix with finely tuned pop sensibilities, that leans towards the leftfield too. It’s built around subtle, understated and even ethereal vocals, yet builds steadily from its atmospheric, stripped back start, into something almost alternative club ready. The electronic arrangements, from around the midway point, are very catchy and propulsive, with slick beats also driving the track forward. And it’s then that the vocals subside for long periods, or appear whispered. It’s a slyly intoxicating mix that, while certainly not for all tastes, signals the arrival of another strong new album for Emika. It is taken from her forthcoming album Falling In Love With Sadness LP, which will be released on October 10, on World Mental Health Day, with a percent of the sales being donated to charity. FILWS also marks Emika’s return to electronic music following her 50-piece orchestral symphony LP Melanfonie, which was over funded by fans though Kickstarter.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Off Bloom, Not Sorry

OFF BLOOMNOT SORRY: Fresh off the back of a UK and European tour with day-glo Finnish sensation ALMA, Anglo-Danish trio Off Bloom release new single Not Sorry. And it’s an unapologetic ode to being true to yourself that is as defiant, lyrically, as it is emphatic musically. There’s an alt-pop sensibility that would make singers like P!nk proud, with the vocals being belted out in resolutely proud fashion. It’s a wake up rallying call, wrapped up in piano arrangements and slick beats, that really makes a strong impression, while making your toes tap along. Commenting on the inspirations behind it, Off Bloom said: “Not Sorry is about honesty between friends and being true to yourself and your beliefs,” the band reveal. “It’s important to be honest to those close to you and call them out on their bullshit, and not be sorry about it! We wrote this song after a night in LA when we met up with one our friends, got drunk and got in a fight! The day after we felt so hungover and fragile that we didn’t want to produce anything. So we decided to just strip everything down and write to a simple piano part we wrote on the spot. After a few hours the song was done and had really captured the rawness of what we felt. In that way this song also feels very personal and close to our hearts.” The track is accompanied by a sunny, retro-hued video by Portuguese director João de Botelho, who the band met last year on a shoot for Noisey. The video was shot on 8mm film in the outskirts of Rome and captures the raw energy, emotion and spirit found in the song.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 8, 2018

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

Julia Michaels, Jump

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: JULIA MICHAELS feat TRIPPIE REDDJUMP: GRAMMY® Award-nominated multi-platinum singer-songwriter Julia Michaels has just released the official music video for her latest single, Jump, featuring Ohio rapper Trippie Redd. A slick blend of soulful vocals and hip-hop/R’n‘B beats, this manages to be both sexy and urgent without sounding at all generic. Michaels, herself, drops a sultry set of vocals, which perfectly compliment the magical beats that also boast a late night energy. Lyrically, the song explores the feeling you have when jumping into another love affair despite having been burnt by a failed romance in the past. It’s about bravery, restarting and bouncing back. And, in its own way, it’s an inspiring, empowering song that finds triumph out of adversity. Michaels remains one of today’s most in demand collaborators, traversing seamlessly across multiple genres. She currently features on rising pop/folk artist Noah Kahan’s single Hurt Somebody – the latter of which is currently topping National Airplay Charts in Australia. She has songwriting credits on Christina Aguilera’s upcoming album, co-wrote Janelle Monàe’s latest Make Me Feel, Anne-Marie’s 2002, and has a sample of her vocals on Migos’ Gang Gang. Moreover, she’s written on recent albums from P!nk, Maroon 5, Jessie Ware and Years & Years. With Jump, she looks destined to jump into the limelight solely for herself – and deservedly so!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Dan Caplen

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: DAN CAPLEN feat MS BANKSTROUBLE: Brixton-based singer-songwriter extraordinaire Dan Caplen has unveiled his infectious new single, Trouble, featuring breakout UK rapper, Ms Banks. The track marks Caplen’s first single since touring with Macklemore and the extraordinary success of Rudimental’s Platinum-selling UK No.1, These Days – a track Caplen wrote for the band and also features on, alongside Jess Glynne. Trouble could well build on that success, while placing Caplen front and centre. Honing in on Caplen’s musicality, Trouble oozes the classic, funk-soul style he’s swiftly made his own, as retro guitar licks and deep, lo-slung beats are knitted together by Caplen’s powerful, anthemic vocal hook – “Yeah trouble always follows us, but baby we’ll be okay” – and Banks’ thoughtful, rapid-fire bars. Indeed, it’s this funk-soul bed that helps elevate the track from the more generic hip/hop meets R’n‘B elements that so occupy the mainstream. This has those, as well as the soul and funk that is a Caplen trademark. It’s also pop enough to slip right into the mainstream sensibility. You’ll be toe-tapping along in no time. It’s a real summer anthem.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lucy Rose, Moirai

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: LUCY ROSEMOIRAI (LIZ LAWRENCE REMIX): Lucy Rose’s new remix album, Something’s Changing (Remixes), is set for release on July 6 via Communion Records. In the run up to the album’s release, Lucy will be sharing two of the remixes every fortnight. Remixes of Intro, by Chartreuse, and Second Chance by JAWS are already streaming online and today, two new mixes have been made available. The most impressive of these is Liz Lawrence’s remix of Moirai, which comes with its own video (once more filmed by Will Morris and edited by Lucy’s long-term visual collaborator, George Cotterhill). Speaking about her contribution to this unique project, Liz Lawrence said: “I think there always has to be a balance between carving out time for yourself as an artist and being open to ventures with others too. Particularly when you’re a solo artist, I feel like you can get pretty isolated so it’s good to keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I think artists collaborating together is so positive, holding each other up rather than trying to scramble up the ladder, it’s a really cool thing.” The ensuing track once again sets Rose’s lush, dreamy vocals (which take on an ethereal edge here) set against some trip-hop back-beats and enticing electronics. It’s another daydream of a record… one that’s full of lyrical reflection on life and love, but one which washes over you like a cool summer’s breeze on a hot day.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Leo Stannard, 5 Years Later

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: LEO STANNARD – 5 YEARS LATER: Leo Stannard has followed up the release of recent single Home with new track 5 Years
Later
, out now via Black Butter Records – and it’s a really charming release. Showcasing Leo’s highly accessible songwriting craft and finger-plucked guitar skills whilst tapping out percussion and melodies at the same time, 5 Years Later sees Leos’ unique, heartfelt and earthly-toned vocals combine with sweeping strings to create a tender and beautiful ballad that fits perfectly into his ever-increasing canon of music. Anyone fearing that this may emerge as overly sentimental or too ballad-driven had best think again, though. This is the type of offering that should effortlessly appeal to fans of artists such as Ed Sheeran or Newton Faulkner for the manner in which it combines those genuinely heartfelt emotions with a musicality that’s high on ear-pleasing, chart-friendly melody. Stannard’s huskier tones, however, make this distinct in its own right.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sonny

SONNYSUPERNOVA: Supernova, the new single from Sonny, showcases his diverse musical style with a bolder rock-pop sound that infuses futuristic electronic elements in the production and is led by his captivating raw vocal. It’s a boisterous offering that finds the singer in blistering form, vocally, gradually layering in those rock-pop elements to create a vast, stadium-sized sound. The lyrics, meanwhile, intelligently combine high concept ideas such as space travel with something more intimate and emotional. Commenting on the track himself, Sonny said: “Supernova shows a different side to my music that I’ve never shown before. It’s a big rockier and darker. I was massively influenced by Nirvana and Foo Fighters at the time as I was listening to them a lot and just watched Montage of Heck.” It’s not quite as grunge rock driven as Nirvana, or as epic-rock driven as Foo Fighters at their most commercial. But it does showcase an interesting and lively new direction for Sonny that will surely only broaden his appeal. Sonny’s second EP, Northern Lights, will be released on June 22. It was co-written by Sonny himself and mixed by Joe Zook (One Republic, Pharrell Williams, U2, One Direction).
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Tove Lo, Bitches

TOVE LO feat CHARLI XCX, ICONA POP, ELLIPHANT & ALMABITCHES: Tove Lo has assembled a superstar line-up for new single Bitches – and the result is highly provocative. From its name alone, you suspect this could be a no-nonsense rap-pop offering. And true to form, Lo dishes out lines like “let me be your guide when you eat my pussy out”, while dropping a video that features a dominatrix going to work on an apparently innocent couple. The single is backed by a hip-hop style beat, while the vast array of guest vocalists drift in and out of proceedings to lend extra heft at crucial times. Admittedly, the provocative nature of the track, lyrically, will be offputting to the more sensitive listeners. But for those willing to go with the flow, this is a suitably propulsive R’n‘B/Hip-hop/pop hybrid that is catchy enough to become massive. And the video is kind of fun, too, in a naughty way.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Becky Hill, Sunrise In The East

BECKY HILLSUNRISE IN THE EAST: Becky Hill’s new single Sunrise In The East, her first for Polydor, looks set to propel her further into the mainstream affection. With its elastic beats and warm, summery synths, the track is a captivating first strike for the artist. Hill wrote the song with Maverick Sabre and Lost Boy and it was produced by ADP (Krept & Konan, Jeremih, M.I.A.). It captures the exhilarating flourish of a new relationship, of discovering someone on a deeper level. “We talk until the sunrise in the east, I’m hanging onto every single word that you say,” Becky sings, in her characteristically dusky voice. And it’s this voice that elevates the song above the norm – there’s warmth, edge and sex appeal contained within them. The beats, meanwhile, manage to combine a hip-hop/pop element with something reassuringly eastern, befitting the name. Sunrise In The East is the first taste from Hill’s forthcoming debut album, which she is currently working on with the likes of MNEK, MJ Cole and Two Inch Punch. Hill is a hotly-tipped rising talent on the pop landscape. She has taken the long way round, plucked from obscurity as a teen and thrown into the limelight as a contestant on The Voice, before embarking on worldwide tours with Rudimental and experiencing huge chart success through her collaborations with Wilkinson, Oliver Heldens, MK and more. But the 24-year-old is ready to forge her own path, to be an artist in her own right. So far, so good.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Passenger

PASSENGERWHY CAN’T I CHANGE?: Ivor Novello Award-winning singer-songwriter Passenger, aka Brighton’s Mike Rosenberg, follows up the release of official new single Hell Or High Water with second new offering, Why Can’t I Change? – and the quality is maintained. A mid-tempo ballad, driven by some country-meets-folk rock guitar, this is an inward looking examination of life and learning from past experiences. The singer is in extremely contemplative mood, asking why he can’t change over lines like “whatever life brings… I’m still whistling the same old tune”. It’s the type of confessional songrwiting approach that only makes you warm to this singer even more. And the keen ear for melody, coupled with his obvious passion for Americana-inspired country and folk, ensures that this is another terrific offering from his forthcoming album, Runaway, which is available for pre-order now. One of the most successful UK artists of this decade, Passenger has had in excess of a billion streams on Spotify. Nominated for a Brit in 2014, he won an Ivor Novello Award that year for Let Her Go, which reached No.1 in 19 countries, with the accompanying album All The Little Lights achieving platinum or multi-platinum status in 11 countries.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jackie Cohen

JACKIE COHENDARLIN’: Spacebomb Records artist Jackie Cohen has now released a video for her new track, Darlin’. The video was directed by Anise Mariko and was shot in Los Angeles. Cohen said of the video: “For this one, I wanted to do a sort of exaggerated, garish home-workout video that reflected some mechanisms of anxiety management. Emotional processing is very physical for me. I do a lot of planks and eat a lot of garbage when I’m overwrought. I love working with Anise as a director because her shots are so intimate, textural, and romantic. She’s the only person I’ll let straddle me for a shot. Introducing her style to Danny’s video-synth editing made for a really unusual and striking aesthetic that I can hardly take credit for. My dad built the green screen and big crazy candles. Rado’s footage didn’t make the cut. Sorry, babe.” The song itself is a confessional of sorts, but one delivered with such conviction and musical gusto that you don’t really notice how full of regret and, by extension, sorrow it really is. Lyrics include lines like “I’m not proud of what I chose to do, darlin’”, which are indicative of the mood of the song as a whole. But the lively beats and brisk piano arrangements, coupled with the odd bell chime and electronic surges, make this an endlessly fascinating, continually evolving record that gives rise to plenty of pleasant surprises. Cohen has also announced she will release her debut EP Tacoma Night Terror Part 1: I’ve Got The Blues on June 29, 2018 via Spacebomb. The EP was produced by Jonathan Rado, Brian D’Addario and Michael D’Addario (The Lemon Twigs), who also serve as the backing band behind Cohen’s vocals.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 1, 2018

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

Lykke Li, Two Nights

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LYKKE LI feat AMINETWO NIGHTS: A week before Lykke Li drops her new album, So Sad, So Sexy, Swedish superstar Lykke Li has dropped two more taster tracks. The first is the melancholy Two Nights, featuring a well laid down rap from Amine. Built around a low-key electronic bed and a sad, ethereal vocal, this is minimalist yet highly effective offering that chronicles a tired, yet sleepless, and increasingly paranoid protagonist. The central line, “two nights in a row and I know that it’s broken”, smacks of the sorrow and regret that informs the track as a whole. Amine’s rap, which enters well beyond the two minute mark, backs up the regretful nature of the tracks and is confessional of sorts. Li comes back to complete the song, allowing it to end on a haunting, lingering not that underlines the depth of emotional despair on show. And yet, far from being a depressing listen, it is entirely inspired.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lykke Li

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: LYKKE LI – SEX MONEY FEELINGS DIE: Lykke Li dominates the top of our recommended singles this week with the second new offering from her So Sad, So Sexy LP. Sex Money Feelings Die is another paen to a dead end relationship, that wears its hurt and regret on its sleeve (lyrically). But the tone, this time, is much more edgy, tapping into a gritty R’n‘B vibe that lends it a lot more street cred than some of her more ethereal work. You could even describe it as one of her most outwardly mainstream offerings yet… albeit one that refuses to compromise on her identity. Lyrically, it doesn’t hold back in delivering the strength of her feelings, with lines like “drink up, drink up, I’m so fucked up, all I want is you”. It succeeds in both in capturing your attention and leaving you in no doubt as to how this particularly ragged relationship leaves one of its halves feeling. The album is out on June 8 and on the evidence of the tracks released so far, including Utopia and Deep End, this could be among the year’s best LPs.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The 1975, Give Yourself A Try

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: THE 1975 – GIVE YOURSELF A TRY: It may be a long time off, but The 1975’s new album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, will be out in October. Fear not, though, for this first taster suggests it could be well worth the wait. Built around a twisted but exhilarating guitar riff, this finds the band issuing a statement of empowerment for these troubled, uncertain times. Matt Healy’s vocals are suitably soothing, even when tossing out thought-provoking lyrics bombs about growing up, navigating your place in the world, avoiding booze and drugs and seeking comfort in overpaid counsellors! The song urges you to give yourself a try rather than succumbing to outside temptations, or being told what to do by peers or others. And thanks to that insistent guitar loops, and some slick, crisp beats, the song succeeds in giving you an adrenaline shot to the subconscious that should fire you/inspire you to do as the song suggests. Have faith in yourself and arm yourself with this new track as an anthem.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mahalia

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: MAHALIA – I WISHED I MISSED MY EX: British rising star Mahalia has unveiled her new single I Wish I Missed My Ex alongside a cleverly crafted surrealistic video. In addition, the British songstress has announced that she will be touring the US for the first time this summer as well as undertaking a 10-date UK tour for 2018 which includes a date at London’s prestigious Brixton Electric – her biggest tour to date. Produced by Maths Times Joy – who produced Mahalia’s stand-out debut single Sober – and emerging producer Swindle, I Wish I Missed My Ex is a slick example of her trademark, open-hearted lyricism fusing old-school soul and atmospheric synths with R&B/pop leanings. It has a nicely retro feeling at times, reminiscent of artists like De La Soul in its beat arrangements, while also remaining careful to feel contemporary. The emphasis is on feelgood, though, with the overall vibe one of breeziness and playful enjoyment. The accompanying video was shot in LA by Director Andrew Litten over a 22-hour stint. Commenting on the video, Litten said: “The first time I heard IWIMME, I knew the track needed a big idea. I’ve always loved Spike Jonze’s video for Drop by The Pharcyde and decided to pay homage by creating a backwards music video with a contemporary spin. I hired a linguist from UCLA to teach Mahalia the song backwards which she surprisingly learned in a day. The DP, Dustin Lane, and I have always wanted to make something in our neighborhood, Highland Park. We chose family owned locations and hired a few extras while scouting the neighbourhood. Mahalia’s reversed performance oozes spontaneity and confidence. I can’t thank her enough for joining us on the journey, and signing on to recreate this insane concept.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gorillaz, Humility

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: GORILLAZ feat GEORGE BENSONHUMILITY: It’s been a while since Gorillaz have delivered something as breezy, feel-good and uplifting as Humility. A collaboration with legendary jazz guitarist George Benson, this takes flight early on and refuses to come down. The beats are slick and lively, the synths smooth and jolly and that rhythm guitar suitably vibrant. The result? Sunshine in a bottle. Admittedly, the lyrics flirt with some of the more melancholy aspects of Damon Albarn’s songwriting (“I don’t want this isolation”). But even then, you feel there’s a genuine effort to lift the gloom and political awareness of a lot of their recent work by turning out a song that can genuinely be described as a summer anthem. It succeeds in making you feel uplifted. And the accompanying video, featuring a rogue member of the animated Gorillaz team skating along a US coastal resort (and delivering some mayhem), maintains that easy-going vibe and comes complete with Jack Black playing some [air] guitar (with a real instrument). It’s highly entertaining.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARRWALK INTO THE SEA: Smiths guitarist and acclaimed solo artist Johnny Marr further previews his forthcoming third solo album Call The Comet (out June 15) by sharing the new track Walk Into The Sea, together with its official video. Representing the deeply textured, atmospheric side of the album, Walk Into The Sea has already been picked by Mojo as a highlight. Its “haunting piano notes, an eerie film soundtrack guitar feature, sudden bursts of rolling emotion” result in a moment which “salutes his Hans Zimmer-pedigreed cinematic nous”, according to the Mojo review. And certainly, there’s a cinematic element to those opening moments, which offset the early piano with some nice, mellow guitar. Inevitably, the track grows in stature and layers in the big screen elements, with the guitars becoming more and more prominent. If anything, there’s a touch of James in there too. A kind of spoken-sung element midway through raises the edginess at times, and jars occasionally. But when keeping things epic and mellow (vocally), Marr ensures that this track lives long in the memory. It’s deservedly epic and quite frequently great.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Beth Orton & The Chemical Brothers

BETH ORTON & THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – I NEVER ASKED TO BE YOUR MOUNTAIN: Beth Orton and The Chemical Brothers are no strangers to working with each other and, when they do, it’s usually a work of quality (Where Do I Begin and The State We’re In, for example). And so it is with this cover version of Tim Buckley’s I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain. Apparently recorded nearly two decades ago, but only dusted off now, this is as slickly delivered and ear-catching as you might have hoped. The track starts out with Orton singing Buckley’s melancholy lyrics over some brisk acoustic guitar licks. But the big beats and electronic loops that are a Chemical Brothers trademark eventually take over and turn the song into something more befitting a remix of the original sound. And a mighty fine remix it is too… the rousing drum arrangements proving particularly effective in lending the track dancefloor crossover appeal (something not usually associated with a Buckley recording). And while it may leave you hankering to hear something new from this particular partnership, it satisfies on its own terms and maintains the high quality of their previous collaborations.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Naked Elephant, Sun Kissed

NAKED ELEPHANTSUN KISSED: With a name like Sun Kissded, you’d expect a song to be infectious, upbeat and breezy. And true to form, Naked Elephant’s comeback is just that. The magnetic second single (following Raspberry Kiss) exudes ultimate summer vibes – infusing pop and dance music with Naked Elephant’s rock’n‘roll DNA, that’s led by frontman Josh Royse’s powerhouse vocal. Indeed, in true Royse style, the vocal here manages to combine the laidback with the epic rock. But the emphasis is on dance, and feelgood energy, with a Caribbean element detected from time to time in the way those vocals are mainly delivered. It’s a song designed to make you feel good that’s as infectious as that sounds. Commenting on the track, Josh said: “I sat down and really wanted to write a dance song for Naked Elephant. It ended up becoming what is Sun Kissed, a little bit of the Naked Elephant rock ‘n’ roll DNA with the guitars, with the use of strymon pedals, to soundscape, which was blended with house music. There was a moment where we were finally OK with not having to write these deep esoteric masterpieces in order to feel amazing about our music… we can write something that people simply want to dance to in the sunshine.” The accompanying video, set in Thailand, carries on the epic story – following the Raspberry Kiss video – of retrieving previous rubies that symbolises their mission of bringing back wealth to the rest of the world from the rich and powerful. In doing so, helping and bringing awareness of endangered elephants has become more significant to the band given that they travelled to Elephant Home and Nature in Kanchanaburi, a village renowned for the elephant sanctuary. While there, the band learnt the importance of saving the elephants’ ecosystem and were fortunate to work and film with these majestic creatures in a respected and compassionate way.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Charli XCX

CHARLI XCX – 5 IN THE MORNING: One of the most respected and connected songwriters in pop’s rainbow spectrum, Charli XCX has delivered another bleeding-edge pop moment in 5 in the Morning. Written by XCX alongside Nat Dunn (Marshmello & Anne-Marie, Friends) and Cleo Tighe (Jess Glynne), the track’s trap-infused production comes from Invisible Men (ZAYN, Iggy Azalea). This time around, the pop princess opts for a more R’n‘B meets hip hop vibe, with a muscular trap beat providing the focal point. The smooth groove synths add a late night vibe (befitting the lyrics), while the sassy vocals add an edgy, sexy element that feels far more sultry than usual. It’s slyly provocative in places, too, with lines like “I’m in my element everyday/Birthday cake, you want a piece ’cause it’s tasty” suggesting much, much more. Coming off the back of last year’s well received Pop 2 mixtape (and its seminal moment, Boys), this shows that Charli XCX has lost none of her ability to reinvent and impress as she continues to become one of the most exciting young artists on the mainstream pop scene. At the apex of her field and experimenting from the margins to the mainstream, Charli XCX has been working solidly in the studio over the past months, the fruit of which will be rolled out over the summer with a series of releases. Currently supporting Taylor Swift on her world ‘Reputation’ tour alongside Camilla Cabello, Charli will play London’s Wembley Stadium on June 22 and 23.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Esther Vallee

ESTHER VALLEEOIL AND FEATHERS: Swedish pop sensation Esther Vallee has now dropped her new EP in the form of Things We Never Talked About. The lead single, Oil and Feathers, is also released. The track is a breezy slice of pop that thrives on its jaunty electronic pulse and cute harmonies. But while there’s a fresh breeziness about it, sonically, the lyrics suggest something a little darker and sexually more edgy. Hence, speaking about Oil & Feathers, Esther commented: “I go all in on you when I know its right. No matter how much we fight or how far we run away from each other, I never get your smell off from my body. It’s now or never.” It’s this mix of innocence and sass that makes the track even more appealing and intriguing. And it continues to confirm Vallee’s burgeoning reputation as a pop artist to watch. The six-track EP features the lead single as well as previous offerings Numbers and Hardcore, as well as recent instant grat track Higher and two more new tracks, You Know Who You Are and Get It Done.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 25, 2018

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

Liam Gallagher

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LIAM GALLAGHER – I’VE ALL I NEED: Liam Gallagher completes his successful solo comeback with a summer of huge outdoor shows, to promote his critically-acclaimed album As You Were. To celebrate, he has dropped a new single and video in the form of album highlight I’ve All I Need. Directed by Charlie Lightening, the video presents a snapshot of some of Liam’s highlights throughout the course of the past year. Opening with footage of him putting the finishing touches to As You Were, the video finds Liam inspiring chaotic crowd reactions from Manchester and Glastonbury to Japan and beyond. There’s also a wealth of intimate behind-the-scenes clips which includes some famous faces in the shape of David Beckham, Stormzy and Foo Fighters duo Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins. I’ve All I Need is a mellow rock offering from Gallagher that sounds as if the singer is finally at ease with himself. It’s also a love song to his beloved Manchester. There are some laidback guitars, a subtle back-beat and some similarly laidback vocals, which feel less exaggerated than normal. The chorus, meanwhile, triumphantly declares that “there’s no time for looking back” and is delivered in a suitably rousing manner. It’s anthemic. The track is also available on limited edition 7” vinyl, with the song’s lyrics etched onto the b-side. This is undoubtedly the sound of Liam at his absolute best.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lucy Rose

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: LUCY ROSEINTRO (CHARTREUSE REMIX): Lucy Rose is set to add another impressive string to her bow with the release of new remix album, Something’s Changing (Remixes) on July 6 via Communion Records. The album is a collection of reworked songs from Lucy’s latest album, Something’s Changing, which was released to acclaim last year. And true to Lucy’s industrious work ethic, the remixers involved with this album have been carefully handpicked. They’re all either close musical friends of Lucy’s or new musical friends that she’s met over this past year as she’s toured the world. Each artist was invited to take a track from the album and rework it in their own unique style. From Fryars to Liz Lawrence, Otzeki to Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly and many more besides, the project is a celebration of variety and collaboration. The first taster is the Intro track, which has been given a sublime, beat-strewn makeover by Chartreuse. If you’d imagine a Bonobo production with Rose’s beautiful lyrics over the top of slick beat arrangements and a cinematic, mellow vibe… then you’re somewhere close. It’s typically impressive stuff. Chartreuse frontman Mike Wagstaff says of his involvement in the project: “Having a polished song in front of you to manipulate and add your own ideas to is blissful… I don’t have to go digging in my own mind for any lyrical ideas all the stuff that needs to happen musically is purely just instinctive and improvised in the moment.” The Chartreuse remix comes complete with a video which was shot in Fiji and then edited by George Cotterhill, who Lucy previously worked with on the official video for Is This Called Home.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Curse of Lono

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: CURSE OF LONOVALENTINE: London five-piece Curse Of Lono have announced the release of second album As I Fell on August 17, as well as new single Valentine. Speaking of the moody but impressive Valentine, Felix, from the band, said: “Valentine is about the kind of murderous jealousy that twists you up until you don’t recognise yourself anymore. The sort of dejection that will make you do things you know you will regret. I think the vocal harmonies floating over the tribal beat, distorted bass and filthy baritone guitar going through a tiny 1950’s Selmer practice amp, really capture that feeling.” Featuring foreboding lyrics such as “I’ve got a bullet for your lover’s chest” and a moody central guitar lick, this also drops the type of atmospheric vocal that an artist like David Byrne would be proud of. A guitar solo midway through, meanwhile, is genuinely thrilling… as is the sudden way the track stops. It leaves you thirsting for more. It’s a great piece of work. Curse of Lono’s second album, As I Fell, is produced by Oli Bayston (Boxed In) and was recorded half at Rancho V, a remote desert studio in Joshua Tree, and half at Flesh & Bone Studios in Hackney. The album is accompanied by a documentary, Somewhere In Their Heads, by Gregg Houston (Noel Gallagher, Two Door Cinema Club, Michael Kiwanuka, Foy Vance).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Crystal Fighters

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: CRYSTAL FIGHTERSBOOMIN’ IN YOUR JEEP: Almost 10 years ago, the then-unknown Crystal Fighters were playing their first shows at warehouse parties across London. This summer they’re headlining a run of huge European festivals. Spanning continents, the band’s ever-evolving music captures everything that makes their shows a life-affirming experience: a joyous explosion of beats, electronics and bass delivered dazzlingly onstage. Hence, new single Boomin’ In Your Jeep (their first release under a new deal with Warner Bros. Records) captures the band’s famous spirit, character and colour, but is delivered in a way in which their messages can reach a much wider audience. It’s a joyous, intoxicating mix that exudes positivity: the band’s patented style powered by the bass-heavy energy of contemporary hip-hop production. It’s the Crystal Fighters the world has come to love… but bigger, bolder and better than ever before. The beats have an instantly infectious energy to them, without feeling the need to be too boomin’. Hence, they’re pop friendly, cute and smile inducing. While the synth arrangements are sun-coated, in line with the lyrics that declare the Crystal Fighters to be ‘boomin’ in your jeep’. It’s a party-starter of a record… and a summer anthem to carry you through the coming months and beyond. You’ll love it!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ben Howard

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: BEN HOWARDNICA LIBRES AT DUSK: Ben Howard has shared the cinematic video for new single Nica Libres At Dusk. It was shot earlier this year in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, and directed by Ben himself. And it’s stylish, retro-leaning in places and vast in the heat-drenched landscapes it depicts. The track itself is just as impressive. Built around a quietly evolving acoustic strum, this finds Howard in laibdack form, offering reflective lyrics about the nature of life in a style that evokes comparisons with the likes of Jose Gonzalez (another IndieLondon favourite). The slow build nature of the track also works well, allowing Howard to grow ever more intense vocally, while ushering in a fuller guitar sound, some cinematic electronics and a laidback beat. It’s arguably the best song so far to emerge from Ben’s forthcoming third album, Noonday Dream, ahead of its release on June 1, 2018. It follows A Boat To An Island On The Wall and Towing The Line – all of which have impressed on their own terms.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Paul Weller, Aspects

PAUL WELLERASPECTS: Paul Weller celebrated his 60th birthday on Friday, May 25, and to mark this momentous occasion, the Modfather had a special treat in store for his fans with the release of a beautiful new tune Aspects. The string-laden, largely acoustic and Nick Drake-esque Aspects is a taster for Paul’s hotly anticipated 14th solo studio album, True Meanings, which will be released later this year. Paul said of Aspects: “I don’t know if it’s indicative of the album, but it’s certainly the cornerstone to the record for me. It’s also where I got the title of the album from…” The track itself represents the sound of Weller at his most laidback and cinematic (he has recently dabbled in soundtracks). The strings are beautifully composed, but never at the expense of the acoustic backdrop of the song, or the reflective lyrics. It’s a thoughtful, quiet but warmly intimate listen that bodes extremely well for the rest of the LP. At 60 years young, it seems Weller is in no danger of slowing down… and he may even be getting better with age!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Sonny

SONNYAINT TOO PROUD TO BEG: After a successful 2017 releasing his critically-acclaimed debut EP Hopeless Romance and follow-up single Yesterday’s Gone, Northern soul singer-songwrtier Sonny enters 2018 with new single Aint Too Proud To Beg, which is being hailed as his most sincere track to date. Featuring a powerhouse set of vocals, that are filled with the passion inherent in the lyrics (about winning a lost love back), this is the type of song that’s designed to tug at the heartstrings – and does so with style. It’s a decent slice of soul-pop that looks destined to further Sonny’s success. Commenting on the track himself, Sonny said: “Aint Too Proud To Beg is about looking back regretfully on a relationship, realising you made mistakes and being desperate to put them right again. This song means so much to me because it’s basded on personal experience and I feel like it’s a relatable situation that so many people go through – not knowing what you have until it’s too late.” It’s the type of songwriting that dispays a depth of emotion that belies Sonny’s 18 years of age.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Maggie Rogers

MAGGIE ROGERSFALLINGWATER: Maggie Rogers releases her first new music of 2018 in the form of the searing, richly layered Fallingwater (out now on Polydor Records). The song was produced by Rostam Batmanglij and Rogers and is a beautifully stylish offering that puts a fresh spin on the pop ballad format. The robust central beat belies the more intimate nature of the song as a whole, lending it an instantly more accessible and hip vibe. If you stripped it away, you’d be left with a piano-soaked ballad. Instead, it’s a layered, vibrant pop song that also showcases Rogers’ warm, emotional vocal style and her ability to deliver heartfelt lyrics. The pianos are nicely arranged, too, and cinematic in grandeur at times. When everything comes together, late on, the song has that effortless ability to make you soar in line with the emotions on display… while a last third breakdown, which accentuates the beats even more, is an ever classier touch that elevates the song even higher. It’s a lovely piece of songwriting that, quite possibly, looks destined to find its way onto some kind of soundtrack (either TV or film) soon. Rogers will be joining HAIM on a series of US, UK and European dates, including two sold out nights at Alexandra Palace on June 15 and 16. She will also return to the UK in August to play the Reading and Leeds.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Magnus Carlson

MAGNUS CARLSON feat FAY HALLAMNOW THAT IT’S OVER: Magnus Carlson – one of Sweden’s most successful male artists – announces the release of his debut UK solo album, A Nordic Soul, on June 22, 2018. The latest taster is the swinging single Now That It’s Over, featuring dual vocals with Fay Hallam. And, as you might expect from a fierce proponent of Northern Soul, this is steeped in those songwriting values – from a foot-stomping back-beat, to frequent blasts of brass, and sassy boy-girl vocals that are delivered with vigour. A mid-track bongo breakdown adds even more energy to a song brimming with it. If you’re looking for comparisons, then think of The Commitments delivering a new slice of Northern Soul. But then Magnus grew up on all things British, collecting UK vinyl from the age of six and watching Jools Holland’s The Tube in the eighties. Indie, northern, blue eyed soul, up tempo horn driven mod tracks and bitter sweet love songs. It’s all part of his history and it’s all part of A Nordic Soul, which was recorded in Sweden and the UK.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Rhys Lewis

RHYS LEWIS – NO RIGHT TO LOVE YOU: Following a string of hit singles, millions of streams worldwide and sold-out UK, European and US shows, pop-soul singer Rhys Lewis has released his latest single No Right To Love You. The new single showcases Rhys’ ability to take moments from his everyday life and pack them full of sentimental, lyrical introspection. Hence, No Right To Love You finds Rhys putting into words moments from his romantic life others would find too difficult to describe. With each word oozing with tension and hidden meaning (about passion, loss and regret), this is heartfelt, intimate and sometimes quite painful (lyrically). The stripped back, acoustic nature of the instrumentals merely highlights the depths of emotion on display. It’s another impressive piece of songwriting from Lewis. Commenting on the track himself, Rhys said: “This song is about a really difficult break-up and I would say it’s definitely the most personal song I’ve ever written. I remember waking up the next day and immediately thinking I’d made the wrong decision. But you’re in such a weird place after a break-up because your emotions are all over the place, and often it’s not because you don’t love them, it’s just maybe not quite working anymore. I knew that it was for the best, but you can’t just turn off your feelings for someone overnight. It was so difficult for me I had to actually leave London because everything around me reminded me of her. I went to stay with a friend and that’s when I wrote the song. I hope the song does justice to how I felt waking up and living that first day apart from her, it’s a painful process whatever side of the break-up you’re on.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 18, 2018

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

Lykke Li, Utopia

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LYKKE LI – UTOPIA: “We could be… utopia”. So sings Lykke Li over the chorus of her beautiful new sngle, called Utopia. An ode to motherhood that comes complete with a heart-melting video, this is a gentle pop song that displays Li’s brilliance in combining an ethereal sound with something completely accessible and disarming. The lyrics, meanwhile, will resonate with any mother or father who has experienced the feelings of parenthood, with gems like “If there’s a bomb in your heart, I’ll disarm it, if you want it then I want it” and “I see the dream in your eyes and I want it”. Li says of the track herself: “Utopia is all my mother ever wanted for me and all I ever want for him [her son].” It’s that rare song that manages to evoke tears and happiness… tears of pride and relatability; happiness as you apply the same sensiblities to the children you love. Following in the wake of brilliant previous singles Hard Rain and Deep End, Li’s new album – her fouth – looks to be something special. It’s called So Sad, So Sexy and it’s out now.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Kooks, All The Time

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE KOOKSALL THE TIME: The Kooks have long been a go-to band for us in terms of quality. And new single All The Time is no exception. Taken from their forthcoming new record Let’s Go Sunshine, the song is another vibrant example of their ability to deliver catchy, punchy indie gems. Built around “ooh hoo hoo” harmonies, crisp guitar licks and a sense of longing in the lyrics (as passionately delivered by Luke Pritchard), this builds to a rousing chorus that declares: “I want you, you, all the time.” It’s a song about longing (possibly even obsession) that nevertheless retains a breezy indie quality, capable of sliding into your sub-conscious and getting your toes tapping almost effortlessly. The chorus, meanwhile, has that anthemic, sing-along quality guaranteed to make it an instant live favourite. The track is one of the first to be taken from Let’s Go Sunshine, the band’s forthcoming album, which lands in August.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Snow Patrol, Empress

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: SNOW PATROLEMPRESS: Snow Patrol premiere the video for Empress, their second single from Wildness, the band’s first album in seven years. It’s a typically cinematic offering, shot in Cuba. And it’s an easy pick for video of the week. The track itself (as penned last week) is a much-needed pick-me-up following the intimacy of the recent stripped back ballad, What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?. Empress, which doesn’t come with a video, is a med-tempo slice of rock that is driven by lively guitars and a more upbeat vocal delivery from Gary Lightbody. The guitars have a siren-like, surging quality to them that serves the track well, while Lightbody’s vocals have a greater sense of urgency and (as a result) vibrancy. As ever, the lyrics have an intelligence to them that belies the easier listening elements of the song as a whole. It has a message and it has plenty of heart. But in comparison to the quiet introspection of last week’s offering, this feels fresher and much more radio friendly. It’s the type of track that could emerge as one of the new album’s crowd-pleasing anthems.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Plan B, Guess Again

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: PLAN B – GUESS AGAIN: Following the release of his critically-acclaimed fourth studio album, Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose, Plan B has unveiled a hyper-futuristic, cinematic new video for standout LP track, Guess Again. The video zeroes in on Plan B’s bleak, dystopian view of the future, as groups of people follow mysterious, drone-like projections across a greying city-sphere to a dark and ominous end. Directed by Andrew Donoho, who has recently worked on official videos for Janelle Monáe, Vic Mensa and 6Lack, the video concludes with a stark reminder of the over-arching, inescapable reach of those in power. The song itself is yet another showcase of Plan B’s endless musical versatility. The politically charged anthem pairs Drew’s signature vocals with a pounding dance-hall beat. Drew lends his own writing and production talent to the track along with the help of FRED (Charli xcx/Stefflon Don) and Show N Prove. But it’s full of urgency, from the hot button lyrics (which implore leaders to guess again when trying to divide us) to the emphatic beats (which have a dancehall urgency combined with urban edge). It’s a song that’s quite removed from anything Plan B has done before, which may force you to do a double take. But it’s potency is undeniable, making the song a confident, even essential return from one of the UK’s most intriguing and talented urban artists.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Arctic Monkeys

ARCTIC MONKEYSFOUR OUT OF FIVE: Arctic Monkeys probably faced something of a quandry when they urged people to treat their new album, Tranquility Base, as a complete work, rather than stand-alone songs. In this iTunes dominated world, where people buy just the tracks they like, singles take on a new importance. Hence, the decision to release anything from the new LP would have been tricky. That they’ve opted for a song that, by all accounts, represents one of the album’s boldest departures from the trademark Arctic Monkeys sound [if there is one], shows bravery. Four Out Of Five is unlike any other Arctic Monkeys track. It’s almost like a rock oddyssey wrapped around an oddity. Think artistic Bowie meets new wave Billy Joel, with perhaps a little Talking Heads thrown in. It’s laidback, yet sometimes urgent (thanks to a foreboding, stabbing synth that drops in and out). The guitars are barely there, and warped when they are, while the vocals appear more strained, even though they’re appealing for the listener to escape from the world’s woes and spend time with them. It’s therefore an upbeat offering… imbued with a sense of relief that’s inherent in the soulful backing vocals. There’s a lot going on. And it’s why it gets better the more you hear it, even if first impressions might not land as instantly positive as the band may hope. It’s an endlessly fascinating piece of songwriting. And, yes, we like.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Kooks, All The Time

THE KOOKS – NO PRESSURE: The second new release from The Kooks this week comes in the form of the similarly upbeat No Pressure – a summer anthem in waiting if ever there was one. The song once again perfectly showcases the band’s idyllic form of indie pop at its breezy best. Boasting lines like “we’re just having a good time, honey”, this is a call to arms to escape the stresses and strains of modern life and just indulge in some summer fun. Sure, there’s a little dark shading in the build up to the chorus, which reflects on the mixture of emotions Luke Pritchard was going through when putting the songs together. But in the main, this is vibrant, positive, energising stuff that even belatedly drops the kind of harmonies the Beach Boys would be proud to call their own. Play it loud on the beach, at barbecues or from your car stereo in the sun. It’s got that infectious quality about it, right down to the anthemic finale (which showcases just how well the song will work in live form). Like All The Time, the track is one of the first to be taken from Let’s Go Sunshine, the band’s forthcoming album, which lands in August.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Clean Bandit, Solo

CLEAN BANDIT feat DEMI LOVATOSOLO: British hit-making trio Clean Bandit are delighted to unveil their new single Solo, featuring Demi Lovato. The track marks an assured return for Clean Bandit and is the follow-up to their platinum-certified, tear-jerking October 2017 smash I Miss You. Beat-driven and Latino-inspired, Solo finds the band united with the award-winning and No.1 recording artist, Demi Lovato, for vocal duties, which enhances its summer hit making potential. And that Latino element certainly gives it a summery, party-starting vibe. The beats are upbeat and lively; the synths both cinematic and Latin American, while the vocals are as sultry and brash as we’ve come to expected from Lovato. Some of the harmonies and ‘uh ho’ cut-ups lend it a cheesy element. But in the main, this is a fun, throwaway track that has pop hit written all over it. The track was written by the band’s very own Jack Patterson and Grace Chatto alongside Fred Gibson (Charli XCX, MØ) and Camille Purcell (Stormzy, Dua Lipa). It follows an empowering narrative of self-love and appreciation.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Against The Current, Strangers Again

AGAINST THE CURRENTSTRANGERS AGAIN: “I can’t stand it when you touch me like that…” So sing Against The Current on provocative new single Strangers Again (one of two they’ve dropped this week). It’s a song mired in doubt, anxiety and regret (“I don’t want to go through the motions”) that’s delivered in part-ballad, part alt-rock form. But then what else could you have expected from a band who are signed to Fueled By Ramen? There’s no denying the strength of emotion in the lyrics, which capably reflect the feelings on display. While the accompanying video, directed by Emmy Award winner Kyle Cogan, is stylish. But some of the more rock elements of the song negate the strength of passion in the way that the sound opts for a more pop feel. It’s catchy but nowhere near as powerful as those lyrics suggest. US fans of the band, of which there are plenty, will doubtless lap it up.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Passenger

PASSENGERHELL OR HIGH WATER: Ivor Novello Award-winning singer-songwriter Passenger, aka Brighton’s Mike Rosenberg, has released new single Hell Or High Water plus the song’s accompanying video. The song itself is another deep, heartfelt ballad, which takes the form of a personal inquisition based around the question of how a relationship failed. Rosenberg’s distinct vocals are as impressive and emotive as ever, while the widescreen instrumentals combine some great banjo, some electrifying guitar and some sweeping strings, to create something that is emotionally stirring and truly memorable. The accompanying video was directed by long-time Passenger collaborator Jarrad Seng, and is the result of a three-week road trip across the USA. The massive landscapes the pair traversed provide the perfect backdrop for the widescreen, Americana-influenced sound of Hell Or High Water. Speaking about the track himself, Rosenberg explained: “I came out of a relationship a few years ago, and I was just baffled by it. Was it something I’d done? Something she’d done? The video was shot over a few days in various national parks – Monument Valley, Valley Of Fire, Death Valley and Joshua Tree. These epic and vast landscapes really help to portray a feeling of being lost in a hopeless quest for answers.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Nine Inch Nails

NINE INCH NAILSGOD BREAK DOWN THE DOOR: Nine Inch Nails have dropped a new single in the form of the jarring God Break Down The Door, which arrives as the biggest musical disappointment of the week. Featuring scattershot beats, warped horn-type sounds, foreboding vocals and a deep sense of questioning (“God break down the door, you won’t find the answers here”), this doesn’t really conform to any coherent sound. It’s all over the place. And it never makes you feel comfortable for any second of listening to it, even though there’s typical intelligence to be found within those Trent Reznor lyrics. Zane Lowe spoke to the songwriting earlier this week about the new single and forthcoming album, and this is what he had to say about the structure of the track and his own vocal: “We find if we don’t watch ourselves, we tend to try to get some more comfortable with because it feels better. And from the sound of the drums to the kind of frantic drumbeat, to looking around the studio and seeing the untouched baritone tenor and alto sax that are sitting there… they’re there because they remind me that I can’t play them as well as I used to be able to. For 20 years, I’ve been saying I’m going of really get my technique back because it would be fun to do. And there they sit taunting me in the corner. We pulled them out and we just started fucking around really, led with Atticus arranging. I was just kind of going, an hour performance kind of turned into this thing that felt like we hadn’t been there before and that started to reveal a whole different character. The space changed and then we felt motivated. When it came time to sing I was really just trying things out, just to see. I never had the courage to sing like that, I didn’t know I could sing.”
Rating: 2 out of 5

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Hilary Woods

HILARY WOODSPRODIGAL DOG: In anticipation of the release of debut album Colt on June 8, via Sacred Bones Record, Dublin-based artist Hilary Woods has shared a new track and video from the record, in the form of Prodigal Dog – and it’s typically stylish. Woods’ artistry is one of rare emotive reach. Her minimalist and compositional finesse combine with densely layered atmospheric instrumentation and dreamlike vocals to create music rich with both delicacy and intensity. Hence, Prodigal Dog boasts a stark, minimal sound that’s built around ambient electronic sounds and those dream-like, ethereal vocals. The piano underscoring the track has a serenity to it that’s as beguiling as it is, occasionally cinematic, while the echoed vocals recall classic Sinead O’Connor mixed with Lykke Li at her most melancholy. It’s a rewarding listen. Speaking about the visuals for the new single, Woods said: “For Prodigal Dog, I set out to make a video that was slightly claustrophobic, cyclical, predominantly black in colour, one that traced the internal feeling from where the song was written.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 11, 2018

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

Ash

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: ASHCONFESSIONS IN THE POOL: Ash drop one of the hottest tracks of the week with new record Confessions In The Pool. Available as an instant grat track, the track is something of a change of gears from the band – a celebration of friendship in life’s lowest moments. The effervescent track is buoyed for the mainstream by rippling synths and a heightened sense of melody (which even drifts from indie into pop). If anything, there’s an almost slacker style quality to the sunshine track that recalls the breeze-alt pop of bands like Weezer and Fountains of Wayne from the US. But in typically English style, the bubbly melodies and laidback delivery are offset by some bittersweet sentiments, as the central chorus laments: “Confessions in the pool, isn’t life cruel?” It’s a belter of a record from Ash and one that shows the band is still more than capable of tossing in surprises. The new track follows 6Music-playlisted singles Buzzkill and Annabel, all of which feature on Islands, which sees the band return to their original label home at Infectious (through which they previously released the No.1 albums 1977 and Free All Angels) some 26 years (and 18 Top 40 singles) after forming.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Yonaka, FWTB

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: YONAKAFWTB: Explosive Brighton quartet Yonaka have unveiled their volatile new single F.W.T.B. and continue to impress. Shot through with urgency and edge, this boasts a punk-inflicted post-rock energy that’s difficult to ignore, especially when the incendiary chorus lands. Prior to that, the song adopts an almost rapped-rock form, which makes it stand out even more. It’s the type of defiant call-to-arms song that demands to be heard, and which may even boast crossover appeal despite its harder elements. The spiky guitars are another big plus. Imagine listening to L7 crossed with early Beastie Boys, for the kind of thing to expect. F.W.T.B. is the follow-up to the band’s hotly-received, October 2017 debut Heavy EP. The self-empowering track exudes Yonaka’s defiance and is statement of intent from frontwoman Theresa Jarvis, who takes the reigns with her stellar vocals. She commented: “The song is a big “f*ck you” to anyone who tries to get in your way and tell you no. It’s about taking back the power, standing up for yourself and being heard.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Chromeo, Bad Decision

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: CHROMEOBAD DECISION: Chromeo’s funky new single, Bad Decision, is the latest release from their highly anticipated forthcoming album Head Over Heels, which releases on June 15 via Big Beat/Atlantic Records. Already hailed by The Guardian as “a jaunty, electro-funk mega-banger”, this channels ’90s-era Prince (thanks to its sexy guitar licks), as well as more contemporary Justin Timberlake and Jamiroquai. It has a celebratory, party-style vibe thanks to its slick fusion of retro elements and future funk-dance grooves. It’s a romp, with production elements that are off the charts stylish (right down to the way it comes to an abrupt finish, leaving you thirsting for more). And while there are some bittersweet elements in the lyrics (which reflect on a wayward relationship and the bad decisions it induces), you’ll be having too much fun making the good decision to have some fun to worry too much about any regrets. Head Over Heels, recorded over the past two years at Chromeo’s Los Angeles studio, is the group’s most collaborative effort to date. Bridging generations and sub-genres, it features guest vocals from The-Dream, Stefflon Don, French Montana and Amber Mark, among others, plus musical contributions from neo-soul legend Raphael Saadiq, 2000s R&B mastermind Rodney Jerkins, D’Angelo collaborator Pino Palladino, Nuyorican jazz ensemble Onyx Collective and more.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Klara, Broken

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: KLARABROKEN: Since meeting Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver, at Glastonbury in 2015 and being invited to spend time with him and his musical cohorts at his Eaux Claires Festival, Swedish singer/songwriter Klara returned from Eaux Claires Deux in 2016 with a clear vision for her own music. Broken first started percolating in Klara’s mind as she travelled through the beautiful green expanse of the Wisconsin countryside on her way to Justin’s hometown festival and further evolved as she then made her way down the well-travelled Pacific Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles, breathing in the nature and epic views that surrounded her. With lyrics and melody in place, Klara finished writing the track in London in Paul Epworth’s Church Studios, before recording the track at Peter Gabriel’s wonderfully tranquil Real World Studios in the Bath countryside. The result is quietly stunning. Ethereal yet beautifully involving (in spite of the sorrow inherent in the subject matter), this is like listening to a female version of Jose Gonzalez (an IndieLondon favourite). It’s soothing, thought-provoking, beautifully poignant and cinematic to boot. The song, which is the first to be released from her next album (which will be released later this), year follows hot on the heels of her These Woods (Human Made) single, which soundtracked a Volvo television and cinema campaign and saw Klara hit number 1 in the iTunes UK Singer/Songwriter chart earlier this year. This is every bit as good.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Snow Patrol, Empress

SNOW PATROLEMPRESS: Snow Patrol’s fourth offering from their forthcoming Wildness LP is a much-needed pick-me-up following the intimacy of last week’s stripped back ballad, What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get?. Empress, which doesn’t come with a video, is a med-tempo slice of rock that is driven by lively guitars and a more upbeat vocal delivery from Gary Lightbody. The guitars have a siren-like, surging quality to them that serves the track well, while Lightbody’s vocals have a greater sense of urgency and (as a result) vibrancy. As ever, the lyrics have an intelligence to them that belies the easier listening elements of the song as a whole. It has a message and it has plenty of heart. But in comparison to the quiet introspection of last week’s offering, this feels fresher and much more radio friendly. It’s the type of track that could emerge as one of the new album’s crowd-pleasing anthems.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARR – HI HELLO: Smiths guitarist and acclaimed solo artist Johnny Marr builds towards the June 15 release of his new album Call The Comet by sharing a new track Hi Hello together with an accompanying video – and he couldn’t possibly sound more like The Smiths if he tried. Vocally, Marr actually seems to be channelling his inner Morrissey, with the type of high-pitched turn that could easily be mistaken for The Smiths’ frontman. The guitars, too, have a very indie-rock meets Smith twang to them. They’re distinctly Marr. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, none of the aforementioned points are. If anything, this is Marr operating within his comfort zone but clearly enjoying himself. And fans of both The Smiths and solo Marr won’t be disappointed. The climax is particularly rousing, with the guitars assuming an epic quality. Commenting on the track himself, Marr said: “It was one of the songs that just fell into my hands and mind as I was playing. The tune evoked something natural so I just followed it and it felt like I had to sing something personal, something we might all feel about someone sometime.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Justice, Stop

JUSTICESTOP: Justice have shared new track Stop along with a stylish neon-hued animated video created by Mrzyk and Moriceau, the French creative duo who have previously animated music videos for the likes of Air and Sébastien Tellier. The track itself is unmistakeably the work of Justice. Built around swirling synth arrangements, slick beats and falsetto laced vocals, this has a sexy shine to it that feels utterly intoxicating. The sound combines something ultra French and European with both a retro ’80s tendency and a sleek pop feel… the sort of which, belatedly, Daft Punk might like to call their own. But the seamless blend of boy-girl vocals also works really well, creating an ear-pleasing, dance-floor leaning slice of polished Euro dance-pop that feels achingly cool.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Angelique Kidjo

ANGELIQUE KIDJOONCE IN A LIFETIME: Now this is interesting… Angélique Kidjo is airing the new video for Once In A Lifetime, which is lifted from her forthcoming album release Remain In Light (out June 8). If the name of the track sounds familiar, then it’s a reinterpretation of the Talking Heads classic, produced by Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Beyoncé), and featuring contributors including Blood Orange and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. The ensuing track has Africa written all over it, with African rhythms influencing the pace and Angelique, herself, contributing a feisty set of power vocals. There are times when it’s unrecognisable from the original. But whenever the familiar refrain of “when the days go by” returns, the song recalls The Talking Head classic of old. Hence, it’s a clever, buoyant reinterpretation, which manages to pay homage to the old, while bringing something fresh and new. Speaking about the track, Angelique said: “In the 1970s, under the dictatorship of Benin, it was really difficult to find music to listen to from the rest of the world. When I went into exile in Paris, in 1983, I discovered so much new music, and among them was the song Once In A Lifetime. Initially, it felt strange to me. People said it was rock and roll, but it felt African somehow. When I performed in New York in 1992, at SOB’s, David Byrne was the first American artist to come see my show. Many years later, I discovered that Brian Eno and The Talking Heads had been influcned by Fela Kuti and studied John Miller Chernoff’s book, African Rhythm and African Sensibility about the power of African music. Once In A Lifetime was released at the start of the Reagan presidency, and you feel the anguish and anger in its lyrics. I feel the same tension in today’s political climate. Bringing Once In A Lifetime back to the African continent, with the help of superstar producer Jeff Bhasker, Black Panther’s percussionist Magatte Sow and guitarist Dominic James, feels so right today.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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LIFE, Grown Up

LIFEGROWN UP: Fresh from a typically raucous and sweaty week in Austin, Texas for SXSW (where the band played for DIY, BBC 6Music and Fluffer Pit), LIFE announce their return with the endlessly frenetic Grown Up, their first new material since last year’s breakthrough debut album Popular Music. Alas, it’s perhaps a little too raucous and energetic for most tastes. The guitars have a relentless, unforgiving brashness to them, chugging into your head like an incessant, unstoppable drill. While the punk-infused vocals have more edge than is comfortable to the casual ear. There’s a brash energy to the chorus, as they belt out lines like “I’m too grown up for you”, which seems tailor-made for the mosh-pit. But you tend to feel that a little more restraint may have gone a long way in helping the track boast wider appeal. Frontman Mez describes the new single: “Grown Up is about getting to grips with adulthood and wanting to fall in love again. Seeing the decay of human life as it ages in a park with the dying swans. Is there hope between the space on your plate as you fork at your tea? Can you be too grown up for love?”
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, May 4, 2018

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

Biffy Clyro

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BIFFLY CLYROBLACK CHANDELIER (MTV UNPLUGGED LIVE): Biffy Clyro offer up another irresistible glimpse of their forthcoming MTV Unplugged Live at the Roundhouse LP in the form of fan favourite Black Chandelier. And it’s another gem. If Many of Horror whet the appetite, then this should have fans salivating. It’s delivered with typical relish and passion by the band, slow-building to some rousing acoustic guitar playing and even some fan sing-along moments. The emotional content of the lyrics is enlivened and enhanced by the more intimate feel to the song, creating moments that are genuinely bittersweet and even poignant (especially early on). But the song avoids drifting into anything too sentimental or downbeat, with the guitars providing a beautiful and belatedly rousing backdrop. Having already won rave reviews for the concert from fans and critics alike, this MTV Unplugged collection of songs raided from the extensive Biffy back catalogue promises to offer up a complete set that’s utterly exceptional.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Celine Dion and Deadpool

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: CELINE DIONASHES: Celine Dion delivers another ballad. So what? You may well ask… Well, the novelty value here is that while, yes, it is another impassioned ballad, the type of which she excels in delivering (like them or not), the song itself features on the soundtrack to Deadpool 2. And, wait a minute! Deadpool himself is in the accompanying video. And it rocks. Or should we say, it f**king rocks, using Deadpool parlance. It’s a great video, part concert footage of Dion giving it her all, part mock-up as Deadpool – donning high heels – does a breathtaking dance routine, and part clips package from the film itself. And maybe it’s because of its Deadpool 2 association, it somehow feels like a better song. A piano-soaked, cinematic offering, this has that Titanic-style weightiness you wouldn’t normally associate with a film of Deadpool 2‘s variety. It’s an unexpected treat. And the video is an absolute blast, right down to the Spider-Man put down at the end. We can’t wait to see how it slots into the film.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Snow Patrol

SNOW PATROLWHAT IF THIS IS ALL THE LOVE YOU EVER GET?: Snow Patrol’s third offering from their forthcoming Wildness LP in the form of the ballad What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? And, like its name suggests, this is a rather sombre offering. There’s a stark piano score underpinning proceedings, while Gary Lightbody reflects on one of life’s big questions. Sure, there’s a ‘whoa oh’ harmony, but this is a reflective offering that resonates by virtue of its thought-provoking elements. Lightbody sings lines like “I’m in the ruins too, I know the wreckage so well”, before dropping the question of the chorus: “What if this is all the love you ever get?” Unlike some Snow Patrol songs, which deliver similarly big questions, this particular track doesn’t build to anything big or epic. It’s low-key and sparse to the end, and all the more poignant for it. In addition to dropping the track, the band have concurrently debuted the cinematic and cathartic music video for the new song, which was directed by Brett Simon.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kojo Funds

KOJO FUNDSSTALLIN’: A mellow yet powerful foretaste of Kojo Fund’s eclectic musical qualities and harmonious flows, new single Stallin’ continues to assert Kojo Funds as the ‘king of afro swing’, the originator of a sound dominating the airwaves and Internet. Produced by Team Salut, the track arrives alongside captivating visuals providing a deeper context and narrative, with the assistance of Wretch 32 lending his wisdom and wise words. “We all want power but you’re most powerful when you choose your choices. You have everything to win but you only have yourself to lose,” sings Wretch 32. The mellowness of the track works in its favour, with minimalist beats, soulful vocals (especially the female backing ones) and thoughtful lyrics combining to create something that’s more ear-pleasing than a lot of more rap-based offerings. The Afro Swing element works too. It’s an appealing listen. Platinum selling, 23-year-old Kojo Funds first made his mark on the UK music scene with Dun Talking, a track that catapulted him to the forefront of the UK Afrobeat inspired sound. Stallin’ is an interesting change of pace and one that actually works in his favour in broadening his appeal.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Lxandra

LXANDRADIG DEEP: Finnish-born one-to-watch Lxandra has shared an acoustic version of her recent singe Dig Deep, complete with a beautiful flower-strewn video. The impressive track follows previous releases Hush Hush Baby and Flicker and perfectly combines electronic influences with classical piano building up to a powerful anthemic chorus. Reminiscent of Florence + The Machine and Lana Del Rey but with a distinctly Finnish slant, Dig Deep is a statement of intent for Lxandra as she criticises the outdated image of women in society, a notion which is explored in the accompanying video. Her vocals are impressive in the way they build passionately, while the accompanying piano is nicely delivered without ever overpowering the song or detracting from the lyrical message. The stripped back acoustic nature of the song makes the song altogether more intimate and emotionally resonant, marking Lxandra out as a fierce female talent to watch.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Lindi Ortega

LINDI ORTEGALIBERTY: Lindi Ortega has unveiled the video for Liberty, the title track from her forthcoming three-part concept album which will be released on May 25 on Shadowbox Music exclusively licensed via Soundly Music. Shot in Nashville and directed by Travis Nicholson, executive producer on CMT’s Still The King, the atmospheric video pays tribute to old Western movies but with a modern twist. “It was important for me that we had wild horses in the video because, for me, wild horses represent ultimate freedom and liberation, as well as physical strength and beauty,” says Ortega. The song itself is a powerful testament to the idea of bring true to yourself and to overcoming diversity, especially as Ortega recently had her own experience with Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which she wrote about movingly for Lenny Letter. It has plenty to say. But instrumentally, it’s cinematic in the extreme, paying a sonic tribute to the Old West with its country guitar twangs and bold stabs of brass. Ortega’s vocals, meanwhile, add to the romanticism inherent in the nostalgic tribute to the Old West. It’s a great song.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Florence + The Machine

FLORENCE + THE MACHINEHUNGER: Art-pop specialists Florence + The Machine drop Hunger as the second track to emerge from their forthcoming LP High As Hope. A soulful pop-ballad, this finds Florence Welch examining the correlation between beauty and love, not to mention mortality, while a lively pop backdrop builds and builds to a stirring strings-backed finale. In that regard, it’s a classic slice of Florence + The Machine songwriting in the way that it combines big ideas and themes with easy listening pop sensibilities. Welch’s vocals remain as powerful and appealing as ever, while the fusion of beats, pianos and strings blends seamlessly to create a swirling, sweeping, upbeat but thought-provoking pop gem. Commenting on the track herself, Welch said: “Hunger explores the ways we look for love in things that are perhaps not love, and how attempts to feel less alone can sometimes isolate us more. I guess I made myself more vulnerable in this song to encourage connection because perhaps a lot more of us feel this way than we are able to admit. Sometimes when you can’t say it, you can sing it.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alice in Chains, The One You Know

ALICE IN CHAINSTHE ONE YOU KNOW: Alice In Chains (vocalist/guitarist Jerry Cantrell, drummer Sean Kinney, bassist Mike Inez and vocalist/guitarist William DuVall) have released The One You Know, their first new track in five years. The first track to emerge from the band’s upcoming album and their first release on their new label home BMG, this is a typically heavy, ominous offering that is strictly for the fans only. There’s a crunching central guitar riff that pummels you from the start, while the vocals have a drone-like quality that seldom changes tone. It’s got the epic rock grandeur of Alice in Chains material of old but it will struggle to breakout and crossover. That said, the mid-track guitar solo does kick ass. Cantrell discussed the eagerly-anticipated album in a recent interview, saying: “It’s a record we haven’t done yet, but it’s also a record that has all the elements of anything you would expect from us. It’s got our fingerprint. And we’re really proud of the material we wrote and the performances we captured. There’s some really heavy sh*t, some really ugly stuff, some really beautiful stuff, some weirdo trippy sh*t… it’s good.” We’re not 100% sure where The One You Know fits in to those descriptions… ugly/heavy/trippy? Check out the Adam Mason-directed video below and judge for yourself.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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Jess Glynne

JESS GLYNNE – I’LL BE THERE: I’ll Be There is the first solo single to come from Jess Glynne since her debut album released back in 2015, which saw her dominate the UK pop world. Directed by Adriaan Louw (Major Lazer/Mabel), the official video sees Jess embarking on a journey to the breath-taking backdrop of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Selling over 2 million copies worldwide, I Cry When I Laugh became one of the defining pop records of its era, with a mass of smash hit singles including Hold My Hand, Take Me Home and Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself. As she sold out arena’s across the country, Jess’s intimate and universal themes in her lyrics connected with people as she demonstrated her ability to tell the truths young women want to hear about their concerns; the loves that build them up and let them down; the aspirations and dreams that might turn sour but you’ll smile through them anyway. The new song cements that reputation, combining some anthemic pop hooks and sing-along anthemic moments with a message of empowerment and support for anyone who feels they need a little help. The harmonies are tight, even sun-kissed, the chorus catchy as hell and the overall message one to get behind. It’s a welcome return for this particular artist.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Jessie Reyez, Body Count

JESSIE REYEZBODY COUNT: Jessie Reyez started off 2018 by adding one of the highest accolades to her resume, winning Breakthrough Artist at the JUNO Awards in Canada and performing Figures, A Reprise with fellow Toronto artist Daniel Caesar. For the first time since then, after feature collaborations, new tracks and her impressive debut EP Kiddo, Reyez shares her new song Body Count. Meant as an anthem to empower, the song asserts that women (and men) are equally allowed to embrace their sexuality rather than be modest. It’s a return to form for Reyez, with her lush voice simply set against acoustic guitar and some toe-tapping beats. Indeed, the guitar has a very Jack Johnson vibe to it, which lends it greater potential for crossover. While the beats are nicely laidback. Vocally, Reyez seems to be having fun while declaring “We gonna love who we wanna love”… a fine sentiment indeed. It’s a song to enjoy and rally behind.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 27, 2018

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

Jason Mraz

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: JASON MRAZHAVE IT ALL: “May you always know the meaning of the word, happiness”… so sings Jason Mraz during his latest, happy-go-lucky single Have It All. And it’s a joyous offering. Backed by some breezy acoustic guitar licks, a toe-tapping beat and Mraz’s typically upbeat, vibrant vocals, this puts a smile on your face from the moment it starts and keeps it there for the duration. It’s an endlessly positive song (“may you win prizes, shining like diamonds”/“here’s to the hearts that you’re going to break, here’s to the lives that you’re going to change”) that brashly proclaims: “I want you to have it all.” There is a sly, bittersweet undertow stemming from the fact that the person Mraz wants to have it all may not always be in his life. But it’s inspiring nonetheless. Have It All was written by Mraz with David Hodges (Christina Perri, Kelly Clarkson) and JKash (Maroon 5, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor) in collaboration with his friends in Raining Jane. The track was originally conceived after Mraz received and translated a blessing from a Buddhist monk during a moving visit to Myanmar in 2012. However, current events compelled him to bring Have It All fully to life at last. “The world had changed a lot since 2012,” Mraz says. “More people are marching for their freedoms and equality; to be seen and heard. Activism is back in style. I wrote a lot of frustrated, angry, even sad songs between then and now, but nothing I wanted to come forward with; nothing I wanted to sing. Have It All stood out as a song with a hopeful message to help me heal and move forward; a song with a message of generosity – the antithesis of despondency; a song bestowed to me by translating a message from a monk. It’s a blessing disguised as a rap song and it’s meant to be paid-forward and shared.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran, Happier

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: ED SHEERANHAPPIER: Ed Sheeran has unveiled his new single, Happier, alongside his Emil Nava-produced accompanying official video. Lifted from Sheeran’s record-breaking, 14 million-selling third studio album ÷, the track is accompanied by a brilliant visual from Emil Nava (Eminem, Rihanna), who has worked on many of Ed’s official videos since the start of his career. Shot to the backdrop of New York and following the song’s emotive narrative, we see Ed’s lookalike puppet, which made its debut in the official video for Sing, return for yet another show-stealing performance in the accompanying video. The song itself is a typically heartfelt, disarmingly simple offering. A confessional ballad of sorts (“aint nobody hurts you like I do”), it nevertheless retains a sense of hope in its lyrics with lines like “I know I was happier with you”. The backing harmonies build nicely, culminating in an epic finale in which the acoustic guitars and drum loops work together brilliantly. Happier, for all of its bittersweet sentiments, is a rowsing slow builder that showcases Sheeran at his best yet again.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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NONONO

NONONOFRIENDS (ACOUSTIC): Swedish alt-pop powerhouse Nonono have released an acoustic version of their latest single Friends – and it’s every bit as brilliant as the original. This acoustic performance was recorded at Atlantis studios in Stockholm and is accompanied by a live video, stripping the original track back with stunning effect. The original version was released on March 23, when IndieLondon described it as “an empowering electro-pop anthem with ethereal elements”, adding: “It has an undeniable energy, born from a central hook that’s really catchy. But the finger-flick beats work well, too, as do the ethereal vocals that come alive during the chorus that proclaims “I need a little bit of help from my friends… I’ll be just fine”.” In acoustic form, Stinja Wappling vocals really resonate, and are truly emotive, while the acoustic layering is subtle but beautifully realised. It takes an already great track and transforms it into something that’s by turns more intimate, striking in a different way and equally as memorable.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mike Shinoda

MIKE SHINODA feat BLACKBEARABOUT YOU: Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda continues with his policy of penning brutally honest songs following the death of band made Chester Bennington last year. New offering About You, featuring Blackbear, is an introspective look at Shinoda’s feelings, even though he denies they’re directly about Bennington’s death. Featuring lyrics like “I buckled up, told myself to suck it up, I was scared to death to get up there and spill my fucking guts”, it wears its anguish and hurt on its chest, even dropping edgy percussion and blitzing synths early on. But once Shinoda curtails his own lyrical flow, Blackbear adds some more poignant lyrics and eases the track into a mellower close. But the confusion, pain and anxiety of Shinoda’s tumultuous life, post Bennington, is evident for all to hear, with a chorus that laments: “All of a sudden it’s about you, Even when it’s not about you.” It’s raw, powerful stuff. The track will appear on Shinoda’s debut solo album, Post Traumatic, which is due out on June 15.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Aloe Blacc, Brooklyn In The Summer

ALOE BLACCBROOKLYN IN THE SUMMER: With a name like Brooklyn In The Summer, you’d expect the new single from Aloe Blacc to be, well, summery (ie, breezy, upbeat, positive). And you’d be correct. With upbeat piano chords, breezy soul-infused vocals and toe-tapping beats, this becomes progressively more bright and positive the longer it lasts. Its designed as a love letter to NYC, as well as the joy of being in love, and it ticks all the right boxes for doing so. It’s destined to become a soundtrack moment, as well as a summer anthem, especially for anyone with an appreciation for the Big Apple and Brooklyn itself. They’ll know what Blacc is singing about. Co-written by Blacc, Brooklyn in the Summer is the first single to be announced off Blacc’s new album, which will be released on XIX Recordings/Interscope Records later this year. Commenting on the track himself, Blacc said: “Brooklyn in the Summer is a soulful ballad that reminds me of classics like Al Green‘s Let’s Stay Together and Earth Wind & Fire’s After the Love Has Gone. If you’ve ever fallen deep in love you can relate. If you haven’t yet, then this is what real love feels like.” Well said!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Hilary Woods. Photo by Joshua Wright

HILARY WOODSBLACK RAINBOW: With debut album Colt set for release on June 8 via Sacred Bones, Dublin multi-disciplinary artist Hilary Woods is sharing a new single, Black Rainbow, as a taster. And it’s beautifully beguiling. Speaking about the new track, Woods said: “Black Rainbow was so named because I loved that image, the idea that when that’s all one can see overhead / when a relationship is dying between two people that once loved each other very much – there is no choice but to believe that there is something better for you at the end of it all.” The melancholy inherent in that description is evident in the song, with a sad but still beautiful piano and string arrangement providing a cinematic backdrop to the lyrics. Woods, meanwhile, drops a tender, vaguely ethereal and entirely heartbroken vocal, which only adds to the fantastic impression this song leaves. After the release of two critically acclaimed EPs, Woods spent 2017 writing and recording songs on an eight-track in an abandoned flat she was living in at the time. Layering piano, synth, tape machine, field recordings, vocals, drone, unadorned beats, and old string instruments, these songs culminate in her debut solo LP, Colt. Straddling the acoustic and electronic worlds, Colt is an intensely personal journey through grief, abandonment, and mutating love. Woods navigates this journey with a lyrical potency that cuts through stark piano, sensuous synth work, and textural acoustics. Somewhere between Marissa Nadler, Grouper and Julee Cruise, these songs evoke both the anguish of their content and the ecstasy of their craft.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kyle Falconer, Poor Me

KYLE FALCONERPOOR ME: After five hit albums, a Mercury Prize nomination and countless sold-out shows with The View, the band’s frontman Kyle Falconer now drops his debut single Poor Me on Riverman Records. Sweeping cinematic strings are prevalent in the track, which grows in anthemic intensity before Falconer’s distinctive vocals explode in a visceral roar of emotion. Its chorus is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.” “Every day you get triggers and traumas stuck in your head, and you’re hearing all of these horrible stories,” reflects Falconer. “You want to hear it, but at the same time you’re thinking, ‘I’m here to help myself but I’ve got to listen to everyone else’s story.’ It’s quite hard to hear, and I was thinking that a lot of these people were worse off than me.” A weighty subject matter is nontheless delivered in rousing fashion, combining those impassioned [but still distinct] Falconer vocals with stirring strings and, belatedly, some indie-esque guitars. Falconer really gives it his all towards the end of the song, belting out the lyrics in impassioned fashion and bringing the song to a rousing, rock-style close, before then stripping it down for a final, strings-backed thought. It’s a stirring song and evidence that Falconer looks well equipped to flourish as a solo star.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Plan B, Stranger

PLAN B – STRANGER: Plan B has unveiled a striking new video to Stranger, taken from his forthcoming new album Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose, which releases on May 4 via Atlantic Records. The video features a couple of dancers in a white, body-hugging sheet, moving in eye-catching ways. Their features are obscured. But they mesmerise by virtue of their striking moves. The song itself is an impassioned slice of soul that explores themes of self-identity and confidence within the wider context of a relationship, featuring lines like “you treat me like a stranger, but I guess that aint no different to how I treat myself”. Ben Drew’s vocals are as emotive and soulful as ever, while the background instrumentals combine pianos, synths and strings to increasingly stirring effect. It’s another highly impressive offering from Plan B.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Liines, Cold

LIINESCOLD: Liines are Zoe McVeigh (vocals/guitar), Tamsin Middleton (bass) and Leila O’Sullivan (drums). Cold is the latest and final single to be taken from their forthcoming debut album, Stop – Start, which follows on May 4 via Reckless Yes Records. Stop – Start is described as an album that bridges the gap between Riot Grrrl, alt-rock, new-wave and post-punk. Cold therefore offers a punchy musicality that sits somewhere between alt-rock and punk, while its addictive drum loop and repetitive guitar riffs – alongside Zoe McVeigh’s ever emotive delivery and raw lyrical honesty – are reminiscent of the brooding and angular post-punk of Joy Division. It’s an acquired taste given its alt-rock, post-punk energy, and raw vocal style. But there’s no denying that the song has a gutsy intensity that’s difficult to ignore. As a statement of intent, it does the job in a highly effective manner. McVeigh says of the song: “I originally wrote this with a drum machine and an acoustic guitar. I played the drum loop through an iPad, pressed record on my phone then played the guitar over it. I then played the recorded version, set record on my iPad then overlaid the guitar in a sort of back and forth way. It sounds almost like the xx on the demo. When this was taken to rehearsal, it really came alive.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 20, 2018

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

Lykke Li

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LYKKE LI – DEEP END: Any new material from Lykke Li is always welcome… but especially when it’s as good as this. Deep End is the first of two new tracks from her forthcoming new album, So Sad So Sexy, which is out on June 8. Featuring production from Malay, T-Minus and Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Mark Ronson), this retains the ethereal vocal style that is Li’s trademark, while adding some more polish and mainstream sensibility. Indeed, there’s a very hip-hop vibe to the back-beats, which are massively impressive, while the pianos and electronics are, by turns, emotive and atmospheric. The mood the song creates is very cool: by turns laidback, sexy, ethereal and distinct. Li’s vocals occasionally assume a Sia-like vibe (which is no bad thing), adding to the radio friendly nature of the song as a whole. Indeed, it’s fair to say that this constitutes Li’s most mainstream offering yet. But it could afford her the step up to the big time that she so richly deserves.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Coral

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: THE CORALSWEET RELEASE: The Coral have announced details of their new album, Move Through The Dawn, which will be released on August 17. So, if that seems like a long time to wait, they’ve also dropped the first taste of what lies in wait, in the form of the robust Sweet Release. Built around lyrics that proclaim “I’m in love, I’m in love with the sweet release”, this is a guitar-driven slice of propulsive indie rock that finds the band at, arguably, their most muscular. But there are traces of psychedelia in the vocals, which add some nice balance. The song is instantly catchy… by turns comfortably radio friendly yet alternative enough to please the under-nourished indie fraternity of late. It’s a rollicking good listen. The accompanying video, directed by James Slater, features a synchronized dance routine by a boiler-suited, paper bag hat-wearing dance troupe. Hence, the video continues the band’s tradition for visually exciting and wryly amusing promos. It’s all shaping up nicely for the new album, then…
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Anne-Marie, 2002

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: ANNE-MARIE – 2002: Anne-Marie has unveiled her impossibly catchy new single in the form of 2002, which is available now on all DSPs and will feature on her forthcoming debut album Speak Your Mind (out on April 27). Co-written with Ed Sheeran (who also provides vocals on the track) and produced by Steve Mac (Sheeran’s Shape of You, Pink’s What About Us), the track highlights the stars’ celebrated humour and characteristic story-telling. A huge champion of pop music from the early 00’s, Anne-Marie quotes some of the most iconic and her personal favourite songs from that era throughout the chorus: Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, N-Sync’s Bye Bye Bye, Jay-Z’s 99 Problems and Nelly’s Ride Wit Me. And yet, the song itself has plenty of identity of its own, including a free spirited pop sheen that is undeniable. The finger click beats enhance the overall catchy quality, the acoustic guitar licks add breeze and Anne-Marie’s sweet vocals are dream-like in nature. It’s easy to fall in love with her. 2002 has summer anthem written all over it.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Off Bloom, Love Actually

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: OFF BLOOMLOVE ACTUALLY: Anglo-Danish trio Off Bloom are back with cracking new single Love Actually, a tropical-flavoured self-effacing love song made with their good friend, the rising Danish producer Vera. Written in the midst of a hefty post-house party hangover, the band had this to say about the track: “The song is about being so in love it’s almost unhealthy, but you can’t help yourself from falling! The feeling that something is almost too good to be true and you’re slightly dreading what’s to come but feeling ecstatic at the same time. A time where everything is about sex and fighting and constantly trying to figure out what’s happening inside the other person’s head. The title is, of course, a ‘90s movies reference. When we wrote it we started listening to the stuff we grew up with in the ‘90s / early ‘00s – everything from Green Day to Natalie Imbruglia – and got SUPER inspired by the vibe. It felt like going back to a more ‘innocent’ time.” Anyone anticipating the type of drippy ballad that could easily slip into the movie of the same name had best rest assured: it’s not. This drops a super-sultry central vocal, some slick beats and synth arrangements and a soothing pop vibe. It’s upbeat, self-deprecating, sexy and toe-tappingly enjoyable. In short, it’s a very welcome return. The fun, lo-fi video was shot in the band’s London flat by Aria Baradar.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Novo Amor

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 5: NOVO AMORSTATE LINES: Novo Amor has unveiled a surprise new track, State Lines, which is out now on AllPoints. The project of producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ali Lacey, this is the first solo material we have heard from Novo Amor since his collaboration with Ed Tullett, which culminated in the release of the Heiress album at the close of 2017. State Lines is therefore the result of Lacey getting back to his home studio in Wales. The track grows from humble beginnings of acoustic guitar and Novo Amor’s now familiar falsetto vocals, and blossoms into an expansive and cinematic cut. Speaking about the new track, Lacey said: “The name State Lines represents the idea of bordering something, it reflects a feeling or place of uncertainty.” There is, however, no uncertainty when it comes to reviewing the song: it’s beautiful. The early acoustic licks are disarmingly simple but rife with ear-pleasing melody, while the accompanying falsetto vocal is beautifully realised (with a touch of the ethereal). When the track adds instrumental layering, however, it blossoms in stunning fashion. It’s the type of song that’s easy to kick back and lose yourself in.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lykke Li

LYKKE LI – HARD RAIN: Hard Rain, the second of two new tracks from Lykke Li’s forthcoming new album, So Sad So Sexy (out June 8) isn’t quite as good as Deep End but it’s still impressive. This time around, the track features production from ex-Vampire Weekender Rostam, but it’s a slightly less mainstream venture. Opening with an eerie background synth stab and a heartfelt, intimate vocal from Li, this takes a little time to get going. Early on, there’s some vocal harmonic layering, before another hip hop orientated backbeat drops and adds some style and edge. Li retains the ethereal edge to her vocals, yet sounds somehow more sad this time around. But the chorus still manages to sound powerful, even if it lacks the bounce needed to make it as radio friendly. That being said, it’s good to hear that Li hasn’t abandoned her more individual tendencies completely in favour of mainstream approval. Hard Rain is swarming with the imaginative production values that have long been a hallmark of this exeptional artist. It therefore combines the cinematic with the ethereal and elements of pop, making this another cracking track to usher in the arrival of a new album. We’re officially very excited about this one!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Alex Lleo

ALEX LLEORISING WATER: Fresh from a run of spring solo headline shows across the South West, Alex Lleo has unveiled the third and final track from his debut Park Studios, JQ EP. True to form so far, this is another acoustic based piece of folk-pop that is shot through with ear-pleasing melody. Lleo brings trademark husk and emotional depth to the vocals, while the inclusion of some strings (cello) add some extra instrumental layering late on. It’s a warm slow-burner of a record, albeit laced with some bittersweet lyrical sentiments that give the listener plenty to ponder. Alex will next head out for two headline shows in London and Birmingham. Firstly, he will make his London debut at St Pancras Old Church on May 2. Judging by the quality of the tracks we’ve heard so far, this should be a night worth making.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The Chainsmokers, Somebody

THE CHAINSMOKERS feat DREW LOVESOMEBODY: The Chainsmokers continue what has been a highly productive 2018 with the release of new single Somebody, featuring Drew Love. Boasting intimate, honest lyrics about realising one’s potential and having the bravery to be yourself, Alex Pall and Drew Taggart employ a more restrained approach to the accompanying instrumentals. Hence, the beats and synths are even more atmospheric than some of their recent material, with the falsetto vocals injecting plenty of doubt. The lyrics, meanwhile, deliver insights such as “I don’t really like anybody, so please don’t tell me I’m like anybody”, showcasing that greater emotional depth that has crept into new material. Admittedly, there is a woozy electronic lift around the midway point, when Love unleashes her sultry vocals, but it works a treat in making the track more memorable, before things get stripped back down once more. It’s a strong new release from them.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Maliibu Miitch

MALIIBU MIITCHGIVE HER SOME MONEY: Bronx native Maliibu Miitch has unveiled her new single, Give Her Some Money and piles on the sass. Featuring provocative lines like “pussy good, give us the money” and “bad bitch, better give us the money”, this is a hard-hitting slice of R’n‘B/hip-hop that, quite possibly, positions Maliibu as the new enfant terrible of the US hip-hop/R’n‘B scene. Certainly, her lyricism isn’t for the faint hearted… and it could even set the female empowerment movement back a few steps. Certainly, it’s the kind of provocative song-making that can create confusion in terms of what it’s saying (and, most pertinently, the language it’s employing). But the production values are undoubtedly slick, with some moody back-beats and electronics helping to accentuate that overall feeling of sass. It is, however, an acquired taste and one that isn’t without problems. Give Her Some Money follows the success of Miitch’s last release, The Count, and serves as another primer to her highly-anticipated upcoming mixtape, due later this summer.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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The Pale White

THE PALE WHITEPEACE OF MIND: Newcastle indie-rock trio The Pale White release their barnstorming new single, Peace of Mind, and immediately attract generous comparisons with the heft and swagger of bands like Queens of the Stone Age. Thunderous from the outset, courtesy of its robust central guitar hook, this hits you with full force from the get go and seldmom takes its foot off the gas. The guitars are continually gutsy and explosive, the drums as thunderous as previously mentioned, and the vocals as moody and gritty as you’d expect from a track garnering comparisons with a Josh Homme outfit. Oh, and then there’s a mid-track breakdown into the deeply psychedelic that adds a surprising late twist. Speaking about the new single, Adam (from the band) said: “Our second offering this year, let it rip through the bone-structured cage, which cradles the unpredictable and often misunderstood muscle that is the human brain. We are vultures circling our own demise, until we choose to regain consciousness.” Hmmm… not sure about that statement – but the song rocks.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly

GET CAPE WEAR CAPE FLYANIMATE: Hitting the road with a full live band, Sam Duckworth and company – aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – will play an unmissable headline hometown gig at Southend’s Chinnery’s venue on May 12, 2018 before supporting Frank Turner at the Lost Evenings Festival at London Roundhouse on May 14, as well as making other appearances at the likes of Liverpool’s EBGBs, Handmade Festival and beyond throughout the month of May. In celebration of what will be Get Cape’s first UK tour run for over four years, Sam and band mark the announcement with the release of new single, Animate. And it’s a typically appealing, alternative offering. Animate has an indie-pop sensibility (in that it’s slightly leftfield), yet it also displays a keen melodicism that’s married to a lively chorus. Duckworth also raises the tempo of his otherwise laidback vocals late on (sounding impassioned and anguished), before then dropping a kooky synth arrangement that ushers the song to a giddy, happy-go-lucky close. It’s a nice juxtaposition of styles, as only Get Cape know how.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 13, 2018

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

Snow Patrol, Life on Earth

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1/VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: SNOW PATROLLIFE ON EARTH: The second offering from Snow Patrol’s new album, Wildness, is the slow-building epic Life on Earth – and it’s typically impressive. Containing ethereal elements of acts like Jose Gonzalez, as well as the space odyssey elements of the late, great David Bowie, this also manages to retain a signature Snow Patrol sound. The guitars build nicely, there are organs, strings, moody vocals, thoughtful lyrics and a truly emotive overall experience. It’s the kind of offering that Snow Patrol built their reputation on delivering and shows that despite being away for seven years, their capacity for brilliant songwriting remains undiminished. The accompanying video was premiered by British Astronaut Tim Peake (read his tweet here) and was shot at the European Space Agency in Holland. It’s as epic and sweeping as the song itself. Roll on the rest of the album!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Florence + The Machine, Sky Full of Song

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: FLORENCE + THE MACHINESKY FULL OF SONG: Florence + The Machine marked Record Store Day with the release of the sweeping new single Sky Full of Song – but you have to wait for the sweep. Early doors, it’s marked by Florence Welch’s emotive vocals, which are marked by something of a melancholy undertow (“And I can tell that I’m in trouble, when that music starts to play”). It’s the sense of uncertainty that makes the track somehow more endearing, especially when something of a reassurance comes in the lyric “I can hide from the thunder in a sky full of song”. As the song progresses, the instrumentals become more layered, with the solitary bass and piano eventually being accompanied by some beautifully realised string arrangements and choral vocal harmonies. It’s at about the three minute mark that the song really blossoms into life – making an already mesmerising piece of work all the more stirring and notable. It’s a cracking piece of work.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Janelle Monae, Pynk

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: JANELLE MONAEPYNK:Pynk is a brash celebration of creation. self love. sexuality. and pussy power! PYNK is the color that unites us all, for pink is the color found in the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of humans everywhere… PYNK is where the future is born….” So says Janelle Monae of her new single, Pynk, the latest offering from her keenly anticipated new album, Dirty Computer. And it’s a belter – as proactive, life-affirming and positive as that sentiment suggests. Early on, it’s disarmingly simmple: finger click beats, an ’80s style synth and Monae’s sassy R’n‘B infused vocals. The simplicity of the production allows the message of the vocals to shine through. But around the minute and 30 second mark, the song takes on a more robust form. There’s a gritty guitar lick, more pronounced beats to accompany the electronics and clicks. It’s vibrant and alive and urgent. Monae then strips things back down and rebuilds, allowing the enjoyment to revisit you as the song once again repeats the trick. Coming off the back of Make Me Feel, this only heightens the excitement surrounding Monae’s imminent LP (out on April 27).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Esther Vallee

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: ESTHER VALLEEHARDCORE: Swedish indie-pop artist Esther Vallee has released a live studio version of her latest single, Hardcore, and instantly impresses. The live performance was recorded at the legendary Swedish studio Svenska Grammofonstudion and is accompanied by a live video (below). Speaking about the recording, she said: “The acoustic Hardcore version and video was recorded in the Svenska studio. It felt unreal to spend some time in this legendary studio. Especially to record it live with my band. And together we actually improvised this version on the spot. This is the result.” Hence, while Vallee is well known for her pop hooks in her home country, this showcases a rawer, more intimate sound that is stunning. Vallee’s vocals are moody and expressive, bringing a greater sense of darkness to the lyrics. The accompanying pianos and guitars are brilliantly realised, especially during the expansive chorus. But it’s the rawness and intimacy that really stand out. And while there’s a keen sense of melody, befitting the song’s pop roots, this is a brilliant alternative [and improvised] version.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Biffy Clyro, MTV Unplugged

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 5: BIFFY CLYROMANY OF HORROR (ACOUSTIC): Although their live shows are best known for their electrifying and explosive energy, Biffy Clyro have often demonstrated that their songs possess an added poignancy when stripped back to their essence. Now, the band can announce details of their first acoustic album, MTV Unplugged: Live At Roundhouse London on May 25. Recorded at London’s famous Roundhouse venue on November 8th last year, the set represented the UK relaunch of the iconic MTV Unplugged series. Biffy Clyro follow in the footsteps of influential rock bands who had previously performed as part of the series, notably Nirvana, Oasis, Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and George Michael. The set is rich with favourites from the Biffy catalogue. Machines is already long established as a highlight of the band’s live shows as Simon Neil performs accompanied by a single acoustic guitar, while the likes of Many of Horror, Re-arrange and Medicine are all natural fits for an Unplugged performance. Indeed, as a taster of what to expect, the band have released Many of Horror and succeed in blowing you away. Stripped of its rock elements, this takes on added emotional resonance, beauty and poignancy. It’s a mesmerising showcase of just how brilliant this MTV Unplugged collection promises to be.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Inner Tongue

INNER TONGUETEETH: Incredibly, the guy behind Inner Tongue had vocal surgery in 2013 and it’s taken him five years to recover from that and get the album ready (it’s out in May). New single Teeth shows that the wait [and journey back] was worth it. A mix of nonchalant beats, intimate delicacy, and falsetto vocals, there’re flashes of James Blake, Death Cab For Cutie, Sohn and Chet Faker all in there. And while the pace of the song is very deliberate (and maybe a little too laidback for some), this is the type of serene offering that rewards the patient listener. The instrumentals are intricately composed, the vocals thoughtful and reflective (and somehow soothing), while the song as a whole simply washes over you. It impresses without doing anything overly showy and bodes well for the rest of the album.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARRTHE TRACERS: Legendary Smiths guitarist and acclaimed solo artist Johnny Marr releases his new album Call The Comet on June 15. The first taster is The Tracers, a typically super-charged, guitar-led offering that blends something of a classic Smiths sound with elements of other acts like James and early Cure. There are echoed ‘woo hoo’ harmonies, 80s styled synths, slick bassline grooves and fiery guitar riffs to ensure that this sweeps you along in a psychedelia laced indie-rock swagger. Marr’s stoner style vocals actually accentuate the psychedelic elements, while the guitars retain a moodiness and energy that drive the track into your subconscious. Hence, without being explosive, it does impress on its own level. “Call The Comet is my own magic realism,” explains Marr, of the forthcoming LP. “It’s set in the not-too-distant future and is mostly concerned with the idea of an alternative society. The characters in the songs are searching for a new idealism, although there are some personal songs in there too. It’s something that people like me can relate to.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jenny Hval

JENNY HVALSPELLS: Norwegian multi-disciplinary artist Jenny Hval returns with a new EP, The Long Sleep, set for release on May 25 via Sacred Bones. The first single from the EP, Spells, is streaming online now. The track underlines Hval’s idiosyncratic qualities. It begins in something of a haze, almost throwing some sounds together. But it quickly takes shape with a sharp, seductive mix of ethereal vocals, slick pop melodies and alternative elements. Admittedly, the song does drift back off into some slightly more haphazard instrumental cycles as it builds to its climax, but it always manages to bring itself back. It’s these flights of fancy, however, coupled with the beauty inherent in the song’s more conventional elements, that enable it to make such a different impression. It does, however, remain something of an acquired taste at times. The Long Sleep EP is the first Jenny Hval release since 2016’s acclaimed full-length, Blood Bitch. It follows the Lost Girls collaborative EP, released this past February, and precedes Hval’s debut novel, Paradise Rot, published by Penguin Random House’s Verso, and out October 2.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Superparka

SUPERPARKASKIP: Parisian duo SuperParka have dropped their ultra cool debut UK single Skip. Initially self released in their native France to critical acclaim, support from Spotify and radio support means they are now going global. Skip is best described as a neo-pop meditation on friendship that is layered, complex and combines the best parts of indie with a stuttering 90’s Hip-Hop heavy beat. They blend easy-listening strokes with more visceral moments on the turn of a coin. Hence, there’s a laidback swagger to the central bassline groove, some dreamy late-night electronic arrangements, and some equally laidback vocals to take you on the lyrical journey that lies in wait. But it’s head-noddingly cool, as well as lyrically intelligent, meaning that it appeals to the head and heart as much as it reaches those dance feet. SuperParks are Paco and Simon. They describe themselves as ’2 guys who love flying stuff such as Flying Mutant Ninja Turtles or Flying Lotus. We sing about our bros and potential UFO invasions and one could describe us musically as a mix of hip-hop/RnB & stoner. Roughly.’ They have been friends since school bonding over a shared love of Dragonball Z, the pair are hoovers of popular culture. They talk about Flying Lotus, Pharrell (the Neptunes era), Jai Paul and Madlib, they play a sort of lo-fi r&b led by fat hip-hop drums recorded on iPhones.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ash, Annabel

ASHANNABEL: Sometimes it’s great just to drift back into the way things were. Ash’s new single Annabel is shot through with the same kind of energy, vigour and indie-rock melodicism that they thrived upon delivering in their heyday. That is to say, crunching guitars, a slick mix of boy-girl vocals and a fine balance between heaviness and radio-friendly. Hence, while it’s undoubtedly an indie-rock anthem that harks back to a bygone era, it does enough to retain a contemporary edge and to satisfy both pop fans and indie fans in equal measure. It’s a blast. Annabel is the second track to be lifted from the forthcoming album Islands, which is due for release on May 18 through their newly cemented return to original home, Infectious Music. The albium is being described as an open-hearted collection of songs drawn from frontman Tim Wheeler’s reflective lyrical axis dealing with friendship and betrayal, love and loss, an album which reaffirms the band’s status as one of the most idiosyncratic and singularly thrilling guitar bands on these islands.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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