Friday, March 31, 2017

Kendrick, Calvin, Selena and the rest of #NewMusicFriday

Last week's New Music Friday was so underwhelming I didn't bother writing a post (memo to Zayn and Drake: stop mumbling). This week, however, things have turned around completely. There's stonking new tunes from Kendrick Lamar, Selena Gomez and Oh Wonder, to mention just a few. Scroll down for the best - and worst - of the week's new releases.

Kendrick Lamar - Humble
"Wicked or weakness, you gotta see this," raps Kendrick on this, the first proper single from his fourth album. He's not wrong.

The track, which attacks some of hip-hop's most tiresome tropes (bragging about money, improbably proportioned video girls) while asserting Kendrick's position as the best rapper in the game. "Sit down, bitch, be humble," he says, while sitting in Jesus' position at The Last Supper. Well, quite.

A Tribe Called Quest - Dis Generation
The best track on ATCQ's recent album (it samples Pass The Dutchie!!) gets a proper single release, with a gorgeous black-and-white video that shows Q-Tip, Jarobi and Busta Rhymes trading lines, and dancing whenever the voice of the late Phife Dawg pops up. Brilliant stuff.

Calvin Harris - Heatwave (ft Pharrell, Ariana Grande and Young Thug)
Less than the sum of its parts, this star-studded single feels a bit aimless - but the loping groove and Ariana's sugar-sweet B chorus provide enough highlights to keep your attention.

Bleachers - Don't Take The Money
Jack Antonoff helped Lorde put together her new album, and she's repaid the favour by co-writing this single for his band, Bleachers (she also sings backing vocals, deep, deep down in the mix). Radio 1 are going to be all over this one.

Selena Gomez - Only You
A hauntingly sombre cover of the Yazoo classic, taken from the soundtrack to the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. I like this a lot.

Kwaye - Cool Kids
I was amazed to discover this caramel-smooth soul jam emanated from London - but there it is, Kwaye is a 22-year-old, Zimbabwe-born, London-based singer-songwriter. His debut video is a celebration and declaration of diversity. Highly recommended.

British Sea Power - International Space Station
British Sea Power said their sixth album (out today) would be their most musically direct record - and they certainly keep that promise. International Space Station is my personal highlight, with a soaring chorus and what can only be described as an indie musician's version of a cheerleader chant in the middle 8.

Becky Hill - Rude Love
Written with MNEK, this is a distinctly odd and deliberately obtuse pop single. Naturally, it is quite excellent.

Oh Wonder - Ultralife
A welcome return for DIY alt-pop duo Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West. Their doubled-up vocals are instantly recognisable on this joyous, uplifting single. Not a massive progression from their debut, but just different enough to raise interest for the new album.

Alt-J - In Cold Blood
Intricate but accessible; awkward but danceable. Alt-J at their best. Will sound great in a field near you this summer.

Billie Eilish - Bored
Another scene-grabbing slice of pop melodrama from the precociously talented teenager. An ode to boredom that manages to be anything but.

Vanessa White - Running Wild
The former Saturday has had her attempts at launching a solo career frustrated by legal problems with her old management. But with those hurdles overcome, she's back with EP2 (three years after EP1), which further exemplifies her deft touch with a classic R&B harmony. Beguiling stuff.

Catherine McGrath - When I'm Older
Imagine if Natalie Imbruglia did a country makeover of Torn, and you have a good idea of how Catherine McGrath's new single sounds. The 19-year-old, who hails from the rural outskirts of Belfast (NB: All the outskirts of Belfast are rural), grew up surrounded by music - her parents run the Fiddler's Green Festival - and cites Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift as her influences.

This song captures the joys of youth ("these are going to be the good old days some day"), with an earnest, uplifting acoustic strum. A total breath of fresh air.

Mary J Blige - Love Yourself (feat Kanye West)
After flirting with UK house on her last album, Mary J Blige's latest sees her retreating to safe ground. You've heard a hundred variations of this song before.

Cheat Codes - No Promises (feat Demi Lovato)
Totally generic Primark pop.

The Chainsmokers - The One
Not the one.

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Video: Louisa Johnson - Best Behaviour

Filmed in an airplane graveyard - and why not?

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

It's been a good 24 hours for LIttle Mix

All hail Little Mix, who've been totally bossing the US this week. First with an impeccably-choreographed performance on James's Corden's chat show (the 1-2-3-4 synchronised hair toss is in a class of it's own).

Then the released the (superb) new video for No More Sad Songs, any review of which Ian contractually obliged to reference Coyote Ugly.

And, to cap it all off, there was this.

Congratulations, girls!

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Video: Billie Eilish - Bellyache

Billie Eilish is only 15 years old, but she's already a formidable talent. Just check out last year's debut single Ocean Eyes, an astonishingly assured piece of songwriting, in which she compares falling in love to plummeting off a cliff under "napalm skies".

Her new single, Bellyache, is even more striking. I'd call it a murder ballad, except it's not a ballad: It's a shadowy, brooding pop banger that fantasises about finishing off her lover and leaving his body to rot in the gutter. Less "psycho killer, q'uest que c'est", and more "Oui oui, je suis un psycho killer, et puis quoi?"

The video picks up after the gory bits, with Billie on the run from the law, dragging a trailer of her possessions behind her, and doing a victory dance in the desert like any normal murderer would.

But, as the singer told Vice, Bellyache is actually a song "about the concept of guilt.

"When you do things in the moment because you feel so strongly about them, in the end you're left with the decision you made.

"That line: 'I thought that I'd feel better, but now I gotta bellyache' is about how you kinda know that you're the worst but you don't care. It's about a psychopath who regrets being a psychopath but doesn't really care.

The song is pretty much perfect and the video is just as riveting. Billie Eilish is a a star in the making.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Video: Astrid S - Breathe

Norwegian pop star Astrid S has pulled out all the stops (and several of the pistols) in the video for her slinky pop masterpiece Breathe.

An effortlessly cool pastiche of Bond and Tarantino and classic Sunday afternoon heist movies, the video stars the singer as a gun-totin' vigilante on the run with her fella. We follow them across the decades as they evade the law and defeat the bad guys. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a total riot.

Director Cherry Red Films (not his real name) said: "Our main inspiration for the story were retro action movies such as the cult classic James Bond films from the 60s, as well as 70s road movies, Tarantino-esque characters and Americana influences in general. [See, I told you - Ed]

"We wanted to play with pastiches in all aspects: famous movie scenes, interiors, fashion and clichéd characters." Watch below.

"This is the biggest music video I’ve done yet!" added Astrid. "I think the video manages to capture the edge and sassiness of the song, with a good mix of serious and funny."

Watch above.

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Blondie + Dev Hynes = 🔥

Blondie have been working with a whole host of amazing pop people on their new album: Sia, Charli XCX, Dave Sitek and Joan "I love rock and roll so put another dime in the jukebox, baby" Jett. (They've also been collaborating with Johnny Marr and Nick Valensi out of The Strokes, which dampens my enthusiasm somewhat - but half a good Blondie record is better than no Blondie record at all).

The latest track to be released from Pollinator is called Long Time, and it's produced by Dev Hynes, the man behind Solange's moody pop beast Losing You; Carly Rae Jepsen's moody pop beast All Yours and Sky Ferreira's moody pop beast Everything Is Embarrassing. He keeps up his phenomenal strike rate here, with a song that appends Blondie's signature disco-punk sound with a rushing swirl of synths and guitars.

It's a moody pop beast.

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