Friday, February 24, 2017

The best and worst of new music Friday: 24 February 2017

A vintage week if you like Coldplay and songs that go Wzrrp-worp. Not so much if you're into anything else at all. Sort it out, "the music industry".

Anyway, here's a rundown of the week's best new ones. And the Coldplay one, too.

1) Billie Eilish - Bellyache
Why put all the big artists at the top, when someone new could do with a leg up? California's Billie Eilish recently signed to Interscope, and has a great acousti-pop sound that'll appeal to fans of Ellie Goulding and Aurora.

She wrote her first song at the age of four, about falling into a black hole and being happy to be there. Her new single, Bellyache, finds her plotting revenge on her boyfriend for an undisclosed transgression. It's fair to say things don't go well for him: "Where's my mind? Maybe it's in the gutter, where I left my lover".

2) Calvin Harris ft Frank Ocean and Migos - Slide
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a post-chorus environment.

3) Zedd ft Alessia Cara - Stay
"Alessia and I first met at rehearsals for the HALO Awards, where Alessia, Daya and I performed together," writes Zedd. "I've loved her songs before but realised that she's an unbelievable talent when we started rehearsing together, so I asked her if she was interested in making music with me."

The answer was a resounding OF COURSE I DO and the result is the best of this week's onslaught of producer+vocalist collabs.

4) The Chainsmokers ft Coldplay - Something Just Like This
The title is clunky, the beats are generic, the melody is pedestrian. No-one is doing their best work here (except, perhaps, the team that animated the lyric video).

5) Lana Del Rey - Love
Already covered extensively on the blog, this is very much business as usual while managing to be one of Lana's strongest-ever singles.

6) Ed Sheeran ft Stormzy - Shape Of You
One of the highlights of Wednesday's Brit Awards, this collaboration got an official release today as part of a Ed Sheeran remix package. The guy has sold nearly 2 million singles over the last seven weeks. What does he think this is, 1994?

7) Thundercat ft Kendrick Lamar - Walk On By
Thundercat played bass on most of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly album. Now the rapper repays the favour by adding a typically virtuoso verse to this melancholy R&B track. At the time of writing, its only got 2,000 views on YouTube. It deserves 100 times that.

8) The 1975 - By Your Side
A vocoderised cover of the Sade classic (Grammy-nominated for best vocal performance in 2002, but beaten by Nelly Furtado's I'm, Like, A Bird). Released in aid of War Child, this one of those rare charity singles that doesn't sound like it was knocked off in an afternoon.

9) Powers - Heavy
Powers are pop heavyweights Mike Del Rio and Crist Ru, whose credits include Kylie and Selena Gomez. They've just served up this calorific slice of pop that's equal parts Rocksteady-era No Doubt and Lady Gaga on a good day. Nice work.

2,000,002) Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign - Swalla
A song about cum.

Sorry about that last one, but I refuse to suffer alone. Sometimes I wonder what did we do to deserve Jason Derulo? Whatever it was, I'm sorry and we won't do it again.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New music from Dua Lipa, Jamiroquai and Ed Sheeran

It's almost as if everyone is clearing the decks before the Brits send Katy Perry and Bruno Mars roaring back up the charts...

Dua Lipa - Thinking About You
A funky little ballad, powered by a finger-plucked guitar and (later on) a chunky hammond organ. It's an "instant grat" track for anyone who pre-orders Dua's debut album - and if all the album tracks are this quality, we're in for a treat.

For those of you who are interested in how pop artists get launched in the post-iTunes era, this interview with Dua's record label boss is a fascinating read.

Ed Sheeran - Touch (Little Mix cover)
Cheeky chappie and all-round pop overlord Ed Sheeran popped into Radio 1 yesterday, where he revealed he's dropping another double single this Friday. Disappointingly, it won't be his cover of Little Mix's Touch, which remains a total banger, even on an acoustic guitar.

Jamiroquai - Cloud 9
Starring Penelope Cruz's sister, Monica, this is described as a "playful, Tarantino-inspired homage to the iconic visuals for the band's smash single Cosmic Girl". In other words, Jay Kay gets to drive a sports car around a winding clifftop road like a better-dressed Jeremy Clarkson. After the excitement of Jamiroquai's comeback song, Automaton, this is very much back to the old template.

Bonus track: Spoon - Can I Sit Next To You
One for the 6 Music listeners, this is jibbering, jittering slice of indie-funk from a band who always deserved to be bigger.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Video: Katy Perry - Chained To The Rhythm

Stunning... Political without being polemic, with shades of Tomorrowland.

One of her best. And that's up against some pretty stiff competition.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fall back in Love with Lana Del Rey

For someone so laid back she can barely finish her senten... Lana Del Rey certainly maintains a prodigious work rate. Love, released at midnight last night, is the first single from her fourth album in six years.

I drafted an article where I called it her best single since Summer Sadness, but then I took a minute to listen to Ultraviolence, Ride, High By The Beach and West Coast (to name just a few) and realised she's never had a truly duff record.

Love, however, lifts the hazy fog that settled over Lana's more recent records. The crisp, minimal production works in support of a gorgeous melody, as Lana sings about the generation coming up behind her:

Look at you kids with your vintage music
Comin' through satellites while cruisin'
You're part of the past, but now you're the future
Signals crossing can get confusing

To begin with...all you need is 'Love'

A post shared by Lana Del Rey (@lanadelrey) on

Love was written with Rick Nowels - one of female pop's greatest catalysers, responsible for everything from Belinda Carlisle's Heaven On Earth to Lykke Li's Sadness Is A Blessing - who was credited on all but one of the tracks of Lana's last album, Honeymoon.

The same will be true for album number four, rumoured to be called Best American Record, while a press release says there are other special guests "TBC". (If The Weeknd isn't one of them, I'll eat my hat).

"I made my first four albums for me," says Lana, "but this one is for my fans and about where I hope we are all headed".

Listen below.

UPDATE: Here's the video.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Maggie Rogers, Ed Sheeran and the best of #NewMusicFriday

All you really need to know about this week's New Music Friday is that Maggie Rogers' debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, is finally out.

Impossible to describe but irresistible to listen to, it marks the arrival of a major new talent.

Thanks, Pharrell.

Here's the best of the rest:

Ed Sheeran - How Would You Feel (Paean)
"Not a single, but one of my favvvvzzz," Ed tweeted the other day. A swoonsome love song cut from the same stone as Thinking Out Loud, it's so middle of the road it should have white stripes painted on it. But just think - if this isn't a proper single, he must have an even bigger ballad up his sleeve. Cunning bastard.

DJ Khaled ft Beyoncé and Jay Z - Shining
I've never been a fan of DJ Khlaed's beats, but Beyoncé is a pop alchemist and her impeccable phrasing and delivery spins gold from this otherwise average song.

Linkin Park - Heavy (ft Kiiara)
In what can only be a major administrative error at Warner Bros, Linkin Park have just released the new Chainsmokers single.

Kygo ft Selena Gomez - It Ain't Me
I wrote about this yesterday, and it is still worth a listen.

Disciples - On My Mind
Erstwhile Calvin Harris collaborators return with this hooky, vocoder-heavy club track. Slight but effective.

Little Cub - Too Much Love
Ironically, too much love is one thing this song isn't getting - buried, as it is, at the bottom of Spotify and Apple Music's new music playlists. But it's a corking little pop song, set to a whirlpool of synths. Features the incredible lyric: "I'm just a shagger, not a lover of consequence".

Rhys - Last Dance
This will be like catnip to Radio 1.

Take That - Giants
Inspiring. Uplifting. Boring.

There's also new music from Maroon 5 and Future but you needn't put yourself through that.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Selena Gomez has done a song with Kygo and it's pretty good

Selena Gomez has given us brief respite from the slow, agonising wait for the follow-up to Revival with It Ain't Me, a new collaboration with topical house maestro Kygo.

The single - AVAILABLE NOW - can only be described as a gentlebanger; loping of beat and anthemic of chorus. There's a particularly pleasing chord change at the 55" mark. It is a solid 7/10.

Some of the internet's more excitable "news" sources say the song is definitely about Justin Bieber, because everything a successful woman does has to be framed through their relationships, right?

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