Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Best Coast and Honeyblood are my indie sounds of the summer

Having spent the best part of 1993 crushing on Juliana Hatfield, I am predisposed to like jangly, female-fronted indiepop.

So it is with great delight that I stumbled across two new songs by Honeyblood (pictured above, left) and Best Coast (above right).

Honeyblood's newest song is The Black Cloud - a Record Store Day exclusive that's also the band's first single since drummer Shona McVicar was replaced by Cat Myers.

It finds singer Stina Tweeddale (love that name) eulogising a friend who "fought my corner when I wouldn't open the door." As she emerges from her eponymous Black Cloud, the track opens up into sunny, hazy harmonising.

It's lush.

On first listen, Best Coast's Feeling OK seems similarly optimistic.

"I know it's love that's got me feeling OK," sings Bethany Cosentino. But that "OK" is telling: She's not going full Nina Simone on us... and, true enough, there's a melancholy undercurrent, as she observes: "I get so down, but I'll keep trying to stay this way".

Best Coast - Feeling OK (lyric video)

Feeling OK is taken from Best Coast's third album, California Nights, from which we've already heard the title track and Heaven Sent. Those three songs seem more focused than their earlier work, while retaining the band's wispy charms.

According to the band, the record has been informed by 1990s grungepop (hello again, Juliana!), while trying capture LA's "epic sunsets" in musical form.

"When the sun sets, I feel like there is a large sense of calmness in the air, and I feel like everything that happened to me prior in the day, whether crappy experiences or good ones, at night, it all goes away and I sink deep into this different kind of 'world,'" said Bethany.

California Nights is out in May, pre-ordering fans.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Songs you may have missed: A double Madonna edition

I took a mini-break from the blog last week to help the kids survive the school holidays. OK, to help my wife survive the school holidays.

But plenty of great music found its way into the world in my absence. Here is a 15-track summary of that music.

1) Madonna - Ghosttown
The best video Madonna's made in over a decade, for her best single since Sorry.

Co-starring Terence Howard (Iron Man, Empire), it depicts the Queen of Pop one of the last survivors of a nuclear apocalypse. Which finally explains why she has the face of a 30-year-old Drew Barrymore.

2) Florence + The Machine - Ship To Wreck
More mellifluous than the previous releases from Florence's upcoming third album, this still finds the singer wracked with doubt. "Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch? Did I build this ship to wreck?" she hollers over the deceptively upbeat, glockenspielly backing.

The video, directed Vincent Haycock, follows the narratively-driven clips for St. Jude and What Kind of Man, and was filmed at Florence's house.

3) Brandon Flowers - Still Want You
It seems like Brandon's having a lot of fun with his new solo album.

I mean, A LOT of fun.

The second single from The Desired Effect is a wonky rock/gospel hybrid that hammers home its chorus with a bejangled mallet; while the video finds Brandon in a playful, flirty mood - looking eerily similar to Bryan Ferry doing David Bowie on Stars In Their Eyes.

4) Shura - 2 Shy
I championed this Janet Jackson sound-alike a couple of weeks ago, and now it has a moody and windswept (and largely unnecessary) video to accompany it.

5) Michael Calfan - Treasured Soul
This has been bubbling around on specialist dance shows since the start of the year, but it's getting a proper release in time for the summer. A soulful, uplifting dance anthem, it's powered by steel drum hook that owes a huge debt to Duke Dumont's I Got U. Which is no bad thing.

6) Chloe Black - Cruel Intentions
I wasn't a big fan of Chloe Black's last single, 27 Club, in which she revealed an ambition to die young, at the same age as Kurt Cobain and Janis Joplin. It was a terrible, attention-seeking lyric with a casual disregard for those tragically curtailed lives.

Her new single seeks to make amends ("I won't try to defend all of my crazy") and suggests the London-based singer-songwriter could be this year's Lana Del Rey. Distinctive and dramatic.

7) Clean Bandit ft Marina and the Diamonds - Disconnect
Premiered live at Coachella, this is apparently from Clean Bandit's "eagerly anticipated" second album, which is coming out later this year.

As Marina later noted on Twitter, her stage outfit made her look like Ali G.

8) Ty Dolla $ign - Drop That Kitty (ft Charli XCX)
Aggressively mediocre.

9) Kiesza - Sound of a Woman
It's ballad time in Kiesza world, which means less dancing, and more emoting. Bah.

10) Mark Ronson ft Mystikal - Feel Right
Live on the Ellen Show, this is a peach of a performance.

11) Snoop Dogg - So Many Pros
Produced by Pharrell, this creamy-smooth jam finds Snoop drawl-singing an ode to the "pretty people". Progressive it isn't, but the funkadelic chorus (featuring vocals from The Gap Band's Charlie Wilson) is delicious.

12) MO - Preach
Like SWV combined with Little Mix, while never reaching the peaks of either. Now on the Radio 1 playlist, where it's a refreshing change from James bloody Bay.

13) Lykke Li, Kanye West and Lil Wayne - Never Gonna Love Again
Eminem's producer has mashed up Lykke Li's Never Gonna Love Again with Lil Wayne and Kanye' Lollipop remix, for no reason other than he could.

It works surprisingly well.

14) Charles Hamilton - New York Raining (ft Rita Ora)
Here's a stunning, Selma-esque video to accompany New York Raining, Charles Hamilton's collaboration with Oscar nominee Rita Ora.

Set in a monochromatic 1960s New York, we see Charles amongst a group of civil rights protestors, joining arms as they square off with police. Rita stays clear of the politics, preferring to gaze wistfully through a rainy window.

15) Madonna - Bitch, I'm Madonna
We finish back where we started - with Madonna back on form, despite the creative disarray of her Rebel Heart album.

This is how you do a chat show performance in the YouTube age - playful and self-deprecating while cramming in tons of "content" and some killer dance moves. It's just a shame the song is so cringeworthy.

So there you go. Seems like I was the only one who had a quiet Easter. So spare a moment to remember the PR people who had to manage the YouTube uploads and email out the links. Let's hope they had tons of chocolate to compensate.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Video: Janelle Monae - Yoga

"Sometimes I'm peachy. Sometimes I'm vulgar"

Yoga, the new track by Janelle Monae and her protege Jidenna, has been on repeat ever since I put it on last week's "songs you may have missed" list.

A proper grower, it finds Janelle in relaxed (and saucy) humanoid mode. It's refreshing to see her cutting loose from all the high concept Cyndi Merriweather stuff ... And it's a theme that's thankfully continued in the sprightly video.

This looks like no yoga class I've ever seen.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Songs you may have missed: Easter edition

Happy Easter, everyone! The sun is out and spring has sprung - and we all need new songs to sung. Hark a listen at this week's round-up of newbies.

1) Jamie xx - Loud Places
Taken from Jamie's first solo album, Loud Places begins with the downbeat cool of an xx track (not least because it features his bandmate Romy on voals). But the majestic, gospel-inspired chorus takes you to unexpected places. Lovely stuff.

2) Madeon - You're On (ft Kyan) - live session
Madeon makes the process of hitting buttons on a samplepad seem like the most exciting form of live performance ever invented, even though it's just... well, pressing some buttons on a samplepad. How does he do that?

3) Girlpool - Chinatown
Girlpool are Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker, two musicians from Philadelphia whose main selling point is that they make punk music without feeling the need for drums.

Their new single is a bit of a departure, though: A bluesy, meandering ballad that borrows the riff from Sheryl Crow's Leaving Las Vegas, it's shot through with a hesitant vulnerability most punks would sniff (glue) at.

4) Beyonce - Die With You
Sitting behind a piano, her hair braided and tucked into a baseball cap, here's pop megastar Beyonce singing a ballad for her husband on their seventh wedding anniversary.

I don't know about you - but if my wife had done this for me, I'd have taken her straight to the bedroom for a jolly big smooch. Jay Z just filmed it and put it on his new streaming site for some reason (money).

5) Rihanna - American Oxygen
A surprisingly mournful hymn to the American dream, Rihanna's latest song is a soulful antidote to the obnoxious (and obnoxiously catchy) Bitch Better Have My Money.

You have to sign up to Tidal to hear it properly - but here's a live version, performed at the March Madness concert over the weekend.

6) Janelle MonĂ¡e, Jidenna - Yoga
Ever wondered what Janelle Monae would sound like if she stopped pretending to be an anti-establishment robot from the future? Well, you're in luck.

The R&B star cuts loose on Yoga, a new track with rising MC Jidenna that will appear on The Eephus, a compilation EP starring the artists she's signed to her Wondaland label.

And it's pure filth... as Janelle Monae repeatedly instructs her lover: "Baby bend over, let me see you do that yoga."

The track also contains the best / weirdest lyric of the year: "You cannot police me, so get off my areola." Crikey.

7) Alesso - Cool (ft Roy English)
Perfectly acceptable Radio 1 daytime fodder, this is only notable for the video, in which Alesso plays a nerdy schoolkid who seduces his teacher. Wish fulfilment much?

8) George The Poet - Wotless
Another thought-provoking rap-poem from George The Poet, who charts his evolution from prodigal schoolboy to successful musician. It's an unflinching sketch of how black kids (especially those in a predominantly white, middle class environment) can feel pressured into becoming stereotypes.

Compelling stuff.

9) Mirror Talk - 1/M/T
Posted by the ever-reliable Nicola Roberts on her Tumblr page, this is shimmering, 80s-inspired synth pop from LA quartet Mirror Talk.

Produced by Tony Hoffer (M83, Beck), the title stands for One More Time.

10) Wax Tailor - Que Sera
I fell in love this sampladelic cut-up as soon as I heard it yesterday. Then I discovered it's a decade old... But what the hell. This post isn't called "songs you may have missed" for nothing.

11) Brandon Flowers - Can't Deny My Love
The only video you'll see this week that's based on the Puritan short story Young Goodman Brown, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1835. And that's a guarantee.

So there you go. Hope you haven't overdosed on chocolate during the course of this blog post.

Oh, and I'm taking the rest of the week off. See you on April 13th.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Carly Rae Jepsen breaks out the ballad

Carly Rae Jepsen popped up on SNL last night, playing the second single from her upcoming third album. All That, which is its name, starts boldly by stealing the fractured drumbeat from the intro to Prince's The Beautiful Ones.

It never reaches the histrionic heights of that Purple Rain track (and Prince would never countenance a lyric as cheesy as "I'll be your lighthouse when you're lost at sea") but it's such an accurate pastiche of 80s pop ballads you can imagine it playing while Kelly LeBrock gets her perm tangled with Matthew Broderick. In slow motion. On the bonnet of a DeLorean.

Listen to the official audio and watch the (very good) SNL performance below.

Carly Rae Jepsen - All That

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Which adjectives are pop writers using to describe the new Hot Chip single?

Hot Chip's new single Need You Now is excellent. The sound of a band revitalised, fifteen years into their career.

But how are people describing that sound? Let's compare:

  • "A shivery, emotive synthpop jam" - Stereogum
  • "A darkly cruising electronic track" - Consequence of Sound
  • "Tasty as a hot chip served with fresh ketchup" - DIY
  • "Melancholy dance tune" - Zumic
  • "Very solid" - Brooklyn Vegan
  • "Another new song" - NME

  • Wow. By the end of that list, everyone's just given up haven't they?

    "Look, here's a new song. We know you're going to skip the write-up and go straight to the video, so we could literally put anything here. Hmm, let's see what we can get away with. I once ate Alabama trouser meat. Lady Gaga's right nipple resembles a porcupine of dandelions. Your best friend is an octagonal Ted Danson. Blah blah blah blah lemon bollock custard blah blah blah sock rotation blah blah I coughed my foot off. You didn't see any of that, did you? The clip was directed by Shynola. Watch it below."
    The clip was directed by Shynola. Watch it below.

    Hot Chip - Need You Now

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