Thursday, February 28, 2013

Demi Lovato has recorded a great single, and there's nothing wrong with that

Former Disney starlette Demi Lovato (rhymes with tomato) has never really troubled my ears before. She's had a couple of low-charting singles in the UK, but nothing you'd ever get truly excited about. Basically, she's the brunette Miley Cyrus.

Until now, that is. Following a career-making stint on US X Factor (where she proved a feisty foil to Simon Cowell, calling him "annoying and old") she's been back in the studio making a concerted effort to make a global hit record.

If that sounds calculated, it's because it is. Her new single Heart Attack is incredible, but cynical - built from all the best bits of the best pop songs of the last five years. It's got the whip-snap production of a Katy Perry single, the electro-acoustic strum of Taylor Swift's pop reinvention, the dumbstruck love lyrics of a Bruno Mars ballad, and an anthemic chorus straight out of Fun's big hook book.

The production, we're told, comes from Grammy nominated powerhouse "The Suspex" but a bit of poking around on the internet reveals that one half of the the duo is actually Lovato's old songwriter from the film Band Camp, who also worked on Hannah Montana and a bunch of other Disney projects.

All pedantry aside, Heart Attack is a great song. And what really sells it is Lovato's powerhouse voice - reminiscent of Christina Aguilera before she lost all sense of nuance and just started screeching like a hormonal cat. Carefully-accented and bursting with personality, she sounds sad in the sad bits and strong in the strong bits. It's an invigorating listen.

But be warned: you won't escape this song until 2015.

Demi Lovato - Heart Attack

PS: The song's message - "I'm scared of falling in love right now, so I'm putting my defences up" - seems to be pulled directly from Lovato's own life. In an interview with Elle earlier this year, she said: "It is very unhealthy when girls devote all of their time to a guy and forget their friends and family. I did that. I was always looking for distractions because I was so afraid of being alone. I have spent the last year focusing on myself and it's been incredible. More has come out of the past year than in my entire career so far, and I truly believe it was because I was taking care of myself and not focusing on guys."

Meeting Simon Cowell can't have hurt, either.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What does the internet know about AlunaGeorge?

Amazing musical portmanteau AlunaGeorge have just announced their new single, Attracting Flies. If you haven't been following the progress of the St Albans-based band, where have you been? They were the most-blogged about artists of 2012 (ok, not necessarily a recommendation) and came second in the BBC's Sound Of 2013 list.

As a result, the "proper" media has latched onto the future-funk electro-pop R&B duo and booked some interviews. Here's what we've found out by reading all the articles about Aluna Francis (she's the girl) and George Reid (he's not the girl) we could find.

:: They met on MySpace. "It didn't seem weird at the time," confessed Aluna, "but when you say that now it sounds a bit geeky! Like a dating agency or something." [The Line Of Best Fit]

:: They bonded over a shared love of Radiohead. Aluna gets a little squiffy about Thom Yorke. "I cried at his gig and everyone around me was like 'Are you okay?' and I was crying going, 'I'm fine! I'm just a really big fan! Just don't look at me!" [The Fader]

:: George got his first CD player in 1996. It was a Christmas present, and it came with Michael Jackson's HIStory and Huge Hits 96, which included such era-defining tracks as Breakfast At Tiffanys, Mysterious Girl and Ooh Ah, Just A Little Bit. You can clearly hear the traces of those classics in his current "oeuvre". [Mobo]

:: Writing music is easy peasy. "We've got good beats that are either sexy or dancey and then songs on top," says Aluna. [BBC]

:: Porn has not been ruled out as a career option. "Where will we be in five years? Getting our baps and balls out for money." [Idol]

:: Debut album Body Music is designed for a variety of uses, like a swiss army knife. "From dancing in front of the mirror, studying, or kissing your new boyfriend or girlfriend, painting a picture; there's a song for each kind of mood," says Aluna. [Digital Spy]

:: George is aware that he is the band's Chris Lowe. "When we were working together at first I didn't really see us being a band," he said. "I thought, 'Aluna's the thing here.'" But his foil "hated the idea of being a solo artist". [Evening Standard]

:: The duo have big ambitions. "Moon," declares Aluna. "First band to play on the moon." [The Brits]

Attracting Flies is out on 10 March, but Body Music won't be in shops until July.

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The road to Ruen

Last November, Radio One's head of music George Ergatoudis promised on his Twitter account that "Guitar music is definitely on the way back". He gave a more nuanced version of his argument to Digital Spy in January - saying Radio One's audience research showed people are "beginning to tire of the formulaic sounds that make up much of the Top 40 singles chart" but that he doesn't think "we'll see the important guitar acts of this decade really smashing it until 2015."

Still, if the man insiders call George Egg-And-Two-Chips says guitars are coming back, it's probably true. And if we're going to have to have planks spanked and strings twanged, I'd like to nominate the Ruen Brothers to do it.

They're called Henry and Rupert, but before you write them off as tweed-jacketed toffs reluctantly forced to play "the pop" music to save Downton Abbey, bear in mind they hail from Scunthorpe and would probably do you in a fight.

According to their official biography, the Ruen Brothers "write almost everything you hear" (what, even birdsong?) and have been given two enthusiastic thumbs by Paul Gambaccini, of 'someone has died, quick find me a pundit' fame.

'ACES stunned me. The instrumental introduction made me think of the
Black Keys ... then in came the vocals reminiscent of Brandon Flowers.
Dare I say it, this sounds like a commercial single.' Paul Gambaccini

So now you know.

Ruen Brothers - Aces

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Friday, February 22, 2013

The Brits, a tragic love story and One Direction larking about with the PM

Hello! If it's Friday, it must be the weekly round-up of videos you "may have missed" (ie completely ignored) over the last seven days. Let's start here:

1) Taylor Swift - I Knew You Were Trouble: Live at the Brits

It really shouldn't have been this easy for Taylor Swift to steal the show at the Brits, but she was truly the Goldilocks in an arena full of dozing bears. I mean, it really was awful, wasn't it? Hideously, offensively dull. I've eaten chips with more personality than Tom Odell. None of the winners had anything to say, none of the performances had any spark, and anyone who dared raise the tempo above "snail in a headwind" was basically banned for life. Did the industry look at the Olympics and think, "we've had enough exposure for one year, let's just pretend we're running the b-stage at Latitude?" Because that's what it felt like.

Holy Moly posted a great analysis piece yesterday (headline "Emeli Sande is not the best at anything") which explained Ben 'Ken' Howard's mystifying double win: "If you have a vote where second choices are counted then you tend to end up with a winner who no one hated, rather than the best in their category." Meanwhile, I had a go at making sense of the whole night in a slightly less grumpy, BBC-approved format over here.

So, here's Taylor Swift, an American country music singer playing a dubstep rave track - thereby making her the most relevant act of the show. Well played, everybody.

2) Kodaline - High Hopes

Kodaline have been dubbed "the Irish Coldplay" but before you go and suffocate yourself with a damp towel, give this song a chance. Yes, it's a sorrowful, romantic power ballad. But the video will stay with you all weekend.

3) One Direction - One Way Or Another

There are two ways of looking at this video by perma-quiffed bumfluff pop band One Direction.
A: What a bunch of irritating little shitbags.
B: If I was in One Direction, I would be an smug little scrote, too.
Basically, it's five young boys who've hit the jackpot, making the most of their 15 minutes and looking like they're having incredible fun while they do it. It's all for charity, anyway, so you're not allowed to complain.

4) Duke Dumont ft A*M*E - 100%

Duke Dumont was previously best known for his DJ sets and remixes for the likes of Bat For Lashes and Metronomy. 110% is, as far as I can tell, his debut solo single and it's a fab calling card, with a pumping retro house vibe. I featured the audio in last week's "songs you may have missed" column, now it has a video to go with it. There's a cute little conceit about a man who's swallowed a cassette recorder (ask your dad) and a lot of very silly dancing. I like the guy with the blonde afro best.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Haim: See jungle, go ape crazy

The internet gave birth to Haim's new video last night. It follows the Californian soft rockers into the forest, where they sing around a campfire and kill a fish.

I'm not sure what, if anything, it has to do with the song, Falling, but it does suit the band's free-spirited personalities. As the excellent Rebecca Nicholson put it in a recent Q Magazine, "meeting them is like opening a window on a stuffy day".

And each of the sisters gets a "character moment" to help us tell them apart.

Alana "Baby" Haim - Likes her sushi fresh

Este Haim - A big fan of The Archers

Danielle Haim - Secret love-child of Cousin It

The band are currently hard at work on their album (and Alana's hard at work on her abs) so there's no release date. They are playing T In The Park in July, though. If you're going, I 100% recommend catching their set.

Haim - Falling

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lianne La Havas video "frenzy"

I'll keep this short as I'm about to head off to the Brits, where Lianne La Havas has a stunning zero nominations. Not that she doesn't deserve them - her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough, was one of last year's best. Produced by Matt Hales (aka Aqualung) it was a quirky, plush, sonically adventurous record, bound together by La Havas' stunning vocals, recorded up close with precious little processing.

In other years, she would almost certainly have been a contender for Best British Female - but the 22-year-old simply couldn't compete with the commercial clout of Emeli Sande or the tear-stained nostalgia for Amy Winehouse. But Ms La Havas doesn't need the Brits. And, in an Adele-style finger salute to the voting academy, she's uploaded two new videos on the day of the awards.

So, here we have the piano-led confessional Gone, and the beautiful Scott Matthews cover Elusive. Enjoy, then remember what you could have been watching when Ben Howard pops up on your telly tonight.

Lianne La Havas - Gone

Lianne La Havas - Elusive

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kylie's new single is the best thing she's done in ages

There's an argument that Kylie's at her best when she's not being glitter cannoned pop gargantosaur KYLIE MINOGUE. Her most interesting songs are side projects (Where The Wild Roses Grow), cast-offs (Cherry Bomb) and remixes (the 10-minute reswizzle of Confide In Me).

So it's no surprise that Whistle, her movie soundtrack collaboration with experimental Icelandic band Múm, is better than anything on her last three studio albums. Kylie's hushed vocals are spookily desolate, as strings and beats fade in and out of focus behind her.

I can't hear the lyrics clearly enough to work out what's going on, but the song was written specifically for the film Jack And Diane, which has the most bonkers IMDB synopsis since Shark vs Octopus: "Jack and Diane, two teenage girls, meet in New York City and spend the night kissing ferociously. Diane's charming innocence quickly begins to open Jack's tough skinned heart. But, when Jack discovers that Diane is leaving the country in a week she tries to push her away. Diane must struggle to keep their love alive while hiding the secret that her newly awakened sexual desire is giving her werewolf-like visions."

Twilight has a lot to answer for, doesn't it?

Kylie also pops up in the film trailer, alongside recent Bafta rising star winner Juno Temple. It looks awful. As one YouTube comment puts it: "Like a cross between alien meets predator in a vagina."

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Rihanna takes a bath and six more pop moments you may have misssed

Here begins the weekly clearout of the pop music stockpile. Some great music follows in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

1) Rihanna ft Mikky Ekko - Stay
Oh look, Rihanna's taking a bath and singing a song all in the nudey buff. (Phwoar, right?) Would be better if she was singing into a bottle of Mr Matey.

2) Marina and the Diamonds - E.V.O.L.
"It only takes two lonely people, to fuck up love and make it evil". AMAZING.
(And a free download to boot).

3) Lana Del Rey - Burning Desire
Surely this, the 9,236th video from Lana's debut album, must be the last? If you haven't heard it yet, Burning Desire is one of the broody, carnal bonus tracks from the expanded edition ("I have to touch myself to pretend you're there," she croons, the perv). The video takes the album campaign full circle, recycling the "Lana and some tigers" motif from the Born To Die video.

4) The Strokes - All The Time
Much more "on message" than the electropop teaser track One Way Trigger, this is the first proper release from The Strokes' fifth album, Comedown Machine. The lyrics are utter rubbish ("no-one talks about the war / on my block or on the shore") but Julian Casablancas' facility with a catchy melody is undiminished.

5) Duke Dumont ft A*M*E - Need U (100%)
I'm a big fan of wide-eyed pop spangler A*M*E, and I'm a big fan of the resurgence of 1990s deep house. This track combines them both in one great hedonistic, glowsticks aloft, baggy pants, bring-back-Whigfield, dance frenzy. 100% approved.

6) Pixie Lott and Rowan Atkinson - Goodness Gracious Me
This might be for a good cause - encouraging more people to sign up as organ donors - but it is quite honestly the worst thing I have ever seen in my life.

7) Jessie Ware - Diamonds
By contrast, this is sublime. A cover from the Radio 1 Live Lounge that genuinely improves on the original. Can Jessie Ware do no wrong? No, she cannot do no wrong. Wait, is that right? Too many negatives? I'm confused.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

The best and worst bits of Justin Timberlake's Suit and Tie video

I thought we'd all decided this song was awful and moved on but, no, Justin's still plugging away with it.

Today we get the official release of the video. It's in black and white, of course, to drive home the totally joyless "hey guys, I'm a musician" seriousfacedness of Justin's comeback. But you can't keep a charismatic performer down - so the fun occasionally creeps in. Here's how it pans out.


Our hero is in the recording studio "laying down" some intense "jams".
This, ladies and gents, is where the magic happens.

Look, Justin is lighting up a fag. Because as we all know, smoking = maturity.

Justin is conducting the horn section.
This song, about wearing both a suit and a tie, is deeply personal and heartfelt.
He must ensure that these highly-paid session musicians accurately convey his artistic vision.

Random and wholly unnecessary exploitation of women.


Mr Timberlake is wheeled into work on a bed by two flunkies.
I think we can all agree this is awesomeballs.

Jay-Z checks his flies. "Little Hova" is not on show.

Good God, the boy can dance.


So there you have it. An uneven, confused video for an uneven, confused song. But it's always worth watching Justin Timberlake "do his thing". Has the 21st Century produced a more charismatic performer? I don't think so.

Justin Timberlake - Suit And Tie

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Passion Pit go romcom

Indie darlings Passion Pit (remember them?) have just released an adorable new video for Valentine's Day. Starring singer Michael Angelakos and One Tree Hill's Sophia Bush, it's essentially scenes from a marriage - with all the good bits, sad bits, frustrations, dances, arguments, pranks and apologies that entails. Totally lovely, and the song's not bad either.

Passion Pit - Carried Away

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nina Nesbitt: Stay Out

Former gymnast and current recording artist Nina Nesbitt is going to do big things in 2013. Big in the sense of "having a hit record", not solving the debt crisis or taking a bullet for the Prime Minister. But you get the point.

I first saw Nina, who's just 18 years old, supporting Rizzle Kicks at the Roundhouse last year. All alone on a cavernous stage, she captivated the audience with a few simple songs and a battered acoustic guitar (whose strings insisted on breaking, much to her embarrassment).

After the show, she came out to sign CDs and there were dozens of swooning, doe-eyed teenagers clamouring to meet her. And those new fans are proving to be loyal. Nina's new video went up on YouTube on Monday and racked up an impressive 222,000 views in 24 hours. Rather distrurbingly, though, those same fans have taken to calling themselves "Nesbians".

Stay Out is a spritely pop-folk number that tips its hat to Laura Marling and Ed Sheeran (with whom Nina has a history). Targetted at the cool kids who run every sixth form common room in the country, the song's funny, well-observed lyrics are barbed enough to sting, but delivered with enough charm not to alienate.

Nina Nesbitt - Stay Out

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Big song: Haim - Falling

Haim (pronounced "high-em") are a damned excellent band. Frontwoman Danielle has a ferocious snarl, guitarist Alana used to be California's coolest nanny, and bassist Este is a friendly giant who knows all of Britney's dance moves.

You may have heard their singles Don't Save Me and Forever, which came out last year; and you may know that they won the BBC's Sound Of 2013 poll. What you might not know is that when they play live, Haim engage in a brand of plank-spanking devil horns-ahoy "rawk" riffage that would make drippy indie bands like Fun. hide behind the sofa in a puddle of their own tears.

Let's illustrate the point with Haim's new single, Falling, which premiered on Radio One last night. First the single mix - restrained, catchy and funky. Then a live version, with a roaring guitar solo and some of the best drumming you'll see this year (courtesy of hired hand Dash Hutton).

Haim - Falling (live at Maida Vale)

If you want to know more about the sisters' burgeoning success, take a look at the interview I did with them last December, as they supported Florence + The Machine at the O2. I've cut and pasted some of the off-cuts below. Read them now, before Tesco put them in a lasagne.

A lot of new bands would be intimidated by the O2 but you seemed to attack it.

Alana: I hope so. But, believe me, it's scary. The lights dim and you walk out on stage and you can hear your footsteps echoing and you turn around and you see all these people. And now we have in-ears instead of monitors, so everything sounds so silent.

Does that mean you can't hear the audience at all?

Este: Yes. Literally we finish playing and you hear one scream going 'squeeee!'

Your gran was here tonight, wasn't she?

Este: Oh. My. God. Yes.

Was that the first time she’d seen you?

Este: Last night, last night was the first time.

Alana: It's crazy for my grandma. She's never seen us play before so the first time was, like, the O2.

Este: The whole family came. My dad's twin brother also came. This was a big moment for us and we wanted to share it. Because [sarcastically] obviously we hate our family. We're not about family at all. Pee-eww, we say. Poo poo to you, family.

You used to play in a band with your mum and dad. Did you have to fight to keep them off the stage?

Este: Before we got onstage for the soundcheck, my dad was up there playing drums. He was like, "ok they’re good, I checked them out for you". And we said, "come on dad, you just wanted to play drums in the O2 arena. Let’s be honest!"

Alana: One day, when we headline a tour, wee'l bring the whole family up there. We'll make sure my cousins play some type of strings. There'll be a Haim bassoon. Of course a horn section.

You all play drums in the live show. How does that influence your writing?

Este: That's the most important thing for us, is the drums. It's really important to get that right and from there it's just kind of building.

Danielle: A lot of time it starts with a drum beat that we'll make on Garage Band.

Este, didn't you study Brazilian production?

Este: I was a musicology major at UCLA and studied Brazilian carnival music, and a little bit of Bulgarian folk singing. You know, your run of the mill college experience. It wasn't like going to college, it was like going to camp every day. It was literally banging on drums every day. I don't think I could have gotten into UCLA if I wasn't doing music. It's a very small major, they only let in 15 people a year. It was a lot of fun.

What do you do to relax on tour?

Este: When we go back to the hotel, we've been watching a lot of Made In Chelsea.

Alana: I'm obsessed with Come Dine With Me. It's the best show ever.

Danielle: They just get wasted!

Este: There's no shows like that in the States.

Alana: I hope they don’t bring it to the States. I always hate it when they do that.

Este: Like when Skins came to America

Alana: Yes, Skins and The Inbetweeners. I was so angry. You guys have the best TV.

Danielle: I love Dragon's Den. And for that reason, I'm out.

That's so rock and roll!

Este: We save the Rock and Roll for when we're onstage. When we get back to our rooms, we just watch America’s Funniest Home Videos and drink slurpies and snuggle in bed.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Here is that James Blake video in full

In which James Blake falls from space in an egg and rides a motorbike to a spooky cabin in the woods.

It's no Mork and Mindy, but the song's lovely.

James Blake - Retrograde

Retrograde is available now on iTunes.

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Newsflash: Justin Timberlake's comeback not entirely hopeless

Let's face it: Justin Timberlake's comeback "effort" Suit and Tie was a big pooey stinker (technical term). Meandering, dated and toothless, it totally lacked the spark of SexyBack, or even Senorita. If it were one of Justin's dance routines, it would have come with its feet encased in cement.

Having said that, it worked pretty well as a rat pack-era big band number at last night's Grammys - so maybe that was the intention all along?

Things improved even further when, post-Grammys, Justin burped a new, eight-minute "sexy jam" onto his YouTube page. It's called Mirrors and here are the reasons why it could rescue the campaign for his new album The 20/20 Experience.

:: It's not rubbish.

:: Bonkers lyrics - EG "with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soap, I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go". A pocket full of soap??

:: Just when you think it's over, it ain't over. That's some Lenny Kravitz level shit going on right there.

:: Combines the best bits of Cry Me A River (drum beat) and What Goes Around... Comes Back Around (epic length).

:: Timbaland does his trademark "piki piki" noise. Admittedly, we grew sick of that in 2007 but it now sounds fresh and exciting again due to the passage of time and nostalgia and having ears.

:: The sublime "switch-up" at six minutes, which features the vocal talents of the teacher from Charlie Brown.

:: Eight minutes and fifteen seconds later, it's still not rubbish.

Thank you Justin. Our faith is restored. (PS Can we have one like Dance With Me next?)

Justin Timberlake - Mirrors

Update: 15 June, 2013.
Do you know what? I think he's singing "pocket full of soul". Such a disappointment.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

James Blake is back! And five other songs you may have missed

Hello and welcome to a semi-regular round-up of the music I listened to, made note of, then ran out of time to write about over the last seven days. This week's all-star line-up includes...

1) James Blake - Retrograde
Strap on your dancing boots, because James Blake is BACK with a colossal, David Guetta-produced, arms aloft, handclaps ahoy, tequila-slamming, Ibiza sunrise, dance pop barnstormer.

Oh, alright then. It's a delicate and introspective electro whisper, which sets its tempo by the rise and fall of the tide. But it's so beautiful, we can forgive him anything. The song's called Retrograde, and the video premieres on YouTube this Sunday. Until then, here's Mr Blake introducing the track on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show last night.

2) Hurts - This Song Is Currently Unavailable In Your Territory
It's hard not to laugh at Hurts' comeback single, which is so studiously po-faced it might as well be a Jake Bugg promo photo. Still, the song's really grown on me since it debuted a couple of weeks ago. If you think of it as a good Depeche Mode album track around the Songs Of Faith And Devotion era, it's actually quite enjoyable.

The band uploaded the video to their YouTube account earlier this week, then inexplicably removed it 12 hours later. It's probably a statement about the transience of modern culture or something. But you can recreate the video by closing your eyes, listening to the song via this link, and imagining what it's like working the nightshift at Asda.

3) Josephine - Portrait
I went to see Jospehine play in London on Wednesday when everyone else was at Kraftwerk. I think I got the better deal. Possessed of a deep, gorgeous soul voice that's equal parts Dusty Springfield, Fela Kuti and Tracy Chapman, it's impossible to spot she's from Manchester... Until she talks to the audience, which she does at length, with the same brand of inclusive wit as fellow Mancunian Guy Garvey.

Her new single, Portrait, is currently on Radio 2's playlist, but she's been too busy touring with Paloma Faith to make a video. Instead, here's a Jools Holland performance from last year.

4) Blank Maps - Everything Ends
Blank Maps are a Newcastle band with aspirations to make your lip wobble in a Coldplay style. To be honest, they're not my cup of tea (it turns out cups of tea are my cup of tea) but I'm posting the video because it's the directorial debut of m'verygoodfriend and photographical genius Ms Briggsy. The silhouetted B&W section is one of the best set-ups I've seen in a music video this year.

5) Rhye - Open
Rhye are Canadian / Danish duo who've been described "Sade produced by The xx". This is the opening track to their debut album, Woman, which is out next month. A spacious, thoughtful ballad, it's punctuated by a muted brass phrase that could have been lifted straight from Dionne Warwick's Walk On By. Simply beautiful.

6) The Lumineers - Stubborn Love
It occurred to me last night that I don't know a single person with a Mumford And Sons record. Who buys this stuff? Is everyone secretly hiding their love of banjos? And is it going to lead to a terrifying 2014 revival for The Levellers?

Whatever the answer, The Lumineers have been riding Mumfords' slipstream straight into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. It's hard to begrudge them the success with songs as perfectly crafted as Stubborn Love. Fair warning, though: The video's a bit of a weepie.

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chvrches issue hymn number three

Oh, Chvrches! We love them but we can't resist the terrible puns.

The Genesis of the Trinity's new single is Shrouded in mystery, but its bound to have Mass appeal. Recover (for that is its name) is no Revelations, but the Spirited tune is Testament the band's knack for a Divine melody. You won't Synod off, even if it's Pastor bedtime.


For a more considered article about the band and their music, here's an article I wrote for the BBC last year.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sam Smith: Great name, great songs

If ever an artist needed to change their name before launching a music career, it's Sam Smith. I'm not suggesting anything as drastic as Englebert Humperdinck or Marilyn Manson - but something a little more showbiz seems appropriate. Maybe he could take the "two first names" approach of Elton John or George Michael or Brian Harvey. Failing that, I predict big things for any artist called Julius Spang or Gustav Amadeus Schmëlling.

ANYWAY. The point of all this nonsense is that Sam Smith has a new record out. His last chart appearance, you may recall, was Disclosure's excellent Latch towards the end of last year. Disclosure are back on production duties on this single, Lay Me Down, but Sam has been promoted from featured artist to solo performer.

The other big change is that, instead of the deep house vibes of Disclosure's previous records, Lay Me Down is a classy, luscious soul ballad, with the sort of keening vocals that remind me of Daniel Merriweather - whose recent career suggests I'm completely wrong about the whole "choose a memorable name" thing.

Ah well. Here's the song.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What is going on with The Strokes?

Writing that last post about ginger-topped pop newcomer Chloe Howl made me think "whatever happened to the La Roux album that was supposed to come out last year?"

Judging by the new Strokes single One Way Trigger, Julian Casablancas nicked the mastertapes and recorded it himself. He's even borrowed her quiff-tastic hairdo in this promotional shot which I definitely haven't doctored (badly) in Photoshop.


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Chloe Howl continues to be excellent

Do you know what? It's nice when pop songs aren't all cluttered up with noise. Sirens and klaxons and parping trombones are all well and good, but sometimes all you need is a strong melody and a sexy drum shuffle.

So thank goodness for Chloe Howl, who first cropped up on Discopop Directory last December. Her new single, Rumour, has lots of brilliant flourishes (the "bang-bang-clap" in the middle of the second verse, the post-chorus chorus) but none of them obscure the song. Which, coincidentally, is excellent.

Like Plan B minus the nihilism, Chloe narrates the story of four girls in terrible circumstances - "he kept her prisoner growing up, told her Jesus was enough" - before cautioning us not to believe everything we hear about strangers. It's a superb, narrative-driven lyric, which is a rare and precious commodity in the current pop scene. The fact that it comes from a 17-year-old makes it even more impressive, and suggests great things for Ms Howl, who has just "inked" a "deal" with Colombia Records.

Line Of Best Fit ran a cheeky interview with Chloe last week, which is worth clicking over to while you listen to the single. Nice.

PS: If you search for Chloe Howl on YouTube, there's a surprising number of dogs called Chloe being forced to bark by their owners. The human race, there.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Beyonce's "not bad" Super Bowl show

So now we all know why Beyoncé mimed at the Presidential inauguration - she was saving herself for the Super Bowl. And with good reason: Obama's swearing in attracted 20 million viewers, but Madonna's 2012 half-time show was seen by 114 million. "You do the maths," as a maths teacher might say.

And what a show: Hair was tossed, flames were thrown, thighs were slapped, and Destiny's Child were resurrected (with bonus points for historical accuracy when the sound man turned down Kelly and Michelle's mics during their solo lines).

Best of all, there was no new material. Beyoncé may have a world tour, a new album and a lacklustre bonus track on a Destiny's Child compilation CD to promote - but she played it simple and rolled out her biggest hits. And End Of Time.

You can watch the whole thing here. Again and again and again.

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