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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