Sometimes a song comes along with its arms wide open and says, "c'mon then, bugalugs, give us a hug". This is one of those songs.
It's called 1,000 Soul Songs and it comes from Bristolian drum & bass pioneer DJ Die and a singer he calls Jennalope Gee, whose real name is Jenna Gibbons, and whom the rest of us are supposed to call Jenna G [Sort it out - nomenclature Ed].
Soulful, summery and sensuous, it'll take you back to 1995, when The Brand New Heavies and Eternal and Jamiroquai dominated the airwaves. The difference is (a) it's really good, and (b) the next song you hear won't be Oasis.
1,000 Soul Songs is already on the B-list at Radio 1 Xtra. By the time it gets released in June, expect it to have made the leap across to "proper" Radio 1. Hugs all round, then.
An email zapped into my inbox over the weekend from Canadian DJ M-Rock, who you might remember for the brilliant, heartfelt Beastie Boys megamix he created in tribute to Adam Yauch last year. He'd been listening to Daft Punk's new single and there was something he needed to get off his chest.
"The thing with the Daft Punk song," he wrote, "is, even though I love the risk they've taken, it doesn't totally knock the room down. I wanted to hear a funky brass band and a section of violinists bending their necks towards their instruments on top. I was picturing a band like this:"
(Flares ahoy: It's Chic in their 1970s heyday)
"So," added M-Rock, "that's what I did."
His funkatronic re-twizzle of Get Lucky is a swift kick to Daft Punk's disco balls. The horn stabs and sumptuous strings are beamed straight from Studio 54 - and the groove is authentic Chic, not studio geek. Above all, M-Rock obeys the first golden rule of music production: If the chorus isn't working, slap on a tambourine.
And here it is: Your sort of weekly round-up of songs that flew under the radar, until I recalibrated the radar. This issue's starlets are:
1) Psy - Gentleman (live performance)
Earlier this month, Psy performed Gentleman, his follow-up to / carbon copy of Gangnam Style, for 50,000 fans in South Korea. Judging by the footage, it was basically the Nuremberg Rally of novelty dance pop. Confusing and terrifying - much like the song's English translation.
2) Beyonce - Standing On The Sun
Beyonce is a mad genius. Why, she reckons, would you bother completing a song when the average attention span is only 90 seconds long. So we're just getting an album of snippets and excerpts, released online and paid for by H&M and Pepsi. It's modern, daring and risky. Beyonce's next release is called "Beep" and is just a recording of Beyonce saying "Beep" into a cup.
3) Armin Van Buuren feat Trevor Guthrie - This Is What It Feels Like
This sounded really good in the car with the sunroof down on Thursday morning. Listening to it again today, I'm worried it might be a little "Danny from The Script 'goes Ibiza'". What do you reckon?
4) Laura Marling - Once
"Once is enough to make you think twice / about laying your love out on the line." There's something beautiful about the simplicity of Laura Marling's lyrics. And this candid, unadorned performance from Jools Holland's show this week is the perfect complement. Heartbreaking.
5) Lana Del Rey - Young And Beautiful
At the other end of the scale is Lana Del Rey - arch, post-modern, difficult to pin down. Are we listening to the thoughts and fears of Lizzie McGuire or the gutter-dwelling Femme Fatale she's created? In the end, it doesn't matter: This song, taken from the Great Gatsby soundtrack, is every bit as devastating as Laura Marling's.
6) Hey Champ - Comet (ft BeuKes)
Chicago's Hey Champ describe themselves as "Pop Music For People Who Don't Like Pop Music" - a statement which basically screams, "we are preposterously stuck-up dickends". But if we jettisoned every pop star we found objectionable, the charts would be wall-to-wall Jessie Ware [wait a minute, you could be onto something here - Ed]. So, forget about the fact the band "met as outsiders at one of those tea and crumpet parties where everyone wears blazers and laughs through clenched teeth" and enjoy their Giogio Moroder-inspired Slow Disco classic in the making, Comet.
I don't know about you, but my most eagerly-anticipated albums of 2013 are the debuts by Disclosure and AlunaGeorge. Both bands are tugging furiously at the fraying seams of UK dance and soul, and the material they're unraveling is a whip-smart weave of chart-bound melodies and throbbing sonic experimentation.
The wait isn't quite over yet - Disclosure's album, Settle, is out in June and AlunaGeorge release Body Music a month later. Until then, we're left scrabbling for the tasty little morsels they've been scattering around the internet.
So here's hotpant enthusiast Eliza Doolittle duetting with Disclosure on the brand new track You & Me, followed by AlunaGeorge's first big TV appearance, performing their current single Attracting Flies on Jools Holland last night. Good work, everyone.
It's turning into a week of classic soul. Off the back of Janelle Monae's stunning comeback yesterday, here's New Orleans native Jackson Breit with a gorgeous, brassy R&B jam called It's On Tonight. Yes, he's pulling a "hilarious" goofy face in the photo, but this seductive groove is exactly what Justin Timberlake was aiming for with Suit And Tie, before he made it really boring.
As John Legend said last week, "the overwhelming majority of soul music is about the pursuit of intercourse," and this is no exception. "We could take it anywhere - there's an alley at the back if you want to take it there," Jackson purrs in the chorus.
Mmmm... sex against the dustbins. That's romance right there, folks.
Oh, this is fantastic. Janelle Monae is back with the first single from her new album, The Electric Lady. Called Q.U.E.E.N. it features vocals from Erykah Badu, cheddar-splendent Paisley Park synths, and an extended string-laden coda that's like a Frank Ocean track without the po-faced "I've got, like, really deep emotions" attitude.
In fact, Janelle is so far removed from introspective navel-gazing, she's having an out-of-body experience. "Will you be electric sheep? Electric ladies will you sleep Or will you preach?" she asks, convinced (correctly) that being batshit crazy is the best way to approach a pop song. It's likely that the song is part of the continuing story of Cindi Mayweather, the fictional time-travelling fembot Monae played on her last album. But honestly, who cares about thematically confused dystopian sci-fi when the music is this good?
As Janelle tweeted last night: "Q.U.E.E.N. was inspired by private discussions between Erykah and me. It is meant to make you JAM. DANCE. FUNK OUT. and dialogue later..."
Here we go, folks: Daft Punk have finally unleashed the full version of their new single Get Lucky. After the 5-second tease, the 15-second preview, the 90-second Coachella video, a couple of fan-made remixes, several dozen fakes and a ridiculous hour-long loop, this is the big reveal. The moment of majesty. The day music changed forever. The second coming of Christ. The best thing since sliced bread. The second best thing since Krispy Kremes. Or, rather, the unveiling of the Wizard behind the curtain.
Because, after two months of breathless hype, Get Lucky is only ok.
It starts so well. The legendary guitar chops of Chic's Nile Rodgers promise four minutes of undiluted disco hedonism. But a loop is a loop is a loop - and Get Lucky never builds or deviates from those supple opening bars. And the less said about Pharrell's lifeless vocals the better. Did someone forget to inflate him?
Admittedly, if Thomas and Guy turned up at Glastonbury with Nile Rodgers and their cyborg helmets and played this song, the Pyramid Stage would probably blast off. But on record, sterile and dated, it sounds like a belated and unnecessary tribute to Modjo's Lady (Hear Me Tonight).
Tellingly, the best bit of Get Lucky is the moment the vocoder kicks in and Daft Punk reconnect with their cold, dead, robot souls. And they must have known it all along - because that was the same section they snipped out for the song's very first TV teaser eight weeks ago. If only they'd listened to their instincts.
Stop it with your filthy mind. This is as pure and innocent as the driven snow.
When high-school comedy Pitch Perfect came out last year, no-one expected it to spawn a major US chart hit. But one song, performed by Anna Kendrick's character while auditioning for a college choir, spent 11 weeks in the Billboard hot 100, shifting half a million downloads. Pretty impressive for a modest, minute-long melody accompanied by a paper cup.
Interestingly, When I'm Gone (aka The Cups Song) wasn't originally in the script for the cult smash.
"I saw this video on Reddit," Kendrick told David Letterman. "And because I'm a huge loser, I thought the best way to spend an entire afternoon would be watching the video, like, 50 times, and teaching myself how to do it. So when they found out I could do it, they wanted me to do it in the movie."
I don't know exactly which clip inspired the actress, who you may recognise from Up In The Air, but as far as I can work out, the original was by English duo Lulu And The Lampshades, who uploaded their version in June 2009.
The song itself dates back to 1937, when it was performed by the fiddle-tastic JE Mainer's Mountaineers. Now, 76 years later, Kendrick has recorded a full studio version to accompany Pitch Perfect's DVD release. To be honest, the radio-friendly mix dilutes the charm of the a capella version somewhat, but the video is a whole ton of cute.
GUYS! GUYS! This is a music video we made for "Cups!" (I know! It's weird! But it happened! You should watch it!!!) vevo.ly/123c5Wp
Last week on The Voice, a contestant turned up who said he was Jessie J's biggest fan. "I've been following her," said Lem Knights, "for about eight years."
Eight Years! I'm sure most people thought this was a mistake... Jessie's only been irritating our eardrums for, what, 24 months? But no. Lem first found the pre-fame Jessie Cornish on her YouTube channel, warbling away in her bedroom. She's been posting updates for years - announcing her record deal, previewing new material, and experimenting with eyelash technology.
This is increasingly the way new acts surface - Nina Nesbitt, Ed Sheeran and Gabrielle Aplin all built up loyal fanbases through home videos before going pro. It's great marketing... as long as it works.
Look at Azealia Banks. The loud-mouth NYC rapper has been releasing what feels like a track a fortnight for the last 18 months. Her approach to quality control is as consistent as her management, which seems to change with the frequency of a traffic light. And so fatigue has set in, even amongst the most easily-excitable music blogs.
If Azealia had put an album out after the extraordinary 212 hit radio last January, it would have gone gold in a week. Now, we've all moved on to Taylor Swift.
The thing is, music websites and PR teams love this constant stream of "content" because it makes them feel they're doing something: Here's a shoddy remix! The album artwork will be revealed on Thursday! We're having a Google Hangout... whatever the fuck that is!
Personally, I think all this pre-amble deadens the senses. This week, I wavered over buying Charli XCX's debut album because I'd already heard 75% of the songs on a mixtape or an EP or a free download. When I finally succumbed, I discovered that even her slightest, sketchiest songs work better in context. True Romance is genuinely great: A quirky, rhythmic pop symphony.
As Becca Nicholson said in The Guardian: "By not rushing out an album until now... [Charli] seems to have found the time to iron out the creases that made her seem like one of a dozen similar acts." But by showing us her naked baby photos along the way, she's lost the opportunity to burst onto the scene fully-formed, as a bona fide pop star.
You could argue that this only matters to people (like me) who hoover up blog posts, buzz tracks and viral videos. But those people are the same ones who choose what you hear on the radio. Has Charli XCX's elephantine gestation cost her daytime exposure on Radio One? Quite possibly.
Of course it's tempting for artists to release new songs the minute they're finished (all that instant adulation on Twitter!) but I prefer the stealth approach... Because if no-one had praised Jessie J's vocal acrobatics, would she have made the jump from talented bedroom vocalist to "ambulance siren doing scat jazz"?
Another busy week - we're moving house on Friday (*touches wood vigorously*) - so apologies for sporadic breaks in the blog stream. Anyway, this caught my ear during the process of putting my life into cardboard boxes: A new single from Minneapolis spook-pop outfit Poliça, whose debut album Give You The Ghost was my go-to late night record last year.
They specialise in slippery melodies and curveball soundscapes - making them something of an acquired taste. But if you swim in their waters long enough, you'll eventually be pulled under by the musical current.
Tiff is the name of their new song and, with their big bag of sonic tricks left relatively unplundered, it's a good, straightforward introduction to the band's sound. Justin Vernon from Bon Iver pops up to duet with Channy Leaneagh (that's her above). And the lyrics, helpfully posted on their Twitter account yesterday, are beautifully elliptical.
Yipes!Basement Jaxx have suddenly appeared out of nowhere with a new single. Back 2 the Wild premiered tonight on Annie Mac's Radio One show and, while it's not Red Alert or Romeo, it's a huge shot of adrenaline for the moribund UK dance scene. Shouty, noisy and totally over-the-top, it's everything a Basement Jaxx single should be.
According to the official Soundcloud page, Back 2 The Wild is "a superheavyweight groove that's still catchy as hell, incorporating roaring lions, tribal horns recorded in Kenya and vocals by two Korean Seoul* Sisters Miss Emma Lee & Baby Chay". Pitchfork reckons this is a one-off, but the label says the band have a "batch of brand new material". So there you go.
Eother way, welcome back Felix and that other dude. It's lucky you got this out two days before the Daft Punk single, or you'd have been sunk.
Good afternoon, Friday. Here's this week's round-up of songs you may have missed. Think of it as a tiny weekend playlist, or a brief radio programme with a skip button. Enjoy!
1) A*M*E - Heartless / 100% Skreamix
18-year-old pop princess Aminata Kabba, otherwise known as A*M*E, is currently at number one with Need U (100%) - and deservedly so. Her next solo single is called Heartless, and although the final radio mix has yet to be officially revealed, it doesn't really sound any different to the demo which has been circulating for a while. Think David Guetta and Sia covering Nicki Minaj's Starships and you get the idea. Something's missing right at the end - the climax doesn't quite... well, climax - but it's a decent summer singalong.
Meanwhile, if you haven't already bought 100%, you absolutely have to check out this 80s-tastic remix, which could be mistaken for a lost Control-era Janet Jackson track. It is seriously that good.
2) Thunderbird Gerard - Trouble
Gerard wasn't one of the better-known Thunderbirds. He mostly did the admin on Tracy Island - making sure they didn't run out of staples and teabags. But he's also an up-and-coming US rap artist, based in Berlin, who's been dubbed "the Kerouac of Hip-Hop" (because he's On The Road a lot - groan). "Interesting" naming conventions aside, his latest single Trouble is superb: A lolloping, irresistible piano groove, that's refreshingly low on bombast.
3) Rdgrngld - Million Fans
That's pronounced Red, Green, Gold. Another band harking back to the days of old-skool hip-hop, this makes me want to dig out all my old Jurassic Five albums and have a block party. The band hail from Washington DC, and they managed to get Dave Grohl to play all the drum loops on their debut album... But not this track, which uses an authentically dusty breakbeat sample. One to watch at this summer's festivals.
4) Paramore - Still Into You
"Interesting" fact: I can totally ace Paramore's Misery Business on Guitar Hero. Five stars every time, even on expert level wearing a blindfold, after half a bottle of port, with all my finger glued together so I have to play the notes with my eyelashes. I'll prove it to you one day.
Will I ever be as good at their new single Still Into You? Who knows, but one can live in hope. Hayley told the BBC the song was "a big love anthem". I say it's a bubbly punk-pop track that wouldn't sound out of place at the end of a pre-rehab Lindsay Lohan film. The video, by the way, is inspired by the fantastical technicolor photographs of British artist Tim Walker. You can read more about those on the New Yorker site.
5) The National - Don't Swallow The Cap
What exactly do you want from The National? Swirling atmospherics? Swelling strings? Heart-tugging vocals? An overwhelming sense of loneliness and anxiety? Then you're in luck! Don't Swallow The Cap, the second song to be released from their eagerly-anticipated new album Trouble Will Find Me. It's one of those songs that's totally miserable, but whose inherent beauty ends up making you feel at peace with the world. Lovely stuff.
6) CHVRCHES - Game Of Thrones
"Should we cover the Game of Thrones theme song?" asked CHVRCHES on their Twitter feed last Sunday. "I kinda feel like we should. I might be on my own here tho". Less than 24 hours later, this appeared on YouTube. I love how Lauren starts singing along 30" into the song - and how their arrangement basically turns the song into the theme from Knightmare.
Something is going terribly wrong with our pop stars' healthcare. First Olly Murs started singing about his heart murmur, now Demi Lovato thinks she's having a full-blown myocardial infarction. Someone page Gloria Estefan, we need a house call from Dr Beat (or, depending on how you feel about Olly, Conrad Murray).
LOLs aside, it's been a month since Demi premiered her new single, Heart Attack, and it's still an absolute belter. So what if it's identikit production line pop, it's one of those songs, like Britney's Toxic or Katy Perry's Firework, that breaks free of genre constraints and becomes something special.
The video has just "dropped". Sadly, Demi does not perform the entire track hooked up to a machine that goes ping, but I think it's assured that Heart Attack will defibrilate her career in the UK.
If its riffs you're after, you can always count on Josh Homme to lob a few in your direction like primed cluster bombs of SOLID ROCK.
The auspices weren't good, though. Pre-publicity for the sixth Queens Of The Stone Age album, ...Like Clockwork, touted collaborations with Scissor Sister Jake Shears and aging wig afficionado Elton John. But the presence of Foo Fighter frontman, Nirvana sticksmith and all-round awesome dude Dave Grohl on drums suggested things hadn't gone totally awry.
Grohl, of course, took percussion duties on QOTSA's biggest (and best) album to date, 2002's Songs For The Deaf - where his ludicrous fills were so perfectly married to the songs they became hooks in their own right.
A similar approach seems to have been applied to ...Like Clockwork, which Grohl describes as "insane".
"With Queens of the Stone Age, like, there were no boundaries," he told Radio 1 last year. "I’ll do something so completely ridiculous, I'll just be, like, 'There's no way that that Josh is going to let me do that,' and he'll say, 'Do that for forty-five seconds, over and over again' and that's become, like, part of the song. That's the way they work."
The first results are below: A song called My God Is The Sun, which rips through about 84 different ideas in three minutes, and contains the immortal line: "I don't know what time it was. I don't wear a watch." Genius.
AMAZING NEWS: Lissie, the country-pop-rock singer whose debut album Catching A Tiger crowned my Top 10 in 2010 is finally back with some new material. Her new single, Shameless, is rockier, angrier and slightly more Sheryl Crow than her earlier material... But I'm literaly too excited to write anything more coherent and sensible, so here's the press release:
Bristling with distorted guitars and fiery attitude, Shameless is a smouldering commentary on the culture of modern celebrity, introspectively examining what it takes to achieve fame and success in current times. Building towards its rousing climax, Lissie's raw vocals and gritty, heartfelt delivery make for a compelling and blistering return.
"We live in a society where terrible behaviour is rewarded with coverage and attention, where celebrity is seen as a talent in itself. I understand the allure of image and of a good story but i sometimes feel like it trumps the content. When i wrote Shameless i'd just been feeling so over how much bullshit style over substance there is to 'making' it in this business," said Lissie.
The cover for Selena Gomez's new single is really quite something, isn't it? It's just a shame the song isn't quite as charismatic (ie 100% cuckoo bananas).
Come And Get It was hastily posted on YouTube over the weekend, after it leaked on SoundCloud. Certain types of website are frothing at the lyrics, which can be interpreted as an offer to reconcile with her ex-boyfriend Justin "absolutely not a twat" Bieber. Other websites have called it "world music with a twist of Selena" – by which they mean the producer has discovered the Tabla loop in Garage Band.
Is it worth the hype? I don’t know... Come And Get It is written by Stargate, so you're guaranteed a certain level of quality. But Selena sounds kind of bored by the whole thing. It's less "Come and get it" than "Oh God, not tonight. Do we have to?"
As the headline suggests, this is the video for the song formerly known as Pom Pom Pom Special Delivery, Jessie Ware's new single Imagine It Was Us.
Whereas the previous version had a man from Radio One shouting all over the top, this is unadulterated, sophisticated soul. If someone invites you into their flat for a coffee and puts this on the stereo, you should prepare yourself for "the lunge": They are trying to seduce you.
Video-wise, we’re in a moody nightclub, and Jessie is putting chapters 1-6 of her choreography-for-beginners book to good use.
When I saw One Direction at the Brits, they were being followed around by Super Size-Me director Morgan Spurlock, and one of those huge ring lights they use to make pop stars eyes go all sparkly. As we all know, that was in aid of One Direction 3D a hybrid concert / documentary that's due out in August.
But did you know that, at the very same time, the band were filming a foreign language art-house movie, loosely based on Lord Of The Flies? The trailer was released this week. It's strange, eerie and unsettling - and I know one thing for certain: Claudia Winkleman is going to be very, very confused.
Sorry for the lack of updates this week - I was off in Amsterdam working on the BBC's coverage of the Rijksmuseum relaunch (here's an example), which turned out to be a lot busier than I anticipated. Still, the music industry took an extended Easter break, so there wasn't much to catch up with on my return. Apart from these:
1) Chris Malinchak - So Good To Me
The press release calls Chris Malinchak a "legendary New York deep house producer" but I've never heard of him. Have you? No matter, because his new single is a hazy summer daydream that sent ripples through the Miami Winter Music Conference. A warm, casual groove with a nimble Marvin Gaye sample, maybe it can convince the sun to come out of hiding when it's released on 5th May.
3) Wretch 32 - Blackout
It's not every day a rapper declares: "my vocabulary is shit", but Wretch 32 is not an every day rap star. Featuring vocals from Shakka, and truck-load of marimbas, Blackout is practically guaranteed for the Top 10 when it comes out next month.
If you like the studio version, you should also check out the super-cute acoustic version on SBTV, where Wretch can't hide his ever-increasing smile.
4) Florrie - Live A Little
Florrie is a graduate of songwriting powerhouse Xenomania, who played drums on Girls Aloud's The Promise. She's been self-releasing music - tons of it - ever since, to almost universal indifference (except in Spain, where one of her EPs went to number three).
But last year she took a couple of months off, signed to a major label and started work on a proper album. It's not clear whether this new track - a promo for Sony earphones - is part of that project, but it's a real step up from her earlier material - catchy, compact and swollen with attitude. The intro could do with an edit, though.
5) Snoop Lion ft Miley Cyrus - Ashtrays and Heartbreaks
This reggae-tinged new track from the artists formerly known as Snoop Dogg and Hannah Montana is simultaneously better and worse than you'd expect. With time, I think it'll become a guilty pleasure. Or maybe we'll pretend it never happened. History, as always, will be the judge.
6) Tussilago - Farewell
This is new from Lykke Li's little brother. Like Sigur Ros without the histrionics, it'll sound amazing with a cup of cocoa.
Last time, we followed the career of B-Boy Mouse, who rose from the slums to become a dance champion. For the new single, Waiting All Night, the video chronicles the life and rehabilitation of BMX champion Kurt Yaeger, who lost a limb after a motorcycle collision in 2006. It's both thrilling and uplifting - if you only watch one video on this page, make it this one.
And that's your lot. Normal service will be resumed next week.
The latest clip in the seemingly never-ending countdown to Beyoncé's fifth album is a minute-long excerpt of a new song called Grown Woman. It's the soundtrack to a new Pepsi advert, which (confusingly) goes by the separate name Mirrors. I'm writing this before it comes out, so delete anything that doesn't apply.
This is incredible / awful. A ground-breaking / woeful, sonic experiment / disaster. This elevates / tosses Beyoncé into the musical elite / pop dumper, where she will rub shoulders with the likes of Elvis / Olly Murs. We're glad / upset that she's back, and look forward to / have cancelled our pre-order for her new album.