Thursday, November 28, 2013

Going out of your mind, acoustically

Out Of Mind, by Swedish pop singer and professional tree-hugger Tove Lo, is potentially my favourite out-and-out pop song of the year. And the secret of every ridiculously amazing pop song is that, if you strip away all the zings and pows and wallops to leave just the songy bits (technical terms) it still sounds ridiculously amazing.

So here is a ridiculously amazing acoustic performance of Out Of Mind.

Tove Lo - Out Of Mind (acoustic for NRJ)

Here, for the sake of comparison, is the version with all the zings and pows and wallops. Criminally, it has only been watched 60,000 times on YouTube. Stop looking at cat videos, for God's sake.

Tove Lo - Out Of Mind

Now, what are you waiting for? Go and buy this on iTunes at once.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A few good remixes

Apropos of nothing, here's a quintet of songs from the world of popular music in brand new remix fashion.

They may prove useful for your next work out / soul-crushing commute.

1) Britney Spears - Work Bitch (Monsieur Adi Remix)
Falling just on the right side of ludicrous, this reimagines Work Bitch as the score to a Michael Bay film. Must have cost a fortune.

2) Haim - Forever (Patrick Hagenaar Remix)
One of Haim's best singles, Forever is getting a re-release to give their album a Christmas push. That means a new set of emixes, of which this is the most suitable for a "crazy party" montage in Hollyoaks.

3) Destiny's Chils - Bills Bills Bills (James Blake / Harmonix mix)
This isn't so much a remix as an act of vandalism - but "the internet" seems to like it, so what do I know?

4) Kanye West - Bound 2 (Solidisco Remix)
With shades of Daft Punk, New York's Solidisco turn Bound 2 into a sparkling house track. Bravely, they completely erase Kanye from the mix, leaving only Charlie Wilson's amazing hook and the "uh-huh honey" sample from Brenda Lee's country classic Sweet Nothings.

5) Chvrches - Lies (Tourist Remix)
This is fascinating, if only to hear what Chvrches sound like when you lock up their synthesizers. The answer? Still magnificent.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The five worst lyrics in's new single

Let's face it, is not known for his lyrical prowess. His most triumphant moments include clangers like "Let's get retarded" and the inexplicable "I go hard statues".

Still, he's outdone himself on his latest single, Feelin' Myself, which is about how impressed is with He brings Miley Cyrus and Wiz Khalifa along for the ride, and they more than match him in the quest to write the most banal couplet of the year.

Here are the five standout moments.

5) "Feeling fucking lucky like the fucking Irish."

To be fair, Will has accurately captured the uniquely romantic cadence of Dubliners' interpretation of the English language here. But he loses points because it should be "the feckin' Irish".

4) "I get on the floor just to make that booty twerk
Shake, shake that ass like an expert

Yes Miley, we are keenly aware of your ability to to move your buttocks in a rapid, to-and-fro motion. I'm not sure "expert" is the word, though. People are experts in things like neuroscience and astrophysics. The word you are looking for is "attention-seeker".

3) "Honey on my wrist, a couple of carrots on my neck".

Frankly, this is just a waste of good food.

2) "I tour the whole word like a dirty pirate
To give the whole world some Miley Cyrus

Are dirty pirates known for disseminating the works of Miley Cyrus to the ports and harbours of the world? Because I'm pretty sure that's not a real thing. I'd wager the lyric originally said: "to give the whole world some mighty syphilis".

1) "Look up in the mirror
The mirror look at me
The mirror be like 'baby, you the shit.
'God dammit, you the shit!
You the shit, you the shit, you the shit

This is the song's actual chorus and... Well, I mean... I can't... Just, wow. Really? Really? How do you even? Wow. - Feelin' Myself

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Pitbull's latest music video stars a pig, swimming in the ocean

And that is all I have to say about that.

Pitbull ft Ke$ha - Timber

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Sam Smith breaks out the ballad

Is any phrase more devastating than "I'm sorry, I love you but not in that way"?

It certainly made Sam Smith go a bit weepy, if his new single is anything to go by (Maybe she'd have thought differently if he'd sorted out that ridiculous haircut).

Sam, as you may recall, is the man on Naughty Boy's La La La and Disclosure's Latch, with a gorgeously soulful voice and a tendency to go falsetto, as if he's constantly being pranged in the nuts with a fork.

Not In That Way follows hot on the heels of his debut single Nirvana, which came out a couple of weeks ago. Sam calls it a demo, but any further embellishment could destroy its fragile beauty. Check it out below.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Gaga and R Kelly conquer AMAs

Last night, Lady Gaga and R Kelly pulled off a brilliant, White House-themed performance of Do What You Want at the American Music Awards. A million miles away from the cringeworthy dry humping of their SNL show a week ago, it was spectacular, funny, and filled with pathos.

Note to pop stars: This is everything you want from an Awards Show performance. And, I'd argue, the first decent bit of promo Gaga's done for ARTPOP.

The rest of the American Music Awards were a bit dull, to be honest. Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake got most of the awards, and the performances were almost exclusively "the slow ones".

Katy Perry did a pretty but unspectacular Geisha version of Unconditionally; One Direction sang their ballad and TLC reminded us how bad choreography was in the 90s by revisiting Waterfalls.

Shy and retiring pop singer Rihanna did an admittedly impressive rock-orchestra version of Diamonds (with a neat nod to Diamonds Are Forever at the climax).

Oh, and Miley Cyrus performed Wrecking Ball alongside a lip-syncing kitten.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Songs you may have missed - Saturday style

Sorry for the lack of posts this week - it's been a busy one at work (mostly working on this piece, about the first 1,000 albums to reach number one in the UK). Here's what I missed along the way.

1) Pharrell Williams - Happy
As you may have heard, Pharrell's swinging new song (from the Despicable Me soundtrack) comes with a 24-hour music video. You can see that on, or you can watch the TV edit right here. Your choice, but both will bring a big stupid grin to your face.

2) Arcade Fire - Afterlife
If Pharrell made you smile, this might be a bit of a comedown. Beautifully cinematic but eerie with melancholy, Emily Kai Bock's video adds an emotional wallop to Arcade Fire's rumination on life after death.

3) Lizzo - Batches and Cookies
I have no idea what this song is about - but Detroit-via-Houston-via-Minneapolis rapper Lizzo sounds like she's having a lot of fun anyway. Brimming with energy, this is what it would sound like if Nicki Minaj covered Salt-N-Pepa's greatest hits.

4) U2 - Ordinary Love
The first new material from Bono & co in three years, Ordinary Love is taken from the Nelson Mandela biopic Long Road To Freedom. Bono sounds like he's straining for the high notes these days, but there's a rush of nostalgia when The Edge's chiming, reverb-soaked guitar kicks in. The gospel-infused chorus is rather special, too.

The lyric video, unveiled on Facebook on Thursday, is the opening salvo in the band's return. Bassist Adam Clayton recently told Ireland's 98FM: "We're in the studio. We're trying to get these 12 songs absolutely right and get them finished by the end of November, and then we can kind of enjoy Christmas,"

5) Eminem - Stan (Radio 1 Live Lounge)
Eminem turned up for his chat with Zane Lowe after watching Kanye West's bizarre mad-man-at-the-back-of-the-bus performance on the show earlier in the year.

"I was trying to figure out how I was going to top the publicity of yours and Kanye's interview," he said, "so I decided I was gonna walk in here, and just pee on the floor and leave." He then held Zane's gaze with an icy glare for what must have seemed like hours, before he deadpanned: "I'm peeing right now".

The massive, four-part interview is well worth dipping into (here's the link for the first segment) but it was Eminem's performance with a live band at the end that really made it appointment listening. Here's Stan, sounding as fresh as it did 14 (!) years ago.

6) Tinashe - Vulnerable
After waxing lyrical about the new wave of dark&b earlier this week, this song zinged into my inbox. 20-year-old Tinashe is every bit as captivating and seductive as Banks and Solange and her peers. Vulnerable is possibly the sexiest new song you'll hear this week. Although it could do without the "asses" and "bitches" of Travi$ Scott's predictably banal rap.

7) Sophie Ellis Bextor - Young Blood
If you've been watching Strictly, you'll know that Sophie Ellis is turning out to be quite the dancer. Her Argentine Tango literally gave me shivers (admittedly, the heating was up the left that day). But she's also hard at work on the day job, making big old pop songs with PROPER ENUNCIATION.

Her forthcoming new album, Wanderlust, is a real labour of love - written with Ed Harcourt, and eschewing the frothy disco of her earlier records. The first single, Young Blood, is a gorgeous, dramatic ballad aimed right at the top of the Radio 2 playlist. It's the best thing she's done since Groovejet.

And that's your lot. If you're still after something to listen to, I'd really recommend Bret Easton Ellis's first podcast - in which he has a big old chin-wag with Kanye West about movies, lacking maturity and binge-watching Breaking Bad. You can download it here.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Katy Perry's new wristwatch is a little too big for her

Putting her emphasis on all the wrong syllables like a local news presenter, here's Katy Perry with her latest single UnconDISHonALLee.

Basically Firework Pt 2, it finds pop's greatest self-help guru waxing lyrical about love and acceptance and living life without caveats. Or was it cravats? I drifted off during the second verse to be honest.

The sumptuous video was directed by Brent Bonascoro (who made this brilliant, surreal short film based on hundreds of children's accounts of their dreams). As you can see above, it features Katy's brand new, oversized owl wristwatch. It looks great but it's always stuck on twit-twoo o'clock*.

Katy Perry - Unconditionally

* Thanks to Leon Neal for the award-winning joke.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three fantastic future soul songs (and one old school one)

I have four tabs open on my browser, three of which contain a sophisticated, innovative slice of futuristic soul. The other one has a new song by Prince. They're all worth a listen...

1) Solange Knowles - Cash In
A slinky, soaring love song, this is Solange's first new material since last year's groundbreaking True EP. It takes a while to get going, but when the harmonies kick in at the 2-minute mark, all the hairs on the back of your neck will go "ping".

Cash In is the last track on Saint Heron, the alt-R&B compilation Solange has curated for Saint records. For some reason, it's not available on iTunes or Amazon in the UK - but you can download it from Fairshare Music, which gives all of its profits to charity, so you can feel good about spending your £7.99 even if the rest of the album is rubbish (NB: it isn't).

2) Mapei - Don't Wait
Stockholm's Mapei mixes Djembe drums with sitars and doo-wop finger clicks on this propulsive love song ("if it wasn't for you, I would be on my own"). For the first three minutes her voice is fed through a vocoder (sounding very much like Imogen Heap's Hide And Seek) and then, suddenly, she breaks into a Double Dutch skipping chant.

On paper, it shouldn't work. In your ears, it sounds incredible.

3) Neneh Cheery - Blank Project
After 16 years away, Neneh Cherry is readying a new solo album for next year. One track features Robyn - but sadly we can't hear that yet. Instead, this is the title track. Produced by FourTet, you're in for some simmering electrojazz and a chorus that seems really slight, then sticks in your head for the rest of the day.

OK, it's not quite Manchild but then what is?

4) Prince - Da Bourgeosie
Prince isn't kicking the ball as far forward as the other artists on this post - but this is a fantastically funky old-skool studio jam, nonetheless. Reminiscent of goofy, spontaneous Vault tracks like Cloreen Bacon Skin and Movie Star, Prince seems to be making it up as he goes along - riffing a lyric that about a "bearded girl at the 'caba-ray charles'" over a delicious Paisley guitar riff.

"No mammals were harmed during the recording of this track," noted Prince on his 3rdEyeGirl Twitter account, shortly after giving the song away as a free download. What a nice chap.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Britney Spears is "like an alien"

"There was a time I was one of a kind... I was lonely then, like an alien."

These are the opening lines of the opening track of Britney Spears' "most personal record yet" Britney Jean Is Not My Lover.

Alien is written by Charli XCX (hooray!) and produced by William Orbit (double hooray!). It's a more sedate, thoughtful track than you'd expect - and one that reinforces her manager's assertion that Britney Jean has "a Ray of Light Madonna vibe". Although it's nowhere near as good as Drowned World, it is nonetheless a welcome step towards maturity from the woman who brought us If You Seek Amy.

The thing is: How does Britney know aliens are lonely? Has she asked any aliens? Has she consulted with Robbie Williams or Shaun Ryder? Because I'm not sure she's got it right.

Aren't aliens supposed to be sociable - always beaming people up and investigating their bottoms? It's no wonder these dudes are so chipper.

And this one seems more angry than lonely. He's quite literally the James Arthur of aliens - bewildered by a world of terrifyingly unfamiliar sensory bombardment, and prone to biting things he doesn't understand.

Admittedly, ET was lonely and frightened after his unplanned vacation in an eight-year-old's cupboard. But look how badly things turned out when he finally did make a friend.

And there's no way this cute little alien guy could ever be alone. Just look at his cute little face. A-woof-woof-woof-woof-woof. A-woof-woof-woof. Woof. [Er, are you ok - Ed?]

So there you have it. Britney Spears: Good at songs, bad at metaphors.

Britney Jean is out on 29 November or 2 December, depending on your "territory".

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Katy B releases a ballad

OK, not really, But, at 112 bpm, this is as downtempo as a Katy B record us ever likely to get.

Sumptuous and powerful, Crying For No Reason it features Katy's best vocal to date - and lyrics to match ("I never faced all the pain I caused, now the pain is hitting me full force").

"This album is more focused on love and relationships and reality," she told Fact magazine earlier this year. "Sometimes you don't realise you have to fight for your happiness."

According to the press release, Crying For No Reason "presents another facet of the rich musical palette on display on the forthcoming album" Red. So there.

But the single isn't out 'til 27th January. What on earth is going on, record label people? We want it now.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Tears For Fears cover Arcade Fire and seven other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs on the internet, of which there are many. These are a mere few that caught my eye (ear?) this week.

1) Tears For Fears - And I Was A Boy From School
1980s sweater enthusiasts Tears For Fears were best known for big pop moments like Shout and The Seeds Of Love, but their music was generally more experimental (and pompous) than those stadium-sized choruses would suggest. After an acrimonious break-up in the 1990s, the band reformed in 2005, and are currently back in the studio.

They're limbering up with a few covers, and their taste is impeccable. Here's Hot Chip's ...Boy From School, and Arcade Fire's Ready To Start, like you've never heard them before.

2) Lorde - Everybody Wants To Rule The World
And, in an act of synchronistic reciprocity, Lorde has covered Tears For Fears' Everybody Wants To Rule The World for the Hunger Games soundtrack. Bombastic doesn't begin to describe it. Volcanoes have erupted with less fuss.

3) Sia - Elastic Heart
Pop's most in-demand songwriter is clearly keeping all the best material back for herself. This song, a duet with The Weeknd, is punch-the-air fantastic. Shame the video's so pointlessly lacklustre.

4) The Killers - When You Were Young (live on Later)
The Killers' Direct Hits is a perfect Christmas present for your mum. To persuade you to part with that tenner, the band played their second-best song on Later... With Jools this week. 

After all these years, the minor shift into the last chorus still gives me shivers.

5) Madonna - Ray Of Light (LEAF remix)
Forget Britney's new album, William Orbit's finest moment will always be his work on Madonna's Ray Of Light album. The man formerly (and ill-advisedly) known as "Willy-O" made a new mix of the title track for last weekend's London Electronic Arts Festival, and he has generously put it on Soundcloud for everyone to enjoy.

Less generously, he's disabled embedding - so you'll need to click on the above link to hear it. In the meantime, here's an outtake from Mario Testino's cover shoot for the album. Sadly, they've photoshopped out the burger Madonna was enjoying at the time. 

6) Charlotte OC - Hangover
Manchester's Charlotte "OC" O'Connor describes her music as "spooky gospel". The 22-year-old was discovered by the team who snapped up Lana Del Rey (Stranger Records), and she's equally intriguing. 
Hangover is my favourite track from her forthcoming Colour My Heart EP, although you should check out the title track, too.

7) Little Mix - Move (dance version)
This "dance edit" of Little Mix's video is a curate's egg. The choreography is great - but the editing is all over the place. They're singing! Now they're not singing! Now they're singing the wrong bit! And now they're in the dark for no good reason! Weird. 

Oh, and if you haven't read it, here's my interview with the band, which went up on the BBC earlier this week. 

8) Metronomy - I'm Aquarius
I'm Aquarius is a low-key launch for Metronomy's fourth album, Love Letters, which is due next March. 

Available through a star-gazing iOS app, you have to scan the night sky for the constellation of Aquarius to make the song magically appear on your phone. Or you could just, er, stream it below.

Right, that's quite enough for one week - and I didn't even have time to mention Rebecca Ferguson's ferocious cover of Roar, or Haim teaming up with Lorde to do Sheryl Crow's Strong Enough. There literally aren't enough hours in the day.

Have a great weekend.

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Disclosure and Sam Smith are back, Back, BACK – with Nile Rogers!

Hot off the presses, here's an unseasonally laid-back, summery groove from Disclosure, Sam Smith, Nile Rogers and Jimmy "how did this guy get on the credits" Napes.

It's short and brilliant. That's all you need to know.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lily Allen's Hard Out There: Love it or hate it, it's still important

I honestly can't decide what to say about Lily Allen's comeback single. I heartily approve of the message ("the music business is a bit sexist, innit?") but sweet baby Jesus, the tune is dreadful.

Lily's always had a jaunty, sing-song voice, but Hard Out There is no more than an auto-tuned nursery rhyme. The middle eight is, I presume, a wicked parody of pop songs that run out of ideas at the half-way point – but the rest of the song needs to be better for the joke to work.

And while I applaud Lily for tackling sexism, she's not exactly feminism's most insightful orator. Sample lyrics include "If you're not a size six, then you're not good looking" and "Don't need to shake my arse for you, cos I've got a brain". Laudable sentiments, but hardly original or thought-provoking. Furthermore, both No Doubt and TLC have said the same things better (although, depressingly, they were saying those things 20 years ago and nothing seems to have changed).

More recently, Grimes and Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry have written excoriating, soul-searching blogs about the sexism they’ve experienced in the music industry. Shorn of Lily's habitual sarcasm, they hit home much, much harder. Lauren's piece in the Guardian, in particular, is heart-rending: "I am embarrassed to admit that I have had more than one prolonged toilet cry," she wrote about the violently abusive Facebook comments she's received.

But Lauren also said this: "My hopes are that if anything good comes out of this, it will start a conversation, or continue the conversation which is already happening". And that's why Lily's song is important: Not only is she adding to the debate, but she'll get played on daytime Radio One, she'll get into Grazia, and her lyrics will reach more people. The Mirror, of all newspapers, rushed to praise the Hard Out There's "explosive message" in their morning edition today.

Interestingly, the video makes the song 10 times better. Lily punctures a series of typical music video set-ups (most notably Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines), while her manager tries to persuade her to show more skin, lose some weight and fellate a banana.

"How can someone let themselves get like this?" he asks of Lily's weight, as she lies on a surgeon's table, undergoing liposuction.

"Um... I had two babies," she replies.

I started this post declaring I couldn't decide what to say, yet I've said rather a lot. I'm still not sure I like the song, but it's great to have Lily back, and in fury-spitting form.

Thanks for helping me think it through.

Lily Allen - Hard Out There

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mini review: Arcade Fire at the Roundhouse

I'm not sure Arcade Fire have quite grasped the concept of pseudonyms.

"We're the Reflektors," announces Win Butler on stage at the Roundhouse. "That's our fake band name. We've been a fake band since 19-fakety-fake."

Not that anyone is fooled. Even when the musicians emerge on stage wearing tiger masks, we're all pretty certain this is Arcade Fire. After all, what are the chances that two bands would make such a compelling noise whilst looking like a multi-instrumental version of The Addams Family?

But Butler (dressed in a black and white inkblot tuxedo and what can only be described as pajama bottoms) insists on keeping the artifice alive. He introduces Power Out (from their first album) as an Arcade Fire cover, and later improvises the lyrics "People from art school playing in a fake band. People from art school pretending to do art" over a strummed guitar.

But for all the costumes and smokescreens, the band are playing their most emotionally honest and open-hearted music to date. And it shows.

Augmented by fantastic Haitian percussion duo Diol and Twill, they fulfill the rock + disco + carnival ambitions of their new album much more successfully than on the record itself. There's a giddy party vibe, with the audience largely sporting face paints and costumes, from black tie and gold suits to, in one case, a crocodile onesie. What's more, everyone is on their feet. Beside me, a wonderful, spontaneous dance breaks out during Here Comes The Night Time, as everyone starts bobbing up and down in time to the lolloping, reggae-inspired rhythms.

And it turns out this is exactly what the band were hoping for. "We wanted to translate the spirit of something we'd experienced at carnival in Haiti to a way people back home would understand it," Butler recently told Time Out. "It was the first time I enjoyed dancing as part of a huge crowd."

He's definitely bowled over by the fans' willingness to join in at Monday's show. "Everyone that embraced the fancy dress, you look great and we love you," he says. "To everyone who felt uncomfortable... I'm not sorry.

"The percentage of people getting laid tonight is up like 10,000% on a normal show. As long as you shower. That's the secret, boys".

By the end of the set, the band are even promising to come out and dance with the fans in the auditorium (Much as I'd have loved to, I'm afraid I didn't stick around for the Arcade Fire dance throwdown - but any video evidence would be most welcome.)

It'll be interesting to see how this party atmosphere translates to the inevitable arena dates and festival appearances next year. Let's hope they manage it because, on last night's evidence, Arcade Fire - who always seemed to be having a private party on stage - have finally found a way to get everyone involved.


Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Flashbulb Eyes
Joan of Arc
You Already Know
We Exist
It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
My Body Is a Cage (a capella)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Normal Person
Uncontrollable Urge (Devo cover)
Here Comes the Night Time

Crown of Love

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ArtRave deconstructed

When she stops dicking about, Lady Gaga is a fantastic pop star. And I'm not alone in thinking that. Watching Twitter yesterday as her album finally came out, the consensus seemed to be "Amazing, but inconsistent". And there were a lot of tweets like this:

Amongst all the personalised tracklists, there were a few consistencies: Sexxx Dreams and Gypsy were permanent fixtures, while the flimsy Donatella was unceremoniously rejected. And who am I to argue? Gypsy is my personal favourite - a refinement of the country-glam-rock-pop-power-ballad formula that gave Born This Way it's best moments. While Sexxx Dreams sounds like the sort of thing Prince would have dashed off in the 80s to get Sheena Easton under his Paisley sheets.

Those songs were also the highlights of Gaga's ArtRave album launch "event" on Sunday (it was ambitious but flawed, imagine that). The whole performance is a bit tedious to be honest but, luckily, Gaga has chopped it all up into digestible chunks and bunged it on YouTube. Some samples follow...

Lady Gaga - Gypsy

Lady Gaga - Sexxx Dreams

Lady Gaga - Applause

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Alex Winston is back, and she's angry

I was totally mystified that Brooklyn's Alex Winston didn't become MEGA in 2011.

Sister Wife, her debut single, was an ode to polygamous marriages with a chorus the size of an elephant. She followed it up with Velvet Elvis, a song about falling in love with a portrait of "The King". It's chorus was the size of an elephant standing on top of another elephant, if you can imagine such a preposterous thing.

Sadly, radio didn't get behind the music. Maybe Winston's lyrics were too quirky and intelligent to sit next to Rihanna singing about strip clubs, maybe the bizarre video treatments weren't very MTV-friendly (even Miley Cyrus might draw the line at having a cat vomit blood into her face) but that's a huge shame, because her colourful brand of oddpop deserves to be heard.

Speaking to Vice recently, the singer spoke of her frustrations with the first album: The record company wouldn't promote it unless she toured, and venues wouldn't book her unless the record company promoted the album.

"I don't understand how this business works. It never makes sense," she said. "Everyone's on fucking drugs."

Winston's new single (self-produced and self-released) is no less angry. "In a sea of motherfuckers, man, you were no salvation, face it," she scolds. Asked if she was addressing anyone in particular, Winston simply replied: "Yes. Can I leave it at that?" - but I wonder if the fact she recently sacked her manager might have anything to do with it...

Still, rarely has anger sounded so beautiful. 101 Vultures is awash in angelic harmonies and subtly brushed chords. If you've been enjoying Goldfrapp's new album, you're going to love this, too.

Alex Winston - 101 Vultures

And if you like your winsome pop to come with a slightly bigger thud, this remix by NICITA (a side project of MS MR) will do the trick.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Say 'hello' to Say Lou Lou

Say Lou Lou are a pop group from (where else?) Sweden, with a touch of the ABBA about them (ie they look like a bit like Agnetha and Frida).

They've been bubbling under for a while now, but their new EP is so good I couldn't ignore it. For the uninitiated, here's Google tells us about them.

:: Say Lou Lou are twin sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey, who shared a bedroom until they were 16.

:: They were born in 1991, around the time Donnie NKOTB was arrested for setting fire to a hotel room.

:: Miranda is the older sister, by four minutes.

:: "I'm a bit scrawnier," Miranda told Vogue. "Elektra is a bit more curvy."

:: More importantly for identification purposes, Miranda is the brunette and Elektra is the blonde.

:: Do you think they resemble Agnetha and Frida from Abba, only with a better wardrobe? (Hint: yes, you do).

:: Their dad is Steve Kilbey, from Aussie rock group The Church.

:: No, us neither.

:: Steve divorced the girls' mother when they were young, and they were shuttled between Sweden and Australia as they grew up.

:: Consequently, their music is "not one hundred percent Scandi-pop, and it's not one hundred percent acoustic Australian," they told Soma Magazine. "We draw inspiration from the dynamic differences, such as the different cultures, and the lightness and darkness in both." Blimey.

:: They named their band after their "mean old aunt", according to Interview magazine.

:: Originally, though, they were called Saint Lou Lou, until some pesky copyright lawyers got involved.

:: Alternative names they may have considered* include Sane Lou Lou; Seine Lou Lou; Cyan Lou Lou; Stain Lou Lou; Sit Ubu Sit and Primal Scream.

:: Their debut single Maybe You came out earlier this year on dance label Kitsune and caused all of Tumblr to have a swoon, like delicate ladies in a Jane Austen novel.

:: Critics call this sound "dream pop".

:: According to the girls, that means "the layering of sweet, harmonious pop with a dreamy and spacey soundscape".

:: Since Maybe You came out, the twins have set up their own label and started working with top drawer pop merchants Hannah Robinson and Richard X. "He is a pop genius!" they note, wisely.

:: The girls "think of their songs as narratives" and approach them "like writing the script for a film", whatever that means.

:: They have also invented a drinking game around The Police's Roxanne.

:: Say Lou Lou's new EP is called Better In The Dark. It comes with a great "A-side" (track one) and an equally great "B-side" (track two) called Beloved.

:: It is out on 25 November, but you can hear both tracks now, with your ears, by pressing the triangular shaped buttons on the embedded media players placed directly below this passage of text.

* Did not actually consider

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A hare, a bear and Lily Allen

Hankies at the ready, here's the John Lewis Christmas advert, soundtracked by Lily "retired? me?" Allen.

Hand-animated by some of the artists who worked on Disney's The Lion King, it's a tale of the Bear Who Had Never Seen Christmas. The music is a piano cover of Keane's Somewhere Only We Know - which is 100% as dreary as it sounds.

John Lewis Christmas Ad - Lily Allen

There's a great write-up on the advert in today's Telegraph, which features Lily saying such inspiring things as "it's a sensible way of stepping back into the marketplace".

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jason Nevins has done a good Eminem remix

Notorious gay rights advocate Eminem has the UK's official number one, thanks to his (fourth) collaboration with Rihanna, The Monster.

The duet is one of those songs where rich and famous people whinge about how difficult it is being rich and famous. But Eminem's lyrics ("I'm getting so huge I need a shrink") elevate the track above the usual self-help flannery.

According to MTV, the rapper chose Rihanna to sing the hook because they're both "a little nuts".

"That's one of the things that I was telling her in making the record: I think that people look at us a little crazy," he said. "As soon as I got the beat I just heard her on it."

Apparently, a proper video for the single is in the works. Until then, here's a four-to-the-floor remix by Jason "Remember me from the 1990s" Nevins. He ups the tempo and plonks a rave-o-tronic synth riff over the top. Solid work.

Eminem ft Rihanna - The Monster (Jason Nevins Remix)

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Little Mix throw some shapes and seven other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs and videos that didn't make the blog in the last seven (or, in this case, 10) days. It's a veritable treasure chest of quality pop.

1) Little Mix - Move (X Factor rehearsal)
Jade, Jesy, Perrie and Leigh-Anne bunged this footage up on YouTube last Friday, while they were rehearsing the routine for Sunday's X Factor.

Filmed on a fixed camera in an anonymous dance studio, it's far superior to the televised version, which dropped some of the choreography, and (frustratingly) cut away to cavernous wide shots during all the best bits. They paid for that ridiculous set, so they're damn well going to make the most of it.

If you like this, you'll be pleased to hear the girls are releasing a dance-only edit of the proper video to Move at some point in the next few days.

2) Blood Orange - You're Not Good Enough
We love Dev Hynes for his stellar work on Solange's jaw-dropping True EP and MKS's un-loved but sublime Flatlines.

You're Not Good Enough is a new single under his "Blood Orange" moniker, featuring the vocal talents of Samantha Urbani of US indie-poppers Friends. As subtle and sexy as any of the Solange material, it's the roller-coaster bassline that really makes my stomach drop.

3) Avicii - Hey Brother
You know what? I think Avicii's hit on something with his ridiculous "House Music x Bluegrass" formula. Two of the world's biggest-selling musical genres, side by side in unholy matrimony (with apologies to Stevie Wonder).

After scoring a number one with the Aloe Blacc-featuring You Make Me, his new single ropes in Dan Tyminski (literally, with a lassoo) - who you might know as the man who sang Man Of Constant Sorrow on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

It shouldn't work, but it kind of does.

4) Ella Eyre - Deeper
19-year-old Ella has already scored a number one this year, as the featured vocalist on Rudimental's Waiting All Night.

Deeper is her debut single, and a stunning showcase for her slightly blurry, soulful vocals. The tempo comes down a couple of notches from Waiting All Night, but she sounds just as urgent and exciting as ever.

5) Laurel - Fire Breather
Urgh, another insanely talented 19-year-old. How about a nice middle-aged pop star with an achy knee for once?

Anyway, we can't complain about Laurel, who styles herself as "London's last sweetheart trying to set the world to rights with love songs." She comes recommended by Ms Nicola Roberts (aka the only member of Girls Aloud with musical taste) and her debut EP is a Delicious Del Rey Delight.

The A-side is Fire Breather, which thuds with lust like a palpitating heart; while the B-Side is a slow-burning ballad called The Desert. Both are free to download right now.

6) Angel Haze - Summertime Sadness
Angel Haze's 30 Gold series continues "apace" with this yummy strummy cover of Summertime Sadness. The girl can sing, I'll give her that.

7) NoNoNo - Scared
I'm not really sure what happened to NoNoNo's single Pumpin' Blood. It got delayed and delayed in the UK because it was due to be featured in a major TV commercial - but the wait apparently killed the song's momentum. It's out now, but radio never quite got on the bandwagon despite lots of early support.

Still, the band are doing incredibly well in the rest of Europe, so they'll have to remain our little secret for now. Scared is their latest track, recorded for a Kitsune Maison compilation, and its got hooks that'll stick in you for days.

8) Charli XCX - I Want Candy
I don't normally post videos from gigs because (a) the quality is awful and (b) the people that make them are awful.

But I'm making an exception because this encore, from Charli XCX's recent show in San Francisco, is utterly brilliant (if boringly faithful to the original). It should be a single.

And that's your lot. If you have any suggestions for next week's list, drop me a line using the address at the bottom of the page.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chvrches tell you lies (again)

When they're not leaning against windows, Scotland's Chvrches make very good pop music. So good, in fact, they won the Popjustice prize last week - and to celebrate they're plundering their back catalogue and re-releasing their first ever single, Lies.

Originally given away as a free download in May 2012, the NME named it the 28th best single of 2012. They described it as "indie disco at its most elemental and catchy", which somewhat undersells the song's throbbing urgency.

A hulking, synth-driven gargantuathon, it powers over the horizon like an ten ton truck, flattening everything in its path. Lauren demands to see your knees, then shouts something about "icons of symmetry". It's totally mad, but strangely sexual. Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, the song has been given a fresh lick of paint and a fancy new video with X Factor backlighting. I wonder where the NME will rank it in this year's top 50?

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Britney's Perfume: Not a stinker

I'll be honest, the generic robo-pop of Work Bitch didn't fill me with hope for Britney Spears' new album, Britney Jean. She'd told various people it was her "most personal album ever", and roped in William "I did Ray Of Light" Orbit to help her find a more mature sound.

Instead, we got a shambolic collection of's half-finished melodies shackled to the sort of clunky "aspirational" phrases you'd hear at a middle managers' away day. The video was nice, mind you.

The second single, on the other hand, is everything Britney promised. Half tear-jerker, half revenge fantasy, Perfume finds Britney daydreaming that her cheating boyfriend will be found out: "I wanna fill the room, when she's in it with you... I hope she smells my perfume".

Co-written by Sia, this features Britney's best vocal performance since Everytime. Gone are the squeaky babydoll voice and the rampant auto tune. Instead, she drops half an octave and sounds sensitive, fragile and (finally!) human.

The chorus doesn't quite live up to the promise of the verse - but this is a major step in the right direction. Well done, everyone.

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