Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Banks at Koko, London

Just before Banks takes the stage at Koko, the PA is blaring out a mixtape of 90s R&B ballads. It's wall-to-wall bumping and grinding and getting freaky "on you".

It's also a great illustration of how far we've come. Banks has taken that R&B template and bludgeoned it with the sub-bass paranoia of Massive Attack. "Before I ever met you, I never knew I could be broken in so many ways," she quivers in her opening number. It's bruised and tortured and magnificent.

What separates Banks from the rest of the sad sack R&B pack (Drake, Frank Ocean and her erstwhile touring buddy The Weeknd) is her sheer physical presence. Constantly back-lit, she prowls the stage like a grown up Wednesday Addams, draped in black and dancing as though she's trying to raise the spirits.

The spooky/sexy vibe is only enhanced by her sultry, spine-tingling vocals, which really shine during a mid-set acoustic section - featuring a breathy jazz reading of Warm Water, and a playful acoustic take on Aaliyah's Are You That Somebody? The crowd, surprisingly, knows every word of both - although the best reaction is reserved for the yearning Waiting Game, which builds to a stunningly claustrophobic climax.

"I'm buzzing off your energy," the singer beams as the set draws to a close. But she has one last, secret weapon: A new song, Stick, built around the irresistible click of a castanet (think Missy Elliot's Pass That Dutch). Smoking hot and instantly memorable, it must be a shoo-in for her next, breakthrough single.

As the song unfolds, Banks struts to the front of the stage and purrs: "I wanna know how you taste." Perhaps we haven't come that far, after all.

Before I Ever Met You
This Is What It Feels Like
Bedroom wall
Fall over
Warm Water
Are You That Somebody? (Aaliyah cover)
Waiting Game

What You Need (The Weeknd cover)

PS: Banks plays Koko again on Tuesday, 1 April. It's sold out but there were a few last-minute production tickets on the door tonight. As you can probably tell, I'd recommend it.

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Beyonce: Grown Woman (alternate version)

It's easy to see why Grown Woman didn't make the final tracklisting of Beyoncé's BEYONCÉ. Thematically, it chimes perfectly with the album's message ("I am a fully paid-up feminist who happens to enjoy filthy sex with Jay-Z") but stylistically, the song's peppy marimba rhythms are at odds with the stripped back rumble of Beyonce's libido.

Still, it's a lovely treat at the end of the video album - with a giddy, Nyan Cat-inspired collection of gifable lunacy. Now, thanks to a mysterious leaker on YouTube, we have an even more deranged, cartoonish version of the video.

Watch it now before the lawyers take it down. The lawyers have taken it down...

No, wait. It's back.

Beyonce - Grown Woman (alternate version)

And if that has stopped working, the original is still pretty amazing.

And there's also a remix video, also featuring the new graphics over here. I can barely keep up.

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Ora-cular Spectacular

Exciting times: Rita Ora, aka "The Blonde Rihanna" aka "the most mystifying Pyramid Stage booking of all time", has returned with a new single from her second album. Produced by Calvin Harris (how 2011) it's a confident comeback, if rather slight on the tune front.

Built around a digitally degraded guitar riff, I Will Never Let You Down showcases Calvin's instinct for pop dynamics, with a cute, syncopated verses that burst into life for the hook. While inferior singers would try to match that exuberance measure for measure, Rita is canny enough to reign in her vocals and be carried along by the music.

It's subtler than you're used to on a Calvin song, but it's the sort of track that'll float to the surface of your conciousness after a couple of plays on Radio 1.

The video, which has just "gone live" was directed by Italian photographer Francesco Carrozzini, who previously helmed Beyoncé's Jealous. It is quite 80s, in the same way that Boy George in a Global Hypercolor T-shirt would be quite 80s.

Rita Ora - I Will Never Let You Down

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Introducing Wrathschild

No, no, no.

Not Wrathchild. Wrathschild.

There, that's better.

Wrathschild are Wolfy (left, real name Ro Danishei) and Simon Curtis (right, wearing a crown), who've been hovering on the periphery of major pop stardom as solo artists for the last five years. They've been friends since they were 14, but only started writing together in earnest two years ago.

It's all been kept under wraps until this week, when their debut single, Fall In Love, premiered on Billboard. And it is quite simply one of the best-produced pop songs I've heard in a long time: 3'38" of crashing production and quivering synths, with a tongue-in-cheek lyric about the lack of romance in pop lyrics. "My morning breath and your walk of shame don't get my heart racing," notes Curtis, drily.

Instead, the duo want a prom night love story, "just like an 80s movie". So, naturally, the middle 8 takes the form of a nonsensical African chant (in the best traditions of Lionel Ritchie and Dream Academy) before the final chorus explodes like the fireworks at the end of Grease.

It all points to a couple of songwriters who are steeped in pop history and know their way around the dynamics of a hit single (on this evidence, they could even be this generation's George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam). I'll be interested to hear how things go from here...

PS: "Sex will forever be on our minds. Well, I want the real thing, just like an 80s movie". I wonder which 80s movie they've been watching? Presumably 9½ Weeks, not Weekend at Bernies.

PPS: I would pay good money to hear 80s hair metal band Wrathchild cover this song.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ten songs you may have missed: A lazy journalism special


I'm technically on holiday this week, but there are tons of good videos pouring out of the pop funnel, so I thought I'd compile a slapdash "Songs You May Have Missed" update. Rather than the usual "unique take" on this week's releases, I am literally cut and pasting what other, more committed music websites are saying. You're welcome.

1) Kelis - Rumble
"The video sees Kelis performing the track whilst sat on a chair in the middle of a lake." [Chartshaker]

2) The Black Keys - Fever
"Twangy organs and tinges of ambiance" [Consequence of Sound]

3) Pixies - Snakes
"A group of papier mache-headed bandits plan a robbery"
[Rolling Stone]

4)Justin Timberlake - Not A Bad Thing
"El vídeo se presenta como un «documental sobre la búsqueda del amor», basado en la supuesta historia de una pareja real en la que el hombre pidió matrimonio a su novia en un tren rumbo a Nueva York."
[El Remix]

5) Tinashe - 2 On (ft Schoolboy Q)
"The song is an ode to getting turnt (??) and getting even more turnt (????) — too turnt up to function, if you will (?????). Built around a slinky, snap-heavy beat, the track is an earworm in the same way Cassie's Me & U and Ciara's Goodies became instant bump/grind, pop/lock smashes." [Kick Kick Snare]

6) Kylie - Sexercize
"In my opinion it's a really bad choice as a single."
[Josepvinaixa - who nonetheless posts five alternate cuts of the video]

7) London Grammar - Devil Inside
"A snippet of London Grammar‘s eerie cover of INXS' 1989 hit Devil Inside can be heard in the latest Game Of Thrones trailer but the British trio has kindly shared the full version on their SoundCloud. The Strong hitmakers transform the moody rock song into a bare-bones ballad that more than does justice to the original." [idolator]

8) Dominique Young Unique - Throw It Down
"It's like some weird morph of M.I.A. and Azealia Banks, but I think I like Dominique Young Unique"s new video" [Wotyougot]

9) Royal Blood - Little Monster
"My mind just got a little more blown by the fact these riffs are coming from Mike Kerr's bass guitar!" [Some Kind Of Awesome]

10) Lady Gaga - G.U.Y.
"Really though, what the actual fuck is going on here?" [Jezebel]

Not bad, huh? Even the Lady Gaga video is worth watching, although I don't think it's going to turn the ArtPop album campaign around. Don't be put off by the 12-minute running time, by the way, the last four minutes are credits.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two amazing things happened on Radio 1 last night while you were watching Secret Eaters

1) Zane Lowe made Tove Lo's Habits the hottest record in the world.

In case you hadn't noticed, we're obsessed with Tove Lo (you can read about that obsession here and here) and now it seems Zane Lowe agrees.

Last night, he made her song Habits his "hottest record in the world", correctly describing it as "incredibly special". He also revealed that the proper pronunciation of Tove Lo's name is "Toe-vuh Low".

Toe-vuh was on the phone during the show, and declared she'd written her album in a Scandinavian "dungeon". You can hear the chat on the Radio 1 website, and watch the brand new video for Habits below...

If you love as much as we do, why not head over to iTunes, where you can download it as part of Toe-vuh's Truth Serum EP.

Tove Lo - Habits

2) Banks covered an old Aaliyah song

The other obsession we're harbouring at Discopop Towers is Creme Eggs LA soul singer Banks. Everything she touches literally turns to gold. That makes tying shoelaces impossible - but luckily she can just turn some paper into gold and use that to hire a shoelace-tying slave. Result.

She popped up on Phil and Alice's "Live Lounge Late" to perform her new single, Brain, and a cover of Aaliyah's unimpeachable Are You That Somebody. The full performance is available on Radio 1 - but Banks has helpfully snipped out the Aaliyah bit with her gold-plated scissors and bunged it up on Soundcloud.

Good for you, licence fee payers. Good for you.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lykke Li: No Rest For The Wicked

Swedish pop miserablist Lykke Li unveiled (played) her new single No Rest For The Wicked on 6 Music this morning. The Guardian has already called it a "chest-clencher", which makes it sound like a dramatic, arrhythmic cardiac episode - but if you must employ a death metaphor, I'd say it was like suffocating slowly under a pillow.

Here's Lykke's explanation of the song, ripped direct from the record company press release: "I wrote it in Sweden when I was packing up my shit (she means stuff) and I'd just gotten out of a relationship and it was a horrible time. I just had the hurt, shame, sadness, guilt, longing. The vocal track, the take, is the demo. In the verse, I'm referring to myself pleading guilty but I'm referring to all of us."

Best avoid it if you're down in the dumps, then.

Lykke Li - No Rest For The Wicked

PS: It's nice to see the video was inspired by a 1972 BBC TV ident. More of this, please.

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Review: Lissie rocks Shepherd's Bush

If you want to be a rock star, here's a top tip: Step back when you finish singing a line, pause for a little too long, then launch yourself at the mic just in the nick of time to belt out the next lyric.

It's thrilling, surprisingly so, and Illinois' Lissie has perfected the art. In fact, it's just one trick in her bag of, er... tricks - as evidenced by an air-punching, hair-mussing, freewheeling rock revue she staged at Shepherd's Bush Empire on Tuesday.

She eases us in gently, with the country-tinged ballads Wedding Bells and Bully (during which her bassist Lewis Keller gamely doubles up on drums using a complicated system of pedals and levers).

The pace quickens with a song called, ironically, Sleepwalking, and soon you can't move for guitar solos. Eric Sullivan, on lead, pulls some incredible faces - "it's like he's having an orgasm in the middle of a maths exam," someone says - but even that can't take the focus off Lissie's incredible vocals.

Twice as powerful but half as shrill as Florence + The Machine, she belts out every song like it's a sermon. The 31-year-old has a raspy, dusty timbre that sounds like she swallowed a desert. On the acoustic numbers - They All Want You, Back To Forever - you can't keep your ears off her.

If there's a criticism, it's that the band sometimes get scrappy on the faster numbers - although it's nice to hear musicians getting carried away when so many gigs, even "authentic" rock shows, are controlled by click-track.

Anyway, the crowd lap it up - hollering the outro to Little Lovin' long after the song ends. "You're all so brave and participatory," coos Lissie, happily.

As the evening draws to a close, she's got a few stage tricks to spare, hurling a guitar offstage to her technician ("I've never done that before and I was waiting to mess it up but I didn't") and teasing the crowd over the encore.

"This is our last song," she announces, miming huge air quotes. "But we might come back if you freak out".

Freaking out duly ensues and Lissie sends us out into the night with a shot of Tequila and her sublime cover of Kid Cudi's Pursuit Of Happiness. "I think this is the longest set we've ever played," she declares. I'd have happily taken another hour...

Disclaimer: None of the photos above were taken last night, because I am the world's worst cameraman. If you were relying on my "skills" all you would have got is this...

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Here is a video of Kylie "buffing" a car

Need I say any more?

That "interesting" clip comes courtesy of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Roman Coppola, who tells Nowness: "When I was a kid there were a lot of custom cars made for bands or television shows: The Pink Panther and The Monkees had incredible vehicles. I thought to myself: 'I'll make a custom car for Kylie.'"

The song you are hearing is the not-at-all-risible Sexercise, from Kylie's billionth* studio album, Kiss Me Once. You can sample its delights below and may (correctly) surmise it's her best record in some years.

* approx

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Sia & Cher Lloyd: It's all gone mid-tempo

I blame Katy Perry.

Ever since Firework became a multi-platinum worldwide soundtrack to a generation (© Pepsi), pop has gone mad for midtempo. We Are Young, Diamonds, Roar, Wrecking Ball, the entire oeuvre of Emeli Sande: If you hooked them up to a cardiac monitor, an alarm would go off.

Still, if the BPM is going to hover around 87, then you could do worse than these two songs - both "hot off the presses" (freshly delivered from a record company Macbook) this weekend.

First up is Sia - who, along with Perry, is the chief architect of mid-tempo's popularity, having written Diamonds for Rihanna and Pretty Hurts for Beyonce, amongst dozens of others.

Chandelier is the first single from her forthcoming solo album. She recently told Billboard she "doesn't want to be famous" - but releasing a stunning, euphoric pop record won't help on that front.

Sia - Chandelier

If you're interested in the lyrics to that song, by the way, Sia herself has been annotating them on RapGenius. Turns out she hasn't actually swung from a chandelier, but would like to one day. So now you know.

Meanwhile, Cher Lloyd (remember her?) has been off in America working on her second album. It was supposed to come out last November but, in a rather candid interview, Lloyd basically admitted it wasn't good enough and she was going back to the studio "to try and find some more magic".

It seems to have worked... Sirens, the singer's second attempt at a first single, has a chorus so strong it almost eradicates the memory of Swagger Jagger.

The song premiered last Friday on the Sirius XM Hits One Morning Mashup, which is probably the least memorable breakfast show title since "Nick Grimshaw's Breakfast Show".

So there you have it: Mid-tempo wins. It's all ballads from here til Christmas. You only have yourselves to blame.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

J-Lo has an important message about feminism

Remember when Lily Allen released a song about the music industry objectifying women, accompanied by a video that itself objectified women but it was OK because TEH SATIRES?

Well, here's professional wall-hugger Jennifer Lopez making the same point, but a million times more effectively. The promo for I Luh Ya Papi (I'm still not making that title up) starts with a director pitching a bunch of terrible music video scenarios before J-Lo's friends complain: "If she was a dude, they would have her up in a mansion with all these half-naked girls. Or maybe even in a yacht. Why can't we, for once, objectify the men?"

You can pretty much guess what happens next.

Jennifer Lopez - I Luh Ya Papi

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A scientific analysis of Calvin Harris's new single

Sound the klaxons: Calvin Harris has unveiled a new single, called Summer, and it is available to buy right now.

Naturally, the song is very good - but what makes it good? We wanted to know, so we took the song down to our special subterranean laboratory, knocked it out and dissected it with a rusty scalpel. Here is what we found:


So there you have it. The song sounds like this. Expect to hear it in a muddy field near you this July.

Calvin Harris - Summer

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Songs you may have missed: Dadrock corner

Hello! It's not all platinum-plated pop around these parts. Every so often, I like to relax beside the fire with a nice cuppa and a suitable biscuit while I "have a Lamacq" (stop sniggering at the back). Here's some of the videos I'd put on if my Dad was round for dinner.

1) Damon Albarn - Lonely Press Play / Mr Tembo
If you missed Damon Albarn's recent Culture Show special, you missed something really special. The BBC followed Mr Blur back to his childhood home, where he got all misty-eyed at the sweet shops, dustbins and church halls.

The walk down memory lane was in aid of his first solo album, Everyday Robots, which is a proper who am I and what have I done mid-life crisis project, as Damon readily admitted. "For those who give a shit, and I'm not assuming anyone does, hopefully there's a bit of an insight into who I am," he said. "Otherwise it's just a neurotic, left-handed, middle-aged man talking nonsense out there into the void".

Here's Damon on the Tonight Show performing the gorgeous Lonely Press Play, and the playful Mr Tembo - which is genuinely about an Elephant.

Recommended biscuit accompaniment: Jammie Dodger.

2) Amber Run - Spark
Amber Run are a new band from Nottingham, who've been getting a lot of love from their local BBC Introducing programme. The Independent compared them to Coldplay, and they're about to support Kodaline on tour - but don't let that put you off. The chorus on this track is going to drill into your skull like an alt-pop woodpecker.

Recommended biscuit: Tracker bar.

3) Beck - Say Goodbye
He's a chameleon in a sheep's clothing. He's got a razorblade overcoat. He's a loser, baby.

He's also produced an album, Morning Phase, of uncommon quality. A companion piece to his big break-up record, Sea Change, it's gentle and affecting without slipping into syrupy mawkishness.

Beck turned up to perform the stand-out track, Say Goodbye on Jimmy Fallon's show the other night and, despite the banjos, it's really rather lovely.

Recommended biscuit: Rich Tea.

4) Paolo Nutini - Scream (Funk My Life Up)
Awful title, brilliant song. All sticky and swampy, Paolo's Delta Blues reinvention is a perfect fit for a man who's always dabbled in the soulful side of pop.

A crueller soul might say he's starting to sound like Terence Trent D'Arby covering Movin' On Up, but I wouldn't dream of such a thing.

Recommended biscuit: Tunnock's Caramel.

5) Team Me - With My Hands...
"From the deep woods of Elverum, a small city not far a way from Oslo and even closer to Lillehammer, comes young six-piece indie pop band Team Me," says the official website of Team Me's record label.

They're being touted as ones to watch at SXSW, for what that's worth, but the two songs they've put online so far are uplifting, rambunctious and full of youthful sparkle.

My favourite is the splendidly-titled "With My Hands Covering Both of My Eyes I Am Too Scared to Have A Look At You Now", which features the damning couplet: "Mediocre band, perform your mediocre songs for us / Mediocre band, dance for us, dance for us."

One for the cool dads.

Recommended biscuit: Party Rings.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Video: Banks is in your Brain

Banks is one of the most intriguing, exciting singers I've come across in a long time.

Like a musical Darth Vader, she deals in the dark side of R&B - releasing a clutch of aching, bruised EPs that have barely left my turntable (iPod dock) since they appeared in the middle of last year.

In preparation for her UK tour next week, the LA-born singer has released a new video, for Brain. According to a press release: "Brain presents Banks at her most unflinchingly direct and emotionally raw. Introducing itself as a deceptively tranquil electronic lullaby, it emerges into a towering vocal tour-de-force, showcasing with goosebumps-inducing intensity the hypnotic power and penetrating lyricism at the heart of BANKS' music."

In other words, the song starts quiet then it goes all shouty.

It is, of course, superb.

Banks - Brain

If you want to sing/shout along, Banks has handily posted the lyrics on her Instagram account. She has very neat handwriting, don't you think?

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Pre-order Ronika's album, you fools!

Super-fluorescent pop being Ronika has been on my radar since June 2011, when she released the nonsensically-titled but very good "Wiyoo EP".

Since then, the young pop star (real name Veronica Sampson) has been popping up at irregular intervals, distributing a sack-full of incredible, 80s-inspired disco tracks like this one:

And this one:

In a nutshell, Ronika was two years ahead of the curve on the Nile Rodgers revival, and deserves to be bigger than Pharrell.

Why? Well, for starters, she knows how to choose the correct size of hat.

More importantly, she is a retro pop genius and a noted wit, as evidenced by her Twitter feed.

Speaking of her "dubut" album, where the hell is it?

Sessions started a couple of years ago and were progressing well until Ronika developed a chesty cough. After a bit of poking and prodding, the cough turned out to be pneumonia. Then, terrifyingly, the pneumonia turned out to be the symptom of "an incurable auto-immune disease".

The last couple of months haven't been easy (she compares it to "a wave crashing over you and pulling you under, and you don't know if you're going to reach the surface again.") but Ronika has been wrapped in bandages and declared fit to support Little Boots in concert, finish the record, and set up her own record company to release it.

The album, called Selectadisc, is now ready to go to the presses, or whatever it is they do to MP3s to get them on the internet.

Named after the infamous record store in Ronika's hometown, Nottingham, it features all of her singles to date, and many brand new songs, including this one:

If you pre-order the album today you (a) get Shell Shocked for free and (b) immediately become a superhero. So what are you waiting for?

Here is the blue text you click to go to her website and make the purchase. I've just done it and you should too.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Arcade Fire cover Prince's Controversy

The first leg of Arcade Fire's Reflektor tour has seen the band cover The Rolling Stones' The Last Time; The Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling; Lady Gaga's Do What U Want and Aerosmith's I Don't Want To Miss A Thing. All of which sounds like the worst mixtape of all time, but you've got to give them credit for attempting Prince's Controversy when they stopped off in his home town of Minneapolis last night.

They even have a go at the "I wish we all were nude" spoken-word section. And they pull it off. Top marks.

As you can see from the picture above, the band played the song while wearing LCD screens on their heads displaying the faces of the Purple Perv and (for some reason) local Tea Party politician Michelle Bachman.

While we're on the subject of Prince, he seems to have disappeared back to America, appearing on the Arsenio Show, then playing an impromptu show at the Palladium in LA for $100 a pop. Let's hope he comes back for the much-rumoured Hyde Park headline shows. If not, at least he's left a few souvenirs on YouTube.

Prince - Let's Go Crazy reloaded (Manchester, Feb 22)

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Lily Allen's big night out

Vexatious pop singer Lily Allen has turned in (another) new video, and this time it's set in the back of a taxi. The song it services is Our Time, a ditty about a night out on the tiles, which somehow manages to rhyme "Rizlas" with "business".

Like Air Balloon and Hard Out Here before it, the single is barely there - a flimsy nursery rhyme of a tune. What redeems it is the way Lily contrasts the wistful, minor-key arrangement with her "having it large" lyrics. It's a surprisingly effective trick.

But what really prompted me to write about the song is the video. Not only does it feature Lily dressed as a hotdog and doing a very convincing hiccup, it also appears to be based on the infamous paparazzi shots of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears on a night out.

No-one ever explains why this is happening, of course. Is Lily mocking the hollow existence of "fallen" pop stars, or is she sympathising with them? Is the video saying, we all have nights like this, whether rich or poor. Or is she just having a go with the dressing up box?

I'm flummoxed - but hopefully the video will help you make up your own mind.

Lily Allen - Our Time

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Friday, March 7, 2014

Sophie Ellis Bextor's dreamy new video

Sophie Ellis Bextor's career has been rejuvenated by her sumptuous new album, Wanderlust. It entered the chart at number four in January (her previous record peaked at 33), then it hung around in the Top 10 for several weeks.

The record's wintry, Siberian ballads have turned out to be a perfect setting for the singer's icy vocals. And the fact that lead single Young Blood was tailor-made for Radio 2 (ahoy there, Strictly mums!) didn't hurt either.

I talked it all over with a (clearly delighted) Sophie on the Brits red carpet two of weeks ago.

Q: Congratulations on the chart placings. You must be gutted the record came out slightly too late for a Brit nomination.

Thank you for noticing, firstly! But, oh golly, everything I do is always about hoping that I get to keep my day job and make more music., I don’t really need a Brit to feel successful. I've been doing this for too long – I know how easy it is to fall off the planet.

Q: Is it your most successful album yet?

Since my first one, yes. It feels really gratifying because the album was self-funded. It was made with really good intentions, and no expectations. So it's a lovely feeling.

Ah, bless her cotton socks. The second single off Wanderlust is Runaway Dreamer. Like Young Blood, the video was shot by Sophie Muller, and is based around the album's gorgeous cover shot (or was it the other way round, who knows?).

PS: Let's hope Sophie's third single is one of the record's uptempo numbers - maybe the rumbling, rockabilly 13 Little Dolls?

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Jennifer Lopez has made a single

Pop's least essential megastar, Jennifer Lopez, is back, Back, BACK!

For the uninitiated, Jennifer Lopez is known for two things: (A) Having a bottom and (B) Being from a block. She's not as well known for her music, though, is she? Go on, see if you can name a Jennifer Lopez song this instant. No pausing. No hesitating.

Did you get one? (Jenny From The Block doesn't count because I mentioned it already.)

How about now?

Even writing this piece, the best I could come up with was "Something something ft Pitbull*". Maybe Wikipedia can help fill in the gaps? Ah yes, who can forget such era-defining hits as Louboutins, or Qué Hiciste or I'm Real (Murder Remix)?

But every so often, J-Lo stumbles across a proper pop stonker - like Waiting For Tonight or Dance Again - and it seems she might just have done it again. Her new single is called (and I am not making this up) I Luh Ya Papi. Produced by Detail (Drunk In Love) it's sleek and sexy and fun, and the rapper mentions Jenny From The Block, just so you know who it's by.


Jennifer Lopez - I Luh ya Papi

NB: Pitbull is pop's second least essential megastar

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New Zealand sounds like a bloody miserable place if their pop stars are anything to go by

New Zealand! Beaches! Vineyards! Hobbits! Bungee Jumping! Glaciers! Tectonic Plates! How could anyone living in a land of such plentiful beauty ever feel down in the dumps?

No-one knows but, heavens above, Kiwi pop stars are a miserable bunch.

Take, for example, this example.

Broods - Never Gonna Change

Broods (pictured above, staring into an abyss) are brother-sister duo Caleb and Georgia Nott. He is 21, she is 19. But instead of drinking barrels of party wine and living on a diet of biscuits, they're documenting the sort of suffocating, protracted break-up most of us don't experience until we're at least 27.

They sound like a barrel of laughs, don't they?

The band are curently touring the UK with Haim, and have been in cahoots with songwriter Joel Little. He's the guiding hand behind fellow Kiwi miseryguts Lorde who, coincidentally, also premiered a new track today.

The Brit Award-winner has added her spooky vocal stylings to Easy, a stormy electro track by New York's Son Lux. The result is eerie and beautiful, but it's no Into The Groove, is it?

And let's not forget fun-merchants The Naked And Famous, whose most recent single is a heartwrenching song about the death of singer Alisa Xayalith's mother ("Why couldn't we save you?" she pleads).

Naturally, the video is set at a funeral.

The Naked And Famous - I Kill Giants


Maybe a little too intense. So let's deploy the Flight Of The Conchords, New Zealand's first defence against glum.

There we go. All better now.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New music from Lykke Li

Carefree pop jester Lykke Li has just released a new single, and it's a right barrel of laughs.

Called Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone, it comes with a video in which a be-stricken Lykke rotates slowly on a turntable, like a broken vase in the saddest window display of all time.

See for yourself.

Lykke Li - Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone

Lykke has also posted a typed copy of the lyrics online, so you can sing along at your next family knees-up.

Sarcasm aside, the song is rather beautiful in its desolation. And if strikes a chord, there'll be more of that sort of thing on Lykke's third album, I Never Learn.

Co-produced by Bjorn Yttling and Greg 'I do the good bits in the Lily Allen singles' Kurstin, it is described by its creator as follows: "Every song on the album is a power ballad. Like one of those old radio stations. This is a slow dance; a slow burner". You can hear previews of some of the songs on the singer's set at the 6 Music Festival last weekend.

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Foxes pulls off an astonishing Live Lounge

Some performances just stop you dead in your tracks - and this is one of them.

Pop newcomer Foxes was in Radio 1's Live Lounge today and sang a version of Pharrell's Happy mixed up with the piano-drenched melancholoy of Massive Attack's Teardrop. It shouldn't have worked, but it really, really did.

It was so good that it made me agree with Fearne Cotton, who called the performance "sumptuous and delicious".

Foxes - Happy

Foxes also played her current top 10 smasheroo Let Go For Tonight, singing it so heartily you could see her actual tonsils. That's not on YouTube yet, so here's an acoustic version from something called "Vevo Lift" instead.

Foxes - Let Go For Tonight (acoustic)

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Pharrell, Coldplay and other songs you may have missed

Hello, and welcome to another instalment of "songs you may have missed", aka "songs I have forgotten to write about".

There's a bumper crop this week, kicking off with...

1) Pharrell Williams - Happy (at the Oscars)
Guaranteed to slap a grin on your face, here's an ebullient performance from man-of-the-moment Pharrell Williams. So what if the song didn't win an Oscar, who else can say they got Lupita Nyong'o, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams to dance with them on Sunday night, despite wearing the worst pair of shoes ever seen by humankind? No-one, that's who.

2) Coldplay - Magic
True story: In 2011, one of my 6 Music colleagues ended up sitting next to Chris Martin at an awards show. All night long, she badgered him for an interview. All night long, he refused.

"You probably don't even like Coldplay," he said, trying to shut the situation down.

"I do!" she protested. "I really love your first album."

Eyebrow raised, Martin asked: "And you hate all the others?"

"No, no. It's not that," she protested. "It's just I never bought any of them, so I wouldn't know."

Coldplay apparently took the exchange to heart, because their new single sounds closer to that debut album, Parachutes, than anything they've recorded since. It's called Magic and it goes like this.

3) Arctic Monkeys - Arabella
Four singles in, and AM continues to deliver the goods. Arabella is the moody one, and comes with a video by in-demand director Jake Nava (Kanye's Monster, Beyonce's Single Ladies). Disappointingly, we don't get Alex Turner doing a dance routine in a leotard, but he delivers the song with one almighty swagger.

4) Moonboots ft Kyiki - Don't Ask Why
"I encountered the mysterious undiscovered star @kyiki on a winter night spacewalk," writes producer Moonboots on his Soundcloud page. "We came back with this song."

Not to ruin a fun story, but Kyiki is actually Crystal Fighters' frontwoman Ellie Fletcher, whose vocals caress this feel-good dance track into a dizzy swoon. It's a free download, too. So that's nice.

5) Shakira - Empire
Christing Jesus on a Hotdog, she's not holding anything back, is she?

6) Kate Miller - Collar Up
Don't let the unassuming name fool you, Kate Miller is one heck of a singer. A 19-year-old who is (I think) still unsigned, she sounds like Florence + The Machine, if Florence + The Machine discovered restraint. Her debut single Collar Up is a jagged shard of noir pop, with a chorus that'll stick to you like velcro.

7) Janelle Monae and Charli XCX - Simply Irresistible
Sadly not a duet, but R&B oddball Janelle Monae and pop's best-kept secret Charli XCX have separately recorded versions of Robert Palmer's Simply Irresistible.

The tracks were made for TV channel E! and played during their Oscars red carpet show on Sunday (although I watched it, and failed to hear either of them).

8) Paolo Nutini - Iron Sky (live at Abbey Road)
This one's a slow-burner, so stick with it. Taken from Paolo's forthcoming third album, Iron Sky is a powerful, passionately delivered protest song, which samples Charlie Chaplin's speech from the 1940 anti-Nazi movie The Great Dictator. Adele is a fan:

And that's a wrap. More "fun" and "mayhem" (music videos) tomorrow.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Must-see video: Jungle - Busy Earnin'

It's a brave music video that starts with a single 30-second zoom on a static group of people in a deserted sports hall. But the promo for Jungle's new single Busy Earnin' isn't your average promo. The director only changes shot 12 times in the course of the video. By comparison, Katy Perry's Roar has 12 cuts in its first 25 seconds.

The camera can afford to linger because of the eye-popping choreography - performed by an unidentified, 12-piece dance crew. They're a shade more professional than Haim in their latest video, but no less enjoyable to watch.

Simple but smart, Busy Earnin' follows two similarly brilliant clips for Platoon (starring an 8-year-old B-Girl) and The Heat (breakdancers on roller skates). And those three clips embody literally everything we know about Jungle - save that they're a duo from London, called J and T, who swell to a seven-strong funk outfit when they play live.

Still, their music is the bees knees and you'll be buzzing after you watch this*.

Jungle - Busy Earnin'

* Sorry

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How I lost 10lbs with Little Mix

For a while, it seemed as though Little Mix, Gordon Brittas, Mel C and Louis Spence might never co-star in a high-profile major-label charity music video, but then came along Word Up.

As the slogan for Sport Relief probably doesn't say: "Forget the pies and feast your eyes".

Little Mix - Word Up

Word Up is out on 16 March, and all proceeds go to charity. You can pre-order your copy here.

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