Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Naughty Boy takes it Home on new single

When I say "Naughty Boy", what do you think of?

Alright, what do you think of after you think of The Life Of Brian?

If you're familiar with the London-based producer and his "oeuvre", you'll probably be thinking: Mid-tempo, minor key pop with a bruised-but-beautiful chorus courtesy of Emile Sande or Sam Smith or some other top flight warble-meister.

If you are unfamiliar with his "oeuvre", you're probably still thinking of Monty Python, let's be honest.

Anyway, those in the former category are in for a treat, for Naughty has just unleashed a new single, called Home, featuring a brand new Roc Nation artist Romans. And what have the Romans ever done for us? Well, apart from the aqueduct, the sanitation and the roads, they've recorded an angelic vocal about pining for the safety and comfort of your own home.

It's quite, quite beautiful.

"Ultimately, I feel like I make soul. "That's what I do best," Mr Boy told Radio 1 enthusiasm cyclone, Zane Lowe, as he premiered the record earlier tonight.

"I wanted to separate myself from everyone else," he added. "You get caught up in this British wave of music, which is amazing, but I think Naughty Boy has to stand alone, and this song solidifies that."

Get him, eh?

Home is out on 13 July, as part of (oh joy) a deluxe reissue of his debut album, Hotel Cabana.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Banks announces album release date, streams new song

Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks

In case you missed it, I quite like cheekboned R&B siren Banks, and her peculiar brand of haunted doompop.

After what seems like an interminable wait, her debut album has finally been given a title (Goddess) and a release date (9 September, 2014), which is 19 WHOLE WEEKS AWAY.

A gerbil could get pregnant and give birth four times in 19 weeks. I trust Banks's album will be at least as good as four litters of gerbil babies, or else there will be hell to pay.

In the meantime, here is the title track, as premiered earlier on the NPR website. It features the borderline-irritating couplet "she was a goddess, he should have got this" but manages to be magnificent anyway.

Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Banks Ba... [OK, that's quite enough of that - restraint editor]

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Again and again and again

Royksopp and Robyn have commissioned a lyric video for their not-at-all-bad and definitely-forthcoming new single Do It Again.

Spurred into action, a man with the improbable name of Kacper came round and took some photos of them. Kacper sent the photos to a different man with the equally improbably name Graham Smith, who typed out the song's lyrics on his laptop and animated them by navigating the buttons and menus on Adobe After Effects. Once the video was finished, he delivered it via a download link to the label, who held a meeting about it in a big glass room, then passed it on to Royksopp and Robyn to "sign off". Once everyone was happy, they bunged it onto YouTube, along with this explanatory note:

"We're just about to shoot a full video for "Do It Again". Awaiting it's completion, the most impatient souls out there can spend the meantime losing themselves in this mesmerizing black&white hypno-bonanza - and even sing along should they so desire... B+B*"


Modern life, eh?

Royksopp and Robyn - Do It Again

* B+B are Royksopp's Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland, fact fans

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Katy Perry vs tUnE-yArDs

Whose video gives the best gifs? You decide...

In the red corner, we have Katy Perry who's trying hard (maybe a little too hard) to recreate the viral success of her TGIF video. Her latest promo, for the PRISM track Birthday. In a "hilarious" series of Candid Camera stunts, she poses as hopeless entertainers who ruin other people's birthday parties.

I'm sure it's all a great joke, but some of the children look traumatised.

Katy Perry - Birthday

Meanwhile, in the blue corner, tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus) has gone for the surreal option. Her song Water Fountain has the clack-clack rhythm and nursery rhyme melody of a modern-dayIko Iko and, appropriately enough, the video is styled like a kids' TV show - complete with singing sofa and dancing finger puppets.

Again, your children will be traumatised.

tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain

On balance, I think Katy wins the Gif war, on the basis of this image alone.

But tUnE-yArDs gets special merit for the "bonus content" science lesson she's uploaded to YouTube. How many straws can you cram into a potato?

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Allow us to intro-Juce ourselves

I'm a bit late on this, but here's a new London three-piece, who release their debut single this week, and who've just got themselves added to Radio 1's Introducing playlist. So now is as good a time as any to write about them.

Juce (for that is their name) are Georgia, Chalin and Cherish, an R&B girl band from London. Their debut single, Call Me Out, hit 'the blogs' in February, and 'the blogs' instantly branded them "Britain's answer to Haim". I can see the similarity, but those chunky drum loops and descending vocal melodies remind me much more strongly of All Saints. (That's 'I Know Where It's At' All Saints, not 'Chick Fit' All Saints - which is a relief).

Here's the video, which tips its hat to TLC's Creep: "Watch us running around being tits in silky pyjamas!" the band declare.

Juce - Call You Out

Call You Out was produced by Dan Carey, who owns the Speedy Wunderground label. He then invited them to make a follow-up, abiding by the label's "24-hour" mantra - meaning Braindead was recorded and mastered in a single day with no further embellishments or production trickery allowed.

It's a subtler, more adventurous song - the hooks hiding in the spaces created by a cavernous reverb. If anything, it suggests Juce are capable of outgrowing the "girl band" tag very quickly. Ones to watch, then.

Like what you hear? Call Me Out went onto iTunes this week, while Braindead is available as limited edition vinyl from the Speedy Wunderground site.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Royal Blood - an open letter to CERN

Dear Science,

If you're planning an ultra-slow-motion video of particles smashing each other to smithereens in the Large Hadron Collider, thus revealing the secrets of the sub-atomic universe, this should be the soundtrack.

You're welcome.

Best etc,
Royal Blood

Fact corner: Come On Over was originally the b-side to Royal Black's first record, Out Of The Black, last year. Over the months, it's become one of the highlights of the Brighton duo's set - prompting them to dust it off, polish it up and give it the single treatment.

Royal Blood also made their debut on Jools Holland last night, playing a searing version of Little Monster. Three minutes of headbanging coming right up:

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Ella Henderson premieres her debut, Ghost

Two years ago, Ella Henderson did this:

Now she's done this:

What a song.

What. A. Song.

Ghost is a co-write with Ryan Tedder who, lest we forget, launched X Factor UK's only other viable female solo artist. And, unlike Leona, Ella has more hits up her metaphorical musical sleeves. Like this one.

It would be premature to say "a star is born" - but, wow, this is an impressive start.

Ella's debut album, Chapter One, is out in the "fall" and Ghost comes to iTunes in 5½ weeks.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter round-up: Kylie, Prince, Lana and more

Because they're all servants of Satan, pop stars don't take Easter off. So while we were all lazing around and enjoying the bank holiday weekend, tons of new music started cropping up online. Here's a selection of the best...

1) Prince - Breakdown
Actually, this song of pentinence is quite in keeping with the Easter theme.

"I used to throw the party every New Year’s Eve / first one intoxicated, last one to leave," sings Prince, who catalogues the material things he used to crave, and how they left him feeling empty.

The first release from his freshly-inked Warner Bros deal, Breakdown is also his best ballad since Gold. Sadly, it's only available in the US.

PS: Prince just tweeted a link to a video for Breakdown, where the song is played over a scene from Analyze This, in which Robert DeNiro bursts into tears during a television commercial. Most odd.

2) Lana Del Rey - West Coast (radio mix)
Producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys has tweaked Lana's new single to make it stand out amidst the Aviciis and Calvin Harrisses of daytime radio. It's not vastly different, just a little crisper and forthright.

3) Jack White - Lazaretto
Warning: Contains violin solo.

4) First Aid Kit - My Silver Lining
Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit were one of the surprise hits of last summer's Glastonbury - easing everyone into Sunday morning with a set full of lilting harmonies and astutely-judged covers of Bob Dylan's One More Cup Of Coffee and America by Simon & Garfunkel.

Backed by the Omaha Symphony Orchestra, their new single My Silver Lining is a rolling station wagon, ploughing through the dusty plains of, er... Stockholm. This week's record of the week on 6 Music, it's taken from Johanna and Klara Söderberg's forthcoming album Stay Gold.

5) Kylie Minogue - Golden Boy
An off-cut from Kylie's Kiss Me Once album, released on vinyl for Record Store Day. It's good b-side material, basically.

6) Coldplay - Magic (Giorgio Moroder remix)
This wouldn't sound out of place on a Pet Shop Boys album. And I mean that as a compliment.

7) Lily Allen - Sheezus
This is all going so well until Lily starts singing about her period.

8) Janet Jackson - Untitled new project
Legendary producer Jimmy Jam popped up on Twitter this weekend to hint he'd been back in the studio with his longterm muse, Janet "Ms Jackson if you're nasty" Jackson.

I'm not sure anyone but her hardcore fans are going to be excited by this news BUT as one of those hardcore fans, I'm dying to know what they've been up to. Janet's career took a nosedive after the SuperBowl incident - but the scandal was only part of it. She'd largely cut off her relationship with Jam & Lewis, who co-wrote all of her biggest hits, and her last three albums just weren't good enough for people to forget that nipple piercing.

So, in the hope that's she's rediscovered her mojo, let's remind ourselves of Janet and Jam and Lewis's finest moment - onstage at the 1987 Grammys. Trenchcoats at the ready!

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This Avril Lavigne video is utterly bonkers

"Anyone who takes himself too seriously runs the risk of looking ridiculous;
anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not
I'm not suggesting Avril Lavigne has been studying the political essays of late Czech President Vaclav Havel, but she's certainly reached the same conclusion. After years of playing the stroppy, angsty teenager with ever-decreasing credibility, she's started having a bit of fun with her image. (Ironically, this seems to have coincided with her marriage to meat-and-two-veg rock bore Chad Kroeger).

Last summer, Avril released a video called Rock And Roll which was nuttier than a nut loaf spread with peanut butter by Charles Schulz. Now, she's back with a song called Hello Kitty which, quite frankly, suggests her brain has bolted the paddock and left the gate open.

Clearly targetted at the lucrative Japanese market - where Avril is still a major draw - it's a balls-out, hundred carat pop song that's apparently based on the combined back catalogues of Shampoo and Psy.

I'm not suggesting it carries any particular artistic merit, but it is delightfully, joyously deranged - with lyrical flourishes including: "Let's have a slumber party, like a fat kid on a pack of smarties. Someone chuck a cupcake at me." (???)

Video below.

Avril Lavigne - Hello Kitty

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Songs you may have missed: Easter edition

It's been a pretty busy week on the blog - with excellent new songs from Lana Del Rey, and Sky Ferreira, and OneRepublic and Robyn in the mix. But here are some of the ones I didn't get round to writing about...

1) Clean Bandit - Rather Be (Live on Jools)
This is the first time I've ever seen Clean Bandit in the flesh. There are about 80 of them. Who knew?

2) Iggy Azalea ft Rita Ora - Black Widow
If you haven't latched onto the Iggy Azalea bandwagon so far, this could be the song to turns you around. Like Katy Perry's Dark Horse, it weds a sparse, minor-key verse to a soaring chorus that gets clipped just before you get to the good bit. It's a cruel tease, but it leaves you wanting more every time.

Clever writing, then, and a good trailer for Iggy's debut album, The New Classic, which "drops" (is released) on Monday.

3) Prince - Computer Blue (full version)
The news that Prince has kissed and made up with Warner Bros means my wallet's going to get much, much lighter.

For a start, it means albums like Parade and Sign O The Times will be remastered and re-released (and believe me, they need it - the original CD masters are woefully tinny and quiet). But the deluxe, 30th Anniversary edition of Purple Rain also promises a bunch of rarities from the Vault. Let's hope it includes an official release for this long-cherished, 14-minute bootleg of Computer Blue.

Sadly, that track can't be embedded - so here's Mr Rogers Nelson performing Purple Rain at the Brits instead.

4) Paolo Nutini - Recover
The mumbling Scotsman covers Chvrches, with spine-tingling results.

5) MNEK - Every Little Thing
It's pronounced Em-En-Ee-Kay, and he's the biggest UK pop star you've never heard of.

He wrote Need U (100%) with Duke Dumont. He plays the spoons on Rudimental's Spoons. That was his voice on Gorgon City's Ready For Your Love. Little Mix's Wings? He produced that one. And he's working with Florence + The Machine, too.

Somehow, in the middle of all that productivity, he's been making his own solo record. Every Little Thing is the 100% not bollocks first single.

6) AlunaGeorge - Kaleidoscope Love (Kaytranada Remix)
Montreal DJ/Remixer Kaytranada has taken one of the least-loved tracks on AlunaGeorge's debut album and turned it into a deep, dark house cut. The backing suits Aluna's ethereal vocals so well, it should give the band a hint of where to take their second album.

7) Future ft Andre 3000 - Benz Friendz (Watchutola)
The stand-out track on Future's new album is a two-hander with Outkast's Andre 3000, with both rappers insisting they do not care for a girl and her choice of automotive transport. Andre goes so far as to declare he'd rather ride his bike or walk. God knows why, but this is one the catchiest beats you'll hear all Easter.

8) Lulu James - Beautiful People
21-year-old Lulu James has been bubbling under for a year or so. Born in Tanzania, raised in South Shields, she's Jessie Ware with a harder edge and a voice that'd make Aretha Franklin jealous.

Beautiful People is the first track from her new, as-yet-untitled, EP. It starts quietly but builds and builds until your walls start vibrating. Spellbinding stuff.

9) Culann - All Reverie
I wrote an article for the BBC News site this week on "the return of rock" - based on the fact that, finally, the UK is producing some guitar bands good enough to be played on daytime radio.

Afterwards, I got no end of abuse on Twitter from hardcore rock fans who said I didn't know what I was talking about. Maybe, but the article wasn't targeted at Metal Hammer readers and, to the majority of Radio One and Two listeners, new guitar bands have been pretty thin on the ground for the last few years.

Anyway, the positive result of the piece was that lots of guitar bands sent their videos at me. Here's one I liked, from Scottish five-piece Culann. Singer PJ Kelly's Celtic lilt has a touch of the Biffy Clyros, while his band are clearly accomplished musicians - this single makes a lot of unexpected detours on its way to the chorus without ever descending into fretwanking. (Unsurprisingly, Culann say they're fans of prog bands like Yes and Rush).

The video, meanwhile, stars Rab Affleck, who you might recognise from his hard-man roles in Layer Cake and Gangs of New York.

10) Nas - It Ain't Hard To Tell (Stink Mix)
A parping jazz remix to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nas's debut album Illmatic. You've got to love a rap song with a flute loop.

11) Pawws - Sugar
"Upsetting disco" says the bio on Pawws Twitter page, and I couldn't have put it better myself.

She's a London-based electro singer, with shades of Little Boots and St Etienne in her sugar-spun 80s pop. The cascading synth lines in her debut single are sweeter than Canderel. Just the thing for Easter.

That's all for this week, then. Happy Festival of the Chocolate Jesus!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sky Ferreira: I Blame Myself

Despite 94 aborted albums and a career-threatening drug bust, Sky Ferreira is a very good pop star. Her music sounds, as one critic put it, like its been dragged through a hedge backwards. But what a hedge, readers. What. A. Hedge.

Her album Night Time, My Time is dirty and catchy and complex and scuzzy - full of electric guitars and the sort of "I don't give a fuck" attitude that Rihanna pretends to have, while simultaneously recording incredibly mainstream pop records with Calvin Harris. Night Time is by no means perfect, but that increasingly seems like Sky Ferreira's USP.

The standout song is I Blame Myself - a minimal electro track that sees Sky take responsibility for all of her bad habits. "I blame myself for my reputation," she sings, although you're never entirely certain she means it.

The video doesn't clear things up, but it's a damn fine watch. A hat-tip to The Wire and the gangsta rap videos of the 90s, it also features some whip-cracking choreography and (George Michael alert!) a parody of her arrest. Meanwhile, she looks like a young Madonna dressed as Chrissie Hynde singing a Debbie Harry song. Those are some big shoes but on Sky Ferreira they're a snug fit.

You have to watch it on this website until Friday morning. I'll update the blog as soon as the embargo lifts. Until then, here's a rubbish 15 second teaser.

PS: Some people have accused Sky of being racist because all the dancers in this video are black (???). In response, she posted a furious status update Facebook - it's a great read.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's Ingrid Michaelson been up to, then?

Pop's very own Tina Fey, Ingrid Michaelson, shoved her new album Lights Out onto iTunes last night, and instantly jumped to number 2 in the US chart. Simultaneously, she also uploaded the entire record to YouTube, which is pretty generous for an artist who releases all of her music independently. I say generous. I might mean foolhardy. It's hard to tell.

In the US they categorise Ingrid as "adult contemporary", which is a backhanded way of saying "boring". But that's grossly unfair. She makes smart, literate, catchy pop - and, while she's been guilty of overdoing the ukulele in the past - Lights Out is her most adventurous album to date.

Critics have deployed words like "experimental" and "fierce" and, almost inevitably, "Kate Bush" (she's a woman, you see). And they're not wrong. Everything about this record obliterates the memory of her garishly twee self-help anthem Be OK.

Here's why...

Ingrid tragically lost her voice during the recording process last year. "My whole throat was on fire for a few months," she told The Beacham. "I don't think I've lost part of my voice, but my voice has somewhat changed."

More importantly, the fear of not being able to sing pushed Ingrid's writing down some darker paths. Take, for example, the haunting, spine-tingling Handsome Hands. It's the sound of Bjork singing to us from the afterlife.

Ingrid Michaelson - Lights Out

Also worth a look is the video for lead single, Girls Chase Boys, in which Ingrid takes Robert Palmer's famous(ly sexist) video for Addicted To Love and flips the gender roles. The song's not bad, either.

Ingrid Michaelson - Girls Chase Boys

Lights Out isn't appearing on the UK iTunes yet, but you can order the CD off Amazon today, or just put that YouTube playlist on repeat.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

OneRepublic have a hit on their hands

Love Runs Out, the new single from OneRepublic is a great big swampy gospel stomp with handclaps like thunderbolts.
When I spoke to Ryan Tedder [clang!] last month, he told me he'd laboured over this song for several months:

Love Runs Out was originally going to be the first single on our album (Native, released March last year) but I couldn't crack the chorus. It gutted me because I had it marked on the board as "first single" for six months. Brent Kutzle, who is the cello and bass player in the band, said: "Man, we cannot put this out with an A+ verse and a B+ chorus."

It was completely crushing my ego but I was like: "He's right." The verse was an A and everything else was an A but the chorus was a B. So we tabled it.

A year later, with the whole song elevated to A+ status, Love Runs Out is being added to a repackaged version of Native. It's out today if you're in "the rest of the world" or at an unspecified future date in the unloved, rain-soaked British Isles.

But as good as the song is (and it is very good indeed), can you imagine how much better it would be with Adele belting out the vocals? It would be number one for the rest of the century.

Oh, and you can read my full interview with Mr Tedder on the BBC.

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Exciting news from Robyn (and Royksopp)

Hooray! There is a new mini-album on the way from Robyn and Röyksopp. The cover art, which is hovering above this paragraph, bills the performers as Röyksopp and Robyn, but I think we all know the correct order - both alphabetically and in terms of importance.

The two have collaborated before - most memorably on None Of Dem (slow-burning, introspective) and The Girl and The Robot (Madonna fed through a Commodore 64) - but this is something altogether more meaty.

"In the beginning we just knew we wanted to do something together, and then it started to feel more like a band thing than songs for a Röyksopp or Robyn album, so we're releasing this music together as a band, you could say," said Robyn.

"This five track mini-album is the accumulation and embodiment of the synergy between Robyn and ourselves," added Röyksopp, in an attempt to drain any potential excitement from the announcement.

Monument is the first track we're getting to hear - via a 1'30" preview on YouTube. It sounds promising.

Robyn and Röyksopp - Monument (preview)

Fans of longsongs (I'm looking at you Justin Timberlake) will be pleased to hear that the full version of Monument is just three seconds shy of 10 minutes. The full EP tracklisting looks like this:
Monument - 9:57
Sayit - 6:25
Do It Again - 5:06
Every Little Thing - 4:02
Inside The Idle Hour Club - 9:53

You can pre-order it now, with delivery on 26 May. But the first single, Do It Again, is only two weeks away.

"Hoo", as I said, "Ray".

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Lana Del Rey's new single: An early review

I'm writing this in advance so please delete anything that doesn't apply. Thanks.

Here it is: The stunning/awful West Coast, the first single/buzz track from Lana Del Rey's album Ultraviolence which she's releasing this summer/just Beyoncé'd all over iTunes.

It's called West Coast, because it's all about California glamour/Her rap feud with Nas/it's a typo and she meant to call it Wet Coat.

Musically, it's a brave departure/unadventurous retread of her first record with breathy vocals/breathy vocals/breathy vocals over a trip-hop beat/mournful piano/magical mouse orchestra.

Our verdict: 2/4/7/9 out of 10.

Lana Del Ray - West Coast

Update: I've listened to it once, and it's gorgeous - from the opening drum fill, to the lolloping guitar lick and Lana's pouty "I'm leaving you" vocals.

It's more of a mood piece than Video Games or National Anthem, and, apart from the live instrumentation, hardly a radical evolution of her sound. But it's a delicate, seductive comeback, replete with twangy tempo changes and just a hint of The Aloud's "Fling" (in the "move baby, move baby" section, or maybe that's just me?).

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Charli XCX reveals new soundtrack song

Fault In Our Stars is one of the best books I read last year. The story of a young teenager with terminal cancer who's forced to attend a support group, it's acerbic and funny and philosophical all at once.

Written by US author John Green, I devoured it during a spell on jury duty, even writing down several quotes which, looking at them now, out of context, seem a little overcooked. This one is my favourite, though.

"The voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again."

The book is being turned into a film starring Shailene Woodley and Willem Dafoe, which is due later this summer. Director Josh Boone has a knack for cool soundtracks - 2012's Stuck in Love featured The National, Bon Iver Conor Oberst - and it seems Fault In Our Stars will follow suit. The trailer featured Sleeping At Last and OneRepublic, and now Charli XCX has unveiled her contribution, Boom Clap.

Sparky and shouty with an undercurrent of melancholy, it's a perfect fit for the story's central relationship. "You're the glitter and the darkness in my world," sings Charli.

Listen below.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Katy Perry's birthday suit and seven other songs you may have missed

This week's groundbreaking installment of songs-you-may-have-missed contains several songs you may have missed. It's a revolution.

1) Katy Perry - Birthday (lyric video)
La Perry's lyric videos have a bigger budget than most artists get for their actual promos. And what does Katy do with all that extra cash? Spends it on cake. Amazing.

2) Calvin Harris - Summer
Calvin Harris has also been handed a sizeable promo budget, but he's spent it all on bikini girls and sports cars. Watch out, Harris, or you'll turn into Jamiroquai.

3) Jamie xx - Sleep Sound
Now, this is more like it: A dance video, starring 13 members of the Manchester Deaf Centre, set to a hypnotic new song by Jamie xx.

Director Sofia Mattioli says the video was inspired by a train journey: "I was listening to music, getting deep into it, and this girl started staring at me. After a while I took my headphones off and she came up to me, started signing and then wrote me a note to say that she was deaf but could almost feel the music by my movement."

Captivating and mesmerising.

4) Say Lou Lou - Everything We Touch (Yannis Foals mix)
Sexy, euphoric, Swedish pop. There's something special about Say Lou Lou and Yannis Philippakis from "intellectual" rock band Foals clearly agrees.

He's run his feather duster all over their new single Everything We Touch and given it a sparkling, heavenly sheen. Damned-near perfect.

5) Tove Lo - Stay High (Hippie Sabotage remix)
I prefer the original version of Tove Lo's Habits but Radio One have playlisted this trancey remix for complicated music 'biz' reasons we'll never fully understand. On the downside, the remix has bumped the superior Love Ballad off her Truth Serum EP (otherwise it wouldn't be chart eligible in the UK). On the plus side, Tove is now number seven in the iTunes chart.

A remix video has been hastily cobbled together and looks like this.

NB - my interview with Tove went up on the BBC News site today. You can read it here.

6) Foxes - Holding On To Heaven
Foxes is gradually turning into a genuine pop star. Photogenic, witty, fond of tempo changes, with a constant hint of melancholy in her voice.

Holding On To Heaven follows up the top 10 hits Youth and Let Go For Tonight (although it's also been a free download in the past which is very confusing). Taken from her forthcoming album Glorious, it's power ballad o'clock.

7) Nightbox - Burning
"Hi Mark, I'm Andrew Keyes, the bassist in Nightbox," said an email in my inbox earlier this week. "I'd appreciate if you'd lend me your ears for a moment to check out my band's upcoming release."

After a complex and painful surgical procedure, I did lend Andrew my ears and, contrary to expectations the "upcoming release" was 100% not shit.

Recorded in the band's living room ("we've got wooden floors", says Andrew, "far easier to clean up") but given the once over by MSTRKRFT and Sebastien Grainger of DFA 1979, their EP is propulsive, rhythmic indiepop.

The EP's out on 22 April, with Burning as the lead track - but you can check out their other material on Soundcloud.

8) Klaxons - There Is No Other Time
A return to form if ever there was one.

That's your lot. There's also a Kylie lyric video doing the rounds, but I couldn't think of anything to say about it.

See you again on Monday when apparently there'll be a new Lana Del Rey single to discuss. Exciting.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lykke Li releases No Rest For The Wicked video

Stately and melancholy, Lykke Li's new single No Rest For The Wicked now has a stately, melancholy video to call its very own.

Like the song, the Tarik Saleh-directed clip is a tale of betrayal. "I let my true love down," sings Lykke, who stands aside while her lover is hunted down by some dodgy-looking ne'er-do-wells.

None of it is particularly cheery but, on the plus side, you get to see Lykke Li in a hairnet.

See it "in full" below...

Lykke Li - No Rest For The Wicked

PS: Here's an interview with Lykke Li, courtesy of my old 6 Music colleague Georgie Rogers. It's pretty intense.

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A simple beautiful truth

Button up your parka for the new video from Wild Beasts. A Simple Beautiful Truth sees the Kendal quartet travelling o'er the valleys and 'cross the dales in pursuit of what can only be described as a giant glowing umbrella.

Initially, they appear to be moving in a bizarre synchronised dance but, in a lovely touch from directors Klaus Thymann & Mike Hughes, it turns out they're spelling out "A Simple Beautiful Truth" in sign language.

See it with your own eyes below.

Wild Beats - A Simple Beautiful Truth

The video was filmed on Hay Bluff in Wales, which means that's Lord Hereford's Knob in the background. No matter how old I get, that's guaranteed to make me laugh.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sia makes a playground error (literally)

Australian pop sensation and pip cleaner enthusiast Sia has just uploaded a lyric video for future number one hit Chandelier to YouTube. Unsurprisingly, it features the lyrics to the song ("I'm holding on for dear life, won't look down won't open my eyes"). More unusually, it features Sia's wig, just floating around doing everyday wig stuff without its human.

One of the things Sia's wig does is visit a children's playground. Clearly, the director saw an opportunity for a visual pun: When Sia sings "I'm gonna swing", the wig should be seen having a go on a swing. But unless I'm very much mistaken, this is clearly a slide.


Sia - Chandelier

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Chris Martin is a witch. Burn him!

There's sorcery in his fingers...

Chris Martin has been raiding the dress-up box for Coldplay's new video, Magic. The singer and concious uncoupler plays both hero and villain in a black-and-white potboiler, where Cecile, a beautiful young circus performer, must choose between Claude, "her mustachioed husband, the famous but drunk magician," and her assistant, Christoph.

Shot in the style of a 1930s silent movie, intertitles and all, it stars Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi as Cecile and is the work of Swedish director Jonas Akerlund, who'll you know from Lady Gaga's Paparazzi, Christina Aguilera's Beautiful and, err.. Me Julie by Shaggy and Ali G.

I won't spoil the plot - but both video and song are pleasingly light-of-touch from a band who often veer into self-righteous pomp.


Coldplay - Magic

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Here is Ed Sheeran's very good new single

Isn't it great when pop stars turn around and do something unexpected and brilliant? Case in point: Ed Sheeran, whose Pharrell-produced new single gives us 2014's first proper "wait, what?" moment.

Sing starts off in the hiccupy vein of Justin Timberlake's Like I Love You then, just when you think you know where Ed's heading, he launches into one of his patented not-quite-raps, tips his hat to Rihanna's We Found Love, and knocks out a hook that's hookier than Edward Hookyhands.

It's a hit, and no mistake.

Ed Sheeran - Sing

After the song premiered on Zane Lowe's show tonight, Ed popped up on YouTube answering questions "from the fans" about his new record, x. Here's what we learned.
:: Sing is a "self-explanatory" story of a night out in Vegas, where Ed got chatting to a girl and ended up "ignoring everyone, hoping they would disappear so we could get down." The cad.

:: Pharrell is the "embodiment of soul," apparently. "Making the song he didn't dance once," said Ed, "he just moved his neck slightly."

:: During the recording sessions, guests in the studio included David Blaine (!) and Leonard Nimoy (!!)

:: The single is out now everywhere except the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia, where you have to have pre-orders because of the way radio playlists work (I think I understood this point even less than Ed, whose grasp was shaky at best).

:: A ginger person in the audience asked: "Ed, how do you feel that the world's entire population of gingers looks to you for inspiration to go outside?" The answer went on for a very long time but, essentially, Ed said: "It feels alright, thanks".

:: Taylor Swift is a regular person, who serves food at her house.

:: He had an analogy about songs coming out of a dirty tap, with "a lot of shit" in the water. The tap eventually runs clean, and that is an Ed Sheeran album.

:: The new album is called x, which means multiply.

:: x will be themed around the colour green, in the same way that + was entirely orange. This is somehow Coldplay's fault.

:: On Ed's last album, "11 out of the 12 songs are the same chord sequence just with the capo on a different fret."

:: Ed pretends not to have tattoos in front of his gran, who thinks he draws them on by hand before every live show.

So there you have it. Ed Sheeran. Nice chap. Great song.

What a nice way to start the week.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Haim go disco and nine other songs you may have missed

The latest in a semi-regular round-up from pop's bargain bins. This week's overlooked classics include:

1) Haim - If I Could Change Your Mind (Cerrone Mix)
A couple of months ago Haim got Giorgio Moroder to remix Forever. Now they've roped in French disco lynchpin Cerrone (the inspiration for Goldfrapp's Supernature) to overhaul If I Could Change Your Mind.

He keeps nothing but the vocals, laying them over a smooth Chic groove, thus transforming Haim into a shaggy-haired Sister Sledge.

Roller skates at the ready...

2) Shakira - Empire
Always at her best when she goes full bananas, Shakira holds nothing back on this furniture-chewing torch ballad. As usual, her metaphors go awry in translation ("And the stars make love to the universe??") but she sings it with such demented conviction you let her get away with it.

If you fancy more Empire, Shakira's performance on last week's The Voice UK was a masterclass in stagecraft.

3) Nick Mulvey - Meet Me There
Until 2011, Nick Mulvey was one of the members of Mercury-nominated jazz outfit Portico Quartet, where he played the Hang, a sort of steel drum invented in Switzerland 13 years ago.

These days, however, he's doing lots of clever, Latin-flecked finger picking on his acoustic guitar. You may have already come across his Jack Johnson-y single Cucurucu, which got to number 26 last year.

Meet Me There is even better - elevated above the usual "wispy boy with a guitar" fare by a beguiling bowed cello counter-melody. You don't get a degree in music from the School of Oriental and African Studies for nothing, you know.

4) Tourist (ft Will Heard) - I Can't Keep Up
Signed to Disclosure's Method Records, Tourist is the alter-ego of DJ William Phillips. Like the Lawrence Brothers, he's been building a profile with a bunch of influential instrumentals, before hiring in a few vocalists to send his career chartwise.

Lifted from his forthcoming Patterns EP (which also features Lianne LaHavas) I Can't Keep Up features the soulful crooning of Ireland's Will Heard, and builds steadily for three minutes before, whoosh, soaring off into the stratosphere.

In the week when Frankie Knuckles sadly passed away, this is just one of a dozen new releases that's utterly indebted to his music.

5) Rita Ora - I Will Never Let You Down (Westfunk mix)
I wasn't sure about Rita Ora's comeback single when it premiered on Monday but, with every listen, it sounds more like a hit. Calvin Harris's production is a little subtle, though, so here's a ridiculous rave remix. Air punch o'clock.

6) Sex On Toast - Hold My Love
Of course there's a band called Sex On Toast, and of course they make retro 80s lurve ballads. This is essentially trying to cover Prince's Scandalous, all slap bass and vocoder solos and sticky-fingered fumbling under your sweater.

At least the band don't take themselves too seriously, as the video demonstrates.

7) Drake - Draft Day
New material from "Drizzy" who's always better when he's rapping. This samples Lauryn Hill's Doo-Wop (That Thing), which should go some way towards paying her legal bills.

8) Chloe Howl - Rumour (acoustic)
Chloe Howl deserves a break. Rumour only got to number 84 when it came out earlier this year - but somehow #Selfie goes Top 10? The world is an unjust place.

Especially when you can make a terrible bit of "online content" work so well in your favour. Would you catch Beyonce delivering a flawless performance on a freezing cold rooftop with her hands shoved in her pockets to avoid chillblains? I think not.

9) Sam Smith - Stay With Me
An acceptable recovery after the godawful Money On My Mind, here is Sam Smith doing what Sam Smith does best - singing a lovelorn ballad with the voice of an angel.

"Hang on," you might say, "Surely warbling over the top of Disclosure songs is what Sam Smith does best?" And you would be right. So here is Sam Smith doing what Sam Smith does second best.

10)How To Dress Well - Repeat Pleasure
With touches of both Janet (breathy falsetto)and Michael Jackson (Human Nature synth line), this is seductive, forward-looking soul from American musician Tom Krell. The comparison isn't completely plucked out of thin air, by the way, he covered Janet's Again last year.

NB: You should stick with this one to the end - it grows and grows like a Wotsit in a glass of water.

The end.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: Tove Lo at Notting Hill Arts Club

The signs were good from the start. Two drum kits on an empty stage means, at some point, two people will be drumming on that stage. And that can only result in one thing: A bloody great racket.

And that's perfect because Tove Lo doesn’t do understatement. Her songs are BIG SONGS, full of passion and despair. The band knows it, too, and deliver her pop hooks with the full-blooded conviction of a rock group.

"It's sweaty up here," Tove announces two songs into the set. "I hope it's sweaty down there too." It is. Fists are pumped and rugs are cut. During Out Of Mind, pop star Marina and the Diamonds turned round and screamed at us “Fucking smash!”

Tove delivers her Truth Serum EP in order, which makes sense, as the six songs tell the story of a relationship, from besotted beginnings to devastating, drug-fuelled break-up. "I’ve got to stay high all the time to keep you off my mind," she sings – leading the audience in the world’s least appropriate arms-aloft singalong.

Tove Lo - Habits

Her vocals are flawless but not in an airbrushed way. Tove sings from her gut, and the audience clearly responds to her candour.

The set closes with Run On Love, her collaboration with Lucas Nord. It’s a euphoric, uplifting palate cleanser following the emotional turmoil of the Truth Serum material. “This was my first ever UK show,” beams the singer as she walks off stage. “It was amazing!”

As you can probably tell, I was blown away. It’s so refreshing to be at a pop show that engages the heart as well as the senses. If you get the chance to see Tove before she becomes an arena-bound pop megastar, grab it with both hands.

Lucas Nord ft Tove Lo - Run On Love

Love Ballad
Not On Drugs
Out of Mind
Run On Love

Top picture courtesy of Julian Rupert. The other shot was taken on my crappy phone.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A brief pop blitz

Not to bother you with "real world problems" but work has been unbelievably hectic today, and I'm just hurtling out the door out to watch Tove Lo play a gig in London's London (more on that another time). But, before I hurtle, her are three brand new videos that caught my attention...

1) Clean Bandit - Extraordinary
Following up their number one smash Rather Be, Clean Bandit stick to the house music + string quartet script on Extraordinary. The video is delightfully silly.

2) Mapei - Don't Wait
Mapei is a Rhode Island-born, Stockholm-based singer who used to share a flat with Lykke Li. Don't worry, though, this isn't a borderline suicidal pop dirge. In fact, it's an utterly gorgeous, rhythmically diverse love song. Or, in Mapei's own words, "a hip-hop beat with some nice singing over it."

3) Icona Pop - On A Roll
The further away we get from I Love It, the more it begins to seem like a fluke. But Icona Pop really don't deserve to go down in history as one hit wonders: Their "This Is..." album has more spunk and vigour than all of The Saturdays back catalogue put together. I'm not sure On A Roll is the song to set the duo back on track, but the spilt-screen video is just about worth three minutes of your life.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Katy B bundled off to the loony bin

Egads! Someone has locked Katy B in a padded cell, forced her to clutch a potato in each hand and turned it to a music video. The lengths record companies will go to...

Not really, of course. The big white room is just a handy metaphor for Katy's mental anguish in her new single, Still (it's a ballad). The setting also makes her shocking red barnet the only splash of colour in an otherwise monochrome video. It's like Schindler's List, but without the Nazi death camps.

Katy B - Still

PS: Does anyone think Katy might have had to spend time in an asylum after the terrifying scenario depicted in the 5am video? No? Just me, then.

Katy B - 5am

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