Friday, May 30, 2014

John Mayer covers Beyonce's XO and 10 other songs you may have missed

This is the bit where I round up all the songs I didn't have time to write about over the last week (and it's been a busy week - with trips to Leeds and Bradford and Manchester - so I didn't have time to write about much).

So, without any further ado, our cover stars are...

1) John Mayer - XO
XO is the most songy song on Beyonce's Beyonce, so this strummed acoustic cover was guaranteed to work from the off. Beautifully understated, with none of the bombastic grandstanding of the original.

2) Sam Smith (or is it?) - Stay With Me
My erstwhile colleague, Radio 1's Sinead Garvan, had a shocker while interviewing Sam Smith at Radio 1's Big Weekend last week. If you haven't seen it already - here's the video. Sam's face is priceless.

Maybe that's why he's smiling from ear-to-ear when he takes to the stage. Or maybe it's the incredible reaction. Either way, it's a lovely, inclusive performance.

3) Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud (Live on Later...)
"Playing a brand new never before heard song on jools tonight," tweeted Ed Sheeran last Friday. "It's my favourite track on the album."

It's easy to see why. This is a superbly-crafted, heart-on-sleeve love song. The sort of thing you'd have expected from Tracy Chapman or Paul McCartney at the peak of their powers.

Yes, it's really that good. Even Jools's boogie-woogie piano can't ruin it.

4) Broods - Bridges

Not-entirely-unattractive pop duo Broods (see above) first released this single as a free download in 2013. But now that the New Zealanders have got a "proper" record deal in the States, the song's been given an expensively hazy Instagram-style video.

Shot around the Castaic Lake in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, it's a perfect fit for the song's moody electronic swoosh.

5) La Roux - Uptight Downtown
So, basically, the La Roux song that came out a fortnight ago was a "hey, we're back" kind of thing and this is the proper single that you'll hear on your radiogram this summer.

As many people have already noted, it sounds a lot like David Bowie's Let's Dance. But while Bowie was all "heyyy, let's party," Ellie Jackson is having really deep thoughts about her generation and stuff.

"It's kind of very loosely based on the London Riots," she told Triple J radio. "I grew up in Brixton where the first riots happened... It was interesting to see people of my generation try to at least get up and stand up for what they believed in.

"I think it's just the energy people would have liked to have seen from those riots and I kind of tried to turn a negative into a positive."

6) Foster The People - Best Friend
Foster The People's second album, Supermodel, hasn't exactly set the charts on fire in the UK, but they made the Top 10 in the US. Which is good news, because it means the band keep getting to make their excellent videos.

Directors Ben and Alex Brewer helm the latest clip, which takes a B-Movie look at fashion week. The models may be stick thin, but they have a voracious appetite... FOR HUMAN FLESH!

7) Miguel - Simplethings
Displaying the expert timing of a blacmange, Miguel has just released a video for a song he debuted in January.

But we can forgive his tardiness when the song, originally featured in Series 3 of Lena Dunham's Girls, is so gorgeous. "Laugh with me baby," he croons over an indistinct, sawtooth bassline, "I just want the simple things."

8) Katy Perry - Dark Horse (live at Radio 1's Big Weekend)
What does she sphinx she's playing at, etcetera...

9) The Pierces - Kings

The Pierces' new album, Creation, has just been given a highly-justified four-star review in Q Magazine, while the lead single, Kings, is on Radio 2's A-list... So things are looking up for the Alabama sisters.

The video, shot in the Los Angeles desert, has a tribal theme with Allison and Catherine slapping on the warpaint and going to battle. But this is no Braveheart - no-one's head gets chopped off and everyone stops fighting at sundown to have a nice bonfire.

10) Lana Del Rey - Shades of Cool
A little teaser for Lana's Ultraviolence album, which arrives in a fortnight.

All twangy steel guitars and brushed drums it shows more clearly than West Coast how she's moved away from the trip-hop trappings of her debut. The mid-point guitar solo (!) is hair-raising.

11) Prince - The Breakdown (teaser)
I finally got to see Prince play one of his Hit and Run shows in Leeds last week - and was utterly blown away. Thanks to his muscular, compact new band 3rdEyeGirl, he's ditched the Vegas vamp that's characterised his live shows since the Musicology tour ten years ago.

"If you haven't noticed there's been a turn towards the guitar these days," he said, as his fingers blurred over the neck of his Telecaster. He even nabbed Ida Nielsen's bass for an impromptu bass solo during a rendition of Alphabet Street - just one of half-a-dozen songs I've never heard him play before (I nearly died when he played the opening chords to Sometimes It Snows In April).

My official review is on the BBC site, and here's the peerless setlist. Surprisingly, one of the highlights was his newest song, The Breakdown.

Still no word on a UK release, but the song just got a teaser video on the 3rdEyeGirl Youtube channel.

And that's a wrap. Have a great weekend!

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Video - Seinabo Sey: Hard Times

I mentioned Swedish/Gambian singer Seinabo Sey's stunning single Hard Times in last week's "songs you may have missed" splurge.

But in case you missed the songs you may have missed, here is one of the songs you may have missed. Again.

And this time it has a video.

Seinabo Sey - Hard Times

According to the press release, Hard Times "combines the ultra-modern feel of downtempo R&B and glacial Swedish electronica with the melodrama of Lauryn Hill and classic cult American blues singer Vera Hall."

Vera Hall, of course, is the woman who sang Trouble So Hard in 1937. The anti-slavery protest song was later sampled by Moby on Natural Blues in 2000. You can certainly hear the inspiration.

Vera Hall - Trouble So Hard

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The seven best bits of the new Nicole Scherzinger single, Your Love

This is something of an unexpected delight. Produced The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, Nicole Scherzinger's new single Your Love is a bona fide earworm, in the J-Lo-does-a-summer-anthem mould.

Like all good pop singles, it has a smattering of memorable moments. Here's s selection of the seven stand-outs:

7) Rhymes "enticing" with "Michael Tyson"

6) "I need you in the daytime, especially in the night-time" (???)

5) Minimalist spanish guitar outro - precision engineered for a big dance moment in the video

4) "When we hugging, MC Hammer: Girls can't touch this - I got everything they don't" (??? x2)

3) Wooh. A-woo doo doo do-dooo

2) Woo doo doo do-do-do-doooo

1) A-woo doo doo d-d-doo

It's out on 13 July, which is aaaaages away.

Your Love is the first song from Nicole's new album, of which she recently said: "It's a very personal album for me. It is a reflection of the woman I am, the woman I am not, and the woman I want to be." (Translation: "It's an album about me").

She shot the video while wearing her undergarments on a beach in Malibu last month. You can witness the excitement on her Instagram page.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Little Mix in Manchester

Thirlwall, Pinnock, Nelson and Edwards, it says on a big banner at Manchester's Phones 4U Arena. It looks like an advert for an upmarket chartered accountants but no! It's the UK's premiere girl band, Little Mix. 

And here they are, dropping from the ceiling in parkas. "A-ten-shun," they sing unnecessarily, as 14,000 glowsticks are waved frantically in their direction. 

Yes, this is the Salute Tour and it is quite a spectacle. The three-tiered set, festooned with gigantic fans and pyrotechnic devices, is like a post-apocalypse West Side Story. The choreography has a Rice Krispie crackle and pop. And the singing is way above the girl band standard. Early on, Perrie hits a note that has the parents turning to each other and remarking, "ooh, she's good."

So it's a shame the sound designer has let them down so badly. For Little Mix are warbling and wailing over a pre-recorded backing track, and it can't match their powerhouse performances. There are moments where the band ad-lib or (gasp) mime to backing vocals and the song's energy drains away completely. Whoever is responsible should be fired. 

It's not a complete disaster, though. When the girls break out live, four-part harmonies on Boy, it's a treat - even though poor old Jesy's clearly suffering from a chest infection. 

And the extended, Rhythm Nation-style dance breakdown on DNA is worthy of its inspiration. It's also nice to see such a dance-heavy concert completely devoid of sexually suggestive choreography. The band apparently take their "girls together" message seriously. 

Interestingly, their X Factor winner's single, Canonball, has been airbrushed out of history. At the encore, Wings is introduced as "the first single we ever released" - but there's a sweet moment when the entire arena sings it back to the band, a capella. 

"We know for a fact we're in for a good night when we're in Manchester," says Jade. 

Well, quite. 

Nothing Feels Like You
About The Boy
Change Your Life 
Dark Horse (Katy Perry cover)
A Different Beat
How Ya Doin'
Mr Loverboy
Word Up
Stand Down
Dance Medley: Talk Dirty / N***as In Paris / Run The World (Girls) / Can't Hold Us
Little Me 

Good Enough

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Jurassic 5 return and nine other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of notable new music, presented in a handy list format that will crash your browser due to the sheer volume of YouTube widgets. Yes, it's time for another edition of "songs you may have missed".

1) Jurassic 5 - The Way We Do It
Jurassic 5 are truly the Kate Bushes of hip-hop. It's been eight years since their last album, Feedback, and their "comeback" single is so old it was produced by Heavy D - who died in 2011.

Still - what a single. Sampling The White Stripes My Doorbell, it's jellybean waterfall of witty old-school rhymes.

2) La Roux - Let Me Down Gently
I wrote about this brooding, sax-o-phonic pop behemoth last week, and now it has a video accompaniment.

Watch! Ellie sitting upon a chair.
Marvel! As she runs across a misty moor.
Gasp! As next to nothing occurs.

3) Sam Smith - Leave Your Lover
When I interviewed Sam Smith earlier this year, he told me he wanted "to write an album about unrequited love" for people who were lonely. He'd even recorded a song "about being in love with someone who is married. I want people in those positions to have something to listen to - because I've been in that position too."

I'm going to guess this was that song.

4) Tove Styrke - Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking To You
A coiled spring of energy, this bouncy, ballsy track from Stockholm's Tove Styrke could be a whole new genre: Thrash Pop.

For fans of Robyn's Konichiwa Bitches; Icona Pop's I Love It and the Dixie Cups Iko-Iko.

5) Kelis - Friday Fish Fry (Live on Later)
There's a pleasing unpredictability to the songs on Kelis's new album, Food. Sure, they all start out as tributes to the classic soul of Otis and Aretha, but Dave Sitek's production teases out the weird and the off-kilter to put a new spin on old sounds.

Case in point: The "Ice Cold Water" chant in the middle of Friday Fish Fry, which seems to have been beamed in from Blue Swede's Hooked On A Feeling. It shouldn't work, but it works.

6) Seinabo Sey - Hard Times
Recently signed to Universal Music, Sweden's Seinabo Sey showcases her stunning voice in this staccato soul single.

The melody is as simple and repetitive as a playground chant, but the tribal backing vocals and volcanic percussion will stop you in your tracks.

7) Jungle - Time
Hot damn, this is funky.

8) Sinead Harnett - No Other Way (ft Snakehips)
You may know Sinead Harnett from her collaborations with Rudimental - and if you've seen them on tour, you've almost certainly marvelled at her vocals. But now she's cast off from their safe harbours and set sail in search of her own musical treasure [sorry - tortured metaphor ed].

You might be surprised at the results: Sinead's debut EP is more akin to the smooth soul of Jessie Ware than Rudimental's helter skelter dance vibes.

9) Alistair Griffin featuring Kimberley Walsh - The Road
This is the official song of Yorkshire's Grand Depart - aka the first stage of this year's of the Tour De France. Apparently individual legs of cycling events need their own "anthem" now, after somebody incorrectly decided that Queen's Bicycle Race wasn't good enough.

Still, it's nice to hear Kimberly get a chance to stretch her vocal cords, and this uplifting, empowering power ballad could have been a lot worse.

10) Jetta - Crescendo
My idle observation that Pharrell Williams has a "magic formula" for writing intros seems to have gone viral this week, after being picked upon Gawker and a couple of other US sites.

Right on cue, then, here's Paloma Faith's former backing singer Jetta with a spritely, chart-bound, Pharrell-produced new single.

Guess how it starts?

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ed Sheeran goes 100% Muppet

Ed Sheeran's Sing is apparently stuck in a CD player at Radio 1, given the frequency with which it comes around on rotation these days.

Not that I'm complaining, the Pharrell-produced track is his best to date. A funky little reminder of what Justin Timberlake used to sound like before he started making, like, freaky psychedelic 20-minute jams, y'all dig?

The video has just "gone live on Facebook" and it stars a hard-drinking, stripper-lovin' Ed Sheeran puppet that's bound to be a must-have gift come Christmas time. It even comes with life-like tattoos and designer stubble. So cute.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Ekkah thump*

The logical flipside to the deep house revival is a resurgence in girl-fronted R&B.  Back in the 1990s, the two went together like sweat and global hypercolor t-shirts.

So it's a happy coincidence that after writing about Juce earlier today that *ping* up popped a new band called EKKAH. Formed by Rebekah Pennington and Rebecca Wilson (hence the name), they’re a UK duo who describe their sound as "pop/girl funk with a big, polished sound".

"We've been friends for years," says Rebecca. "We bonded over rock ports in maths class and started playing some music together." Their first demo, 7AM, got a fair bit of attention earlier this year. Now, they’ve got a proper single together – and it's a sublime summer soul jam, called Figure It Out.

"We had some ideas for Figure It Out whilst travelling in a car together," Rebecca says, "so hopefully people will listen to it whilst heading off on a summer road trip!"

She's not wrong. This would be the perfect soundtrack for cruising down the Californian coast in an open-top Chevrolet (I assume – this being an scenario I've only experienced via years of listening to Bruce Springsteen). In fact, with its woozy synth strings and rubbery G-funk bassline, it could only sound more 1990s if Warren G** showed up for a guest rap.

* Apols.
** Warren G is now 43.

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Juce squeeze out another big tune

Last week, the internet's favourite new girlband Juce signed up with Island Records. The deal was based on the strength of their single Call You Out, which very much sounds like Haim covering SWV (ie very good indeed).

The contract means they're going to start recording an album - which I predict will be (a) better than and (b) out before any new material from Mutya, Keisha, Siobhan.

For the uninitiated, Juce are Georgia, Chalin and Cherish - three girls from London, one of whom is a giant.

Eschewing the traditional vocal harmony group model, they write their own material and play their own instruments.

You can see them in action, via a busking video they recorded outside Radio 1's London HQ on Friday.

(NB: How big is that bass guitar?!)

To celebrate their new deal, the band donated a new song to Annie Mac's Free Music Mondays last night. (H)ours is a energetic slab of funk, built around a bassline that struts around like Mick Jagger doing the chicken dance through a minefield.

The singer (Chalin, I think) shows impressive range, too: Her voice scraping the floorboards in the first verse, before a long, slow climb to a roof-raising shriek at the four-minute mark.

It's not the instant earworm that Call You Out turned out to be - but for a free MP3, it's pretty terrific. Just click through to Annie Mac's Soundcloud page for the download link.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Banks' new single - Drowning

I've been mithering over what to post to the blog all day.

:: Michael Jackson's Billboard awards hologram? Nah, it gave me the creeps - falling right into the "uncanny valley".

:: Robyn and Royksopp's new video? Nope. Too headachy.

:: Jay-Z and Beyonce's tour trailer? Maybe. It's got Sean Penn and Rashida Jones in it, and you get to hear Beyonce cover Justify My Love - but it's so po-faced and self-important that I began to go a little Solange.

So it was a great relief when star-in-waiting Banks popped up 10 minutes ago with a menacing new track called Drowning. Premiered on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show, it'll suck the breath out of your universe like a collapsing star.

If you've been following Banks, you'll know what to expect: Sultry, stuttering R&B sculpted from the shards of her shattered heart: "From the girl who made you soup and tied your shoes when you were hurting - you were not deserving," she quivers.

Have a listen below.

After the premiere, Lowe asked Banks it was painful to bare her soul like this: "It's a good pain," she replied. "I let it out because I need to. It doesn't feel painful but it's necessary."

Drowning is a mesmerising trailer for her album Goddess, which is out on 8 September.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Andrew Garfield joins Arcade Fire and 10 other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs I didn't quite get round to blogging over the last week... Lots of A-listers in this selection, plus a song about an elephant.

1) Arcade Fire - We Exist
We Exist contains one of the stand-out lyrics on Arcade Fire's Reflection - telling the story of a gay kid talking to his dad: "Daddy, it's true, I'm different from you. But tell me why they treat me like this?"

The video stars Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield as a victimised, alienated transvestite, who finally finds acceptance during Arcade Fire's set at Coachella earlier this year.

It's also got an amazing, Footloose-inspired "angry dance" sequence.

2) Michael Jackson ft Justin Timberlake - Love Never Felt So Good
The concept for this Michael Jackson video is: Michael Jackson is dead, so let's get a load of grinning imbeciles to dance around while we piss on his grave.

At least Justin Timberlake has the decency to look embarrassed by the whole thing.

3) Coldplay - Always In My Head
The songs on Coldplay's new album are the most direct and heartfelt they've recorded since their debut. Chris Martin sounds smaller and humbler, and the delicate arrangements frame his voice with negative space.

A case in point is the softly mesmerising album opener Always In My Head - which got a live outing on Jimmy Fallon's show earlier this week.

4) Charli XCX - Boom Boom Clap
I wrote about this song, from the soundtrack to The Fault In Our Stars, a couple of weeks ago. Now it now looks like it'll be set free from the movie and released as a single in its own right.

A video was shot in Amsterdam a week ago but, for now, we have to make do with the lyric video.

5) Iggy Azaelea ft Charli XCX - Fancy
Speaking of Charli XCX, she popped along to the Jimmy Kimmel's chat show this week to perform the teen rebel anthem Fancy with Leggy Azalea. I like how she sits out the verses on the steps, looking moody, instead of dancing around aimlessly.

6) Damon Albarn - Mr Tembo
The sole moment of levity on Damon's mid-life-crisis of a solo album, Mr Tembo is a song about an elephant he wrote for an unrealised children's album.

Apparently, the first time the elephant heard the song, it shit itself.

7) Nonono - Hungry Eyes
Nonono's industrially adhesive Pumpin' Blood never charted over here (partly due to the record label dicking around with the release date until everyone lost interest) - but their debut album is selling faster than pickled herring in Sweden.

Hence this remix, by fellow Swede Kleerup, which is something of a triumph.

8) Nero - Satisfy
It's four years since Nero's debut album but they've lost none of their power. With vocals from Alana Watson, Satisfy is more intense than two days in a human centrifuge.

9) Naomi Pilgrim - House of Dreams
Normally, I hate the continuous play function on Soundcloud... If I want to listen to another song, I will bloody well click on it myself, thank you very much.

But when this song by Naomi Pilgrim popped up after La Roux's new track earlier this week, I was transfixed. Swedish-Barbadian singer Naomi Pilgrim may have got her start singing backing vocals for Lykke Li, but her own music is an altogether sunnier affair.

"This is my palace, this is how I live. I'm staying here all day," she sings, in a soulful ode to duvet days. Beautiful.

10) Nick Mulvey - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Shock news: An indie artist has played a minor-key cover of pop song in the Live Lounge. Still, this reworking of Taylor Swift's break-up anthem is a cut above the rest: Not least for the intricate fretboard work.

Nick will be on Jools Holland next week, if you like this sort of thing.

11) Gorgon City - Never Too Far (ft Laura Welsh)
Just added to Radio 1's playlist, this Gorgon City's follow-up to the excellent Ready For Your Love.

Lots of sub-bass here, as you might expect.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The debut single from Jess Glynne is now on the internet

Jess Glynne has already scored two number one singles this year, thanks to her guest spots on Clean Bandit's Rather Be, and Route 94's My Love (where, if I'm not mistaken, her voice has been pitched down).

If you like those songs, you'll like Right Here too. It continues 2014's astonishing deep house revival, adding a smidgen of swirly brass over Glynne's sumptuous, soulful vocals.

If I had a criticism, it's that the Gorgon City-produced track doesn't have the immediacy of her earlier collaborations. Even so, Right Here will sound gorgeous as you lie on your back and watch the clouds roll past during this weekend's heatwave.

According to her official biog, Jessica Hannah Glynne was inspired to sing after her parents saw Amy Winehouse perform at a branch of Pizza Express, of all places.

They brought back a signed copy of Winehouse's debut CD Frank which had "a profoundly immediate effect on me," Jess says.

"I'd always loved the big pop vocals of Mariah, Beyonce and Whitney, but hearing a woman's voice that was basically a jazz vocal, so full of individuality? Then realising she was British and still a teenager? That was the moment I knew I wanted to be as singer too."

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

M.I.A. remixes Beyonce's ***Flawless

"It's for the women and, of course, Beyoncé," says M.I.A. at the top of this remix, which is more accurately described as an entirely new song "inspired by the characters and events depicted in Beyonce's ***Flawless".

In fact, the sole element M.I.A. has retained is the lyric "I woke up like this", while the latter half of the song samples vocals from Beyonce's inferior song Diva, from 2008.

The whole thing is, of course, a complete racket.

Here's the original, in case you haven't seen it a million times already.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

La Roux return: The internet has its say

It has been five years - FIVE YEARS - since La Roux last released a new record. Even Michael Jackson has managed two albums in the intervening period and, last time I checked, he was dead.

But the self-imposed hiatus ended last night, when the band put out a new single*, Let Me Down Gently. "Let me in for a minute / You're not my life but I want you in it," sings Ellie over a sparse, sustained organ chord. Then, after a slow burning two-and-a-half-minute intro, a dramatic pause ushers in a second half full of undulating synths and a strangled saxophone solo.

It's all beautifully produced, and (almost) worth the wait. But does La Roux still have a fanbase after all this time?

I had a look on Twitter for reactions to the song, but almost every post was a music blog saying "La Roux are back" (natch). The rest of the comments fell into one of five distinct categories:

1) The delighted

2) The disdainful

3) The analytical

4) The confused

5) The French

Whichever camp you fall into, the song is available on iTunes today - with a new album Trouble In Paradise (nine tracks, suggesting a work rate of one song every seven months) on its way in July.

And here it is. Well done if you scrolled this far.

La Roux - Let Me Down Gently

* Update: Apparently it's not a single but a "taster track" whatever that means.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Is Pharrell Williams incapable of writing intros?

As well as being the owner of a magnificent hat, Pharrell Williams is a brilliant and prolific songwriter. In fact, he's one of the most consistent producers/composers in the business, racking up hits for everyone from Beyonce to Britney to Justin to Jay-Z and, more recently, himself.

But here's the thing: He's rubbish at writing intros. Take a listen to his new album, GIRL, and seven of the 10 tracks start exactly the same way. He takes the first beat of the first bar, loops it four times, then goes straight into the song.

It's not a bad technique - for one thing, you get to the melody quicker, and that is a sure-fire way of making your song memorable and radio friendly - but when it's used to such a ridiculous extent, it starts to lose its effect.

Looking back through Pharrell's production catalogue, both by himself and with the Neptunes, it turns out he's been employing the trick since his first hit in 1993 - SWV's Right Here. Here's a short mix that proves it.

The 13 songs in the mix are:

1) SWV - Right Here
2) Jay-Z - Frontin'
3) Kelis - Milkshake
4) Snoop Dogg - Drop It Like Its Hot
5) Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
6) Shakira - Why Wait
7) Frank Ocean - Sweet Life (this one is especially lazy)
8) Pharrell Williams - Brand New
9) Paloma Faith - Can't Rely On You
10) Pharrell Williams - Happy
11) Pharrell Williams - Hunter
12) Jay-Z - I Wish
13) Pharrell Williams - Gust Of Wind

And once you notice, it's impossible to un-hear it, so I apologise in advance for ruining all future enjoyment of Pharrell's music.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Can someone sound the Klaxons' klaxon?

Like the Nintendo Wii and Kevin Federline, The Klaxons were big news in 2006, after which they apparently hitched a one-way ride to dumperville.

Fans of "new rave" will be pleased to hear, though, that The Klaxons are staging a rather convincing comeback. The ground was laid last summer, with this bleep-tastic remix of MKS's Flatlines:

Their own new material started to appear in March, led by the dreamy, Gorgon City-produced There Is No Other Time. It "peaked" at number 42 in the charts, which is worse than it deserved. Maybe a guest verse from Pitbull or Jason Derulo would have helped.

Undeterred, the band are back for another crack at the top 40, this time with Show Me A Miracle, which singer Jamie Reynolds calls a naive response" to dance music.

"We were listening to a lot of Bauer and a lot of R&B and hip-hop," he told Zane Lowe, "genres we've never tried to make before. We just got together around a table and started trying to replicate it."

Have they succeeded? Not really. This still sounds exactly like a Klaxons record. But a very good Klaxons record, nonetheless.

The Klaxons' third album Love Frequency will be released on 2 June, with production from Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers, Erol Alkan, LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and more. So there you go.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Songs you may have missed: Ocho de Mayo edition

Here it is, then: A semi-regular round-up of songs that I didn't have space or time (mostly time) to write about over the last seven days. This week's selection includes...

1) Katy Perry - Birthday (Cash Cash remix)
Katy Perry kicked off her world tour in former terrorism hotspot Belfast last night and the setlist, which she posted on Instagram afterwards, looks pretty spectacular. She even includes an acoustic section so you can pop out to the loo without feeling guilty.

The tour helpfully coincides with the promotional "window" for her new single, Birthday, and here is a remix of that single by New Jersey dancemeisters Cash Cash.

2) Kelis - Rumble (live on Conan)
One of my favourite tracks on Kelis's grits-and-beans new album Food, is performed live and gains a saxophone solo. What's not to love?

3) Leon Else - River Full of Liquor
The title makes it sound like an awful US hip-hop track, but this is actually a gorgeous, understated ballad from 24-year-old Londoner Leon Else. With shades of SOHN and Mikky Ekko, this R&B potboiler is the title track of his new EP, which hits the streets in July.

4) The Horrors - So Now You Know
If I didn't know The Breakfast Club soundtrack back to front, I would swear this was on it. From the windswept chorus to Faris Badwan's tiny leather jacket, this is a pair of aviator shades away from being a Simple Minds A-side. And that, in case you're wondering, is a good thing.

5) Sia - Chandelier
A rare instance where the lyric video is preferable to the real thing - this clip for Sia's stunning new single is one of the creepiest things you'll see all month. According to the press release it features "an incredibly compelling dance performance by Maddie Zeigler (age 11) of the Lifetime Television show Dance Moms" (no, me neither).

Accomplished as Maddie undoubtedly is, there's something about the way the video is shot (the lighting? the oversized wig?) that makes it constantly seem on the cusp of turning into The Exorcist's infamous "spider walk" scene.

6) Bronagh & The Boys - Lovefool
Here's one that came into my inbox - from Belfast-born, Glasgow-based singer Bronagh Monaghan and her dismissively-titled band, "The Boys". With support slots for Oh Land, Newton Faulkner and Rae Morris under their belt, they're clearly doing something right - and the proof comes from the lead track on their new EP, Lovefool.

A slow-building jazz-pop number, it sits in a similar orbit to Radio 2 mainstay Caro Emerald. The production is slightly flat - but imagine this re-recorded with Paul Epworth and you can hear the band's undeniable potential.

7) MØ - Slow Love
Swirling, seductive Scandipop courtesy of Denmark's Karen Marie Ørsted. Her fluttering falsetto is what makes this track - but the found footage music video is weirdly hypnotic in its own way.

8) Metronomy - Reservoir
"I heard you made the hull of a boat downtown" is one of the worst opening lyrics of all time, but Metronomy's new single rises above it on a sea of woozy Jean Michelle Jarre synth nonsense. Lovely animated video, too.

9) AG Cook - Keri Baby ft Hannah Diamond
I can't decide if this is unspeakably awful or the future of pop music. It's a kind of glitchy offshoot of j-pop, with a parping tuba and a knowing rap ("I don't want to be an mp3") apparently delivered by a sex-change Speak and Spell. Confusing.

10) Black Keys - Fever
The Black Keys' eighth album Turn Blue is out next week - but you can stream it now over here. A more expansive, psychedelic affair than the power-pop of El Camino, it's a solid 8/10.

The best track is the seemingly throwaway album closer Gotta Getaway ("I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo, just to get away from you") - but the current single, Fever, is also a gem. Powered along by a reedy Farsifa organ, the video sees Dan Auerbach sweating buckets as he impersonates a pay-TV Faith Healer.

So there you go: A bumper crop of big tunes. More like this next week...

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Honeyblood - Killer Bangs

This new video from Glasgow's Honeyblood just popped up on my timeline and it's like someone suddenly declared Summer was open for business.

Full of rollicking drums and scuzzed-up guitars, Killer Bangs is like Kenickie having a scrap with The Go-Gos over a distortion pedal - ie it is very good. The lyrics ("I don't wanna have to go on without you / but I have to") may be about the death of a relationship, but the melody couldn't be sunnier.

The video captures Stina and Shona's blistering live act, spliced with shots of the band standing against a wall or standing on a bridge or standing near the sea.

In a major production oversight, they do not sport "bangs" (that's American for a fringe) at all. What a shame.

Honeyblood - Killer Bangs

Killer Bangs is coming out on a limited edition (300 copies!) 7" vinyl - you can pre-order it here. And if you're in the band's hometown, they're playing the Introducing Stage at Radio 1's Big Weekend at the end of the month.

And if you're really, really interested, you can read an interview I did with the band on the BBC.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lana Del Rey makes Lana Del Rey video

In many ways, Lana Del Rey's West Coast is the perfect comeback: Familiar enough to be recognisable, with a few compelling tweaks to keep things interesting.

Like the rest of her second album, Ultraviolence, it was recorded with a live band while Lana sang into a handheld mic in the room next door (out of necessity, not because she forbids anyone to look directly at her, although I could believe that, too). And the song has really grown on me over the last couple of weeks - the tricky tempo changes and keyboard blips* slowly revealing a surprisingly adhesive melody.

The video, premiered today, is none more Lana. It's black and white - naturally - with lingering shots of open-top cars, scrawny men from the wrong side of the tracks (male models with temporary tattoos) and Lana taking long, languorous drags on a cigarette.

Watch, as they say, below.

Lana Del Rey - West Coast

* Which have been lifted wholesale from All Saints' Pure Shores, right?

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Michael Jackson's new but also 31-year-old single is actually quite good

Hey! And indeed Presto!

Here's the new-old Michael Jackson single Love Never Felt So Good. Originally recorded with Paul Anka (ask your dad) in 1983 (again, ask your dad) it's been given a fresh lick of paint by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake.

Amazingly, they've resisted the temptation to turn it into a snoozeworthy 14-minute "jam". Top marks for getting the cowbells from Don't Stop Til You Get Enough out of the retirement home.

Michael Jackson - Love Never Felt So Good (ft Justin Timberlake)

Love Never Felt So Good is taken from a new album of songs that didn't meet Jackson's quality threshold undiscovered gems, which have been reimaginised and updatified by top flight producers like Rodney Jerkins and Stargate and so forth.

While Timbaland has done a sterling job on his cut, I do think he's lost some of the joyous spontaneity of Jackson's original demo - which you can listen to here. Luckily, both versions will be on the album, called Xscape, when it comes out on 13 May.

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Ten-hut! Little Mix unveil their Salute video

Fresh from announcing a US headline tour, Little Mix have released a video for Salute - their most US-sounding song to date.

The harder, tougher sound necessitates a harder, tougher look - so out go the primary colour crop tops and in comes a grey-black colour palette, with the girls in leather bodices, whips and leashes. Their hair still looks fantastic, of course.

Salute is out on 1 June, two weeks into the band's UK tour - on which this is sure to be the opening number.

Little Mix - Salute

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Future hit: Ariana Grande - Problem

Max Martin-produced and filthy with saxophone, Ariana Grande's new single Problem sounds like a hit waiting to happen.

In fact, if you're lucky enough to live in the US, the hit is already happening: Problem came out there on Monday, and has knocked Pharrell's Happy off the top of the iTunes chart. It's number one in 29 other countries, too.

In the UK, though, it's not out until 6 July - for complicated music biz reasons about promotional "windows". This is happening increasingly often and it's a ridiculous state of affairs: The British system increasingly looks antiquated to an instant-gratification, on-demand generation of music consumers.

A six week gap between the US and UK release dates - during which time any idiot with an internet connection can stream or illegally download the song - unavoidably kills its chart performance (just ask Rihanna and Shakira). If the situation is allowed to continue, artists will start asking why they bother promoting their music in the UK at all.

That said, Ariana could make the gap work in her favour. Despite being a major star at home, all of the 20-year-old's singles have narrowly missed the top 40 over here. If she wraps up the US promo tour and gives Problem a real push in the UK, she could easily break that streak of bad luck.

Ariana Grande ft Iggy Azaela - Problem

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