Thursday, July 31, 2014

Surprise - there's a new Janelle Monae video

It's over a year since Janelle Monae released her fun-packed Electric Lady album, and nine months since she last released a single, so it's a welcome surprise to discover a new video for the title track on her YouTube channel this morning.

Eschewing all the high-concept "fembot revolutionary" shenanigans of her previous videos, this one's just a straight-up technicolor dance clip.

And it's a blast.

Janelle Monawe - Electric Lady

Nice to see the return of the Human Skull Turntable from the Q.U.E.E.N. video, which I would be more than happy to look after once the record label has finished with it.

Oh, and while we're here, here's an all-star remix of the song, featuring Cee-Lo, Solange and Big Boi. Only available on the US deluxe edition of the album, unfortunately.

Janelle Monae - Electric Lady (Dungeon-Wondamix)

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Video: Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

Instagram filters ahoy as Lana Del Rey "unleashes" the incident-free video for Ultraviolence, the title track to her number one album.

The faded polaroid aesthetic is starting to become a little predictable but Del Rey's recent cover interview with Rolling Stone shed some light on her preferred colour palette, with the suggestion she has the neurological condition Synesthesia - where the senses get mixed up meaning that, for example, you experience sounds as colours.

In one passage, the singer explained how she would gave directions to album producer Dan Auerbach in the studio. "I would explain things to him in terms of colours and touchstone words," she said.

"My word for the record was 'fire,' you know, blue fire, when a flame gets so hot it goes from red to blue. And I told him I wanted everything to sound like it was in the key of blue. And I think at first he was like, 'What the fuck?'"

Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence

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Big tune alert: Fences ft Macklemore - Arrows

A long, long time ago, before Macklemore ever thought of honking a saxophone and "popping" some "tags", he was an unsigned rapper and recovering addict, who'd lost four friends to prescription drug abuse.

He poured those experiences into a song called Otherside ("I've seen cocaine bring out the demons inside... Friendship cease, no peace in the mind") which was one of the first tracks to bring his progressive, confessional rapping style to the attention of record labels.

Macklemore ft Fences - Otherside

The chorus on Otherside was sung by Fences, a fellow Seattle musician who Macklemore describes as being "fucked up in the same way that I'm fucked up".

Fences, aka Christopher Mansfield, is now preparing to release a new solo album, and Macklemore is giving his old friend a leg-up by appearing on the record's first single, Arrows.

And what a song it is. Driving, hook-laden indie-pop with a judicious use of glockenspiel. This could be a massive radio hit.

Fences fr Macklemore & Lewis - Arrows

Bonus content: Here's a brilliantly over-written statement from Fences about this latest collaboration.
"I have known Macklemore for quite some time. A friendship grown in the coffee shops and broken sidewalks of Seattle. We became sounding boards for each other's music and when it made sense we would combine our efforts. I consider him to be a fearless poet and a selfless human. Arrows is the peak of our mountain."
Broken sidewalks. Fearless poet. The peak of their mountain.


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Video: Banks - Beggin For Thread

Business as usual here from Banks: Monochrome palette, minimal lighting, writhing male torsos, interpretive dance, powerful song.

Watch out for the horse at 3'30"

Banks - Beggin for Thread

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Karen O shares her demos

There's a book coming out in October called "The Greatest Albums You'll Never Hear" - all about the records your favourite artists have abandoned and consigned to the rock and roll graveyard. Of course, being written by a "serious music journalist" it concentrates on Bowie and The Stones, rather than the Scissor Sisters or Madonna - but it's an intriguing concept nonetheless.

Unreleased material is the holy grail of rock music. When record shops were still a thing, I'd always be drawn magnetically to the Prince section, where I'd rifle through the racks in the hope of discovering a new record I'd somehow missed despite an almost forensic knowledge of the moustachioed midget's back catalogue.

When The Black Album was announced, then scrapped, Prince fans went loopy. Bootlegs changed hands for hundreds of pounds. Everyone talked about how this was the "ultimate Prince record" - darker, dirtier, funkier than anything preceding it. Too dangerous for public consumption. And one of the songs was about an erection.

Of course, when you finally heard it, it was a largely a let down. Even the erection song had brewer's droop.

And I think that's true of most unreleased material. Freed from the requirement of hearing the songs, your brain is free to dream up the best music of all time. Harder, sexier, better and sexier (again) in every way imaginable.

So it's brave of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O to open up her songwriting notebook and show us a collection of songs she wrote nine years ago. Her debut solo record consists of tracks she sketched out during a period of uncertainty and weirdness in her love life when she was just 27 years old.

Appropriately enough, it's called Crush Songs, and it's due out in September. The first single, a scratchy, raw ballad called Rapt is playable below. For once, it looks like the unreleased material might actually be worth hearing.

Karen O - Rapt

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Beyonce goes 50 Shades of Grey and nine other songs you may have missed

It's that time again. Ten songs from the last seven days, all worth a click if you have 30 minutes to spare.

This week's bumper crop includes.

1) Beyonce - Crazy In Love (Fifty Shades version)
For a film about BDSM, the trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty tame. In fact, Beyonce's throaty,

2) Charli XCX - Boom Clap (live)
HUGE congratulations to Charli XCX, whose new single is number three in the midweek chart, meaning she's all but guaranteed at top 10 hit this Sunday - and about bloody time, too.

I managed to catch her set at Glastonbury earlier this month and it was genuinely one of my highlights - with an all-female band that were essentially a punka-pop Josie and the Pussycats. Here's the proof, via an MTV thingummy.

3) SBTRKT - New Drop, New York
"It's a funny tune in a way, but it's quite exciting," said SBTRKT as he handed Annie Mac his new single for its first ever radio play earlier this week.

Featuring a pitch-shifted Ezra Koenig rapping about gargoyles, it's not exactly your standard pop banger. But it's a superb, dark groove - like an elastic dub reworking Felix Da Housecat's Silver Screen.

4) The Pierces - Ordinary World
Allison and Catherine Pierce have suffered a few delays in the release of their fifth album, Creation. In fact, I interviewed them about it back in March, when it was due in June... but now it's been pushed back to September.

The band have been filling the spare time by learning a few cover versions. You can hear them doing Lorde's Team by pressing this blue text, but I prefer this acoustic rendering of Duran Duran's Ordinary World. Such exquisite harmonies.

5) SVE - Riot
Unsigned Brooklyn artist SVE somehow manages to turn Riot into a seven-syllable word in the chorus to this moody synthpop masterpiece. Expect a record contract to be waved in her face any second now...

6) Teleman - Skeleton Dance
Scrummy retro indie janglefest. That is all.

7) Clear Soul Forces - Solar Heat
When Radio 1's head of music posts a song on twitter and asks "Future of hip hop?" you can guarantee you'll be hearing more from the band in question.

In this case, it's Detroit quartet Clear Soul Forces, who style themselves as "the answer to everything that you ever questioned about hip hop". In other words, they're a jazzy antidote to the aggressive posturing of 21st Century rap - and an obvious throwback to the jazzy grooves of the Jungle Brothers, Stetsasonic and Tribe Called Quest.

8) Katy Perry - This Is How We Do (lyric video)
Inventive lyric video for below par album track.

9) Royal Blood - Figure It Out
A terrific video, despite the unnecessary red/blue filter stuff. Really looking forward to Royal Blood's debut album in three weeks' time.

10) Janet Jackson - Escapade (remix by Nick*)
It's 25 years since Janet released this song - inspired equally by Nowhere To Run and Raspberry Beret, but sounding like neither.

Still one of the best summer anthems ever committed to tape, this bleepy-bloopy remix should be played loud in the park to annoy sunbathers.

And that, as they say, is a wrap. Have a smashing weekend.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

More new music from Jessie Ware

With Tough Love firmly ensconced on the playlists at Radio 1 and Radio 2, the prospects are looking good for Jessie Ware's new album (also called Tough Love).

The picture gets even rosier when you hear the next song off the album. Called Share It All, it's co-written by the xx's Romy Madley-Croft and produced by Julio Bashmore. With Jessie's dreamy vocals dripping over softly padded drums and a distant plucked guitar, it's a beautifully sultry love ballad.

Bear in mind that this is just a bonus track on the deluxe edition of the album, and the anticipation levels go through the roof.

Meanwhile, Jessie has just opened a ballot for tickets to her autumn tour. Get your name down here.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miley Cyrus gatecrashes Pharrell's Come Get It Bae video

Miley Cyrus is an uncredited vocalist on Pharrell's Come Get It Bae - but the song's new video completely blows her cover.

She pops up in the middle of the clip, prancing around with a cup of tea and sticking her tongue out like Buster Bloodvessel in hotpants (dear brain, please erase this image).

The rest of the video is a by-numbers affair, with lots of buxom girls dancing for Pharrell, while he films them for his "personal stash". I guess he's forgotten about that post-Blurred Lines attempt to "eliminate what he sees as an understandable degree of uncertainty over what his attitude to women actually is" now that everyone likes him again.

Pharrell - Come Get It Bae

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A quick chat with MNEK

MNEK is one of those singers whose name you keep seeing in brackets (or parentheses if you're posh) on other people's songs: Rudimental's Spoons (ft MNEK) and Gorgon City’s Ready For Your Love (ft MNEK), to name a few.

He also co-wrote the bracket-tastic Need U (100%) for Duke Dumont and Gecko (Overdrive) for Oliver Heldens and Becky Hill.

In other words, he's pretty damned good at his job.

His first solo single, Every Little Word, came out in April and now we have a dippy-trippy video for the follow-up, Wrote A Song About You. A constantly shifting deep house barnstormer with a sublime "la la la" moment, it's one of my songs of the summer.

MNEK - Wrote A Song About You

I caught up with MNEK (real name Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike) at Glastonbury a couple of weeks ago, where he told me his debut album was "almost ready", with the artwork finalised, and everything.

"There's only one duet , one collaboration, and everything else is me," he said.

And, although he's known for club hits, the album promises to be more diverse.

"There's ballads man! There's many ballads! The struggle was to get more uptempo songs on the album. A good album is a journey rather than being too low or too up."

The 19-year-old also joked that he kept an eagle eye on the exit doors when he was on stage.

"I always pay attention to that when I’m performing. If I see someone go out, I should start calling them out: 'Halt the song! Halt the song! Come back here and explain yourself!'"

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More music from the Banks vault

So here it is, the BIG RADIO SINGLE from Banks.

The tempo's been turned up, the torment toned down, and the chorus sounds a bit like Black Coffee-era All Saints. In other words, this wouldn't sound out of place on daytime Radio One.

Having said that, the lyrics might be a touch too gothic for the mums and dads: "You got me beggin for thread / To sew this hole up that you ripped in my head," the R&B star intones, to chilling effect.

The song is called Beggin' For Thread and you can buy it now if you live anywhere except the UK.

Update: Now available on UK iTunes.

Fittingly, Beggin' For Thread is the big promotional push for Banks's 14-track debut album, Goddess, which is out on 8 September.

If you haven't been paying attention, her previous singles (all available on iTunes) are well worth checking out. Here's my three favourites so far:

Banks - This Is What It Feels Like

Banks - Warm Water

Banks - Before I Ever Met You

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Robyn and Royksopp do it again

I haven't been the biggest cheerleader for Robyn and Royksopp's joint EP / Tour thingy, as it all feels undercooked - like the two artists are retreating to safe ground after careers built on breaking the rules.

Still, you can't deny that the video for Do It Again (a number 75 hit back in May) is a complete corker. A story of forbidden love under a repressive regime (you can tell it's repressive, because everything's black and white) it's a stunning, cinematic interpretation of the song.

"I'm pleased that, for me, the video stirs up a feeling of chaos which is what we talked about quite a bit when we wrote the song," says Robyn. "Life takes you to a critical point and even though it might not make you happy, when it's over, you want to go back."

Robyn and Royksopp - Do It Again

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Lykke Li riddled with bullets and 10 other songs you may have missed

Here you go: A semi-regular round-up of songs I didn't have time to write about during the week, including tasty morsels by this load of reprobates.

1) Lykke Li - Gunshot
Let's start with the most disturbing video of the week, in which Lykke "laugh-a-minute" Li stumbles round the world's oddest car park, being shot by invisible bullets. A lighthearted romp.

2) Cam'Ron ft Nicki Minaj - So Bad
The video is hilariously low-budget (hello, green screen!) but the doo-wop indebted duet is damned catchy. Plus, Cam'ron makes the world's worst Angry Birds pun, so well done on that front.

3) Haim - Oh Well (live at T In The Park)
Always a highlight of their live shows, this Fleetwood Mac cover lets Danielle Haim let fly with her crazy axe skills. One of the highlights of the TV coverage of T in the Park.

4) DJ Fresh ft Ellie Goulding - Flashlight
Originally a bonus track on Ellie's Halcyon Days re-release last year, this has been given a fresh lick of paint and turned into DJ Fresh's new single. As they said in the 70s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

5) Moko - Your Love
Produced by Chase & Status (for whom Moko sang Count On Me last year) this chiming soul-house track is a guaranteed floor-filler. Nice pigtails, too.

6) Alt-J - Hunger of the Pine
A simply stunning video.

7) Pharrell - Get Lucky (live at T In The Park)
Great performance from Pharrell on last year's song of the summer. I'm not sure "make it rain" means the same in Scotland as it does in his native Virginia, though.

8) Marina and the Diamonds - Untitled new song
This brief snippet, posted on Instagram during the week, is the first taster of Marina's forthcoming third album.

A simple piano/vocal, with shades of Lana Del Rey (or anyone else who sings over a piano, to be honest) it sounds extremely promising: "There's no rush anymore, time's on my side," sings Marina, "All my worries are gone, I'm enjoying the ride."

9) Mike Mago & Dragonette - Outlines
Pop's best kept secret (that's Dragonette) team up with some Dutch guy (that's Mike Mago) for this dreamy dance track. Too deep to match the chart success of Dragonette's previous collaboration - Martin Solveig's Hello - this is a welcome addition to my summer playlist nonetheless.

10) Indiana - Heart on Fire
I meant to post this two weeks ago when it came out, then my brain went fzzrt.

Better late than never, though, here's Nottingham-born newcomer Indiana (aka Lauren Henson) with a great big "sobbing over a drum machine" popballad. Fans of Robyn will like this quite a lot.

11) Sigma ft Paloma Faith - Changing
As fresh and exciting today as it was on Monday, when I first wrote about it - even though, as Don't Falter hitmaker Mint Royale pointed out, it's "obviously based on a Lana sample which they've then replaced with 'something similar'".

Interesting choice of outfit from Paloma, as ever.

And that's that. Enjoy the sunny weekend!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Video: Broods - Mother and Father

A former song of the day, if this blog had a song of the day, which it doesn't, here are Broods with the moody new video to Mother And Father.

I don't know about you, but I found the way the camera lingers on Georgia's cleavage a little uncomfortable.

The song, however, is seven shades of supercool.

Broods - Mother and Father

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Jenny Lewis gets the boys out

It's not often you play a song and think, "huh, I've never heard anyone sing about that before" but Jenny Lewis has just managed it.

One of the Guys, the first single from her new album The Voyager, talks about being childless at the age of 38, and the (often self-imposed) idea that not having a baby somehow makes you incomplete. "When I look at myself, all I can see/ I’m just another lady without a baby," she sings.

A bubbly melody and frothy video (co-tarring Kristen Stewart, Brie Larson, Tennessee Thomas and Anne Hathaway with a rat tail) stops it from being all doom and gloom...

Jenny Lewis - One of the Boys

Isn't Kristen Stewart great in that video? Everyone else is doing that awful "look at me, I'm an actor and I am acting like a rock singer" face. Stewart just grimaces, like a true axe hero.

So we can all agree the video's lots of fun. But Lewis's new album, produced by Ryan Adams, might not be quite so cheery.

"Making The Voyager got me through one of the most difficult periods of my life," she says in a press release. "After Rilo Kiley broke up and a few really intense personal things happened, I completely melted down. It nearly destroyed me. I had such severe insomnia that, at one point, I didn't sleep for five straight nights. Many of the songs on The Voyager came out of the need to occupy my mind in the moments when I just couldn't shut down."

Well, they say happiness is the death of creativity - so The Voyager could be one of the albums to look out for this winter.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Juce are burning up on new song, Burning Up

Juce, as you can see from this gloriously awkward photo, are not your typical girlband. You certainly can't imagine Louis Walsh or Lou Pearlman picking them out of a line-up and declaring: "Gentlemen, I have found the next Saturdays! With their glossy magazine smiles, my music industry contacts and this massive printing press, we'll have a licence to make money!"

But that's exactly why they're so cool. Combining the insouciance of Keisha Sugababe with the chunky R&B grooves of good-era Janet Jackson, they play their own instruments, write about living in London and are generally a gale-force breath of fresh air.

Recently signed to Island Records, Cherish + Chalin + Georgia uploaded the "it's hot outside" summer jam Burning Up to Soundcloud late last week. "My city is burning up, burning up / Burning like the summer sun," they sing, sounding like they're strapping on roller-skates as they go.

The band say it's "not a proper single" but it'd be stupid to wait and release it in October. Have a click (or, if you're reading this on a mobile, a jab of the finger) - then add it to your beachtime playlist at the next available opportunity.

"FYI" That photo at the top comes from the video to the band's previous single, (H)ours. It's definitely... erm, a unique concept.

Juce - (H)ours

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Paloma Faith summer anthem announcement

File under "unexpected": Here's Paloma Faith doing the vocals on Sigma's brand new single, Changing. The follow-up to Nobody To Love (you know, the one that took the hook from Kanye's Bound 2 and thwacked a massive drumbeat on top of it), I'd say it's a guaranteed number one.

Co-written by Ella Hair, it's got chunky gospel chords, a soaring chorus and a thrilling "oh-ah-oh" bit where you can throw your arms in the air and accidentally shower everyone on the bus with 7 Up.

Frustratingly, the single mix fades out just as a massive "Like A Prayer" choir kicks in. Presumably they've had to edit that bit out in case someone accidentally stumbles across the song on YouTube, without being forewarned, explodes with excitement.

Sigma ft Paloma Faith - Changing

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Video: Jungle - Time

I don't mean to sound like my dad, but all of Jungle's songs sound the same. And there's only so much luscious, blow-dried funk a man can take.

Still, their videos continue to be excellent. For their new single, Time, they bring out the granddads for a granddad dance-off - which is less exploitative than it sounds.

Jungle - Time

PS: I can't post Jungle - Time, without posting Time - Jungle Love. It wouldn't be right.

The Time - Jungle Love

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Jessie Ware and Haim get the remix treatment

Remixes, eh? It's like they've taken a song and recontextualised it using new instrumentation and arrangements.

Take, for example, this Cyril Hahn mix of Jessie Ware's Tough Love. Now, instead of swooning to Jessie's slow-motion soul, you can "cut a rug" in "the club". Imagine that.

And what about this new version of Haim's My Song 5. It's got A$AP Ferg on it, rapping over the instrumental mid-section, for that all-important urban airplay.

It's probably the first and last time A$AP will appear on the same song as a tuba.

And while we're on the subject, here's a completely superfluous but utterly smashing house remix of Ace Of Base's All She Wants. It's a free download, so you can put it on your next mixtape.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Grimes is Go and 14 other songs you may have missed

After a week away and a major music festival, there's plenty of great music to catch up with in this edition of "songs you may have missed". 

I've included a few clips from Glastonbury, mixed up with songs that premiered during my self-imposed blog absence.

It all begins with the welcome return of the artist currently known to her parents as Claire Boucher.

1) Grimes - Go (ft Blood Dragon)
Written for (and rejected by) Rihanna, this is the most straightforward, bubbly pop song Grimes has ever released. She describes it as a "summer jam" and she's not wrong. It's available as a free download from her website right now.

2) Ellie Goulding - I Need Your Love (acoustic at Glastonbury)
Yes, she's a fully-fledged dance diva these days but I still maintain Ellie's voice is best suited to this sort of musical arrangement. Bring on the 2018 acoustic album.

3) Usher - Good Kisser (Disclosure remix)
Better than the original. Try not to think about the lyrics.

4) Craig David - Cold
Is it time for a Craig David revival? Are you missing the Flava? Are the crowd saying Bo Selecta? Who knows, but this song is 100% not shit.

5) Amy Milner - Have It All
Newcomer Amy Milner took my breath away with this luscious, dreamy piano ballad. It's simple - almost predictably so - but there's a moment where the backing vocals kick in that indicates a compositional genius at work.

Amy is unsigned right now but she's getting some support from BBC Intriducing in her native Sussex. One to watch.

6) Becky G - Shower
This sounds like a monster hit to me. Co-written by Dr Luke, it's got a "why did no-one think of this before" lyric ('you got me singing in the shower') and a "la-da-dee" vocal hook that will burrow into your grey matter and establish an independent republic. You have been warned.

7) Jurassic 5 - Improvise (live at Glastonbury)
Gutted I missed this one... Taking four MCs and make 'em sound like one.

8) Cate Le Bon - Sisters (live at Glastonbury)
Isn't it strange how the Welsh accent occasionally sounds French when you're singing?

9) Broods - LAF
It stands for "Loose As Fuck", and it contains a Spice Girls reference in the second verse. What's not to love?

10) Kelis - Friday Fish Fry (live at Glastonbury)
One of the few performances I actually got to see at Glastonbury this year was Kelis's feel-good, big band soul revue. A highlight in the sunlight.

11) Tiann - Devil's Touch
Subtle, melodious R&B that is - praise the lord - not at all dark and depressing. An refreshing antidote to the mopey soul of Banks and Drake and their "ilk".

12) Kiesza - Giant In My Heart
A companion piece to Arcade Fire's We Exist video, with a deep house soundtrack. Heartwarming.

13) Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness (live at Glastonbury)
This is magnificent. Why they were below Jake Bugg on the bill is a mystery and a crime.

14) Sam Smith - How Will I Know (Whitney Houston cover)
Thanks, Sam, for stripping every ounce of joy and vibrancy out of this song. Thanks a bundle.

15) Wolf Alice - Radio 1 Rocks, full set
London grunge-rock revivalists Wolf Alice recorded this blistering session for Radio 1's Rock week last month, but I've only just caught up with it.

All five songs in the set are magnificent but fast forward to the end for a brand new, untitled track which is a full-throated screamathon of brilliance.

PHEW! That was a lot to get through. Well done if you persevered to the bitter end!

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Foxes is Glorious

Hello there!

I'm finally back from my post-Glastonbury hiatus. And what better way to kick things off with a new video from Disney Princess-eyed pop singer Foxes, whose next single is the title track to her debut album, Glorious.

A tinkly piano ballad with a stonking chorus, the video was shot in Barcelona earlier this month - but it nearly didn't happen.

"It's all a bit manic," she told me on the morning of the shoot. "We're rushing against time, trying to get the flight to Barcelona, but my passport's been delayed. We've gone to the passport office now, and I'm waiting in Victoria in a hotel lobby."

Luckily, the document was rushed through, and now you have this sumptuous visual to feast your eyes upon.

Foxes - Glorious

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