Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Kyiki inside

I've written about Kyiki before and she is quite simply brilliant.

You might know her better as Eleanor Fletcher, lead singer of scrappy folk-dance "outfit" Crystal Fighters. She's a properly qualified pop star and everything, with a degree in music production (she submitted her coursework while on tour in Mexico, which is all rather la-di-da).

As Crystal Fighters begin the long process of recording their third album, Eleanor / Kyiki is striking out with her solo project. One is her debut single, and it's so tasty you could spread it on toast and eat it for supper.

It starts subtly - a meandering keyboard figure has a chance encounter with an echo-drenched vocal. "Well, this is very pretty," you'll be thinking, "but it's 30 seconds since I checked Twitter and Buzzfeed just published a list of Amy Adams gifs that they promise will blow my mind..."

Well, if you disappear down that internet wormhole, you're an idiot. Because once this song gets going, it's transcendent.

PS: In case you're wondering, Fletcher's curiously spelt alter-ego was made up while "researching Hawaiian words" (naturally). Kyiki is "probably the worst parts of me in a weird way," she told The 405. "That's getting all of my negative and crazy parts and putting it into a musical form."

On her official site, Fletcher spells the name entirely in capitals - ie KYIKI - but if I won't let Adele and Prince get away with that sort of linguistic terrorism in my iTunes library, I'm certainly not giving a free pass to a newcomer.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

New from Lorde: Yellow Flicker Beat

The world's busiest teenager - aka Lorde - has been spending the downtime on her world tour curating the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One (what a mouthful).

"Every night, after I play, and say hi, and take pictures, and I walk up the stairs and we go on our way, I set up in this little bed office. I work from midnight until late on the soundtrack, singing into my computer, listening to demos and final mixes. My bus sleeps," she writes on her website.

The film's out in December which, in this world of hyperbole and titillation, means the build-up started aeons ago. But we had to wait until today to hear Lorde's first musical contribution.

Lyrically, Yellow Flicker Flame is a departure from the New Zealander's usual subject matter of small town ennui, plunging straight into The Hunger Games' fantasy world. Playing the film book's reluctant heroine, Katniss Everdeen, she sings about the dilemmas facing a teenage revolutionary. "They used to shout my name, now they whisper it," she whispers, before putting her battle face on: "I made a little prison, and I’m locking up everyone that ever laid a finger on me." Yeouch.

Listen below... And if you're not convinced by the drone of the opening bars, stick around for a killer chorus.

Lorde - Yellow Flicker Beat

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Here's a sort-of new Sam Smith tune

If you've read any of Sam Smith's interviews, you'll be aware that the bequiffed balladeer suffered more than his fair share of false starts before hitting the big time (current highlights: A top two album in the US, singing with Mary J Blige, making Lady Gaga cry).

In fact, he went through nine managers before he was 21. Nine.

"I was very young, I was still in school and everyone had a lot of ideas about what they wanted me to do, but I didn't myself," he told me when he won the BBC Sound of 2014. "There was a lot of drama, basically."

Less well known is that he recorded an entire album during that period - and now the company that owns it is trying to cash in letting us hear some of those early tracks.

Moments was uploaded to Soundcloud earlier this week and you can hear the potential in Smith's performance, even if he was too timid to really let those big notes rip. I note that it's not the original version (which was presumably too anaemic for public consumption) but a doleful deep house remix, with a punchy piano riff that frames his sad-sack vocals perfectly.

Of archival interest, if nothing else.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

New from Tove Lo - Thousand Miles

You know the drill by now: Tove Lo is from Sweden. She is responsible for half a dozen excellent pop songs, including the chart-bothering Habits (Stay High) and Girls Aloud's swansong, Something New. She is a bit of a wildchild, and peppers her interviews with quotes like: "I once set another girl's hair on fire accidentally".

Her album Queen of the Clouds is out next week if you live in the "rest of the world" but - GRRRRR - it isn't even on the schedules for the UK, which means it'll probably be out sometime in 2015 (even though she's playing the Electric Ballroom in November - double grrr).

Of course, you could do what I just did and pre-order it from Amazon's French site (it cost £14.49 once all the taxes and shipping costs were counted but, trust me, it's totally worth it).

If you're not up for all that hassle, Tove's just uploaded a new song called Thousand Miles to YouTube. It's taken from "THE PAIN" section of her album and she describes it like this: "There's no good way to end things - cause it's ending, you know? Passion comes with pain. Here's Thousand Miles, the song that brings me to tears and still lights that string of hope that 'maybe we'll make it'".

It is, inevitably, quite good.

Tove Lo - Thousand Miles

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Azealia Banks suddenly, unexpectedly produces a tasty new song

After three years of dicking about, releasing so-so singles and falling out with anyone who blinks at her the wrong way (or the right way, or who just blinks at all) Azealia Banks has done the last thing anyone expected and released a memorable new single.

A bubblicious electropop earworm, the half-sung, half-rapped tune is called Chasing Time and it goes like this:

Good, huh?

Judging by the lyrics, it's half mea culpa, and half kiss-off to Universal Records - who let her go in July after a long, fruitless struggle to put out her debut album Broke With Expensive Taste.

"My attitude is bitchy, but we already knew that," Banks raps. "And since we can't get along, I think we should both move on".

That's markedly more mature than a lot of the language the New Yorker has used over the last couple of years, both on and off record. And it seems her recent live shows have presented a less angry, more grown up Azealia Banks, too.

So let's hope Chasing Time marks a new lease of life for someone who seemed doomed to be a wasted, frustrated, forgotten talent.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Nicki Minaj erased from history and 10 other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs that slipped through the cracks. The late September collection sounds a lot like this.

1) Jessie J and Ariana Grande - Bang Bang
Amazingly, there are still radio stations that won't play pop songs with a rap breakdown in case it "alienates" their listeners. Never mind that Jay-Z is 44, and Grandmaster Flash is pushing 60 - apparently there are people who cannot comprehend a musical genre that originated five decades ago. It's like a 1970s radio station refusing to play Born To Run because the saxophone solo might remind people of the jazz era.

It doesn't help that the record labels pander to this nonsense, which is why a Nicki Minaj-free version of Bang Bang exists, despite her verse being the only respite from three minutes of sub-Aguilera screeching.

2) Queen + Michael Jackson - There Must Be More To Life Than This
Started in 1981, finished a couple of weeks ago, this track will feature on the upcoming compilation Queen Forever.

Queen's sessions with Jackson allegedly faltered when the King of Pop objected to Freddie Mercury inhaling vast amounts of cocaine in his living room. On the basis of this track, it does sound like Jackson was a little overwhelmed by the moustachioed rock legend, with his fragile, quivering vocals no match for Mercury's bravura performance.

A Jackson-free version of There Must Be More To Life Than This surfaced on Mercury's 1985 solo album Mr Bad Guy. This re-dub has been produced by William Orbit who adds strings, guitars and a bombastic coda that recalls The Beatles' Hello Goodbye.

3) Brika - Options
"Sometimes love isn't enough to stop trains and planes like in the cinemas".

This stripped-back, tabla-powered song is pop at it's most elegant and groovesome. I love it to bits.

4) Hozier - Do I Wanna Know (Live Lounge cover)
A real stand-out moment from Radio One's More Music Month, transforming Arctic Monkeys' rollicking rock stomper into a lachrymose lament. Soul-stirring.

5) Mary J Blige - Whole Damn Year
The second track to emerge from Mary J's London Sessions album is an Emeli Sande / Naughty Boy collaboration, and sounds almost exactly like you'd expect - a break-up ballad in the classic soul template, with a killer vocal and an sucker-punch lyric.

"It took a whole damn year to repair my body," groans Mary J Blige. Ouch.

6) Hugh - One Of These DaysA lolloping, laid-back, smooth-as-peanut-butter groove from London newcomers Hugh.

Apart from being impossible to Google, the four-piece take pride in their melting pot of influences - Soul II Soul, Grizzly Bear, Beach House, Young Disciples. You can hear them all in this track, the opening number from their forthcoming EP.

7) Prides - Out Of The Blue
Hardcore synths, pop melodies and a vowel-chewing Scottish accent? No, it's not Chvrches, but hotly-tipped newcomers Prides. You may have seen them at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games while you were waiting for Kylie. They were impressive then and they're impressive now - with the 18-months-in-the-making video for Out Of The Blue, one of the tracks that got them noticed last year.

8) The Knocks - Classic (feat. Powers)
The Knocks are great. Powers are great. Together they are classic (do you see what I did there?)

The video, for reasons that are never explained, is a tribute to Machiavellian time-sink computer game The Sims.

9) Jessie Ware - Kind Of, Sometimes, Maybe
I'll be honest. I haven't listened to this, in the hope that there'll be a few surprises on Jessie Ware's album when it finally comes out next month.

But if you're the impatient sort, this Miguel-assisted duet is bound to be a beauty.

10) FKA Twigs - Two Weeks (Live on Later)
FKA Twigs delivered a brilliant, blistering rant about being labelled "alt R&B" in The Guardian last month.

"When I first released music and no one knew what I looked like, I would read comments like: 'I've never heard anything like this before, it's not in a genre,'" said Tahliah Barnett. "And then my picture came out six months later, now she's an R&B singer. I share certain sonic threads with classical music; my song Preface is like a hymn. So let's talk about that. If I was white and blonde and said I went to church all the time, you'd be talking about the 'choral aspect'. But you're not talking about that because I'm a mixed-race girl from south London."

It's an excellent point. This sounds nothing like R&B. It sounds like the future. And, now that she's been on Jools, I finally know how to dance to it.

11) Breach - The Key (ft Kelis)
Speaking of mis-labelling, Kelis's new album, Food, has been labelled "Alt R&B" - I think on the basis it was produced by a white man from an indie band. Rubbish - it's classic soul with a modern twist, and one of my favourite records of the year so far.

The Key began life as a reworking of Rumble, one of the first singles from the album. But Kelis liked it so much, she jumped into the studio with Breach (aka Ben Westbeech) and re-recorded the vocals. It takes me back to the singer's ahead-of-its-time dance album Fleshtone. In other words, it is excellent.

And that's all for this week. Thanks for tuning in!

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrating 25 years of Rhythm Nation

Like A Prayer, Raw Like Sushi, 3 Feet High and Rising: 1989 produced a lot of albums that have stayed with me well into adulthood. But none had a bigger impact than Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814.

I listened to my vinyl copy every day for an entire year. I taught myself to replicate the syncopated, computerised drum patterns. I even wrote an hilariously bad musical based on the songs (the villain was called Black Cat). Wisely, my drama teacher resisted my suggestion to stage it as that year's school production.

Rhythm Nation turns 25 today but it's an album that can still surprise me. Jackson and her co-conspirators Jam and Lewis crammed the album full of Easter Eggs - percussion that darts across the stereo field, virtuoso flourishes hidden deep under the mix and, in Love Will Never Do (Without You), my all-time favourite musical moment.

Listen to the final chorus (about 5'22" into the video below). Janet starts to ad lib, rising higher and higher through her vocal register. Suddenly, somehow, her voice is replaced by a muted trumpet, which continues the riff up into the ozone layer. The transition is seamless. To this day, I can't work out where she ends and he begins. It is simply magic.

I was an idealistic 14-year-old (is there any other sort?) when Rhythm Nation was released, and I absorbed the record's socially concious lyrics like a particularly thirsty sponge.

"Prejudice? No! Bigotry? No! Ignorance? No! Illiteracy No!" Janet cries on The Knowledge. And, although it looks naive in print, her message was resoundingly powerful on record, thanks to Jam & Lewis's thunderous, bass-heavy production.

The title track, powered by a monumental sample from Sly & The Family Stone's Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again), actually makes the idea of a utopian nation united by dance seem like a practical and achievable solution to poverty, bigotry, racism and war. It is that good.

It's worth noting that Janet was only 22 when she wrote these songs. What's more, she was realistic about what they could achieve. "I know I can't change the world single-handedly, but for those who are on the fence, maybe I can lead them in a positive direction," she told US magazine in 1990.

"We have so little time to solve these problems,” she added in an interview with Rolling Stone. "I want people to realize the urgency. I want to grab their attention. Music is my way of doing that."

The lyrics were inspired by a constant diet of CNN, fed into the studio as Janet tried to follow up her breakthrough album, Control. Predictably, the label had demanded more of that record's defiant coming-of-age anthems. They went so far as to propose a title, Scandal, and a subject matter - dishing the dirt on the Jackson's family feuds. What's surprising is that Janet initially ran with the idea.

You Need Me, which became the b-side to Miss You Much, is an angry riposte to her dad: "Daddy he was distant. never there to hold my hand... Mother made up for him, always watching over me".

None of that material made its way onto Rhythm Nation - but Livin' In A World (They Didn't Make) contains the line: "We teach our kids rules that we don't adhere to ourselves". I wonder what serial adulterer Joseph Jackson made of that one?

In the end, though, no-one loved this album for its message. Even Janet abandons up her social studies dissertation after the first three tracks. "Get the point?" she drawls. "Good. Let's dance".

And then we're off: Miss You Much, Love Will Never Do, Alright, Escapade, Black Cat. Those songs allowed Janet to shatter her brother's seemingly unassailable chart record, scoring seven top five singles from one album. Rhythm Nation even produced number ones in three consecutive years (1989, 1990 and 1991) - a feat still unmatched in the Billboard charts.

Why? It's simple. Those singles are playful, succulent, life-affirming, genre-defining firecrackers. Escapade, which is Janet at her poppiest, is an effortless blend of good time Motown sentiment and the juddering Minneapolis funk. Not by coincidence, the video is set at a carnival.

The success of Rhythm Nation paved the way for Janet's multi-million pound deal with Virgin, which in turn produced the lush, sexy double album, Janet. That record may have sold more - especially in the UK, where Rhythm Nation is largely a footnote - but to my ears it was messy and unfocused. What's more, it marked the beginning of Janet's descent into R&B soft porn (one of her later albums contains a song called Moist, which says it all, really).

Rhythm Nation only gets steamy once, on the closing track Someday Is Tonight. A sequel to the chastity ballad Let's Wait Awhile, the song coos and teases over a sultry, candlelit bedroom groove. "No more fantasizing of how it would be," Janet sing-whispers, "Cause tonight all your dreams come true".

The last two minutes of the song are given over to a deliciously suggestive trumpet solo, courtesy of Herb Alpert, while Janet sighs and moans into your headphones. If the 14-year-old me fell in love with the dance anthems, the 15-year-old me wore a hole in my... er, vinyl listening to that track.

That's not a throwaway comment, by the way. My first copy of the album is virtually unplayable. And when I upgraded to the CD, I was stunned to find that it was very different.

Several of Rhythm Nation's songs, including the title track, had been edited to make the album fit the confines of vinyl. So suddenly, there were dozens of new hooks and musical motifs to learn. It gave the album another six months' life - presumably to the horror of my parents.

And let's not forget the album came with a superlative package of remixes, teasing the material out and revealing hidden moments. There's an infectious keyboard solo in Alright, for example, which barely registers under the clattering beats of the original, but gets promoted to centre stage in CJ Macintosh's sublime Ambient House mix.

I collected those imports and white labels religiously, and it's those versions I turn to when I grow tired of the album itself.

Sadly, most of the remixes are long out of print. A&M Records, timid about Janet's marketability after the idiotic Super Bowl furore, has been reluctant to honour the star with expanded anniversary editions of her career-defining albums.

The mixes aren't even on iTunes or Spotify but, luckily, a few kind souls have posted them on YouTube. So, in honour of Rhythm Nation's silver celebration, I've compiled a playlist of my favourites.

Impressive work, and one that's rarely given credit (in the UK, at least).

I owe my understanding of songwriting, and ultimately my career, to my teenage immersion in those songs and remixes - and I've been lucky enough to thank both Janet and Jimmy Jam personally. I know most people have a similar experience with an album, or even a single, at some point in their lives. I'd be interested to hear about yours in the comments.

Get the point? Good. Let's Dance.

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Video: The Veronicas - You Ruin Me

Aussie pop sisters The Veronicas spent five long years fighting their record label over the band's third album.

Last year, the label finally succumbed to reason and let them go.

Yesterday, it was announced the band's new single You Ruin Me had entered the charts at number one.

Jessica and Lisa responded with a simple tweet: "@WarnersMusic Haha".

Then they released the video. It's as beautiful as the song is bleak. Lots of ballet, a little bit of kidnapping, and some stunning visuals.

It's great to have them back.

The Veronicas - You Ruin Me

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Could this be Robin Schulz's third number one this year?

You might not realise it, but Robin Schulz has been all over your radio this summer.

Prayer In C. That was him. Originally a pretty-but-drab lament by French folk duo Lily Wood and the Prick, Schulz threw out the panflutes, ratcheted up the BPM and turned it into a dancefloor smash.

Compare the two versions here:

Lily Wood & The Prick - Prayer In C (original)

Lily Wood & The Prick - Prayer In C (Robin Schulz remix)

Waves. That was him, too. Again, Mr Probz's original version was a great song at completely the wrong tempo. But, with a wave of his glittery wand, Schulz made it palatable to anyone who wasn't in the grips of a crushing personal tragedy.

Here's the side-by-side again:

Mr Probz - Waves (original)

Mr Probz - Waves (Robin Schulz remix)

Both of those remixes hit number one in the UK, begging the question "could he do the same with his own material?" Well, here's the point where we find out, with a new single, called Sun Goes Down. This time, it's an original, with vocals from US R&B star Jasmine Sullivan. It lacks the hooky guitar licks of the previous two singles, but still has a pleasing end-of-summer comedown vibe.

I'm not convinced it's a future chart topper (I'm pretty sure we called a moratorium on the saxophone after Crazy Stupid Love) but as a middle-of-the-mixtape chill out track, it's pleasingly memorable.

Sun Goes Down is taken from Schulz's debut album, Prayer, which also features remixes of Clean Bandit's Rather Be, Coldplay's Sky Full of Stars and Lykke Li's No Rest For The Wicked -- the latter of which is pretty special (you can hear it at the end of this mixtape). It's out in the UK on 13 October for the bargain price of six pounds. Here's the pre-order link.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Staves are back, and they've brought Bon Iver with them

Last Christmas, after The Staves' triumphant, rapturous gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, Emily Stavely-Taylor told me two years of touring the band's debut album, Dead & Born & Grown, had taken its toll. "Playing those songs is like having sex with someone you've fallen out of love with."

So, after wrapping up that show, the band decamped to Wisconsin to dream up the magic all over again. Sitting at the mixing desk was folk-pop troubador Justin Vernon - who they'd befriended while on tour with Bon Iver. Here is the proof, lest you think this is all an elaborate ruse.

The first fruits of their collaboration is an EP called Blood I Bled, the title track of which appeared online today. Vernon upends a whole bag of tricks over the sisters' pin-point harmonies: Strings, handclaps, a brass section and, naturally, a banjo. But crucially, he does nothing to dilute the band's spine-tingling vocals.

In ambition and structure, it sounds like Eagle Song, the billowy, polyharmonic closing track from their debut record, but now it has added oomph. Or, at least, as much oomph as a mournful mid-tempo folk ballad can muster.

Simply beautiful.

You can pre-order the Blood I Bled EP on iTunes. And to pass the time until the 28th of October, when it'll appear in your library like a less spectacularly-unwelcome U2 album, here's a picture of Emily, Jessica and Camilla when they were little 'uns. Awww, bless.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Video: Jessie Ware - Say You Love Me

The idea of spending a fortune on Jessie Ware's new video must have been more tempting than that snake in the Garden of Eden. Say You Love Me is a career-making, crossover ballad with a gospel choir propping up the coda, and a lesser artist would have overwhelmed the song with fireworks and ticker-tape; allowing themselves to be shot in "tasteful" slow motion as the heavens exploded around them.

Instead, Jessie hired directors Luke White and Remi Weekes (aka Tell No One) whose pitch was simply this: Zero in on the vocal.

The camera never lets Jessie out of its sight, leaning in for the intimate moments and panning back when she needs space to breathe. For the first 60 seconds there are next to no cuts. And the climax is heralded by a single lighting change.

It's classy and engrossing and entirely befitting of the material. But it could do without the CGI sparrow.

Jessie Ware - Say You Love Me

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stunning return from The Veronicas

Remember The Veronicas? That not-unattractive twin sister goth pop whirlwind, who released a clutch of thrilling pop singles half a decade ago.

This one was a top 10 hit in the UK.

The Veronicas - Untouched

And this one was even better.

The Veronicas - 4Ever

Sadly, they've been trapped in record label purgatory for the last couple of years - with Warner Bros stalling, delaying and eventually refusing to release their third album. "Its not because they didn't like the record," the sisters explained in 2012, "it's because they have been through 3 different CEO's and 4 different A&R, there has been no focus across the board".

Luckily, last year, they escaped and fled to Sony, who are "amazing" and allowing Jessica and Lisa to put out "the album of our dreams".

To be honest, I'd hoped they'd come back with a barnstorming pop banger - but, not for the first time, my instincts were completely wrong.

You Ruin Me is a bare-bones, gut-wrenching piano ballad. Written and recorded in just five hours, it sounds like an uncensored outpouring of grief.

"It's a heartbreaking song," The Veronicas confessed Aussie radio station B105 last night. "No silver lining".

It is also, I think you'll agree, a stunner.

Welcome back, ladies.

The Veronicas - You Ruin Me (radio recording)

The Veronicas - You Ruin Me (video teaser)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 songs you may have missed by artists staring moodily out of frame

A semi-regular round-up of songs I haven't quite managed to blog about over the last seven days. There are some exceptional tracks in this week's list, so if you're pushed for time concentrate on the first four and number 10.

1) One Direction - Fireproof
Oh my God, they've all gone Barlow.

Trailing their fourth album (it's called Four, giving you a rare glimpse of their shit hot creative process), Fireproof is a MOR guitar-led ballad that's guaranteed to make the Radio 2 mums swoon. Better than it sounds.

2) Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy
"Sometimes you have to step away from what you love in order to learn how to love it again," says Damien Rice, announcing his return after an eight-year hiatus.

Not much has changed in the interim - this Rick Rubin-produced track is acoustic rock with an undercurrent of menace - but that stunning voice is always welcome back onto the Discopop Towers' ghettoblaster.

Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

3) Sinkane - How We Be
Coming soon from DFA Records, this has been on heavy rotation in the 6 Music playlist for a couple of weeks, but the official stream only popped up in the last few days.

Sinkane is a London-born, Sudanese-descended, New York-based musician, who's appeared on the liner notes for indie bands like Of Montreal and Yeasayer. But his solo material is altogether more funky - especially this track, which combines the languid grooves of Curtis Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack and a chiming Casio keyboard riff. Addictive.

4) Sam Smith ft A$AP Rocky - I'm Not The Only One
A simple remix, but an incredibly effective one.

5) Nick Gardner - Lose You
Right, so Nick Gardner is a new solo artist from Manchester who was snapped up by US record label Interscope (Gaga, Dr Dre, Lana Del Rey) on the strength of his YouTube covers.

That's hardly exceptional these days. But Nick seems to have pretty diverse tastes - having covered both The Smiths and Kelly Clarkson alongside the obligatory (inferior) version of Adele's Someone Like You.

Some of that filters into his songwriting, although this "buzz track" sounds a lot like his critic-proof labelmates Maroon 5 - who he just happens to be supporting on the UK leg of their tour. One to watch, if only for the intriguing echoes of Phil Collins in the intro.

6) SBTRKT ft Raury - Higher
The third track to appear from SBTRKT's forthcoming album Wonder When We Land isn't a patch on the epic Ezra Koenig collaboration New Dorp, New York - but the woozy, four in the morning paranoia of Higher is still an solid 7/10.

It features Raury, a young MC from Atlanta who only released his first mixtape a month ago. The music industry moves fast these days, huh?

7) La Roux - Kiss and Not Tell
Fun fact: If you call the Welsh phone number in La Roux's new video (see above), you can listen to her new single on your phone, just like we used to in the 1980s when British Telecom had a number you could dial to hear the Top 10 and subsequently be grounded because it cost £1 a minute, which was more than the cost of a 7" single making the whole endeavour redundant in the first place.

NB: The La Roux song isn't much cop.

8) Kleerup ft Susanne Sundfør - Let Me In
If you always felt Abba's Visitors album deserved a sequel, this song should help. Kleerup you should know from their frequent collaborations with Robyn; while Susanne Sundfør is "known" for her guest vocals on songs by M83 and Royksopp.

9) Kiesza - Giant In My Heart (live lounge)
Honestly, this is just worth it to see the keyboard player trying his hardest to recreate the "waow-doop-do-do-do-do-daow" hook. Bless his heart.

10) Seinabo Sey - Pistols At Dawn
Born in Gambia but living in Sweden, Seinabo Sey is one of my favourite new artists of the year. While every other soul singer thinks "dark" means "a bit upset", she goes in for the full-throated Nina Simone melodrama.

Her new single, Pistols at Dawn, is more restrained than the hard-hitting Hard Times, but there's a hint of menace bubbling just under the surface.

"Stand down or showdown, baby. Let’s get this done," she commands her lover, who has no doubt just wet his pants.

And that's your lot... Til next time, then!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tove Lo sets off a Timebomb

Songwriting skills: Tove Lo has them in spades. Great big digger-sized spades, scooping up nuggets of musical gold from the rich seams of Scandipop [that's quite enough of that - tortured metaphor ed]

In anticipation of her debut album "Queen of the Clouds", which comes out in September (not in the UK), she's giving away an iTunes single (not in the UK) of the album's fourth track, Timebomb. Not surprisingly, it's brilliant.

As with her earlier tracks, it's pumped full of pop star charisma and emotional turmoil: "I couldn't decide if you were the worst human being I'd ever met, or just the best thing that ever happened," she burbles over the opening piano arpeggio.

Definitely worth a listen. You can buy it in the UK next year :(

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Right here, right now: Mary J Blige and Disclosure team up

Earlier this year, Mary J Blige did a guest turn on the US version of Disclosure's F For You. Nothing out of the ordinary there - the star power undoubtedly helped get an unknown band onto America's notoriously risk-averse radio stations - but it turns out the collaboration was also the start of a genuine musical love affair.

Earlier this week, Blige announced The London Sessions, a new album of 10 songs recorded over a month in the UK capital with Disclosure, Sam Smith and their regular collaborator Jimmy Napes.

"Our idea was to become part of London," she told The Guardian. "To really embrace the culture — to really live in it. Not that I haven't been here before, but I've never had the chance to really soak it in the way I have this time.

"The music is free over here the way it used to be in the States," she added. "Artists are just free to do what they love... The music is living and breathing — you can hear that from Adele's last album. It was massive — a big deal. But she did what she loved."

The first fruits of the partnership popped onto YouTube about an hour ago, in the form of a track called Right Now. It's everything you might have hoped for, harking back to the early days of Blige's career, when she single-handedly invented hip-hop soul - that mix of hard, urban beats and textured, careworn harmonies that signposted the way for everyone from TLC to Beyonce.

Even more strikingly, it sees Disclosure step up their game in terms of production. The Bo Selecta bleeps that scattered their debut album have been sacrificed in favour of a subtle, spare groove that's 100% in service of the melody.

On this evidence, we're on the cusp of the first essential Mary J Blige album since 2001's No More Drama.

Mary J Blige - Right Now

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New - TV On The Radio: Happy Idiot

It's been three years since TV On The Radio last released an album - with the group taking a much-needed pause after the death of bassist Gerard Smith (second from the right, above) from lung cancer.

"We've been through a lot of stuff in the past few years that could have stopped the band cold," said singer Tunde Adebimpe in a statement earlier this year. "But I'm glad we got it together and took stock of the unique connection we have between each other because the [new] record is 1,000%, without a doubt, the best thing we've ever done."

On the evidence presented here, he could be right. Powered by a nimble guitar riff and an energetic new-wave beat, Happy Idiot is a hymn to ignoring your problems in the hope they'll go away. "I'm a happy idiot waving at cars," sings co-vocalist Kyp Malone.

Of course, bottling up your feelings can only lead to trouble - and I suspect the new album, Seeds, will delve into the consequences... For now, though, enjoy three minutes of big dumb fun.

TV On The Radio - Happy Idiot

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New - Calvin Harris ft John Newman: Blame

John Newman's collaboration with the highest-paid DJ in the world has been teased for months - but the full track is finally here.

Unsurprisingly, it sounds like a Calvin Harris remix of a John Newman album track. I'll leave it to you to decide whether this is a good thing.

Calvin Harris ft John Newman - Blame

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Soporific R&B special

Some days, all you want to hear is music that makes you go arms akimbo la la bananas; other days you'd rather have music that wraps you up like a warm blanket. Today is one of the latter days.

So, without any fuss, let's get on with a short playlist of new R&B slow jams. The sort of music you'd expect to hear at the end of a Janet Jackson album, but one of the early good ones before she started singing about her moist lady parts.

1) Tiann - Oh My
Australian born, LA-based singer Tiann is currently doing one of those "new song every month" things and September's track is a beauty. Muted but melodic, subtle but seductive, I need a third example to go here.

2) Jhene Aiko - The Pressure
Directed by Childish Gambino, this video finds Jhene experiencing situations that make her feel pressured (raising a child, attending red carpet events, having a right old barney in front of a coffee table) over one of the most relaxing grooves ever committed to tape, or whatever it is YouTube videos are made out of.

3) Jessie Ware - Want Your Feeling
This is a little more uptempo - but uptempo for Jessie Ware is what most musicians would call "funereal". That's not a criticism, mind you. Like Tough Love and Say You Love me before it, Want Your Feeling indicates that Jessie's second album is going to be hard to beat when it comes to the end-of-year polls.

Happily, it's also a free download if you pre-order that album today (it's not out in the UK til 6 October). "I swear you will have half the record before it's even out with these instant grat things," notes Jessie, in a slightly narked message to her mailing list.

4) Prince - U Know
Supple, lean and sexy as hell - and the song's not bad either.

A surprisingly modern-sounding groove from Mr Rogers Nelson, lifted from his forthcoming solo album Art Official Age, which is coming out on the same day as the long-awaited 3rdEyeGirl record, Plectrum Electrum. For the first time in a long time, I'm excited by a new Prince record. Fingers crossed!!

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kasabian cover Fancy - and it's a 10/10

This is quite something: Kasabian doing a lush, laid-back cover of Iggy Azalea's Fancy in Radio 1's Live Lounge.

Perhaps understandably, they concentrate on the Charli XCX moments, particularly the "let's get drunk on the mini-bar" section.

The session was all part of the station's More Music Month, which involves a Live Lounge every day of September, so expect more of his sort of thing in the next 29 days.

Kasabian - Fancy

And if you liked that, it turns out the Leicester lads have a knack for a kooky cover. Check out this mash-up of Good Vibrations and... er, the Sesame Street theme tune, performed for Australia's Triple J last month.

Kasabian - Fancy

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