Wednesday, December 31, 2014

MØ has a new year treat for you

Danish electro-pop singer has plonked a new song on YouTube. It is called New Year's Eve, which is a stunning coincidence because today just happens to be New Year's Eve. What are the chances?

"As a thanks to all of you who've been supporting me in 2014 here's a new song. Have a GREEEEEEAT new year y'all," she wrote on Facebook, having briefly been possessed by Tony The Tiger.

The song is a delicate plea for camaraderie from "a gross teenager trapped in a grown up shape". "Oh friend will you fly with me into fire?" she asks. "We forget about our problems... in the new year".

As you can probably tell, it's not one for your midnight playlist (unless you're deliberately trying to make everyone around you miserable) but it's still got an elegiac beauty that would suit your 4am comedown.

The song is supposed to be a free download on MØ's Soundcloud page, but the link seems to be broken at the moment. :(

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Listen to a good single by Ameriieeieie

Here is husky-voiced "It's this one thing that's got me trippin'" singer Ameriie (formerly known as Amerie), with a new single called Mustang that is quite simply superb.

As Popjustice adroitly observes: "It's an electro song and it's an R&B song but it's also kind of neither; it sounds fresh but it also sounds like 2005; there are times when its sparseness really works, and there are times when it sounds like a demo."

The oddities of its production aside, I've always been impressed by Ameriie's songwriting "chops" - the harmonic shift in Mustang's chorus is a particularly clever trick, and one that lifts the song above the average.

As well as adding further unnecessary vowels to her name, Ameriie will be spending 2015 recording two albums, giving away a free EP and writing two novels. In no sense will the quality threshold be lowered by the end of March.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Taylor Swift's 1989 reclaimed by country music

Taylor Swift may have abandoned country music, but country music hasn't forgotten her.

Just before Christmas, singer-songwriters Louisa Wendorff and Devin Dawson created a mash-up of Style and Blank Space, giving the two songs an acoustic Nashville twang and a clever "he said / she said" dynamic.

The video languished on YouTube for a couple of days, until T-Swift herself spotted it and tweeted this.

The clip has since surpassed a million views and Louisa's current EP is shooting up the iTunes singer/songwriter charts. The singer is, understandably, freaking out.

But she deserves the attention -- check out her YouTube channel to hear a singer with a talent for spotting unlikely connections between songs (her dual cover of Beyonce's Pretty Hurts and Colbie Caillat's Try is a superb example of combining two complimentary lyrics to create something devastatingly effective).

Check out the Taylor Swift cover below... It's rather special.

Louisa Wendorff - Blank Space / Style (with Devin Dawson)

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Grimes recorded a big daft Christmas song on Christmas Day

"My dad is making me watch a Bowie documentary and is standing directly in front of the TV singing along to it," tweeted pop singer (and part-time Christmas decoration) Grimes the other day.

So it's no small wonder that every year, she and her stepbrother Jay Worthy excuse themselves from Christmas dinner to make new music.

A previous attempt, Christmas Song, showed up as an iTunes bonus track on Grimes' 2012 LP Visions and she uploaded this year's effort, Christmas Song II (Grinch), to YouTube on Saturday.

"This is NOT a single from the upcoming album, not a serious piece of art in any capacity and not an official grimes release," she noted. Also — made this song in prob less than 2 hours so please excuse my terrible production, + it is not mixed or mastered."

Caveats aside, this is unspeakably cute, if rather sweary.

Grimes - Christmas Song II (Grinch)

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Discopop Directory: Top 10 singles of 2014

When I sat down and totted up my iTunes play counts for this year's Top 10, I had to double check my numbers. I had fully expected Clean Bandit's Rather Be and Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud to be among my most-listened-to songs of 2014 and, while both came close, the data doesn't lie.

So, the following singles are the ones I've compulsively added to iTunes playlists over the last 12 months and they represent the soundtrack to my year, free of self-censorship, editorialising and Sam Smith.

10) Charli XCX - Boom Clap
It's safe to say Charli XCX had low expectations for Boom Clap. She sent it to Hilary Duff. She bunged it onto a film soundtrack. She wrote the lyric "the beat goes on and on and on" and couldn't be arsed to change it.

But the track sparkles - partly because, for once, Charli isn't trying so hard to come across as a teen rebel. From the masterfully concise intro to the honey-drop "la la las" in the final chorus, it's a great big hug of a song.

Oh, and the lyric "you're the glitter and the darkness in my world" couldn't be a better fit for The Fault In Our Stars and its skewered tale of young love.

9) SBTRKT ft Ezra Koenig - New Dorp, New York
The best-sounding single of the year, throbbing with mystery and possibility - even though it's just a bass drum, an elemental bassline and a few sound effects.

Ezra Koenig delivers a dream-state vocal, listing the sights of Staten Island and "flag slappin' Manhattan", although what he's actually on about is anyone's guess.

It's just a shame the rest of SBTRKT's album didn't live up to this promise.

8) Katy B - Crying For No Reason
AKA Katy B's secret weapon. A Guy Chambers co-write, Crying For No Reason is a "proper" ballad about the damage caused by buried emotions, with a hat-tip to Madonna's Frozen in its clattering drum fills.

Katy's delivery makes the song indispensable. "I never faced all the pain I caused," she sings with tangible anguish. "Now that pain is hitting me full force".

7) Prince - Breakdown
Twelve months ago, I would never have expected a Prince single to feature in this Top 10. But here he is, reinvigorated by those hit-and-run London concerts, delivering his most devastating ballad since The Beautiful Ones.

Apparently an autobiographical account of his former excesses - "I used to throw the party every New Year's Eve / First one intoxicated, last one to leave" - it's also a love letter to the person (higher power?) who set him free.

If Frank Ocean had released this, it would have been everywhere. But Frank Ocean could never have hit those high notes in the coda.

6) Mark Ronson ft Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
Speaking of Prince, here's a tribute act.

5) Lorde - Yellow Flicker Beat
By Lorde's standards, Yellow Flicker Beat is a minor single but there's something about her performance that draws me in. Maybe it's the killer hook, maybe I'm hypnotised by the frail hum that runs through the entire song - either way, it's murderously addictive.

As with Boom Clap, Lorde's song is a perfect marriage between lyric and source material (in this case, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay). If you can't imagine Katniss Everdeen singing "I made a little prison and I'm locking up everyone who ever laid a finger on me," then you're doing it wrong.

4) The Staves - Blood I Bled
The Staves really raise their game on this Bon Iver-produced song, the immaculate layering of their harmonies matched by the steady build of instrumentation from a single, hand-picked guitar to the soaring, astral strings of the closing moments.

Truly exceptional.

3) Jessie Ware - Tough Love
"Sophisticated" and "tasteful" are dirty words in pop but Jessie Ware proves they don't have to be. Tough Love has a surface layer of calm, but listen closer and you'll hear the strain in Jessie's voice as she confronts a no-good lover - "so you want to be a man about it, do you?" We never find out exactly what he's done, but the cheeky lift from Prince's Little Red Corvette suggests it's not just his eye that's been wandering.

Repressed anger has never sounded so beautiful.

2) Tove Lo - Truth Serum EP
Rarely does a pop act arrive as fully-formed as Tove Lo, whose dispatches from the front line of love are catastrophically honest.

The Truth Serum EP is an X-rated Mills and Boon potboiler, chronicling a relationship from the first heady rush of love to a devastated, drug-fuelled break-up.

Every track hits you like a hurricane - the pop hooks deployed like rock riffs as Tove excavates her darkest secrets. No wonder her mother was worried about her when she heard it.

1) Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
Let's face it, Shake It Off was more calculated than Fermat's Last Theorem. Co-written with not one, but two of Sweden's biggest hitmakers, it was stuffed with heard-it-before hooks, yawnsome self-empowerment clichés ("haters gonna hate") and employed the phrase "this sick beat" without any apparent irony.

But if Taylor's ambition was to write a stone-cold pop classic, she hit the nail on the head. Squarely. With a fucking jackhammer.

The melody is indelible, and the urge to dance like a dork is irresistible, thanks to that infectious drumbeat. Oh, sick beat. I get it now.

PS: The song would still be better if she sang "bakers gonna bake, bake, bake, bake, bake". And that's a fact.

And, because it's been a great year for singles, the next 11 would have been:

11) Banks - Beggin' For Thread
12) Tove Stryke - Even If I'm Loud It Doesn't Mean I'm Talking To You
13) Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
14) Gorgon City ft MNEK - Ready For Your Love
15) Clean Bandit - Rather Be
16) Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud
17) Beyonce - Partition
18) Kelis - Rumble
19) Ed Sheeran - Sing
20) Katy Perry - Dark Horse
21) The Veronicas - You Ruin Me

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Madonna - are those new tracks any cop?

Madonna wasn't supposed to put out any new music this year. But that was before a "helpful" associate decided to share demo tracks for her entire new album with the internet.

The star had been plagued by leaks anyway. Earlier this month, she posted a photo of a smashed iPod on Instagram as a reaction to the appearance of the title track, Rebel Heart. "This broken ipod is a symbol of my broken heart!" she wrote. "I have been violated as a human and an artist! #fuckedupshit."

If I was the source of the leaks, I'd wouldn't like to be around when Madonna finds out my name. But at the same time, she pretty much has herself to blame - her 13th album has been gestating longer than an elephant and the more people get involved, the more likely it is that something will tunnel it's way onto the internet.

But, being Madonna, she responded in style: Tackling the leaker head on by depositing five tracks on iTunes, and another onto YouTube this morning.

"I was hoping to release my new single 'Living For Love' on Valentine's Day with the rest of the album coming in the Spring," she said in an official statement. "I would prefer my fans to hear completed versions of some of the songs instead of the incomplete tracks that are circulating. Please consider these six songs as an early Christmas gift".

Living For Love, sadly, is the YouTube-only track but it's the most interesting, because it was supposed to (and basically still does) set the tone for the album. It sounds like this:

Madonna - Living For Love

So what's all this new material like? It's quite simple: If you like Living For Love, you're going to like everything else. Diplo, the album's main producer, has his fingerprints everywhere - dirty synth hooks, pitch-shifted vocals and, on Unapologetic Bitch, a cod-reggae backing track. The only exception is Ghosttown, a stately ballad that sounds like a future single.

Personally, though, I'm not a huge fan of Madonna's late-period vocals - she's still doing that half-sung, half-spoken trick that became her stock sound on the Hard Candy album. It's a style that makes good use of her limited range, but it has the tendency to sound harsh and bitter, even when the lyrics are sentimental.

That's not always a problem here - as the song titles suggest ("Bitch, I'm Madonna", "Unapologetic Bitch", "Illuminati") she's in street-fighting mode right now, and Diplo usually has the good sense to dress her up in club sounds (all over, all over) that make a virtue of her demanding delivery (from her head down to her toes).

After my first few listens, the Madge album it compares to the most is Confessions On A Dancefloor - aka her last decent record - so the auspices are good. A solid 6/10.

You can get the tracks for yourself by pre-orderding Madonna's album, Rebel Heart on iTunes.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Pop gem: Veronicas - If You Love Someone

"You don't have to be an activist to want to make a change," reads a banner halfway through The Veronicas' Occupy-themed new video, If You Love Someone.

The visuals just about mesh with the uplifting, uptempo single, whose message is more "stand up for your love rights" than "stand up against the injustices of your fellow man". As protest songs go, it's too adorable to shake the foundations of power, but it's a darn sight more palatable than Russell Brand's revolution of narcissism.

Driven by an acoustic guitar and an irresistible chorus, it was co-written and produced by Syndney production house DNA songs, whose previous high water mark was The Saturdays' Not Giving Up.

Unlike that song, this is quite obviously brilliant from beginning to end.

The Veronicas - If You Love Someone

PS: Here's the interview I did with the band last month for the Beeb. It's not documented in the text, but our conversation was temporarily interrupted when one of the band turned on a radiator and it smelt of raw chicken. You don't get that with Nicole Scherzinger, do you?

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Eleven of this year's best Christmas songs

It's less than a week to Christmas Day - so here's a quick round-up of this year's new Christmas songs and festive cover versions. Presented in a big long list with next to no commentary because I'm drunk on eggnog.

1) Indina Menzel and Michael Buble - Baby It's Cold Outside
The video is almost too cute to bear.

2) Nothing Left To Do (Let's Make This Christmas Blue) - The Both

3) Ariana Grande - Santa Tell Me

Stick around for the blooper reel at the end of this video.

4) Nashville Cast - Blue Christmas

5) Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
A supercut of every Darlene Love performance for David Letterman since 1986.

6) Dum Dum Girls - On Christmas
Shades of St Ettiene here.

7) Bombay Bicycle Club - In The Bleak Midwinter

8) Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett - Winter Wonderland
Don't let this fool you into buying their album.

9) Sam Smith - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
For God's sake, won't someone give him a hug?

10) Cornershop - Let The Good Times Roll

11) Little Mix - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Technically awful, but oddly compelling.

And that's it from me for now... I'm taking a break for my first Christmas as a Dad (which is as exciting as it sounds).

I'll be back with my annual Top 10 lists sometime between now and the new year.

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Marina: Stripped back and Happy

Marina and the Diamonds has always had a confessional element to her lyrics. The opening lines of her debut album are about the hair-pulling anxiety of signing her record deal: "Was I meant to feel happy?" she sings, her mental state directly feeding those nervous tics in her vocals.

But her presentation has always been stylised and conceptualised - from the diamond-encrusted diva of I Am Not A Robot to the "American archetypes" she portrayed in the Electra Heart project.

So it's refreshing to see this unvarnished acoustic performance of her new single, Happy. The video is as naked as the lyrics, as Marina quietly describes her struggles with sadness, and how she found sanctuary.

Marina and the Diamonds - Happy

As I said last week, Happy is a fragile and beautiful song. But I've also worked out what was niggling me about the melody: The "I believe" section really reminds me of Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet (specifically the line "Juliet, when we made love you used to cry").

Which isn't necessarily a flaw.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

St Vincent isn't my album of the year, but...

St Vincent’s fifth album recently topped both the Guardian and the NME's "record of the year" lists. You can see why – the self-titled album is further out there than the Mars Voyager, fuelled by warped guitar lines and discordant harmonies, without abandoning a core catchiness (there are proper choruses and everything!)

But it's an album I admire - not one I love.

Why? Because all the effort is on show. "Look at this clever thing I did here," it screams, "isn't it clever?" (I feel the same way about parts of Taylor Swift's 1989, truth be told). Great pop should sound spontaneous, no matter how much sweat is shed in the studio.

At the same time, St Vincent fulfils Lady Gaga's consistently broken Artpop promise. These songs have the potential to exercise the brain and the feet. And in its freer moments, the album is superb. One such moment is Birth In Reverse which, coincidentally, is the next single.

The video suffers from the same self-conscious stylings I mentioned above – but the "guitar hero in space" section is brilliant.

St Vincent - Birth In Reverse

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Must listen - Kendrick Lamar: Untitled

It's not often that lyrics website Rap Genius gets to deploy the phrase "Saxophone interlude" - but there it is, bold as day, in the middle of the write-up for Kendrick Lamar's new song, Untitled.

Premiered on The Colbert Report last night (where Lamar was the last-ever musical guest before Colbert departs to take over David Letterman's Late Show), the song is a sublime, jazz-inflected reflection on all the advice he's been given since becoming famous - buy property, chase women, abandon your core audience and get rich.

Watch below - and don't skip Colbert's interview, in which he quizzes the rapper on his stage pseudonym: "Why did you decide to name yourself after Anna Kendrick and Senator Lamar Alexander?"

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Imagine Dragons: Gold

They might not know the right way to face a camera, but Imagine Dragons have gone from casino band to global stars in three short years.

Radioactive set a US chart record by spending 87 weeks in the Hot 100. Then they won a Grammy. Then Michael Bay personally asked them to record the theme to Transformers 4. And when your songs get covered on X Factor, you really know you've arrived.

Not bad for a band who thought their music was "too heavy for radio".

Now it's time to build on / piss all over that success with album number two. The quartet just revealed the title of the record via a tedious "fan campaign", which basically amounted to a bunch of people doing a jigsaw on a forum. Here it is in all it's glory:

The first single, whose video was revealed along with the album title, is I Bet My Life. Brazenly commercial, it has shades of Ryan Tedder in its big barrelling drums and gospelly chorus. To me, though, it sounds spookily like a worship song. And not one of the good ones.

Imagine Dragons - I Bet My Life

Much better is the second single / instant gratification pre-order track Gold; which sounds like Muse bashing Timbaland's laptop repeatedly with a hammer. As "Thumri W" notes on the YouTube page: "Dude this is so sick! Wow the audio and effects is so good!"

Imagine Dragons - Gold

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Pop Danthology - 2014 edition

I wrote about DJ Earworm's United States of Pop last week. Now, his chief rival - Daniel Kim - has posted his own 2014 megamix.

With more tracks (66!) and a longer running time, it's a better floor-filler than the DJ Earworm mash-up. But I think this one suffers slightly from multiple tempo changes and an over-reliance on Magic's Rude in the mid-section.

See what you think - and you can go behind-the-scenes of the mix on Dan Kim's site.

Pop Danthology 2014

Full track list is as follows
A Great Big World, Christina Aguilera – Say Something
Afrojack feat. Wrabel – Ten Feet Tall
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem
Ariana Grande feat. Zedd – Break Free
Beyoncé feat. Jay Z – Drunk In Love
Calvin Harris – Summer
Calvin Harris feat. John Newman – Blame
Chris Brown feat. Lil Wayne, Tyga – Loyal
Chris Brown feat. Usher, Rick Ross – New Flame
Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne – Rather Be
Christina Perri – Human
David Guetta feat. Sam Martin – Dangerous
Deadmau5 feat. Colleen D’Agostino – Seeya
Dillon Francis, DJ Snake – Get Low
Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – Latch
DJ Snake, Lil Jon – Turn Down For What
Ed Sheeran – Don’t
Ed Sheeran – Sing
Enrique Iglesius feat. Pitbull – I’m A Freak
Idina Menzel – Let It Go
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX – Fancy
Iggy Azalea feat. MØ – Beg For It
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora – Black Widow
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz – Talk Dirty
Jason Derulo feat. Snoop Dogg – Wiggle
Jennifer Lopez – First Love
Jennifer Lopez feat. Iggy Azalea – Booty
Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj – Bang Bang
John Legend – All Of Me
Justin Timberlake – Not A Bad Thing
Katy Perry – Birthday
Katy Perry – This Is How We Do
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J – Dark Horse
Keisza – Hideaway
Kid Ink feat. Usher, Tinashe – Body Language
Lilly Wood & The Prick and Robin Schulz – Prayer in C (Robin Schulz Remix)
Magic! – Rude
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
Maroon 5 – Animals
Maroon 5 – Maps
Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake – Love Never Felt So Good
Miley Cyrus – Adore You
Mr. Probz – Waves (Robin Schulz Remix)
Nicki Minaj – Anaconda
Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong
One Direction – Steal My Girl
Paramore – Ain’t It Fun
Pharrell Williams – Happy
Pharrell Williams – Happy (NEUS Remix)
Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down
Sam Smith – I’m Not The Only One
Sam Smith – Stay With Me
Shakira – Dare (La La La)
Shakira feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember To Forget You
Sia – Chandelier
Stevie Wonder – Superstition (C2C Remix)
Taylor Swift – Blank Space
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
Tiesto – Red Lights
Tove Lo – Habits (Stay High)
The Chainsmokers – #SELFIE
The Chainsmokers feat. Siren – Kanye
Usher – Good Kisser
Usher feat. Nicki Minaj – She Came To Give It To You
Zedd – Find You

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Sam Smith remembers there's a tempo other than "down"

Six-time Grammy nominee Sam Smith was a notable absentee from last night's BBC Music Awards at Earl's Court. I did see an early running order, however, that had his name down for a "live via satellite" performance of Stay With Me. Wisely, everyone decided that was a terrible idea and he was quietly dropped from the show.

He's still got an album to promote, though, so here's a new video for Like I Can, just in time to remind you what to buy your mum for Christmas.

The clip sees Mr Smith dressed in Ratpack threads, wandering around New York with a gang of friends. It looks like a typical bachelor night out, as they down shots, eat a hearty Italian meal, clamber up fire escapes and... er, dance in formation in a side alley.

The song is one of In The Lonely Hour's more strident moments - clearly inspired by Adele's Rolling In The Deep, and all the better for it.

Sam Smith - Like I Can

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Marina and the Diamonds is Happy

Here's the second track to be revealed from Marina and the Diamonds' forthcoming long-player, Froot.

Happy (not a Pharrell cover, thank the lord) starts off stark and naked - Marina's voice completely shorn of reverb, like she's singing in your living room. It makes the heart-wrenching lyrics, in which Marina describes her not-entirely-hidden struggles with self-confidence and depression, even more affecting.

But as she sings the line "all the sadness inside me melted away", a few sparkled harmonies appear and the song begins to blossom.

By the end, she seems be describing a religious conversion ("I believe someone's watching over me") and the music matches her euphoria.

It's fragile and beautiful - and already number one in quite a few of the global iTunes charts.

Have a listen below.

Marina and the Diamonds - Happy

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Songs you may have missed: 2015 edition

After one of the most disappointing Christmas release schedules in living memory (was a U2 album really the best the music industry could come up with?) thoughts are turning to 2015

Rihanna's in the studio. Madonna's vampiring some of dance music's biggest names, and Katy Perry is undoubtedly planning something ridiculous for the SuperBowl.

But before all that, the record labels will use the January lull to sneak some new artists onto the radio, and to raise the profile of some established acts. And that is where this "songs you may have missed" begins...

1) Frank Ocean - Memrise
Hopefully a signifier of a follow-up to Channel Orange in 2015, this was given a low-key premiere on Frank Ocean's Tumblr over Thanksgiving.

It's so abstract it barely registers as a song, but you have to admire the levels of filth he crams into the all-too-brief 1'57" running time.

"I could fuck you all night long from a memory alone," Ocean croons. What on earth would his mother say?

2) Zara Larsson - Weak Heart
She's Swedish, she's gorgeous, she's riding a horse. What more could you ask for?

3) Ed Sheeran - Autumn Leaves (J-Kraken Remix)
Despite being rather heavy on the old bongos, this is a lovely re-tooling of Ed's Autumn Leaves. It even withstands the addition of pan pipes. Just.

4) Ronika - Marathon
Plucky pop archivist Ronika released her debut album, Selectadisc, earlier this year and it's still a pleasure to listen to when the mood for an 80s disco revival hits me.

Marathon isn't the strongest track on the record but the video's a lot of fun.

5) Kate Pierson - Mister Sister
Unbelievably Kate Pierson of the B-52s has never made a solo album UNTIL NOW. Believably, the album features "input" from definitely-not-spread-too-thin songwriting person Sia.

The first single is a spritely new wave "transgender anthem" called Mister Sister. The lyric video features Fred Armisen off of Portlandia doing some amusing business at a table.

6) Slow Knights - Without You
Slow Knights is a side-project of Scissor Sister Del Marquis. His new single has vocals from Rod Thomas, aka Bright Light Bright Light, and part-time actress Bridget Barkan.

It's a midtempo "my world would end without you" love ballad, which would make a really good track 12 on a mixtape.

7) Låpsley - Falling Short
Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Låpsley, aka Holly Fletcher, landed on the BBC Sound of 2015 longlist last week and it's easy to see why. A cross between London Grammar and the xx, she makes minimalism mesmerising.

8) Charli XCX - Breaking Up
I know Charli XCX is all lip curls and punk attitude these days but this song just reminds me of Shampoo.

9) Hippie Sabotage - Waiting Too Long
Fresh from the success of their Habits (Stay High) remix (which, despite being unofficial, broke Tove Lo in the UK and US) Hippie Sabotage have uploaded this song to Soundcloud.

Appropriately enough, it sounds like the comedown from Tove's narcotic advenures. Meandering, drowsy and melancholy - it suggests interesting things from the band in 2015.

10) Listenbee - Save Me
If you liked Waves or Prayer In C, this is going to be right up your street, into your driveway and peering through the kitchen window.

Listenbee is a new singer from NYC, signed to Kiesza's label, and that's about all I can tell you. She opened her Facebook and Twitter pages just 6 days ago. Before that... nothing. Mysterious.

11) Leo Kalyan - Full Circle
"With your eyes closed, the sounds are enough to make you feel like you’re flying," said influential pop blog Pigeons and Planes, and who am I to disagree?

12) K Michelle -">Something About The Night
This was recommended on Twitter by the one and only Nicola Roberts - aka the only member of Girls Aloud with a modicum of taste.

You may remember K Michelle for her Missy Elliot-featuring single Fakin' It in 2009 but, let's face it, you probably dont't. This song is head and shoulders above that formulaic number, though. And the video - a six-minute mini biopic of Billie Holliday - will take your breath away.

And that's all we have time for. Hope you found something you liked.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2014

DJ Earworm's annual mash-up of pop's most thrilling moments always highlights a few trends in songwriting. This year's edition is no exception, to whit:.

1) It's not just rappers any more. These days, everybody says their name in their songs in case you forget who they are (1'08" - 1'13").

2) In a year of whiney vocals, Sam Smith's are the whiniest.

3) There are now only two colour palettes available to music video directors: Moribund monochrome and dayglo neon.

4) The US music market is going through one of its occasional isolationist periods.

5) Fancy has the best chorus of the year by far.

DJ Earworm - United States of Pop 2014

In case you need a checklist, the 25 songs featured in this year's mix are:

A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea - Problem
Bastille - Pompeii
Dj Snake & Lil Jon - Turn Down For What
Hozier - Take Me to Church
Idina Menzel - Let It Go
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX - Fancy
Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora - Black Widow
Jason Derulo feat. 2 Chainz - Talk Dirty
Jeremih feat. YG - Don't Tell 'Em
Jessie J feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj - Bang Bang
John Legend - All Of Me
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J - Dark Horse
Lorde - Team
Magic! - Rude
Maroon 5 - Animals
Meghan Trainor - All About That Bass
Nico & Vinz - Am I Wrong
One Direction - Story of My Life
Passenger - Let Her Go
Pharrell Williams - Happy
Pitbull feat. Ke$ha - Timber
Sam Smith - stay with me
Taylor Swift - Shake It Off
Tove Lo - Habits

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Madeon has made an album, and here is the first single being released in order to promote that album

In "about bloody time" news, French prodigy Madeon has just unveiled the first track from his debut album - just three short years after his Pop Culture video (a lightning-fingered live megamix) went viral.

It's called You're On and it's a lush, forward-thinking slice of futurepop. Radio 1 has already made it "song of the day" which is apt because it's a properly structured composition with verses, bridges, choruses and all the other musical furniture you'd expect. Clearly, the time he spent hunkered down with Coldplay has rubbed off on him. And I mean that as a compliment, even though it sounds disgusting.

The production is exquisite, as you might expect, given the obsessive level of detail he describes in this interview. Hugo Leclerc (for that is his real name) is the living embodiment of the apocryphal story about The Human League spending two weeks on the sound of a snare drum.

All of which is sickening, given that he's just 20 years old and, judging by the picture above, was created in a laboratory by someone who really wanted their own Harry Potter.

Madeon - You're On

You're On is out on iTunes now. Yes, even in the UK.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Empire of the Sun have a new song

High concept Australian pop duo Empire Of The Sun have popped a new song online and it's called Wandering Star.

They mustn't be very proud of it, judging by their absolute failure to mention the track on Twitter of Facebook. But there it is, over on their Soundcloud page, winking at you like a labrador in bright sunlight.

Just like that labrador, it's full of boundless energy and stupidly eager to please. I mean, it's completely interchangeable with every other Empire of the Sun song you've ever heard - but that's hardly a travesty, given their track record.

Oh, and just in case you think the band have undergone a radical change of image, the cover art is from the soundtrack to Dumb And Dumber To, from whence this single appears.

...And suddenly their silence makes a lot more sense.

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New discovery: Mickey Cupid

Mickey Cupid are the sort of band that could only exist in the 21st Century - collaborating across the Atlantic, via Skype, with one member in New York and the other stuck in Europe's fun capital, Brussels.

They've been around for a couple of years but only came to my attention when they tweeted me a short message on Monday.

Which goes to show you that good manners pay off because - out of the 600 messages I received that day, this was the only link I clicked on. And I'm glad I did, because Oh You is a gem - a slick, atmospheric electropop romp with ample use of finger clicks.

Here's what Matt Nannetti (vocals, Belgium) and Marcus Harmon (everything else, USA) told Magnetic Mag about the track earlier this year:

"Oh You is a song about the games we all inevitably play with one another in relationships. It's one of the many songs we both stayed up very late, multiple nights in our different time zones working on. The distance between us seems to bring together different sounds, ideas, and energies that combine to make something pretty complete."

So there you go.

Mickey Cupid - Oh You

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Killers have ruined Christmas

"Joel, Joel, the lump of coal
Happy as a lump can be.
He just wants to keep Santa warm
And make the elves cosy

The Killers' ninth annual Christmas single is a semi-parody of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, co-written with US chat show host Jimmy Kimmel.

It is also unremittingly awful, unless forced whimsy and hamfisted metaphors happen to be your thing. In which case you have my sympathy.

Still, nice sweaters.

The Killers - Joel, The Lump of Coal

If that didn't get you in the festive spirit (and it didn't) you could do worse than listening to Ariana Grande's Crimbo Effort, Santa Tell Me, which is basically the Fisher Price version of All I Want For Christmas Is You.

It is embedded below, for your viewing convenience.

Ariana Grande - Santa Tell Me

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Jessie Ware: You and I (Forever)

Jessie Ware's Tough Love album is a slow burner - one of those glorious records that keeps its distance, slowly insinuating itself into your life until, one day, you realise you've listened to it 600 times.

The third single - You & I (Forever) - has just been announced, and it comes with a touching little video, in which Jessie's fans were invited to sit in a photo booth with someone they care about - from lovers to mothers, babies to old friends and even pet dogs. "It was the sweetest day," Jessie told the participants. "It was overwhelming hearing your stories and meet[ing] you."

The result is hardly original, but surprisingly effective.

Jessie Ware - You & I (Forever)

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Kanye West's nine-minute hits medley is good, but frustrating

Normally, I'm not a fan of the medley but this Kanye West performance, in recognition of World Aids Day, is a reminder of how amazing his Greatest Hits album is going to be.

The full set-list is the unassailable quintet of Power, Jesus Walks, Black Skinhead, Stronger and Touch The Sky. Sadly, West suffers from microphone issues throughout, which results in him shouting his lyrics (he's normally a much more controlled live performer).

It doesn't help that his DJ messes up, either. Halfway through the set, he forgets to turn off the backing track to Stronger, causing West to admonish him on live television: "Next song. You're supposed to cut. We on TV."


Kanye West - World Aids Day medley

Meanwhile, a Kanye fan has pieced together a two-hour concert video of the rapper's recent Yeezus Tour, using a mixture of professional and "guerilla" (ie shit) footage.

"Detail was crucial and over seven months of work went into this project," reads the video's YouTube description. Watch it below - or, if the lawyers haven't forced it off the internet, wait for the official Hype Williams-directed version next year.

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