Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Big song: Shura - 2 Shy

Despite my reputation as a finger-on-the-pulse pop scavenger, occasionally a song will slip through the cracks. Which is why it's so useful to have a sister watching my back.

"I heard this today and it made me think of you," she emails, "because it sounds like Janet (I think so anyway)".

She's right, too. London newcomer Shura has a breathy, delicate delivery that sounds just like Janet as she quivers through the emotional turmoil of Again (rather than the angrier, funkier "Ms Jackson if you're nasty" of 1986).

Her song, 2 Shy is dedicated to all the wallflowers who sit on the sidelines at parties, secretly crushing on an unsuspecting friend.

"Let’s go find a corner we can sit in
And talk about that film instead of us
Even though throughout it, I was thinking
I was gonna say I love you afterwards."

It's rather lovely.

If you're interested in Shura, there's a nice piece on the BBC's Sound of 2015 website (she was longlisted, but didn't make the top five).

Amongst the revelations on that page are the fact that she was "born in Moscow to a Russian actress" and honed her sound by "walking pumas round The Amazon".

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Lessons in live performance, pt 227

Nothing says "self-sabotage" more than agreeing to perform a song live on television to an audience of millions.

Think about it. Have you ever seen a transformative, spiritual gig - then watched it back on TV to discover a squall of bum notes and missed cues? Live music is messy and spontaneous. Television demands perfection.

And so we find ourselves at last night's iHeartRadio awards (whatever they are) witnessing Rihanna perform her underwhelming new single Bitch Better Have My Money; and Madonna, wisely sitting down for once, as she duets with Taylor Swift on Ghosttown - aka the best song she's released since Sorry.

Guess which one is a thrilling, pulchritudinous showstopper, and which one sounds like a school assembly cover band?

Poor Madonna.

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Will Young and the sound of 1964

Will Young is back, with a new record label (Island) and more reverb than a thunderclap in a canyon.

His new single, Love Revolution, is the sort of 1960s Northern Soul pastiche that was all the rage in 2007. Enough time has elapsed that it feels fresh again - particularly as avoids trumpets in favour of a clattering old tambourine - and his voice is perfectly tailored to the restrained retro vibe.

Interestingly, the track is based around Andrea Martin's R&B track Share The Love - better known for being sampled on Tomcraft's Loneliness. The darkly-delivered lyrics ("loneliness filled my world") work in contrast to the uplifting backing, giving the whole enterprise a sense of creeping unease.

The vibe is captured perfectly in the brightly-hued video which, as ever with Will Young, is a masterpiece of kitsch.

Will Young - Love Revolution

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Christ, this Rihanna song's a bit of a mess

Rihanna recently told MTV she was making an album that "felt real, that felt soulful, that felt forever".

"I wanted songs that I could perform in fifteen years," she continued, "not any songs that were burnt out".

So how on earth have we ended up with this? Bitch Better Have My Money is a ropey old diss track, with all the keyboards on default settings and some of the most inane lyrics of Rihanna's career. And that's say something for the woman who brought Cockiness (I Love It).

The song's only saving grace is that it takes it's title from a depressingly misogynistic 1992 rap song ("pussy ain't nothing but a game to me") and turns it into an anthem of female empowerment. Or Rihanna empowerment, to be more precise.

Produced by Deputy and Kanye West - who could also do better - you can stream it below.

Bitches who have money can buy Bitch Better Have My Money by visiting iTunes now.

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Lion Babe have got their marketing sorted

There's a theory in animation that every successful character has a unique silhouette. Mickey Mouse isn't a mouse who wears red shorts. Our brain remembers him as a circle with two smaller circles on top. Dress him in any clothes or colours you like, but you would never mistake him for anyone else.

With that in mind, Lion Babe are going to be the most recognisable band in the world. Just look at singer Jillian Harvey's silhouette.

The picture is a screengrab from the band's Pharrell-produced new video, Wonder Woman. It's a minor entry in Pharrell's discography - like a sedated version of Beyonce's Work It Out - but as the lead track from an EP preceding the band's "proper" launch, it is very serviceable indeed.

Lion Babe - Wonder Woman

By the way, if you really want to test the cartoon silhoutte theory, here's a brilliant quiz I've hijacked from the Creative Juices blog. Can you name all 36 characters? (Click to enlarge).

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

James Bay: Let It Go

James Bay's new single is, disappointingly, not a cover of the song from Frozen. Instead, it's a gently strummed "maybe its best if we go back to being friends" sadballad.

It is also a big favourite of Taylor Swift, who accosted James Bay backstage at a Hozier concert to quiz him on the song last year. He told me this anecdote at great length last December when I interviewed him for the BBC's Sound of 2015 list. Here's the transcript.

"I'd just been around America supporting Hozier and she [Taylor] had come to see him – because I believe she knows him. Her entourage was bringing her backstage to meet him but he was going on stage for the encore. My dressing room at this venue was the hallway, so we stepped back as she came by but she stopped and said, 'are you James Bay?'. Obviously I was like, 'well, yeah' but thinking 'how would you even know?'

"And she sort of went into this whole thing about how she has a regular playlist she listens to, and she's got a couple of my songs on there. So my song, Let It Go, she was dissecting the lyrics in front of me. Telling me about her favourite lines in the verses. People usually only know the chorus, but she was reciting the lyrics. It was bizarre.

"But she seems to have carried on listening and she’s obviously an enormous pop star, so it’s a really amazing bit of appreciation. I guess it’s not the norm, but some crazy stuff seems to go on in this music business."

Yes, James. The music industry is crazy. All these people listening to other people's music. Oh, unknowable universe.

Next you'll be telling us Bono owns a guitar! And Beyonce sleeps in a double bed with Jay-Z! And Ellie Goulding once borrowed a sweater from her sister without asking but her sister said it was ok anyway! Mental.

Anyway, here's the video.

James Bay - Let It Go

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Brandon Flowers is back and nine other songs you may have missed

So many good songs, so little time to write a blog. That's what the semi-regular "songs you may have missed" feature is all about...

In the words of Will Smith: "Here we go, here we go, here we here we go, yo."

1) Brandon Flowers - Can't Deny My Love
Working with Haim producer Ariel Rechtshaid, Brandon has produced a single that could have come from the soundtrack to St Elmo's Fire or Top Gun. It's that good.

2) Ed Sheeran and Rudimental - Bloodstream
In which Ray Liotta plays the washed-up frontman of hair metal band Black Glove (a nod to Spinal Tap's Smell The Glove?) He stumbles around his mansion, shooting bottles with a rifle, jumping off balconies and getting rather too friendly with his horse. It sounds more fun than it looks, unfortunately.

3) Charli XCX - Famous
Like Ed's video above, this was created for the YouTube Music Awards - which is odd, as it viciously rips into selfie-obsessed internet culture.

It starts innocently enough, with a Charli XCX wannabe dancing to Famous in her bedroom. But when her battery dies, she gets sucked into a nightmarish netherworld populated by grotesque, faded pop stars (including a scabbed-up version of Charli herself) all preening and posing into their phones.

It's like an episode of Black Mirror with a really perky soundtrack..

4) Florence + The Machine - St Jude
Florence's last video culminated with the singer crawling through the broken glass and twisted metal of a car wreck. This picks up the narrative, with Florence walking through the afterlife.

Musically, this is a much more subdued, hymnal track than we're used to from Ms Welch. I kind of prefer it to the empty bluster of the first single, What Kind Of Man.

5) Teleman - Strange Combinations
Teleman are a London three-piece that formed out of the ashes of indie band Pete and the Pirates, but don't hold that against them.
This song - recorded in one day as part of the Speedy Wunderground series, sounds like Alt-J have been eaten by Kraftwerk. It even has (what sounds like) a stylophone solo.

You can pre-order it on vinyl if that is your "scene".

6) Marian Hill - Lips / Wasted
This came via recommendation from Heat Radio's head honcho Talia Kraines, who saw the band at SXSW - a festival I am either too uncool or too nerdy to attend.

The upstart Philadelphia duo make the kind of twisted, harmonic R&B that made AlunaGeorge so exciting three years ago. I'm not sure these songs, from the band's new Sway EP, have a similar chart potential but they make a great listen.

7) Nero - The Thrill
When was dubstep the big new thing? Three years ago? Four? Now that every song incorporates its one signature sound ("wub-wub") that it was once fresh enough to be considered a genre of its own.

Anyway, here are prime wub-wub exponents Nero, who have wisely gone for an expansive, festival-friendly breakbeat banger to announce their comeback. Rave klaxons at the ready...

8) Shamir - Call It Off
Shamir's daffy On The Regular rightly earned him places on the various "Sound of 2015" polls at the start of the year. But I was intrigued to see how he'd follow it up... It was one of those records that was so unique, so individual that it whiffed of being a one-off.

Well, the whiff was wrong. Shamir's new single much less self-concious and a little more straightforward, without shedding the androgynous originality of his previous work. He also gets turned into a puppet for the video, for which he earns 10 extra points.

9) Rhodes - Turning Back Around
Because what the music industry is lacking right now is an earnest young man singing about his feelings.

Still, if that sort of thing is your bag, this is a really high-quality bag.

10) Sinkane - Young Trouble
I'd never really paid much attention to Sinkane - now on his third album - until this supple reggae track turned up on the 6 Music Playlist last week. Although it sits right in that Bob Marley groove, it also incorporates pedal steel guitar from Jonny Lam, making it sound fresh and dusty at the same time.

Very likeable and immensely listenable... I've just ordered his album.

And that's your lot for this week. Hope you found one new favourite in there.

As ever, send any tips to the email at the bottom of the screen, or track me down on Twitter.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

What's Pharrell up to this week?

It's been a week of ups and downs for pop music's very own Mr Hat, Pharrell Williams.

On one hand, he lost £4m to Marvin Gaye's family for stealing inadvertently borrowing portions of Got To Give It Up for Robin Thicke's sex pest anthem Blurred Lines. On the other, he was named fashion icon of the year by the clunkily-named Council of Fashion Designers America.

He also found time to make some new music, producing the new single by Snoop Dogg (who has given up being a reggae artist, apparently) and a shape-shifting EP by New York duo Lion Babe.

You can hear the results below.

They sound, as you might expect, like Pharrell produced them.

Snoop Dogg ft Charlie Wilson - Peaches and Cream

Lion Babe - Wonder Woman

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lucy Rose's new video is... er, unique

Wan songstress Lucy Rose got her break singing for Bombay Bicycle Club - so it's hardly a surprise that her own music is a politely-strummed take on indie electronica. That's not a criticism. There's always room for crafted-and-catchy but undemanding melodies on a Sunday afternoon at Discopop Towers.

In any case, Fearne Cotton's declared herself a Lucy Rose fan, so you're probably not going to escape it just yet.

Rose has just released her new video, and her new video is brilliant - if decidedly odd. Our Eyes sees the 25-year-old Warwickshire singer wearing an outfit made from sausages and dog biscuits, then being set upon by two Alsatians. She also wears a suit made of chips while surrounded by seagulls and an outfit made of grass near some Shetland ponies.

It's either a work of genius or the most disturbing fetish video of the year.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Big tune: Against The Current - Gravity

How's this for cognitive dissonance? Chrissy Costanza is a 19-year-old vlogger, who's racked up millions of YouTube views for her series of make-up tips (sample dialogue one: "I'm going to be applying this with clean fingers; sample dialogue 2: "Holy balls, I'm the whitest person on the planet"). But Chrissy Costanza is also the frontwoman of the hard-living, hard-rocking three-piece Against The Current, who give Paramore a run for their money in the pop punk stakes.

Maybe it's a generational thing. I want my rock stars to be grungy and mysterious, while Costanza is all about connecting with the fanbase. The video blog is "just a really fun way to interact with all of the people who support me on a more personal level," she told one magazine. "I want people to know who I really am. I never want to just put a face on." (NB: the Discopop irony meter™ has just exploded).

Still, if you can do a George Michael and Shoot The Dog Listen Without Prejudice, the Poughkeepsie trio are rather great. Last year's Infinity EP is a blast - crammed with cartwheeling hooks and big, dumb power chords. But the current single, Gravity, is the one that really marks them out as one to watch.

It starts out with handclaps - always a good sign - and a sugary-sweet verse that wouldn't sound out of place on a Taylor Swift album. But the chorus bursts out of the speakers with sky-slicing guitars and an impassioned scream of a vocal.

First released last October, it got the band signed by Fuelled By Ramen (Gym Class Heroes, Travie McCoy, Panic! At The Disco). This won't be the last we hear from them.

Against The Current

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Friday, March 13, 2015

New Prince: What If?

Pint-sized pop polyglot Prince has premiered a new song, shortly after announcing that his Hit and Run tour is coming to America.

What If is a cover of a plodding AOR ballad by contemporary Christian songwriter Nichole Nordeman. Prince, of course, lights a firecracker under its arse and turns it into a ridiculous rock opera full of frantic soloing, while he trades lines with 3rdEyeGirl drummer Hannah Welton.

Their back-and-forth elevates the song's lyric - a theological debate about the existence of Jesus - turning a sermon into a spirited argument between a believer and a doubter.

"What if you're right and he was just another nice guy?" asks Prince, prompting Welton's reply: "But what if you're wrong? What if there's more?"

Listen below.

Upload Audio - Download Music - Prince & 3EYEGIRL what-if

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Here's Natalie Imbruglia covering Daft Punk

It's been six years since we last had new material from Natalie Imbruglia.

Then, after her fourth album, Come To Life, was pulled from release schedules in the UK, she went off to mentor contestants on the X Factor and appear in Alan Ayckbourn plays.

She didn't seem bothered that her musical career had fizzled out, telling the Telegraph last year: "I'm not a careerist. I don't think like that. I've never been trying to have a number one single. That happened to me. I'm about happiness, enjoying my life. I'm the laziest artist I've ever known.”

And yet here we are, 12 months on, with a brand new Natalie Imbruglia song. OK, so it's a cover - but she's got a great history with other people's songs (I prefer her version of Crowded House's Pineapple Head to the original).

The song she's chosen is Instant Crush, which originally featured on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Imbruglia ditches Julian Casablancas's's's's vocodered vocal for a more honest, emotional performance, over an chiming acoustic background.

"On the original version, you can't really hear what the song is about because of the effect that Julian's voice has, which I love, by the way," she told Stereogum. "However, it is such a beautiful story that I want people to hear it and connect with the words. I'm really proud of the way it turned out."

Listen below. It teeters on being bland - but I find myself charmed.

Instant Crush is taken from Imbruglia's forthcoming covers album, Male, which sees her reinterpret traditionally masculine songs by the likes of The Cure, Neil Young, Damian Rice, Tom Petty, and Cat Stevens.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Big tune: Rita Ora and Charles Hamilton

US rapper Charles Hamilton has signed up fellow brick wall enthusiast Rita Ora for his excellent new single, NY Raining.

A loping, piano-driven track with a strutting bassline, it's that very rare beast: A rapped love song. "You make me smile, stop doing that," says Hamilton, "I guess I rap for you." What a romantic, eh kids?

NY Raining is taken from the hit US TV series Empire, which can loosely be described as a hip-hop version of The Sopranos: A drug dealer turned music mogul finds his past coming back to haunt him, etc, etc.

Hamilton and Ora will perform this song in the "season finale" (last episode) next week.

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Video: Bjork - Lion Song

Lion Song is one of the most affecting songs on Bjork's new album Vulcania, detailing her fruitless attempts to communicate with a lover who grows ever more distant.

"Should I throw oil on one of his moods?" she wonders. "But which one? Make the joy peak? Humour peak? Frustration peak? Anything peak - for clarity."

The track has now been blessed with a video, which finds the Icelandic star dressed in the acupuncture-gone-awry outfit you see above.

Directors Inez & Vinoodh said: "Björk's character for Lionsong had to be smooth like a spider waiting in her web and seductive like a Balinese dancer cast in bronze. She is seen as if under a microscope, baring her heart while luring us inside the bloody galaxy of her own wound."

Think of this as a really sad version Big Time Sensuality where, instead of dancing on a flatbed truck in downtown Manhattan, Bjork is dancing in a prison of emotional torment.

Happy times.

Bjork - Lionsong

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What's Madeon up to today?

Why, he's shamelessly promoting his new album, Adventure, which "drops" in a fortnight. And with good reason, because it's shaping up to be one of the more exciting electronic albums of the year.

The latest teaser for the record is a song called Home - and, for once, he's put his own vocals on it. The French DJ (Hugo Pierre Leclercq to his mum) explained why in a series of tweets last night.

Premiered by Annie Mac on Tuesday's Evening Session, it's a stunning track - happy and sad and uplifting and moving all at once. Here's the official audio.

Madeon - Home

You should also check out Madeon's current single, Pay No Mind, featuring Passion Pit, which is awesome.

Madeon - Pay No Mind

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Good song updates, pts I, II & III

Pt I - I Bet

Ciara has released a proper video for her superlative R&B jam, I Bet - which is essentially a protracted "fuck you" to her former flame, Future ("I bet you start loving me when I find someone better than you," she scolds).

The clip starts off with the "Goodies" hitmaker pretending to be a music box ballerina (albeit one doing some very questionable robot dancing). But, before long, she's dressed in a figure-hugging leotard, showing off the sort of sensual moves that got her previous videos banned in the States. It all ends with that shot you see above, making the video an even more stinging rebuke than the song itself.

(You should also check out the acoustic version I wrote about last month).
Ciara - I Bet

Pt II - Froot

The title track of Marina & The Diamonds' imminent album has been given a shimmering seeing-to by New York hipsters St Lucia.

It's more strident and immediate than the original, teasing out some of Marina's ad libs for an extended, bubbling coda.

Nice work.

Pt III - Uptown Funk

Multi-headed funk beast Jungle stopped by Radio 1 to perform this cover of Bruno / Ronson's inescapable chart smash earlier today.

How they crammed all those people into the station's tiny Live Lounge cupboard is a mystery - but it's great to hear the song performed with a full, live brass section.

And stick around for the fantastic break at 4'20"

Jungle - Uptown Funk

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Indie corner: Tame Impala and Mumford are back, Back, BACK!!!

Here's a palate cleanser for anyone who's been listening to Madonna's album this week (hint: skip any track that features a rave klaxon) - new music from the Mumfords and Australian psych monsters Tame Impala.

Mumford and Sons first, then. The banjo troubling troubadors gave their new single to Annie Mac as a welcome gift for her debut on Radio 1's Evening Session. The eagle-eared amongst you will notice they've gone all Coldplay on us. There's not even so much as a ukelele on this one. And - SHOCK HORROR - this aesthetic spreads across every track on their new album, Wilder Man.

"There wasn't some sort of big burning of banjos meeting," Marcus told Annie Mac/ "It was just the noise we wanted to make and we've always followed our noses on that. The first rule of rock 'n' roll is, do what you want."

Bold words, there. But luckily the song is a rousing, shimmering singalong.

*four thumbs up emoji*

Mumford and Sons - Believe

Meanwhile, over on planet prog, Tame Impala have released an epic, eight-minute long "jam" built around a primitive synth line and insistent snare. The lyrics find Kevin Parker seeking refuge from the buzz and static of modern life - "and if I never come back," he says, "tell my mother I'm sorry".

The stuck record mid-section is beyond irritating, but stick around because everything rallies around for a fantastic, guitar-driven climax.

Oh, and it's a free download on Soundcloud.

*three thumbs up emoji*

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Monday, March 9, 2015

Sam Smith and John Legend - together at last

Some Comic Relief songs are brilliant.

Some are eternally part of the cultural fabric.

And some are crimes against music itself.

But what are we to make of this year's official single?

Renowned pop jesters Sam Smith and John Legend have teamed up for a relentlessly glum re-recording of Lay Me Down - a song in which (spoiler alert) Sam whinges and whines about needing a hug.

The best possible spin is that the chorus's main line - "I'll take care of you" - chimes with Comic Relief's charitable message. But to do that you have to completely discard the context of the lyric.

Having said that, this is bound to raise tons of cash for the needy, so it's hard to be too cynical. But couldn't they at least have got Dawn French to give Sam a thorough tickle?

Sam Smith - Lay Me Down (ft John Legend)

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REALiTi bites

Grimes is pulling off a tricky balancing act at the moment. Beloved of blogs everywhere for her off-kilter cyborg pop, she's edging ever closer towards mainstream melodies and song structures. But, crucially, she's retaining that un-pindownable magic that makes her songs so beguiling.

Last year, she released the excellent Go, her most commercial-sounding record to date, with the caveat that it had been written for (and rejected by) Rihanna. Her newest release, REALiTi, shows that she's still working in that vein - with a hook-laden top line and (mostly) decipherable lyrics. The chorus: "Every morning there are mountains to climb," seems particularly apt for a Monday morning.

According to the singer's website, this isn't an official single - but a "special thank you" to everyone who went to see her 2013 Asian tour, which kicked off two years ago today.

"This song was never finished," she says. "It's a demo from ~ the lost album ~ recorded early 2013. "I lost the ableton file, so it's not mixed or mastered. I tried to doctor the mp3 into a listenable state, but it was poorly recorded in the first place and never meant to be heard by anyone, so it's a bit of a mess haha."

Nonsense. This is lovely.

Grimes - REALiTi

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

30 seconds of Rihanna and 12 other songs you may have missed

Here it is: A semi-regular round-up of songs I haven't managed to blog about, from pop powerhouses to rejuvenated indie icons, And ending with two chancers who can't believe their luck.

1) Rihanna - American Oxygen
Rihanna's latest song was teased in a promo for the new basketball season (obviously) which you can see below. It's a meagre 30 seconds, but we'll take what we're given from the Bajan pop queen.

2) Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really, Really Like You
Look, if Tom Hanks agrees to appear in your video, you don't say "no". Even if he insists on "being you". Even if he doesn't really understand how to lip-sync. Even if the climactic dance number is borderline humiliating. Just roll with the punches. It's Hollywood, baby.

3) Marina and the Diamonds - Forget
Congratulations to the hair stylist on this video. Marina looks incredible.

And in "good news" news, the release date of Marina's third album FROOT has been moved forward to 16th March. That's 10 days, people!

4) Madonna - Ghosttown (live)
The best song on Madonna's new album is also her best song in a decade. Easily.

Even the slightly wobbly vocal on this live performance can't rob it of its charm.

5) MIA - Can See Can Do
"Some people see planes, some people see drones" - a typically provocative lyric from MIA, who's back for the first time after 2013's Matangi.

There's no word on whether this is a single or just something she's knocked off in the studio, but it sounds like filler to me.

6) Everything Everything - Distant Past
There's a bit in the mid 8 where this threatens to turn into the Crossroads theme tune - and, what with this being an Everything Everything single, I half suspect it's deliberate.

Otherwise, it's business as usual. Ridiculous falsetto, polyrhythmic drum lines and lyrics like: "Two thumbs, I cross the Rubicon".

It's nice to have them back.

7) The Violent Femmes - Love Love Love Love Love
It's 15 years since the Violent Femmes released new material - and 32 since their ode to onanism Blister In The Sun - but they sound undiminished on their return. And is that an oboe solo??

Recorded on New Year’s Eve in Hobart, Tasmania, its the lead track on a 4-track EP that's coming out on Record Stay.

8) Conor Maynard - Talking About
Let's face it, Conor Maynard is a shit pop star. But if this came on the radio, and someone told you it was the new one from Disclosure, you'd probably be quite impressed.

Well played, sir.

9) Alabama Shakes - Don't Wanna Fight (live on SNL)
The new Alabama Shakes single has been compared to Bob Marley's Could You Be Loved and James Brown's Cold Sweat - which is pretty impressive company - but frontwoman Brittany Howard hinted at another inspiration on SNL, wearing a pair of earrings bearing Prince's lovely face.

Now, where can I get a pair of those?

10) The Staves - Make It Holy
I've run out of ways to gush about The Staves, so let's just accept I like this a lot without any further adjectives.

11) Joywave - Somebody New
Coming out of Rochester, Joywave are making uplifting indie-pop in the vein of Friendly Fires and Passion Pit.

Their new video will please anyone who used to play Tony Hawk games on the PS2, although what it has to do with the song is beyond me.

12) Kid Cudi - Love (ft Ratatat)
Things have been quiet on the Kid Cudi front for quite some time now, so this upload caught fans by surprise on Tuesday night.

An unreleased track from last year's Satellite Flight album, it's an uplifting hug of a record, as Cudi sings: "Don't be so down, come on young homie / You'll be OK, you'll find real love".

Writing on Soundcloud, Cudi says: "Hope it brings you some peace if you have a lonely heart out there. byeeeee :)"

13) Electro Velvet - Still In Love With You
The UK's Eurovision for 2015 is by a Mick Jagger impersonator and a woman who couldn't convince a single person to turn their chair around on The Voice. So that augurs well.

The song itself is an odd fish... basically will.i.am's Bang Bang without the production values. It seems content to repeat its derivative four-bar hook a dozen times without any modulation or progression - which isn't necessarily a bad tactic when you're trying to make a lasting impression in three minutes. But you're left with the overwhelming feeling of "is that really it?"

And that's this week's supplement. Tune in for more tomorrow.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Two pop songs that may be of interest

The Veronicas' album might not be out yet in the UK, but in a parallel universe (Australia) they're already on to single number three.

Cruel seems pretty generic after the icy chills and hot thrills of You Ruin Me and If You Love Someone, but as a balls-out pop song, it does a pretty good job.

The video sees the leather-clad sisters kidnapping a no-good ex-boyfriend and subjecting him to a humiliating punishment in the desert. But then, isn't that the plot of every Veronicas video?

The Veronicas - Cruel

Meanwhile, over in Sweden, emotional whirlwind Tove Lo has been "lending" her vocal talents to indie-pop outfit Urban Cone.

Come Back To Me has the relentless urgency you'd expect from the woman who brought us Habits (Stay High), and it's interesting to hear her voice in a more acoustic / organic setting.

That said, it's a minor track compared to her solo work or the Alleso assisted "We could be hero-oe-oe-oe-woah-ooooahs".

Here is a lyric video.

Urban Cone - Come Back To Me (ft Tove Lo)

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ibeyi in session at Radio 1

French-Cuban duo Ibeyi are twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz. They're the daughters of Buena Vista Social Club percussionist Anga Díaz. And, more importantly, their debut album Ibeyi (it means "twins" in Yoruba) is spellbinding.

A fusion of Lisa-Kaindé's favourite jazz singers (Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald) and Naomi's hip-hop fandom. Simultaneously traditional and innovative, it's a meditation on family, love and history - bound together by the sisters' other-worldly harmonies and a superb use of percussion and atmosphere.

The band descended on the BBC's Maida Vale studios last night for a session with Huw "Hoooo" Stephens. You can listen to it in full below - unless you're on this page after 31 March, in which case it's gone forever :(

If the embedded player above has expired, here are the band doing a session for someone else, but with slightly worse production values.

Ibeyo - River

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Marina gets forgetful on Froot no.5

The fear with the long, slow trickle of releases from Marina and the Diamonds' third album, Froot, is that each track will get progressively less interesting. But having had the privilege of hearing the whole thing, I can vouch that the fruit is satisfyingly juicy throughout (do you see? DO YOU SEE?!!).

If you've heard the title track and the current single, I'm A Ruin, you'll know that Marina's abandoned Electra Heart's "throw 25 producers at the wall and see which one sticks" approach for a more stripped-back, mature style. And that continues across Froot's 12 tracks, written solo, produced by David Kosten and recorded with a helping hand from art-pop lunatics Everything Everything.

The result is a record that's coy about revealing its bounty. You need a few listens to appreciate it, partly because the production is so subtle. It's not constantly screaming "here's the bloody chorus, dummies", leaving you to navigate the music's peaks and troughs on your own. As Marina mentioned to me in a (forthcoming) interview, it works better if you listen to "a track a day" while you acclimatise to the new style.

All of which means the the record's unconventional release strategy - Marina's released a song a month for the last five months - makes much more sense.

The latest "froot" came out at midnight... Called Forget, it's one of the album's bigger foot-stompers, with a chunky guitar riff that balances an introspective lyric about Marina's inability to let go of the past.

Marina and the Diamonds - Forget

You can pre-order the album now, and get all of the "froots" instantly. Delicious.

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Hear what the Brits were bleeping out of Kanye West's perfomance

Deranged quote machine Kanye West has just unveiled the studio version of his new single, All Day - aka the one that had The Brits playing whack-a-mole with the mute button.

Unsurprisingly, it comes across a lot better when you actually get to hear the words (and the bass, and the lyrics). What's more surprising is how long it took the song to come together.

West first mentioned it in a GQ interview last July, saying it had the sort of lyrics "Jay would normally say". But speaking to Radio 1 last week, Sam Smith said: "You know he hasn't even finished that song?"

"I said to him [at The Brits], 'what are you guys doing after?' and he said, 'I've got to go to the studio and finish that song I just performed.' I thought that was amazing."

Perhaps the extra work went into sampling Paul McCartney whistling, which is how the song ends. According to Rolling Stone, the section appears to be a re-recording of a song McCartney wrote in 1969 that was inspired by a Pablo Picasso painting of a guitarist. I kid you not.

Here's the song in full. You can buy it on iTunes now.

Kanye West - All Day | Listen for free at bop.fm

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Solved: The Carly Rae conundrum

Call Me Maybe is one of the defining pop songs of our times. Not because it's particularly strong lyrically or thematically but because it proved the earworm wasn't dead.

As much as today's pop stars posture and preen and hire cutting-edge producers to shape their sound, Call Me Maybe was proof that a good song, well sung could conquer the world. Before Call Me Maybe, Katy Perry would have rejected Roar as "too obvious". Without Carly Rae Jepsen, a record label might have thought twice about releasing a song as simple and joyous as Happy, in case it damaged Pharell's urban brand.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe

The problem for Jeppo was how to follow that single up. It sounded like a one-hit wonder. And, with the exception of her guest spot on Owl City's Good Time, it remains her only hit.

Until now.

The Canadian star's new single, I Really Like You, was released to retail last night* and, while the chorus doesn't quite have the toffee pudding stickiness of Call Me Maybe's syncopated strings, the melody is practically indelible.

That's because Carly Rae sings the word "really" 67 times - as in, "I really really really really really really like you." It's as dumb and sweet and memorable as her breakout song. And, interestingly, it was co-written by Peter Svensson from the Cardigans, who are the second best Swedish band ever (after Roxette, obviously).

If it's not a hit, I'll eat my hat.** Listen here.

Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You

Or watch her perform it adequately in a live scenario here.

Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You (GMA Live)

* in the US. In the UK, it's not out until 14 June. Yes, you read that right. Fucking hell.

** My hat is made out of Cadbury's animal crackers

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Aluna George + Diplo + Skrillex = VG

Jack Ü is a joint project between speaker-bothering dubstep dons Diplo and Skrillex. It was announced years ago, but they only got round to relasing material last week. A whole album of it, to be precise, featuring contributions from Kiesza, Justin Bieber and Missy Elliot (together at last!)

The release "dropped" via a marathon 24-hour DJ set last Thursday - which, according to Billboard, didn't go exactly to plan.

"Instead of dancing, many guests had their smartphones held high," reported the magazine. "Eventually Diplo cut out the music in disgust. 'No, for real, put your phones away because you look like an idiot,' he ranted. 'If you want to be on Snapchat all night, make some noise. OK, you're a dickhead.'"

Oh dear.

Anyway, the music is as ridicubonkers as you might expect. My favourite so far is the collaboration with AlunaGeorge - first previewed two years ago. Called To Ü, it wobbles like Mr Jelly on a see-saw in an earthquake.

Jack Ü - To Ü (feat. AlunaGeorge)

But you should also check out the Kiesza / Missy Elliot track - if only for Missy namechecking a whole bunch of Salt-N-Pepa tracks in the first of her two guest verses.

Jack Ü - Take Ü There (feat. Kiesza) (Missy Elliott Remix)

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Iggy Azalea arrested

Not really, of course. This is just the crime-themed video for her new single, Trouble - in which Azalea gets caught up in a bank heist. The cop is played by Jennifer Hudson, who you will recognise as the woman who broke your ears screaming AND I AM TELLING YOU I'M NOT GOING... NO, NO, NO, NO, NOOoOowowowoowieeeeeoeooOOOOO.

A cute little piano-driven ditty, Trouble is taken from the repackaged version of Iggy Azalea's debut album. It's probably the most mainstream she's ever been - recalling the sunnier, poppier hip-hop of Monie Love or Salt-N-Pepa. And that is no bad thing.

Iggy Azalea - Trouble (ft Jennifer Hudson)

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