Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pharrell's new song is a Zane Lowe EXCLUSIVE (but Annie Mac has it too)

Maybe you've heard that Apple is launching a new music service, and that Zane Lowe is on it? You're forgiven if you haven't. They kept pretty quiet about it. But it really happened.

Zane presented (shouted) his first show today and the BIG EXCLUSIVE was Pharrell's new song, Freedom. It features the wide open gospel chords and gratuitous handclaps of Happy, but adopts a much more sombre tone. It's really, really good.

But Pharrell didn't get to be Pharrell by putting all his eggs in one basket (he keeps at least three eggs under his hat). He knew that, even though the world's media would tune in to Zane's show, nobody in the real world was paying the blindest bit of attention. So he let a real radio station have the single, too. And, with no small irony, he chose Zane's old stomping ground - Radio 1.

Even more ironic is that Apple - a company at the forefront of technology - hasn't worked out how to let users share it's content, so you can't hear Zane's first play. Nor can you see the video, or even listen to the song, outside Apple's walled-off app.

Whereas Radio 1 - a lumbering, ancient, publicly-funded broadcaster (also my employer) - bunged Pharrell's song up on the internet as soon as Annie Mac came off air.

So here it is in all its glory.

It's worth listening to the Pharrell interview that follows - just to hear him shut down Annie Mac's question about working with Adele.

Oh, and the song got a live outing at Glastonbury on Saturday, where it sounded like this.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

New music: Kyiki - Black Light

Kyiki is the new nom de chanson of Crystal Fighters singer Ellie Fletcher. She emerged last September with the excellent solo single One - a cooing, chiming electro pop lullaby.

The reception to One was positive enough to persuade Kyiki to go off and write a full album. And, after racking up oodles of studio time with Alex Da Kid (Dr Dre, Rihanna, Imagine Dragons, Eminem) she's back with a new single, Black Light.

The song's not as immediate as One - whose chorus was more killer than Hannibal Lecter eating Adamski - but the crunching, brooding beats will be of particular interest to fans of Lorde, Banks and SOHN.

It finds Kyiki in the midst of an unexpected romance. "I know you're scared - we were not quite prepared," she reassures her beau, while asking him to follow her deeper into the relationship. "I won't put up a fight - I'll be your black light."

At least, I assume that's what she means. A Black Light (one that emits UV rays) can be used to illuminate fluorescent paint that's invisible to the human eye, creating spectacular theatrical effects. But Black Light is also used by forensic detectives to scan for fingerprints. And, for that matter, semen. 

I'm going to assume Kyiki is going for the former, using it as a metaphor for "guiding light". But if I'm wrong, CSI Pop Music could be a new genre with fascinating possibilities*.

* With apologies to Fraser McAlpine

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This Selena Gomez will make anyone over the age of 20 feel uncomfortable

Selena Gomez's epic pervo romp Good For You is one of the more questionable singles of 2015.

On the one hand it's intimate and alluring - I got a touch, so good, so good," Selena coaxes in a barely-there vocal. On the other hand, the song's hook - "I just wanna look good for you" - is creepily subservient.

On balance, it works. The track teases and seduces without ever giving the upper hand to Selena's suitor. The video, however, tips the scales the other way. There's something about seeing the singer (a human incarnation of a Bratz doll) writhing around in her underpants that makes me feel grubby.

It's probably my problem - at almost twice her age, I'm hardly the target market - but there's something about the clip that screams exploitation rather than empowerment.

What do you think?

Selena Gomez - Good For You

PS: What on earth does it mean to "syncopate my skin to how you're breathing"?

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Songs you may have missed megapost

Oh man, it's been ages since I did one a "songs you may have missed" post, and the backlog is ridiculous...

For the uninitiated, this is a dumping ground treasure trove of songs I've liked, but failed to write about on the blog. That failure is a personal one, not a comment on their quality.

So saddle up. There are 12 songs to get through here and I've kept the write-ups short because, frankly, who reads this crap anyway?

1) Foals - What Went Down
Heavy like cadmium. Best thing they've done since Inhaler.

2) Miguel - Coffee (ft WALE)
Coffee is a metaphor for sex, you know.

3) Selena Gomez - Good For You (ft A$AP Rocky)
Recorded in 45 minutes. Will remain in your in your head for 45 days.

4) Nero - Two Minds
In which Nero finally realise that dubstep is a musical dead end.

5) Carly Rae Jepsen - E·MO·TION
Carly Rae Jepsen's new album is shaping up to be a masterpiece. Who;d have thought?

6) Mark Ronson - I Can't Lose (ft Keyone Starr)
All the melody of Snoop Dogg's Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can' Have None) with none of the misogyny. Result.

7) Years & Years - Foundation
In 2020, we're all going to look back on Years & Years' time in the spotlight and wonder "what was going on there?"

8) Fassine - Sunshine
Doomsday disco, darker than a House of Cards box set.

9) Shura - White Light
The video edit isn't as good as the full 7-minute masterpiece.

10) Rudimental - Rumour Mill (ft Anne-Marie & Will Heard)
Slinky and subtle. Sorely needed proof that Rudimental can make good songs without shoehorning in a drum-and-bass drop.

11) Gabrielle Aplin - Light Up The Dark
Recently added to the Radio 1 playlist, and a world away from her mawkish John Lewis advert. Like KT Tunstall and Sheryl Crow got together and cancelled out each other's most boring tendencies.

12) Meghan Trainor - Like I'm Going To Lose You (ft John Legend)
Gimmick-free balladry that suggests a longevity most of us never suspected Meghan Trainor had in her.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tove Lo's set off her Timebomb

Timebomb is one of the best songs on Tove Lo's debut album, Queen Of The Clouds, so it's good to see it get a single release.

The track's all about one of those relationships where infatuation and irritation are inseparable - Tove tripping over her tongue as she rants: "I couldn't decide if you were the most annoying human being I'd ever met or just the best thing that ever happened."

The video plays that scenario out for real, with actual couples filmed fighting out their differences while Tove rends her clothes asunder on a beach. Here she is to explain.

#TIMEBOMB the video tells the story of loves that can't last because people around won't let them. And still they fight to stay together. That is also beautiful. And painful. In my heart I believe everyone should be able to love whoever they want. I wanted to shine some light on that in this video. Never take it for granted.

I wanna thank Emil Nava and his whole amazing team, all my peeps and mostly the incredible couples who all dared to be so vulnerable on camera. When you watch this, I hope you feel it as much as I do. Xx Tove

Watch below. The end is a bit saucy but you'll not get sacked for watching it in the office or anything.

Tove Lo - Timebomb

You can also see the video on www.weareatimebomb.com/ - a Chat Roulette sort of site, where you're paired up with a stranger to witness the video unfolding.

"It could be the most annoying human being you ever met, or just the best thing that ever happened," says the blurb.
"After the video ends only a photo will remain of your time together. You can both share the photo wherever you want!"

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Foxes dancing in a forecourt

Foxes, everyone's favorite pop star with Bambi eyes, has put out the video to her brand new single, Body Talk - of which we mightily approve.

The clip sees the star dancing (not very successfully) in a petrol station and looking pensive in a car wash. It's all very moody but goodness knows what it has to do with the song.

Foxes - Body Talk

Here are some sentences that appeared in a press release about Foxes' forthcoming "sophomore" (second) album.

"Southampton-born Foxes, who eschews the lure of the full-on glitzy pop star life in favour of taking the bus around east London and working on her mum's vintage clothing market stall, is ready for the world to hear what she's been working on, 'I knew immediately what I wanted with this album, and I was at the reins of it this time,' she says."

The album will also feature a children's choir, as the singer revealed on Facebook a fortnight ago.

kids choir in the studio today #makingthealbum

Posted by Foxes on Friday, 12 June 2015

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Lianne La Havas: What You Won't Do

Lianne La Havas is clearly a woman in love. After the sensual nu-soul of Unstoppable, her new single is a blissed-out eulogy to her beau.

"It's what you don't do, the games you don't play," she sings. "I know you love me. I don't need proof."

Splashed with old-school soul harmonies, What You Won't Do is excellently funky - and surely destined to be her first top 40 hit.

Lianne La Havas - What You Won't Do

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Monday, June 22, 2015

First listen: Janet Jackson - No Sleeep

Here it is, then, the first single from Janet Jackson's "comeback" album, after a seven year hiatus.

No Sleeep is a slinky, slow-burner in the tradition of That's The Way Love Goes. Janet's in full-on seductress mode, singing about a "weekend marathon" (she means sex) and declaring "I'm going to be the queen of insomnia" (because of the sex).

It's a grower, for sure (because of the sex). But my first impression is a robust 7/10.

Janet Jackson - No Sleeep

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Robyn is back, and back on form*

Bloody hell, it's good to have Robyn back. And after last year's cold and austere collaboration with Royksopp her new material is warm, celebratory and primed for the dance floor.

Described as "a love letter to early 90s house music", Love Is Free is the first single from her new project Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique, comprised of her touring bandmate Markus Jägerstedt and the late dance producer Christian Falk.

Funky and fresh, the track draws on the Swedish star's love of hip-hop as much as her pop inclinations. "I'mma give it to you baby / I'mma give it like a mother / Safe like a rubber," she drawls in that tiny helium voice of hers. "We're all over this city / Sometimes in the nitty / Sometimes in the gritty."

In a parallel universe where Betty Boo is the world's biggest pop star, this is her triumphant new single.

Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique - Love Is Free

There's an interview with Robyn and Markus over on FACT magazine if you want to know more about their new mini-album.

*Not that she ever really went off the boil, but you know what I mean.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bitch, she's Madonna

Madonna seems immeasurably proud of her new single, Bitch, I'm Madonna, a pelvis-pumping Diplo track that sits at the centre of her new album.

But to my ears, it's grating, puerile and - worst of all - clumsy; indulging all of Madonna's worst instincts.

The Jonas Ackerlund-directed video doesn't improve matters. Set at a kerraazy house party, it seems oddly joyless. Even the much-hyped celebrity cameos are a bust - filmed separately and dropped into the video at opportune moments. Even Nicki Minaj, who's verse is a highlight of the song, couldn't be bothered to turn up.


Madonna ft Nicki Minaj - Bitch, I'm Madonna

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Janet Jackson's first new music in five years appeared without warning on the star's Twitter feed earlier today.

Putting her vooice front and centre, it's a simple track with a simple thank you message to her fans: "I lived through my mistakes / It's just a part of growing / And never for a single moment did I ever go without your love / You made me feel wanted / I wanna tell you how important you are to me."

Sounding more like a Velvet Rope-era interlude than a fully-fledged song, the confessional tone and raw vocals still signal a return to form after a series of confused and aimless albums.

The untitled track can be streamed below.

According to Entertainment Tonight, the song will appear on Janet's upcoming album, Unbreakable, which discusses "the human spirit, love, marriage, Janet's precious family, and her fans."

The first single is set to be No Sleep - deliberately recalling a lyric on Go Deep, one of her most effortless pop songs. She's also announced a world tour, kicking off in Vancouver this August. So far, though, all 36 dates are scheduled for the US, suggesting a "wait-and-see" approach to the international outings.

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With every nova heartbeat

"HERE IT IS STRANGE LITTLE TRACK OFF OUR ALBUM, OUR FIRST SINGLE" say Nova Heartbeat on their official website.

The trio are a big deal in their native Beijing - where frontwoman Helen Cheng (冯海宁) has been dubbed "the Blondie of China" - but the faltering English of that headline gives a false impression. Lacklustre No, the single in question, is sophisticated, minimalist pop sung in perfect English.

Built around a slinky bass riff and featuring a vocal that'll make you lean in to your speakers, it would be perfectly at home on XL or WARP or some other achingly hip record label.

With perfect timing, Lucklustre No comes out just as the band land in the UK to play the Glastonbury Festibule.

Listen below.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Here is a very good Radio 1 session by Emilie Nicolas

Norwegian singer Emilie Nicolas releases her debut album, Like A Warrior, in the UK on 5 July. It's already been a massive hit at home - winning the 27-year-old best pop singer and best newcomer at the Spellemannprisen (the Nordic Brits) last year.

The singer-songwriter studied at Oslo's Jazz Conservatory, but plays a gently powerful brand of Scandi-pop (which she records in a barn outside Oslo). Of particular note is the current single Pstereo - a cover of the Dum Dum Boys' single, which Emilie translated into English.

Her promo tour for the album stopped off at Radio 1's Maida Vale Studios last night, and the resulting three-song session is a thing of wonder. Listen below:

If you're visiting this page in mid-July, when the above audio expires, you'll have to listen to the studio version of Pstereo instead.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Raury - Devil's Whisper

It's rare to find a song that's genuinely unclassifiable. And it's ever rarer for that song to be any good.

But here's BBC Sound of 2015 top fiver Raury with his new single Devil's Whisper. A folk hymnal that takes a wrong turn into murky raptronica (see? unclassifiable), it's a semi-sequel to last year's God's Whisper.

While that track talked about the divine inspiration behind Raury's musical career, this is an assessment of his first year in the music industry. "I know more, I've seen more things," he told Annie Mac (who premiered the single, naturally. "Sometimes there's temptation - but you have to stay true to yourself."

An audacious and uncompromising record, it marks out the Atlanta musician as a major talent. Again. You can download it on iTunes later tonight.

Raury - Devil's Whisper

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

New discovery: XY&O - Lights On

"Welsh electronic trio." Now, there's a phrase you don't see every day. But there it is, in black and white.

XY&O are a Welsh electronic trio. They're from Cardiff, they play synths, and there are three of them. A Welsh electronic trio. Amazing.

Fronted by vocalist Skip Curtis, they've just posted a new, single onto Soundcloud. Called Lights On, it's inspired by Get Lucky and references that moment when the club doors open and people spill out into the neon-hued night-time. "It always just seems to be a weird maelstrom of lust, joy, sadness, mania depravity and aggression, like people's wiring has gone wrong," says vocalist Skip Curtis.

Staccato but slinky, it's a summer disco track for indie kids - like a 2015 version of Holy Ghost! Check it out below.

The band's name came about, by the way, from imagining what chromosomes a superhero would possess. True story.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Video: The Staves - Teeth White

The Staves' new single is not, Jessica has pointed out, an ode to dentistry.

Instead, Teeth White is "a bit of a two fingers up to people," she told the Nottingham Post (where else?).

"It's about the frustrations sometimes aimed at the industry, and the difficulty of moving at someone else's pace." her sister Emily added. "And it's also about being girls and not getting the credit we'd get for the music if we were male."

It's also a bloody good song - a rollicking, Beatles-y stomp that's one of the highlights of the band's second album, If I Was. And now it has a video, filmed in a swanky Parisian nightclub for what were presumably unimpeachable creative and financial reasons.

The Staves - Teeth White

The Staves go on tour this October, finishing up with a show at the Roundhouse. If you haven't seen them live yet, I'd highly reccommend it.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lucy Rose plummets to her certain doom

One of the great things about making pop videos is that you get to tick off items from your bucketlist at other people's expense. Suddenly, Dave Grohl has a valid excuse to dress up like a woman; Taylor Swift can become one of Charlie's Angels; and Robin Thicke is able to cavort around with naked women and goats. Win / win.

But Lucy Rose has bigger ambitions than any of them. She wants to leap off the top of a waterfall, like James Bond at the start of Goldeneye.

I dread to think of the health and safety forms they needed to fill out over at Columbia Records but she actually did it. And the proof is in the video for Like An Arrow - one of the best tracks from her second album, even if it does have a whiff of the Mumford about it.

Watch below, and try to stop yourself from going: "NO, LUCY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" at the 2'30" mark.

Lucy Rose - Like An Arrow

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Friday, June 5, 2015

New music: Frances - Grow

After years of earnest young men earnestly strumming acoustic guitars, it's surprisingly refreshing to hear an earnest young woman earnestly tinkling the ivories.

The young woman in question is Frances, an upcoming singer-songwriter from London who's been signed by Method - the team behind Sam Smith and Disclosure's breakthroughs. (Not entirely coincidentally, she's supporting Sam Smith at his Thetford Forest gig later this summer.)

A self described "little ginger cookie", she is preternaturally talented, her husky, confessional vocals and rolling piano figures easily comparable Carole King.

The evidence is all there on her first EP, Grow, which is due out in July. The title track is as mesemerising as it is simple - just her multi-tracked voice and a (beautifully-recorded) piano. According to the singer, it's "about loving someone and wanting to keep them close, but deep down you know you need to let them go and experience new things."

The track is streaming now and you can download it now, if you pre-order the whole EP.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Shura returns with 7-minute disco epic

Shura caught my attention earlier this year with 2 Shy, a soft explosion of synth-pop that brought to mind Janet Jackson at her most seductive.

The singer, whose real name is Alexandra Denton, was a runner-up in the BBC's Sound of 2015 after teaching herself how to use music production software on YouTube.

Her new single White Light shows just how proficient she's become. A seven-minute space disco epic, it's the Cerrone tribute Goldfrapp always threatened to make. Supple guitar licks and intergalactic synths abound, as Denton's feathery vocals glide towards the milky way.

Strap on your space boots and get ready for blast off.

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New from Foxes - Body Talk

Foxes isn't wasting any time following up last year's excellent debut album, Glorious.

The milkshake enthhusiast, Let Go For Tonight singer, Guinness world-record holder and part-time Doctor Who actress has just popped into Radio 1 to premiere a new single, Body Talk.

"I like it," she told Nick Grimshaw hubristically. "I was in Wales and I had disco on the mind, I don't really know why. It's kind of a break-up song but it's got a positive view on it."

The single mix is a very different (and much-improved) version of the demo that leaked earlier this week. If you liked Ladyhawke's first album, this is going to be right up your ear canal. And if you didn't like Ladyhawke's first album, what's wrong with you?

Foxes - Body Talk

Footnote: Here is something interesting from a press release for the single.

Southampton-born Foxes, who eschews the lure of the full-on glitzy pop star life in favour of taking the bus around east London and working on her mum's vintage clothing market stall, is ready for the world to hear what she's been working on, "I knew immediately what I wanted with this album, and I was at the reins of it this time” she says.

So there you go.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Video: Rita Ora - Poison

Singing at the Oscars, judging The Voice, "acting" in Fifty Shades - Rita Ora's certainly kept herself busy throughout the delays to her second album.

But after a couple of cameos with Iggy Azalea and Charles Hamilton, she's finally got a proper follow-up to last year's smash hit I Will Never Let You Down.

Poison, which debuted in audio form last month, is a dark and juddering track about a destructive relationship. It sounds like Sia, but was actually written by Kate Nash. Yes, that Kate Nash. Mind-boggling.

The video dropped this morning and sees Rita play a young, braided street-rat who is plucked from obscurity to become a supermodel. But fame comes at a price, emotionally and sartorially, as Rita sheds more and more clothes until she's running down the street in a bra.

Probably not one for the office, if I'm being honest.

Rita Ora - Poison

Anyone else tempted to by a can of Frizz-ease after watching that?

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New discovery: Julietta - Goosebumps

NYC-based artist Julietta will fill a Banks-sized hole in your playlists, with a sullen, unflustered debut single called Goosebumps.

"I've got goosebumps on my skin, 'cause it’s cold and you won’t let me in," she sings over a doom-laden bassline, in a lyric that's as evocative as it is factual.

Weirdly, it seems like the song has been released before - with blog posts from last October pointing to a deleted Soundcloud stream and (even more mysteriously) a non-existent Facebook account. Perhaps the real Julia Libani has been replaced by an imposter, Don Draper style.

Whatever the story, and it's probably a really boring one about record label contracts, Goosebumps deserves to be heard. So here it is.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Video: Lucy Rose - I Tried

"I’m not just another girl with an acoustic guitar singing about how she feels," Lucy Rose told Digital Spy three years ago.

True enough, her second album barely features acoustic guitar at all, favouring instead a dusky, electronic soundscape that recalls the poppier moments of Massive Attack and the witchier moments of Goldfrapp.

"It's hugely different," she told XFM the other week. "It's nice different in ways because this time we went into a recording studio, instead of being in my parents' living room trying to make a record."

"But at the same time I did have those extra pressure that I didn't have before of making a record that the label wanted to put out and they felt was ready as well. It wasn't just down to me deciding: 'yeah, now it's time.'"

Nonetheless, the label (Columbia) has encouraged the 25-year-old flourish if the first two singles from the record are anything to go by.

Lead single Our Eyes, which I wrote about in March, is sophisticated, syncopated indie-pop; while her new song, I Tried is a classic "I fucked up" ballad with a saw-tooth sub-bass that'll upset the neighbours.

The video - which must have been intolerably boring to make - follows below.

Lucy Rose - I Tried

You should also check out Like An Arrow, another song from Rose's forthcoming album, Work It Out. Originally planned as the second single it seems, in this acoustic premiere, more akin to the gently strummed indie-pop of the singer's debut album - but it beguiles like a pealing bell on a Sunday morning.

Lucy Rose - Like An Arrow (Live at RAK Studios)

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