Saturday, September 5, 2015

Songs you may have missed: Three weeks off edition

Let's just gloss over the three week gap in posts (the longest unscheduled break I've taken in 11 years) and crack on with some great music.

Here's what you (I) missed.

1) Justin Bieber - What Do You Mean?
Justin's first UK number one, and deservedly so, this is a collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo, as part of their Jack U project. It's been around since Christmas, slowly creeping into people's consciousness, thanks to an understated and, dare I say, emotional performance from the former brat. Best bit is the summery flute solo which, it turns out, is actually a heavily-processed vocal sample.

2) Taylor Swift - Wildest Dreams
This is a song from Taylor Swift's underappreciated recent album 1989. The video has caused some controversy because the lion does not eat Taylor's face off, or something.

3) Halsey - New Americana (live)
Why Ashley Nicolette Frangipane decided to adopt a stage name is beyond me... Maybe there was another Ashley Frangipane registered with ASCAP?

It doesn't really matter, though, when her music is this catchy. New Americana is a strident pop anthem set to a marching beat, in which the 20-year-old declares the next generation of Americans was "raised on Biggie and Nirvana". Imaginging the British equivalent - "raised on Dizzee and the Gallaghers" - makes Halsey's version seem even cooler.

4) Half Moon Run - Turn Your Love
Montreal indie outfit Half Moon Run scored Annie Mac's "Hottest Record" accolade on Tuesday with this skittering, psychedelic track. It starts off like an Alt-J cast off but builds into a beautiful crescendo with a "was that really human" falsetto.

5) Jarryd James - Sure Love
A laid back, loose fitting love ballad from Brisbane's Jarryd James, who scored a top 10 hit in Australia earlier this year and has been working extensively with Lorde's producer, Joel Little.

This song, however, comes via US super-producer Malay (Frank Ocean), who sprinkles his vocals over a twinkling Rhodes piano and a pleasingly chunky tambourine sound. Luscious listening.

6) Troye Sivan - Wild
Strewth, it's another Aussie singer-songwriter. Troye Sivan hails from Perth, and is being tipped for big things by the likes of Rolling Stone and Popjustice (who, somewhat prematurely, named him "pop entity of 2014").

He makes pop music that's quietly anthemic (if such a thing is possible), delivering monumental hooks with a subtle intimacy. Wild is the "big single", capturing the first tilt of romance, when you're walking home from a club with someone new and thinking: "Oh my God, they're hot".

It's the title track of his new six-song EP which, he says, is a mere snapshot of the "upwards of sixty" songs he's written over the last year. Expect big things.

7) Janet Jackson - Unbreakable
The title track, and opening number, from Janet's new album is a supple, funky little number about gaining strength from your friends and family. "The truth is that I wouldn’t be here Without the love I stand on," sings Janet over an old-time soul groove.

I've said it before, but everything about this new Janet project screams "return to form".

8) Oh Wonder - Livewire (live lounge)
Oh Wonder are something of an indie sensation. They appeared on Soundcloud last year, describing themselves simply as a "writing duo, releasing one song a month for a year." They did just that, captivating their small band of followers with a sequence of fragile, melodic songs set to heavy - if subdued - hip-hop beats.

Last week, they popped into Radio One for their first ever session... which also turned out to be their first ever live performance. Rarely do bands emerge so perfectly formed - but these guys are the real deal.

9) Alexx Mack - Sunglasses
2015 is turning out to be a vintage year for uncomplicated, balls out pop - from Demi Lovato's Cool For The Summer, to Little Mix's Black Magic. I guess we have Taylor Swift to thank.

The latest entry into canon is a minor one, but worth noting simply for the lyric: "Let's wake up naked and make out". Think Charli XCX by way of Katy Perry and you'll get the idea.

10) John Newman - Tiring Game (ft Charlie Wilson)
John Newman's been threatening to go gospel for ages. Now he finally goes for it, on this frantically cheesy duet with Charlie Wilson. A Philip Bailey and Phil Collins for the sound system generation.

11) Grace Mitchell - Jitter
Left-field, glitchy, speaker-threatening pop from 16-year-old Grace Mitchell, who is signed to Republic Records - home to Lorde and Taylor Swift.

The big surprise is that this avant garde track is produced by Mark Foster of Foster The People "fame".

12) Avicii - For A Better Day
Taking his cues from Mumford and Sons, Avicii has dropped the banjos and gone stadium rock. I'm not kidding.

13) Chvrches - Leave A Trace (Four Tet Remix)
Deconstructing Chvrches' wall of synths and viewing the debris through a haze of television distortion, this is an unsettling, but brilliant, remix. The original's still better, though.

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