Thursday, October 29, 2015

Listen: Jones - Hoops

Just look at that photo. That's a proper pop star in the making, right there. Stylish, insouciant, poised. It only adds to the sense of excitement and expectation around soul newcomer Jones.

According to the press release, Jones was "raised in east London by her soul-loving mum on Stevie and Luther" and "at an early age [she] began to turn her most private diary entries into songs, and her small shows for family members became tentative open mic sessions."

Her silky, sumptuous Indulge is one of the year's sexiest seduction songs. And now she's unveiled the first taste of her debut album, New Skin, which is due out in Spring 2016.

Produced by XO, Hoops sounds like The xx after they discovered their inner Sade. Sublime.

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Video: Kendrick Lamar - These Walls

These Walls is perhaps the most straightforward song on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly - with a sort of swinging, southern hip-hop vibe that'll sound familiar to legions of Outkast fans.

But, as you might expect, the lyrics are more complex than appearances suggest. Kendrick starts off with the familiar rap trope of bragging about his sexual prowess (the walls of the title are the walls of a vagina - eugh). Things turn darker in the second verse, where Kendrick reveals his partner's husband is in prison - literally behind walls. In the third section, the rapper talks about the walls of his inner conscience, and how his actions haunt him. Sadly, a fourth verse about dry wall construction was deleted for length.

The video illustrates the thought-provoking storyline in a rather vulgar fashion - at one point Kendrick's sexy dancing is so vigorous he bursts through the walls of his neighbour's house, with hilarious results.

Watch below. Or, better still, listen to the album.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two sides of the artpop coin

So, two big names in the "alt pop" game have released new videos this week. One is waifish electro pixie Grimes, whose gossamer-thin melodies and hypnotic, polychromatic arrangements have won her fans from Rihanna to Lena Dunham. The other is shapeshifting Danish songstress , riding high off the success of Lean On, her global smash collaboration with Major Lazer.

Both songs are pristine examples of gusty, cutting-edge, outsider pop. But the videos - which are ostensibly similar - have polar opposite effects on me. Each is heavily-stylised, with the singers and their friends dancing through surreal dreamscapes. The costumes and scenarios mix high fashion and dark nightmares. In Kamikaze, MØ is pictured atop a throne made of golden car tyres in a derelict Ukrainian high rise; In Flesh Without Blood, Grimes, dressed as Marie Antoinette, spends half of her video bleeding to death on a tennis court.

The difference is small, but crucial. MØ looks like she's posing for a shoot in iD, the video aggressively screaming, "this is cool and if you watch it you will be cool too." Grimes, on the other hand, lets a smile play across her face throughout the whole thing, in a way that says, "everyone is welcome at this party, but could you please wear a powdered wig 'for the lols?'"

You might disagree (maybe you really, really want to be cool - who am I to judge?) So watch below and make your own mind up.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Listen: Weezer - Thank God For Girls

I've always had a soft spot for the gonzo rock "stylings" of Weezer, and their ninth album, last year's Everything Will Be Alright in the End, was something of a return to form.

So it's good to hear the band continue their latest purple patch with a new single Thank God For Girls (that's the ridicu-brilliant artwork above). It's crunchy, compact and completely crackers, as Rivers Cuomo takes a swipe at songs like Jay-Z's Girls or Bruce Springsteen's Girls In Their Summer Clothes, and the way they objectify women at the same time as (supposedly) eulogising them.

In other words, it's a list song taken to the extreme, with unhinged brags like: "She's so big / She's so strong / She's so energetic in her sweaty overalls."

The lyric video is just as strange, drawing inspiration from the lyric: "When you come home / She will be waiting there for you / With a fire in her eyes / And a big fat canoli to shove in your mouth."

NB: People who can't watch MasterChef when Greg Wallace shovels a greasy lump of meat into his face would do well to avoid the following Youtube player.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Adele says Hello. Hello, Adele!

What's amazing / brilliant about the new Adele campaign is how the anticipation seems to match that of the new Star Wars. Every tidbit and jpeg is pored over by proper newspapers and websites, looking for clues, details and indications about the star's new album. When was the last time that really happened? I remember it when Michael Jackson's Dangerous came out. Oasis's Be Here Now got a documentary on the BBC. And (in Ireland at least) there were midnight openings when U2 unexpectedly released Zooropa in the middle of the tour of the same name. But those were all 20 years ago... Not even Gaga or Beyonce can match the cross-generational appeal of Miss Adkins.

But the furore surrounding Adele's third album is as anachronistic as the sales figures for her last one. 21 shifted an astonishing 30 million copies in an era when everyone wants their music free with their Weetabix. I doubt 25 can come close to that. For one thing, physical sales have declined even further in the intervening five years. Secondly, it's no coincidence that all of the albums I mention above were panned (although Dangerous and Zooropa are better than their reputation suggests).

Either way, it's great to have a proper event in pop music that's not a sexually-explicit video or Nicki Minaj being slightly mean or a song about Taylor Swift's ex-boyfriend or a combination of all three. Adele's record will be about the music and now, finally, we have some music to hear.

Hello (sadly, not a cover of this song, or this one, or this one) premiered on Vimeo show this morning. An apology to an abandoned lover, it starts off with the same mournful piano arrangement as Someone Like You but when it takes off, boy, does it take off.

It sounds great. It sounds like this.

PS: Someone really needs to take the pruning shears to that phone box.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Video: Florence + The Machine - Delilah

Sneaking in just before ADELE DAY, Florence + The Machine releases the sixth (and presumably final) instalment of her melodramatic "The Odyssey" - an interlinked video project for her album How Big How Blue How Beautiful.

Accompanying the album's best track, Delilah, the new chapter finds the singer wandering around a freaky motel, replete with religious imagery, enthusiastic writhing and - as in many of the previous clips - Florence being pushed, pulled and manhandled by the human manifestations of her demons.

And, with that, the baton is passed from one ginger titan of British music to another.

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Justin Bieber is very sorry

I think it's safe to say no-one expected Justin Bieber's What Do You Mean to be the smash it's become - but the slinky, understated groove slowly worked its way into even the most sceptical of listener's brains (I include myself here).

So how do you follow that up? Well, with another sad tropical banger, produced by Skrillex, which explicitly addresses the star's career rehabilitation. "Let me redeem myself tonight," he sings on Sorry, with a vulnerable tremor in his tenor.

The track was co-written by Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, previously responsible for Selena Gomez's sublime Good For You. "We were just trying to capture that moment in a relationship, or a particular moment in your life, where you realize you made a mistake and you’re finally ready to admit it and apologize," said Michaels.

It's not as immediate or memorable as What Do You Mean - but it won't throw Bieber's comeback off course.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On her good days she is charming as...

Tove Lo's Queen Of The Clouds is a monumental pop album, and Moments is one of its standout, er, moments. An autobiography in song form, it sees the Swedish singer discuss her suburban upbringing ("I was safe, I was fine") and the dawning realisation that she was a bit different from her parents.

"I love freaks," she sings, "I'm rough around the edges, memories and baggage" but (and this is the hook) "on my good days I am charming as fuck."

The song is as tempestuous as the lyrics, with hammering snares and blustery harmonies. And the video, which has just been released, matches it for raw power.

It tells a separate but parallel story of Tove going on an epic bender after being dumped. Using the combined mediums of pills, broken glass, gunshots, laughing, crying, drowning and - yes - interpretive dance, it "takes the meaning of this song to its most extreme," said the star on Facebook.

Brilliant stuff.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Songs you may have missed: The Drake dance-off edition

So, I started a new job last week - accounting for (yet another) gap in the blog posts. Here's my penance - everything I heard in the last seven days and thought "I really should write something about that," before being dragged into another meeting.


1) Drake - Hotline Bling
As the entire internet has noticed, Drake has let his drunken aunt choreograph his latest video. Still, nice turtleneck.

2) Frances - I Care (ft Pomo)
I'm calling it now: Frances is going to be on all of the "Sound Of 2016" lists, or I'll eat one of James Bay's hats.

3) Hot Chip - Dancing In The Dark
Hot Chip have been covering Bruce Springsteen's rock'n'roll classic in their festival sets all summer. Now there's an (impeccable) studio verison, complete with a preposterous 1980s public access television video. Why? Who knows? Who cares?

4) Jones - Indulge
The cleanest filthy song you'll hear all year, Jones's Indulge is all about surrendering yourself to a night of passion. "I know that it's wrong, but I want to indulge in you," the London-born singer purrs over a crepescular synth wave.

Indulge has been around since April but, spurred on by her wave-making Jools Holland appearance a couple of weeks ago, the song now has a video. Simple but effective.

5) Ben Haenow - Second Hand Heart (ft Kelly Clarkson)
The first "proper" single from last year's X Factor winner comes with a rare Kelly Clarkson "feature". It's low on subtlety (the pounding, Ryan Tedder-esque beat and the singers' powerhouse performances don't leave much space for nuance) but it's the first time in a while that a male X Factor star has recorded anything worth listening to.

Interestingly, it started out in life as a country song. I'd prefer to hear that version but, for now, this is perfectly acceptable radio filler.

6) Will Young - Brave Man
A remarkable video, in which a transgender man sheds his clothes and walks into the street, suffering abuse, violence and bullying until, finally, a woman offers her coat and - most importantly - acceptance.

"This video isn't about selling records or my personal benefit," said Will. "This video is about taking a moment in time to explore a section of society who stand up for themselves. To tell a story and offer a window through music into someone's life.​"

7) Five Seconds of Summer - Hey Everybody
I only mention this because no-one seems to have noticed the verse is entirely ripped off from Duran Duran's Hungry Like The Wolf. Surely it's not just me?

8) Jack Garratt - Breathe
I'm calling it now: Jack Garratt is going to be on all of the "Sound Of 2016" lists, or I'll eat another one of James Bay's hats.

9) Eska - Shades of Blue
Every year, the Mercury Prize list has one head-scratcher: An artist I've overlooked but instantly fall in love with.

This year it's Eska. Born in Zimbabwe, raised in London, she has been a session singer and vocal arranger for years, appearing on albums by the likes of Zero 7 and Grace Jones. Her debut is the sound of all those years of frustrated musicianship being unleashed. It melds soul, jazz, folk, reggae and Western African rhythms without sounding opulent or overblown. And it's all held together by the most stunning, precise, soulful vocals you'll hear this side of Erykah Badu.

Here's her most recent single.

10) Alice Olivia - Lovers
A YouTube sensation (16 million views!) and a BBC Introducing finalist, Cambridge-born Alice Olivia recently signed a deal with boutique pop label Soko Records.

Her first single is called Lovers - "about watching someone you love remain in a destructive, poisonous relationship and helplessly watching from a distance."

Dark and gnarly, this is a great introduction to an interesting singer-songwriter.

11) Anne-Marie - Boy
Quirky, streetwise pop from another up-and-comer (it's that time of year, isn't it?). Anne-Marie is going to be on all of the "Sound of 2016" lists or I'll eat a casserole of The Edge's beanies.

12) TĀLĀ - Wolfpack (with Banks)
TĀLĀ was inspired to make music by her British mother's love of Tom Jones, and her Iranian father's obsession with uber-diva Googoosh (think Madonna crossed Celine Dion, if you dare). Thankfully, her charcoal-coloured electric pop sounds nothing like either.

Her latest single sees her team up with another R&B temptress - the magnificent BANKS - for an anthem to sisterhood that would have Beyonce running for the hills.

And that's your lot!

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Must listen: Mura Masa - Love For That (ft Shura)

It's not often that a penny whistle solo is followed by the exhortation: "London, let me see your lighters" - but it's that sort of quirky detail that makes Mura Masa and Shura's first collaboration such a gem.

A luscious ballad, brushed with strings and a pitter-patter of percussion, it was written "in a few hours" while "watching Winnie The Pooh videos and eating curry," the duo told Annie Mac, who premiered the song last night.

If that's true, imagine what they could have achieved if they'd really been concentrating.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Ciara gets dark on Rolling Stones cover

This is simply fantastic - Ciara ditches the bumping and grinding for a chilling, gothic interpretation of The Rolling Stones' Paint It, Black.

Taken from Vin Diesel's latest film The Last Witch Hunter (nb: it looks awful), the song is one of the best things Ciara's ever done - a slow-building, threatening soundtrack to the end of days.

Interestingly, the singer seems to share my opinion, telling Rolling Stone "I had never thought to cover this song. It was never on my radar... [but] I love what the producer Adrianne Gonzales did."

"The direction that she went in was actually a sound I've always wanted to play with, and it just didn't get any better than being able to cover a Rolling Stones song. I feel like it pushes the edge and the limit for me, in reference to what people probably expect from me. So this was so many cool things in one. It was a huge honour, and then creatively I just got to really have some fun that I don't usually do in my music."

Listen below.

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Demi Lovato gets punched in the face

Demi Lovato is pretty badass in her new video, but not as badass as Michelle Rodriguez. Nobody is as badass as Michelle Rodriguez.

The violence is part of an explosive video which sees Demi betray Rodriguez, before the duo realise they're puppets of a shady government organisation - and wreak revenge on their handlers. Or something, it's hard to be entirely sure what's happening.

Still, the film is a visual feast (it was directed by Sin City's Robert Rodriguez) and Demi looks fierce. What more do you want from a pop video?

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Everything Everything, caked in blood, perform their new single No Reptiles

Just in time to remind the Mercury Prize panel they exist, Everything Everything have released a video for their recent album's pivotal track.

No Reptiles got a lot of attention back in June for the line "I'm going to kill a stranger... so don't you be a stranger," sung by frontman Jonathan Higgs.

"It's almost a cry for help," said Higgs in an interview with The Line Of Best Fit - but it's also a threat: Don't go away, because I won't be responsible for my actions if you do.

The rest of the song discusses David Icke's theory that our politicians and business leaders are, in fact, blood-drinking, flesh-eating, shape-shifting extraterrestrial reptilian humanoids whose only objective is to enslave the human race. Incredibly, he decides this argument is somewhat implausible, opting for the (far more unsettling) view that the people in charge are just lazy and useless.

All that millennial angst comes out in the video, a straightforward performance clip that ends with the band haemorrhaging blood under the blinking lights of an abandoned car park.

Cheery stuff.

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Tinashe "up the duff" and 11 other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of songs I wanted to blog about until life got in the way.

This week's superstars include.

1) Tinashe - Player (ft Chris Brown)
Her early EPs were a major influence on the dark, brooding lasciviousness of Beyonce's Beyonce album. Now Tinashe is going for Queen B's crown with a straight-up, chrome-plated pop classic.

The first single from her forthcoming second album, Joyride, it suggests a major push for mainstream success. But one thing is niggling at me: The lyric websites all say she's singing "you got me all fucked up" in the chorus - but surely I'm not the only one who hears "you got me up the duff"?

2) Ellie Goulding - Something In The Way You Move
Simmering electropop from pop's huskiest songstress. Another indication that Delirious will be an album full of solid gold bangers.

3) Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson - Say Say Say (2015 remix)
A souped-up version of the 1983 duet, this swaps around Macca and Jacko's vocals, and is generally a funkier, more upbeat take on the original. Part of a reissue of McCartney's Pipes of Peace album, it has even been blessed with a new video.

Sadly, the single's b-side, Ode to a Koala Bear, has been left untouched.

4) KDA - Turn The Music Louder (ft Tinie Tempah & Katy B)
The backing track feels a little "my first sequencer" but Tinie and Katy lift this track way above the average. Fantastic video, too.

5) Eliza and the Bear - Lion's Heart
A spoonful of Mumford, a sprinkle of Coldplay, and a pinch of The Libertines. Mix it all together, throw in a trumpet and you have Eliza and the Bear's anthemic new single.

Just to reiterate every article that's ever been written about them: Eliza and the Bear are all boys, and none of them is called Eliza.

6) Foxes - Better Love
Windswept, widescreen pop. But even Rihanna would think twice about a music video where the star sits on a toilet (even if she's just painting her toenails).

7) Dua Lipa - New Love
Jessie Ware's silky melodies crossed with the percussive dissonance of Bjork - New Love is an epic introduction to 19-year-old Londoner Dua Lipa. It was produced by Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs), and Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), in case that sort of thing matters to you.

8) Frances - Let It Out
Quiet, intense, fragile, beautiful. Frances is a shoo-in for next year's "ones to watch" lists.

9) Jones - Indulge
I missed this song when it came out in April, but it's become a firm favourite after London-born R&B singer Jones performed it on Jools Holland earlier this week. A dramatic, luxurious song about surrendering to love - I present both acoustic and studio versions, because I can't decide which I love most.

10) Bloc Party - The Love Within
Back from their second "hiatus" with a renewed energy, this song is a perfect balance between the shouty whirligig of Bloc Party's indie thrash and the throbbing electronica of Kele Okereke's solo material.

Petite Miller - Barbaric
This lolita-ish French singer is being talked about in all the right places - but I'm just not getting it. Can anyone enlighten me?

11) Olly Murs - Kiss Me
An interesting diversion into "not hateful" territory from pop's perennial hat-botherer and X Factor acolyte.

12) Janet Jackson - BurnItUp! (Ft Missy Elliot)
A lyric video, shot by the cast and crew of Janet's Unbreakable World Tour, this makes life on the road look like an absolute blast.

The tour pulls into the UK next March, fact fans.

And that's your lot... Enjoy the weekend!

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bondax were dead... long live Bondax

People who trawl through music blogs (ie music journalists and PRs) might have a vague memory of British electronic duo Bondax, who were being tipped for big things three years ago.

But disaster struck when their entire debut album went missing, as their laptop disappeared somewhere between a Bulgarian music festival and the airport. "I’ve got to admit, on that flight back I thought Bondax was over. I thought we’d fucked it," the band told DIY magazine last year.

Instead, Lancashire-born Adam Kaye and George Townsend dusted themselves off, played a few festivals, and released a stopgap album - Bondax and Friends - combining new material, collaborations and remixes. Then they started making an even better debut, which is due out next year.

The first single premiered on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show last night. It's called Temptation, it features Swedish hit-maker Erik Hassle, and it is an archetypal mid-tempo banger.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New discovery: Lewis Del Mar - Waves(s)

They sound like a disappointing beach resort in the Canaries, but Lewis Del Mar are in fact an experimental indie duo from Brooklyn, New York.

So new that they don't have an official biography, the band have been building up a small but enthusiastic fanbase on Soundcloud - thanks to their sputtering alt-pop creations Loud(y) and Memories ("we laughed listened to Madonna, your hips were on my jawline, like the first heat of summer").

Yesterday, the band uploaded their third track and it exceeds expectations. Wave(s) is a sexually candid version of REM's Nightswimming ("I suck your feet in the empty beach, took off all your clothes"), set to a slow-burning electronic production.

Expect big things once the band emerge from the shadows.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Watch Little Mix's gif-tastic new video

Earlier today, Little Mix unleashed the video for their latest single, Love Me Like You, on an entirely suspecting public (they've been teasing it for the best part of a century).

Just like the video for Black Magic, the story is set in a US high school - this time, with the girls attending Prom. That tells you something about the ambition for the band's third album, which aims to improve on the number 6 placing for 2013's Salute.

It also explains why the band are spreading their Wings and attempting a more mainstream sound after the 90s R&B stylings of their previous work.

Personally, I think they've pulled it off. The band have just enough sass and character to get make the girlband cliché of a Motown throwback seem fresh. And that's particularly apparent in the video, which contains all sorts of ridiculous face-pulling in the name of "acting",

Are there gifs? Of course there are gifs.

I'm no expert, but surely this is not how you apply lipstick

Now, let's see all those moments in context.

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Lady Gaga has a new song on the internet

Lady Gaga is back with a new song recorded in the pop genre and, unbelievably, it is 100% not shit.

Funk The Punk is the soundtrack for a commercial to Tom Ford's new Spring/Summer 2016 range. Despite the title, it's not an original song, but a cover of Chic's peerless disco classic I Want Your Love.

Chic legend Nile Rodgers takes production duties on the updated version, which ends with a fantastically funky cowbell coda.

It's not clear whether the cover will feature on Gaga's new album - but it's a good sign that she's rediscovered her pop instincts (and her sense of restraint, something that was sorely lacking on ArtPop).

Listen below . And apologies for the "autoplay" function. It has nothing to do with me :(

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Bird-watching and boy-watching with Lana Del Rey

"Pink flamingos always fascinated me," sings Lana Del Rey at the beginning of her new single, Music To Watch Boys To.

Presumably she is ruminating on the birds' grey feathers, which only turn pink because of canthaxanthin, a naturally-occurring pink dye they absorb via their diet of brine shrimp and blue-green algae. But sadly, the song doesn't expand on the science, or Lana's burgeoning interest in ornithology.

Instead, she goes on to sing in her familiar, louche style about being single and ogling boys.

The video is typically impressionistic and dreamy, with the singer reclining on a lawn-chair and wearing flower bloom headphones as she - yes - watches some boys.

The album, Honeymoon, is pretty decent, too. Don't be put off if you didn't like Ultraviolence. It's much more even (although there's still nothing as good as National Anthem).

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