Monday, December 28, 2015

Lots of people released surprise songs for Christmas

It wasn't just The Beatles who had a Christmas surprise up their sleeves. All your favourite artists (and Green Day) sent out free gifts over the festive break. Here they are, for anyone who wasn't using Twitter to avoid their relatives...

LCD Soundsystem - Christmas Will Break Your Heart
James Murphy says: "'Christmas Will Break Your Heart," is another one of those songs which had about 75 lines of lyrics, though we've knocked down to 8 to keep the suicide rate in check."

Tove Lo - Influence
Tove says: "2015 started off in silence with my vocal chord operation and slowly gaining back my voice. I wanna thank you for being so supportive and giving me so much love during this time... by giving you a little taste of what’s coming. Enjoy my new song "INFLUENCE" [she means Influence]. First song I wrote this year after the surgery. Let’s get ready for 2016 together."

Radiohead - Spectre
Thom Yorke says:

The Weeknd + Future - Low Life
The Weeknd says: "Merry Xmas"

Miley Cyrus - My Sad Christmas Song
Miley says: "Out nowwwwww on SoundCloud!!!"

Timbaland - King Stays King mixtape
Timbo says: "Aaliyah.. This is for you baby." [NB: This features an actually fantastic, unreleased Aaliyah song called Shakin']

Grimes - Fifteen Minutes To
Grimes says: "We have found this song long time ago but we had decided to keep it hidden till now, cuz someone else found it and kindly share it to us."

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Discopop Directory: Top 10 singles of 2015

Usually, my Top 10 is a breeze to compile. I look at the songs I listened to most then write them down in order. This year, there were dozens all clustered around the same score - either evidence of a very good year or a totally banal one.

I will say this, though - the Top Five completely took me by surprise. I'd been preparing to write about Kanye's All Day, The Weeknd's Can't Feel My Face and Missy Elliot's WTF (Where They From?) in this list. In the end, they fell just short of the countdown - which proves something, although I'm at a loss to explain what it might be.

10) Demi Lovato - Cool For The Summer
The year's best Katy Perry song in a year where Katy Perry released no songs. Rip-roaring vocals and a terrific guitar riff from the "Sexy! No No No" schools of rock. Could have done without the gratuitous - and grammatically awkward - swear word in verse two.

9) Alessia Cara - Here
An "anti-party anthem"; a "loner anthem"; an "anthem for introverts". The critics' were united - this wasn't just a song about socially awkward teenagers, it was a rallying cry for like-minded souls. Never mind that Alessia Cara is the least introverted pop star this side of Lady Gaga. She just didn't like this one party. Still, with lyrics and melody this good, who's scoring points?

8) Lianne La Havas - What You Don't Do
A simple, sublime love song. "Those three little words are overused," she sings, before smiling: "You don't need to show it - I already know it." Gorgeous.

7) Major Lazer ft MØ - Lean On
It's great to see that a left-field, obtuse pop song like this can still have a global impact - even after it's turned down by Rihanna. Lean On needed a few listens to "bed in", but once I'd fallen under the spell of the lilting rhythm and MØ's unflinchingly positive lyrics (essentially a hipster re-write of the Neighbours theme tune) there was no turning back.

6) Disclosure ft Lorde - Magnets
This slinky story of boyfriend theft is the absolute highlight of Disclosure's ho-hum second album - and here's why. "Lorde was involved with every aspect of the song as opposed to just doing the lyrics and melodies and then leaving the rest to us," Guy Lawrence told Spin. "It was like someone challenging us, someone saying, 'We can get that extra ten percent.'”

5) Janet Jackson - No Sleeep
Janet's six year hiatus gave her a clean slate with the prudish US public, and it didn't hurt that her comeback single was an understated masterpiece. Jam and Lewis's silky-smooth groove recalled That's The Way Love Goes while the lyric - about ruffling the bedsheets with her beau - proved Janet could still sing about sex without using words like "moist".

4) Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You
A 21st Century update of I Should Be So Lucky, with added glitter cannons (courtesy of former Cardigans writer Peter Svennson). The video starred Tom Hanks, for some reason.

3) Little Mix - Black Magic

Little Mix's venture into "proper" girlband territory (80s pastiche, Motown pastiche, Jason Derulo duet) hasn't been a resounding success - but this song gets everything right. Predictable yet surprising, it transcends the appropriation of Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun to become the most likeable single of the year. Then the "falling in love" coda kicks in and you think to yourself, "why am I grinning?"

2) Kendrick Lamar - King Kunta
I was disappointed that The Weeknd's Michael Jackson rip-off tribute Can't Feel My Face didn't make the Top 10 - but at least this contains an allusion to Smooth Criminal. It is neither as incisive nor as powerful as Kendrick's other big hit of 2015 (Alright was adopted as the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement) but King Kunta sounds much better at parties.

1) Carly Rae Jepsen - Your Type
Move over Sam so-called Smith, this is the saddest pop song of the year. I might be married with two children, but it transports me straight back to 1995 and being infatuated with someone who didn't know I existed. There's something in Carly's delivery - resigned, but hoping her pleas will make a difference - that breaks your heart in two, and then into smaller and smaller fragments with every chorus. It's not the most original or complex song on this list but I found myself singing it at top volume, by myself, in the car at midnight. And that, pop fans, is the ultimate seal of approval.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

New Music: Rachel Platten - Better Place

Fight Song was a very good pop single, wasn't it? I mean, I didn't buy it or stream it or in any way consciously seek it out, but I was always pleased when it came on the radio. I could even sing the chorus right now, but that would violate all sorts of human rights conventions.

But Rachel Platten's new one isn't anything like Fight Song. Better Place (for that is it's name) is a soppy old love ballad that's probably being considered for the new Bridget Jones film, preferably in a scene where two people share a lingering kiss in the rain.

It's all very optimistic and lovely in a sort of "toothless Adele record" kind of way. It'll help sell Rachel's album by the bucketload when it comes out next month.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Powers that be

Popjustice just posted this "official visual" for Loved By You, the new single from New York / LA pop duo Powers. And now I'm posting it too. #content

Powers are Mike Del Rio and Crista Ru - who previously worked on Kylie's underrated single Into The Blue. They say they're "obsessed with aliens" and wrote a lot of their material at a camping retreat at Lake Arrowhead. Which makes the the Bon Iver of fizzy synthpop.

If you think you've heard the name before, it might be because their previous single, Beat of my Drum, racked up 10m plays on Spotify.

Like the new song, it is very good. In fact, Powers are shaping up to be very good overall. We can safely expect more of this very goodness on their forthcoming EP, the Legendary EP, which is an EP. (The clue is in the name.)

In short: Very Good.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New discovery: Audrey Air - Strawberry Syrup Sixteens

Singer-songwriter Audrey Air is so new that she still lists her personal Gmail account on her Soundcloud page. That's not going to last long.

Her latest / first upload, Strawberry Syrup Sixteens combines the brooding sarcasm of Lorde with the supple production of (early) Lana Del Rey. An accompanying post on her Tumblr suggests it was written in the aftermath of an epic party (she's a first-year university student in NYC, fact fans).

"It's the morning after and I'm still feeling it," writes the 18-year-old. "I'm hungover but in the most dreamy way possible; to the point where my limbs feel full and my eyelids feel heavy and my mind wont shut off certain scenes from the night. Even if I did forget most of the hours, I feel like I learned something from that."

Listen below, then drop her an email saying: "You're fantastic. Now get to the library and do some work. Lots of love, Your Dad."

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Purity Ring have all of the lights

In a bid to outdo Jean Michel-Jarre, Canadian dream-pop duo Purity Ring have used 2,500 LED lights as the backdrop for their new video. That's enough to illuminate 50 Christmas Trees, or one of Madonna's vanity mirrors.

The clip finds singer Megan James falling through a black void, until she lands in a surreal, sci-fi showroom - filled with hanging lightbulbs, glowing screens and dancing men in squid pyjamas.

James said the following words about it, in a not entirely coherent press release:

The video consists of the many elements we have created and chosen to express in a live context, but has an added sightline of being in another world, keeping the past in arms with the present and holding a bit of magic in the dark.

I don't know what that means, but it all looks very pretty.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Katy B returns with Calm Down

Back in December 2012, Kathleen Anne Brien gave us a glimpse into the recording of her second album with her pitch-black Danger EP. Ultimately, her Little Red album had a more pop focus - but it was fascinating to hear the gravitational pull of clubland on her writing. 

Skip forward to 2015, and history is repeating itself. Katy B has taken a break from recording her third record, Honey, to release a one-off single called Calm Down, recorded with Four Tet and Floating Points. Sadly, the Michael Winner sample couldn't be cleared. 

It's a deep cut, in both senses of the phrase - with Katy floating over an unremitting electro pulse as she eulogises a night on the tiles (ie visiting a discotheque, not lying on the bathroom floor in a pool of your own vomit - although one invariably leads to the other, I suppose). 

"When are we ever going to calm down?" she cries. "Know I should do, but I love the sound / All I really wanna do is dance."

A press release says this:

"In collaboration with Four Tet and Floating Points, Katy B reveals Calm Down, the first piece of music taken from her new project entitled ‘Honey’ that will see Katy teaming up with a number of producers and artists, further exemplifying Katy’s ability to push boundaries and create exciting new music. Expect more details of Honey to follow in the new year."
So there you go. 

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Listen: Lauren Aquilina - Echoes

I first wrote about Lauren Aquilina in 2013, shortly before her pet budgie tragically exploded.

Back then, she was a brand new artist heading off to SXSW to mingle with the masses and shake hands with oily men from the music "industry". She's taken her time since then, developing her sound over a series of EPs and signing to Island Records; while being talent spotted by Taylor Swift, who picked her as an opening act for her Hyde Park show last year.

Playing the long game has paid dividends for the Bristol-born singer... Her new material is (in her own words) dreamy, cinematic, honest and (in my words) beguiling, clever and subtle.

Her new song, Echoes, is slated to be the first single from her debut album. Have a listen below. You won't be disappointed. Unless you were expecting it to sound like Megadeath.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Prince eases ban on his cover of Radiohead's Creep

When Prince headlined Coachella in 2008, one of the highlights of his set was a slow, mournful version of Radiohead's Creep.

Despite fans' appetite for the song, it's been tough to track down, as Prince's legal time demanded that YouTube deleted any clip featuring the cover version. Even Thom Yorke was frustrated, commenting to the Associated Press: "He's blocked it? Well, tell him to unblock it. It's song!"

Now the ban seems to have been lifted, after Prince discovered a new upload of the track and tweeted the link from his @Prince3EG Twitter account.

But don't expect it to be there forever. Prince's PR team have just issued an enigmatic statement saying "get it while it lasts".

Watch it below. It's been worth the wait.

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New discovery: Flores

Here's a captivating debut single, courtesy of pop newcomer Flores.

Born and raised in LA with half-Filipino, half-Mexican heritage - and now residing in Norway - her music combines the doom-laden drama of Banks with the sensual warmth of Lauryn Hill.

Afterglow is the first taster of her upcoming EP, produced by Maths Time Joy, who the press release assumes we're all familiar with.

Check it out.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Flo Rida: Dirty Mind

Tramar Lacel Dillard, or Flo Rida to his friends, is back with a surprise single that dropped on iTunes this morning.

Dirty Mind is an ode to your baser instincts, and how they can make you do stupid things like forgetting to pay your tax bill for three years.

I'm no great fan of the Carol City rapper - but even I can tell this is a solid gold smash.

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

DJ Earworm unveils his "State of Pop 2015" megamix

For the last nine years, San Francisco's Jordan Roseman - aka DJ Earworm - has taken the 25 top-selling songs in the US and combined them into one gigantic meta-mix.

His State of Pop mash-ups provide an overview of prevailing musical trends. The 2007 edition was full of vocoders and half-sung raps. 2008 was all about anthems - Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love, Alicia Keys' No-One, Coldplay's Viva La Vida. By 2011, EDM had taken hold, thanks to LMFAO and Lady Gaga's Born This Way, which formed the basis for Earworm's mix.

With music in a state of flux, last year's mix provided a challenge - with the downtempo musings of Hozier and Lorde having to co-exist with Iggy Azalea and Taylor Swift.

Having pulled that off, DJ Earworm set himself an even bigger challenge for 2015, trying to cram 50 tracks into his alotted 300 seconds. The result actually works better - he uses the songs in an almost impressionistic way, with synth hooks and vocal melodies appropriated into something that's simultaneously familiar and disorientating. Is Bruno Mars a backing vocalist for One Direction? Were Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money and Adele's Hello really written as a call-and-response? Are people still buying Maroon 5 records?

It's a clever, multi-movement medley that showcases a unique musical instinct. Can't wait to hear what he does for the 10th anniversary next year.

Here's the full list of tracks included:

Adele - Hello
AlunaGeorge and DJ Snake - You Know You Like It
Andy Grammer - Honey, I'm Good.
Ariana Grande ft. The Weeknd - Love Me Harder
Big Sean ft. E-40 - I Don't F*** With You
David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj & Afrojack - Hey Mama
Demi Lovato - Cool For The Summer
Drake - Hotline Bling
Ed Sheeran - Photograph
Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud
Ellie Goulding - Love Me Like You Do
Fall Out Boy - Centuries
Fetty Wap - Trap Queen
Fetty Wap ft. Remy Boyz - 679
Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink - Worth It
Flo Rida ft. Sage The Gemini - GDFR
Jason Derulo - Want To Want Me
Justin Bieber - Sorry
Justin Bieber - What Do You Mean
Major Lazer ft. MO & DJ Snake - Lean On
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - Uptown Funk
Maroon 5 - Sugar
Meghan Trainor - Lips Are Movin
Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend - Like I'm Gonna Lose You
Natalie La Rose ft. Jeremih - Somebody
Nick Jonas - Jealous
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake & Lil Wayne - Truffle Butter
Omarion ft. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko - Post To Be
OMI - Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)
One Direction - Drag Me Down
Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo - Time Of Our Lives
R. City ft. Adam Levine - Locked Away
Rachel Platten - Fight Song
Rihanna - Bitch Better Have My Money
Rihanna ft. Kanye West & Paul McCartney - Four Five Seconds
Sam Smith - I'm Not The Only One
Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky - Good For You
Shawn Mendes - Stitches
SIlento - Watch Me
Skrillex & Diplo ft. Justin Bieber - Where Are U Now
Taylor Swift - Blank Space
Taylor Swift - Style
Taylor Swift - Bad Blood
Taylor Swift - Wildest Dreams
Tove Lo - Talking Body
Walk The Moon - Shut Up And Dance
Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth - See You Again
The Weeknd - Earned It
The weeknd - The hills
The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face

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Twelve songs you may have missed

It's been a long time. I shouldn't have left you. Without a dope beat to step to.

So, yeah. With apologies (yet again) for an unplanned break in service, here are the songs I should have been writing about over the last seven days.

1) Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique - Love Is Free
Arriving a brisk five months after the single, the video for Love Is Free is actually worth the wait. It sees Robyn and Dominican rapper Maluca breaking the fourth wall in a video-about-a-video with some stunning, Technicolor set-ups. VG.

2) Fleur East - Sax
My eyes! My eyes!

3) Honne - Gone Are The Days
When the Sound of 2016 longlist came out on Monday, lots of people were surprised that London duo Honne hadn't made the cut. James Hatcher and Andy Clutterbuck (great name) met on the first day of university and have been making smooth, romantic electronic pop. Their new single comes from a 7-track EP that's due out in January.

4) Foxes - If You Leave Me Now
A bit of a tear-jerker this one - and undoubtedly the best vocal performance of Foxes' career so far.

She says: "This is a really personal song to me so I wanted the video to reflect that. I took a camera on the road with me for a couple of days, check it out."

5) Tinie Tempah - We Don't Play No Games
Interesting to hear Tinie going for a harder, bass-heavy track after the breezy summer anthem, Not Letting Go. This is the first track from his much-anticipated Uunk Food mixtape, which features cameos from Wretch 32, JME, J Hus and, essentially, everyone you've ever heard of in Grime.

6) A Tribe Called Quest - Can I Kick It (live on Fallon)
Back together to promote the newly-reissued People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. This song never gets old.

7) The Staves - Make It Holy

8) The Palms - Push Off
Two of the members of Terraplane Sun are now performing as The Palms (I'm assuming this might mean something to somebody). Their debut single, Push Off, is a subtly groovy indie jangle that sounds like Jake Bugg and Foster The People slammed into each other.

9) Sofia de la Torres - Colorblind Cruisin'
Spanish songstress Sofia de la Torres has been on the verge of major success for a couple of years. Will this song be the one to push her over the top? Who knows - but it's a pop song so steamy it's de-crease your dungarees.

10) Selena Gomez - Hands To Myself
This is a weird video-advertorial, in which Selena and various Victoria's Secret models lip-sync to one of her songs. Everyone looks lovely, but the video is a bit of a dud. Still, nice song.

11) Dave Grohl vs Animal - Drum Battle

12) Jones - Hoops
Fans of Jessie Ware: Here is your new favourite artist.

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