Sunday, May 31, 2015

One to watch: Alessia Cara

Isaac Haye's Ike's Rap II contains one of the most recognisable samples of all time - a querulous violin figure that underpins Portishead's Glory Box and Tricky's Hell Is Round The Corner.

So it takes a brave, or foolhardy, musician to recycle it for a new song. But that's exactly what Alessia Cara has done and, incredibly, she gets away with it.

Here puts Hayes' track to good use, matching its claustrophobia with a lyric about being trapped at an awful house party. She explained it to Fader like this.

'Here' is a song for all the antisocial, awkward, and miserable party-goers of the world. This one time I went to a party and while there, I realized how much I hated it, along with every other party I had ever gone to. We wrote about it the next day.

Aptly, the video attempts to re-create that abominable party, with many of the original guests making an appearance (presumably they hadn't listened to the lyrics very closely).

Listen below, as this Ontario teenager is definitely one to watch for the rest of the year. Having been discovered through YouTube covers of Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse, she's just signed to Def Jam and, I'm told, will be in the UK for Glastonbury next month.

Alessia Cara - Here

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Video: Tinie Tempah - Not Letting Go

The sun is out and London looks stunning in Tinie Tempah's new single, Not Letting Go.

Speaking to 1Xtra earlier this month, Mr Tempah said the track was recorded "a while ago" before guest vocalist Jess Glynne became a bankable star in her own right.

"I was doing the session with Bless Beats and Jess Glynne was there," he told Mistajam. "I was like, 'if you like it, put a hook down'. And now we have this record!"

The rapper also confessed the song was about "a romance I had last summer. Summertime in London is the best time in the world."

Apart from cocktail hour in Anguilla, obviously.

Tinie Tempah - Not Letting Go (ft Jess Glynne)


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Friday, May 29, 2015

What face do you pull when you hear Ellie Goulding's made a new record?

I know, I know, I know. The last thing anyone needs right now is a new song from pop's least reclusive guest vocalist, Ellie Goulding.

But, like Love Me Like You Do earlier this year, Ellie's new song is good enough to combat your overwhelming fatigue / antipathy.

Powerful is a squirly, whirly delight, with Major Lazer's dancehall-indebted grooves a perfect partnership for the singer's husky melodies.

There is an obligatory lyric video, and the lyric video looks like this.

Major Lazer - Powerful (ft Ellie Goulding and Taurus Riley)

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Hey presto! Little Mix get witchy in Black Magic video

Hooray! Little Mix's immensely likable video for Black Magic has just appeared on YouTube.

Loosely based on teen movie The Craft, it casts the girls as a set of high-school geeks who learn witchcraft to give bullies their comeuppance.

"It's completely different to what we've ever done before," says Jesy. "Usually we dance and we're all sassy. This time, we play characters, we're acting and it's a mini-movie."

It's still pretty sassy though. 10/10.

Little Mix - Black Magic

Speaking to Nick Grimshaw on Wednesday, Perrie also revealed they'd been in the studio for "over a year", and had written "hundreds" of songs.

"Then we decided they weren't good enough so we wrote another whole album," added Jesy.

If someone could arrange for us to have two Little Mix albums (the good one and the bad one) before August, that'd be awesome.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Drake, Beyonce and 13 other songs you may have missed

A semi-regular round-up of tracks I overlooked over the last week - some good, some bad, some unusual.

This week's star guests include:

1) Drake and Beyonce - Can I
Described perfectly by Vice as "a fat drizzle of maple syrup over an already delicious pancake stack".



2) Little Mix - Pretty Girls
Wondering what the Iggy / Britney song would have sounded like if Little Mix (who wrote the flipping thing) actually recorded it?

Well, wonder no more because The band performed an a capella snippet on Capital FM the other day, evidence of which is below.

Note that they need lyric sheets. Tsk. The youth of today, etc, etc.




3) Sigma ft Ella Henderson - Glitterball
More chilled than Sigma's standard sound, but a perfect fit for Ella's liquid vocals.





4) Wolf Alice - Bros
Echoing the lyrics, this is an Instagram-filtered tribute to childhood friends.

It's all a bit Dramarama (ask your dad) but the song brilliant.





5) Walk The Moon - Shut Up and Dance
A big, dumb pop song by a big, dumb rock band. It's going to be everywhere this summer.





6) Kendrick Lamar - These Walls (live on Ellen)
Kendrick turned up on Ellen's chat show for this faultless performance of To Pimp A Butterfly's most melodic moment (accompanied, for no discernible reason, by a portrait artist painting a dancing couple).

Afterwards, the rapper talked "fascinatingly" about his collaboration with Taylor Swift. "I've always been a fan of hers, and she was a fan of my music and she reached out and we got it done."

You can see both below.





7) D.R.A.M. - Cha Cha
Namedrop aleert: This was recommended to me by Lucas from Lionbabe, during an interview for the Beeb (it goes up tomorrow, I think).

It's one of those songs that succeeds despite itself. You'll find yourself involuntarily smiling as D.R.A.M. raps drowsily over an elevator-grade mariachi song and samples from Super Mario Bros.

D.R.A.M. stands for "Does Real Ass Music", by the way. Of course it does.






8) Bonnie McKee - Bombastic
"Itโ€™s a summer banger and the video is hopefully going to break the internet," Bonnie McKee told Billboard shortly before this song was released.

The internet remains unaffected in the 48 hours since it premiered, but if you ever wondered what an Avril Lavigne / Lady Gaga duet would sound like, you've found the song you're looking for.




9) Aston Merrygold - Get Stupid
Aiming for: Bruno Mars.
Achieving: Peter Andre.






10) Mark Ronson - I Can't Lose (Duke Dumont mix)
The story behind I Can't Lose is great. Mark Ronson co-wrote it with Jeff Bhasker (Alicia Keys' Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart) but they didn't have anyone to sing it. Instead of trawling Soundcloud, they went on a roadtrip in an Astro Van, driving up the Mississippi and stopping in Baton Rouge, Jackson, Memphis, Little Rock, St Louis and Chicago.

They heard "a few hundred amazing singers but we had a very specific vocalist in mind," he told The Guardian, "and when Keyone [Starr] came in the room in Jackson, MI and started singing, we realised she was the one."

Now the song has some added donk from Duke Dumont. And who amongst us can argue with added donk?







11) Asha - We Can Do This
Former street dance teacher and current vocalist Asha has released this kick-ass soul jam as her debut single.

With a coy, tremulous vocal she delivers the hackneyed line "can't nobody love you like me" in a way that makes it believable. Classy stuff.






12) Alesha Dixon - The Way We Are
Better than it has any right to be, Alesha's comeback slots nicely into the deep house revival while failing to stand out on its own merits.

Great dancing in the video, though.






13) Jess Glynne - Hold My Hand (live at the Big Weekend)
Worth it just to see the two kids, pressed up against the barrier at their first ever concert, gustily singing the wrong words.




14) Blur - Girls & Boys (live du Grand Journal)
"So apparently it was requested, this song," says Damon Albarn, looking for all the world like he'd rather be singing backup for Olly Murs.

Well, screw him. This is excellent.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Disclosure's new song started out as a ballad

Influential dance act and gap year lookalikes Disclosure popped into Radio 1 last night to play the first single from their new album.

Holding On features guest vocals from jazz singer Gregory Porter and sounds exactly like you'd expect - soulful melodies, cavernous bass and a tedious "get on with it" intro.

Howard Lawrence told Radio 1 he'd written the song with Porter and Jimmy Napes (Rather Be, Stay With Me) in his East London studio, but it sounded nothing like the released version.

"It was half the speed, half the tempo, really, really slow like a ballad," he said. "Then me and Guy essentially remixed our own song."

"They just gave me an acapella," Guy added. "They wouldn't even tell me the chords underneath! "Hopefully one day Gregory will perform the original song, because I don't think people will quite believe which one came first."

I'd quite like to hear the original, too because (whisper it) the Disclosure version is pretty boring.

Disclosure ft Gregory Porter - Holding On

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tori Kelly has recorded a very good pop song

Every new artist I've ever come across puffs up their press release by dropping a few big names. Some do it out of desperation ("Zane Lowe liked us on Facebook") while others are just trying to establish their credentials ("Jimmy Napes co-wrote everything you heard on the radio last year").

But Tori Kelly's official biog reads more like the guest list for the Grammys. Let's run down those names "in full".
  • Scooter Braun - manager. Also looks after Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande
  • Ed Sheeran - ginger musician. Booked Tori as a support act, writing on her album.
  • Pharell Williams - hat enthusiast. Producing her record.
  • Sam Smith - glum singer. Took Tori on tour with him.
  • Max Martin - king of Swedish pop. Wrote her new single.
  • Simon Cowell - machiavellian impresario. Threw her off American Idol.
  • Michelle Obama  - Flotus. Booked Tori for her "Fit To Celebrate" benefit.
Gadzooks. Of course, what you learn from years of parsing press releases is that you can be as well-connected as a switchboard but if you don't have the songs, it counts for nothing.

Luckily, Tori's new single, Should Have Been Us, is a particularly succulent pop strawberry. It deserves to be a hit and it probably will be.

Watch the lyric video (a foot fetishist's delight) below.

Tori Kelly - Should Have Been Us

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Cotton's last stand

Today marked Fearne Cotton's last show on BBC Radio 1 (although she's popping up to host some of the Big Weekend coverage before she hangs her headphones up for good).

Never as bad a DJ as her detractors would have you believe, she championed Lana Del Rey and Fleet Foxes on daytime Radio 1, making up for her inexplicable love of Kodaline. Well, almost.

Her last show was a truly star-studded affair with appearances from Dave Grohl, Ricky Gervais and... er, Keith Lemon. But the best bits were the surprise songs recorded in her honour. And, bless the BBC, they've put them up online for your listening pleasure.

My personal favourite was this cover of Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 by Lucy Rose. In typical Live Lounge fashion, it took a perky pop song and turned it into a seriousface acoustic "jam". But in this instance it really works. A cover of unusual beauty.


Rae Morris also popped up with a cover of Ben Howard's Keep Your Head up that practically defined the word "ethereal".


Lianne La Havas played Fearne's favourite song, Etta James's At Last.


And Coldplay (no wait, come back) penned a tune especially for the occasion, called Gone But Not F. Cotton.

Witty and affectionate, it was a highlight of the show.


So #FarewellFearne, as twitter would have it ("it's not like I'm dead," the presenter wryly observed). You played some good music, you were brilliantly scathing about Fuse ODG, and you said "amazing" a lot. I'll miss you even more than the paparazzi who waited outside the BBC every day to see what kaftan you'd worn to cover up the baby sick.

I'm also looking forward to Clara Amfo's take on the show, and the Live Lounge, when she settles into the hotseat next week. I've heard they've revamped the whole format - so it'll be interesting to see what difference the new host makes.

And, if you're interested, here's Fearne's hand-picked playlist from her last show.
  • Arctic Monkeys - Hold On, We're Going Home (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 13 Sep 2013)
  • The Avalanches - Since I Left You
  • Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home
  • Kodaline - The One (Fearne Special)
  • Chris Malinchak - So Good To Me
  • Hozier - Do I Wanna Know? (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 15 Sep 2014)
  • Take That - Pray (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 22nd November 2010)
  • James Blake - Limit To Your Love
  • James Bay - (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher
  • Duke Dumont - The Giver (Reprise)
  • Royal Blood - Out Of The Black (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 18 Feb 2015)
  • First Aid Kit - Stay Gold
  • Dave Grohl - My Hero (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 4 Nov 2009)
  • Kings of Leon - Dancing On My Own (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 10 Sep 2013)
  • Jack White - Sixteen Saltines
  • Lucy Rose - 9 To 5
  • Coldplay - Gone But Not F Cotton
  • D.A. - Glowing
  • Adele - Hometown Glory (Radio 1 Live Lounge, 27th Jan 2011)
  • Eaves - As Old As The Grave
  • Rae Morris - Keep Your Head Up
  • SOAK - Immigrant Song
  • Lianne La Havas - At Last
  • Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
  • Darwin Deez - Constellations
  • Tom Odell - Farewell Fearne
  • Lana Del Rey - Video Games

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Abracadabra! Little Mix conjure up another hit

By giving Pretty Girls to Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea, Little Mix indicated they were setting a high bar for their third album.

And so it proves. Black Magic, premiered this morning after it leaked online, is as bewitching as the title suggests.

With a nod to Cyndi Lauper's girl power anthem Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and harmonies tighter than Kim Kardashian's pants, it's an absolute corker.

Welcome back, ladies.

Little Mix - Black Magic


PS: It turns out the Cyndi Lauper lift is intentional. Jesy Nelson called the 80s star "our biggest inspiration" in an interview with The Sun earlier this year. "We love Prince too," she added. "He's an icon and definitely inspired the sound."

The video for Black Magic is out next Friday (29 May) and the album is due later this year.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Superlative summer synth-pop - listen to Goldroom's Embrace

Here's a song that's been banging around for two years, but still sounds fresher than a squeezed lemon.

Embrace is a smooth, sugar-coated slice of laptop disco, that originally emerged in 2013 with vocals by Ariela Jacobs. Now it's been re-recorded with George Maple (pictured above) for an official EP release from LA producer Josh Legg's Goldroom project.

It's the "version of Embrace that I've always heard in my head," said Legg, adding the following words in the following order.

"George Maple and I actually wrote Embrace together, so having this come full circle, and to have her singing on the song, feels like a dream. The song Embrace is all about re-connection, and so having George back in my studio again, singing the song, felt like it was meant to be. I'm so stoked to be able to share this with you guys, and I hope you like it!"

If you're a fan of Jessie Ware who secretly wishes she'd put a donk on everything, this is one for you.




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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beyonce and Nicki Minaj: Feeling themselves

Out of nowhere, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce have premiered the video for Feeling Myself - an ode to their own brilliance, featuring such unlikely boasts as "I can kill your migraine (migraine, migraine)".

The clip sees the R&B powerhouses hanging out at the Coachella festival, feeding each other hamburgers and having a water pistol fight.

It's streaming exclusively to half a dozen people on Tidal - but you can see a 30-second preview on YouTube. Or below. Take your pick.

Nicki Minaj and Beyonce - Feeling Myself

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Bad Blood: Good video

Bad Blood is Taylor Swift's attempt at a diss track. Allegedly, it has something to do with Katy Perry "stealing" some of her dancers. Because, as we all know, dancers are not possessed of free will.

All of which would be fine if the execution wasn't so clumsy. The lyrics are whiny and petulant. Taylor commits the contrasting crimes of being over-dramatic ("band aids don't fix bullet holes") while lacking any bite ("we've got problems and I don't think we can solve them"). There's no humour, no substance, and the whole mean-spirited endeavour paints the star in a bad light.

Worse still, the tune is horrible: Repetitive in the bad way and delivered in a manner that makes the lyrics seem 10 times as moany.

A mediocre song in the middle of an exceptional album Bad Blood has, somehow, been chosen as a single and received a stunning, blockbuster video with a cast of thousands.

Thankfully, Taylor's lyrics are mostly deleted in favour of two verses by Kendrick Lamar, which improve the song while making it totally nonsensical. But since when has that mattered in pop?

If only they'd spent this kind of creative energy on the video for Style.

Taylor Swift - Bad Blood


The full cast list is:
  • Taylor Swift - Catastrophe
  • Selena Gomez - Arsyn
  • Kendrick Lamar - Welvin Da Great
  • Lily Aldridge - Frostbyte
  • Zendaya - Cut-Throat
  • Hayley Williams - The Crimson Curse
  • Gigi Hadid - SLAY-Z
  • Ellie Goulding - Destructa X
  • Hailee Steinfeld - The Trinity
  • Lena Dunham - Lucky Fiori
  • Karlie Kloss - Knockout
  • Serayah McNeil - Dilemma
  • Jessica Alba - Domino
  • Martha Hunt - HomeSlice
  • Ellen Pompeo - Luna
  • Mariska Hargitay - Justice
  • Cara Delevingne - Mother Chucker
  • Cindy Crawford - Headmistress

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  • Rita Ora: Premature evaluation

    Here, at last, is the new single from Rita Ora, whose second album was thrown into disarray by the end of her relationship with co-writer / producer / superstar DJ Calvin Harris.

    As you can see from her shoulder, the song is called Poison and it's produced by Sir Nolan, who recently had a mega hit with Nick Jonas's Jealous.

    I've listened to it once, and it's a solid 7/10. It could be a grower, it could become fantastically irritating. But that's what makes pop music exciting isn't it?

    Lyric video below.

    Rita Ora - Poison

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    Thursday, May 14, 2015

    Ewan McGregor sings again!

    It's a long time since Moulin Rouge, but Ewan McGregor is finally flexing his vocal cords again.

    The world's second-best Obi-Wan Kenobi pops up in the new video by Catfish and the Bottleman - after the band staged a somewhat creepy campaign to get his attention.

    Singer Van McCann stitched together a three-minute montage of McGregor's smiling face to soundtrack the song Kathleen - and sent it to him; while while drummer Bob Hall played a tour with McGregor's picture on his drum skin.

    Incredibly, the Scottish star was more flattered than frightened - and subsequently became a fan of the Bottlemen's scrappy, infectious rock ditties.

    And so, he agreed to star in the video for Hourglass - even singing the song a capella in his hotel room. Rock and Roll, eh kids?

    "Working with Sir Ewan was one of the funnest things I think I'll ever get to do," said McCann. "When people tell you not to meet the people you look up to, fuck that. Videos for us are hard, as we've got Austin Powers heads, but this was just a fucking class craic."

    Here is the video in all its six-minute glory.

    Catfish and the Bottlemen - Hourglass

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Like bees to the hon-ay


    Over the years, Britney has released some excellent, world-beating pop songs. But she hasn't looked like she's having fun since Toxic, over a decade ago.

    That all changes today, with the breezy video for Pretty Girls, her collaboration with Iggy "inexplicably the biggest female rap artist in the world" Azalea.

    So, Iggy is an alien who crash lands in Britney's swimming pool and leafs her down a path of bubblegum debauchery. Or something. There's a lot of vamping, a demented display of Iggy's "alien powers" and the best dancing Britney's pulled off since her well-publicised meltdown.

    It seems the song has brought back Britney's balls - which is a phrase I instantly regret typing. But the video is as much of a blast to watch as it clearly was to make. Well done, everyone.

    Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea - Pretty Girls

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    Dancing on her own

    I've waxed lyrical about the new Lianne La Havas single, Unstoppable, twice already. A blissed-out, love-struck intergalactic soul jam, it's one of my favourite songs of the year so far.

    A video came out this morning, which sees the Londoner so overcome with joy that she starts dancing around with a big grin plastered all over her face. It's quite lovely.

    Lianne La Havas - Unstoppable

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    Tuesday, May 12, 2015

    Shiny new things from Years & Years

    Death-defying train line trespassers Years & Years have unveiled their new single Shine which, you will be disappointed to hear, is neither an ode to shoe polish nor a cover of the Take That "classic".

    Instead, it's a glimmering-but-moody electropop ditty, the inevitable success of which will make Theo Hurts burst with jealousy.

    Here's frontman Olly Alexander explaining the inspiration behind the song:

    "The metaphor of 'shine' and 'shining' comes from the way somebody can make you feel totally brand-new and special and re-made in the light of their love, but how that can feel incredibly unstable and overwhelming and make you want to destroy yourself".

    He sounds like a right barrell of laughs, doesn't he?

    Listen below and gird your loins for Years & Years debut album, Communion, which is due out on 10 July.

    Years & Years - Shine

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    Tinie Tempah: Not Letting Go

    He's back! And he's remembered how to make a catchy single again!

    It's everyone's favourite London MC Tinie Tempah, with a shiny, upbeat love song - a refreshing change from the hand-wringing "I'm famous and it's horrible" lyrics on his last album.

    With a sample from James Brown's Funky Drummer, a hook from Jess Glynne, and a reliably tongue-in-cheek verse from Mr Tempah ("I hope I'm still with you when your hair gets thinner") Never Letting Go a refreshingly summery track. Which was the intention all along, apparently.

    "I've been a fan of Jess since I heard her song Home," said Tinie in a press release announcing the single. "We met properly at the Brits last year and spoke about doing something together. Both being Londoners, I wanted to make a song that captured that London summertime feeling which is always the best time of the year for me and the time where I've had my most romantic experience. So it's an ode to a girl I met and our experiences in this amazing city we call home - London!"

    Listen below. Never Letting Go is out in the summer.

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    Monday, May 11, 2015

    The return of Leona Lewis and 10 more songs you may have missed

    A semi-regular round-up of songs I've been too busy, lazy, stupid or myopic to blog about in the last week or so.

    Today's page sees the long overdue comeback of Leona Lewis, a high school gem from Mark Ronson and a heart-warming performance by the Blur.

    Enjoy!


    1) Leona Lewis - Fire Under My Feet
    It's as if Leona Lewis, owner of the world's most pointless umbrella, downloaded the blueprint for Adele's Rolling In The Deep and ran it through a cheap 3D printer.

    The results are good - this is a perfectly-rousing slab of gospel pop - but you can't escape the nagging feeling that you've heard it, better, before.

    The lyrics are bound to earn a few tabloid inches, given that Leona's new material has been very publicly trailed as a sideswipe at Simon Cowell, whose label she left last year. "Moving on to bigger things, I begin to spread my wings," she sings. "No longer in chains, I'm dancing over these graves."

    A return to form, yes. But there's better to come on her new album.





    2) Prince - Baltimore
    A call for gun control in the US is the centrepiece of Prince's protest song, Baltimore - inspired by the death of youngster Freddie Gray in police custody.

    "If there ain't no justice then there ain't no peace," chants the purple one over the sound of marching feet. It's a stirring, timely tune.





    3) Lunchmoney Lewis - Bills
    Lunchmoney, as well as holding a Guinness record for the worst stage name ever, has worked with both Nicki Minaj and Jessie J. This song sounds more like 1990s novelty abomination Scatman John, though.

    A contender for song of the summer, with all the dumb joie de vivre that implies. You are never going to hear the end of it.





    4) Mark Ronson and Mystikal - Feel Right
    Set in a school talent show, and starring a marvellous mini-Mystikal, this video is a riot.





    5) Chemical Brothers ft Q Tip - Go
    It's unreasonable to expect the Chemicals to match the lunatic brilliance of Push The Button on this, their latest collaboration with Q-Tip. And so it turns out - Go has a brilliantly nagging bassline, and the duo still know how to build a crescendo, but the chorus falls sadly flat.

    It's not helped by an abnormally uninspired Michel Gondry video.





    6) Rachel Jane- Awaken
    Born in Bristol and raised in Bath, 19-year-old singer/songwriter Rachel Jane is shaping up to be one to watch this year.

    Awaken is one of the most surprising, rhythmically complex songs I've heard in ages. Beatboxing, tribal percussion, and drum and bass loops all get referenced in this primal, chanting track that rips up Florence's template and rearranges the pieces into something altogether more lissome.







    7) Ed Sheeran - Photograph
    Ed Sheeran raids the family archives for this touching little ditty.

    Following the singer (who looks adorably like the Milky Bar kid) from cradle to stardom, it ends with the young Ed climbing on a rock and being asked by his father, "Are you at the top of the mountain?" - before cutting to Sheeran on stage saluting a festival crowd. Lucky bastard.






    8) Lianne La Havas - Unbreakable (Jungle remix)
    Jungle's shimmering, summery funk snuggles up to the supple new single from Lianne La Havas. A clever, thoughtful remix that elevates the original.






    9) BenZel - Waiting.... ft Ben Abraham
    Jessie Ware collaborators BenZel are in fact super-producers Benny Blanco and Two Inch Punch. Their new single is a stuttering, chaotic electro banger, drenched in pitch-shifted vocals.

    Worth sticking around to the end to hear a sample of the common-or-garden soul track the duo ripped apart to make their record.







    10) Lyza Jane - If It Hurts
    Alt-pop singer Lyza Jane describes this video as "looking like Barbie's bad trip". She's not wrong.





    11) Blur - Tender (acoustic with Jimmy Fallon)
    You can't help but be buoyed by the irrepressible grins on Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn's faces during this performance. It's nice to know the band - whose Magic Whip album is much better than it has any right to be - are properly enjoying their reunion. Or this bit of it, at least.



    And that's your lot for this week. More as soon as I can muster, I promise!

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    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    A regrettable video from Everything Everything

    Ah, Everything Everything. The only band on planet pop who could rhyme "wrong" with "automaton" and get away with it.

    The couplet comes from their new single, Regret - possibly the catchiest thing they've ever done, powered by a Phil Spector drumbeat and Jonathan Higgs' swandive falsetto.

    Produced by Stuart Price (hooray!) it distils a non-specific sense of paranoia into a lively, aggressive pop stomp.

    "I wanted to make something that makes you get angry and want to do something about it, because that's how I was feeling," Higgs recently told the NME about their latest record. "Don't quiz me on the politics of Syria or Ukraine, I don't fucking know, but I do know it makes me feel wretched and confused and anxious without having to know who's right and who's wrong."

    Higgs has also directed the glitchy video, in which a cult leader and his followers descend into madness.

    "I wanted to show people in the throes of ecstasy and pain, finding something strong in their faith, and becoming more and more extreme in their emotions and behaviour," he said, via press release. "It's supposed to be a look into the minds of extremists and what if feels like to really believe something, regardless of how deep or dark it goes."

    The main character is depicted as a horrifying a head of teeth - torpedoing any chance of being seen on The Box at 9am. But you get the impression Everything Everything were never aiming for Olly Murs-style chart dominance, anyway.

    Everything Everything - Regret

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    Tuesday, May 5, 2015

    Britney and Iggy: Haunted by the ghost of Charli XCX?

    Iggy Azalea ditched Charli XCX for the follow-up to Fancy, but the British star casts a shadow all over the track.

    Pretty Girls โ€“ leaked at the weekend, and officially released yesterday โ€“ rides the same rhythmic pulse as Fancy, and co-vocalist Britney Spearsโ€™ bratty sing-speak is a pure lift from XCXโ€™s pop-punk stockpile.

    Itโ€™s also Spearsโ€™ most engaged vocal for years โ€“ as she delivers a sassy lecture on her enduring allure: "Every time I walk out of my house it's like, 'Hey baby!'โ€ she deadpans. โ€œThey don't see me rolling my eyes".

    Produced, like Fancy, by the Invisible Men, the track was co-written by Little Mix. Yes, that Little Mix. Whoโ€™d have thunk?

    Iggy Azalea and Britney Spears - Pretty Girls

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    A spurious documentary about TV theme tunes

    This Saturday, BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a documentary called "The Lost Art of the TV Theme". Presented by Rich Morton - a comedian who makes his own pastiche TV themes - it posits that today's programmes are blighted by "generic music which would defy most people's attempts to hum it".

    According to the blurb: "His suspicion is that programme-makers in the 1980s - perhaps as a result of squeezed budgets - stopped commissioning specially-written music and turned instead to cheaper alternatives, such as adapting instrumental extracts from pre-existing pop records."

    Never mind that the entire programme is based on a "suspicion" (never a great start for a documentary), the premise is obviously ridiculous. Restricting myself to the 21st Century, here are just eight instantly memorable (and original) pieces of TV themery.

















    And let's not forget The Wire, Mad Men, Big Brother, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Firefly, Downton Abbey, Veronica Mars, 24, QI, Brooklyn Nine Nine... The list goes on.

    The one thing I'll concede is that (BBC and Netflix shows aside) theme tunes have been drastically shortened since the heyday of Dallas and Dynasty - thanks to increased advertising minutes eating into the shows' running times. But there's something fantastic about the brevity of (for example) the 30 Rock theme, which telegraphs everything you need to know about the programme's quirky, quickfire wit in a brief 18 seconds.

    The Lost Art of the TV Theme airs on Saturday at 10:30am.

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    Friday, May 1, 2015

    Leon Bridges' new single is utterly beautiful

    Leon Bridges has more buzz than a beehive right now, and deservedly so. His music feels like it belongs to a different era, and his voice will send Sam Cooke shivers down your spine.

    Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, his songs are pure heart and soul - simple in their delivery, but devastating in their impact.

    Case in point is his new single, River, in which the 25-year-old sings: "Oh I wanna come here and give you every part of me... but there's blood on my hands and my lips are unclean."

    The backing track is barely there - a muted guitar strum, a lonely tambourine, and an unusually subdued gospel choir - so it's all about Bridge's whisky-scorched vocals, which aim straight for your gut.

    Leon Bridges - River

    River is the closing track on Bridges' debut album, due out in June.

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    You take the high Rhodes

    Pop newcomer Rhodes is not, as I assumed, named after the Fender Rhodes electric piano - one of the most iconic keyboards of all time (if you've heard Stevie Wonder, you've heard a Rhodes piano).

    No, it's the actual surname of David Rhodes, a moody and mysterious songwriter from Hitchin in Hertfordshire. He's been hanging around on the fringes of success for a year or so now, working with members of London Grammar and Noah and the Whale as he plots his breakthrough.

    And his new song, Close Your Eyes, is one of those "head above the parapets" moments. Like a less whiney Sam Smith, it looks set to prop up playlists on both Radio 1 and Radio 2 this summer.

    It starts small: "Maybe I am just as scared as you", sings David, curled up and timid - before an astonishing vocal riff lifts him into a soaring chorus. "I'll never let go. You're right beside me, so just close your eyes".

    Expect this to soundtrack at least one X Factor montage by August.

    Rhodes - Close Your Eyes

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