Friday, January 22, 2016

PJ Harvey returns and 13 other songs you may have missed

A long-delayed return for a regular discopop feature, rounding up songs that have slipped under the radar in the last seven (or in this case 21) days.

Here we go, here we go, here we go now.

1) PJ Harvey - The Wheel
Four years after Let England Shake, PJ Harvey is still looking into the effects of war. This track was inspired by a visit to Kosovo, and references the thousands of children who disappeared during the conflict there. It opens with a squall of guitar and saxophone, but gives way to a lithe melody, underpinned by handclaps and a tribal drumbeat. Truly brilliant.

2) Grimes - Hate v Maim
Frankly, Grimes's squad looks a hell of a lot more intimidating than Taylor Swift's.

3) Spring King - Who Are You?
Manchester's Spring King were the first band to be played on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 show - and you can see why. This infectious, spritely indie-pop is the opening first track if you're making someone a mixtape this weekend.

Fun fact: The saxophone solo is played by the bassist's dad.

4) Laura Mvula - Overcome (ft Nile Rodgers)
Simply stunning. I can't recommend this highly enough.

5) Omarion - I Ain't Even Done (ft Ghostface Killah)
Silky rhymes and a laid-back flutestramental - this is a perfect throwback to the Wu Tang sound. Omarion calls it "high level vernacular" and "a generational victory". Well, quite.

6) Selena Gomez - Can't Keep My Hands To Myself
I mean I could but why would I want to?

7) Bryson Tiller - Don't
Kentucky-born Bryson Tiller recorded this bruising R&B jam in his living room, then watched it rack up 17 million Soundcloud plays in 10 months. Soon, Timbaland and Drake got on the phone and co-signed him to a record deal; and now the song is starting to get play on mainstream radio.

The lyrics see Bryson make an impassioned plea for a girl to leave an abusive relationship and settle down with him - but he rather undermines the gesture by singing about her "pussy" in the second verse.

8) Natalie Merchant - Tiny Desk Concert
A great big warm hug of a performance.

9) Låpsley - Love Is Blind
19-year-old Låpsley sounds older than her years on this mournful song "about someone being blind to the inevitability of a relationship ending". A gorgeous ballad, it showcases her husky contralto - and could easily be her breakout hit.

10) Rationale - Something For Nothing (Radio 1 Future Festival)

11) Ekkah - Small Talk
I've been following Birmingham's Rebecca Wilson and Rebekah Pennington for a while now - and this vibrant synthpop banger is their first single after being signed to Sony / RCA. The video gives off a distinct Bananarama vibe - but the early, cool Bananarama, rather than the SAW-era cheese.

12) Ellie Goulding - Army
A touching ode to Ellie's best friend (and PA) Hannah. "The person who has seen me at my lowest and the first person I call in muffled sobs when something bad happens. We've been deliriously happy together, deliriously tired and deliriously sad together. I wanted to show our friendship for what it really is- honest, real, electric." Aw, bless.

13) The 1975 - The Sound
It's always a worry when a rock group "goes pop". Like dramatic actors trying their hand at comedy, they usually discover it's not as easy as it looks. (A case in point is Coldplay's new album - which is an excruciating exercise in forced jollity.) Luckily, The 1975 get it just right. The chunky 1990s piano sound and the ebullient arms-aloft chorus are designed to kick off at a hundred festivals this summer.

14) Adele - Carpool Karaoke
OK, you've probably seen this already - the YouTube count has reached 50 million in the space of a week - but it remains an absolute joy.

And that's your lot. Have a fantastic weekend!

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