Friday, May 27, 2016

Video: Chance the Rapper - No Problem

It's been hugely satisfying to see Chance The Rapper top the charts (based only on streams) with his third mixtape, Coloring Book. Why? The record's generosity, spirituality and positivity is a welcome antidote to the narcissism of mainstream hip-hop.

Brimming with gospel influences, Chance spends most of the record celebrating his faith - apparently inspired by the birth of his first son. But he's no choirboy - there's still plenty of attitude on Colouring Book, particularly on No Problem, where the rapper sings "If one more label tries to stop me, there's gonna be some dred-head n****as in the lobby."

The song now comes with a video, featuring s Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled and many more. Chance continued his commitment to releasing music for free by posting it on Twitter last night.

And here is is.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Clean Bandit have teamed up with that X Factor winner you vaguely remember

Fresh from making music with Sir Elton John, Clean Bandit - the 21st Century's answer to M People* - have hit the studio with 2015 X Factor winner Louisa Johnson (aka Louisa (aka Lousia Johnson (aka Oh yeah, her))).

Don't worry, though, because Tears is much better than it sounds - a twinkly, housey, arms-akimbo banger, cut from the same cloth as Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive.

Louisa declares "I will get over you" with such conviction that you can picture her wiping away the mascara that's streaming down her face and striding purposefully into the night (with a sheet of loo roll stuck to her pants because she is just like you or me).

It's not perfect. Clean Bandit's USP - they play proper instruments, you know? - is clunkily shoehorned into the chorus, giving what should be the climactic moment the ambience of "fourth runner up at Eurovision".

But overall it's a solid 7/10.

(If the player doesn't work try this link instead.

* If the M People were a question, which is debatable.

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The Strokes have premiered three (yes, three) new songs

Is it exciting to have The Strokes back? I'm not 100% sure - but given the recent dearth of guitar music, it's good to hear from a band who know their way around (i) a riff and (ii) a melody.

Leveraging this fact, Julian Casablancas and co have secured exclusives on three separate radio stations today. Admittedly the first one can't have taken much negotiation - with the premiere of OBLIVIUS coming, as it did, on on Casablancas' own radio show. A sleazy, droning track called Drag Queen followed on Zane Lowe's Beats 1 thing; followed by the poppiest effort of the three - Threat of Joy - as Annie Mac's hottest record.

Either The Strokes very confident in the new material or they're hedging their bets... I'll let you decide which via a series of poorly-implemented embedded proprietary audio players.

Honestly, is it any wonder YouTube beats the pants off every other streaming site in the world?

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

New music from Nao and Shura

The two debut albums I'm most looking forward to this year come from "I look best in profile" singer-songwriters Nao (deliciously wonky funk) and Shura (gorgeous, dreamy pop). Thankfully, after a frustratingly long wait, their records are almost here. Not just around the corner, but walking up your street and getting ready to press the doorbell.

To celebrate, they both released new material this week. Nao got in first, with the slinky, seductive Girlfriend - a cosmic riff on Prince's If I Was Your Girlfriend - which premiered on Annie Mac's show two days ago.

"This song just came out of nowhere," she said. "Hopefully people will like it and sing along to it with me as well."

The studio version is below, followed by Nao's first UK TV performance, on last night's Jools Holland ("a dream come true," she says).

Shura, meanwhile, has just delivered the 80s-tinged dance thriller Nothing's Real - also on Annie Mac's show - calling it "the first piece of truly new music from me in a while.

"This record is about fancying someone... then realizing that it’s probably not gonna happen," she said.

She also likened the arrival of her album to being "seven months pregnant".

"I've been told that I'm glowing, I'm kind of a bit bored of glowing now, can I just deliver the child? I'm just really, really excited about giving birth."

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Video: Alicia Keys - In Common

In Common is Alicia Keys' strongest single in years. Smooth and subdued, it's a world away from the larynx-busting gargantathons of her last few albums, with the vocals so muted they're barely there.

After premiering the song online and performing it on Saturday Night Live, Keys has now released the official video. Directed by fashion photographer Pierre Debusschere, it's a classy black-and-white clip that, unexpectedly, throws some breakdancing into the mix.

"Yes, yes," you must be thinking, "but does it also blend Alicia Keys' perspective of the raw humanity of the world? Does it celebrate individuality while looking at how we are all just human?"

Here's the press release to tell us.

"The video is shot in black and white and reflects her NYC roots and hip-hop culture while blending her perspective of the raw humanity of the world. It celebrates individuality, but also looks at how we are all just human and want the same things – love, freedom and to be true to ourselves."

Phew. Glad to have that cleared up.

Here is said video.

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Video: Ariana Grande - Let Me Love You

Subdued, stoner balladry is all well and good, but I prefer Ariana Grande when she's BELTING OUT THE BANGERS.

Disappointingly, her new single, Let Me Love You, is one of the former; even if it is a particularly accomplished example of the genre. The video is as seductive as the song, sending the Daily Mail into a breathless frenzy of screengrabs and gushing captions. For example:

  • Ariana shows glimpses and shots of her bra throughout the music video
  • The Bang Bang singer is seen wearing numerous scantily clad outfits as she writhes around on a bed
  • In one shot the singer's hair has been curled and is very vuluminous as she pushes it all to one side
But the writer doesn't seem to have been as impressed by Lil' Wayne.
  • "The rapper was dressed down in a T-shirt and white cap"
If only he'd curled his hair and shown a glimpse of his bra. If only.

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The Billboard Music Awards were very good

Clothing averse pop star Britney Spears opened last night's Billboard Awards with an eight-minute medley of hits (not including her biggest hits, but she did Toxic so that's ok).

As always, Spears is teetering on a tightrope - will she pull it off or collapse like a souffle in a vacuum? - and the tension is delicious.

When she did a backflip during Touch Of My Hand I felt inexplicably proud of her.

Adele premiered her new video, Send My Love (To Your New Lover) at the ceremony. If you've ever wanted to see 10 Adele's super-imposed over each other with the opacity set to 40%, then this is the video for you.

Bieber, DNCE, Demi Lovato, The Go-Go's, Ke$ha and Tove Lo (ft Nick Jonas) also played - the latter being a short, but sexually-charged blast of power pop.

Bbut my favourite performance of the night was the simplest. With no flam or fanfare, Rihanna delivered a vocally-flawless, impassioned rendition of Love On The Brain, bathed solely in a feather boa and a green spotlight.


You can watch the whole thing on 4 Music later tonight.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Video: Jennifer Lopez - Ain't Your Mama

Unintentionally hilarious.

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Take That pursue unexpected Drum and Bass direction

Oh, hello there New Music Friday. What treats do you have in store for us this week?

Well, how about a new Take That song, written and produced by noise-architects Sigma (who, after the collaborations with Paloma Faith and Rita Ora, seem to be choosing their vocalists from a big list of failed talent show judges)?

The song is called Cry and pairs a typically dour Gary Barlow verse with an uplifting, speaker-rattling chorus. It even features a proper orchestral backing, which is nice.

"The last collaboration we did was with Lulu back in 1994," notes little Mark Owen. "So it's been quite some time".

A video for the track is officially "in the works" but here's some behind the scenes footage to keep you ticking over.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Staves would really like a decent nap

Here are two phrases to strike fear into the heart of any pop fan: "This next one's about life on the road" and "We shot the video ourselves".

And here are The Staves talking about their new EP, Sleeping In A Car - a suite of songs about life on the road, promoted with a video they shot by themselves.

"These songs reflect the transient nature of travelling. Fleeting moments, like a slide show - reflections in car windows, street lights passing in rhythm, stolen phone calls, late nights. Feelings of displacement and a disconnect - living in some sort of alternate state of reality. But underneath it all is the feeling of adventure and making your own rules and how dizzying and freeing that can be."

"With the video for 'Sleeping In A Car' we wanted to make something that was honest, simple, unpolished and that represented how the song feels to us. No fuss. No ‘performance’. We filmed it ourselves over a few evenings. We were particularly tired at that time, so sleeping in a car wasn't too difficult. I think Jess was actually ill. If anything, this is an anti-video.

This being The Staves, of course, things are naturally a little more classy than your standard "it's so hard missing your mum / boyfriend / HP sauce / potted Ficus" tour nonsense. The song, produced by Bon Iver, stretches and grasps for the unknown, pushing the band's trademark harmonies into disturbing dissonance; while the video - literally a shot of Jessica sleeping in the back of a car - verges on the voyeuristic.

Just call them the Mary Shepherds of indie-folk.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Video: OneRepublic - Wherever I Go

This song is terrific.
This video is terrific.
In summary: Terrific.

Here's Ryan Tedder explaining all the terrificness: "It's a bit of a mad kind of unicorn. It's so bizarre. For a lot of the videos we've done, I've come up with the treatments, and I wondered if people would think this one was a bit crazy, but they went for it! You’re going to think, 'How the hell did this song create that visual in his head?'"

My guess would be a fish sandwich that had passed it's sell by date.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Must listen: Glass Animals - This Life

"There's definitely some weird lines, there's a line about mayonnaise in one of the tracks, we're slowly getting through all the condiments."

If Dave Bayley was trying to win me over to his band, it worked. He's the frontman of Oxford quartet Glass Animals, the first band signed to Wolf Tone, the label set up by Adele's partner-in-crime, Paul Epworth,

Their debut album, Zaba, prompted exuberant swirls of purple prose from critics - The Line Of Best Fit called them "one of the most exciting British bands for a long time" - but an indifferent public ignored it. The album spent one week in the chart, at number 92.

Things look set to change on the follow-up, How To Be A Human Being, thanks in no small part to its recipe-based format, which makes it an ideal substitute for the imperiled BBC Food website.

First single Life Itself premiered on Annie Mac's show last night, interrupting final sessions for the record ("we're finishing it tonight," said Dave.)

Lyrically, the song looks back at Dave's childhood, when his dad said "he loved each of my two million freckles" and told him he'd "be a superstar" when he grew up. In reality, the song reveals, he's fat, depressed and living with his mum. But it's no novelty song - thanks to the tribal drums, stonewashed synths and a killer chorus.

The stronger, strident sound was prompted by the band's experience of touring Zaba, Dave explained: "We started playing the songs similar to how they were recorded. Then we realised that people wanted something dancier and bigger. So we started remixing them live, putting the kick up and the bass up, making them really raw and heavy. And that definitely affected this record. We had that in our mind, how people would react live."

Listen below.

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Anything you can do, I can do better

TLC's Waterfalls was one of the most pivotal music videos of the 1990s. Tackling drugs, urban violence and HIV/AIDS, it was shot at Universal studios on a budget of [Dr Evil voice] One Million Dollars, and went on to pick up four MTV Awards.

But for all the narrative shenanigans, it is most memorable for the shots of Chili, T-Box and Left Eye dancing on the water like a three hot R&B Jesus-es.

It's an iconic sequence. One that couldn't be bettered... Or could it?

Step forward Małgorzata Jamroży- aka Margaret - a Polish singer who narrowly missed out on representing her country at this year's Eurovision.

She sounds a bit (a lot) like Rihanna, and her soca-inspired banger Cool Me Down replicates TLC's infamous riverdance, with one crucial addition. A frickin' Orca Whale.


You can watch it below, while contemplating how a song this good could have been beaten in a public vote by a bad Johnny Depp lookalike.

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Justin Timberlake brings the good vibes, buys Coco Pops

Isn't it strange to live in a world where JT is pop's second best Justin? I don't think any of us saw that coming.

Anyway, old trousersnake wants to correct that temporary rift in the fabric of the musical universe, so he's putting a phenomenal amount of effort into promotiong his new single, Can't Stop The Feeling, performing it at Eurovision, playing with Anna Kendrick at the Cannes Film Festival and popping up on Ellen to premiere the video.

The campaign is so overwhelming that I checked to see whether Justin has a financial interest in the Trolls movie (from which the song hails). But no. He just really, really believes in it.

I didn't, at first. It feels like the default Justin Timberlake song. The one you get after you replace his batteries and reboot his operating system. But after a few listens, it's really grown on me (and I'm not alone - Justin is number one in the midweek chart update). Can't Stop The Feeling is that rare thing: A citrus sunburst of positivity, all smiles and sunny vibes.

Wisely, the video capitalises on that. Much like Pharrell's Happy, it features a cast of normals shaking their "thang" to the irresistible groove (my favourite is Philip).

It's so infectiously joyous I almost started dancing on the train. But, being British, I just tapped my toes and hoped no-one noticed.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Coldplay are literally on top of the world

Coldplay's A Head Full Of Dreams is a pretty patchy album, but the closing track Up & Up really stands out as a potential set-closer when they take it on the road later this year.

As ever, it's a spiritually uplifting anthem with a "woah-oh-oh" bit for people too lazy to learn the words. Which is probably just as well when the words include words such as these words: "Lying in the gutter, aiming for the moon / Trying to empty out the ocean with a spoon."


Anyway, Up & Up has been officially announced as the third single from the band's album; and it comes with a visually-stunning video, full of clever camera tricks and composite images - including drummer Will Champion drumming on top of the planet, like a terrifying Mecha-Phil Collins. Imagine the din. 

Watch it below. Or don't. It's up to you, really.

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Video: Honne and Izzy Bizu - Someone That Loves You

I missed this video when it came out last week, but Honne's loved-up duet with Izzy Bizu is still worth a click.

The simmering, sensual song is enlivened by clips of young couples falling in love, and a sweet performance by Izzy and Andy, who spend the video eyeballing each other in a giggly, flirty way (I have no idea whether they're together or not, but it's very convincing).

According to Izzy "it's a song all about how we want what we can't have and how the grass is always greener"; while Honne says the track is "fundamentally about forbidden love, but from both sides of the story."

Watch below.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Video: Desiigner - Panda

19-year-old rapper Desiigner was signed to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label after meeting him in a car outside LAX. West then sampled his song Panda, on the track Pt 2. The original subsequently shot to number one on the US Billboard charts, where it resided for two weeks.

Described as "a catchy trap song" (?) and "an ode to the BMW X6" (??) it's been ubiquitous in the States all year. If you haven't heard it yet, don't worry. It was added to Radio 1's C-list last week, and looks set to make the same impact on this side of the Atlantic as it did at home.

Desiigner finally got around to releasing a video for the track last night. It follows the Brooklyn-born rapper on a rambunctious night out... chauffeured by Yeezy himself.

The song does nothing for me. What about you?

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Video: Clare Maguire - Faded

You may have read my interview with Clare Maguire on the BBC website yesterday. If not it's worth checking out. I mean, obviously. All of my articles are essential reading. But Clare's account of the alcoholism that nearly claimed her life is moving, honest and raw.

The important thing is that Clare recovered. She's been sober for years, and poured all of that heartbreak, all of that frustration, all of that insecurity into her new album, Stranger Things Have Happened.

Here's the current single, Elizabeth Taylor.

Last night, she posted a live version of the album's opening track Faded. It's one of my favourites - based around a piano figure that recalls Nina Simone's Sinnerman.

Although it didn't make it into the interview, Clare spoke to me about how she wrote the song with pianist Sam Beste [Amy Winehouse] and producer Blue May [Robyn, AlunaGeorge, Kindness]

"That was one of the last ones we wrote. It happened about two o’clock in the morning. We were just sitting in Blue’s studio and Sam came on that chord sequence. I asked Blue to start playing the bass and I sat there on a chair and wrote it as they were playing.

"Faded is really me talking about addiction and thinking about why I always wanted this intense feeling of oblivion. Always, constantly. Like I want everything to stop. And I think that's probably what led me to becoming an addict, that feeling. I've always been chasing something, but never really understood what it was.

"That's calmed down a lot in the past two years. I’ve become comfortable in myself – because in the past I wasn’t at all. Faded is me reflecting on that."

Have a listen below.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Video: Grimes - California

"The things they see in me, I cannot see myself
When you get bored of me, I'll be back on the shelf.

California is a disconcertingly upbeat song that functions as a "hate track" about the music industry. In particular, it's aimed at the indie music blogs who, Grimes told Sirius Radio, constantly mis-represent her as "sad" and "insecure" and not in control of her own career.

So let's be clear. This is not a sad song. It's defiant and angry and resilient - even if it's wrapped up in a sugar-sweet melody and lilting dancehall beat.

"It’s sonically as uncool as I could make it. Kind of a hoedown vibe," Grimes told The New Yorker. "Kind of a hoedown vibe.

"I took a couple of shots of tequila and did it—and ended up crying, alone, later in the night."

The video, which premiered last night, conveys none of that angst - with Grimes dancing in a sculptor's studio, performing on stage in Rhinestones and frolicking in a dayglo gymnasium. It also features a re-recorded version of the song, which takes a more circuitous route to the climax than the original but is all the better for it.

Grimes explained on Twitter that the footage was "dissonant" with the original track, forcing her to record an alternate version. Now that's dedication.

And after all that waffle, here is the video itself.

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New discovery: Ruby Empress - Deluca

As well as being cardboard cut-outs with a dubious taste in Bono Hats, Ruby Empress are a Swedish indie band with shades of Tame Impala in their laid-back, summery pop. They release their debut single, Deluca, this week and it has one of the most delightfully demented origin stories of all time.

"Deluca was meant to be about a relationship," says singer Tom Serner. "In hindsight, it turned out as a song about struggling with the Scandinavian weather."


Not much is known about the band so far; and their social media posts are all cryptic nonsense about colours and seasons. See, for example, this YouTube soundpoem effort.

Let's see how this one develops.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

New Music Friday: Timberlake, Dua Lipa and the rest...


Here are a few brand new "jams" to spread on your musical toast.

1) Justin Timberlake - Can't Stop The Feeling
Perfectly acceptable stop-gap between "proper" albums. Not his finest work.

Also, anyone who's ever sat awkwardly in a room while an artist cues up their new material will know how unrealistic the video is.

2) Dua Lipa - Hotter Than Hell
This is a song about "a really horrible relationship - one that went off the rails," Dua told me earlier this year. Don't worry, though, this isn't a gruelling trudge through her emotional wreckage. No, it's a total banger.

Note the "unusual choice for the YouTube "hero image".

3) Jake Bugg - Love, Hope and Misery
This is really good. Like a Paolo Nutini ballad, only more nasal.

4) James Blake - Radio Silence
After appearing on Beyonce's Lemonade, James Blake has Beyonced his own album, and this is my favourite track (initially, at least).

Meanwhile, there's a big interview with James over on The Guardian today, which features one of the most name-dropping paragraphs in pop history.

It reads: "Madonna called his music 'the kind of thing that makes me jealous', and told him so over the phone while he was in the studio with Kanye West, who has publicly called him 'Kanye’s favourite artist'. Joni Mitchell, one of his heroes, gave him career advice after a show. He has been covered by Lorde and sampled by Drake. Listen to artists including Jack Garratt, Låpsley and FKA twigs, or the melancholy, nocturnal end of hip-hop, and you hear echoes of Blake everywhere."

James's response to all of this? "That's nice."

5) Gallant - Bourbon
"I love in cold blood," is a fantastic lyric. The whole song is fantastic, to be honest.

6) Ariana Grande - Into You
Ariana's new album is shaping up to be very good indeed.

7) Charli XCX - Explode
This is taken from the Angry Birds movie, but don't hold that against it. Charli's best work often comes on movie soundtracks - Boom Clap, Kingdom, etc, etc.

8) Red Hot Chili Peppers - Dark Necessities
This has a really dramatic slow building intro, then Flea jumps in with a trademark slap-thonk bassline and it's business as usual.

Anthony Kiedis' most ridiculous lyric this time round: "You're like ice cream for an astronaut".

9) Skepta - Man
"Upset because your wife is a fan / She done with the little boy / Now she wants to be with a man."

Skepta is on show-stopping form right across his new album, Konnichiwa. Not for the faint-hearted.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Janet Jackson - still got it

Janet Jackson is 49 and pregnant but, man, she's still got the moves.

Directed by Dave Meyers (Katy Perry's Firework, Missy Elliot's Lose Control), the video for Dammn Baby has a simple, performance-based set-up that allows Ms Jackson and her crew of dancers to show off the precision of Gil Duldulao's click-snap choreography.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot a cameo from Kyndall Harris, 13, and Taylor Hatala, 12, who've been touring with Janet and recently created a viral video for Desiigner's US number one single Panda.

Associated Press went behind the scenes on the video, which is more interesting than it sounds.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Video: Radiohead - Burn The Witch

Staccato strings, a hint of a melody, the lyrics of a lifelong paranoiac: Radiohead's return has been dissected ad nauseam already, so I'm not going to add any more wood to the pyre.

Instead, here's what the internet has decided about their comeback track, Burn The Witch.

And here is the Trumpton-themed video. It's clever because they've taken a kids programme and made it sinister. Ooooooooooooooh.

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Alicia Keys is back, Back, BACK!

Hands up who remembers Alicia Keys? Soulful singer of song and number 33 on VH1's "50 Greatest Women of the Video Era" list.

She's been off having a family for a couple of years, but now that her 5-year-old son Egypt has started producing tracks for Kendrick Lamar, she's been able to return to the studio to work on her sixth studio album.

The first single appeared online last night. A slinky, subtle ballad called In Common, it's a world away from the torch songs she's known for (Fallin, Girl On Fire, No-One). The lyrics are intriguing too. We open in a bedroom at sunrise. It's not her own. Against her better judgement Alicia has stayed the night, and not for the first time. Her partner is an acquaintance from "when we were young and had no vows". In the midst of their tryst, she informs him: "If you could love somebody like me, you must be messed up too".

You can hear the song, produced by The Weeknd's collaborator-in-chief Illangelo, below.

Alicia will perform In Common for the first time on Saturday Night Live this weekend, and a new album is expected in the summer, "reflecting her roots in NYC and hip-hop culture while blending her perspective of the raw humanity of the world and who she is today as an activist, woman and artist" (according to the press release).

That is all.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Frances is trying to force all the water in your body out through your tear ducts

As if Frances' new single, Don't Worry About Me, wasn't enough of a tear-jerker she's just released a quietly devastating video that will make you weep buckets (of tears).

Set in a hospital... well, just look.

Talking about the lyrics earlier this year, the 22-year-old said: "I wrote this song about someone very close to me. It’s my way of saying that it’s my turn to be strong and brave for them now, just as they have been for me."

You can buy it now at the digital download store of your choice. In the meantime, here's Frances doing her stuff in the Live Lounge last week.

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Busted are all grown up now

When they reformed last year, Busted promised that their new material would be "different" to the airbrushed, sanitised teenrock of Air Hostess and You Said No and Year 3000. And the trio stayed true to their word: Their new single Coming Home is brooding and anthemic, like MGMT with a ring of Snow Patrol.

The lyrics "I'm coming home - I miss my family" will pluck at the heart strings of the band's indefatigable fan base; and, crucially if the band are to survive, it's going to sound great on Radio 2.

The only mis-step comes in the second verse. As crap lyrics go, "Went past the Taj Mahal / It's so fucking beautiful" is going to take some beating.

You can get the track in exchange for all of your personal data over on Busted's website.

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