Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Video: Bastille - Good Grief

You know how directors sometimes take one isolated lyric from a song, and use that as the basis for a video? Well, in the case of Bastille's new single, that line seems to have been: "You might have to excuse me, I've lost control of all my senses."

Seriously, what the heck is this all about?

Frontman Dan Smith tried to describe the above chaos in a press release, saying: "[It] takes a load of archetypal narrative scenarios and then twists and collides them together. We wanted to make something fun and chaotic and surreal that would serve as a fittingly odd accompaniment to the song."

He also described it as a "mad visual Rubik’s Cube," which sounds great but means nothing.

Nice tune, though.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Rihanna in a box

Nice to see Rihanna being a proper pop star again in the (belated) video for her Calvin Harris collaboration, This Is What You Came For. No nudity, no murder, no tabloid-bating "controversy", no Drake. Just Rihanna being all smoky-eyed and enigmatic. In a box.

Also, lasers.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Hear the song that blew Pharrell's socks off

... Not that he wears socks. But if he did, they would have been vapourised.

The singer was hosting a masterclass for music students at a New York university, when a student called Maggie Rogers was given the opportunity to play him one of her songs.
"I grew up as a banjo player and always loved folk music," she explained. "I came to school here to make folk music... very straight-ahead folk music. But I stopped making music for a couple of years in the middle of school. [I] went through some things and developed and learned some more about myself, and I studied abroad in France and had a really spiritual experience with dance music there.

"And suddenly this thing that had always been the most unnatural and the most artificial, I understood the release of it. That since there was a fire, people have been beating sticks together. So I just started making music again a couple of months ago, and I can't make enough. All I want to do is combine that folk imagery and harmony and natural samples that I've been picking up while hiking with the backbone and energy of dance music.

"We'll see if I'm successful..."

She then cued up her track, called Alaska, and sat squirming while Pharrell listened to it in the chair next to her. As the first chorus kicks in, his eyes grow wider and wider... The reaction is priceless.

"Wow," he says as it ends. "I have zero notes. Your whole story, I can hear it in the music."

Here's the video in full. Maggie's segment starts at 18'14".

The clip has slowly gone viral since it was uploaded to YouTube in March. Now Maggie has put the finished track up on her Soundcloud page. It really is worth three minutes of your time. Totally beautiful and utterly unique - a star is born.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Disclosure go back to the old-school on Moog For Love EP

"This is a clubby EP. It's back to the start," Disclosure told Radio 1.

But then, how many people remember "the start" - when Disclosure made mellow, sample-based house grooves like I Love... That You Know and Tenderly. To the uninitiated, this is going to sound like a whole new direction from the brothers' Howard.

The best track is the laid-back Feel Like I Do, which lifst the vocals from Al Green's classic ballad I'm Still In Love With You. When it was sent off for sample clearance, Green liked the song so much, he sent back the original a capella track to help Disclosure create a cleaner version of the song.

The rest of the "Moog For Love" EP shares the upbeat optimism of that track. BOSS has a brilliant vocal loop that declares: "She's the boss and I'm an old romantic doing favours, don't look good on paper", while the title track is a collaboration with Eats Everything.

These are going to sound great when Disclosure headline the Other Stage at Glastonbury next week.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jones' new single is a must-have for your summer playlist

When she's not busy holding her precariously-balanced head on top of her neck, East London's Jones is a purveyor of incandescent soul music.

The singer - aka Cherie Jones - has been on my radar for a good few months now, thanks to two exceptional singles Hoops and Indulge, but her latest track is possibly her best yet.

Called Melt, it's a summer jam so mellow it could be prescribed as a beta blocker. "We got the heat / melt with me," Jones murmurs over the sun-bleached beat, which comes courtesy of British electro-soul duo Honne.

Exquisite stuff.

If you want to know more, there's a short interview with Jones over on Fader.

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Video: Nick Jonas - Under You

Nick Jonas continues to make above-average pop songs about all the sex he has had, is currently having and will continue to have in the future.

The latest entry in his softcore diary is called Under You and it finds the former boy-band star lamenting the end of a relationship - mostly because of a sudden lack of sex in his hitherto rumpo-filled life.

"I'll never get over getting under you," he sings, the romantic fool.

But in case you're worried about Nick returning to his formerly chaste ways, the video makes it explicitly clear that sex continues to be a major feature of his day-to-day activities. Although he starts the clip bereft amidst a room of broken furniture, things take a dramatic turn when he drives to his girlfriend's house, finds her crying on the floor, and considerately, compassionately soothes her pain with a fantastic bonk.

Don't watch this one in the office.

PS The video co-stars Shay Mitchell from US teen drama Pretty Little Liars. I thought you'd want to know.

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Kaiser Chiefs have done a song with Xenomania

Imagine Kimberley and Nicola singing this.

If only. If only...

Parachute is the first single from Kaiser Chiefs' sixth album, Stay Together, which features collaborations with MNEK and Wayne Hector. I think it's safe to say that guitarist Andrew White won't have much to do when they take it on tour.

In a press release, Ricky Wilson talked about working with Xenomania lynchpin Brian Higgins on the album: "If Education, Education, Education & War was our protest album, then Stay Together is our relationship album.

"Brian brought a very different approach to song writing and recording, it was a steep learning curve but together we tried out new ideas and sounds and ended up with a new and fresh sounding Kaiser Chiefs album. Like no Kaiser Chiefs record you have heard before.”

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Monday, June 13, 2016

There's a video for that excellent Tove Styrke song now

One of last year's biggest club hits was Big Wild's Afterglow, a hop-skip instrumental that was crying out for a big, ebullient top line melody to carry it into the charts.

Then along came Tove Styrke, former Swedish Idol contestant and current pop music champion. She added a lyric about our obsession with material possessions ("you want a pilot and a jet plane? Newsflash, it ain't worth the pain") and a tune that sticks to you like velcro.

The new version premiered in April... but they've just got round to filming a video. Sadly, the budget didn't stretch to shooting the top half of Tove's face, but it's a fun little romp through the countryside (via Las Vegas) nonetheless.

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Video: MØ - Final Song

Let's hope Final Song is not 's final song because it is incredibly good.*

Building on the success (and sonic template) of last year's Major Lazer smash Lean On, the song could easily be the singer's breakthrough solo hit, thanks to the abundant and bouyant summery vibes - which thankfully avoid stepping on the tropical house landmine.

"Final Song is about reconnecting with your inner strength. Your inner glow, passion, spirit animal, whatever," says MØ in a press release. "We all need to feel empowered from within to be the best version of ourself, but it's not always easy and that's what inspired me to write these lyrics."

Get ready to set your spirit animal free, then. Mine's an otter.

* Do you see what I did there?

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Celebratory hip-hop is the new stoned, navel-gazing hip-hop

As much as I like The Weeknd and Drake, they have a tendency to wallow in their privileged misery, the poor lambs. So it's a relief to see some hip-hop artists rediscover positivity in their music.

You could argue it started with Chance The Rapper's joyous, thankful Coloring Book (he means Colouring Book) mixtape a couple of weeks ago. Now Joey Bada$$ and Wiz Khalifa are joining in, with two life-affirming tracks about overcoming hardship.

21-year-old Joey Bada$$ is first out of the gates with Devastated, a song that follows the death of his high-school friend and rap contemporary Captain Steez, who took his own life.

"I used to feel so devastated / At times I thought we'd never make it / But now we on the path to greatness / And all it ever took was patience," he sings, on what sounds to me like a massive crossover track.

Wiz Khalifa's doubles down on that message on Celebrate, with a refrain that declares: "I could've been dead / I could've been in prison / So I want to celebrate."

It debuted on his sixth album, Khalifa, last week and now comes with a eye-straining video.

The positivity is even spreading to the UK, where Makola has gone against the grain of grime with the carnival vibes of This Is London. A love letter to his home town, it's like an Afrobeat version of Lily Allen's LDN. In other words, it's very good indeed.

And that hasn't lifted your spirits, here's Chance The Rapper performing Show Me Love on national television in a cuddly teddy bear sweater.

With new records from De La Soul and Jurassic 5 also on the way, would it be too far-fetched to say The Second Daisy Age starts here?

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Video: All Saints - This Is A War

All Saints' comeback single, One Strike, had one of those videos where the label clearly said: "This song is doing alright on radio, let's chuck two grand at a camera and a wind machine."

But after the album charted at number three, the budget has increased significantly for This Is A War. In comes celebrity photographer Rankin, joined by limber a cast of extras, some CGI lightning effects and a silver crayon (only one, mind you). It's all very blustery and dramatic.

Pay close attention and you will also notice the band haven't aged since 1998.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ten more Songs You May Have Missed

Half-term is over and I've survived more episodes of Thomas The Tank Engine than any is permissible under the human rights act. But there was music - there's always music - to soothe away the sound of the steam engines.

Here are some of the tracks I've been listening to. Maybe you'll find a new favourite.

1) Selena Gomez - Kill Em With Kindness
In which the director's treatment simply read: "Selena Gomez has a pretty face. Let's point the camera at her pretty face. She's so pretty." It turned out well.

2) Shura - What's It Gonna Be?
A tribute to the films of John Hughes, this is an absolute delight. The song is also excellent.

3) Rationale - Palms
Futuristic funk from London's very own Tinashé Fazakerly. Taken from his debut album, Rationale, which is due in September.

4) Matidla - Ghost
Norways' Matilda joins the swelling ranks of really rather good Scandipop singers with this shimmering, Ellie Goulding-style pop banger.

5) The Avalanches - Frankie Sinatra
Memorable, in the worst way.

6) Ariana Grande - Into You
There's a lot of implied snogging in this video but, if you look closely, the camera consistently cuts away just before Ariana's mouth reaches that of her generic video boyfriend. Those lips are just for donuts, ok?

7) Jurassic 5 - Customer Service
The rap collective release their first new song in a decade, and it's a scorcher. Based on a classic funk loop (The Spirit of Doo... Do by Edwin Birdsong), the track sees the MCs trading lines with familiar funky freshness.

8) Beck - Wow
Remember when Beck's Morning Phase won a Grammy and perennial sore loser Kanye West protested he'd never heard of him? Well it seems Beck is going out of his way to rectify that, with the surreal bedroom trap-funk of his new single. Not so much a change in direction as a complete artistic shedding of the skin.

9) Wild Beasts - Get My Bang
No, Wild Beasts, you go and get your own bang. I'm not your mum.

10) Bat For Lashes - Sunday Love
Bat For Lashes' new album, The Bride, is easily the highlight of her career. A concept album about a woman left at the altar, the record is dramatic, haunting and thought-provoking. Few musicians are brave enough to explore grief but on this evidence, more should.

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