Friday, July 29, 2016

New Music Friday: Five of the best

New Music Friday... Sounds exciting, doesn't it? But it's the middle of summer and the release schedules are looking a little thin, so you can probably give it a miss. EXCEPT, of course, for these songs. Which are all at least a 6/10.

1) Jason Derulo - Kiss The Sky

Jason Derulo never met a bandwagon he didn't like, so here he is with his Uptown Funk rip-off tribute. It's from a greatest hits album, if you can believe such a thing exists.

2) Nao - In The Morning
Nao's debut album is out today, which is good news for anyone who likes woozy, murky R&B. This song, a staple of her live set for over a year, starts like a million other gloomy pop songs but stick around for the climax. OMG.

3) Offaiah - Trouble
Just a great, upbeat dance track, straight out of Argentina. It's been creeping up the dance charts since May - but gets its official release today.

4) JoJo - Fuck Apologies (feat Wiz Khalifa)
Former America's Most Talented Kids contestant JoJo proves she's all grown up by swearing unnecessarily on what is otherwise a perfectly-serviceable pop song.

5) Skott - Wolf
Lorde-endorsed, dreamy Scandanavian pop.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Video: AlunaGeorge - Mean What I Mean

Some serious Neneh Cherry vibes going on in this video - which was shot in an abandoned waterpark.

That means it gets to continue an AlunaGeorge theme of dancing in empty swimming pools, which is probably a metaphor for something deep that I'll never understand.

Interestingly, Aluna's French record label has posted a second video for Mean What I Mean, after holding a competition to find dance crew who could create choreography for the song. It's pretty impressive.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Get your ears around the new single from Muna

Twenty years after the Spice Girls, here's a more realistic look at Girl Power, courtesy of LA power pop trio Muna.

Loudspeaker "deals with using one's voice to recover from different forms of abuse," say the band, and it includes punchy, direct lyrics like: "I've seen many a friend be silenced /
Thinking nobody would believe them... But every time I don't shut up, it's revolution". So stick that up your zig-a-zig-ah.

The video carries a more metaphorical take on the song's message, as the trio break into a building and claim it as their own. The clip ends with the band and their friends dancing around in the street - because some Girl Power clichés are too good to abandon.

If you want to know more about Muna - they're former USC students Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson, who started off jamming in hotel rooms before morphing into a sort of goth version of Haim. They have the usual social media pages for you to follow.

They can also "cut it" live, as this video confirms.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Songs you may have missed

Back once again like a renegade master. Here are 12 songs you might have missed if this blog is your only source of new music in the universe.

1) Father John Misty - Real Love Baby
Harmonies abound on this one-off single from Father John Misty, which includes the unforgettable couplet: "I've got real love baby / Wait until you taste me."

2) Major Lazer - Cold Water (feat. Justin Bieber & MØ)
Apparently this will be number one on Friday, making Justin Bieber the Whigfield to Drake's Wet Wet Wet.

3) Blossoms - Charlemagne
The best indie-pop single of 2016 is actually a re-release, but that's the sorry state of guitar music in the second decade of the 21st Century.

4) Regina Spektor - Bleeding Heart
After a few years off to start a family, Regina Spektor is back... and it was worth the wait. Bleeding Heart reflects on an awkward childhood, sitting at the back of the bus and avoiding the school dance - and how, even as a confident, successful adult, those feelings are never far from the surface.

By turns a bubbly pop song, a raucous rock banger and a plaintive piano ballad, it's an expectedly unexpected pleasure.

5) Britney Spears - Make Me (feat. G-Eazy)
Pedestrian verses, beatific choruses. Not too shabby.

6) Katy Perry - Rise
Pedestrian verses, pedestrian choruses. Pretty shabby. (Although the "oh ye of little faith" line is a masterstroke).

7) SG Lewis - Holding Back (feat. Gallant)
Smooth, funky house from Liverpool's SG Lewis - endorsed by Pharrell as a "white boy with soul". The vocals from R&B wunderkind Gallant are the icing on this particularly sticky cake. Yum.

8) The Divine Comedy - Catherine The Great
Any song that includes the lyric "she looked so bloody good on a horse" is alright with me.

9) Glass Animals - Youth
A quietly political song, about a family torn apart by war - sung from the perspective of a mother who sent her child away in the hope of a happier life.

Frontman Dave Bayley says the track was inspired by a conversation with a stranger. "It was one of the saddest things I'd ever heard, and she was on the verge of crying," he told NPR, "but she also had a sense of optimism and calm. Something in her face said she'd found a way to be happy again."

10) Opia - Shadow Dances
Staccato guitar lines and shimmering harmonies propel this smart, summery pop song from Yale University students Jacob and Cole, aka Opia. Reminds me of Friendly Fires and Passion Pit, back from the golden era of music blogs.

11) Jagwar Ma - OB1
A swirling, psychedelic masterpiece - which the band describe as being "designed for nocturnal road trips and foraging through forests for morning fresh champignons." Er, ok then.

12) Enrique Iglesias - Duele El Corazon (feat. Tinashe, Javada)
Every so often, Enrique Iglesias appears out of nowhere with an above-average pop smash (I'm not talking about Hero). This is one of those occasions. Just try to ignore the lecherous lyrical content.

That's your lot. I didn't include the new 5SOS single. Apols.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What AlunaGeorge mean when they say they mean what they mean

After a couple of edgier, underground tracks, AlunaGeorge have announced the arrival of their second album with their poppiest song since You Know You Like It.

Mean What I Mean has an irresistible house bounce, while Aluna alternates between a diva croon and bluntly brushing off a man who won't take "no" for an answer.

It turns out the lyric is based on a real-life encounter, with someone who accused Aluna of "playing hard to get" when she turned down his advances. "I freaked out," the singer told Annie Mac on Radio 1. "I was like, 'Oh My God, I've got to get out of here.'"

Asked about turning the situation into a song, Aluna explained: "You go through these situations and, at the time, I personally don't think to myself 'oh, this is going to be great material'.

"Then you're in the studio and you've still got those feelings that you didn't resolve quite as well as you'd like to have done. And that's where I really pull my lyrics from. Like, 'OK, if I went back to that situation, what would I have needed to handle it better?'"

The song also features up-and-coming MCs Dreezy and Leikeli47. Listen to it below, and prepare yourselves for AlunaGeorge's second album, I Remember, this September.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Banks returns with the warped and NSFW anthem I F--- WIth Myself

Banks - the queen of emo R&B - is back with a frankly disturbing new song, called Fuck With Myself. It premiered on Zane Lowe's show earlier today, swiftly followed by a creepy video from Philippa Price - the visual artist behind Rihanna's Brits performance.

It's... well, take a look.

I've watched that a couple of times now and a few moments really stick: the choke-hold, the tongue, the dismembered head, the careless application of make-up. But I'm still not really sure what to think about the song.

So I turned to the internet, to see if anyone could speak my brain. Turns out, they're all as confused as I am.

:: "Holy Shit" - Vice
:: "Ultra creepy" - DIY
:: "She's baaaaaack" - Idolator
:: "Demented-looking" - Fuse
:: "FKA Twigs meets American Horror Story" - Breaking More Waves
:: "Deeply fucking horrifying" - Baebel
:: "Very reassuring" Dots and Dashes
:: "Her best yet" - Sidewalk Hustle

So congratulations for creeping everyone out with the video. But what about the actual song?

It's heavy but minimal; with icy, stabbing synths underscoring Banks's brutal vocals. The hook ("I fuck with myself more than anyone else") is instantly indelible, but it's not exactly "sing it in the lift" material.

Perhaps people were underwhelmed - although I found the song improved when I stopped watching the video. In particular, I like the sentiments of strength and self-confidence from an artist whose previous songs have frequently touched on other people's ability to dictate her state of mind.

She explained the song's genesis on Zane Lowe's show earlier today.

"This was the last song I wrote on the record. I was completely drained. I didn't think I had any more in me, and I was planing on working on a song I had already finished.

"I was diving into my fear of what could I put out first - I've changed a lot, I've developed a lot and I guess I was just venting.

"My dear friend and collaborator Tim Anderson was in the studio with me. After I was done on my little rant, he was like, 'Do you want me to read you some of the statements you just said?'

"And then he said I'd said, 'I fuck with myself more than anybody else.' It just felt so perfect for that day and I needed it so bad. So that's how the song was birthed."

The song is out now, and a new Banks album follows in September.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

The new Chvengers

That headline is terrible, isn't it? Objectively awful. Sorry.

Anyway, the point is this: Chvrches have an animated video for their new single Bury It, in which the band (and guest vocalist Hayley Williams off of Paramore) gain superpowers and soar into the sky like Marvel Synthpop Superheroes.

The big question is: Who else is signing up? Will there be an Adam Antman? Cee-Lo Green Lantern? Count Nefariana Grande? Carly Rage Jepsen? Tony Toni Toné Stark?

Oh, I give up. Here's the video.

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Put a little sunshine in your life

South London singer Jodie Abacus has been making waves over the last 12 months with a series of upbeat, life-affirming singles. Admittedly, they're tiny waves - but lots of tiny ripples can combine to make a tsunami. Probably. I never studied Oceanography, ok?

Songs like She's In Love With The Weekend and Good Feeling have earned the youngester comparisons to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, ELO and Steely Dan. Which, let's face it, is an amazingly diverse set of references.

His latest single keeps up the happy vibes. Called I'll Be That Friend, it's bouncier than ten tiggers - although it turns out the song was inspired by a pretty bleak year in the singer's life, which started with a nasty bout of pneumonia and ended with a break-up from his long-term girlfriend.

"By the end of that year I wished I could still have the pneumonia instead of such bad heartache," he says in a press release. "I was crumbling, sitting in an empty room, just me and a bed and my keyboard. I started playing and crying at the same time. I felt like, if I was looking from the outside at this situation, I would give that person a really, really big hug and say it's all right. That's when I wrote I'll Be That Friend."

He doesn't document what prompted the lyric: "Where's my sandwich?"

By the way, if the start of that video seems familiar, it's a riff on the art project "People React To Being Called Beautiful", which went viral in 2013.

Shea Glover, who created that project, served as a consultant on Abacaus's video, alongside pop video veteran Ethan Lader (Bruno Mars, Cee-Lo Green, Mary J Blige).

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

New banger alert: X&Y Footprints

Now that Years & Years have rinsed their album to within an inch of its life, we need a new ampersand-utilising pop trio to lift our spirits.

Stepping into the breach with impeccable timing are X&Y - aka Ben Cork, Ash Howarth and Rhys Morgan. (That's them above, Is that a big chair, or are they midgets?).

Their new single Footprints is a galloping pop stomper with a rousing "HEY!" in the chorus, so people who don't know the words can pump their fists in the air and feel involved - which is great pop writing, as any fule kno.

The trio support Take That at the BST festival in Hyde Park later this week. Expect to hear them on a radio near you soon.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

First she was up, she was up...

Good old Courtney Barnett, the world's most unassuming rock star, has hired Aussie actress Magda Szubanski to star in her new video, Elevator Operator. If you don't recognise the name, you'll recognise her face: She played Esme Hoggett in the film Babe.

Without giving too much away, Szubanski plays a tower block tenant who causes all sorts of havoc for Barnett - the building's bellhop. Along the way, there are cameos for Sleater-Kinney, Jeff Tweedy and some other indie musicians you'll barely recognise. Among them is a band called Batpiss, who I will be checking out on the basis of their name alone.

As usual for Barnett, the lyrics have an interesting backstory - as she explained to Nothing But Hope And Passion.

"Elevator Operator is a story I wrote about a friend that likes to go to the top of this building to enjoy the view. One day he got into the elevator with this lady, and she freaked out because she thought he was going up to the roof to kill himself. He told me the story, and it seemed to be such a crazy kind of story to me, just a crazy situation. She must have assumed that something was wrong with him, because he was young and had scruffy hair or something – I don’t know."

You don't get that with "Fergie" now, do you?

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Five thoughts on the new Rihanna single

1. You can see why none of Sia's songs made the tracklisting for Anti. By this point, her style is so identifiable that it threatens to eclipse Rihanna. Try listening to this without imagining Sia's vocals on the demo. You can't.

2. That said, I'm putting this on a playlist with FourFiveSeconds, This Is What You Came For and the eight good tracks from Anti to make a proper Rihanna album.

3. The lyric "you're just another brick and I'm a sledgehammer" is as brilliant as "my tears left a swimming pool of salted crimes" is terrible.

4. Rihanna's vocals are getting more and more impressive over time.

5. If you think the song sounds good on its own, check it out on the official Star Trek trailer. Goosebumps.

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