Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Video: Banks - Gemini Feed

"You and me together, we were Gemini Feed," said Banks, in a tweet accompanying the hand-written lyrics to her addictive new single.

It's an allusion to the light and dark side of a relationship with a man who "convinced me other people don't care about me" - although, to be honest, there isn't much light in the song's depiction of a passive-aggressive lover whose behaviour borders on abuse.

The video picks up the theme, though, with Banks (who is an actual Gemini) representing the two sides of her personality in contrasting black and white costumes.

Directed by Philippa Price, who also shot the Fuck With Myself video, it's an arresting, stylish piece of work.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

The best of #NewMusicFriday and other songs you may have missed

I'm increasingly of the opinion that New Music Friday has made music blogs redundant. The big releases all appear in one giant avalanche, leaving you nothing to write about for the rest of the week - save the odd radio premiere or unsigned band.

Still, I've listened to the latest New Music playlists on Spotify and Apple Music, so that you don't have to. Here are my highlights:

1) Florence + The Machine - Songs From Final Fantasy XV
I can't imagine Florence Welch sitting down with a gamepad to play an 80-hour roleplaying game, but she's certainly come up trumps with her Final Fantasy soundtrack EP. The lead single, Too Much Is Never Enough is a sweeping epic; while her slow-building Stand By Me will cause jaws to drop.

2) OneRepublic - Kids
Ryan Tedder comes up trumps again; mixing an acoustic strum and a "Summer of 69" lyric with that chirruping vocal effect everyone's been using since Where Are U Now. Radio playlist programmers will wet themselves over this one.

3) Jason Derulo - Kiss The Sky
Jason's "tribute" to Uptown Funk now comes with an Hawaiian Shirt-assisted music video, and it's got more fizz than a swimming pool of sherbet.

4) Zuzu - Get Off
Liverpool's Zuzu (real name unknown) has recently toured the UK supporting Courtney Barnett - and you can see why. This shoulder-shrugging, slacker rock is a perfect match for Barnett's own brand of literate rock. Fans of 90s bands like Belly and the Juliana Hatfield Trio will find plenty to love here.

5) Danny L Harle - Super Natural (feat Carly Rae Jepsen)
British producer Danny L Harle is part of the PC Music family - but this track, featuring underappreciated superstar Carly Rae Jepsen, is a more straightforward techno-pop track than you might imagine.

"Carly was always at the top of my list of people who could sing it, but I never envisaged it actually happening!" says Danny in a press release. "Ever since I heard Call Me Maybe she has been one of my dream collaborators. I love her take on the track; her voice has an amazingly positive energy which was essential in giving Super Natural a necessary sense of euphoria."

6) Folly Rae - U
British singer Folly Rae has come up through the BBC Introducing scheme but, I have to confess, her brittle R&B had me convinced she was a fully-groomed US major label signing.

U, which is trending on Spotify's Viral Chart, is a dark and sultry tale of broken hearts - with a cunning twist in the coda.

7) Caitlyn Scarlett - Rust
A testament to the power of algorithms, this popped up on Soundcloud immediately after Folly Rae's song and immediately made me sit up and listen.

Caitlyn Scarlett (what a name!) is a self taught guitarist and pianist, who left the small town of Bray for London, aged 17. She cites everyone from MIA to Kate Bush and Christine & The Queens as influences, and her music is as beguiling and goosebumpy as that playlist would suggest.

8) MIA - Bird Song
"I'm a parrot," intones MIA at the start of this song, a pun-tastic, kazoo-powered oddity in which the singer compares herself to various inhabitants of the avian universe.

"Stayin' rich like an Ostrich," she repeats in the chorus, apparently having forgotten to take her medication.

9) Slaves - Spit It Out
About as far away from my normal tastes as it's possible to get but there's something thrilling about the Slaves' take-no-prisoners punk onslaught.

10) Regina Spektor - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Taken from a new animated film, Kubo and the Two Strings, this Beatles cover is delicate and beautiful. Bonus points for failing to feature a single guitar.

11) Frances - Say It Again
Written with Greg Kurstin, this is a little more polished - but a little less heartfelt - than Frances' previous singles. The melody is gorgeous, in a coldly efficient sort of way, but if it introduces more people to her music, I don't mind one little bit.

12) Britney Spears - Make Me
Step aside, Taylor Swift. New Romantics is no longer the worst video released by a major label pop star this year. (And don't get me started on the other teaser tracks Britney released this week. Clumsy doesn't begin to describe it).

And that's your lot. Sorry to end on a downer. But what an unholy mess this Britney album is shaping up to be. Astonishing scenes.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jamie T's Power Over Men is his best single in ages

Jamie T's previous single, Tinfoil Boy, was a great radio statement; a punkish peal of "look who's back" thunder. But I have to admit his new single is much more my cup of tea.

The story of a beguiling femme fatale, Power Over Men marries a loping reggae shuffle to Jamie's trademark wit and lyricism. "Her vanity's dressed up as virtue in brogue shoes and art schools with tatoos," he croons, before observing: "She was never academic. She couldn't draw a thing."

Premiering the track on Annie Mac's Radio 1 show last night, he said the track came to him in a flash.

"It's one of those songs that was a real rarity in the songwriting," he said. "I wrote it in one afternoon and recorded it the next day, which doesn't normally happen."

Listen to the song and interview below.

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Janelle Monae samples the Jackson 5 on new song

Janelle Monae is just one of several artists contributing tracks to Baz Luhrmann's Netflix series The Get Down, which looks at the rise of hip-hop in inner city New York four decades ago (others on the soundtrack include Nas, Miguel and Michael Kiwanuka).

Her effort is a riff on the Jackson 5's epic 8-minute funk jam Hum Along and Dance, which is also featured in the show. She explained more to Beats 1:

"I don’t really do a lot of sampling, but they had the rights to the Jackson 5's Hum Along and Dance, so this was a sample I worked with Jeff Bhasker [Uptown Funk, All of the Lights, Run This Town]. Once we got in the studio together, we just picked parts that we loved and that’s how we made the music.

"So it was inspired by the Jackson 5, and I just basically put Janelle Monae on it, but I wanted to keep the essence of Jackson 5. Michael is one of my heroes. As I was recording this song, I was envisioning a world where color [she means "colour"] was not the root of... the center [she means "centre"] of attention. It wasn't about black and white, green and yellow, but we were all on the dance floor together living and breathing as one."

You can hear an excerpt of the song, as well as a pretty tedious interview, below.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Justin Bieber and DJ Snake: Let Me Love You

Here is a thing that will be popular, whether you like it or not.

"And how is Justin Bieber celebrating this event?" you ask. Well, let me tell you how: By coasting down an Hawaiian river in a bright pink inflatable swan. The lucky bastard.

Swany cakes

A photo posted by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

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Banks deposits new single, Gemini Feed

If you wondered why Banks's second album was called The Altar, now you have an answer: It's a lyric from her new single, Gemini Feed.

But the singer hasn't suddenly found happiness and tied the knot. Oh my, no.

Here's how it goes:

And to think you would get me to the altar
Like I follow you around like a dog that needs water
But admit it, that you wanted me smaller
If you would have let me grow
You could have kept my love

As usual, then, she's wearing her heart (and her psychology degree) on her sleeve. Yet the song is neither as dark nor as self-destructive as the first taster of her new album - Fuck With Myself. In fact, in Banks's world this is a positive ray of sunshine.

Premiering the track on Annie Mac's Radio 1 show, Banks said writing the new album helped her "come out of a depression" and gave her a major confidence boost.

"I've gone through a lot the last few years, my life has changed a lot," she said. "I've confronted new obstacles and new relationships. I had so much to write about.

"This album, for me, is a metamorphosis. I feel more empowered. In my past, I've wanted to hide a little bit, and this album is me solidly standing on pavement and taking up space. I think you can hear it in the vocals and the songs."

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Katy Perry defies death

Katy Perry's new song, Rise, is a bit of a clunker, but what a video. WHAT A VIDEO.

If you have a fear of heights, or pop stars being strangulated in the cord of a parachute, look away now.

I'd like to have seen the insurance forms they had to fill in before shooting that.

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Tove Lo is cool for the summer

She's not the perfect one (she's never been) but she has her moments. And here's one of them...

Subtler and slinkier than the power-pop of her debut album, Tove Lo's new single is a revelation, as the former infatuation junkie keeps her distance from a hapless suitor.

"I'm a cool girl," she sings, "Ice cold, I roll my eyes at you."

Apparently the song, itself called Cool Girl, was triggered by Rosamund Pike going totally nuts in David Fincher's latest film.

"I got the first inspiration from the Gone Girl movie," she told Rolling Stone. "She's sitting there talking about: 'He wanted a cool girl, so I ate pizza. I drank beer. I made a size two. I didn't give a fuck that he checked out other women.

"I was thinking about it, and it's really true. Why do we try to be someone we're not to make someone love us? Would you want to fake yourself for the rest of your life? That's fucked up. Even though she's creepy, I kind of thought it was funny that it's just very common to see that."

Listen below:

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Video: Jones - Melt

Jones's sublime summer jam Melt now has a video to accompany it. She doesn't so much melt as shatter into shards. It's strangely mesmerising.

She's got the heat.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

While we wait for Frank Ocean's album, try this song on for size...

We're only four days away from finally getting Frank Ocean's "sophomore" (second) album, Boys Don't Cry. But while we wait, sitting on our hands so we don't bite our nails, why not have a listen to Atlanta rapper Berhana, whose new single Janet recalls Channel Orange's catchier moments.

Despite the title, the song isn't a tribute to Ms Jackson. Instead, it's a reference to actress Janet Hubert, who played Aunt Viv on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air... before suddenly being replaced after three seasons by a new, lighter-skinned performer.

Hubert's name was in the news earlier this year, after she criticised Fresh Prince star Will Smith for boycotting the Oscars, accusing him of being part of the system he claimed to be protesting against.

Berhana's song doesn't get into that particular argument but context is everything.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for Iggy Azalea to pen a song called Vanessa, in tribute to the actress who originally played Pippa Ross in Home and Away.

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