Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Video: Hailee Steinfeld - Starving

It's been hanging around the lower reaches of the chart all summer but Starving, Hailee Steinfeld's collaboration with Zedd, has finally been granted a video.

The clip sees the actress-turned-singer twirling around a warehouse while being caressed by a quartet of oiled-up, shirtless men. Or, as I like to call it, Wednesday night in.

Fans of Justin Bieber's Love Yourself will find plenty to like about the song's arpeggiated verses; but Zedd makes his presence felt with a huge blast of synths in the chorus, while Steinfeld sings: "I didn't know that I was starving till I tasted you".

Which is quite an image, I think you'll agree.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Skott's new single Amelia is the best song of the week

It starts off as a folk song and ends up sounding like The Joker blowing up Kanye West's mansion. Amelia, the new single by Scandinavian singer Skott, is immediate, thrilling and, dare I say, essential.

The key to her idiosyncratic style can be found in an official biography, which reads: "Skott grew up in a remote small town forest commune run by outcast folk musicians. The small supportive community exposed her to music while she grew up in this unorthodox childhood, however Skott didn’t actually hear any contemporary music until she went to the city for the first time in her mid-teens."

Amelia, she says, is about reaching a crisis point in a relationship. "Is it worth continuing or is this the end?" she says.

"The song's about not giving up, fighting to keep that special someone next to you despite the hardest of times.

"'Amelia' reminds me of my first love as a young teenager when I'd dream up crazy plans for the future. They weren't always realistic but they were honest and dramatic."

Skott's over in the UK next week, supporting Canadian girl-rock band Muna - who are equally excellent. If you want to see some of 2017's break-out stars before they become too big for their boots, then head down to Notting Hill's Art Club next Wednesday. I'll see you there.

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A dirty protest from Dirty Projectors

The poo emoji finally gets the recognition it deserves in the new video from those premium purveyors of glitch-pop, Dirty Projectors.

Keep Your Name is a haunting ballad that appears to be a diss of a former bandmate: "What I want from art is truth / What you want is fame," sings David Longstreth. "I guess it's shit that Gene Simmons said / Our band is a brand and it looks that our vision is dissonance."

The video is stark and surreal, with Longstreth playing piano, smashing up guitars and showing off his ambidexterity - doodling complex pictures (and cartoon faeces) with both hands simultaneously.

It's really quite beautiful.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Are Daft Punk laughing at The Weeknd?

By now, you may have heard that Daft Punk have teamed up with The Weeknd for his new single Starboy. Sadly, it isn't the genre-bending, world-changing song that suggests. In fact, it sounds like a typical Weeknd song with some vocoder on the top.

(Specifically, that vocoder segment features Daft Punk going "ha ha ha ha", which is presumably the noise they made as they took Abel Tesfaye's cheque and deposited it in their bank.)

Still, Starboy is a great launch to The Weeknd's new album, due in November. It's a lithesome, late-night groove with the Canadian star crooning about how absolutely brilliant he is ("out of your league," apparently). Coincidentally, he references Brad Pitt in the final verse: "Let a nigga Brad Pitt," he sings. "Legend of the fall took the year like a bandit."

Listen to an excerpt on the various streaming services below.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New discovery: Rag 'n' Bone Man

It's a while since a performance on Jools Holland stopped me in my tracks - but that's what Rag 'N' Bone Man did last night.

He was there to perform Human, his first single on Columbia Records, released back in July. It's a swampy, broken ballad, co-written by Jamie Hartman, whose previous credits include Westlife and Emma Bunton. Don't hold it against him, though, this is a singularly moving piece of music.

The reason? That voice. As smooth as peanut butter and just as indulgent. In fact, the acoustic version of Human performed on Jools last night is vastly superior to the sturm und drast of the original.

Interestingly, the song is already "big in Europe", residing at number six in the German top 40, and climbing up the Spotify charts in Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands.

Catch up on what our neighbours already know by clicking the big "play" button below.

PS If you think you've heard of Rag 'N' Bone Man before, you're right. The singer, who was born Rory Graham had a previous life as a drum & bass MC, performing under the name Rag 'n' Bonez.

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Video: Lady Gaga - Perfect Illusion

People who found Lady Gaga's comeback single Perfect Illusion off-puttingly histrionic aren't going to be won over by the video.

Billed as a simple performance clip, it's frenetically edited (there are 45 cuts in the first minute alone) with Gaga on full throttle "asylum escapee" mode from the outset.

I still like the song, though, which is a rush of fresh air amidst all the carefully-controlled, expertly-positioned indentipop of the last 12 months. The hook is solid gold, no matter what your opinion of the delivery mechanism.

In related news, I would like one of Mark Ronson's jackets, but with "Savage" written on the sleeve.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Songs you may have missed: Mini midweek edition

Here's a round-up of some of the better tracks you / I may have overlooked recently.

1) Beck - Wow
Sadly not a cover of the Kylie "classic", but very good nonetheless.

2) Years & Years - Meteorite
I'm including this single, taken from the Bridget Jones soundtrack, mainly (but not solely) because of Olly's quote on the press release:

"If there's anyone I'd like to be it's Bridget - a wanton sex goddess with a very bad man between her thighs."

3) LOOP - Losing My Mind
Very, very accessible pop from this London newcomer, who rather brilliantly stylises her name as "L∞P".

4) Tove Lo - Under The Influence (ft Wiz Khalifa)
The opening track from Tove Lo's second album, Lady Wood, is a textbook subtlebanger. Gone are Tove's sweeping dramatics, in comes a smooth and sleek house beat. Is this a good thing? I'll get back to you.

5) CAPPA - Next Ex
A song that wouldn't feel out of place on Carly Rae Jepsen's Emotions B Side album. Yes, it is that good.

6) Christine and the Queens - Sorry (Beyonce cover)
One of the absolute highlights of Radio 1's Live Lounge month.

7) Robyn - Dancing On My Own (Paul Andrews Streetlight Mix)
Calum Scott's miserable cover of Dancing On My Own is proof you can't destroy a good melody. But what if you took that melody and put it over the backing track to Journey's Don't Stop Believing? It would become invincible, that's what.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Video: The White Stripes - City Lights

Film director Michel Gondry was responsible for The White Stripes' most memorable videos - the Lego-tastic Fell In Love With A Girl, and the insane stop motion collage of Hardest Button To Button.

His latest collaboration with Jack White is more nuanced, but no less mesmerising. He uses a shower window as a sort of impromptu etch-a-sketch, creating an ever-evolving illustration of City Lights' lyrics in the steam. According to Rolling Stone, the filmmaker shot on the video on his own, without notifying White until it was completed.

The track is off White's recent album, Jack White: Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016, a collection of B-sides and rarities from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and White's solo career. It was originally written for The White Stripes' 2005 album, Get Behind Me Satan, but never made the cut.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Dua Lipa gets political (sort of)

According to the Big Bible of Pop (2016 edition), every song has to start with a moody synth chord and a disembodied human voice burbling a wordless sound, with the reverb set to "double cathedral".

Dua Lipa has studied the book cover to cover, so she's made sure to include such a moment at the beginning of her new single, Blow Your Mind (Mwah). She has also included parentheses (+ 10 points) and a chorus the size of a pregnant hippo (+50 points).

The video, which came out today, has no expense spared. They even have placards, one of which proclaims "Dua for president." It doesn't specify which presidency she's running for, but I'm assuming it's the EU Farming Commission.

8/10 and no mistake.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Lady Gaga's Perfect Illusion is, well, perfect

Well that's a relief. In a year when pop's biggest stars collectively dropped the ball, Lady Gaga - who perhaps had the most to prove- has picked it up, run out of the stadium, set it on fire and kicked it to the moon.

Perfect Illusion is a gargantuan strut of a song, free of all the clutter and posturing that ruined ArtPop. Produced by Mark Ronson and co-written with Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, it's built on a perpetual motion chord sequence, one of those musical motifs that never quite resolves, giving the song a thrilling sense of urgency.

Gaga is in full-throttle diva mode, screaming "It wasn't love, it was a perfect illusion." like its the best chorus she's ever written. It certainly comes close.

Granted, it's not a subtle track, right down to the perfectly-deployed key change. Critics are going to find Gaga a bit shouty. But I got goosebumps as it pumped through my headphones - and that's the only test that matters.

Welcome back, then, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. We'll take those penalty points off your pop license now.

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