I've just stumbled across the latest single by Los Angeles rap alchemist Open Mike Eagle, and thought it was worth a mention (even though it came out over a month ago).
Check To Check is a whimsical, but pointed, diatribe about our (and Mike's) obsession with technology. “I won’t work without checking my phone first / Put it down for my son when I’m checking his homework,” he drawls sleepily over a dusty drumbeat. “I’m recording right now and I’m checking between takes / Every notification that my phone machine makes.”
"You are completely on your own tip," said Anne Mac, interviewing Bonzai on her Radio 1 show earlier tonight. The Irish-American singer certainly has a unique style - equally influenced by The Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers, Beyonce and Ashanti.
"It is a bit mad," Bonzai conceded. "I listen to a lot of different music."
Her new single, No Rest For The Wicked, certainly doesn't pull its punches. In just three minutes, Bonzai packs in a couple of silky hooks, a subterranean bassline, two drawling raps, a crunching breakbeat, hyperspectral acid squelches, and the best use of a guiro since Tone Loc's Wild Thing.
It was Annie Mac's hottest record, and for good reason.
If you like the sound of that, Bonzai's just finished her new EP, Sleepy Hungry, which should appear on iTunes overnight, courtesy of Mura Masa's Anchor Point Records.
Last year's Big Girls Cry was billed as the "final act" in Sia's trilogy of videos with teenage dancer Maddie Ziegler. But disproving the adage that all good things must come to an end, the pair are back together for Sia's latest single, Cheap Thrills.
As the song was originally written for Rihanna, it bears none of the psychodramatic hallmarks of Sia's more autobiographical material. "I realized just as soon as I was cutting it that it sounded a little bit too Brit-pop for [Rihanna]," Sia told Rolling Stone. "There's something really uplifting about [the song] that put me in a good mood... It felt very 'summer' and fun."
The bouncy synthpop gives Ziegler the chance to goof off, pulling beserk faces throughout and dopey poses throughout the clip while Sia - because she is still Sia - stands inert in the corner.
It's billed as a "performance edit" - so presumably there's a bigger-budget version of the video mired in a post-production suite right now. But I'll happily take this one instead.
Meghan Trainor's new Nø song is a carbon copy of Britney Spears at her Max Martin-era best. So what's to stop her making an elaborate dance video that's equally indebted to Britney? The answer is "absolutely nothing, dummies".
The star employed one of the best to make it happen - Fatima Robinson, who directed Michael Jackson's Remember The Time, Mary J. Blige's Family Affair and The Black Eyed Peas' My Humps. The result is a marriage made in hair-flick heaven.
I'm still sitting on the fence about the song, which is incredible (for a Meghan Trainor song) and above-average (for anyone else). Maybe the video will help us all form a more objective opinion.
"Yeah, baby I got me / And that's all I need / Only friend I see / Playing on my team."
Those are some pretty lonely lyrics, no matter how defiantly they're presented. But then, the star openly admits 2015 - which involved multiple Twitter "beefs", accusations she had appropriating black culture and an abruptly cancelled tour - was a toughie.
"If I could, I would Men in Black memory-erase 2015, I totally would - that would be amazing!" she recently told Elle Canada. "I spent a lot of energy last year trying to explain my side of the story because I thought, 'If you could just understand my side, surely you'd agree with me.' But some people aren't ever going to agree with you - and that's just life."
Things are looking up now, though. After scrapping six months of work, she's finally finished her second album, Digital Distortion (surely a reference to her Twitter troubles), and the lead single, Team, topped Billboard's trending charts as soon as it was released this weekend.
Maybe she's not as alone as she thought.
As you can see, that's not the "proper" video. As part of what is no doubt a carefully-coordinated media strategy, she will perform the song on Jimmy Fallon this week before unveiling an official video later in March.
Just to clarify, the video up on Vevo is the dance video. Im going to share a snippet to the offical video this Tuesday on G.M.A !
Ah, Gorgon City - a band whose name conjures up images of a sprawling metropolis built entirely from Italian blue-veined cheese. (I'd move there in a flash.)
Their music is anything but cheesy, though, as this new single proves. All Four Walls is a shimmering, shuffling garage track with soaring-yet-paranoid vocals from Vaults' Blythe Pepino.
It's billed as the first track from their upcoming album Kingdom, with the Londonduo promising to release a track every three weeks until it's ready - which seems totally arbitrary, but who knows what works as a successful release strategy any more?
Here's the video. Recorded at the O2 Arena, it's a total shambles. I'd open another tab, fire up Twitter and just listen to the music, to be honest.
Danish trio Irah are brand new - their Facebook page only sprang to life 12 months ago - but what a first impression they're making.
Their debut single, Into Dimensions, was cut-down from an hour long improvisation - but I guarantee that, by the time it finishes, you'll be left wanting to hear the original 60 minute version.
Singer Stine Grøn starts off subdued, but as the synths grow increasingly insistent, she becomes more strident, propelled heavenwards by a choir of twinkling angels. Imagine the Cocteau Twins produced by Stonger-era Kanye West and you'll get the idea.
Better still, listen to the song below.
Discussing the track with Danish website Soundvenue, they said: "We recorded Into Dimensions in the Funkhaus Berlin - the former home of the East German broadcasting corporation, which today houses a lot of recording studios. The place was in the process of being renovated, which meant that we were the only ones there. It was an extremely impressive experience, like we were being transported to a different time. It was magical to record music in this environment." [apologies if the translation is a little wonky].
"This is a star-studded collaboration," boasts the intro to this song - somewhat inaccurately, it turns out. By my count the only star present is Nicki Minaj. But then again, singer and co-writer Bebe Rexha (best Scrabble hand ever) could easily go stellar this year. If you don't know her already, the Albanian-American singer wrote the chorus for Eminem's The Monster; and sang the hook on David Guetta's Hey Mama.
No Broken Hearts is her first fully-fledged solo single, following last year's well-received I Don't Wanna Grow Up EP. And despite the dated references to "the club", it's an insidiously groovy urban-pop jam.
According to a press release, Rexha made the chorus up on the spot. "I had been heartbroken three times that week," she says. "I went to the studio, and I was crying my eyes out. As soon as I walked to the mic, it came to me. We captured the first take right when I heard the song.
"There's nothing mathematical to my writing," she adds. "I turned sadness into an anthem for not letting anything or anyone slow you down."
Speaking last month, the singer (who we first met as part of Pete Wentz's side project Black Cards) said the rest of the song wrote itself when Nicki Minaj turned up in the studio.
On my next single. I didn't get to write a bridge cause I was blessed with an incredible rap by someone who murders it.
Muna are a self-described "dark-pop girl group from LA". They consist of lead singer Katie Gavin - the one with the drastic pixie cut - and guitarists Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin; and invented their name during a game of word association (it rhymes with Luna, you see).
Their new single, Winterbreak, is a crystallised gem of brooding sombrepop. And the band have written a lengthy explanation of what it's all about.
"This song is about a love that you can't reconcile — wanting to make a home out of a person that has proved to you time and again that they are not a home; they are just a person. It's about retracing scars, negative patterns, all with the silent belief that moments of communion and understanding might justify months of misfiring and regret. We're all just trying to get back to that 'first high' feeling — an honest endeavour, however futile."
And that's not all. They've penned an equally extensive explanation of the video "treatment".
"The Winterbreak video is about the dual experience of belonging and non-belonging involved in returning to a former home. Often when we've visited the places we grew up in, we've found ourselves in the strange space between nostalgia and total regression. We visit familiar places in which we no longer fit, surround ourselves with familiar people with whom we don't necessarily connect any more, and engage in familiar activities that might normally strike us as incredibly immature. Despite being in the same world we were immersed in as children and adolescents, there is a sense there that almost everything about 'home' has changed. Generally for us, the only solace has been really great friends. So we tried to show some of that."
Oh, give it a rest, you guys. Let's just enjoy the song.
There's such a surfeit of gleeful invention in Mura Masa's new single that it's hard not to smile.
Premiered as Annie Mac's Hottest Record last night, What If I Go, it wrong-foots you at every turn. It starts off with an old-skool analogue drum loop, which segues into a steel-drum loop and Bonzai's soulful, fluttering vocals. Four footstomps count in the chorus, á la The Supremes Baby Love, then everything goes slightly wonky. It's smashing and, what's more, it holds together as a coherent song.
Discussing the track on Radio 1, Mura Masa (aka Alex Crossan) said the song was originally written on a train a year ago, then polished off at home after he and Bonzai came back from a skiing holiday (lucky for some, etc, etc). He called it "the next development" in his sound, adding: "It's not necessarily about trying to make pop music, but I do want to bring more of an accessibility to weird electronica."
The musician said work was continuing on his debut album - "I’m trying my hardest to make it really good" - which is shaping up for release at the end of the summer.
How many nights have you lain in bed, unable to settle or rest, as your brain ponders the big, unknowable questions of our time: Why are we here? Is there a peaceable solution to the Middle East conflict? Can you cry underwater? Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
But the one that's robbed me of the most sleep this: When is someone going to remake Afroshock's Slave To The Vibe as a post-millennial club banger?
Amazingly, the wait is over. London-based producer Billon (which he insists on spelling B I L L O N, so let's just call him by his real name, Ed Butler) has grabbed the song and shaken it by its ankles, producing a piano-driven house edit that's laser-targetted at those depressingly superficial boat parties people go on about in Ibiza.
Here it is.
Meanwhile, rising singer-songwriter Stephanie Ella Gautier (aka Ella On The Run) has turned in a disturbingly minor key version of All That She Wants. Yes, that All That She Wants. By Ace of Base.
Ella's version was prompted by a radio session, where she was tasked with re-tooling a retro favourite. "I had a basic idea of where I felt the chorus should go melodically, as the lyrics are actually quite dark," she told The 405. "My amazing band members immediately understood the vibe I was going for. We played through it once and it just felt right. I never tried the original melody, I don't think it would have worked, either."
Her arrangement really works, re-contextualising a classic in an unsettling new light. But let's be honest, nothing can surpass the original.
Like it says above... Here are seven songs you may have missed over the last seven days (and one for luck).
Gorge yourself silly on half an hour of quality pop.
1) Zara Larsson - Lush Life (live)
The song Rihanna should have released as her comeback single gets the Live Lounge treatment.
2) Cassius - Action (ft Mike D and Cat Power)
Daft Punk take a long time between albums but it's nothing compared to their contemporaries, Cassius, who return from a 10-year break with this fiesty firecracker, featuring a real-life Beastie Boy.
3) Zayn - Like I Would
"Talking about it's not my style," declares Zayn, who proceeds to spend the next three minutes talking about it. "It" being "sex", in case that wasn't clear. He's very good at the sex, apparently, but is his assessment really objective?
Still, nice to see his debut album raises the tempo above "moribund" every so often.
4) Kygo - Carry Me
This track by Norwegian DJ and producer Kygo leaked a couple of weeks ago, but now we finally get an HQ version, trailing the release of his debut album Cloud Nine. It continues in the vein of his previous, tropically-flavoured house tracks, confirming him the as the Lilt of dance music.
5) Denzel Curry - Knotty Head (ft Rick Ross)
Florida's Denzel Curry released his "sophomore" (second) album, Imperial, this week describing it as an attempt "to reach my ultimate form", like he's a character from Street Fighter. Still, you can't argue with his ferocious, hardcore raps - and this track is one of the album's stand-outs.
6) Ladyhawke - Sweet Fascination
Remember 2008, when every other post on this blog was about Ladyhawke? Well, on the basis of this new single, prepare for a second onslaught. Superlative synthpop. And the best lyric video of the year.
7) Gallant - Weight In Gold (ft Seal)
As previously noted on these pages, Gallant is a major new talent; and Weight In Gold is a stunning calling card. It now comes with added Seal (and a saxophone solo). How can you resist?
Hidden Bonus Track) Iris Gold - Steve McQueen
Raised on a commune and inspired by 70s psychedelia, Iris Gold turned heads with last year's gauzy R&B jam Goldmine. Some of those heads included Taylor Swift, Robbie Williams and Blur - all of whom have booked her as a support act. Her debut album is shaping up for a summer release, and the latest single should be saved up for your first picnic of 2016.
Rising star Frances has been quietly breaking my heart with ballads like Let It Out and Grow since I stumbled across her last year, and her new single promises to soundtrack even sobfests than before.
Don't Worry About Me was "written for someone very close to me," the singer said. "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."
The song avoids specifics in such a way that it could apply to anything - the end of a romance, the beginning of an illness - but Frances's skill as a vocalist is that you feel every moment of anguish, no matter what interpretation you impose.
It begins with a naked, distraught a capella, buy evolves into a beautiful piano ballad, decorated with Frances' delictaely layered harmonies.
Here - Alessia Cara's true-life tale of a terrible night out - was one of the most captivating singles of last year. For some reason, it faltered at number 28 in the UK despite giving the Canadian star a number five hit in the US. But then, chart positions don't really matter any more because the music industry is irreparably broken.
Over in the States, though, Here's slow-burning success (it took 25 weeks to crack the top five) meant the follow-up was put on the back burner for months. Now, finally, there's a video for Wild Things, an exuberant call to arms for a generation of outsiders.
It sees the singer running about town with her friends, causing all sorts of PG-rated trouble and generally looking like the cast of Degrassi Junior High. "To me, Where The Wild Things Are is a place that exists in our minds," theorises Alessia in a spoken-word intro. "It's a place of liberty and shamelessness. It can take a split second or a lifetime to find it, but once you do, you’ll be free."
To be honest, my ears took a while to adjust Alessia Cara being upbeat - shouldn't she be moping around a car park like a Canadian version of Lorde? But I shed my preconceptions, Wild Things turned out to be a classy, polished pop song with a insidiously catchy chorus.
First Justin Bieber releases a series of non-atrocious singles. Now Meghan Trainor has a song I don't actively hate. What next? A self-effacing tweet from Kanye West? Rihanna looking like she gives a shit? Cheryl Cole dating a member of One Direction?
Don't be ridiculous. But the fact remains that this Meghan Trainor song is tolerable. I literally wouldn't turn it off if it came on the radio - and I'm speaking as someone who destroyed upwards of 87 radios when Marvin Gaye was on the R1 playlist.
The single in question is called No. With its stacatto synth guitar chords, it sounds like a turn-of-the-millennium Max Martin production... and the middle 8 ("I'm untouchable, untouchable)" is catchy as all heck.
According to an interview in Spin, the track was created in anger after Trainor's record label boss, LA Reid, told her she didn't have a decent lead single for her new album.
"When she arrived at the studio I was like, 'Look, there's no way we're going to make the single today. Let's just blow off some steam, fuck around, have a good time,'" said producer Ricky Reed (Jason Derulo's Talk Dirty, Lunchmoney Lewis's Bills). "And of course the single was born."
Here it is, then. Isn't it great when pop defies your expectations?
Disclosure collaborator and celebrity hat enthusiast Gregory Porter is back with a new single, Don't Lose Your Head Of Steam, from his new album, Take Me To The Alley.
Channelling the sound and spirit of Bill Withers, it's a generous, heartwarming message to his three-year-old son, Demyan: "Boy I didn't make it too far / But baby you are / The family star / I'll tighten your seams / Don't lose your head in dreams."
It's a more soulful, commercial track than he's produced before - hence its premiere on Chris Evans' breakfast show this morning.
"This song is about my son, and the energy and the legacy I want to give him, to have him carry on throughout his life," he explained. "You try to plant some good seeds and hope that goodness grows."
Not that the Sacramento-born musician is having any parenting nightmares, describing his son as "a pretty good cat".
"He's already very musical. He beats on everything which is why we give him drumsticks, but tape socks to the head of them. Most of the furniture has been ruined already."
Listen below to the album version and a jazzier, more expansive live take.
Imagine how narked Låpsley must be this morning. She spent two years slaving over her debut album, Long Way Home, slowly building her profile, eventually making the Radio 1 playlist and scoring an all-important Live Lounge slot the day before her record hit the shelves.
The stars were aligning perfectly, then Kendrick Lamar pops up out of nowhere, releases an album of cast-offs and steals all the headlines. Damn you, Lamar. Damn you to heck.
Of course, in the era of streaming, no-one needs to decide between Låpsley and Kendrick's albums. We all have them both. And while they couldn't be more different musically, both artists have a lot in common DNA - attention to detail, a flair for drama and a unique voice. Oh, and they're both fans of the oboe (Låpsley used to play one in Liverpool’s Sefton Youth Orchestra, Kendrick put an oboe solo on To Pimp A Butterfly).
If you need a primer, here's Låpsley's heartwrenching new video, Love Is Blind:
Amd her stately cover of Zayn's Pillowtalk (I love those 1990s Steve Silk Hurley synth strings):
And Kendrick's entire Untitled Unmastered album:
And if that wasn't enough new music for you, Years & Years have released a sexed-up version of the former number 22 "hit", Desire. This one features Tove Lo, and there's a lot of heavy petting in the video. Good grief.
Re-reformed girl band All Saints have just released the video for their excellent comeback single One Strike. It is insanely boring, shot in black and white through what appears to be a catflap. Until, that is, you get to the last shot, where one of the band shrugs off a jacket and throws it to the floor.
As you may remember, the band imploded at the height of their fame in 2004 over the disputed ownership of a combat jacket. Songwriter Shaznay Lewis had been allotted it for a photo shoot, but Natalie Appleton decided she wanted it instead. After the squabble, the pair wouldn't speak for years.
"I would never in a million years have put money on the group ending over a jacket," Shaznay told The Guardian in 2004. "But when that incident happened, it fired up so strong, it had to be over... And the way I was then, the state we'd got into then, there was no way she was getting that stupid jacket."
So the video seems to be giving a cheeky wink to fans, with the group saying their differences are behind them. It's a nice touch.
When Wonderland Magazine reviewed Vanessa White's new solo material and said: "we can’t wait to hear Vanessa’s next move" they probably didn't expect her to be revealed as a serial killer. Yet that's exactly what's happened in the video for her new single, Lipstick Kisses.
The clip sees her clearing up copious amounts of blood, wiping her fingerprints off a knife and making a clean getaway. It's a far cry from The Saturdays videos, where the plotline tended to be "five girls prance around in their bra".
What the story has to do with the song is anyone's guess. The risqué lyrics are mainly concerned with make-up sex, with Vanessa claiming "I'm naughty by nature, freaky by choice". At no point does she sing, "I am the Zodiac Killer". Maybe if you play it backwards?
Anyway, the music is fantastic - wonky, woozy R&B with a suitably sensual vocal performance. Watch / listen below.