Friday, February 24, 2017

The best and worst of new music Friday: 24 February 2017

A vintage week if you like Coldplay and songs that go Wzrrp-worp. Not so much if you're into anything else at all. Sort it out, "the music industry".

Anyway, here's a rundown of the week's best new ones. And the Coldplay one, too.

1) Billie Eilish - Bellyache
Why put all the big artists at the top, when someone new could do with a leg up? California's Billie Eilish recently signed to Interscope, and has a great acousti-pop sound that'll appeal to fans of Ellie Goulding and Aurora.

She wrote her first song at the age of four, about falling into a black hole and being happy to be there. Her new single, Bellyache, finds her plotting revenge on her boyfriend for an undisclosed transgression. It's fair to say things don't go well for him: "Where's my mind? Maybe it's in the gutter, where I left my lover".

2) Calvin Harris ft Frank Ocean and Migos - Slide
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in a post-chorus environment.

3) Zedd ft Alessia Cara - Stay
"Alessia and I first met at rehearsals for the HALO Awards, where Alessia, Daya and I performed together," writes Zedd. "I've loved her songs before but realised that she's an unbelievable talent when we started rehearsing together, so I asked her if she was interested in making music with me."

The answer was a resounding OF COURSE I DO and the result is the best of this week's onslaught of producer+vocalist collabs.

4) The Chainsmokers ft Coldplay - Something Just Like This
The title is clunky, the beats are generic, the melody is pedestrian. No-one is doing their best work here (except, perhaps, the team that animated the lyric video).

5) Lana Del Rey - Love
Already covered extensively on the blog, this is very much business as usual while managing to be one of Lana's strongest-ever singles.

6) Ed Sheeran ft Stormzy - Shape Of You
One of the highlights of Wednesday's Brit Awards, this collaboration got an official release today as part of a Ed Sheeran remix package. The guy has sold nearly 2 million singles over the last seven weeks. What does he think this is, 1994?

7) Thundercat ft Kendrick Lamar - Walk On By
Thundercat played bass on most of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly album. Now the rapper repays the favour by adding a typically virtuoso verse to this melancholy R&B track. At the time of writing, its only got 2,000 views on YouTube. It deserves 100 times that.

8) The 1975 - By Your Side
A vocoderised cover of the Sade classic (Grammy-nominated for best vocal performance in 2002, but beaten by Nelly Furtado's I'm, Like, A Bird). Released in aid of War Child, this one of those rare charity singles that doesn't sound like it was knocked off in an afternoon.

9) Powers - Heavy
Powers are pop heavyweights Mike Del Rio and Crist Ru, whose credits include Kylie and Selena Gomez. They've just served up this calorific slice of pop that's equal parts Rocksteady-era No Doubt and Lady Gaga on a good day. Nice work.

2,000,002) Jason Derulo, Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla Sign - Swalla
A song about cum.

Sorry about that last one, but I refuse to suffer alone. Sometimes I wonder what did we do to deserve Jason Derulo? Whatever it was, I'm sorry and we won't do it again.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

New music from Dua Lipa, Jamiroquai and Ed Sheeran

It's almost as if everyone is clearing the decks before the Brits send Katy Perry and Bruno Mars roaring back up the charts...

Dua Lipa - Thinking About You
A funky little ballad, powered by a finger-plucked guitar and (later on) a chunky hammond organ. It's an "instant grat" track for anyone who pre-orders Dua's debut album - and if all the album tracks are this quality, we're in for a treat.

For those of you who are interested in how pop artists get launched in the post-iTunes era, this interview with Dua's record label boss is a fascinating read.

Ed Sheeran - Touch (Little Mix cover)
Cheeky chappie and all-round pop overlord Ed Sheeran popped into Radio 1 yesterday, where he revealed he's dropping another double single this Friday. Disappointingly, it won't be his cover of Little Mix's Touch, which remains a total banger, even on an acoustic guitar.

Jamiroquai - Cloud 9
Starring Penelope Cruz's sister, Monica, this is described as a "playful, Tarantino-inspired homage to the iconic visuals for the band's smash single Cosmic Girl". In other words, Jay Kay gets to drive a sports car around a winding clifftop road like a better-dressed Jeremy Clarkson. After the excitement of Jamiroquai's comeback song, Automaton, this is very much back to the old template.

Bonus track: Spoon - Can I Sit Next To You
One for the 6 Music listeners, this is jibbering, jittering slice of indie-funk from a band who always deserved to be bigger.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Video: Katy Perry - Chained To The Rhythm

Stunning... Political without being polemic, with shades of Tomorrowland.

One of her best. And that's up against some pretty stiff competition.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fall back in Love with Lana Del Rey

For someone so laid back she can barely finish her senten... Lana Del Rey certainly maintains a prodigious work rate. Love, released at midnight last night, is the first single from her fourth album in six years.

I drafted an article where I called it her best single since Summer Sadness, but then I took a minute to listen to Ultraviolence, Ride, High By The Beach and West Coast (to name just a few) and realised she's never had a truly duff record.

Love, however, lifts the hazy fog that settled over Lana's more recent records. The crisp, minimal production works in support of a gorgeous melody, as Lana sings about the generation coming up behind her:

Look at you kids with your vintage music
Comin' through satellites while cruisin'
You're part of the past, but now you're the future
Signals crossing can get confusing

To begin with...all you need is 'Love'

A post shared by Lana Del Rey (@lanadelrey) on

Love was written with Rick Nowels - one of female pop's greatest catalysers, responsible for everything from Belinda Carlisle's Heaven On Earth to Lykke Li's Sadness Is A Blessing - who was credited on all but one of the tracks of Lana's last album, Honeymoon.

The same will be true for album number four, rumoured to be called Best American Record, while a press release says there are other special guests "TBC". (If The Weeknd isn't one of them, I'll eat my hat).

"I made my first four albums for me," says Lana, "but this one is for my fans and about where I hope we are all headed".

Listen below.

UPDATE: Here's the video.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Maggie Rogers, Ed Sheeran and the best of #NewMusicFriday

All you really need to know about this week's New Music Friday is that Maggie Rogers' debut EP, Now That The Light Is Fading, is finally out.

Impossible to describe but irresistible to listen to, it marks the arrival of a major new talent.

Thanks, Pharrell.

Here's the best of the rest:

Ed Sheeran - How Would You Feel (Paean)
"Not a single, but one of my favvvvzzz," Ed tweeted the other day. A swoonsome love song cut from the same stone as Thinking Out Loud, it's so middle of the road it should have white stripes painted on it. But just think - if this isn't a proper single, he must have an even bigger ballad up his sleeve. Cunning bastard.

DJ Khaled ft Beyoncé and Jay Z - Shining
I've never been a fan of DJ Khlaed's beats, but Beyoncé is a pop alchemist and her impeccable phrasing and delivery spins gold from this otherwise average song.

Linkin Park - Heavy (ft Kiiara)
In what can only be a major administrative error at Warner Bros, Linkin Park have just released the new Chainsmokers single.

Kygo ft Selena Gomez - It Ain't Me
I wrote about this yesterday, and it is still worth a listen.

Disciples - On My Mind
Erstwhile Calvin Harris collaborators return with this hooky, vocoder-heavy club track. Slight but effective.

Little Cub - Too Much Love
Ironically, too much love is one thing this song isn't getting - buried, as it is, at the bottom of Spotify and Apple Music's new music playlists. But it's a corking little pop song, set to a whirlpool of synths. Features the incredible lyric: "I'm just a shagger, not a lover of consequence".

Rhys - Last Dance
This will be like catnip to Radio 1.

Take That - Giants
Inspiring. Uplifting. Boring.

There's also new music from Maroon 5 and Future but you needn't put yourself through that.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Selena Gomez has done a song with Kygo and it's pretty good

Selena Gomez has given us brief respite from the slow, agonising wait for the follow-up to Revival with It Ain't Me, a new collaboration with topical house maestro Kygo.

The single - AVAILABLE NOW - can only be described as a gentlebanger; loping of beat and anthemic of chorus. There's a particularly pleasing chord change at the 55" mark. It is a solid 7/10.

Some of the internet's more excitable "news" sources say the song is definitely about Justin Bieber, because everything a successful woman does has to be framed through their relationships, right?

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Video: Anne-Marie - Ciao Adios

Don't be put off by the awful title, Anne-Marie's new single is a ginormous pop stomper. While it's not going to achieve the ubiquity of Rockabye, it's still pretty unshakeable in the earworm stakes.

Released last Friday, it now has a perfunctory lyric video. The real thing's coming soon.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

The Staves: Tired as Fudge

Step aside, Katy Perry, you're not the only one with a new single today. The Staves are here, and they are... er, a little sleepy.

Tired As Fuck is a song they've been playing live for a while now, that's going to feature heavily on their upcoming North American tour. In an email to fans, the Stavely-Taylor sisters explained it thusly: "Tired As Fuck was a song written in the midst of a relationship breaking down. Lamenting (among other things) the lack of some sort of guidance in that kind of situation, but also accepting and resigning yourself to the fact that you have to soldier on. Keep going. There is no helping hand."

Sparse, sorrowful and tinged with the blues, the song eventually bursts into a killer guitar solo; while the video focuses (sometimes uncomfortably) on a close-up of Camilla, leaving in all the awkward pauses and asides that people normally edit out of videos. It's quite captivating in full screen.

Tired As Fuck is backed by another new song, Train Tracks and you can hear both tracks on a streaming service near you now.

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Video: Grimes & Janelle Monae - Venus Fly

"Why are you looking at me?" sings Grimes, dressed as a dayglo cyberpunk Egyptian angel-peacock, while playing a flaming violin. The answer is in the question.

Seriously, though, What a video. What. A. Video.

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Listen to Katy Perry's new single, Chained To The Rhythm

Here it is, starring a hungry hamster, the lyric video for Katy Perry's big comeback: Chained To The Rhythm. Built on a bed of bubbling bass and a muted, 80s piano, it's the very definition of a subtlebanger: More of a groove than a song. The chorus, in particular, sits on the tonic note - giving it a mantra-like quality. But it's stuck in my head after one listen, so that's something. An irresistible earmworm.

The track was produced by Max Martin and written by Sia - which is something of a surprise, since the bewigged Aussie superstar previously said she had clashed with Perry in the studio.

"She's also quite dominant, and she's extremely analytical," Sia told Rolling Stone last year. "I actually quit within the first hour of our first session. I was like, 'Can we be friends if this doesn't work? Like our whole songwriting dynamic?'

"And she was like, 'I love it. It's like a puzzle to me. It's like a crossword.' And I was like, 'But this is boring for me. The analysis is totally boring for me. It feels like the enemy of creativity.'

"It was so cool to be able to have that conversation on why we wrote in such entirely different ways. I'm glad I didn't give up on it because I actually did get a song out of it, and we also really had a laugh because we were able to be authentic."

Maybe this is that song?

Premiered on glitterball jukebox listening posts that Perry distributed around the globe earlier this week, it's now available to stream and download - and she'll give the premiere performance at this Sunday's Grammys.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Video: Goldfrapp - Anymore

Shot amongst the volcanic landscapes of Fuerteventura, the visually-stunning video for Goldfrapp's new single Anymore has arrived.

If you're interested, there's a big interview with Alison over on Dazed. It takes itself very seriously but there's a nice bit about a camel.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Muna lambast Trump on late night

Pop trio Muna were on Jimmy Kimmel last night to promote their (superb) new album About U - but they did something different instead.

Standing in front of the poem that's on the Statue of Liberty ("give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses"), singer Katie Gavin added a new verse to their single, I Know A Place.

It's a pretty powerful verse:

Even if our skin or our Gods look different
I believe all human life is significant
I throw my arms open wide in resistance
He's not my leader even if he's my president.

This, I presume, is the sort of thing people were expecting from Lady Gaga's Super Bowl show.

Muna also performed Crying On The Bathroom Floor from the new album which, as previously mentioned, is superb.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Dua Lipa: Be The One - acoustic

Dua Lipa is finally on the cusp of her first top 10 hit this week. All that Be The One has to do is climb one place to reach the top quarter of the top 40. This acoustic performance, which has just been published by The Line Of Best Fit, proves why she deserves to make it. Come on, the British public: Stop streaming that dire Chainsmokers track and cue this up instead.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

The best and worst of New Music Friday: Stormzy, Imagine Dragons, Hailee Steinfeld

Here we go again... New Music Friday has rolled around, with its usual cornucopia of delights and disappointments. Here's a selection:

1) Stormzy - Big For Your Boots
The first single from Stormzy's long-awaited debut album Gang Signs & Prayer, this contains this amazing couplet: "I was in the O2 singing my lungs out / Rudeboy, you're never too big for Adele."

2) Zara Larsson ft Ty Dolla Sign - So Good
Zara's urban-pop anthem was technically out last week, but now she's done a video to go with it. So here you are.

3) Imagine Dragons - Believer
Weirdly, this comes from the advert for Nintendo's new Switch console - but it's still a pretty heartfelt song, with Dan Reynolds explaining it depicts his "realisation that the emotional pain I faced the last few years actually helped me progress to this healthier mental space". Whatever, the new Zelda game looks amazing.

4) Liv Dawson - Searching
A solid, soulful, house track produced by Disclosure. Liv is just 18 and hails from Shepperton, fact fans.

5) Muna - I Know A Place
A powerful and timely video about acceptance and tolerance.
NB: Muna's excellent debut album is out today, and you should buy it.

6) Brooke Candy ft Sia - Living Out Loud
Sia's formula is starting to wear thin - you could set a watch by the arrival of her choruses. But her writing is still more electrifying than 99% of her peers. Basically, if you like Sia you will like this and if you don't like Sia you will don't like it.

7) Salen - Heartbreak Diet
"I used to dream of dying so you would cry at my funeral," sings Ellie Kamio on this infectious pop-hop jam. The London trio are rapidly becoming ones to watch.

8) Digital Farm Animals ft Hailee Steinfeld - Digital Love
A totally abhorrent Chainsmokers rip-off with some of the worst lyrics ever committed to tape. "I swipe right, cause I see just what I like / It's called Digital Love."

Shame on you, Digital Farm Animals. Shame on you all.

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thursday morning video bonanza

Forget New Music Friday, I'm more excited about Get Your Songs Out Before The Oncoming Deluge Thursday.

Here are three (excellent) songs by (outstanding) artists who can't / won't compete with the tedious EDM tracks that dominate Spotify's weekly new music list.

1) London Grammar - Big Picture
A more obvious radio hit than the sublime Rooting For You, this track caresses Hannah Reid's vocals with a big U2-shaped guitar line.

2) Maggie Rogers - On & Off
Rocking the Elvis jumpsuit, Maggie Rogers exudes charisma in this quirky, but stylish video.

3) Regina Spektor - Black and White
One of the more understated tracks on Regina's peerless Remember Us To Life, Black and White is an achingly beautiful song about loss and heartbreak. The video is shot in Chicago's long-abandoned Uptown Theater (last used in 1981), which only adds to the haunting atmosphere.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Watch the lyric video for Ariana Grande's new single Everyday*

As is becoming the norm, the lyric video for Everyday actually features a performance by Ariana Grande, so it's more interesting than you might expect.

A few other things to note:

1) Ariana has grown out her "bangs"

2) She refuses to take off her duffle coat, like that kid at school who only ate crisps and smelled of disappointment

3) The real video will be more expensive and markedly worse

* The song is called Everyday. You only need to watch the video once. Any subsequent viewings are entirely at your own discretion. You are autonomous. You have free will. You are free.

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The new Charli XCX video will twist your brain grapes

Charli XCX features on the new single by Japanese production legend Yasutaka Nakata and, true to form, it's bloody weird.

To get you up to speed: Nakata is to J-pop what Grimes is to the western equivalent. He's scored eight number one albums in his home country, mostly with girl band Perfume, by splicing madcap synth tunes (think Sonic the Hedgehog soundtrack) with dizzying, chopped-up vocals. It's an acquired taste, to be sure, but much more palatable than the juvenile nonsense that permeates most J-pop.

His latest tune, Crazy Crazy, is even more accessible, thanks to Charli's peerless pop instincts input (the chorus, in particular, is a bubblegum masterpiece). Co-vocals come from Japanese model-turned-singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who is one of Nakata's most prominent protégées.

The video is as bizarre as the tune is hyperactive, with the three musicians' faces pasted (badly) onto the bodies of nubile models, who perform the song in a practice studio.

"I hope everyone enjoys the weird world we created in this video!" Nakata told The Fader. "It presented a few challenges — it was very hard to perform only using my face, so I tried to vary my expressions as much as I could."

Watch it below. But fair warning: You may need to listen to Adele for an hour afterwards to unscramble your brain.

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