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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, August 23, 2019

IndieLondon gleefully checks out the cream of the week’s singles

Whyte Horses

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: WHYTE HORSES – CA PLANE POUR MOI: The notoriously elusive Whyte Horses have returne with a surprise new single in the form of a cover of seminal 1970’s track Ça Plane Pour Moi, originally performed by the Belgian music polymath Plastic Bertrand. Hinting at more to come from the band in the very near future, the psychedelic infused rendition arrives almost a year after a special one-off headline show from Whyte Horses at London’s Royal Festival Hall which featured guest appearances from the likes of La Roux, members of The Go! Team, Badly Drawn Boy, and Melanie Pain of the critically heralded French band Nouvelle Vague. The track itself drives you into a state of musical delirium, fuelled by that keen sense of nostalgia, that heightened, heady sense of psychedelia, some sharp stabs of brass, a Beach Boys-style central harmony, and a relentlessly cool overall vibe. It’s a party record, tailor-made for late summer discos, that’s sure to get heads nodding among the cool new young bucks and the older, wiser heads who recall the similarly funky original. Let the good times wash over you.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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5 Seconds of Summer, Teeth

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: 5 SECONDS OF SUMMERTEETH: 5 Seconds of Summer add some bite to their sound with emphatic new single Teeth, featuring Tom Morello. Produced by Andrew Watt and Louis Bell, the track ventures deeper into the dark sonic territory that the band explored on their summer hit, Easier, and is shot through with an urgency that forces you to take notice. Featuring lyrics such as “Sometimes you’re a stranger in my bed, don’t know if you love me or you want me dead” and “fight so dirty but your love so sweet, talk so pretty but your heart got teeth”, this drops an alt-rock vibe reminiscent of the likes of The All-American Rejects with the spiky pop attitude of Pink. Morello’s guitar contribution is typically punchy, typically gritty and absolotely raw, lending the track its drive and its focal point. Hence, while there’s a heaviness befitting the Morello brand, the chorus still manages to retain the radio friendly elements that should ensure this is another big hit for 5 Seconds of Summer. Commenting on the track, lead vocalist Luke Hemmings said: “Teeth came about after a month or two long blur of writing and pushing ourselves to go a step further than Youngblood. It was a tumultuous time in my life and the lyrics in the song definitely reflect that. It speaks lyrically about a trying time in my current relationship. Musically, it’s another step forward from Easier and really embraces industrial sounds and rhythms. Collaborating with Ryan Tedder was incredible, as was Andrew Watt, Ali Tamposi and Lou Bell. Teeth captures the soul of 5 Seconds of Summer and I truly believe it is a unique song to us as a band and doesn’t sound like anything out at the moment. It’s my favourite song we’ve released ever and I can’t wait for people to hear it.” The official video was helmed by French director Thibaut Duverneix (Elton John, Tierra Whack). In the clip, 5SOS become subjects in a consciousness-altering experiment that triggers harrowing hallucinations.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lana Del Rey

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: LANA DEL REYFUCK IT I LOVE YOU/THE GREATEST: Hot on the heels of her cover of Season of the Witch, Lana Del Rey now drops one video and two tracks for Fuck It I Love You and The Greatest, a couple of tasters from forthcoming LP Norman Fucking Rockwell (out August 30). The video is a love letter to California wrapped up in the sorrow of knowing that the world is on the brink of disaster. And the lyrics of both songs reflect that impending situation. Fuck It I LOve You is arguably the standout – a typically dreamy, almost ethereal offering that finds Del Rey at her most serene, sultry and transfixing. It’s a smooth, impossibly beautiful offering, couched in the bittersweet elements that drive the timely sentiments behind the song. It’s a dark beauty. The Greatest, meanwhile, combines sad piano arrangements with string-like elements, a Beatles-esque backdrop and lovelorn sentiments such as “I want shit to feel just like it used to”. The central sentiment of “I guess that I’m burned out after all” may sound defeatist, but it’s also somewhat realistic. We may all just be burned out after all, if recent footage of the Amazon is anything to go by. With California in mind, however, Del Rey is attempting to deliver a haunting rallying call for action, which when accompanied by the eyecatching video, might just succeed in getting people to take a little more care and a lot more notice. Let’s not fuck things up any more than they already are! Both songs rate highly in the Lana Del Rey back catalogue.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Common Holly

COMMON HOLLYJOSHUA SNAKES: Common Holly is Montreal-based Brigitte Naggar and ahead of her new album, When I say to you Black Lightning, comes new track Joshua Snakes. Billed as a great primer for the new album, the single works through the themes of restlessness, jealousy, even mild obsession, to paint a picture of the damsel in distress tied to the tracks, but this time without the need to be rescued. It starts off really kooky and stripped down, with a slightly disjointed but somehow addictive central beat and electronic. Naggar’s vocals, meanwhile, have an innocence about them that’s in keeping with that damsel in distress vibe. But as the song builds, the guitar becomes more pronounced and jagged, there’s a greater sense of urgency in the vocals and even some diversions into experimental territory (with a recorder sound also wisping its way in and out, like some distress call). But throughout, Naggar emerges – courtesy of her lyrics – as someone steadfastly in control of her own destiny. It’s an oddly transfixing track from an engaging artist. The accompanying video, by director Steven Z, is a hypercolour overload, which takes inspiration from 1995 film The Indian In The Cupboard, with a miniature Birgitte Naggar being found in a drawer helping a teenage dancer to find both focus and purpose. It does come with a warning that it could provoke seizures for those liable to such things. So, be advised before clicking on the video below!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ava Max, Torn

AVA MAXTORN: Recently named as an MTV Video Music Awards nominee for Best New Artist alongside Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Rosalía and H.E.R., global pop star Ava Max continues her summer streak of releases with her new single Torn – and demonstrates why she’s on that shortlist. A lively pop song with a bittersweet vibe, this chronicles the potential breakdown of a relationship that’s turned sour, and the hard decision that will decide whether to stay or go. As anguished as those lyrics are, however, the song maintains a breezy pop sheen that enables it to zip along in almost disco-pop fashion. The feisty vocals, meanwhile, add extra sheen and bring with it a Sia meets Pink kind of vibe. “Love and hate are two of the strongest emotions we feel in relationships,” says Ava. “Torn explores the struggle between them that everyone can relate to. I’m so excited to share my new single with the world! Keep your eyes peeled for the video coming soon…”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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First Aid Kit

FIRST AID KITSTRANGE BEAUTY: First Aid Kit return with two new singles that pay tribute to late singer David Bernan, former vocalist for Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, who died by suicide on August 7. The first, Strange Beauty, oozes the beauty inherent in the title, albeit in melancholy, heartbroken fashion. It’s a song that looks for reason in the despair that followed Bernan’s act among his fans, as well as the despair that must have driven him to such an act. At one point, Klara Söderberg declares: “When you are gone, the world moves on, but it’s lost its strange beauty.” And at that moment, your heart is liable to break… if not for Bernan, then for anyone you may have lost yourself, to whatever circumstance. It’s a quietly effective tribute that resonates with its beautifully beguiling melodies and delicate vocal delivery. Speaking about David Berman, Söderberg said: “I think a lot of people were as shocked as I was upon hearing the news of David Berman’s passing. It didn’t seem real. It left me completely devastated. So, I wrote the song Strange Beauty to try to make sense of my feelings.” It’s a song that does, indeed, make some kind of sense out of such a terrible tragedy… and which offers comfort for anyone dealing with their own loss or sorrow.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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First Aid Kit

FIRST AID KITRANDOM RULES: The second of First Aid Kit’s two new singles that pay tribute to late singer David Bernan, former vocalist for Silver Jews and Purple Mountains, who died by suicide on August 7, is a cover version of Silver Jews’ Random Rules. And while we have to confess, at this point, that we’ve not heard the original, this is a typically lovely version of it, delivered in First Aid Kit’s folksy, melancholy style. Klara Söderberg’s vocals lend extra poignancy to the themes of trying to re-connect with a lost love via some dodgy decision making. It’s stark, honest stuff, lyrically, that taps into the agony of a failed relationship (“so if you don’t want me, I promise not to linger”), while yearning for an honesty, however brutal (“darling, we’ve got two lives to give tonight”). It’s easy to see why First Aid Kit chose this as the song to cover. Klara Söderberg added: “Random Rules is a long time Berman favourite of ours and a song we always thought we would record if we ever made a cover album. It holds some of the greatest lyrics ever penned and shows the genius of David Berman. We hope the songs can be some kind of comfort.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The 1975

THE 1975 – PEOPLE: The 1975 continue to get political with new single People, a livewire, extremely volatile follow-up to The 1975, which featured an essay by climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Driven by frenzied, ultra heavy guitars and screamed, shouty vocals, this angrily takes on the esablishment for “fucking” with the kids, dropping incendiary statements such as “wake up, wake up, wake up, we are appalling and we need to stop just watching shit in bed”. Later on, there’s “the economy’s a goner, Republic’s a banana”, before the final, sobering sentiment drops like a f**k you to those who practice indifference when the world around them is going to hell – “fuck it, I’m just gonna get girls, food, gear – I don’t like going outside, so bring me everything here”. It’s designed to be provocative, to make people take notice and to generate a reaction… hopefully positive. We can’t continue screwing up the world (whether the environment or the economy) and expect everything to just be OK. The shouty, punk-inflicted style of the song’s delivery may not be to everyone’s taste (and it is unrelenting and almost a sonic assault). In that regard, it’s the sound of The 1975 at their least appealing. But it does have something to say and really ought to get noticed for being so brave. The track is the first taster from their 2020 release Notes On A Conditional Form, which on the face of it looks set to be a more reactive, confrontational listen than their previous album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Moon Panda

MOON PANDA – ON THE ATTACK: The creative vision of Californian songwriter/bass player Maddy Myers and Danish guitarist Gustav Moltke, Moon Panda are a band that create hypnotic, mellow atmospheres with dreamy soundscapes. Their debut single Rabbit received a lot of positive attention reaching No.1 on Hype Machine’s Most Popular Chart. Latest single On The Attack, which accompanies the announcement of their new EP, Pastel Pools, builds on the success of Rabbit by combining soft vocals with slick, sultry guitars. It’s a dreamy creation, wiht those smooth vocals easing you into a state of bliss. The rolling synths and darker background electronics, meanwhile, conjure a cinematic majesty that’s highly impressive too. Recalling the inspiration behind the track, Myers explained: “On The Attack is basically an account of my long distance relationship woes. Going back and forth between self-reliance and feeling like an unattached wild animal, chasing affection and adoration. Waiting for a text back, a call, some proof that I’m missed. Hopefully it outlines that chaos that can happen inside you when you just want that warmth and acceptance.” It’s a song born from sorrow that somehow still leaves you feeling in a good mood once you’ve heard it, sonically.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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SYML, Meant To Stay Hid

SYMLMEANT TO STAY HID: Following an appearance at Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco and a sold-out headline show at Los Angeles’ historic Troubadour, Seattle artist and producer SYML releases Meant To Stay Hid, the follow-up single to his self-titled debut album that was released in May. When asked about the song’s meaning, Brian Fennell said: “Meant To Stay Hid is a personal song about loss. It’s that tangible and uncomfortable whole-body feeling that someone is gone. It’s the reality that our memory of them will fade and change. But it’s also the beautiful, yet unreasonable, hope that we will be with them again. For whatever dark reason, I often imagine losing those closest to me. However, I don’t live in constant fear of losing them. Writing about it helps me to love them more deeply while we share this short time together. For me, this song sounds like what it feels like when I hold back tears. It’s almost soothing, but without any actual release.” The hopeful but bittersweet sentiment underpinning this single elevates it to something that’s both thought-provoking, sad and optimistic. It’s a delicious concoction, lovingly delivered in a quiet, restrained but utterly serene fashion. Vocally, there are hints of Coldplay’s Chris Martin at his ballad-best, while instrumentally there’s a cinematic element that creates a quietly epic, lasting impression. SYML has crafted something that really does stay with you here.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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