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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, November 9, 2018

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

Meadowlark

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: MEADOWLARKAPPETITE: Meadowlark have returned with a surprise new single, entitled Appetite. Streaming everywhere now, this stand-alone offering is the first original material we’ve heard from them since the release of their debut album Postcards 18 months ago. Anchored by their stylistically straight talking and emotionally charged lyrics, Appetite is a typically mellow, beautifully layered offering that bridges a sonic gap between Meadowlark’s debut LP and new material they’ve been busy working on for a forthcoming second LP. Speaking about the track the band sid: “Appetite is one of the most recent songs we wrote for the next album. It’s all about having sympathy for your enemy. In our case, we used a relationship as an example of this idea. Trying to understand why a person would cheat on you, what was their motive and was there something deeper going on. It’s not about forgiving them, sometimes things can’t be forgiven, but merely understanding them and their reasons.” It’s thought-provoking in that respect and questions your own capacity for forgiveness. And yet, there’s a serenity and charm to the offering thanks to the dreamy vocals, the cinematic pianos and the subtle back-beats. It builds nicely to a deliciously layered final chorus, where the song really comes alive to sweep you away on its tidal wave of thought-provoking emotion.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Imagine Dragons, Bad Liar

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: IMAGINE DRAGONSBAD LIAR: Imagine Dragons look to mix things up again with Bad Liar, the fourth offering to emerge from their keenly anticipated new album, Origins. Where the likes of Monster and Natural had a fiery, bombastic intensity to them, and Zero tapped into an ’80s element as well as the type of fun you’d associate with a song being used on Disney’s Ralph Breaks The Internet, this one comes over all stripped back, heartbroken and moody. And it’s little wonder, given that it was inspired by frontman Dan Reynolds’ near divorce from wife Aja Volkman. It’s a tale of being on the verge of break-up and the emotional upheavel that brings. Hence, the accompanying synths are far more melancholy, the beats more compact and atmospheric, while the slow-building approach works well in really allowing the anguish to break through during the emotive chorus. It’s a nice contrast to the tracks released so far, which also goes some way to suggesting that Origins could be a collection of songs boasting genuine diversity.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Houssein, Walking Away

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: HOUSSEINWALKING AWAY: Endearing newcomer Houssein has released a new song in the form of the intimate Walking Away, which follows on from the likes of Summer Night and Tokyo. Described as a stripped back, carefree production, the song showcases a greater depth to the songwriter that genuinely charms. Opening with lyrics such as “Gonna put all my cards on the table, But you keep on getting so upset, Everything we had before is wasted, Now I’m dealing with all of these issues in my head”, this is an honest look at a failing [or failed] relationship, in which Houssein attempts to right the wrongs that contributed to the state of disrepair. It speaks of confusion, loneliness and hope, yet in no way feels too depressed. Rather, the slick acoustic plucks, the finger click beats and the keen sense of melody make this a toe-tapper of a track that effortlessly gets into your head from the moment you hear it. If anything, it could well become one of Houssein’s biggest anthems (try not singing “cos I’m lonely, lonely, lonely without you”!). Commenting on the track himself, Houssein said: “I worked on Walking Away with Dan Dare, Ryan Keen and Aiden Grimshaw, who are really talented artists. We recorded it at their place in London, over a few sessions, and then Ed Carlile, who produced my two previous singles, finished off the mix. I’m really pleased with how the song turned out, and it’s quite different to my other singles, so I’m excited to see what my fans think of this more acoustic style.” We think they’ll love it!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Editors

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: EDITORSCOLD (UNKLE REMIX): James Lavelle’s UNKLE outfit have taken the latest single from Editors, Cold, and given it a juicy makeover. Built around some of UNKLE’s trademark beat-making skills, as well as a chiming electronic pulse, this enlivens a moody, atmospheric track and takes it to a different level. It remains nicely slow-building, with the instrumentation gradually building, but it also feels a little more vibrant, thereby building on the elements that already made it a standout offering from the band. It takes a while for the vocals to drop, as if to deliberately give space for UNKLE’s remixed elements to breathe. But when they do, they’re as striking as ever, with lyrics such as “it’s a lonely life” and “be a ghost tonight”. And while UNKLE reign back their remix elements to allow those stark vocals to remain as powerful and resonant as ever, the instrumental interludes are extended nicely, to strike a perfect balance between the two styles. This is something special.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Johnny Marr, Spiral Cities

JOHNNY MARRSPIRAL CITIES: Johnny Marr has surprised his fans by dropping a new single, Spiral Cities, in typically enigmatic fashion. In keeping with the themes that permeate throughout his recent Top 10 album Call The Comet, Spiral Cities finds Marr addressing ideas of how alternative societies and urban centres could look in the future. It was particularly inspired by the ‘Crystal Chain Letters’, which Marr describes as “a book by different architects in the early 20th Century, writing and conceptualizing the utopian city of the future”. And like the tracks on the LP, this also taps into a Bowie-esque quality, especially vocally. Marr adopts a somewhat glam-meets-trippy sound, here, which is further enhanced by the guitars, which also hark back to a classic Smiths/Cure/Ziggy Stardust style of riff-making. It’s slightly more reigned in than a lot of Marr’s stuff, lacking the fire of some of his tracks. But that actually works to this song’s advantage, helping to underline the lyrical themes that Marr is driving at.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Crystal Fighters, Goin' Harder

CRYSTAL FIGHTERS feat BOMBA ESTEREOGOINHARDER: To coincide with the announcement of a major European tour next year (including a night at London’s Brixton Academy), Crystal Fighters have sharing the new track, Goin’ Harder, which features Bomba Estéreo. Together they’ve stirred up an exuberant concoction of influences: Latin America grooves, pure Basque energy, psychedelic pop and punchy electronic beats. The result has a crazy, celebratory feel that’s tailor-made to get the dancefloor buzzing. There’s a somewhat off-kilter, manic energy to the song at times, as the various influences collide in often spectacular fashion, but the song is also kept balanced by the keen sense of melody, the infectious ryhthm and the central chorus that’s made to be sung out loud. Graham Dickson, of Crystal Fighters, commented: “Goin’ Harder is a song about feeling the burn to tear it up so badly that you are willing to sacrifice anything in the moment. Life is too short not to go as hard as possible, so this one is an anthem for those who shred life to the fullest! Turn it up and let’s rip!”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDSALONE ON THE ROPE: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have released the lyric video for their latest single, of sorts, directed by Grain Freeze. The song is the B-side to the band’s latest single, If Love Is The Law, which is taken from their No.1 album, Who Built The Moon?. The video is a trippy collection of retro images that slowly spin around in somewhat psychedelic fashion, complete with the lyrics to the single in subtitles underneath them. It’s eye-catching, if unspectacular. The track, meanwhile, is a more low-key offering than some of the tracks on the new LP, dripping in hazy, laidback, borderline psychedelic values. Gallagher’s vocals have a melancholy undertow to them, and sound reflective (in keeping with the lyrics), while the guitars have an understated, bluesy quality. But it’s an engaging listen and further evidence of how, just like Gallagher’s Oasis days, the B-sides to the band’s singles are just as polished and full of quality as the A-sides. They deliver value for money.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Julius Meyvant

JUNIUS MEYVANTLET IT PASS: Júníus Meyvant has released a new single, entitled Let It Pass, the latest to be taken from his forthcoming second album, Across The Borders, which is set for release on January 25, 2019 via Record Records / Glassnote. Typical of the rich orchestration and soulful, charming melodies in Meyvant’s previous work, Let It Pass is the central feel-good moment on the album, courtesy of its Northern Soul inspired string arrangements and electronics, as well as his own soulful vocal delivery. There are some cute bass guitar licks, too, as well as a genuinely toe-tapping beat, which help to create a warm, feel-good vibe that’s steeped in retro values. Speaking about the unusual origin of the track, Meyvant said: “Let It Pass came to me in a dream. My wife woke me up because I was beatboxing in my sleep. In this dream my good friend Andri, who helped me a lot in the making of this album, was running around a chair screaming ‘RECORD THIS! IT’S A HIT!’ In the background I could hear the melody of this song and the chorus was going: ‘Let it pass, let it pass.’ The next thing I know, my wife is standing over me asking what I’m doing with my mouth. I jumped to my feet and recorded the song there and then on my phone.” The new single lands as Júníus Meyvant makes his return to the stage with a homecoming show at Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavik this weekend..
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Micra

MICRACHILD GROWS OLD: Child Grows Old, the new single from Micra, turns cheek to the sounds of Zero 7, Beach House and Deerhunter for inspiration, drawing once more on rich atmospherics and swooning guitar lines. Speaking about the new single, producer/guitarist Robbie Cain said: “The song explores a time in life which felt like nothing had changed for too long. Waiting around for something to happen without knowing where to begin. It’s an internal conversation about forcing yourself to jump into the next phase of life and facing the obstacles that come out of that.” The resulting track is steeped in atmosphere for long periods, but gains momentum around the midway mark thanks to a more edgy guitar riff, which offsets the trippier vocals and electronics. The song does strip things back once or twice, but it also quickens the pace too. It’s a grower of a record. Comprised of the Bulgarian born-and-raised singer, Ivana Kay, and Aussie native, Cain, Micra started out at the turn of spring this year, earning attention from Triple J for their early demos and compelling live shows. The pair met at an Unknown Mortal Orchestra gig late in 2017 in which they serendipitously got sat next together after both arriving alone to the concert – following a back and forth over email, Micra was formed in January of this year.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Ben Holland, Midnight Blue

BEN HOLLANDMIDNIGHT BLUE: Ben Holland, like Rag ‘N’ Bone Man and Lucy Spraggen before him, was an artist ‘discovered’ by Joan Armatrading, who first came to see the sound Londoner busking at Waterloo – one of many Underground stations he was playing at the time. Immediately impressed, Armatrading asked him to be a part of her Local Talent project comprising live dates and a double album. Holland went on to join Armatrading on her tour and has since gone on to support her at major venues across Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the UK and Ireland. He’s also now clocking up plenty of gigs on his own. Evidence of what Armatrading saw is to be found in new single Midnight Blue. Boasting a deceptively simple melody, an impassioned vocal and intricate acoustic guitar work, this is a track that speaks about its roots – you can almost hear the steam train coming down the tracks – and its performer. It’s intimate, dusky and passionately delivered in true troubadour style, combining elements of rock, folk and pop. It’s a bright marker for Holland that suggests the arrival of an interesting new talent.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Shoji

SHOJIBLISS: Shoji are an electronic duo that combine ethereal textures with calming beats. Composed of Josh Oliver and Alex Arcoleo, the pair met at school, although it wasn’t until a few years later that they started writing music together. Shoji was later formed in the summer of 2017, when they released their debut single, To The Start, which received a number of glowing reviews. Their latest release, Bliss, is their most mature to date, blending their contrasting backgrounds in folk, pop and underground electronic music. This instrumental blend is then complimented by the lyrical imagery that explores self-destruction, attachment, addiction and surrender. And while that may sound borderline pretentious, there’s an easy access to it that removes any doubts about being too experimental or out there. The synths have a cinematic quality, the hushed vocals are nicely atmospheric and the slow-build works really well in creating a swirling electronic backdrop that intoxicates. Shoji explain: “The lyrics, devil’s acre, is a metaphor for being stuck in a claustrophobic headspace. The line came from a poetry book that Josh read and it immediately struck a chord. The contrast of the last line, ‘I know I’ll stay as long as I feel Bliss’ plays with the idea of addiction and using voices to self-remedy. The track title, Bliss, we wanted to use as a contrast for the meaning of the lyrics, to symbolise being in a dream state.” It’s intelligent, captivating stuff.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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CLAY

CLAYORANGE: Having grown up in San Francisco, a city with such deep roots in many social and political movements, Clay seeks to use her voice to make music that reflects what is going on in the world…. music that moves people and sparks conversation. Clay therefore hopes that in delving into herself, her own experience and truth, she can open up space for others who feel the same. Her new single, Orange, attempts to do just that. She explains: “I wanted to write a song about Donald Trump, and this is what came into fruition. It has since taken on so many additional meanings. The colour orange is often associated with joy, light and happiness, and to me, given the current social climate, through all the hate, discrimination and injustice, these sentiments are hard to feel. This song is meant to be sung with two middle fingers up and a big smile on your face, as sometimes all you can do is either laugh or cry. While writing it, I did both.” And yet, in spite of the bittersweet sentiments underpinning the poignant, thoughtful lyrics, there’s an upbeat, jazzy quality to the accompanying instrumentation. The beats are crisp, the electronics have a late summer nights laidback jazz vibe and Clay’s vocals are a classy, classic sounding accompaniment. It’s a classy offering – easy listening and thought provoking. A fun song that still has plenty to say. Written over the course of a politically embattled year, Orange finds Clay reasserting herself, and focusing her energy inwards. This led to the idea for the eye-catching accompanying video, directed by multi-disciplinary artist, Kanya Iwana, who also directed the visual for Clay’s previous release, Forgotten How to Fly. In the video, shot by a creative team comprised almost entirely of women, Clay sought to – in her words – “create a vivid and colorful visual that embodied my own personal and emotional journey within the orange regime”.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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