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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 17, 2017

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

Linkin Park, Heavy

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: LINKIN PARK feat KIIARAHEAVY: You could be forgiven for mistaking Linkin Park’s new single, Heavy, for being the work of another band entirely. The heavy sound usually associated with them has been replaced by a synth-pop sound and melodicism more akin to a boy band. While the inclusion of boy-girl vocals (with the female ones coming from Kiiara), merely adds to that more mainstream vibe. But after the shock has diminished and the search for a meaty guitar riff has concluded, there’s actually a lot to like about the track. It’s catchy, for starters, while the vocal mix works. There are guitars but they’re not pronounced and kind of fill out the background during the latter stages of the song. And there’s some token bad language (“It’s not like I make the choice, to let my mind stay so fucking messy”). But this is a departure for them… make no mistake. And while certainly likeable and infectious, it does make you wonder whether the remainder of the forthcoming album, One More Light (out in May) will take the same route. A surprise… but a generally pleasant one that Linkin Park get away with.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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All Time Low, Dirty Laundry

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: ALL TIME LOWDIRTY LAUNDRY: Hard to believe but All Time Low have been plying their trade for almost 15 years. They’ve now been signed to Fueled By Ramen, whose roster includes Twenty One Pilots and Panic! at the Disco, and to celebrate they’ve dropped one of their catchiest records in a while. Opening with some moody atmospherics, the song nevertheless builds into a pop rock offering, with dance elements, that genuinely endears. Indeed, once the song hits the two and a half minute mark and the beats really start to kick in, the song really takes off. It’s then that the chorus (“dirty laundry looks good on you”) is delivered in rousing fashion, turning what started out as a low-key slow-builder into an empowering anthem in waiting. It’s a really enjoyable listen and evidence, perhaps, that All Time Low has found a new lease of life having signed to a new label.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran, How Would You Feel

ED SHEERANHOW WOULD YOU FEEL (PAEAN): In celebration of his birthday, Ed Sheeran has shared another new track, How Would You Feel (Paean), from his highly anticipated new album ÷ (divide), which will be released on March 3. Written and produced by Ed himself, the track is a carefully orchestrated ballad, showcasing Ed’s profound songwriting as well as his guitar playing. It’s a complete change of pace from his current chart-topping double whammy of Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill, and the kind of song that’s likely to make his legions of female followers swoon. Heck, it’s the kind of song that may well find its way onto the soundtrack of a romantic comedy, or drama, akin to Bridget Jones’s Baby (which Sheeran did actually cameo in). There’s talk of stealing kisses, admissions of love, romantic piano chords, acoustic guitar and Sheeran’s own heartfelt vocals. We have to admit, the track lacks the immediacy or broader appeal of his first two records from ÷ (divide) – but it does illustrate just how diverse Sheeran can be. It’s sure to be another massive hit for him. Continuing his history-making venture, Ed landed his fifth consecutive week at No.1 & No.2 in the UK’s single chart with Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill last week, setting a new chart record for the longest time an artist has held the top two positions, overtaking Justin Bieber. In little over a month, the singles have received over 1 BILLION combined streams and Shape Of You continues to break its own weekly streaming record on Spotify having recently peaked at 53 million weekly streams!
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Off Bloom, Falcon Eye

OFF BLOOMFALCON EYE: Falcon Eye is the follow up to Anglo-Danish trio Off Bloom’s breakthrough debut EP Love To Hate It. Mixed by Sia and Rihanna collaborator Manny Marroquin, it’s an edgy alt-pop offering that combines a catchy chorus with some jagged synth loops and scattershot drum beats. The chorus, which declares “shake it like you want it all”, has a chant-worthy vibe and does get into your head, just as tracks by Sia and Rihanna tend to. The track itself is about the fight between the ecstasy and destruction that exists in all great things: love, partying, passion, sex, believing, nature. And that comes from the band themselves. Based between Copenhagen and their current home, London, all three band members – Mads, Alex and Mette – write and produce anthemic, inventive electro-pop with catchy melodies on top. Off Bloom are part of a group of artists and producers including Two Inch Punch, AlunaGeorge, Tove Lo, Liss, MØ, Goss, School Of X, Vera and Vasco who are pushing boundaries and injecting pop music with a snarling DIY punk spirit.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Meadowlark

MEADOWLARKSATELLITE (ALT VERSION): Meadowlark have shared a new track from their forthcoming Nocturnes EP, which is due for release on March 10th via Believe Recordings (James Vincent McMorrow, Gavin James. Speaking about the track, Kate McGill says: “We’re very excited to share this acoustic rendition of Satellite with you. We love our electronic version so much, but there was something about stripping it back that made us fall in love with it all over again.” And it’s true that this stripped back version is beatifully enchanting in a different way. Early on, it’s just piano and serene vocals, before the orchestral element takes the track into richly cinematic territory. Indeed, the string element really enables the track to sweep you off your feet. It’s an excellent taster of what to expect from the forthcoming EP, a collection of string-laden late night reworks of previously-released Meadowlark singles, plus the previously released cover of the Sugababes hit About You Now. These reworkings were recorded with a live string quartet to accompany Meadowlark’s own Kate McGill on grand piano & vocals and Dan Broadley on acoustic guitar.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kygo, It Aint Me

KYGO feat SELENA GOMEZ – IT AINT ME: “I had a dream we were sipping whisky neat…. so where along the line did we stop seeing eye to eye?” So begins Kygo’s new single, It Aint Me featuring Selena Gomez. It’s a dark sentiment, born out of tragedy, but one that’s delivered in an impossibly upbeat, and entirely catchy fashion. The synth stabs are pure dance pop, and even super-club friendly, and come complete with slick finger click beats and sharp vocal harmonies. While those sing-along lyrics (“I had a dream, we were still 17” or “who’s going to walk you through the dark side of the morning?”), maintain the relentlessly catchy nature of the record. It’s tribute to Kygo and company that they have crafted such a likeable record over such a downbeat tale. But you may well be singing and dancing along in spite of the sentiments under-pinning it, which makes for a fascinating contrast. It Aint Me is a genuinely appealing mainstream offering, featuring a powerhouse vocal combination.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Maroon 5, Cold

MAROON 5 feat FUTURECOLD: Another of this week’s break-up records comes from Maroon 5 – and again it opts for a more upbeat instrumental vibe. Adam Levine once again employs a tormented falsetto for lines like “if you don’t want this, then what’s the use?” and “baby tell me how did you get so cold?” While there’s a background collaborative rap from guest vocalist Future. The beats, meanwhile, adopt the same kind of urgency as those in Ed Sheeran’s Shape of Your Body, albeit with a darker vibe, while the electronics are minimalist yet atmospheric. If we’re being ultra cold ourselves, the track tends to derail itself whenever Future takes centre-stage, while a mid-song breakdown also does it few favours. But when left to Maroon 5 to do their own thing, there’s an undeniably mainstream and catchy quality that should ensure another massive hit for them. The chorus, in particular, has that toe-tapping, sing-along vibe that they’ve become so good at lately.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Haus, Gave You All

HAUSGAVE YOU ALL: Haus are fast becoming one of the most talked about bands in London. The Tottenham-based five-piece have self-released two singles (Blinded and Two Minds) and played headline shows at Club NME, KOKO to great acclaim. Their latest offering, Gave You All is, in the band’s own words, about meeting somebody that makes you bounce between exhilaration, euphoria, confusion and anxiety. The ensuing track attempts to capture a sense of all of those emotions, emerging as both a smooth soul-pop offering with some edgy elements. It’s an intriguing listen… the electronics and beats working well in tandem with each other, while the vocals reach some falsetto highs (especially over the chorus). It maintains a generally upbeat vibe despite moments when the lyrics hit some darker passages (“standing there while you watch me drown”, etc). Haus are a band with plenty of potential.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Lucy Mason

LUCY MASONFEELS LIKE MIDNIGHT: In March 2017, dream-pop soloist Lucy Mason will release Going Home Broke, her heartfelt magnum opus that not only reveals a new side to her songwriting but her subject matter too. The five Baroque pop tracks each tell a different story and whilst ethereal synth are allowed to wash over delicate keys, it’s Masons enchanting vocals that invite you into her world of honesty and heartache. The first taster from that record is Feels Like Midnight, a captivating reflection of her darkest moments. Mason explains: “I’ve spent the last six years in and out of health with a series of setbacks and there were days I thought I’d feel like this forever. The worst of these feelings were usually at midnight when I was tired and unable to sleep from being so unwell. No one likes to feel hopeless and no one likes to have to search for a way out. Feels like midnight is this story”. The song is beautifully realised, combining some tender piano chords with Mason’s enchanting, yet melancholy vocals. It’s cinematic at times. And while there’s certainly plenty of struggle contained within the lyrics, there’s also a sense of hope arising. It’s quietly empowering. Mason is a captivating songwriter and singer.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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OUTYLA, The Light

OUTYLATHE LIGHT: OUTYLA’s debut single The Light is a promising new offering from a rock outfit with plenty of potential. Recorded with Cam Blackwood (George Ezra, London Grammar, Florence and the Machine, The Horrors), the track finds heavy guitar parts lining up alongside chiming keys and bare, effect-starved vocals. Speaking about the track, Will from the band says: “At its core, The Light is about self-belief and finding the strength to overcome in moments of loss and fear. It’s a call to arms from a desolate desert island. When we were recording The Light, we were referencing early Stones Throw records and The Black Keys amongst others – songs that had a real undeniable air of confidence. We wanted our first song to capture some of the same swagger.” There’s definitely a swagger to the chorus, which contains some nice vocal layering, while the guitars have a brash feel from the outset. It’s a big sounding record, too, suggesting that this is an outfit that clearly has its sights set on playing stadium-sized venues in the not too distant future. It’s good, too, that they’ve embraced so many classic qualities. OUTYLA are Will Bloomfield (loead vocals, keys), Willem Olenski (guitar and backing vocals) and Henry Kilmister (drums and backing vocals).
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Heard a great single, but yet to buy it? Well, we may have reviewed it. Previous reviews: