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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, December 14, 2018

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

Skinny Lister, The Story Is...

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: SKINNY LISTERTHE STORY IS…: With the cold dark nights closing ever tighter as the year draws toward the solstice, the soul-stirring chimes that lead Skinny’s sparkling latest single, The Story Is…, could well be the winter warmer you were looking for. The title-track of the band’s upcoming fourth studio album (out March 20191, , via Xtra Mile Recordings), The Story Is… sees the band poetically sing about love and loss with words that will surely tug at the heart strings during this timely season of reflection. Speaking about the track’s themes, Skinny Lister said: “Everyone has that someone or something, that to live without, would leave them incomplete. The Story Is… is an ode to this state of complete dependence. An over-dramatic declaration of love, addiction, obsession and surrender.” And true to those words, the song has a reflective, thought-provoking quality that resonates emotionally the instant you hear it. The guitar hooks, drums and chimes (not to mention the beautiful violin) have a winter warmer vibe that is tailor-made for this time of year, but which could well be appreciated at any other time too. It’s a beautifully composed offering from a band on top form. As with the rest of the upcoming long-player, The Story Is… was recorded, produced and mixed with the highly capable Barny Barnicott (Arctic Monkeys, The Enemy, The Temper Trap). In the deep, dark hours of one particular alcohol fuelled studio late night session, Barnicott introduced the band to an old piano and a set of pitched bells and tubes. Quickly striking upon the chiming soundscapes now available at their finger tips, the band began to get experimental with their electric guitars, uniquely marrying the two to create the entrancing, ethereal melody that defines the backdrop of this irresistible new single.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Crystal Fighters, Goin' Harder

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: CRYSTAL FIGHTERS feat BOMBA ESTEREOGOINHARDER: Crystal Fighters have shared a new video for Goin’ Harder. It opens with frontman Bast Pringle being woken by his alarm clock, but a stir of his morning coffee unveils a hallucinatory vision full of surreal sights and dazzling delights. Utilising stop motion animation, video game imagery and kaleidoscopic flourishes, it takes in surreal visions, including fornicating unicorns and gargantuan snakes, and featuris Li from Bomba Estereo performing her verse. As soon as Bast achieves a state of nirvana, he re-awakens. It’s trippy and euphoric and totally mind-blowing stuff. The single finds Crystal Fighters and Estereo stirring 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. Commenting on the video, Bast said: “The song was originally inspired by the Hawaiian Indegenous practice of Ho’oponopono. This means that if there is a disagreement between two parties, a council is needed to resolve the issue through communication and dialogue. Ho’oponopono literally translates as “I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me” and this is the attitude that both parties are encouraged to adopt. We thought this was a beautiful message, and couldn’t help but subvert it to make it more fitting in our eyes for the crazy modern world. Instead of Ho’oponopono, we’re ‘goin’ harder’. This is also the inspiration behind this very cool new video. Somewhere in the annals of our subconscious there is the possibility for anything, including extreme polarities: love/hate and war/pece. It’s about what we choose to feel on a conscious level and about what we cannot help but feel as we dream on a subconscious level. How much of the subconscious affects our decisions on a conscious level? How do we cultivate a peace-loving subconscious when we’re being bombarded with disharmony?”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Newton Faulkner

SINGLE/VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: NEWTON FAULKNERWISH I COULD WAKE UP: It’s a very fond welcome back to Newton Faulkner, who has simultaneously released his new single, Wish I Could Wake Up, along with news of a Best Of LP (out March 2019) and a UK tour (including a date at London’s Palladium on April 24). The single offers a brilliant reminder that there is more to the commerciality of Christmas and that the best gift is often already part of our lives. And while it is officially a Christmas single, it avoids the schmaltz or trimmings of a traditional Christmas record, bar the odd chime. Rather, the folk-pop of classic Faulkner is alive and well, with robust acoustic guitars and handclap beats, as well as a keen sense of melody, enabling the song to transcend the time of year. It can be listened to all year round, with a message that’s equally important at all times of the year. Talking about the new track, Newton commented: “This song’s about wanting to wake up next to someone special at Christmas, and how that person can make any day, Christmas or not, seem so much better just by being there.” Commenting on the forthcoming hits compilation, Faulkner added: “The Best Of feels like a real milestone. I’m so proud of it as a body of work and the second disc was so much fun to make. I love the challenge of covering songs, which probably is reflected in my song choices. For people that have seen me live before, there are some old favourites and there’s also some tracks no one has ever heard me do.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: YOU ME AT SIXSTRAIGHT TO MY HEAD: Following their sold out UK tour, including three nights at London’s Brixton Academy, You Me At Six have revealed their first ever animated lyric video for new single Straight To My Head. Speaking of the inspirations behind the visual, director Peter Reeve explains: “We’ve been long time fans of both You Me at Six and Rick and Morty, so when we had the chance to bring the two together we of course jumped at it! We had a lot of fun creating this and bringing together ideas from the band and using imagery from their back catalogue to create a crazy animation.” The video is a whole lot of fun, while paying perfect homage to Rick and Morty too. The song itself is another power rock-pop anthem that’s shot through with lively riffs, skyscraping melodies and an anthemic chorus that’s tailor-made for being sung loud in concerts. What’s more, it combines a headrush quasi ’80s vibe with something that’s very typically You Me At Six. It’s a blast.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ian Brown, Black Roses

IAN BROWNBLACK ROSES: Former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown has released a second new track, Black Roses, which is taken from his highly-anticipated upcoming album, Ripples – his first solo material in nine years. The song is a cover of the 1983 track by Jamaican reggae and dancehall legend Barrington Levy. But the reggae elements are barely traceable. Rather, all the elements of a classic Brown cut are in place, thanks largely to the Monkeyman’s distinct vocals, but also because of the driving beats and guitar loops, which maintain an indie swagger (especially during the lively chorus). It’s a track that fans of the Stone Roses can easily get behind, even though it is a cover version rather than new material. Black Roses and previous single First World Problems precede the new album, Ripples, which is released on February 1, 2019. Brown produced the album, wrote the majority of the tracks, as well as playing guitar, drums and a host of other instruments. Three of the songs were co-written with his sons, who also feature on various instruments on the new record.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Fergus, Strangers In The Night

FERGUSSTRANGERS IN THE NIGHT: London-based singer-songwriter Fergus has released a hauntingly beautiful cover of Frank Sinatra classic, Strangers In The Night. The singer’s take on this iconic song is tinged with a deep longing and sadness that has become synonymous to the artist. A pristine pitch perfect vocal glides over delicate strings, as the track builds over brooding drum beats and a hypnotic backing vocal. The track was produced by, Jake Gosling (Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, The Libertines). The recording started out as part of an intricate marriage proposal Fergus was asked to be a part of. Fergus explained: “A supporter of my previous releases got in touch saying he was planning to propose and asked if I’d cover one of the songs that mean the most to him and his girlfriend. I said straight away “I’m doing Strangers. I just knew I could do something different with it. At the time, I really needed something to throw myself into, so I spent three days recording it on my sofa. I wanted to make something special for Mitch and Jess, of course, but really, I did it for a girl… I poured all my longing and devotion and sadness into it, and I liked it so much I took it to Jake to mix properly for release.” The result fully deserves that release. It’s haunting, yet beautiful, tapping into a sense of longing and affection that might get missed in Sinatra’s original. And it doesn’t even sound like a cover, such is the transformative nature of the song. Hence, it feels fresh and vital.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Papa Roach, Elevate

PAPA ROACHELEVATE: We kind of have a love and hate relationship with this single. On the one hand, we like the beats and electronics, which combine urgency with cinematic foreboding. We also rate the chorus, in which they sing “I need something to life me up, when I’m down”. It has a keen sense of melody, crossover appeal and the kind of vibe that Linkin Park pulled off so effortlessly with their last album. But it’s not content to stick to those things. There’s a rapped element that grates, as well as stop-start electronics and some warped sounds to break things up further. And they don’t work that well, disrupting the momentum of the track in general. It’s a shame, for there are moments when this sounded like it could become one of Papa Roach’s most popular tracks to date. The track is taken from the band’s new album, Who Do You Trust?
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Trapper Schoepp

TRAPPER SCHOEPPFREIGHT TRAIN: Originally written and performed in 1988 by San Francisco alt-rockers Sister Double Happiness, Freight Train powerfully chronicles the grim realities faced by those suffering with AIDS/HIV. Led by Wilco’s Patrick Sansone on piano, Schoepp and band become another link in this song’s chain. “It was passed along like a folk song while I was out on tour with the Jayhawks,” Schoepp says. “Guitarist Kraig Johnson showed me the two chords backstage and I took to it instantly. There’s an urgency in the lyrics that speaks to the pain of the epidemic. It’s a powerful perspective to sing from, someone in the throes of the illness.” That sense of urgency is given extra impetus by the guitars, which bring a classic rock n roll quality, and a genuinely thrilling instrumental backdrop. The lyrics, meanwhile, are delivered with all the pent-up fury and aggression that they suggest, amid lines like “I called mama, she said don’t come home, my friends shun me, I’m all alone, when they come at me, they put on the gloves”. It’s a rabble-rouser of a record with a potent social message about an epidemic that hasn’t gone away [unlike its headlines].
Rating: 4 out of 5

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