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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, November 15, 2019

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

Beck, Uneventful Days

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BECKEVERLASTING NOTHING: Beck delivers another telling ballad with the Pharrell-produced Everlasting Nothing. A smooth fusion of Beck’s laidback vocals, shimmering guitar pop with folk roots and – most tellingly of all – sci-fi production elements, staccato drums and the odd bongo. For a ballad, it’s a very busy offering instrumentally, yet it simultaneously retains an ambient, intimate feel that feels quintessentially Beck. The lyrics tap into a certain uncertainty that appears to be inherent in a lot of the new material to emerge so far from Hyperspace (out November 22). Lines include “friends I’ve known, come and go” as well as “like a soldier, with no song, still I try, to get back home, in the everlasting nothing”. It’s a melancholy offering, yet somehow calming and reassuring with it. The perfect bittersweet ballad for our times? Maybe that’s why Beck has decided to revisit it, dust it off and finally put it on an LP. The song has been a part of the singer’s live show since 2013, so it’s perhaps timely that it should now be included on an album, with added Pharrell production elements.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Tatum, Broken

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: TATUMBROKEN: South African dark-pop singer Tatum releases her cinematic debut single Broken through Bad Future and quickly impresses. From the intense opening line of the single (“I drove to the edge, where we used to sit and watch the city lights, like fallen stars, way below us”), the 18-year-old singer immediately throws down the gauntlet and you feel it instantly. Her voice smacks of the languid romanticism of Lana Del Rey and the moody phrasing of Lorde, and it’s steeped in dream pop lashings and an emotional depth that’s far beyond her young years. Despite her age, Tatum already knows exactly who she is, refuting any manufactured bubble-gum pop sheen in favour of telling her own authentic truth with her debut single. The result is an emotionally authentic, ultra-mature single that’s steeped in the same cinematic leanings that Del Rey brings to her music, coupled with a darkness that’s strangely intoxicating. As broken as things get, lyrically, you can’t help but want to listen (“I lie on my back, looking up at the black sky, with a thousand eyes staring into me, it was a coming of age”). It’s powerful, potent, moving stuff. “Sometimes there is poignant beauty in broken things. Broken beings have often survived a lot and have a much greater depth. I consider myself broken in many ways too and when it comes to love I prefer broken people because just like the process of purifying gold through fire, perfection for me only comes after pain and dark times, after being broken many times,” Tatum confesses when asked about the underlying narrative of her debut single.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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DJ Shadow

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: DJ SHADOWFIRESTORM: While not an official single release, this latest cut from DJ Shadow’s new album, Our Pathetic Age, is so good, we just had to include it in our weekly round-up. It’s disarmingly simple but oh-so effective, cutting to the core of what makes DJ Shadow so brilliant when he’s on this kind of form. An odd companion piece to his seminal Organ Grinder, this again features piano heavily and opens in stripped back, melancholy fashion with a simple but addictive loop. This then morphs into something more beautifully dazzling, as the track fades, only to reboot in faster fashion, with shuffling beats, swirling strings and added production elements. It’s a heady brew, beautifully inspiring, with all of the essential DJ Shadow elements present and correct (right down to some effectively crashing cymbals come the track’s near-end). But once it fades out a third time, we’re left with the sombre piano (and the same simple tune) to bring the track to its effective, even poignant finale. It’s absolutely stunning.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Jake Bugg, Kiss Like The Sun

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 4: JAKE BUGGKISS LIKE THE SUN: Jake Bugg makes a blistering comeback with new single Kiss Like The Sun, a folk-rocker that also has more than a hint of the blues about it. The 1970s influenced track was produced by Andrew Watt, well known for working with Post Malone, and includes some more trippy elements, when the guitars are dropped and the vibe becomes more acid. It’s at its best, though, when combining the gutsy guitars (some of which are slide), with the rip-roaring beats (of the robust, handclap variety). Bugg also unveils his trademark gritty vocals, while building to a chorus that is tailor-made for sending live crowds into rapturous delight. Kiss Like The Sun is the first taste of the Nottingham singer-songwriter’s new album, the follow-up to 2017’s Hearts That Strain, and his RCA Records debut. The singer commented: “I love working with Andrew Watt and I’m really pleased with the sound of this track. I wanted to write something that was fun and a bit light-hearted.” The light-heartedness shines through, along with that rip-roaring guitar. It’s effortlessly addictive.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Metronomy, Insecurity

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: METRONOMYINSECURITY: One of the most brilliantly unconventional bands of recent years, Metronomy have underlined that reputation throughout 2019. Their current album, Metronomy Forever, emerged to widespread critical acclaim, its ambitious scale, sonic diversity and eclectic moods making it a landmark moment in their ever-unpredictable journey. A new wave of Metronomy fans has also emerged, notably IDLES and Georgia who have both recently contributed remixes. Joe Mount’s group now extend the Metronomy Forever campaign by sharing the video for their new single Insecurity. Adding detuned synths and funk-fuelled bass to a track with a grungey alt-rock feel, the song captures Metronomy’s inimitable ability to create something enticingly unorthodox from otherwise familiar traits. That approach informs the track’s video, too. On first glance, it appears that Metronomy are performing in the kind of high school dance scene that became a hallmark of favourite family films from the ‘80s. But events take a surreal turn as a group of lab coated-technicians and forensic scientists analyse every element of the band’s performance and the crowd’s reaction. They even seize the disco ball for further investigation. The idea behind the video started when Mount discovered the playfully peculiar Philadelphia pop-rock band Joy Again. A firm fan of the band, Mount was equally inspired by their videos, especially for their recent summer single Couldn’t. He connected with that video’s director Richard Phillip Smith, who together with Jake Lazovick (his partner in the creative duo Powered By Wind), filmed the Insecurity video in Philadelphia. The video is brilliantly eye-catching and totally surreal in a really cool way, while the remixed version of the track embodies classic Metronomy, with added elements of Nirvana (in some of the guitar licks), classic Cars (in some of the ’80s inflicted synth sounds) and even some Cure. It’s a lively, fun concoction.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mike Posner, Live Before I Die

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: MIKE POSNER & NAUGHTY BOYLIVE BEFORE I DIE: “I stopped smoking weed a year ago, maybe I’m less cool now, I don’t know, but I talk to pretty girls instead of sitting there all stoned”… so begins Mike Posner’s inspirational Live Before I Die, a confessional of sorts, but also a song that – together with its inspiring video – offers an insight into the transformative nature of the singer’s life. The video, in particular, chronicles his decision to walk across America and his subsequent encounter with a rattle snake, that almost cost him his life and the use of one leg. It shows his battle to walk again, his courage and determination to beat the odds, and his resolve to continue his task, even returning to the site of the fateful bite, to pick things up and complete his journey to the Pacific. By the time he reaches the ocean, and his journey’s end, the sense of relief and achievement is palpable. The song, meanwhile, offers a similarly inspiring, upbeat pop track that showcases how a person can turn the bad things in their life into something good, by getting rid of the evils and focusing on the positives. It’s a refreshingly honest presentation… and a song, with its breezy, feel-good delivery, that could help to inspire a generation of Posner followers.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Neon Indian

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 3: NEON INDIANTOYOTA MAN: We always love a good political/social commentary video! And with Toyota Man, Neon Indian returns with a track that marks a new era for Alan Palomo’s project, as it’s his first song in his native language (Spanish) while musically introducing a new psych-cumbia infused direction. “We came here to study, we want to work,” he sings as a protest, playfully followed by dueling riffs of La Cucaracha with the Star-Spangled Banner. It’s a fun romp of a track thanks to the electro-pop elements, and the Spanish vocals, which add something romantic sounding to the politically charged meaning. The infusion of Mexican-American classic song staples also adds extra potency to a track that isn’t afraid to put its views across during a troubling time in American history. Commenting on the stylish accompanying video – featuring a Trump pinata – Palomo said: “Toyota Man was filmed along the road map of what essentially was my path to American citizenship: Monterrey, the Nuevo Laredo border, San Antonio, and finally Austin. The process is a multiple decade commute known by many Latinos and other Americans. Though my music has always been generally apolitical, I realized when recording this song that it was impossible to write biographically (in the rhetorical context of the Trump administration) without being entirely that: political. The story of my family, which before felt commonly American, was suddenly politicized. Recognizing the absurdity of it all, I thought it would be refreshing to address the social narrative around immigration through comedy – nods to Benny Hill, mis-remembered San Antonio car commercials, and School House Rock. My family and I had a ton of fun making this and I hope it’s equally as fun to watch. Enjoy!”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Noel Gallagher

NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDSWANDERING STAR: If we didn’t know better, we’d suggest Noel Gallagher was eying a Christmas No.1 with new offering, Wandering Star, given the number of seasonal chimes that exist throughout the track (there’s even talk of a star to guide you home). But given that it’s the first track to be taken from the forthcoming Blue Moon Rising EP, which is released on March 6, 2020, it’s not really a Christmas offering. And in other areas, it actually feels more like a classic Oasis track, rather than the more progressive offerings that Gallagher’s High Flying Birds have most recently offered via their Black Star Dancing sessions. It’s epic, for sure. But it has that Oasis-meets-Beatles kind of vibe, especially over the chorus, which is certainly more familiar and, yes, well trodden territory. Nevertheless, Gallagher himself is typically proud of it, extolling its virtues by saying: “It [Wandering Star] was written in Abbey Road last November on the same day I wrote Black Star Dancing. It’s that good, it sounds like it took 5.4 people to come up with it. It’s already a live standard and we haven’t even played it yet.” We know his fans will probably agree.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Skinny Living, No Messiah

SKINNY LIVING – NO MESSIAH: Wakefield trio Skinny Living’s new single No Messiah is released as the first and title track of their new EP, which comes alongside the recent announcement of their headline shows at London Heaven and Leeds Stylus. A gospel-tinged ballad, the track showcases the beautiful simplicity of the band’s adept songcraft, with impassioned vocals taking centre stage and offering encouraging words of support to a friend (his sister) who has landed in difficult/challenging times (only you can save yourself). It’s a song about finding the inner strength to solve your own problems. Explains frontman Ryan Johnston: “At first this song was just raw emotion and feeling, but as we dove further into the lyric it became so poignant and it was clear that it was something I needed to say to my little sister. We were close growing up and I was extremely protective of her but at the time of writing No Messiah she had been going through some serious adult life challenges that I couldn’t get involved in and it made me feel frustrated just watching and doing nothing. Growing up, she was definitely the most timid of the three of us, but I can vividly remember some moments where she would break free from that timid character to stand up for herself, those around her or what she believed in and I wanted to remind her of the powerful inner strength that she has to overcome anything. This song is speaking directly to her and I feel it carries as much weight for someone listening in my position as it does for someone listening in hers.” It’s disarmingly honest, well intentioned and resonant for all.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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James Hersey & Eli, Hands on Me

JAMES HERSEY & ELIHANDS ON ME: Berlin based artists James Hersey and ELI shares new song Hands on Me via Glassnote Records and look to have a pop smash on their hands. Commenting on what to expect, the duo said in a joint statement: “Hands On Me is about loving someone who’s lost the power to love themselves. It’s about offering yourself as a sanctuary for the other when times get bad. We want to give our fans the courage and means to speak up and reach out when it’s all too much. To show them that we’re here for them, and that we should all be here for one another.” Empowering sentiments aside, this has a feel-good pop sheen that’s buoyed by lively electronic arrangements and robust beats, as well as an anthemtic chorus that extols the virtues behind the song’s inspiration. It’s designed to give people a lift, and it does just that courtesy of some cute hooks, addictive melodies and a chorus you can easily get behind.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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