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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, April 19, 2019

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

Beck, Saw Lightning

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: BECKSAW LIGHTNING: The return of Beck is always something worth getting excited about – and with new release Saw Lightning, the mercurial artist has delivered the goods again. A stunning new track featuring Beck’s unmistakable vocal, this is also built around raw acoustic slide guitar and harmonica playing, as well as a thrillingly intense back-beat. Saw Lightning was written and produced by Beck and Pharrell Williams, who contributes drums, keyboards and mumbles. And the keyboards are fun, too, informing the track with an inviting playfulness that only adds to the hip nature of the song. Beck, at his very best, has always been high on energy, and Saw Lightning delivers more of the same, creating its own distinct sound, layering in the instrumentals and dropping a toe-tapping chorus that invites repeat listens. It’s another gem, with slide guitar and harmonica the icing on the cake. Saw Lightning is available both as a single and as the perfect music to power the new Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro campaign, a high-energy film directed by Grammy Award-winning filmmaker Hiro Murai. It is also the first track to be released from Beck’s forthcoming Hyperspace, to be released via Capitol Records at an as yet undetermined point in the space time continuum. In the meantime, Beck fans can tide themselves over with his already prolific 2019 output, including Tarantula from Music Inspired by ROMA, Super Cool (featuring Robyn & The Lonely Island) from The LEGO Movie 2, and most recently his feature appearance on Cage The Elephant’s Night Running.
Rating: 5 out of 5

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Madonna, Medellin

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MADONNA & MALUMAMEDELLIN: Madonna returns in her latest incarnation, Madame X, but continues to do enough to get noticed. Well, more than noticed. Medellin, is another change of pace that surprises by virtue of its general sense of calm and overall beauty. Co-produced by Madonna’s American Life collaborator Mirwais, and featuring Maluma, this has a Colombian ryhtmn that struts its way along in subdued, relaxed fashion, the warm beats creating a relaxed samba atmosphere. But the accompanying vocals are laidback to the point of being horizontal, dropping the odd “one two cha cha cha” in amongst some disarming observations on re-connecting with one’s youth (“I went back to “my seventeenth year, allowed myself to be naïve (dime), to be someone I’ve never been”. But there’s a vulnerability, too, as later lyrics such as “sipping my pain just like champagne, found myself dancing in the rain with you”. It’s a daydream of a single in many ways, with extra soothing layering being delivered by Maluma’s Colombian language vocals. As comebacks go, it may not rate as one of Madonna’s most emphatic – but it’s no less impressive for invoking a summery sense of calm.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Bear's Den

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: BEAR’S DENCROW: Bear’s Den have released another new track, Crow, alongside an emotional new video. The song is taken from their highly anticipated third album, So that you might hear me, which will be released next Friday, April 26, on Communion Records. Crow is one of Bear’s Den’s most personal songs to date. Of the track, singer Andrew Davie says: “The song was written in memory of my mum’s boyfriend who lived with us growing up. He was an awesome guy and somewhere between a father figure and a best friend to me growing up but unfortunately he passed away when I was 15. I wrote this song as I wanted to acknowledge how important and thankful I am to him for helping to raise me and my sister.” The accompanying instrumentals have a melancholy undertow to them that somehow still manages to create something that’s by turns poignant yet beautiful. Davie’s vocals, meanwhile, have a tender, sympathetic and oh-so sincere quality to them, befitting the highly personal lyrics that both thank the boyfriend in question, while acknowledging the pain and sense of loss that his passing brought. For the video, the band invited from all over the world to help them make a film that celebrates the meaning of family. The resulting video, filmed in Nashville, London, Brussels and Sao Paulo shows fans listening to the track for the first time. Davie continues: “We thought that a music video that celebrated the idea of family would be the most appropriate thing we could do. Frequently, we receive an overwhelming number of messages from people telling us about their relationships with the songs and their stories of how those songs have interacted with their lives. We wanted to honour those stories and provide an opportunity for their stories to be told. Once a song is written and recorded and available, we cannot claim it to be ours, alone, anymore. This song lyrically encompasses so much of what we stand for and talking openly about difficult things and sharing those thoughts with our fans mean we can support each other and feel less alone in life’s harder moments. There is a weight to our relationship with our audience that we take seriously and won’t ever take for granted and that’s where the idea for the video for Crow came from.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Mosa Wild, Night

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 2: MOSA WILDNIGHT: Mosa Wild have unveiled an official video for their current single and instant anthem, Night. Directed by Theo Watkins (IDLES, Fenne Lily), the video stars all four of the band in a Rear Window/Hitchcock scenario. Speaking about the concept, Watkins shares: “We wanted to create a cinematic feel in a potentially mundane, everyday setting and the video reflects this mood.” Needless to say, it lacks the tension of classic Hitchcock but it does have that visual aesthetic, which makes it eye-catching. The song itself is built around the anthemic refrain of ‘help me be strong’, which emerges as an an instant rallying cry, ready-made for audiences en masse. The song is very much about not existing in anyone else’s shadow, of not being bullied… but rather being strong. To accompany that sense of empowerment is that anthemic chorus, some propulsive guitar work and robust beats, which lend the track its aformentioned immediacy. It’s almost an indie-rock track, albeit with a little more restraint. But it’s instantly impressive. Night is taken from Mosa Wild’s forthcoming debut EP Talking In Circles, which will be released on Glassnote this summer. Night is one of the EP tracks produced by Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Bombay Bicycle Club) whilst other tracks on Talking In Circles were produced by James Kenosha (Pulled Apart By Horses, Dry The River).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Editors

EDITORSHALLELUJAH (SO LOW): Having sold out their limited edition colour vinyl of The Blanck Mass Sessions for Record Store Day, Editors have now unveiled the second track from the album: Hallelujah (So Low). With its space-age soundscape, trickling drum patterns and laser-blasted euphoric chorus, Hallelujah (So Low) gifts a fascinating insight into the creative process of the two albums. The warmth of the Violence version’s acoustic guitar and earthy chorus are replaced with sparse, ethereal synths, giving the track, and The Blanck Mass Sessions in general, a mechanical, other-worldly edge. And it’s this mechanical, futuristic edge that draws favourable comparisons with the futuristic sound of a lot of Muse material. Here, though, Editors bring their own inimitable brashness to the party as well, the sharp electronics eventually being augmented and complimented by some electrifying guitar work. It’s a heady mix but one that’s designed to empower and invigorate. It does just that. The story of The Blanck Mass Sessions began in 2017. Editors invited producer Benjamin John Power, aka Blanck Mass, to deconstruct the recordings that were to be the building blocks of Violence, and reassemble them in his signature saw-toothed experimental electronica. The band then enlisted producer Leo Abrahams to find a middle ground between the two recordings, fusing the raw emotion of their takes with the sparse ferocity of the Blanck Mass original productions. Whilst this fusion of the three creative influences went on to become Violence, Benjamin’s versions remained a work of art worthy of their own release.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Kygo feat Rita Ora, Carry On

KYGO feat RITA ORACARRY ON: As the PR steps up for the forthcoming Pokemon: Detective Pikachu movie (featuring Ryan Reynolds), we now have a soundtrack bite from Kygo, featuring Rita Ora (who also appears in the film). And it’s pleasant enough without being anything particularly memorable. It’s a dance-pop track that would be equally at home on the big screen as it would be in a summer club. Ora drops a trademark sexy vocal, infused with R’n‘B elements, while Kygo’s producing skills deliver an Ibiza friendly synth sound. But rather than laying down anything too heavy beat-wise, there are subtle pop beats and liberal sprinklings of finger clicks and piano arrangements. It does create a summer-time vibe, while the vocals talk about the positivity of enabling love to carry on for you. But while sure to be a mainstream hit, it is also a little too generic to remember this time next year.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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She Drew The Gun

SHE DREW THE GUNPARADISE: She Drew The Gun have unveiled the video for their latest single Paradise. The striking visual sees the track’s powerful lyrics juxtaposed with imagery tied to the song’s themes of capitalism and privilege. The track itself is a gutsy number, featuring a robust central guitar riff, and some urgent drum loops. The thoughtful lyrics are designed to reflect the state of decay of the world right now, which is driven by the have’s as opposed to the have nots, and those with money as opposed to those without. As hard-hitting and relevant as those lyrics are, however, the track doesn’t sound preachy. Rather, the chorus carries an anthemic melodicism to it, which makes it easy to embrace as both a good listen and a song with a social conscience. Paradise is the third single to be taken from the acclaimed Wirral band’s sophomore album Revolution Of Mind, following the BBC 6Music A-Listed tracks Resister and Something For The Pain. Louisa Roach, She Drew The Gun’s frontwoman and songwriter, says of Paradise: “It’s like a bad advert for capitalism, as if it was a product in some grotesque 1950’s ad. The free market is so wonderful isn’t it? It’s supposed to make everything great when really it’s just a paradise for the rich and privileged, but there’s trouble on the breeze because it’s completely unsustainable.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Fergus, Zelda Mae

FERGUSZELDA MAE: London-based singer songwriter Fergus has released a calm, reflective music video for new single Zelda Mae, the first single from his second EP Three Of Swords (due for release May 2019 via Goldun Egg Records). Directed by Jordon Rossi (Rankin Film Productions) and set in the British seaside town of Camber, the video represents a day of reflection which inspired the track. Fergus explains: “Zelda Mae is about giving up on someone and, in doing so, finally breaking out from under their spell. Waking up from a trance and realising what you were putting yourself through, and everything that cost. Giving up can be the hardest thing to do and Zelda Mae is a release of months of hurt and sheer frustration; it’s triumphant in its sadness – a silver lining on an overcast day.” Jordan added “The track is hugely emotive, and the idea was to translate this to screen with strong cinematic visuals.” The song itself is another deeply personal track as Fergus continues to soul search and purge himself of negativity through music. The artists talent for stirring, emotive songwriting continues to evolve in this heart-rending song, a reflective brooding vocal, glides over melodic guitar rhythms and the rich timbre of deep cello, gathering pace and intensity as Fergus pleas for peace of mind. It starts off low-key and acoustic, before layering in the cello and the empowered sense of vocals. As slow-builders go, this has the potency and beauty of a Bear’s Den or Elbow record, coupled with the thoughtfulness and emotional intensity. But it’s also delivered in the somewhat more low-key and intimate fashion that Fergus has become synonymous with.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Gang of Four, Change The Locks

GANG OF FOURCHANGE THE LOCKS: Pioneering post-punk band Gang of Four release their lively new single in the form of Change The Locks. A standout cut from their forthcoming new album, Happy Now (released April 19), Change The Locks is a synth-propelled, mutant funk shapeshifter. It’s also got some lively guitar hooks, raw vocals and some questioning lyrics that declare “change the locks, the system’s down, they say everyone’s a suspect now”. It’s a provocative offering that has political and social relevance given the various threats we’re all continually facing now to our privacy and/or way of life. The edgy guitars and sometimes woozy synths also create something of a disorientating background vibe, layering on the indie-rock intensity. While the vocals provide plenty of grit, which is offset neatly by the melodies inherent in the chorus, and which provide a radio-friendly vibe. It’s a highly appealing new track, complete with a visually eye-catching video.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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TOM KINGWHY ARE YOU HERE: Tom King is a 17-year-old emerging artist who started his music career at a very young age. His formative years as part of the choir in his local cathedral lead him to win the coveted BBC’s Chorister of the Year award when he was only 13. Later on, inspired by the soulful voices of Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross, he grew into a passionate singer/songwriter, developing a keen knack for telling compelling stories that to tap into his inner feelings and emotions. New track Why Are You Here offers an impressive showcase of those talents. Built around a cute guitar hook and a soulful central vocal that is reminiscent of the emotional depth of both Wonder and Vandross, the ensuing track chronicles the breakdown of a relationship as the singer asks why his other half is still there. And yet, as forthright as that sounds, there’s a sense of loss and sorrow in the delivery and the lyrics, which add a genuinely heartfelt element. Co-written and produced by Paul Aiden, this is a song of real intensity and intimacy that makes King an artist to watch as the year progresses.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Cousin Tony's Brand New Firebird

COUSIN TONY’S BRAND NEW FIREBIRDLOVE IS HEARTBREAK: Introducing Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird, hailing from Melbourne, Australia in recent years. Their debut UK single Love is Heartbreak is billed as an ambitious, kaleidoscopic slice of alternative indie-pop that aims to set the scene for their forthcoming album’s thematic journey from heartbreak to recovery. The album will be released later this year. The ensuing sound emerges as a cross between The Divine Comedy Club and The Avalanches. Vocally, Lachy Rose has a very deep delivery, which lends the track an instantly ear-catching point of focus. But the surrounding instrumentals are truly kaleidoscopic, encompassing ’80s style sax arrangements, alt-pop and disco, with a sweeping romanticism that juxtaposes the melancholy lyrics. It’s not entirely successful given that it will be something of an acquired taste. But there’s no doubting the scope of its ambition, its willingness to be different, and its potential to get the band noticed over here.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Polar States

POLAR STATESFADE OUT (OF HERE): 2018 saw Polar States cement their reputation as one of the UK’s most exciting new bands, signing with Killing Moon Records following the band entering Spotify’s Viral 50 chart, and selling out a string of shows across the UK and Europe. Fade Out (of here) is the second single to emerge from the band’s forthcoming EP, All You Couldn’t See. On the song, vocalist Paul Tong wrote: “You know those mornings where you’re stood in the shower thinking about everything and it becomes overwhelming? It’s like there’s this noise in your head. Fade Out is a song about trying to turn down that chaos. We’re living in a time where were constantly bombarded by low quality distractions and it’s often feels like sensory overload, like being at the centre of a massive kaleidoscope. The abundance of choice has limited our ability to make decisions and sometimes you just want to push everything away so you can breathe.” It’s an intelligent take on a very real problem, delivered in a rousing, anthemic style that boasts skyscraping guitar riffs and echoed vocals over the brash chorus. There’s a touch of the Embrace about the chorus, at times, while the ambitious nature of the sound suggests they have stadiums on their radar for the future. Fade Out would sound great if played in one of those.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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