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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, June 21, 2019

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

Imagine Dragons, Birds

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: IMAGINE DRAGONS feat ELISABIRDS: Imagine Dragons return to the source of one of their long-standing images – birds, for a power ballad of sorts that soars. Featuring guest vocals from Elisa, this shows the band at their most stripped back, intimate and thought provoking. The synths are toned down, the beats less emphatic than normal, and the mix of boy-girl vocals beautifully delivered, with a hint of melancholy in both. Elisa, in particular, drops a moody vocal to evoke comparisons with the likes of Sia. But Reynolds also adopts a more moody tone, to bring out the depth of emotion in lyrics that declare “birds fly in different directions, but love will never die”. It’s a song about loss and separation, bringing with it a sense of sorrow and longing. But amidst this, there’s hope: as the feelings of love felt by the ‘birds’ prevails. As a result, it’s not only beautifully bittersweet, but somehow inspiring and empowering.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Michael Kiwanuka and Tom Misch, Money

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: MICHAEL KIWANUKA & TOM MISCHMONEY: It’s been a while since Michael Kiwanuka dazzled us with 2017’s Cold Little Heart but he now returns with another gem of an offering. Teaming up with Tom Misch, the disco infused Money also features YEBBA on backing vocals, and is mixed by Russell Elevado (D’Angelo, Kamasi Washington). As with Cold Little Heart‘s material, Kiwanuka isn’t afraid to delve into the past for sonic inspiration, wearing his influences on his sleeve. But what he creates as a result is brilliant. This has a funky, toe-tapping, classic ’80s disco vibe that both Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson and Mark Ronson and company would be proud of, as well as a seamless mix of vocals. Kiwanuka’s soulful delivery stands out, of course. But Misch and Yebba contribute brilliantly to create a sound that’s awash in retro chic, and alive with contemporary cool. Speaking about the single, Kiwanuka said: “The premise of Money is that, at first listen, it’s a song about money and how much I want it and love it. I want to use money to meet people and be around people that have a lot of it. But as you listen closer, it’s actually about how too much love for money can be dangerous.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Skinny Living

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: SKINNY LIVINGLET GO: Having recently released their new single Let Go through Polydor Records, played to a 20,000+ crowd at Elland Road alongside The Vaccines and Kaiser Chiefs and added a second Leeds show to their September UK tour due to phenomenal demand, Skinny Living have now revealed the visual to accompany the track, shot in their home town of Wakefield. A melancholy indie-pop ballad, this is a real gem of a track that’s shot through with the pain of an unfolding relationship. Boasting lines like “why are you holding onto strangers in the dark? Don’t you know you’ve got to let go of me? I’m trying hard to let go of you!” It’s a heartbreakingly honest track, as one person attempts to be stronger than the other and deliver the truth about an impending break-up. And in spite of that, there’s a buoyancy to the guitars that never lets the song drown in sorrow. Rather, it’s a toe-tapper that tugs at the heart-strings, while delivering a really satisfying listen. Speaking about the video, frontman Ryan Johnston – whose vocals on the track are perfect – said: “It was shot in good old Wakefield, the city we met in, the place we live, full of the people that put us on their backs and helped us make something out of nothing.”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Ed Sheeran, Cross Me

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 1: ED SHEERAN feat CHANCE THE RAPPERCROSS ME: Ed Sheeran has unveiled the official video for his track Cross Me, featuring Chance the Rapper and PnB Rock. Directed by Ryan Staake and shot in a motion capture studio with a contemporary dancer, the official video features 3D animations of Ed Sheeran, Chance The Rapper and PnB Rock twisting in and out of multiple virtual realities. It’s genuinely eye-catching stuff, married to a great song. The single itself is something of a departure from Sheeran’s more conventional style, employing slick pop-meets-hip hop beats and several rap interludes. Indeed, there are times – when Chance takes over – you could be forgiven for not realising this is a Sheeran track. But once the singer himself takes over, it adopts a more familiar sound. Lyrically, there’s an edge, too – with all singers declaring: “If you cross her, then you cross me.” It sounds like a protective offering, which taps into the complex emotions at play in a lot of Sheeran’s songwriting. But the delivery is what makes this one stand out, with a soulful central sound mixed with elements of electro pop, as well as hip hop. Cross Me is taken from Sheeran’s forthcoming No.6 Collaborations (due July 12).
Rating: 4 out of 5

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James Deacon, Son of Apollo

JAMES DEACONSON OF APOLLO: South African newcomer James Deacon releases his new single Son Of Apollo through Bad Future – a lyrically expressive, pop-rooted track that focuses on his history of substance abuse. The song finds James shining a spotlight on his past misdemeanours while reflecting on how far he’s journeyed. In Greek mythology Hepius is the son of Apollo, and is widely regarded as the god of medicine. When attributed to Deacon’s latest single though, Hepius becomes a direct reference to the singer’s history with addiction. Co-written with Paul Gala (Bad Future Records) in only a few hours, the back-and-forth groove of the track easily lends itself to Deacon’s high-energy vocal delivery. Deacon explains: “This track means a lot to me lyrically because I struggled with drug addiction and alcohol abuse for a long time and managed to get sober and writing this song allowed me to go back to that dark part of my history and appreciate how far I’ve come since then. The imagery I tried to create with the lyrics is one of a drug-induced party filled with fake friends and peer pressure and most importantly drugs.” The production values are terrific. There’s urgency, followed by soulful balladry, married to a pained falsetto. There are electrifying shots of guitar, warm and cold synths, chopped up beats and a mix of fast and slow periods, as if to underline the tumultuous nature of being addicted. It’s an ear-catching listen, complete with lyrics that both portray the pain of being an addict and the pride that comes with eating those demons. Deacon appears to be going from strength to strength as a singer-songwriter.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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AMA, Real

AMAREAL: AMA has dropped her new single and video Real. Explaining what inspired the track, AMA said: “I wrote Real a few months into a new relationship. To me, it’s about wanting to be there for the other person and offer whatever you can to help with what they’re going through and struggling with, but they still haven’t quite put their guard down or fully opened to you.” The ensuing track finds AMA dropping a soulful central vocal that is interwoven with warped samples of her vocals, spliced electronics and washed over beats. It serves to create something kind of addictive, but also somehow experimental and not always satisfying as a whole. The soulful sincerity works well, though, and AMA clearly has a powerhouse set of vocals. And the bravery to experiment and create a sound that’s unique and distinct is also notable. The accompanying video is directed by Will Reid (A Cold Wall, Supreme, Comme De Garcon). Real is the first track to be taken from AMA’s debut EP Screenluv, released this summer, which sees production from Pasque (Aminé), Jarreau Vandal (Soulection), Karma Kid (Octavian) and more.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Mosa Wild

MOSA WILDTIDES: Mosa Wild have unveiled a new single entitled Tides, which will join previously released tracks Night and Smoke on the band’s debut EP, Talking In Circles, which will be released on August 2, via Glassnote Records. Produced by Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Bombay Bicycle Club), Tides epitomises Mosa Wild’s windscreen sound. Lead singer Jim Rubaduka’s rich vocals reveal warmth and a heart amidst stadium sized guitar melodies and powerful, walloping drum lines. The imagery of waves washing over you like tidal waves of emotion (“was it me you saw”, “broken and shipwrecked, see my heart adrift”), this combines a sense of melancholy and uncertainty [even danger] with one of hope and recovery. It’s emotionally resonant and honest, yet beautifully awash with sea-faring imagery, underlining the dense scope of Mosa Wild’s songwriting. Instrumentally, the song also soars – the guitar notes and drums hitting you like waves. It’s a highly impressive new offering to underline this band’s growing brilliance.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Metronomy

METRONOMYSALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM: Metronomy are back in a big way. Not only have they shared the new single and video for Salted Caramel Ice Cream, announced the September 13 release of their eagerly anticipated sixth album Metronomy Forever, but they’ve also confirmed details of a major UK and European tour (including a date at London’s Roundhouse). The single is pure kooky pop, featuring ice-cream based lyrics (tied to an addictive relationship) and cute hooks and electronics. The vocals have an almost falsetto feel and work nicely with the bouncy style of the track as a whole, creating a summery vibe that’s deliciously addictive. And yet, there’s something resolutely independent about it, too. This may be catchy – but it’s catchy in a non-mainstream, totally offbeat kind of way. Think Prince with added indie, electro-pop elements. After making his directorial debut with Lately, band leader Joseph Mount also helmed the larger scale video for Salted Caramel Ice Cream. He commented: “Years ago a friend of mine gave me a VHS tape of the MTV show 120 Minutes. It’s something I’d get him to do every so often as I was a bit obsessed with music TV at the time. On one particular tape was the video for Sonne by Rammstein, I’d never seen them before and it blew my mind. This video is a sort of homage to that, but with an added story about the gentrification of ice cream parlours.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Mind Enterprises, Ballare

MIND ENTERPRISESBALLARE: A name that’s fast becoming synonymous with high-spirited and eclectic dance releases, Ballare, the latest single from the Italian DJ and producer-extraordinaire finds Mind Enterprises referencing the euphoric Italo House sounds of the 1980s. Matching the track’s vintage day-glo vibes with fittingly shoulder-padded visuals, Mind Enterprises have also unveiled a video that lovingly pays homage to the 1986 Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun. And while the song itself is cheesy as hell, in keeping with its 1980s roots, the video is a retro, tongue in cheek blast that manages to conjure memories of Top Gun in a truly kitsch style. Hence, while the song is for 80s purists and European electro-pop lovers ONLY, you can’t fail to be impressed by the cheeky visuals that accompany them. Hell, you may even feel the need, the need to put on Top Gun once again. Directed by long-time visual collaborator Jack Barraclough, Andrea explains how the new video took flight: “I thought the idea of re-making a Top Gun scene would get along great with Ballare, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it in practice. Here is when Jack jumped on board and the result is another chapter of Italo Disco soap opera, I’m very proud of it.” Directly translating as ‘Dance’ in Italian, Ballare was inspired by the seminal track of the same name by punk-funk icons ESG.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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The Magnettes

THE MAGNETTESSHAKES: Northern Swedish pop outfit The Magnettes, consisting of front duo Rebecka Digervall and Sanna Kalla and producer Tomas Bäcklund Tuneström, return with their new disco/punk-single, Shakes (Falling in Love). The retro heavy track is a pure product of the ’80s Euro-pop scene, albeit with elements [vocally] of Robyn thrown in. Hence, ’80s drums meet angsty guitars and build towards headrush, power-pop choruses, that aim for some operatic highs. It’s a fun, giddy concoction to be seized upon by fans of Scandi pop and anyone who likes their music to come with some retro ’80s elements. Lyrically, the track follows the ‘out with your best friends on a Saturday night’ dancefloor smash Kimnkanye and is an unapologetic roaring anthem about passionate love. As the band explains: “It’s about gushing love and heaving lungs, kisses in the rain and all that fun stuff we don’t really have time for anymore. Or probably just about how we really wanna be (/make out with) Stevie Nicks. It’s our farewell letter to a much volatile, nervous, and romantic way of life. Musically, we wanted it to sound as if Bratmobile and Baby Spice got together and played on top of Dancing In The Dark.” That’s an interesting take.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Idolising Nova, Run Away

IDOLISING NOVARUN AWAY: Idolising Nova – Jack Fulton Smith (bass and lead singer), Kris Lee (guitar and keyboard/ synth) and Kyle O’Sullivan (drums and backing vocals) – are a three-piece indie pop band from Peterborough. Their achievements over the past 12 months have been many: their catchy music has been played on national TV and radio, including BBC Radio 2 and ITV, and they’ve toured the UK and Europe extensively, including supporting The Vamps on their European tour and slots at Hit The North Festival and La French Escapade in Paris. They have recently been spending time in the studio recording new single Run Away with Sugar House (worked with Pale Waves and Viola Beach) (the track then being mixed by James K Lewis (mixed for Rudimental, Clean Bandit, Charli XCX, Jess Glynne). The result is a catchy indie pop offering that leans more towards cheese-pop – a slick mix of very early Depeche Mode mixed with elements of Pet Shop Boys and Metronomy. There are swirling synth arrangements, driving guitars and brazen vocals, delivered to make the song as big and danceable as possible. If you like your music with an element of ’80s kitsch, then this could punch your ticket. As Jack from the band says: “We played it in Paris a few days after it was released and people were already singing it back to us, so it’s definitely an earworm! The lyrics are about someone escaping to a ‘better world’ and this feel good, easy to listen to track in itself gives you a sense of escapism for a few minutes.”
Rating: 3 out of 5

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