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Music - Singles of the week - Friday, February 14, 2020

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

Seafret, Magnetic

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 1: SEAFRETMAGNETIC: Seafret release their hypnotic new single Magnetic, the final single to drop ahead of the release of the east-Yorkshire band’s highly-anticipated second album Most Of Us Are Strangers, which is set for release on March 13. The track expertly highlights the Bridlington duo’s ability to create a killer pop chorus aligned with some moody verses and thoughtful lyrics. Early on, there’s a keen sense of atmosphere in the vocal delivery (husky vocals, Elbow-esque minimalism and beauty), before the song then bursts to life for the lively chorus. It’s here that the woo-hoo harmonies kick in, the drums come crashing and the song grabs you and refuses to let go. It’s tailor-made for singing along to within the first couple of listens and emerges as the very definition of anthemic [and magnetic]. The final sung verse also adds a Billy Joel/We Didn’t Start The Fire vibe in the way that it’s delivered. But the whole song leaves you thirsting for more. Speaking about the track, Seafret explain: “We wanted to have something that people could jump about to on this album and let loose. Magnetic is that track! It was so much fun writing and recording this song – it had us all up showing our best moves. It’s quite different from the previous stuff but we’re not afraid to try new styles and if it makes you feel good then why not! It was inspired by that draw you feel towards someone when you fall for them. That feeling like there’s no escape. It’s both thrilling and terrifying simultaneously but you know there’s no way you could walk away. We’re really proud of this one and hope you enjoy it. Go listen and have a dance! Jack & Harry x”
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Cold War Kids, Who's Gonna Love Me Now

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 2: COLD WAR KIDSWHO’S GONNA LOVE ME NOW: Cold War Kids return in emphatic fashion with the release of the barnstorming Who’s Gonna Love Me Now, the first single from the band’s upcoming album, New Age Norms 2. Driven by a banging central beat, some livewire guitar hooks and a sharp mix of piano and organ, this has a blues-rock meets pop kind of vibe that should appeal to fans of acts like The Heavy. The chorus, especially, lets rip in blissfully joyous fashion in spite of the fact the singer is searching for someone to love him. It’s a heady mix, for sure, but one that will certainly continue to get them noticed. “Who’s Gonna Love Me Now is about all those times when I imagine what it’d be like to have my freedom,” says Cold War Kids’ Nathan Willett. “You’re in a relationship and you got too cosy – you start wondering what it’s like on the other side. But when you actually get it, you crash and burn.” A deserved ouch, then… but an exhilarating one!
Rating: 4 out of 5

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You Me At Six, Our House

SINGLE OF THE WEEK 3: YOU ME AT SIXOUR HOUSE (THE MESS WE MADE): You Me At Six hit fans with a neat slice of socially aware commentary in new single Our House (The Mess We Made), a song that reacts angrily to the state of the world we currently inhabit (and the mess it’s undoubtedly in). Boasting reactionary lyrics such as “Tell me why should I care about people that I have never met?” and “prophets with problems, smart mouths don’t wanna solve them, nobody can tell me, that we got a plan B, worth even hearing”, this has plenty to say and does so with relish. There are driving guitars, swirling synths and a disco-pop rock vibe that boasts plenty of crossover appeal. And while angry, it’s also funky enough to maintain that crossover, revelry style vibe. Hence, while singing along and applauding the sentiments behind it, you’ll have fun jamming with it too. In a particularly notable movie, You Me At Six will donate all proceeds from the song to WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Association. In a press statement, frontman Josh Franceschi said the track was written after the band had met with a geologist who informed them of the dire impacts of climate change. They later finished Our House while recording in Thailand last October – hence the notable chorus, “our house is on fire”. Explains Franceschi: “We were inspired to address the issue of climate change, but equally by the hope that the youth have given me. Never in my life have I seen a younger generation take to the streets to have their voices heard than on this subject. They want change, they want their futures back because our house is on fire, and we must act now.” It hits the nail perfectly on the head.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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The Strokes, At The Door

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: THE STROKES – AT THE DOOR: Anyone anticipating that The Strokes’ comeback would be trading on the familiar, had best think again. The lead single from their first album in almost seven years finds the band on deeply unfamiliar territory, discaring the post-punk sound that became their trademark and subverting expectation with a deceptively beautiful offering. Built around a striking [and vaguely retro] synth, this is only really recognisable as something Strokes-ian by Julian Casablancas’ familiar droll tone. But that also helps to inform the hypnotic nature of the track as a whole, adding a melancholy, quasi-futuristic focal point to a track that feels sad yet hopeful. This sense of bittersweet is only heightened by the accompanying animated video, a striking – if baffling – inter-planetary adventure that seems to unfold from the mind of a teenage child, complete with Watership Down-esque rabbits. It’s trippy yet magnetic, hooking you in and adding extra resonance to the compelling nature of the song as a whole. As comebacks go, it’s not the most emphatic – but by not being so, it’s perhaps all the more revelatory. It leaves you impressed and genuinely wanting to hear more.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Billie Eilish, No Time To Die

BILLIE EILISH – NO TIME TO DIE: Billie Eilish is rapidly becoming a singing sensation. At the age of just 18, she’s taken the Grammys by storm and landed the singing duties for forthcoming James Bond movie No Time To Die. And the results are in… and they’re, well, mixed. The song undoubtedly contains all the core elements of a classic Bond theme (swirling string arrangements, brass and piano and even the distinctive minor 9th chord that closes out Monty Norman’s original Bond theme). But it also maintains Eilish’s penchant for delivering haunting, often minimalist songs that tap into emotional complexity and darkness. Hence, the track opens with a haunting piano arrangement, reminiscent of the classic 007 sound, before a melancholy vocal declares: “I should have known I’d leave alone.” It’s an instant nod to the theme of betrayal and heartbreak that would seem to inform the plot of the new film. Eilish retains the brooding, understated tone of the track until the chorus lands, which heightens the melody and plays up the cinematic elements, while also declaring “I’ve fallen for a lie, you were never on my side, fool me once, fool me twice, are you death or paradise, now you’ll never see me cry, there’s just no time to die”. It’s a strong chorus, compensating for some of the quieter elements of the song, which some fans may find a little too restrained. But the Bond elements certainly excite and raise more questions about what could possibly lie in store for the latest Bond instalment. It’s also a nice contrast to the more emphatic vocal style of Adele or Sam Smith. If anything, it’s a haunting track that slowly eeks its way into your subconscious. It should be interesting to see what the opening title visuals have in store for it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Alec Benjamin, Oh My God

ALEC BENJAMIN – OH MY GOD: Having surpassed a landmark two billion streams across the globe, acclaimed US singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin has now dropped his new single, Oh My God, alongside the wistful official video. Taken from his highly-anticipated debut album These Two Windows, released on April 3, 2020, and available to pre-save now, Oh My God is a sleek, introspective new cut showcasing a more contemporary taste of what fans can expect from the album, which also houses recent singles Demons, Mind Is A Prison, Jesus in LA and Must Have Been The Wind. It opens in relatively stripped back fasion, with that wistful central vocal accompanied by piano and a subtle beat. But as Benjamin declares “I’m running out of oxygen, I’ll never be the same again”, the song then kicks into something more pop and mainstream and, as a result, catchy. Hence, while Benjamin questions “what have I done” and beats himself up emotionally, the song refuses to drag listeners down. Rather, it becomes something that’s easy to toe-tap along to, while considering the lyrics and how they may apply to yourself at times. It’s a clever mix of the serious and the entertaining that showcases why Benjamin is such a star on the rise right now.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Josh Kumra, I Dare You

JOSH KUMRA – I DARE YOU: Songwriter Josh Kumra teases more new music from his forthcoming EP, with the piano-based ballad I Dare You. Co-written with Amy Winehouse’s and Professor Green’s collaborator Fink, alongside Brit Awards- winner collaborator Blair MacKichan, I Dare You yet again showcases Josh’s soulful-inflected vocals. Backed by a grand piano, skilfully plucked acoustic guitar and gently brushed drums, it enhances Josh’s poetic lyricism and penchant for storytelling immediately drawing the listener’s attention. Fans of Fink will detect some of that singer-songwriter’s trademark elements, including a folk vibe, while the nature of the piano composition, coupled with the emotional depth of the lyrics and vocals, lends the song a very cinematic/soundtrack filling kind of feel. Shedding further light on the song, Josh explained: “I Dare You was the first song I wrote after releasing my debut album. It just felt so different to anything I had done before. It touches on the teasing aspect of having a taste of success without feeling completely content.” I Dare You follows on from last year’s similarly intimate single Stubborn Love and is the second offering from Josh’s upcoming EP, Pull Me Back In, planned for release in April 2020 and available to pre-order now.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Alexander 23, I Hate You So Much

ALEXANDER 23 – I HATE YOU SO MUCH: Rising singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alexander 23 returns with a new, self-produced song I Hate You So Much and accompanying self-animated lyric video. This marks the first new music from the 24-year-old artist, who just sold out two headline shows… his first ever, at The Moroccan Lounge in Los Angeles, since last year’s debut EP I’m Sorry I Love You. Opening in mid-tempo, ballad-like fashion, the song quickly subverts expectations with the wistful lyrics declaring his hate for the subject of his songwriting. A hip-hop inspired beat then drops, along with some playful electronics and acoustics, to create something wholly original and highly entertaining. Alexander’s vocals have a delicate, almost fragile quality, that works in nice contrast to the instrumentals, adding extra gravity to the lyrics because of their softness. Commenting on the track himself, Alexander states: “I Hate You So Much is about being emotionally haunted by someone you desperately want to despise. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to hate someone, you can’t escape your unhealthy love for them.” The whole song represents a wonderful juxtaposition.
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Lucia and the Best Boys

LUCIA AND THE BEST BOYSCITY OF ANGELS: Lucia & the Best Boys have released an eye-catching video for new single City Of Angels. The visual, directed by Stuart Alexander, sees frontwoman Lucia Fairfull raw and up-close as she grapples with her inner demons, firstly emerging from the sea in chains, and later being shrouded in darkness and background flames. The song itself has a vaguely retro ’80s vibe, reminiscent of Kate Bush at times. But there’s a sharpness to it as well, made timely and relevant by the themes of grappling with mental health issues. And Fairfull’s vocals are gutsy and edgy, lending extra potency to the message behind it. It’s empowering stuff. Speaking about the video, Lucia explained: “City Of Angels video is a visual representation of how I think a lot of people are feeling within the state of society. People are forever judging themselves and others. This is intensified by social media, where we are constantly looking at how other people look and comparing every part of ourselves, which can have a huge mental effect on people. I remember one day feeling really anxious and speaking to Ally about it, and he said that sometimes it feels like there is a devil version of yourself inside your head, holding you back, but you need to remember who’s the boss, which I thought was really funny and also very true. The two characters in this video represent that. I have found my own self-confidence from writing it. I feel more confident and comfortable in myself than I ever did before and I want to voice that especially to the youth [of today], who are the ones most likely to be effected by the current state of society.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Hilary Woods

HILARY WOODSORANGE TREE: After recently announcing that her new album Birthmarks is set for release on March 13, 2020, via Sacred Bones, Hilary Woods is sharing a moving new video and single with Orange Tree. An atmospheric, brooding offering, the song combines thought-provoking lyrics with minimalist instrumentation and a aset of vocals that sound like a cross between Enya and Sinead O’Connor. The harmonies and layering is highly effective in heightening the sense of mood, while the subtle use of strings and acoustics creates a cinematic backdrop. It’s a beguiling track that has plenty to say too. Speaking about the song, Woods said: “For me, Orange Tree is a personal song acknowledging an inner fear of the unknown. It’s an exercise in overcoming, becoming more planted and rooted in the earth and in the body.” Woods’ Birthmarks has been a labour of intensity and intuition, written over the course of two years. Recorded whilst heavily pregnant between Galway and Oslo in the winter of 2019, Woods explores the oscillating and volatile processes of selfhood and becoming, hidden gestational growth, and the birthing of the Self, amidst continuous social and personal change.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Ronan Keating

RONAN KEATING & EMELI SANDEONE OF A KIND: Ronan Keating this week announced the release of his new album, Twenty Twenty, a mix of re-imagined classic songs and new tracks. One of those new tracks finds him teaming up with Emeli Sande for the duet One of a Kind, a gospel-infused ballad that plays to the strengths of both singers. It’s the sort of track that will have the Keating fans swooning… as soundtrack pandering as it is likely to appeal to countless love-struck couples seeking out a first dance number for their wedding. It’s something that Keating himself acknowledges: “I guess I’ve been known for those first dance songs at weddings, and this has me written all over it. It’s all about the night before the wedding, the day of the wedding and spending the rest of your life together.” It’s no coincidence, then, that the track was released on Valentine’s Day! But while certainly generic (complete with sweeping string arrangements and sentimental vocals), there’s no denying that the combination of Keating’s and Sande’s vocals is a highly potent one.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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