This Week Playlist [January 21st]: 5 brand new tunes

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Another Sky – Tree (Live at Hackney Road) 

I saw former Goldsmith Uni students Another Sky listed on a few websites and blogs I respect as a band to keep an eye on, so last week I checked them out. This live track was released on New Year’s Day and oscillates between haunting and enchanting. The most striking feature of the track is Catrin Vincent’s voice, which sores (?) above the – mostly – mellow instrumentation. Its a hugely impressive voice, and having spent a few hours pondering I can’t immediately think of an obvious comparison. Irrespective, this is a really intriguing track that reminds me of early London Grammar and I look forward to future works from the band.

Mindchatter – Trippy 

Trippy is probably the most apt song title of the year so far. This track has some wonderful production throughout, taking modern hip hop and r’n’b production, inverting it and giving it a low key vibe, not unlike what HOMESHAKE produces. Trippy reminds me of scuba diving, where time slows down and you simply marvel at everything around you. I can’t find much biographical info on Mindchatter but this seems like a debut release, which makes it all the more impressive.

Priests – The Seduction of Kansas 

Post-punk four-piece Priests have featured on the blog before, all the way back in February 2017.  They’re back with the riotously danceable The Seduction of Kansas, which brings back memories of the LCD Soundsystem/The Rapture era of indie music. An album of the same name is due to be released in April.

Grimes, HANA – We Appreciate Power (BloodPop Remix) 

I’m a huge fan of Grimes and there’s little in her back catalogue that I don’t enjoy. Yet towards the end of 2018 she was involved in two songs, a duet on Poppy’s album and her own We Appreciate Power. Both were rockier than most of her previous work, and they didn’t quite click with me. The rock element seemed a little faux, not a feeling you associate with Gimes, who is usually so good at the authenticity of whatever she’s doing. My anxiety increased when I saw that she’s a guest star on the forthcoming Bring Me The Horizon album, out on Friday.

BloodPop have taken the original We Appreciate Power and given it a very different spin. Gone are the gruff guitars and the vocals are brought to the fore. I feels it’s a much clearer insight into Grimes’s vision, of a dystopian AI controller world (“Pledge allegiance to the world’s most powerful computer, Simulation is the future”). And I think the dance twist makes this a much stronger track than the original.

Alfredo Rodriguez, Pedrito Martinez – Super Mario Bros 3 

Something a little bit different to finish on. The Cuban duo of jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and percussionist Pedrito Martinez have taken on a classic theme tune for any gamers out there and given it a pretty awesome spin. It’s well worth three minutes of your time, whether you’ve owned several Nintendo consoles or not.

 

The A List – the best 10 new music tracks around right now (January 20th 2019)

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Three new entries this week and a new number 1 for the A List. 2019 has already produced some incredible new music, but you should really be prioritising the following tracks…

1. Lana Del Rey – hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it 

Pitchfork had an interesting article looking at some of Lana’s recent work this week that I recommended checking out.  hope is a dangerous thing (etc) grows on me with every listen. The lyrics are hard to digest and yet essential listening. A profoundly moving five minutes; from self-doubt to abuse to isolation, any song that has Sylvia Plath at its core will undoubtedly veer from weirdness to unimaginable suffering.

2. Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER 

Down one place this week, WHEN I WAS OLDER is full of eery distorted vocals and minimalistic electronic production that combine to create a haunting tone that is really hard to shake off.

3. Lucy Rose – Conversation [New Entry]

Conversation is full of atmosphere with some beautiful strings. Simple and yet hard-hitting, there’s an air of strength and finality surrounding the delicate vocals.

4. Goldie, James Davidson, Subjective – Rift Valley 

A track that is best played in the dark. It’s like you’re dreaming after smoking pot. Everything feels captivating yet entirely elusive. The album also became available on streaming platforms this week.

5. Sam Smith, Normani – Dancing With A Stranger 

A devastatingly simple pop track full of regrets. Sam Smith does heartbreaks better than almost anyone, and the simple production on Dancing with a Stranger leaves the listener to drown in the guilt and misplaced anger of a rebound one night stand.

6. Hot Flash Heat Wave – Sky So Blue [New Entry]

Friday’s Track of the Day, Sky So Blue is a lazy summer afternoon in a park, drifting off into reverie through the sheer fatigue of doing nothing at all. It’s a cocktail of synths, psychedelia and sunshine. Lots of sunshine.

7. D’Angelo – Unshaken 

Written for the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack, Unshaken certainly conjures up the feelings of a western with its sparse production and solitary feel, and D’Angelo’s vocals sound superb in this lower range.

8. Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness 

Hello Happiness is a burst of energy, with a bass line straight from the 70s, electro vibes that belong in the 80s and a vocal performance that is positively timeless.

10. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Longshot 

Produced by Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., the Killers, U2), Longshot has a distinctly British optimism running through it, almost like they can’t believe something has succeeded. “Fiver says you’re wrong…”

10. Emily Brimlow – Hope [New Entry]

I don’t know if Emily Brimlow falls firmly into the ‘Christian music’ category, but it’s nice to hear a well-produced pop track speaking optimistically about God. The minimal r’n’b drum track leaves plenty of space for Brimlow’s voice and the really beautiful choral backing vocals to shine. This song is full of optimism and catchy as hell.

Track of the Day: Hot Flash Heat Wave – Sky So Blue

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Hot Flash Heat Wave – Sky So Blue

Its freezing cold in London today, but San Francisco’s Hot Flash Heat Wave have managed to provide more than a little bit of warmth with their new single Sky So Blue.

Sky So Blue is a lazy summer afternoon in a park, drifting off into reverie through the sheer fatigue of doing nothing at all. It’s a cocktail of synths, psychedelia and sunshine. Lots of sunshine.

The thing I most enjoy is how it meanders between beautiful bits of musicianship; there’s plenty of things going on, but it never feels like any effort to get between them. Dream pop certainly, but also it owes a great debt to the wonderful Americana sounds of the west coast. Oh, and Tame Impala, obviously.

Enjoy!

 

Album Review: Red Rum Club – Matador

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Red Rum Club – Matador 

Have you ever wondered what it’d sound like if the Coral soundtracked a western? Well wonder no more, because Scouse sextet Red Rum Club  (I assumed they’re named after the Grand National winning horse of the 70s, either that or they’re guzzling some weird cocktails) have brought together a collection of indie pop songs that’ll satisfy your curiosity with their debut album.

Matador is a relentlessly fun album that – at a pithy 31 minutes – never outstays it’s welcome. Encompassing a Mariachi sound through its almost ever present trumpets, it’s full of fun and toe-tapping songs. The album comes galloping – quite literally – out of the gates with Angeline, an instantly catchy and fun track that instantly sets the tone for what is to come.

It’s almost impossible to write a review of a band from Liverpool without referencing the proud pop heritage of the city, and throughout Matador there are homages to their predecessors. You can certainly hear the Coral (Honey, but many others as well) and the La’s (TV Said So) and there’s hits on here – perhaps most notably Would You Rather Be Lonely?) that a certain Fab Four would be proud of. But the joy of Matador is that they’re taking the past – with all its familiarity – and giving it a new and playful twist.

The songs are catchy, the trumpet elevates everything and if this is as good live as it is on record then they’re a ‘must not miss’ for the summer festivals. My personal favourite is probably Nobody Gets Out Alive – which feels like a proper western showdown with its ominous bass and dramatic trumpeting – but there are few bad moments here.

Matador is not a lyrically or musically complex album. It probably won’t win any fans at Pitchfork. But sometimes you just need music to be fun, where you can sing and dance along. This is an album that has that in spades.

7.5/10

Track of the Day: Lucy Rose – Conversation

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Lucy Rose – Conversation

29 year old singer-songwriter Lucy Rose has released Conversation, the first track off her forthcoming fourth album No Words Left, due for release on the 22ndMarch.

The track is both simple and hard hitting. Full of atmosphere with some beautiful strings, there’s an air of strength and finality surrounding the delicate vocals.

The general story of the track is rather neatly encapsulated in two lines of lyrics:

“No-one loves me quite like you do
But no-one lets me down like you do”

Conversation reminds me a little of Laura Marling and has certain whet my appetite for the album.

Check it out here:

 

Ramblings: peak excitement levels for new albums from The Twilight Sad, Foals and the return of Bombay Bicycle Club

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One of the exciting things about January is that every music publication gets to run two lists, the new(ish)/lesser known artists they think will be big in the year ahead and the list of more established artists that are set to release new material and albums in the coming year.

In truth, the ‘breakthrough star’ lists seem to be losing a lot of their appeal and ‘guaranteed hit’ status (pure speculation on my part, but I’d guess this decline is through a combination of how we consume music nowadays and how social media has changed how we interact with and receive information from artists directly. Plus there’s about a million of those lists now, which inherently makes them less impactful).

Similarly the album lists are often preempted by the – now very early – announcements of major festival headliners (case in point, I was discussing albums coming up with a friend the other day and he said ‘Tame Impala are headlining Coachella, so I assume they’ve got something new coming out’)

Bu leaving that aside, I could barely hide my excitement when I went through the list(s) of acts with new material this year. Two acts I really admire (The Twilight Sad and James Blake) are releasing new material on Friday. The year’s not even three weeks old and we’re getting stuff from critically acclaimed and adored artists.

The Twilight Sad 

I’m particularly looking forward to The Twilight Sad release, partly as they made my favourite song of last year but mostly because I think they suit the LP format beautifully and rarely make a wrong step on their albums.

They have done a phenomenal job on Twitter creating a buzz for the release. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band create momentum and excitement in such an organic way; they and their fans are building up to Friday as a real key milestone for an underrated band. And the initial reviews certainly seem to indicate that the buzz is worth it.

Foals

The band I was originally going to centre this post around is the mighty Foals. They went big on a teaser last week for their new material that had rock and indie fans everywhere salivating. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost is the name of the new album, and it will come in two parts, one in March and the other in the autumn. They must have a lot of faith in the albums to give it that title, it’s a reviewers dream to have something like that if an album – particularly a double album – isn’t very good… 

I’ve been a fan of Foals since I first heard 2008 single Cassius on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show. They sounded unusual and brilliant, and their singles became highlights whenever they were released. But the other side of the coin was that they seemed a sloppy live band. I remember watching them on TV (it was probably a Glastonbury set) and it sounded pretty rough. Yet their albums seemed to continue getting stronger, and I thought 2015’s What Went Down was a very good album – with a monster single of the same name – that was widely overlooked.

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In fact I thought they were ready for big festival slots, they were a band who had honed their live set into something wonderful – I saw them at Wembley Arena and they were absolutely fantastic – and they had enough big songs to justify top billing. Yet the big festivals didn’t quite agree. Glastonbury put them on the Pyramid stage below Muse, which I think was very much the wrong way round. Leeds and Reading did give them a headline slot, but as co-headliners alongside Disclosure. Certainly not a bad set of slots, but they deserved to be up there on their own.

And now we come to their new album(s), and I’m at peak excitement levels. The little teaser they’ve put out is impressive, and I keep my fingers crossed that this is the album that lands them on the top of the British music scene.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Speaking of fantastic bands, I lost my shit yesterday when I saw the news that Bombay Bicycle Club are back together and making new music. They were one of my favourite bands in the world when they went on hiatus (I saw their last tour three times) and I think music has missed their contributions. Seeing that they’re back together was my favourite moment of 2019 so far.

Until next time ….

The A List – the best 10 new music tracks around right now

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The A List is back for 2019. Every week you’ll find here the 10 records I’m enjoying the most right now, in a – very unofficial – chart. 2019 has started strongly; the top three tracks here are all incredibly impressive and it was very hard to pick a favourite from them.

1. Billie Eilish – WHEN I WAS OLDER 

Thursday’s Track of the Day and our first number one of 2019, WHEN I WAS OLDER is full of eery distorted vocals and minimalistic electronic production that combine to create a haunting tone that is really hard to shake off.

2. Goldie, James Davidson, Subjective – Rift Valley 

Tuesday’s Track of the Day, Rift Valley is a track that is best played in the dark. It’s like you’re dreaming after smoking pot. Everything feels captivating yet entirely elusive.

3. Lana Del Rey – hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it 

I have an ongoing suspicion that all of Lana Del Rey’s melodies are variations of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. That being said, anticipation is high for her forthcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell and I liked both 2018 singles, Venice Bitch and Mariners Apartment Complex. However hope is a (etc – wayyyy too long to write out again) feels like one of her most accomplished songs. Lyrically this is a profoundly moving five minutes; from self-doubt to abuse to isolation, any song that has Sylvia Plath at its core will undoubtedly veer from weirdness to unimaginable suffering.

4. Sam Smith, Normani – Dancing With A Stranger 

A devastatingly simple pop track full of regrets. Sam Smith does heartbreaks better than almost anyone, and the simple production on Dancing with a Stranger leaves the listener to drown in the guilt and misplaced anger of a rebound one night stand.

5. Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness 

The first Track of the Day of 2019, Hello Happiness is a burst of energy, with a bass line straight from the 70s, electro vibes that belong in the 80s and a vocal performance that is positively timeless.

6. Lizzo – Juice 

Lizzo has some swag, and having made last year’s Astral Penguins Top 50 with the massive Boys, Juice is yet another banger from the Minneapolis songstress. Super sweet production with shimmering guitars brings to mind Duran Duran era pop, and the chorus is totally infectious.

7. D’Angelo – Unshaken 

With his first release since 2014, D’Angelo returns with the brooding and hypnotic Unshaken. Written for the Red Dead Redemption 2 soundtrack, Unshaken certainly conjures up the feelings of a western with its sparse production and solitary feel, and D’Angelo’s vocals sound superb in this lower range.

8. Lauren Jauregui – More Than That 

The second former Fifth Harmony member to appear in this week’s A List, More Than That is a short slice of a slick r’n’b full of assertive lyrics and lilting melodies.

9. Catfish and the Bottlemen – Longshot 

I’ve been a fan of CatB since they came onto the scene in c. 2014. I wasn’t a massive fan of 2016’s The Ride but Longshot sounds like a good return to form. Produced by Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., the Killers, U2), Longshot has a distinctly British optimism running through it, almost like they can’t believe something has succeeded.

10. PEZNT – Freedom 

Croatian dance duo PEZNT describe themselves as “something like Village People but more village rather than people”, which is pretty baffling. What isn’t baffling is their new single Freedom, which is a straight up, uncomplicated, hands-in-the-air dance track.