Tones and I – Johnny Run Away
Tones and I is a singer hailing from Byron Bay Australia and this is her debut release. The song was inspired by her best friend coming out to his dad when he was younger, and in Johnny Run Away she speaks of young love and the negative reaction that receives from those that are meant to love unconditionally.
It’s a quirky – and oddly moving – track that reminds me of some of the earlier songs from Marina and the Diamonds (it may be the quirky voice). I don’t know whether the title is a reference to the classic Bronski Beat track Smalltown Boy, but it certainly deals with the same theme of a young man feeling isolated by his sexuality.
Teddy Pendergrass – Life Is A Song Worth Singing (Jamie Jones Remix)
American soul singer Teddy Pengergrass is more synonymous with the 1970s than 2019, but earlier this month Mixmag released an EP with five remixes of his songs to coincide with the release of a film about his life. The EP features some big name producers doing the reworking, including Damian Lazarus and DJ Pierre, but it’s the Jamie Jones remix that has really grabbed my attention.
A couple of years ago my favourite track of the year was He Is The Voice I Hear by the Black Madonna, and this track has a lot in common with it. Both owe a tremendous debt to Giorgio Moroder and the outstanding synthesiser-led dance music he inspired, both sprawl and meander their way over their 8 minute+ running time, and both blend old and new to create something that is timeless.
This is a truly wonderful remix that can brighten up any day. Every time I listen to it I end up smiling and wanting to dance. It starts with the teasing synths, but from there it throws in all sorts of wildcards. Teasing hi-hats, cowbells, trumpets. They all make an appearance. And the vocals help to keep the track grounded whilst all the chaos happens around them.
Give this a spin. It’s well worth your time.
Red Rum Club – TV Said So
Ages ago I wrote a review of Red Rum Club’s debut album Matador, an album that really took me by surprise with its (excellent) style and pop sensibilities. At the time I was really struggling to decide what my favourite track on the album was, there were plenty of good ones to pick from. Well, now I’ve decided…
TV Said So really reminds me of the Lightning Seeds (one of my favourite bands of the 90s), with its gentle swagger, catchy vocals and subtle-but-striking lyrics. On the surface, this is a catchy and upbeat pop track, but lurking just below are questions about conformity (“I’ll take my medicine, I’ll stand in line, Now take your pills coz the TV said so”) society (“I like the clothes she said, the ones in the magazine, She’ll pay the pounds for her self-esteem”) and the distorting impact that television can have (“Nothing’s ever gonna be as it seems when you see it through a television screen”).
At a time when the impact of fake news and social media is under the microscope, I think this track sits rather nicely alongside the more serious news stories. It is, for lack of a better comparison, a Coronation Street style storyline examination of the issue, rather than a Panorama documentary film, in that it focuses on the people and the emotions rather than the technicalities or politics.
Oh, and did I mention its catchy?
Rasharn Powell – Warm In These Blue Jeans
This is the first single I’ve heard by Essex singer Rasharn Powell and it’s an absolute knock out.
Everything in Warm In These Blue Jeans oozes class and style. The laid-back groove kicks in immediately, the silky smooth vocals follow. There’s some lovely electronic touches and counter vocals, and the chorus feels majestic. “If I had wings, I would touch the sky” he sings, and we can feel ourselves soaring with him. The extended outro is also a winner.
This is incredibly accomplished, and it’s worth noting that this is very reminiscent of early Frank Ocean (before he became too ‘good’ to bother with things like song structure and melody). It’s that good.
Lily Byrd – Don’t Move
From her Number EP released in January, New Hampshire’s Lily Byrd does something rather magical with Don’t Move. It is simultaneously familiar, sad, and hypnotic.
The gentle strumming of the guitar and soft vocals are beautiful, but the distorted saxophone (at least I think its a sax) keep disturbing the slumber of the track, the paralysis of sadness that the song speaks of. “Hypnotised by a lack of love” she sings at the end, and you realise you’re living every heartbeat with her.
Yuksek – I Don’t Have A Drum Machine
This track has been putting me in a good mood all week…
French producer Yuksek has put together an absolute knockout of a tune with I Don’t Have A Drum Machine. It’s an upbeat disco track that effectively narrates you through its own production. Fun, retro and extremely catchy, it absolutely makes you want to dance.
Julia Jacklin – Pressure to Party
Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin recently released her second album Crushing and Pressure To Party comes from that record. It’s a tale of coming out of a failed relationship, and how you feel forced to act in certain ways.
The Penguin has to be honest, lyrically this may well be my favourite track of the year so far. It is just so brilliantly constructed and hard-hitting. It makes you sit up and take notice. Take the first four lines:
Pressure to party, gonna stay in
Nothing good can come from me drinking
I would run, shoes off, straight back to you
I know where you live, I used to live there too
The Penguin was so impressed he sent it to a friend who lives close to the Antarctic (South London) and he – unusually – responded with an excellent review, which is probably better than anything I can write. He said:
This is great btw, lyrically so engaging and the juxtaposition between the upbeat music and the very much less so lyrics just makes it all the more intriguing. Ironically I’d imagine plenty of people will miss the lyrical content and take it as an upbeat ode to partying.
A really great track and I can’t wait to tuck into the album.