James Blake, Andre 3000 – Where’s The Catch
The Penguin recently reviewed James Blake’s latest album, Assume Form. It’s an album that benefits from repeated listens, and helped to clarify the quality of some of the songs on the album.
The track that most obviously shone following repeated listens is the collaboration with Andre 3000, Where’s The Catch. Although it’s not obviously a single release compared to other Assume Form tracks, it really anchors the album and gives an otherwise generally upbeat album a gritty and striking moment.
With its unsettling, murky piano and deep beat, it turns the positives of the album on their head and questions if this really is too good to be true. Whether the love and joy that Blake is experiencing really has a catch; whether it’s too good to be true. For anyone who isn’t known to be wildly positive – which I think is a category we can classify Blake in, given his previous releases – it’s an understandable and relatable feeling.
Add in a sweet verse from Andre 3000 and you end up with a track that sounds good and makes you think.
Simon Curtis – Love
Former Nickelodeon star Simon Curtis returned on Valentine’s Day with his latest single, Love.
This tracks starts off sounding like The Weeknd. Seriously, it’s a little unnerving. The sweeping falsetto vocals completely deceived my ears. But then Love develops an 80s pop obsession and as a wave of synths floats across the track we end up with a hybrid between those two sounds; modern r’n’b influenced pop, and 80s pop with wispy backing vocals and programmed drums.
Curtis has stressed that the song is about self-appreciation “It’s about looking in the mirror and thanking the universe, or God, and clicking into that frequency where you fully acknowledge how beautiful your own existence is”.
Let me know what you think of it: email@example.com
Jessie Ware – Adore You
In a blog post that feels like a lifetime ago (50 days is a long time to a Penguin) I outlined my favourite 5 albums of 2018. In that list was the sublime Honey by Robyn, which was co-produced by Metronomy’s Joseph Mount.
Mount has continued his producing ways, this time in support of Jessie Ware. And it doesn’t sound a million miles away from the high-standards that Honey set.
Full of cold electronic shudders that – shouldn’t but somehow do – aid the sensual and devoted lyrics, Adore You is a pretty impressive coming together of Ware’s excellent vocals and production that really develops throughout the track. In addition to Ware and Mount, Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford is responsible for the mixing.
Chaka Khan – Like a Lady
If you’d have asked the Penguin in December what the odds were that within two months the Penguin would have selected two Chaka Khan songs as Tracks of the Day, he’d have
very aggressively politely suggested you go and join his former colony in the Galapagos…
Yet here we are. In January the Penguin selected Hello Happiness as the first Track of the Day for 2019. Now – following the release of her latest album on Friday – the Penguin is here heartily recommending Like a Lady.
The production for this is on point. Plenty of retro vibes without feeling in any way dated; in fact this takes a funky disco sound and makes it feel like it’s totally 2019.
But the reason the Penguin loves this track is quite simply because it is full of joy. It captures the dizzying joy and elation when you meet someone who sets your heart on fire.
Throw in Chaka’s cracking voice, some random strings and then some weird 80’s video game space noises (I don’t know how to describe it any better) and you’ve got an absolute banger.
Seriously, check it out. And let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Mulvey – Moments of Surrender
In the past couple of weeks the penguin has been compiling a list of cool cover versions to post (its coming soon, I’m busy OK?!). And now a new one has dropped into his lap.
Nick Mulvey has covered U2’s – frankly awful – Moments of Surrender from 2009’s No Line On The Horizon. Mulvey has given it a gorgeous and delicate folk twist that sounds warm and genuine.
I didn’t know the original (as the penguin does NOT like U2 in any way, shape or form) and it’s amazing that Mulvey has managed to get passed Bono’s ‘one too many sherries to hit a high note’ warbling and bring together something really rather beautiful. Great work.
The Amazons – Mother
Well this is a cracking piece of grandiose rock and roll.
With a similar stuttering start to Audioslave’s Cochise, you soon realise quite how confident The Amazons are with this track. Because then you get that riff…
Big, dirty and rough enough to knock your teeth out, the song swaggers into gear and you’re hooked.
The lyrics intriguingly revolve around hypocrisy, religion and atonement, but he could be reading out the phonebook and that riff would still sound glorious.
Sunflower Bean – Fear City
I’ve been a fan of New York three-piece Sunflower Bean for a few years and they’ve produced some impressive songs along the way, but I’d happily suggest that Fear City is their best song yet.
On first listen Fear City took me back to the late 1990s. 10 Things I Hate About You was one of those movies my friendship grouped watched on repeat, and a huge part of the appeal was the awesome soundtrack, in which Letters to Cleo featured prominently. Around the same time, my best friend got into the Riot Girl movement, playing me awesome punk tracks where the female vocalists always sounded so confident and assured.
Fear City has that same assurance, that same imperceptible swagger. It sounds timeless; it could easily have been made in the 1990s or the 1970s, and it takes the essence of Veruca Salt and Joan Jett (and many other pioneers) and simply builds on that legacy.
The guitars subtly drive the track, the chorus is instantly familiar and ready to be sung by audiences everywhere, and the underlying message is of empowerment and breaking away from fear.
Fear City comes from the King of the Dudes EP that Sunflower Bean released in late January.