Empress Of is the moniker of Lorely Rodriguez, Brooklyn-based songstress signed to Terrible Records, label home of Solange and Chairlift. Considering the label’s pedigree, it should come as no surprise that her new track “Hat Trick” is a total dream-pop choon. It’s subdued, ethereal ’80s synth-pop at its smoothest, with slick production and silky sweet vocals. In a nutshell, it sounds like St. Vincent produced by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange). The only flaw I can find is that it’s too damn short! With this, Empress Of has unofficially joined the like-minded crystal-ball pop league of Twin Sister, Class Actress and Glasser. Now excuse me while I go hit repeat one more time.
STREAM: Empress Of – Hat Trick
Proper POP Alert! Aussie newcomer Betty Who is the latest potential pop gal on our radar. Her single “Somebody Loves You” has been on mad repeat, and we only just discovered it yesterday! Inspired by Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, the track was written after a failed long distance relationship as told by her, but you wouldn’t know giving its infectiously joyous nature. The straight-up ’80s jam is pure unadulterated pop: bouncy, sprightly, and unabashedly catchy. Betty also exudes charm and charisma in spades in the music video (embedded below). She’s currently unsigned, but not for long I bet. If you like Alphabeat, or old-school Madonna/Whitney/Janet, this should be right up your street. Seriously, if this song doesn’t have you grinning like an idiot by the end, then you sir need to cheer up a bit.
That was great fun wasn’t it? Did I mention it’s out now as a free download too?
Download remix stems of “Somebody Loves You” if you fancy having a go at it, or grab another free track “Fire With Fire” at her Soundcloud.
Shout-out to the always excellent Singles Jukebox for turning me on to this.
I love me some ’60s-loving duo side projects. I can name a handful off the top of my head: The Last Shadow Puppets, Cat’s Eyes, Scarlett Johansson & Pete Yorn, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, James Levy & The Blood Red Rose. Now Adam Green (The Moldy Peaches) and Binki Shapiro (Little Joy), are the latest to channel the Nancy/Lee dynamic with a self-tiled LP out January 29. The opening track “Here I Am” is a playful and sweet love song, with the tried-and-true deep-voiced-male/honey-voiced-female combination that guarantees an immediate spot on your local Starbucks playlist. Expect more loveliness like this when the album drops. Enjoy it while you can, since these kinds of projects hardly last beyond one album.
STREAM: Adam Green & Binki Shapiro – Collage (James Gang Cover)
You might have known Rachel Zeffira as one half of Cat’s Eyes, the unjustly underrated ’60s-pop side project of Faris Badwan of The Horrors fame. Now the classically-trained Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer is ready to venture on her own solo debut “The Deserters”, out this March in North America on Paper Bag Records. First single “Here On In” is ethereal dream-pop lushly crafted, with a certain Gallic cool that recalls Air or Charlotte Gainsbourg. Her airy, bewitching vocals float weightlessly above a bed of strings, synths and spectral harmonies. It’s beautifully arranged nocturnal music for fans of shoegaze and retro-minded indie pop. Therefore, it makes total sense that she chose to cover My Bloody Valentine’s “To Here Knows When” for the flip side. Check out both tracks below, and keep a close watch for more to come. The owls are not what they seem.
STREAM: Rachel Zeffira – Here On In
STREAM: Rachel Zeffira – To Here Knows When (My Bloody Valentine Cover)
Frida Sundemo was previous known as simply Frida in Japan. The breezy-cutesy bossa-nova-tinged songs from her 2010 debut album “Dear, Let It Out” managed to strike a chord with the Japanese audience. Granted, she was not the first Swede indie girl to conquer Japan. Two years later, she has stunningly reinvented herself as Frida Sundemo, the next big Swedish synth-pop starlet.
“Indigo” is the kind of song that came out of nowhere and catch you by surprise. Her sweet vocals against the aggro synth backdrop made for a striking combo. It’s clear she has graduated from the same School of Pop as Robyn, Lykke Li, and Tove Styrke. It’s electro-pop perfection that only the Swedes can effortlessly offer in spades.
And here’s a different side from her early career, the sweet lounge ditty “Towers”:
One of the most promising acts for 2013? I think so.
Chart Music is the new joint project of Le Prix and Roger Gunnarsson, both of whom have worked with Sally Shapiro, Johan Agebjörn, Cloetta Paris and Queen of Hearts. If you don’t know any of those names, educate yourself. If you do, then you probably know what to expect. The first song from the Stockholm-based duo is “When You Lied”, featuring Viktor Ginner on vocals, and it’s a gorgeous piece of melancholy heart-on-sleeve anorak twee-pop blub-a-thon. Influences include italo disco, ’80s synth-pop and John Hughes films. If you don’t feel something when the middle eight’s instrumental breakdown glides in, then you sir need to check your pulse!
STREAM: Chart Music – When You Lied
An accompanying video was made of clips from obscure 1986 teen flick Lucas. Prepared to get your sad eyes on.
Mysterious Aussie/Swedish twin duo Saint Lou Lou managed to win me over with just one perfect little gem of downtempo dream-pop. “Maybe You”, their first and only song to date, is a sublime synth-pop ballad with an ’80s-indebted ‘quiet storm’ vibe. It’s melancholy yet hopeful, subdued yet tender. It’s the kind of track you can imagine yourself hearing on the radio in the back of a taxi cab on a rainy late-summer night. In fact, I’m surprised they didn’t add thunderstorm sound effects to the intro, so I guess I’ll make do with an open tab of Rainymood.com.
The music video is a gorgeous, sensually-shot black-and-white slo-mo affair. Watch it below, and check out some excellent remixes after the jump.
It is quite sad to hear that War Of Words are no more. The protégés of Ben Langmaid (aka La Roux’s other half), the short-lived British alt-pop duo only managed to put out 2 songs (4, if you count the remixes) on the Popjustice Hi-Fi label before finally calling it a day. And such good songs they were. “Battleground” is my favorite out of the two. Despite being an umpteenth attempt at recreating another “Unfinished Sympathy”, it was a well-written heartfelt tune that showcased their soulful ’90s dance-diva throwback sound best. I always thought the girls had raw potential not fully realized yet. While they certainly have fantastic powerhouse pipes, I wasn’t entirely convinced on their image: they didn’t have a conventional malleable pop-star look, but didn’t find a quite right styling either, and they seem to have zero presence in their videos (which I’m not sure is premeditated or not). Still, it was clear the band was still in the early stages and I was genuinely waiting for more to come. It’s a shame we lost yet another promising but ill-fated female pop duo (RIP Mini Viva, Oh My!). Hopefully, we’ll still have Icona Pop to root for…
STREAM: War Of Words – Battleground
Sometimes, it is best to listen to new music point-blank, without any expectations, and that’s exactly how you should listen to the track below.
STREAM: Violet – Y.O.U.
That was well lovely, wasn’t it? It’s languid, laidback, nostalgic and lovey dovey dream-pop, reminiscent of ’90s Mazzy Star, and Beach House, for a more modern reference. It’s appropriately springtime soundtrack for a lakeside picnic.
I checked Violet out with no other information other than they’re the latest signing to cool British indie label Luv Luv Luv, and I liked it so much I had to google to find out more. Much to my surprise, it turned out Violet is in fact fronted by Pixie Geldof, whom I have only known of as an infamous socialite and tabloid fixture. I definitely didn’t see this coming! It’s easy to forget that she is technically music royalty after all. Suffice to say, I’m glad I got to hear this without my preconceptions getting in the way, because “Y.O.U.” is indeed an impressive preview of things to come.
“Y.O.U./I Come Undone” will be released as a limited 7″ on May 7 by Luv Luv Luv.
It’s not easy to keep up with all the side projects of Hot Chip. While the band’s new full-length “In Our Heads” is not set to drop until June, they still have time to pursue their other gigs. New Build is the new band of Al & Felix, and musically, it is very much in the same universe with Hot Chip, whose sounds I’d like to refer to as “graphic designer pop”. However, compared to Joe Goddard’s project The 2 Bears, this is more stoic and sedative. The new single “Your Love” is a typical indie electro affair with blokey vocals, dubstep flourishes and cowbells. Lyrically, they’re still proudly wearing their hearts on sleeve. The debut LP entitled “Yesterday Was Lived And Lost” is out now in the UK, and on April 3 in US. However, if you can’t wait, they have kindly made the entire album available for advance streaming below.
STREAM: New Build – Your Love (Radio Mix)
Darkness Falls is the Danish indie rock duo of Josephine Philip and Ina Lindgreen. Together they created “Alive In Us” – their first album released in late 2011 with production handled by Trentemøller. They remind me a lot of their fellow Danish rockers Mew, and for good reasons too.“The Void” is the single to discover, a prime example of just how well the Danes understand atmosphere in music. Instrumentally, it’s flawlessly produced – chilling, brooding, and melancholic. However, it’s not without flaws. It feels like the vocals didn’t maximize the ethereality it could go for, and the lyrics left something to be desired, beside its English-as-second-language charm. Regardless, it’s music that pertains to a certain kind of mood and weather, and a Saturday rainy morning is just the right catalyst, not to mention that the gorgeously-shot music video is a must-watch.
STREAM: Darkness Falls – The Void
Their album is available for streaming on Spotify, so I’ve got my homework cut out. Hopefully there’s more where this comes from.
I was first alerted to Ren Harvieu when she was longlisted on the BBC Sound of 2012. Forewarning: she makes music for Radio 2. BUT it’s damn good Lite FM gold. The Mancunian chanteuse possesses an enchanting jazz/soul voice with a drawl that lulls you in effortlessly. Her debut single “Through The Night” is an exquisite, languid, elegant tune, conjuring up an expensive, widescreen kind of sadness. I suddenly found the song creeping its way back into my head on a misty Thursday morning, and it’s been lingering there since. In a nutshell, if you secretly like Rumer but think she’s too mumsy, or have a fondness for Norah Jones circa 2002, then Ren Harvieu is for you. Lovely stuff.
STREAM: Ren Harvieu – Through The Night
“Through The Night” is OUT NOW in the UK.
A member of the BBC Sound of 2012′s club, Lianna La Havas is hotly tipped as one to watch by British media. I first heard of the 22-year-old London native through her buzz single “No Room For Doubt”, which I thought was pleasantly nice enough. However, I wasn’t feeling the tracks on her EP as much. Even though she has a great soulful voice, her materials didn’t sound terribly exciting. The Corinne Bailey Rae comparisons also did her no favors.
Well, I would like to take that back. I shouldn’t have written her off so hastily, because her new single “Forget” totally flipped my premature verdict on its head. The song is much more sonically interesting than I expected – a slick, funky midtempo with a Latin twist. The simple, understated performance video gave her space to present herself as a star, taking command of the screen with moxie and sass. It helps that she’s very videogenic and charming, too. I am glad that she’s capable of versatility, beside the acoustic folky stuff. Apparently, she’s been working with Matt Hales (Aqualung), so I look forward to at least a piano ballad. With her album scheduled to arrive in May, you have plenty of time to get acquainted with Lianne and her music. Check out the video, download an acoustic live version, as well as her sweet cover of Everything Everything’s “Final Form”.
STREAM: Lianne La Havas – No Room For Doubt (feat. Willy Mason)
London-based AlunaGeorge is the latest on my list of favorite up-and-coming pop acts. Even though their new single has been knockning about since last summer, I only discovered it recently. “You Know You Like It” is a sexy, slinky piece of post-dubstep R&B, a firecracker loaded with infectious hooks that will get stuck in your head for days. Aluna Francis’ voice is a cool mixture between Santigold and Martina Topley-Bird, and to me they sound like a modern-day Moloko, which is always a good thing in my book. 2012 will see the release of their debut album, so hopefully they’ll have some more ace tunes up their sleeves. I highly recommend them if you like Little Dragon, Katy B… or have a thing for boy/girl electro duos. They’ve also been doing some high-profile remixing work, including one for Lana Del Rey which you can download right below.
So it’s that jolly time of the year when new original festive songs are in demand again. Up-and-coming Swedish duo Serenades has stepped up to the challenge by releasing a holiday-themed song as their first single. However, “Come Home” is not so much about Christmas itself, but rather a lament about the non-festivity of a one-man holiday. And they sugarcoat the depressing sentiment with lovely sun-kissed melodies that Swedes can seemingly do in their sleep. Serenades’ music falls in the same subgenre of chill, tropical, Instagrammed ’80s pop that The Tough Alliance and Gypsy & The Cat also frequent. While their sound’s not entirely original, it’s done beautifully, and there’s enough room for another band in that niche. Curiously, they are signed to Cherrytree Records, Lady Gaga’s label, so undoubtedly we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in 2012. Watch/stream “Come Home” right below.
A 4-track EP is out now, including a remix by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John.
Pictured above are the three sisters from Watford, collectively known as The Staves. This British trio should soon be on every folk-pop fan’s lips with their debut album scheduled for release next year. If you like the likes of Laura Marling, The Pierces, Birdy etc., then their new single “Mexico” will most certainly appeal to you. Basked in a warm glow of harmonies, the song is a thing of understated beauty. The melodies tread lightly and unobtrusively, yet they draw my full attention and reduce me to silence every time. There’s not necessarily new ground to break, just beautifully crafted mellow music for your listening pleasure.
Watch the music video for the track below, and keep in mind that all the effects were achieved in camera!
STREAM: The Staves – Mexico
The Staves’ new EP is out on December 11.
I’m always on the look out for the next “it” British guitar band. It doesn’t matter if they all sound the same, with luck, one might come along with one great guitar-pop tune, and one at a time is all I ask for. However, up-and-coming London-based five-piece Spector has already exceeded that ratio by churning out 3 good singles in a row! The nerves. Their latest release, “Grey Shirt & Tie”, saw them switching gears for a more ’80s-inspired sound. At first listen, it seems lovely enough, if a bit restraint compared to their previous efforts, but it turns out to be a massive grower. What sets them apart from the much crowded deep-voiced blokey band pool is that they definitely don’t shy away from a catchy melody. With their namesake (which is, yes, named after that Spector), they’ve got a lot to live up to, but I believe 2012 will be their breakthrough year. Watch the quite nice video for “Grey Shirt And Tie” below, though I’m not sure if the Harry Potter glasses are a good look.
STREAM: Spector – Grey Shirt And Tie
STREAM: Spector – Never Fade Away
“Grey Shirt & Tie” is out on December 7 on Luv Luv Luv Records.
More on Spector.
Keith Kenniff is known to most electronic fans as the man behind Helios and Goldmund. Far from the former’s beautiful downtempo soundscapes or the latter’s minimal neo-classical compositions, Mint Julep has long been served as an outlet for his pop experiments. A project by Keith and his wife Hollie, Mint Julep leans toward shoegazing, ambient dream-pop (…dreamgaze?). The Portland-based duo’s new single “Aviary” is probably their poppiest track to date. With reverbed, softly-sung vocals and an atmospheric mood, it makes great music for the changing of seasons. Just put it on while you stand by the window and gaze wistfully at the rain outside. And if you’re in the mood for a bit of post-rock, check out the 8-minute Mogwai remix. The band has kindly made both tracks available for free below. A new album, entitled “Save Your Season”, is expected soon.
MP3: Mint Julep – Aviary
MP3: Mint Julep – Aviary (Mogwai Remix)
After the jump, watch the cool music video, shot in Berlin.
Meet Delilah, Britain’s latest up-and-coming post-dubstep popstress. Having lent her vocals on Chase & Status’ single “Time” before, she has finally found the time (ha..) to unleash her solo ambitions. Her first single “Go” is a quite the seducer, with an insidious, moody electronic production, on which Delilah’s voice purrs, flicks and drips sensually. I quite like how the track shamelessly nicked the verses of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”, Liberty-X-style, and patched on a bit of Beyoncé’s “Green Light” for the chorus too. As for the music video, she suitably vamps it up by patrolling London streets at night with a canine friend.
Even though some of her vocal affectations could be handled better, I’m intrigued by the direction she’s taking. “Breathe”, a string-addled downtempo number by way of Zero 7, is another early highlight. However, her “Go” EP seems to divide between the trip-pop sound, and plodding Sia-esque piano lounge ballads which I’m not as keen on.
Imagine a modern-day one-girl equivalent of All Saints. That’s what I’d like her to be. She’s definitely got the looks and voice to fill that void. Dear Delilah: might we have some more dark, chill, urban-tinged pop, please. Thank you.
Stream “Go” and a great drum’n'bass remix by SPY below. Then get here for a free download of “Breathe”.
Delilah – Go
Delilah – Go (SPY Remix)
Of all the new girlbands popping up in UK lately, I found myself rooting for SoundGirl the most. There is just something fresh and likeable about the London-based trio that distinguishes them from the rest. Maybe it’s the girl-next-door appeal that’s part of the charm. Olivia, Izzy and Nicole appear to be just 3 teenage girls who are genuinely having fun, not at all concerned with building a hefty multimedia branding empire, or becoming overstyled tabloid figures just yet. Comparisons to Sugababes 1.0 are duly noted. Their debut single/free buzz download “I’m The Fool” was passable, but “Don’t Know Why” is the one that reveals their potential for me. While it’s not the first song to sample Carly Simon’s “Why”, the involvement of songwriter Miranda Cooper really gave it that fondly-missed Xenomania pop kick. The single might have come and gone in the charts with less recognition than expected, but it’s truly a fun summer hit that should have been. Check out the video below, and get a ’90s-styled remix after the jump.
Sometimes great visuals can enhance a song to another level. Such is the case with Canadian/NYC-based duo New Look‘s “The Ballad”. Is it just me or both the song and the video are quite David Lynch-ian? It helps that singer Sarah Ruba looks a bit like Milla Jollovich, too. The stark, clinical beats and synths contrasts against her voice and the lyrics, which are like a gentle, consoling pat on the back, though distant, awash, and weary. I highly recommend watching the video first, as it sets up and maintains the mood suitably.
Their dark, atmospheric synth-pop sound is probably too chilling for July, but it will soundtrack grey days and rainy nights perfectly. An album is due this fall on German label !K7. Hopefully there will be more of the same ilk to come.
The video uses a shorter edit, which keeps the song condensed enough. Personally, I prefer it to the full version, which adds 2 extra minutes.
New Look – The Ballad
MP3: New Look – Numbers
Scottish newcomer Emeli Sandé is the latest to join the pop division of the ’90s electronica revival current. While she has only stepped into the spotlight recently, Emeli is actually no stranger on the UK urban pop scene, having featured on tracks of Professor Green, Tinie Tempah, Wiley, and written for Cheryl Cole, Alesha Dixon and Susan Boyle! Quite an impressive CV, don’t you think? Since I’m not really familiar with her previous urban collabs, “Heaven”, her debut single, is the first song I heard from her. And it’s the perfect introduction to her sound, with old-school drum-n-bass beats and a powerful, emotive vocal delivery. The girl can belt out! The music video, directed by Jake Nava (Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”), took the ’90s vibe even further, complete with vague “broken Britain” imagery. If you’re a fan of Katy B, Yasmin, or Jess Mills, then Emeli Sandé will definitely be to your liking. Only time will tell whether she’s not just a new Leona with a trendy haircut, but “Heaven” is indeed a bloody good start. Watch the video, and stream the radio edit below.
Emeli Sandé – Heaven (Radio Edit)
“Heaven” the single is out on August 14 in the UK. Pre-order now on iTunes.
P.S. I was planning this post before I knew of yesterday’s heartbreaking news, and I couldn’t help but feel that this song’s lyrics made a rather fitting tribute to her. It was such a tragic end to a massive talent and tortured soul. Let’s face it, we all saw this coming, but that didn’t make this devastating loss any easier to cope with. I was always hoping she could fight the demons, get herself together and make another brilliant album… She is truly an icon, and there will never be another one like her. RIP Amy Winehouse, may you find peace at last…
I first got wind of The Good Natured around this time last year. Both their self-released singles “My Body Is A Machine” and “Be My Animal” were catchy examples of icy, moody, goth-tinged synth-pop. I would describe the sound as Ladytron-meets-La-Roux, for which lead singer Sarah McIntosh‘s clearly-enunciated, slightly mechanical vocal style added the frostbite needed. The British band is now signed to UK’s Parlophone, home to Lily Allen, Pet Shop Boys and Bat For Lashes, so they have excellent company there. On July 4, they will release a new 3-song EP called “Skeleton”, and the title track, produced by Patrik Berger (Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”) is already out now (video). I expect more exciting things to be announced soon! For now, you can download freebie track “Wolves”, along with a bonus cover of The Cure’ s “Love Song” below.
On the contrary to the misleading promo pic above, Niki & The Dove are not literally Niki and a dove. No one in the band’s named Niki either, how confusing! The Swedish band has been making the rounds with their off-kilter pop tunes, but what I previously heard did not make me a full-time believer yet. That was until “Gentle Roar”, undoubtedly their best offer so far. With its pounding beats and earthy, pagan-like chants, the track feels esoteric and eerie, but it’s their big POP moment, as opposed to earlier tracks which only seemed to teasingly teeter around that territory. I dare you to sit still while listening to this. It’s a wicked monster of a song. If you have an ear for fantastically weird Scandinavian music like The Knife, Fever Ray, Jenny Wilson or Lykke Li, then Niki & The Dove should be your cup of tea. “Gentle Roar” is on their new “12 single “The Fox”, out now on Sub Pop. You can stream it below and grab the great Mylo remix on the way.