Laura Marling is the Rihanna of folk. On to her fourth album in 5 years, the prolific Brit folk darling just unleashed her new single “Master Hunter” last week, and it’s a change of wind for her. It’s been a while since I heard something this upbeat from Laura, but that trademark visceral melancholy in most of her songs is not lost here.
STREAM: Laura Marling – Master Hunter
“Where Can I Go?” is another strong cut from her forthcoming album “Once I Was An Eagle”. After 3 solid albums, I have no doubt this next one will be yet another challenging but rewarding listen. Her albums always take time to marinate and grow, but once they do, oh boy do they do.
STREAM: Laura Marling – Where Can I Go?
You can also watch a nice trailer for her upcoming short film for another track, “When Brave Bird Saved”:
Bat For Lashes’ Laura was a deeply gorgeous, haunting chamber-pop ballad, the kind that doesn’t need any enhancing. Nevertheless, San-Francisco-based electronic outfit Bachelors Of Science tried to put their own twist, resulting in a beautiful downtempo reading. They pair the track with ’90s trip-hop beats and buzzsaw synths, but keep the original piano melodies in the mix. This is going straight to my late night playlist! Well done guys.
STREAM: Bat For Lashes – Laura (Bachelors Of Science Remix)
You can watch Bat For Lashes’ new video for the next single “Lilies” below – a visual feast of impressive stop-motion animation.
WATCH: Bat For Lashes – Lilies
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)
It’s not Christmas at PLHQ without Theoretical Girl‘s annual Musical Advent Calendar to look forward to every day, and this year’s proves to be an extra jolly season. Taking song requests from Facebook fans, the English indie-pop maven adds her own charming lo-fi touch to a widely eclectic range of choice selections from The Cardigans, The Strokes, Francoise Hardy, Neil Young, Dusty Springfield, The Carpenters, Ronettes, Buddy Holly and more (and even a forgotten Longpigs classic)! Her sweet voice makes everything sound lovely and festive. For this post, I pick four of my favorites. Make a cup of tea, get comfy, and enjoy them below.
Theoretical Girl – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Neil Young)
Theoretical Girl – Erase/Rewind (The Cardigans)
Theoretical Girl – Someday (The Strokes)
Theoretical Girl – All Over The World (Francoise Hardy)
You can stream and download all covers for free , including those from previous years, at her Soundcloud. Theoretical Girl is currently working on her second album.
UK pop warbler Ellie Goulding capped off an amazing year with a live session for Fearne Cotton’s special Christmas show on Radio 1 yesterday. Beside acoustic renditions of “Anything Could Happen” and “Figure 8″, she also performed a lovely cover of Mariah Carey‘s festive classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Somewhere John Lewis are kicking themselves for not having her back with this. Listen to her version right below.
Yesterday, Dermot O’Leary (pictured above in a turtleneck, naturally) had four lovely singing ladies, dubbed his “Choir of Angels”, to spread the holiday cheers on his last radio show before Christmas. Rumer, Ren Harvieu, Emily Baker and Kristina Train (a Radio 2 super girl group right there) joined the host for a chat, then each offered their take on a holiday classic. Disney-noir songstress Ren Harvieu picked Joni Mitchell’s not-so-cheery “River”, which she pulled it off beautifully.
Fellow mellow chanteuse Rumer also chimed in with her own interpretation of Ron Sexsmith’s “Maybe This Christmas”, previously covered by Tracey Thorn.
You can listen to the whole session here if you’d like, starting around the 2:17:00 mark.
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.
Tyler James gained a rejuvenated career thanks to The Voice UK, but I’ve always had goodwill for him on the strength of his two poptastic nuggets “Why Do I Do” & “Foolish”. The former Amy Winehouse’s friend is now back on Island (the label that dropped him in the past), and just released a new album entitled “A Place I Go”. Lead single “Single Tear” was a decent rewrite of “Cry Me A River”, even if I find most of the album rather rushed and MOR. I appreciate that it was a uniformed throwback to mid-’00s R&B but individually the tracks just weren’t strong enough and the production came off as dated rather than nostalgic. Not my cup of tea, I guess.
With that said, the true keeper is track 11 “Written In Stone” – co-written by Jamie Woon & ’80s singer/songwriter Nik Kershaw. It’s an elegant R&B-lite ballad with a subtle postdubstep production. You can definitely tell that Woon had a hand in writing it, and I’d love to hear his own version. James’ vocals sounded a bit strained and seasoned, compared to Woon’s buttery tones.
STREAM: Tyler James – Written In Stone
The Voice finalists are not exactly known for commercial success, but I do hope he won’t be written off just yet.
Alex Hepburn is a London-based up-and-coming artist signed to Warner, and seems to be getting a push in France. Her sound is more on the serious “real music” side, but it’s her torch-soul cover of Neneh Cherry‘s 1996 Portishead-esque single “Woman” that caught my attention. Alex’s got a raw, raspy, smoky voice that suits bare-bone soul/blues. She has a tendency to sound a bit affected on her own tracks, but for the cover, she’s got the balance just right. She’s definitely one to watch out for in 2013.
STREAM: Alex Hepburn – Woman (Neneh Cherry Cover)
And here’s an original – “Pain Is”, co-written by the notorious Linda Perry…
STREAM: Alex Hepburn – Pain Is
How many ways can you remix Lana Del Rey? Just how many producers got sent the stems every time she readies a new single? I have a feeling there must be a plethora of unreleased mixes not making the cut, when they always releasing a mixed bag of tricks. For her new Rick-Rubin-produced single “Ride”, Active Child and Photek step up to the task and deliver two of the best rejigs so far. Do check them out below!
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – Ride (Active Child Remix)
Active Child adds some seriously funky basslines and pretty harp chords with an ’80s finish.
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – Ride (Photek Remix)
Props to the legendary Photek for not turning in a token drum n’ bass mix (Special Request has filled that slot instead), and for keeping the melodies intact, making it one of the more tamed offerings from him. I still would like to hear a proper old-school jungle take on Lana though.
Saint Saviour excels at making spooky, grown-up art-pop, and she’s been honing those skills by recording covers and giving them away on her Soundcloud. Among her latest is a tongue-in-cheek dubstep-ified cover of infamous ’80s power ballad “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. The Groove Armada collaborator has also provided her own lilting take on Mazzy Star’s ’90s shoegaze classic “Fade Into You”.
On the original-material front, her new single “Tightrope” is a beautiful heartbreak lullaby that would make Kate Bush proud. The chord progression also reminds me of Radiohead’s “Creep”, does it not? It’s by far one of her strongest tracks. Here’s the official video for it.
STREAM: Saint Saviour – Tightrope (Radio Edit)
Ellie Goulding‘s sophomore effort “Halcyon” is out this week, and you should probably have it already because it’s definitely one of the strongest pop releases this year. “Anything Could Happen” was a red herring, as the album is a big step forward – bold, experimental, and bombastic, without losing the pop charms of her debut. She shows real growth and progression as an artist. At the moment, I’m all about “Only You”, “My Blood” and the massive “Figure 8″ (which has to be the next single).
Her cover of Active Child’s “Hanging On” got a wicked bass remix by London-based producer Ahadadream, which is only available on the Spotify edition. But you can now download it for free! Have a listen below.
Just in time for Friday night, here’s the Hercules and Love Affair remix of Bat For Lashes‘ latest single “All Your Gold”. It’s a no-brainer union, since I always thought his throwback Chicago house sound would mesh well with her voice. Check it out below!
And if you haven’t seen its music video yet, please do. For me, it’s an instant classic that begs for repeated viewings. It’s beautifully choreographed, performed, filmed and edited, and those vaguely ritualistic moves Natasha Khan pulls are so captivating. This has become my second favourite video of hers beside that one. Stunning.
A lot is happening in First Aid Kit‘s world. First, the Söderberg sisters will be featuring on several tracks of the new album “The Fire and The Flame” by Blood Music, aka fellow Swede Karl-Jonas Winqvist. The lead single, “Glad That You Called”, is a charming, laidback twee-folk duet, with a cute music video of the three frolicking about in a big greenhouse.
STREAM: Blood Music feat. First Aid Kit – Glad That You Called
Secondly, the indie-folk duo has recently released a iTunes Sessions live album, featuring this harmonious cover of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot.”
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith Cover)
Last but not least, their excellent album “The Lion’s Roar” will get a Limited Edition boxset edition come October 2, with 2 bonus b-sides and one brand new track/single, “Wolf”. Here’s the kaleidoscopic, forest-based video for it.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Wolf
Have I mentioned the girls are performing in New York tonight and tomorrow too? As I said, a lot is happening in First Aid Kit’s world, and deservingly so.
Madonna‘s 2003 politically-charged album “American Life” is one of her more polarizing works, but it’s not without highlights, one of which is fan-favorite album track/Europe-only single “Nothing Fails”. The track was co-written by British electronic producer Guy Sigsworth and Welsh singer Jem. Originally called “Silly Thing”, the demo was recorded with Jem’s vocals back in summer 2001 and had never surfaced before… until last week, when Sigsworth finally reached into his vault and sneakily put it on Soundcloud. Though claimed a “work-in-progress demo” and “over ten years old”, the demo is achingly beautiful, even in its raw form. Jem’s pristine, light-as-air vocals carry an ingenue quality, in contrast to Madonna’s seasoned delivery on the finished track. In fact, it wouldn’t sound out-of-place on her excellent debut album “Finally Woken”, which makes me wonder if she ever worked with Guy on her own tracks. I am seriously in love with it, it makes me feel nostalgic for what I call “The OC age”. Oh how I miss her voice. To most people she might have been a poor man’s Dido, but I’d love for her to come back and give it another shot. Thank you, Guy, for sharing with us this lovely gem.
STREAM: Jem – Silly Thing (Demo For Madonna)
You can read the story behind it on Jem’s blog. Apparently, she’s working in film production now?
“Something In The Way You Are” is easily the best of the batch of new songs on Kimbra‘s US release of “Vows”. It’s a straightforward, catchy midtempo pop number that makes good use of a recycled Lil’ Mama beat. What I didn’t see coming is a remix from Nordic space-disco wiz Prins Thomas. Have a listen below.
STREAM: Kimbra – Something In The Way You Are (Prins Thomas Discomiks)
Watch the literally bonkers video for her latest single “Come Into My Head” after the jump.
More than a year ago, a song called “Human Love” was uploaded on Sunday Girl‘s Soundcloud account, and then quickly removed, as the tentative single got cancelled. I was among the few lucky ones who got to hear it before it got pulled, and it remains one of her finest tunes. Fast forward to 2012 and she’s still stuck ‘in development’, bar from the sporadical one-off singles. Then a few days ago, a new version of the song magically appeared on Soundcloud. Apparently, it was put online by the management company of producer/mixer Adrian Hall, who worked on it. It’s unclear whether this mix is recent or not, but it does have different vocals, and a more ‘serious artiste’ rock edge. This is about as close as we get to something new from Ms. Jade. Check it out below.
And the wait continues…
Chrysta Bell is David Lynch‘s mysterious new muse, who self-released her debut album “This Train” in 2011. Even though her new video for album cut Bird Of Flames was not directed by Lynch, it certainly shares a few thematic influences. It’s an otherworldly, colorful, sensual cabaret performance piece that’s a perfect visual match for the song, which I would describe as ‘Goldfrapp goes android’ – eerie, hypnotic, trippy, late-night mood music. If the production reminds you of Lynch’s own “Crazy Clown Time” stuff, you’re not far off since the auteur did produce it indeed. Have a peek at the beautiful video below.
STREAM: Chrysta Bell – Bird Of Flames
Saint Etienne have become somewhat of a serial cover mount tribute CD contributor as of late. Roughly 2 months after their Beach Boys cover for Mojo, the band has once again lent their reinterpreting talent to Q’s Amy Winehouse issue. They picked “Just Friends”, their least favourite track on “Back To Black”, for fear of ruining the better ones, but I think they did an excellent job. I could be fooled into thinking it’s a St. Et. original had I not known better. As Louis Walsh would say, they really “made the song their own”.
Preview 30 secs of each track here, though I should warn you it features bits from ‘The Cribs’ and ‘The View’. View the full tracklist after the jump.
Danish songstress Fallulah is back with a brand new track, “He’ll Break Up With You When Summer Comes”. It’s a beautifully arranged, delicate alt-folk-pop number, with Fallulah delivering some choice words to Mr. Ex in the bridge in a rather calm manner. She makes summer postbreakup sound like a picnic by the lake, which is how it should be.
Here’s a lovely outdoor live performance for your viewing pleasure.
And while her new album isn’t coming out until 2013, us Americans can finally get a hold of her debut, as “The Black Cat Neighbourhood” is set to drop on August 21 on MBM Records, with fall tour dates to follow. I’d love to see her when she stops by New York!
British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas will finally release her debut album “Is Your Love Big Enough?” on July 9 in the UK, and on August 6 in the US via Nonesuch Records. The title track will serve as the lead single here in America, and it’s an upbeat one akin to “Forget”, showing her versatility aside from her pretty acoustic ballad ones. “Is your love big enough for what’s to come?”, she sings, like it’s both a challenge, a come-on, and a warning. I’m not still not sure whether she sings “Ice cream on second avenue” or “I scream”, but the latter gives a slight curve to the sentiment. Download the track below, and watch the video if you fancy a look at what it’s like to be on tour with Lianne.
For her new single, British songstress Delilah goes back to the beginning with “Breathe”, a track previously given away as a free download last year, and now gets a revamp for its single status. At first I wasn’t sure about this single choice, since both “Go” & “Love You So” were so brilliant, but the new mix added the bells & whistles while still keeping the subtleties of the original demo. The demo sounded like Zero 7 to my ears, but this new version is closer to the Portishead school of hopelessly sombre and bleak night music. Those haunting strings at the end are just masterful.
The suitably moody video reflects the urban decay in the song. And is it only me who never noticed the scar on her left cheek before?
I kept half-expecting the song to drop into a drum & bass breakdown. Thankfully, the Sub Zero remix does just that while maintaining the atmostphere. There are few cases where I prefer a remix over the original but this might be one.
STREAM: Delilah – Breathe (Sub Zero Remix)
And if you prefer to put a womp on it, there’s Emalkay dubstep take, which you can download for free below.
MP3: Delilah – Breathe (Emalkay Remix)
A fan of duets? There’s one with fellow Chase & Status collaborator Liam Bailey. She really covers all bases, doesn’t she?
STREAM: Delilah – Breathe (Duet Version feat. Liam Bailey)
Marina & The Diamonds‘ new single “Primadonna” is out this week on iTunes UK, and you should buy it and support an amazing pop star already. Need more incentive? Marina’s team has put all the remixes up for streaming on her Soundcloud. The most blog-friendly of the bunch is by rising British producer Evian Christ. For what’s possibly his first official remix, he deconstructs a dance-pop track and builds it from scratch with vocal samples and loops.
STREAM: Marina and the Diamonds – Primadonna (Evian Christ Remix)