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Archive for January, 2012

Popforward: Singtank

Say bonjour to up-and-coming French indie-pop duo Singtank. Even though the band of Alexandre and Josephine de la Baume is still in early stages, they are gaining attention for being wicked cool by association. The sister, actress/singer Josephine, is in fact Mark Ronson‘s wife, and has been touted by Kate Moss and Daze & Confused magazine as the next big thing. Their first single “The Party” is pretty standard as quirky indie-pop goes, with the brother on lead vocals and Josephine providing harmonies. It’s a fun, catchy ditty that reminds me of another boy/girl duo, The Dø. The video is visually arresting in an Alice in Wonderland meets M.C. Escher way. It’ll be interesting to hear more from them, apparently they worked with Bjork’s former producer Nellee Hooper. I wonder if they worked with Mark too, or maybe that’s too obvious?



STREAM: Singtank – The Party

Their debut album, “In Wonder”, drops May 7.
More on Singtank.

NEW VIDEO: Jessie Baylin – Hurry Hurry (Directed By Scarlett Johansson)

Jessie Baylin is one of those singers/songwriters whose names I recognize despite never really listening to the music. Even though her track “Hurry Hurry” has been out since 2010, it’s now pushed as the lead single promoting her new album “Little Spark”. The Richard-Swift-produced track has a gorgeous ’60s pop arrangement with strings, harp and ghostly backing vocals. It’s a laidback, dreamy tune that should make a nice addition to your rainy days playlist. For the music video, Jessie enlisted childhood friend Scarlett Johansson as the director. The video is an understated affair, a one-take shot of Jessie slo-mo walking on rain-streaked Manhattan Bridge with an occasional change of saturation and effects. For a song called “Hurry Hurry”, she sure moved at a leisurely pace!

Grab an mp3 of the track and a free EP after the jump…


Popforward: Ren Harvieu

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.

Watch the video for “Through The Night”.
Buy the single.
Watch her cover Beatles’ “Something” for The Sun Session.
Check out her Soundcloud.
More on Ren.

Covercentric: Sky Ferreira Strips Down Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans”

Sky Feirrera might still be spending her sweet time perfecting her debut album, but she’s been appeasing the fans by sporadically posting snippets and demos on her Soundcloud. Her latest gift comes in the form of a raw, angsty acoustic piano cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans”, deliberately renamed as “Berlin Jeans”, referring to where it was recorded. Allegedly done in one take, it’s a far cry away from her fizzy electro-pop stuff. Despite sounding a bit rough during the middle eight, she did an admirable job with the song.
Sky’s album “Wild At Heart” is set to be released later this year, and that she’s been working with producer Jon Brion only fuels more Fiona Apple comparisons. While it’s quite disappointing that her old electro-pop materials get scrapped, I’m certainly intrigued by her new direction. She’s a very promising artist who well deserves a breakthrough. Check out her cover below and let me know what you think.



MP3: Sky Ferreira – Berlin Jeans (Lana Del Rey Cover)

Sky’s Soundcloud.
More on Sky.

Saint Etienne’s Back With Free Single “Tonight”

What a delightful surprise! Indie-pop legend Saint Etienne premiered their brand new single “Tonight” today, taken from their first full-length album in 7 years, tentatively titled “Words And Music By Saint Etienne”. The effervescent tune is produced by Tim Powell (Xenomania) and mixed by Richard X – two of the best British contemporary electro-pop whizzes. According to Bob Stanley:

“Tonight is about the anticipation of going to see your favourite group. For some reason, I imagine this show is at the Forum in Kentish Town. The whole album is about the power of pop, how it affects and shapes your life.”

Well, that’s your new pre-concert soundtrack sorted out then.


STREAM: Saint Etienne – Tonight

Download the track free for a limited time.

You can also hear a sneak peek of another new track called “I’ve Got The Music” on Soundcloud (skip to the 1.16 mark). The prospect of a new St. Etienne album full of pop magic is rather exciting, isn’t it? Bob, Pete & Sarah, we are so glad to have you back.

LISTEN: Miike Snow – Black Tin Box (feat. Lykke Li)

Miike Snow won’t stop teasing. Only within days after unveiling new single “Paddling Out”, the Swedish supergroup has now unleashed the third new track from upcoming album “Happy To You”. The Lykke-Li-featuring “Black Tin Box” sounds like the best of both worlds: pretty synths from the band and Lykke’s love for boisterous drums. It’s probably my favorite out of the three we heard so far, from what’s shaping to be a great second album.


STREAM: Miike Snow – Black Tin Box (feat. Lykke Li)


“Happy To You” drops March 27.
Visit their Soundcloud for more new tracks.
Check out their North America tourdates at Pitchfork.
More on Miike Snow.

Lana Del Rey – Live on BBC Radio 6

Controversial rising popstar Lana Del Rey did her first ever UK radio session today for BBC Radio 6, joining Huey Morgan for a chat and performing acoustic renditions of “Video Games” and “Born To Die”. And yes, she sounds just fine and at ease with herself – not that this evidence will stop the online vitriol though, unfortunately. You can stream the full session and interview on BBC, but if you’re not UK-based and can’t access it, I have ripped both songs for your convenience. Listen and download the utterly lovely session below.


MP3: Lana Del Rey – Video Games (Live on BBC Radio 6)

MP3: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (Live on BBC Radio 6)


My modest advice for future live TV performances? Get a stool, honey. Maybe stand up for the last chorus – no one would see it coming. It works for Westlife after all.


Make sure to read Popjustice’s brilliant piece on her.

“Born To Die” is out now in the UK.
The Damon Albarn remix is also out. Beware, it’s disappointing.

Popforward: Lianne La Havas

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”.



MP3: Lianne La Havas – Forget (Live in LA)
MP3: Lianne La Havas – Final Form (Everything Everything Cover)

STREAM: Lianne La Havas – No Room For Doubt (feat. Willy Mason)


Buy her music (UK) / (US).
Download a free EP.
More on Lianne.

NEW VIDEO: Alex Winston – Choice Notes

For unknown reasons, I realize I never posted about Alex Winston before, despite being fascinated with her music for quite some time. After a long wait, her debut album “King Con” is finally scheduled to drop on March 6. The American popstrel has been making kooky leftfield-pop tunes since 2010, and after two fantastic singles, “Sister Wife” and “Velvet Elvis”, she’s on to scoring a hattrick with “Choice Notes”. Previously an early single, and album track on her 2011 EP, it has been given a freshened-up mix for the re-release. As for the music video, Alex went back to hometown Detroit for the shoot, and it results in a fun and cute clip. The song is possibly her most accessible track so far, with an instant sing-along chorus and feel-good plinky-plonky piano riffs. Funnily enough, I thought it was so commercial-ready, so I looked it up and apparently it was already synched for two! I’m not entirely sure about the release timing, since it always sounds more like a summer song to me. With luck, it can potentially be the new “Pack Up”.
Part of Alex’s charm is her unique voice, which is part Cocorosie, part Fever Ray meets Joanna Newsom, and of course, [insert obvious reference]. Admittedly, it’s not to everyone’s taste, and can sound shrill and grating at times, unless your ears are trained to quirky vocals for years. With that said, I like that her music is a bit spooky and eerie, with unconventional subjects, but also full of hooks. Watch the video, listen to the old version, and grab an MP3 of “Sister Wife” below.



STREAM: Alex Winston – Choice Notes (2010 version)

MP3: Alex Winston – Sister Wife


Buy her music.
More on Alex.

REMIXED: Mint Julep – Days Gone By (Helios Remix)

Keith Kenniff has brought back his Helios moniker for a new remix of his current project Mint Julep‘s single “Days Gone By”. While the original is pure shoegazing synth-pop ear candy, Helios’ remix mellows it down to a chill downtempo/trip-hop atmosphere. It makes a lovely ambient soundtrack for the late hours.



Watch the creepy music video for the original below, which is like a cool modern spin on an Argento horror flick.


Buy the single.
More on Mint Julep / Helios.

REMIXED: Woodkid & Clams Casino Remix Lana Del Rey

I know I post about Lana Del Rey way too often, but I can’t help it, not when what’s possibly the best remix of her song has finally been unleashed. Woodkid, aka French music video director/musician Yoann Lemoine, has given “Born To Die” his own unique treatment, and it’s absolutely amazing. It deserves to be played at maximum volume for the full effect. Have a listen below!


STREAM: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (Woodkid Remix)

Clams Casino also hands in an eerie, loopy remix.

STREAM: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (Clams Casino Remix)


And I have this much to say about her SNL “disaster”: the internet can be so overdramatic. Yes, her performances were definitely not her best moment, and she sounded mannish and bleated like a sheep at times, but they are nowhere near the catastrophic level people are making them out to be. She has already proved in previous live videos that she can cut it live, all she needs is to control her nerves, work more on her onstage charisma and hone her performance skills. I couldn’t care less about the whole “authenticity” debate, as long as the music continues to be this good. Let’s reserve our judgement and wait for the album to arrive first, shall we?


More on Lana.
More on Woodkid.

REMIXED: Aaliyah – Try Again (Memotone Rewerk)

Reworking and sampling ’00s r&b hits into abstract electronic loops is the trend du jour in the postdubstep world nowadays. British bedroom producer Memotone is the latest to join the bandwagon, by recontextualizing Aaliyah‘s Timbaland-produced stone cold classic “Try Again” into a beat-heavy, cowbell-adorned number, while still retaining some of the hip-hop flavor. And it’s surprisingly replayable. The chipmunk pitch shifts are expected, but the drumwork here is really impressive. It couldn’t be released at a better time, as today would have been her 33rd birthday. Sometimes I do wonder how different the R&B scene would be if she were still around…


MP3: Aaliyah – Try Again (Memotone Rewerk)


Download the free EP.
More on Memotone.

Catching Up With… Maia Hirasawa

It occurred to me the other day that it’s been a while since I heard from Maia Hirasawa. After all, she’s responsible for one of the finest, catchiest indie pop songs ever made. So I decided to do some catching up and to my surprise, not only had the lovely Swedish/Japanese singer/songwriter relocated to Japan, she also released a new album over there last year! Her self-titled Japan-only album is a collection of new songs in English and Japanese, as well as assorted tracks from her second album and Swedish EP. The lead single “It Doesn’t Stop” also serves as a sort of introduction to the land of rising sun, and it’s classic Maia at her best – robust, bright and sprightly. The song’s bursting with life and sheer joy that it couldn’t fail to bring a stupid grin on my face. Most of all, it took me right back to 2007, when I first discovered the super talented female roster of Swede lavel Razzia Records, including Maia among Hello Saferide, Firefox AK, and Jonna Lee. Those were the days…
View the sailor-themed video for the song below – you will really dig this if you’re a fan of Regina Spektor or commercial-friendly Feist. For good measure, I’ll throw in her harp-laden cover of Ne-Yo’s “Because Of You”. As you can tell by the choice, it’s a quite old one but still sounds fantastic.



MP3: Maia Hirasawa – It Doesn’t Stop

MP3: Maia Hirasawa – Because Of You (Ne-Yo Cover)


Buy her music.
More on Maia.

NEW VIDEO: Firefox AK – Color The Trees

The video for Firefok AK‘s new single “Color The Trees” is out, and it is awesome! Once again Andrea Kellerman and her husband Rasmus (Tiger Lou) joined forces, but this time they got to burst out some pretty cool dance moves on surrealist CGI landscapes. This marks the third time they collaborated, which appears to be a once-in-an-album thing. “Color The Trees” is definitely one of her best songs to date, a very catchy, uptempo tune of the quality melancholic Swede electro-pop calibre, with a distinctly wintry feel. The Bjorn-Yttling-produced track springs from her third album of the same name released last year in Sweden. The album has a tentative release date on February 6 in UK, and hopefully, a Stateside release will soon follow. In the meantime, check out the great video below and download a bonus remix.



MP3: Firefox AK – Color The Trees (Ghoul Remix)


Buy the album.
More on Firefox AK.

LISTEN: Rose Elinor Dougall’s New Free EP “The Distractions”

It’s always lovely to hear something new from Rose Ellinor Dougall. The ex-Pipette/Mark Ronson tourmate unleashed a new 3-song EP entitled “The Distractions” on her Bandcamp yesterday, and what’s more, they’re yours to take for free. You don’t even have to enter your email address or anything, how nice of her! These new songs mark a more guitar-based sound from her, like an extension on her excellent Smiths-esque single “Carry On”. I embed my favourite track below.



Download the EP here.
More on Rose Elinor Dougall.

REMIXED: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (Official Mixes)

That Lana Del Rey songs are quite tricky to remix doesn’t stop everyone from trying. A slew of mixes for her new single “Born To Die” came gatecrashing at once the other day, and I waded through the good and not-so-good to cherry pick a select few. What I like is that every remix from this package tries a different style. DJ Kris De Angelis‘ hard-edged club take is probably the most straightforward of the bunch. Gucci Vump‘s version utilizes the strings and vocal loops with some nice drumwork – it’s all about the 1:06 moment for me. Leo Zero went for an excessive balearic vibe, while Hackman (aka Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club) opted for a blog-baiting treatment with pitch shifts and those chunky house piano chords that are so in right now.


REMIXED: Emeli Sandé – Heaven (Alpines Remix)

Emeli Sandé‘s debut single “Heaven” gets a moody rework from pop-noir duo Alpines. It’s suitably nocturnal, with a dubstep flavor. I really like it better than some of the official remixes, actually.

MP3: Emeli Sandé – Heaven (Alpines Remix)

Emeli Sandé’s forthcoming album “Our Version Of Events” was one of my most anticipated for 2012, until PopJustice’s review got me worried. Her next single, “Next To Me”, does not wow me the way “Heaven” & “Daddy” did. Regardless, I look forward to a thorough listen soon.

More on Alpines.
More on Emeli.

LISTEN: Nicola Roberts – Memory of You

Nicola Roberts‘ new single “Yo-Yo” is officially out today in the UK, and those who pre-ordered can get their hands on an exclusive b-side – her solo version of Girls Aloud‘s poptastic b-side “Memory Of You”. It’s very nice of her to open up the vault and offer the fans what’s probably the closest thing to a Xenomania-produced Nicola track to date. Admittedly, although I used to expect and hope for this kind of sound for solo Nicola (ethereal, floaty, wistful disco-pop), I wouldn’t change a thing about “Cinderella’s Eyes” album campaign – from the consistently gorgeous artwork to the charmingly shoddy promo videos, and even her newfound fondness for caterwauling as well. It’s a shame the public didn’t quite latch on to her ginger brilliance, but “Cinderella’s Eyes” shall remain one of the most amazing underperformed gems of 2011. Check out the track below, and watch the video for “Yo-Yo” after the jump.


STREAM: Nicola Roberts – Memory of You


Popforward: AlunaGeorge

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.


STREAM: AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

MP3: Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (AlunaGeorge Remix)

Watch the video.
Buy the single.
More on AlunaGeorge.

LISTEN: CocknBullKid – Hands

Just before Christmas, CocknBullKid‘s as-yet-unreleased album “Adolescence” surreptitiously surfaced online. I would not even have known, if the British popstrel herself hadn’t pointed it out on her Twitter, and basically condoned her fans for seeking it out. Presumably the prequel to her excellent debut album “Adulthood”, “Adolescence” consists of songs recorded back when she went by her old moniker Thecocknbullkid. Apparently this album was scrapped, but later supposedly planned for a possible release. Her old sound was certainly different then – clashing, clanging, odd but danceable electro-pop with more of a rough edge, paired with her reliably acerbic, dry-witted lyrics. One of my favorites on this album, “Hands”, sounds like a great bridge of the old and new CocknBullKid. Written with Mark Tieku (Florence + The Machine, Nicola Roberts), it’s a sweet tribute to Phil Spector, but with brash synths and a twist – an unapologetic sax solo at the end! The track and the album it’s in are a lovely curveball that I’m glad to have a chance to listen to at last.


STREAM: CocknBullKid – Hands


And just in case you might be reading this, Anita, if Nicola doesn’t want “Dance The Rain” anymore, take it back for yourself, please! It’s too good to remain a demo.

Buy her music on iTunes.
More on CocknBullKid.

Covercentric: Veronica Falls For Eurythmics

A cheery bunch Veronica Falls ain’t. The UK indie band is known for their gloom-laden, gothic lo-fi guitar-pop, and their self-titled debut album released last year makes great music for cold, grey days. They carry their aesthetics well on this fantastic cover of Eurythmics‘ 1986 hit “Thorn In My Side”. Released on a limited covers 12″, it’s a cleverly reimagined version of the original, with which I wasn’t familiar before hearing their version. Their rather bleak-sounding take hints at a sense of desperation beneath the kiss-off bravado. What I like about Veronica Falls is that they do not forget the tunes and harmonies. Do check out their own songs if you have the time, they’re so underrated.

MP3: Veronica Falls – Thorn In My Side (Eurythmics Cover)

Buy their music.
More on Veronica Falls.

LISTEN: Goldfrapp – Melancholy Sky

Alison & Will are back with “Melancholy Sky”, the new single off their forthcoming career retrospective LP “The Singles”. One of the two new tracks on the compilation, “Melancholy Sky” is a languid, mellow number in the vein of “Seventh Tree” era, married to ’60s girl-group pop percussion. It also features a nice string arrangement and horn section, and of course, Alison’s unmistakable, crystalline vocals.
As always, it’s lovely on its own, as far as stopgap tracks go, but I kinda prefer the pastoral “Yellow Halo”. This album will be their last with EMI, and whichever direction they decide to take next, it should be interesting. Though if Alison’s beautiful Twitpics are any implication, their hearts are still wholeheartedly with nature. Stream the new song below, and check out the video for “Yellow Halo” too.




Buy the single.
Pre-order the album.
More on Goldfrapp.