Just when you think there’s little left of the ’90s electronic music scene to mine, along comes Real Lies, a hotly-tipped London trio who manages to tap into a less-referenced part of the ’90s. Comparisons so far include Mike Skinner (The Streets), Pet Shop Boys, Underworld. Their poppiest single to date is “World Peace,” which sounds like ‘normcore’ Hurts meet Unicorn Kid (RIP). It’s amazing how it sounds so fresh, considering it was first released in 2013!
“Seven Sisters” is their latest track, certainly one for a lads’ night out. It contains this great line: “No first kiss could explain love, in a decade with no name.”
It really feels like the band is on the cusp of something exciting. They make music that can appeal to both NME, tastemakers and pop bloggers; cool, but not at the expense of melodies. Real Lies are totally the type of band that can be key players in the next BBC Sound Of poll, but I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long for new music!
Sound the listicle klaxon! Here are six things you can learn about Kiwi songstress Ruby Frost today.
- Ruby Frost is a very good pop star name, I’m sure you agree.
- Back in 2012 she released a nice single called “Water To Ice.” It sounded like Florence & The Machine meets The Naked & Famous ie. shouty & catchy electro-pop.
- She was on the judging panel of the first season of X Factor NZ along with Melanie Blatt of All Saints fame. Girl power! etc.
- Frost’s back with a brand new single called “Comeback Queen,” a drum-and-bassy youth-pop number. It was co-produced by Harry Sommerdahl (Robyn, The Saturdays).
- “Hooked on love since 17, you could say I’m comeback queen” is a good pop lyric.
- This will sound especially good on the speakers of an H&M or Uniqlo.
Have a listen below via the (naturally) ’90s-styled music video.
SUCH AN AUTUMN JAM.
Pre-order “FROOT,” out in April 2015.
Don’t be fooled by the title of Kimbra‘s new one. Yes, “90’s Music” does pay tribute to the ongoing ’90s nostalgia, shamelessly name-dropping Aaliyah, Nirvana, Mariah Carey, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and TLC all in the space of one verse. Sonically, it’s utterly bonkers. The future-funk production is courtesy of Kimbra herself and producer Rich Costey, and apparently Matt Bellamy (Muse) & Mark Foster (Foster The People) also snuck in on the track. On first listen it’s a madcap racket that sits comfortably alongside the output of alt-R&B greats like Erykah Badu, Little Dragon and Janelle Monae. Conveniently, Kimbra is having a joint Australian tour with Ms. Monae soon.
STREAM: Kimbra – 90’s Music
She’s wack and she knows it.
More on Kimbra.
On paper, The Horrors are the kind of band I wouldn’t be bothered with, and yet I keep liking bits and bobs of their output. Plus Cat’s Eyes, Faris Badwan’s side-project with Rachel Zeffira, was far from terrible. With their fourth album “Luminous” arriving soon, it’s safe to say they have become reliable mainstays for panoramic post-punk shoegaze goodness. Their latest single “So Now You Know” is what I’d call one of their accidental pop songs, and I can confirm it sounds fantastic on a sunny day. Turn on the volume!
STREAM: The Horrors – So Now You Know
Watch the desert-based music video for the track here. New album drops May 5 on XL Recordings.
After a week of relentless teasing, this morning Lana Del Rey finally premiered “West Coast”, the lead single off her highly-anticipated sophomore album “Ultraviolence”. The multi-layered, slow-burning midtempo ballad is something of a departure for her. It’s not like she has gone trap or anything, but it’s still a fairly new territory for her, sound-wise. To be honest, I was hoping for something on the poppier side (à la “National Anthem”), still, as I let it marinate a bit more, here are a few keynotes:
- It’s produced by The Black Keys‘ Dan Auerbach. So credible.
- A video has been shot with director Vincent Haycock (Calvin Harris, Florence + The Machine). Expect it to be a serious narrative affair
- I wonder if they deliberately sampled The Beatles’ “And I Love Her” opening bar? Listen to 1:04 and compare.
- Hello, “Pure Shores” synth pads!
- Basically it’s something you can swing from side to side to in the pale moonlight.
- Perpetua tweeted that it sounds like “she merged Portishead and Mazzy Star”, which I can actually hear.
Have a listen below:
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – West Coast
What do you make of the ‘queen of Saigon”s new direction?
The Pierce sisters have returned with not one, but two brand new songs! I was a big fan of the singles from their last album “You & I”, so new Pierces music now requires mandatory coverage. “Kings” is the catchy stomper with sweet harmonies, sweeter hooks and a Carole King reference, while lead single “Believe In Me” is the MOR midtempo ballad for Radio 2 listeners to slow dance to. Both tracks are a taster of their upcoming fifth album “Creation”, out June 2 in the UK. If the album maintains this level of quality, then it’s safe to say it should be quite a pleasant listen.
W▲TCH: The Pierces – Kings
One thing I’m not so sure about is the visual aesthetics this era. On one hand it’s nice that they’re leaving behind the ’70s boho look which has become a bit lazy, on the other hand, judging by the ironically ‘lo-fi’ videos, it now looks like they’ve been spending time at dated mall photo booths.
W▲TCH: The Pierces – Believe In Me
Stine Bramsen of Alphabeat has officially kickstarted a solo career with her debut single “Prototypical”. Released worldwide last January, the toe-tapping track sees her leaning towards a more mature singer-songwriter direction, but worry not, the hooks are still very much present. A music video will be coming soon, until then you can stream the track right below.
I also made a late discovery of her collaboration with alt-rock band/labelmate Carpark North on their single “32” last year. I don’t know much about the fellow Danish rockers beside their striking Martin De Thurah-directed videos in 2005 for “Human” and “Best Day”, both of which were admittedly quite good Depeche Modesque tunes. It’s good to know the band still releases music in that same vein. In fact, I find myself liking “32” much more than I expected, thanks to Stine’s star-turn vocals. Then again, the Danes have always excelled at cold water music, like this subtly anthemic synth-rock jam (see also: Mew). Watch the moody video featuring a girl with superpowers.
W▲TCH: Carpark North – 32 feat. Stine Bramsen
Lately the music scene has witnessed the inevitable antithesis to EDM. A small wave of new acts makes music that is more likely to gently stroke a listener’s chin, rather than shout at one’s face threatening to ‘drop’. London Grammar are UK’s brightest new hope. Already scoring a #2 album across the pond, the band is making their way to America. A mix between The XX, Florence & The Machine and Sia, London Grammar’s sound is really as stately and deceptively modest as the name suggests. At times they also remind me of Trespassers William too.
I first got hooked on early single “Metal & Dust”, a gorgeous trip-hop throwback that knows when to hold and release. Follow-up single “Wasting My Young Years” is one of those ballads that might send a lump down your throat in an appropriate mood. It might actually rival the grandeur of Sia’s “Breathe Me”, and I don’t say that lightly. However, “Strong” is the one with mass appeal, landing them their first Top 20 single in Britain. The old-school drum-and-bass High Contrast remix confirms that they sound just as good over block rockin’ beats.
As nice as the electronic embellishment around their production is, it’s Hannah Reid’s powerhouse vocals that took center in every song. Her guest vocals on Disclosure’s “Help Me Lose My Mind” is a thing of sunset-in-Ibiza beauty. For such a new band, they’re really building up a solid discography.
STREAM: London Grammar – Metal & Dust
Check out their US tour dates after the jump.
Say hi to your new favorite emerging electro-pop starlet! Aussie Chela is attracting blog buzz left and right with her debut single “Romanticise” for reliably hip French label Kitsune Maison. “Romanticise” (English spelling and all) is a rollicking, electric ’80s pop number, in the tradition of CSS meets La Roux. Yes it’s a bit 2008, but who cares when it’s so damn catchy. Watch her throw some dance moves in the lo-fi video below.
Dancey guitary synth-pop is not her only mode though. She also showcased her softer side on midtempo nighttime ballad “Vegas Nights”. It’s chill and wistful in an ’80s adult-contemporary/quiet storm way, not unlike the output of Say Lou Lou. If you closed your eyes, you could almost see palm trees gently swaying by your windscreen. It really is quite lovely, not to mention it’s a freebie too!
FREE DOWNLOAD: Chela – Vegas Nights
Moving away from the lush, dreamy soundscapes of her second album, Oh Land returns with something a little more adventurous. For her third full-length entitled “Wish Bone”, the Danish songstress works with producer Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio). Her relocation to Brooklyn really shows in the new batch of songs. Lead single “Renaissance Girls” is a fun celebration of female empowerment in the form of an infectious synth-pop tune. The girl-power sentiment is cool in a post-Lilith-Fair way, and the immaculately choreographed music video is AMAZING. She really put her ballet dancer skills to good use!
There’s also a lovely new video for the quirky “Pyromaniac”. She’s really nailing it down on the visual side this era. Her hair alone is divine, I can’t tell what exact shade it is (light blue greyish blond?), but she rocks it.
You can now stream the entire album on New York Times. FYI, the track co-written with former tourmate Sia is “Green Card”.
It’s been a while since Daley was longlisted for BBC Sound of 2011, and the British R&B/soul vocalist has yet to release his debut album, despite his fantastic Gorillaz collab “Doncamatic” and the Jessie-J-assisted moderate hit “Remember Me”. As frustrating and out-of-control these things are, he soldiers on with a brand new single entitled “Broken”. Probably his most commercial work to date, the soaring string-laden track follows that ’90s trip-hop/drum-and-bass throwback template that’s so on-trend right now, thanks to Naughty Boy, Emeli Sandé and Rudimental. He even travelled to the Seven Sisters cliff for the music video, so you know he means business.
He’s undoubtedly got an amazing voice, I wouldn’t mind more songs in this direction really.
Chances are not many are overly familiar with the name Amel Larrieux. The former Groove Theory member/neo-soul musician has always kept a relatively low-key profile as opposed to her then contemporaries like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, or her successors like India Arie, Janelle Monae. However, she’ll forever be cool in my book on the strength of her underrated ’90s R&B gem “Get Up” along with its amazing Floria-Sigismondi-directed video.
Over the last decade, she still quietly released new music under her own label Blisslife Records, and “Afraid” is her first new single in 4 years. Not surprisingly, she hits all the sweet spots with this breezy, bright summer groove.
“Afraid” is a track that glides, gradually, gracefully building up to a cocoon of harmonies that descend like a flock of seagulls down by the seaside. It’s such a breath of fresh air to adult contemporary R&B/soul, and I’m glad to have her back on top form.
Frida Sundemo reunites with fellow Swedish DJ Rasmus Faber on the his new single “Indian Summer”. The two has previously worked together for an EP back in 2011, and the chemistry continues on this uplifting EDM number, with Frida’s vocals cleverly chopped, screwed, and entwined in the ‘drop’. American radio might be playing that generic remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness, but I’d rather hear this blast loud in a car. This needs to blow up!
The single is out in the UK on September 16.
Funny hat-wearer Eliza Doolittle is a puzzle. One minute, she turned heads on the flawless Disclosure collab “You & Me”. Then she followed up with “Big When I Was Little”, a cynical attempt at prepackaged nostalgia. Then out of nowhere, she delivered another winsome performance on veteran UK garage producer Wookie’s laidback house groove “The Hype”. Then she wasted no time and went back to unleashing a plodding acoustic ballad. I know it’s a fine line between collaborations and being an ‘artiste’ but she is just so damn good at this dance vocalist thing. Maybe one day she might rethink her strategy and become a full-time chill house diva? One can dream.
For now, this Wookie jam will do.
My favorite Norwegian Erlend Øye has returned with his first solo outing in 12 years. It’s a single called “La Prima Estate”, it’s in Italian, and it’s amazing in the most unexpected ways. Let me count the ways of its amazingness:
- THAT ARTWORK. Loud is the new quiet!
- How amazingly random it is. Apparently, the one half of Kings of Convenience is now living in Italy, and the song is his homage to ’70s Italo easy-listening folk-pop, popular in Norway at the time. He did his research, and it showed. It’s a totally unexpected re-introduction, but for a man whose past repertoire ranges from acoustic folk to Berlin indie techno, I shouldn’t be so surprised.
- Even though I don’t understand a word, it still sounds like the giddiest piece of jet-set-ready summer music. Jens Lekman would be proud.
- THE VIDEO, shot on location in Siracusa Sicily. Who are all these twee geeks dancing like fools, bursting with unadulterated joy? Prepare to grin like an idiot.
As a bonus, here’s a video of Erlend Øye casually performing a cover of Pet Shop Boys‘ 1996 single “Se a vida é (That’s the Way Life Is)” on an abandoned rooftop. So chill.
We might not’ve been exactly vocal about this in the past (apols) but we love Summer Camp, aka UK power duo of Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley. They wrote some very listenable pop tunes.
Now that they’re back for another round with album no. 2, the band has stepped their game up. Current single “Fresh” is what you get when you put the following ingredients in a blender and press “Mix”: Disney string samples, Beach Boys ghost harmonies, funky disco bassline, ’90s Britpop, Tumblr irony, and of course, ’80s John Hughes teen angst. A delicious smoothie, you’d agree.
The charming and colorful music video directed by Lucy Needs is one of those performance videos where the artist has to learn to lip sync to their song backwards. Watch as Elizabeth reiterate Jarvis Cocker’s question “Do you remember the first time?” (can you spot the other Pulp reference?).
More than 2 years after its release, Birdy‘s cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” is still hovering around the lower end of iTunes Top 100. Clearly, the 17-year-old alt-pop interpreter would do just fine living off the royalties of that hit. She bravely soldiers on with a sophomore effort of original tunes anyway. “Wings” is the lead single from her upcoming album “Fire Within” (no easy poultry puns, please), and if it’s an indication of quality, then she’s got nothing to worry about stepping away from the covers.
Sonically, it’s pleasingly stuck in 2005, when the likes of Snow Patrol, Keane and Coldplay were hugely popular with their brand of sensitive indie stadium-pop. You can even sing the chorus of “Yellow” on top of it if you like. Not that I’m complaining, it’s been long enough to feel nostalgic for those days. “Wings” is stately, immaculately-produced Radio 2 pop and an immense grower of a song.
In the music video directed by the legendary Sophie Muller (who previously worked with her on “Skinny Love” and “Shelter”), Birdy seems to find herself at an ennui-laden costume party, but even I’d be pretty down too if my dress sleeves were fashioned out of steamer baskets. Watch the lovely video below.
Ever the samaritan, Birdy has also offered an MP3 of trip-hoppy album cut “All You Never Say” for the price of your email address. Go for it, it’s worth it. The instrumental middle eight is particularly beautiful.
DOWNLOAD: Birdy – All You Never Say
I look forward to adding this album to my music-for-rainy-days category.
Postiljonen is the next big Swedish export, and they have delivered a stunning debut album in “Skyer”. I can only describe the Stockholm-based trio’s music as panoramic, multi-textured road-trip synth-pop. The ’80s synth and sax riffs are larger than life, while wispy, murmuring vocals are mixed like an afterdream, hazy and unobtrusive, interspersed with dialogue samples from unidentified, possibly non-existent films. As is the case with shoegazing dream-pop, due of its unique construct, you probably won’t remember much of the lyrics or melodies, but there’s enough ear candy to keep coming back and peel at the layers. The 10-track album is short and sweet, with the more upbeat numbers (Supreme, We Raise Our Hearts, Skying High) sequenced in between ambient, filmic ones (Rivers, Plastic Panorama). There is also an unlikely, spectral cover take on Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, gloomily retitled as “All That We Had Is Lost”. “Atlantis” – the current single – makes a perfect album closer, thanks to its monster saxophone action and a nocturnal, melancholic back-of-a-taxi-cab mood. If you like M83, or The Naked And Famous, then Postiljonen’s widescreen after-hours pop is for you.
Check out the music video for Atlantis below, and album highlight “We Raise Our Hearts”.
STREAM: Postiljonen – We Raise Our Hearts
For some reasons, I used to mistake Mayer Hawthorne for a punk/emo band, and for that false impression, I steered clear of their music. Not until I found out Jessie Ware did some vocals on the new single “Her Favorite Song” did I finally have a listen and to my surprise, Mayer Hawthorne is actually a white American guy singing blue-eyed soul!
“Her Favorite Song” is a throwback to the heyday of adult contemporary soft rock à la Sting. Mayer Hawthorne proudly wore his influences on his sleeves, as he tapped into this uncool ’80s genre and shook it up with a bit of Prince. It’s an ultra-smooth, cosmopolitan jam, but it’s Jessie Ware’s (uncredited) sultry vocals during the chorus that add an extra touch of class and elevate this track beyond Bruno Mars/Robin Thicke MOR territory. And if the music alone is not enough to win you over, there is now a glossy music video featuring models and dogs that dress like humans. Dogs that dress like humans! Good move, not-an-emo-band Mayer Hawthorne.
Check out the Large Professor remix after the jump.
White Lies are back with a brand new beat! Nah jk they’re still the same old demure chaps. In fact, the frontman’s sporting a new beard so they’re probably even more serious about their craft this time around etc.
Jokes aside, as far as stadium rock bands go, they’ve had a pretty strong listenable single run, and now that Muse are inching further towards self-parody territory, we need new bleak-but-catchy British indie rock to fill up our quota. “Getting Even”, the first track from their upcoming third album “Big TV”, introduces the addition of synths, which make it sound not a mile away from The Killers’ output. I find the “I can forgive/ And we can forget” bits irritatingly catchy too. Best of all, it’s a guilt-free download!
The proper lead single is called “There Goes Our Love Again”, and it’s not half bad either.
STREAM: White Lies – There Goes Our Love Again
Perfect summer indie pop alert!
The Proper Ornaments are my new favorite Soundcloud discovery. Their new single “Waiting For The Summer” is everything I wanted in a song with that title. The UK band lovingly crafts that timeless jangle-pop sound: dreamy, short and sweet, and more than ideal for a sunny day in the park. This was so good I immediately searched for all their past releases to listen. Apparently, one of the band members James Hoare is also in Veronica Falls, another favorite English indie band of mine, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Take my word for it, press play and enjoy.
STREAM: The Proper Ornaments – Waiting For The Summer
And here’s the equally lovely b-side “Candy”:
STREAM: The Proper Ornaments – Candy
Bonus points for the band name, which I presume to be an homage to a Free Design song of the same name.
“Waiting For The Summer” is out now on Lo Recordings. Their album is expected for a late summer release. In the meantime, grab a free download of a track from 2011, “Shining Bright”.
Way back in 2005, British duo The Boy Least Likely To released “Be Gentle With Me”, a perfect indie pop song with an adorable video featuring animal puppets playing instruments and a pre-Office Rashida Jones playing the manic pixie dream girl. 8 years later, for their third studio album “The Great Perhaps”, Owen & Pete Hobbs are still hopelessly twee, quietly chucking out little pop gems about the woes of love and growing up. New single “It Could’ve Been Me” is one of its (many) highlights. A duet with the ever-lovely Gwenno Saunders from The Pipettes, it finally got a suitably meet-cute music video which you can view right below. Just try not to grow anime eyes all over afterwards. You’ve been warned.
Lissie is back, and she means business. After having her great Fleetwood Mac cover featured on a Twinings advert and guest starring on Robbie Williams’ last album, she is readying the release of her second LP with a new single, the no-nonsense “Shameless”. An honest take on the fame game and celebrity culture, it shows Lissie in a raw, rockier direction, but that powerhouse voice of hers is still present. Her first album has quite a few solid songs so I’m curious how she’s going to follow it up. Check out “Shameless” below and let me know what you think!
STREAM: Lissie – Shameless