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.
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.
British future-pop duo AlunaGeorge continues their hot streak by teasing another new track on Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6 Music radio show 2 weeks ago. Album track “Bad Idea” is a sassy kiss-off number with major ’90s Timbaland vibes. Production-wise, it’s probably their most straightforward R&B throwback so far, with mad catchy hooks and a beautiful spacey middle eight. Those onomatopoeic doo-doos shall haunt my head for days. So so good.
STREAM: AlunaGeorge – Bad Idea (Radio Rip)
And in case you haven’t seen the glossy new video for the re-release of “You Know You Like It”, watch it below:
Body Music is out on July 29.
More on AlunaGeorge.
Jessie Ware‘s stunning debut album “Devotion” was finally released in the States earlier this month on Cherrytree Records, and today, the British pop star just casually chucked a new song on Soundcloud. “Love Thy Will Be Done” is originally a 1991 single for Martika (of “Toy Soldiers” fame), and it was produced by co-written by the one and only Prince. Apparently, this track was hidden away on the US vinyl pressing of “Devotion” all this time!
It’s yet another solid addition to her rich ’90s cover repertoire (including her sublime rendition of Brownstone’s “If You Love Me”, and her live-favorite version of Marvin Gaye/Madonna’s “I Want You”). Make sure to check out her classy reinterpretation below.
STREAM: Jessie Ware – Love Thy Will Be Done (Martika Cover)
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
The Beyoncé PR machine is running on overload. $15 million Pepsi endorsement deal, rumored H&M campaign, Destiny’s Child reunion, new HBO documentary, the inaugural concert, and of course, the Superbowl Halftime show! Her team deserves a gold medal for pulling out all the stops this time. She literally CANNOT fail can’t she. Since there’s little we know yet about the lead single, let’s focus some attention on the one that started her solo career, the horn-blazing, Rich-Harrison-produced “Crazy In Love”. Did you know Beyoncé features a bootleg dubstep remix on the trailer of her forthcoming HBO documentary “Life Is But A Dream”, one that only has about 6,000 views on Youtube prior to this? A Google moment and it turns out this remix is made back in 2010 by a guy called Sebastian Nahi, aka FeelX, who now goes by the name VÄRT. It’s actually quite impressive for an unofficial remix, it’s very “now”, with dark undertones, slightly sinister pitched-down vocal samples and of course, some big ol’ silly wobble-wobble bass.
One question remains unanswered: Does Queen B look up fan made remixes in her spare time when Blue Ivy’s asleep?
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.
By now you probably have heard and seen Solange‘s stunner of a single, the Blood Orange-produced “Losing You”. It’s chilled, it’s understatedly brilliant, it’s probably the best track/video she put her name to. “Sleep in the Park”, the b-side attached to it (how old-fashioned!) is also out now and featuring Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal on vocals. Between this and his back-and-forth collaborations with Janelle Monae, that man does love to work with alt-R&B ladies. Check it out below.
STREAM: Solange – Sleep in the Park (Feat. Kevin Barnes of Of Montreal)
And here’s the amazing video for “Losing You”. I love the path Solange chose for herself, out of Beyoncé’s shadow, and I expect her new album to amaze me.
UK future-pop duo AlunaGeorge just unleashed their next single “Your Drums, Your Love”, and oh my god is it brilliant! It instantly won me over upon first play, with its pre-millenial R&B vibes, pitch-shifted vocal samples, heavy bass and some chiiill rhodes. It’s actually not a world away from Ellie Goulding’s output, either. I notice they are now signed to Island, which is good news.
Love, love, love this. Now onto my nth listen.
STREAM: AlunaGeorge – Your Drums, Your Love
“Your Drums, Your Love” is out on October 7.
Diplo is full of surprises isn’t he? Responsible for the most unexpectedly brilliant mainstream R&B song this year, the producer adds a new touch to Usher‘s blissed-out “Climax” with a subtle but “bouncier” alternate mix. It’s sounding especially awesome for this rainy Sunday afternoon. Who’d have thought that a collaboration between Usher, Diplo, and Nico Muhly would be possible, let alone so utterly inspired? “Radiohead quiet soul”, indeed.
STREAM: Usher – Climax (Diplo Bouncier Climactic Remix)
If you want to bring the tears to the dancefloor, check out the Flosstradamus & Diplo remix below.
STREAM: Usher – Climax (Flosstradamus and Diplo Remix)
Intense, striking, dramatic – those are words often associated with UK songstress Anna Calvi‘s music, and the same applies to her covers. Last week, she paid a visit to Radio 1’s Live Lounge and delivered an impressive take on Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl”. Through her crimson filter, what was otherwise an innocuously seductive Middle-Eastern-tinged R&B track now drips with dark, menacing undertones. There’s no doubt she can sure rock a mean guitar. Check out her interpretation below, and see the performance in motion here.
Ever since she arrived on the scene in 2006, Cassie Ventura, professionally known as Cassie, has unexpectedly garnered a cult online following. Beside her model looks, her glassy, detached voice is a producer’s dream, as its limit is just ripe for studio tweaking trickery. She’s gained so much goodwill on the strength of her only major hit to date, the stone cold classic “Me & U”, and a string of underperformed subsequent singles and leaks. After numerous delays and setbacks, the R&B ice princess is finally ready for a proper comeback. I hereby present you her new single “King Of Hearts” in its complete, official form.
STREAM: Cassie – King Of Hearts
At first listen, it sounds like a very current “club banger”, albeit with a fresh twist, and unconventional structure. She comes across as cool and edgy without trying too hard, and the frosty, frenzied electro-pop production laid atop just oozes class. “King Of Hearts” surely makes for a blazing reintroduction. Welcome back, Cassie.
The video and the song will be available to buy on Valentine’s Day next week.
Rising UK popstrel Delilah must be feeling quite charitable at the moment, for she is offering a free mixtape entitled “2 – 4am”, consisting of EIGHT new songs, in glorious 320 bit rate. If I were you, I would try to nab it asap, before she changes her mind! Get a preview with my favorite track from the lot, “The Gospel”, then download the whole shebang below.
MP3: Delilah – The Gospel
To be honest, I am still on the fence about Delilah and her music. While her two singles are 100% brilliant postdubstep pop/r&b, most of her other tracks tend to teeter on the side of MOR cheese, with occasionally naff lyrics. She’s undoubtedly got a great voice, but her sound’s still a work in progress at this point. To take more time to experiment and refine it is fine by me, though, no hurry.
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…
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
It’s a well-documented fact that British pop songstress CocknBullKid enjoys covering songs. During her live session on Radio 2 with Jo Whiley, the self-proclaimed All Saints fan chose to pay her tribute by contributing her own version of “Pure Shores” to the station’s ongoing Great British Songbook project. And what a brilliant choice/sublime rendition it was! She totally breathed new life into the track. This is bringing back all the memories, bar the unpleasant reminder of how unbelievably shit the original music video was. That unfortunate setback couldn’t taint the classic William-Orbit-produced pop perfection, though. This is not the first time CocknBullKid showed her appreciation for late ’90s R&B either, having covered Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” with Eliza Doolittle before. Did you know Shaznay Lewis actually co-wrote the album track “Distractions”? Surely a duet between the two sounds like a good idea? I would also be genuinely interested in hearing her cover “Black Coffee” next, please. Either of those options would suffice, Anita, I’m not fussy!
You can download her amazing All Saints cover below.
Yes, I am well aware this my second Lana Del Rey remix post within a week. However, this new one just popped up and it’s just too good to ignore. British crooner/producer Jamie Woon‘s rework of “Video Games” is by far my favorite of the bunch, serving up Timbaland-by-way-of-Bristol beats, ghostly synths and pitch shifts, all of which makes for a strangely alluring pop-noir groove. Do check it out below!
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – Video Games (Jamie Woon Remix)
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.
I found “Best Thing I Ever Had”, second single off Beyoncé’s “4”, to be a reliably good, if a bit MOR ballad from her. That was until I heard the original version, put up online yesterday by one of the songwriters, Patrick “j.Que” Smith. It is labelled as the “’90s Mix”, and oh boy does it live up to that name. It’s an endearing throwback to the R&B radio sound over a decade ago. It really brought out a whole new side of the song, one that is much livelier and brighter. It’s understandable why she and the label didn’t choose to go with this, but I do hope that they will consider including it in the inevitable re-release. I hereby officially declare this to be the superior version.
Beyoncé – Best Thing I Never Had (’90s Mix)
My favorite rising UK act, Jamie Woon, went back to basics for his Live Lounge visit. With only a guitar, he performed his latest single “Lady Luck” and a cover of Adele‘s mega-hit “Someone Like You”. And what an incredible, soulful voice he has! It’s a fantastic cover, even if it kinda veered dangerously close to Jason Mraz territory. Woon’s debut, Mirrorwriting, drops April 18 in UK. No US release plans yet, but I seriously hope he will tour here this summer. If he learnt from his SXSW gigs and practiced more, his live show could be amazing. Stream/download the cover below. Grab an acoustic version & a cool remix of “Lady Luck” after the jump.
It has been an exceptional week for new music videos. So many good ones! Here’s all my picks in one post, so if there’s any you haven’t seen, you’d better catch up!
DUFFY – WELL WELL WELL
The warbling pint-sized Welsh lady is back! This video is such a fun watch. Duffy seems to be having a blast and enjoying herself. The song is very catchy, but I can’t fully endorse it yet. I’m afraid the novelty will wear off soon, and I keep expecting the C+C Music Factory man to jump in and scream “Everybody Dance Now”. “Well Well Well” is the lead single off her upcoming sophomore effort “Endlessly”, which I assume will have a fair share of moody ballads, too.
HURTS – STAY
The men went to Iceland to shoot the video, and the trip definitely paid off. I haven’t seen that location since Bjork’s “Who Is It”. Even though the execution could have been better, the video is close to what I imagined, and there’s plenty of pensive zoom-in shots to match the overblown melodrama. I admit I have mixed feelings toward the duo, as I start to wonder whether Hurts is just the new Lighthouse Family of this decade… And is it just me or Theo sounds like David Gray at times? Anyway, there’s a Italoconnection remix of “Better Than Love” that was only released in Italy, and it’s 5 minutes of italo disco perfection that has to be heard. Sally Shapiro fans will like this.