SUCH AN AUTUMN JAM.
Pre-order “FROOT,” out in April 2015.
Whoever has been commissioning remixes for Lana Del Rey deserves accolades. They always take risks and reach out to less obvious acts. The results don’t always pay off but when they do, they do! The latest coup is to get the holy Four Tet to remix her brand new single “West Coast”. Something about the drums on this one reminds me of Björk’s “Human Behaviour”. Très cool.
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – West Coast (Four Tet Remix)
Ten Ven has their eyes on the disco ball, William Carl Jr uses new vocals not in the original mix, and Camo & Krooked dreams up a more leftfield spectral soundscape. Definitely an interesting batch of remixes so far (you just know there will be more).
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – West Coast (Ten Ven Remix)
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – West Coast (William Carl Jr Remix)
STREAM: Lana Del Rey – West Coast (Camo & Krooked Remix)
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
Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun managed to bring out the subtleties in Beyoncé‘s gargantuan ballad “Halo”. Her chamber-folk rendition is a pared-down, understated acoustic affair with Swedish cellist Linnea Olsson on strings duty. It’s a nice break from the drum-heavy bombast of Ryan Tedder’s original production.
You can find “Halo” on her latest double album “Rarities”, collecting her rare tracks from over the years.
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”.
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.
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.
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.