We first posted about them for our Popforward feature in 2011, and since then The Staves have gone on to release a sublime folk album entitled “Dead & Born & Grown”. Now the British sibling trio are embarking on a US tour, and we want you to hear their gorgeous harmonies live FOR FREE. If you happen to live in Oregon and are a fan of the band, today’s your lucky day! You can stand a chance to win ONE pair of tickets to see them perform live in person at Mississippi Studios in Portland on June 18. All you need to do to enter this giveaway is to follow the steps below.
1. Become a fan of The Staves and Pop Labyrinth on Facebook (if you haven’t already).
2. What’s your favorite Staves song? Comment below to tell us, and don’t forget to leave your name and email address so we can contact you if you win!
The contest ends on Monday, 6/17. A winner will be picked at random and contacted via email.
In case you don’t totally trust your luck, tickets for the show are still available here.
In the meantime, check out the video for their beautiful new single “Facing West” below.
Sneaky Charlotte Aitchison! Apparently a brand new Charli XCX track has been officially out since May, but no one noticed because she is uncredited! “Smile” is her collaboration with British dubstep producer Benga, and for unknown reasons, it was quietly put on his second album “Chapter II” without her name on it. The track sees her momentarily away from her brand of Tumblr-pop to a more commercial, radio-ready crossover sound, but the vocals are unmistakably hers, down to the infectious cheerleading chants “C.R.Y.S.T.A.L. LOVE.” It’s an above average addition to Charli’s list of collaborations, among those with Alex Metric and Starkey (and of course, that obscure Icona Pop one). Though as I took a glimpse at the Benga album tracklist, it is strangely missing a couple singles he released last year, so there might be more to this story behind the scenes…
Stream the track below and tell me what you think!
STREAM: Benga – Smile (feat. Charli XCX)
Keeping up with Charli XCX-related news, her debut album “True Romance” is without a doubt one of my favorite pop releases of 2013 so far. I had my reservations about it at first, but it eventually grew on me. At the moment, the track I keep coming back to is “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain)”, which needs to be a single at some point.
STREAM: Charli XCX – Set Me Free (Feel My Pain)
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.
I love it when a song/artist came out of nowhere and elicited a strong response in me. The mysterious London-based Oscar Scheller only has 3 songs on his Soundcloud, but “Never Told You” is the one to check. By first listen, I was taken aback by how it all feels so instant and familiar, down to the rave piano chords. It took me right back to 2006, the height of my twee pop phase, during which there was a resurgence of these fey indie kids making catchy C86-inspired bedroom pop with Morrissey and Sarah Records as their blueprint. I still have fond memories of discovering that scene for the first time, and “Never Told You” sounds just like it came from that period, like it belongs on Labrador Records beside Suburban Kids With Biblical Names. Twee-pop has that nostalgic yet ageless quality. You can try to grow up, but the twee it stays, waiting for a nice sunny day to pop back in for a cup of tea. Lovely, lovely stuff.
STREAM: Oscar – Never Told You
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)
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”:
Brit band Delphic paid tribute to the late Amy Winehouse by uploading their 2013 update of “Rehab” on Soundcloud a few days ago. It’s a blog-happy trap beat exercise that takes some fun turns during its 5-minute span, and is bound to go down well at house parties. This reminds me how I used to be obsessed with their massive tune “Halcyon” back in 2010, and that I still need to listen to their new follow-up. Grab a free download of the remix below, and check out the video for their current single “Baiya”.
WATCH: Delphic – Baiya
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
It took him a while, but Vincent Frank is finally back to making music under his original moniker Frankmusik. And the hyper J-Pop sounds of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume are what inspired him to make pop tunes again. I must admit I lost track of him after the misguided ‘Americanized’ sophomore effort, but the new tracks on his self-released new EP show that I shouldn’t have written him off just yet. On “Far From Over”, Frankmusik flirts with dubstep on “Captain”, croons on synth-ballad “The Line”, and revisits his early sound with “Thank You”, but it is “Map” that’s the definite highlight. Boasting a soaring monster chorus, the break-up track has a ’90s electronica vibe that’s perfect for listening on trains. Now that Frank’s got his groove back, there’s always room for one more male pop star. Welcome back Frankmusik.
A Disclosure and AlunaGeorge collaboration??
That bang you just heard is the buzz-blogging collective imploding.
Fresh off its radio premiere, here’s the synth-frenzy “White Noise”. No word yet on whether this will be on Disclosure’s album or AlunaGeorge’s. Either way, 2013 will be a big year for both. Wicked.
STREAM: Disclosure – White Noise (feat. AlunaGeorge)
And while we’re at it, revisit the bangin’ AlunaGeorge collab with Rustie too.
STREAM: Rustie – After Light (feat. AlunaGeorge)
Electronica godfather Norman Cook aka Fatboy Slim recently gave away a rollicking mash-up of Adele & Donna Summer on his Soundcloud for free. Retitled “I Feel Love Rollin’ In The Deep”, it was made for his DJ sets, and finally offered the answer to the question “What if Adele unleashed her inner Giorgio Moroder disco diva ?”. The mash-up surprisingly works, making it one strong addition to your NYE party playlists. Check it out below.
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.
British rock duo Noisettes recorded a cover of James Brown’s “Living In America” a while ago to give away as a free download, which was sadly overlooked, as was their lovely new album “Contact”. It’s a fantastically funky effort, with an amazing pure-joy section that only starts at 2:25. And yes, there’s some serious cowbell action going on here too, which is always a good thing. I found Shinghai Shinowa to be a total star and one of the most fascinating frontwomen the UK has offered in recent years. I hope a tour on this side of the pond is in the planning.
Coincidentally, it’s Election Day in America! *pause for suspense* Have you done your part yet? Don’t just sit there now, GO OUT AND VOTE!
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!
STREAM: Bat For Lashes – All Your Gold (Hercules and Love Affair Remix)
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.
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?
It’s strange to remember that Joss Stone is still quite big in America. Despite being largely ignored in her homeland, her last 3 albums have all gone top ten here. 9 years after “The Soul Sessions” – the album that started it all, she just released Vol. 2, comprising a new collection of cover songs. The lead single is a stoned-soul rendition of Broken Bells’ “The High Road”, which is pretty much the 2012 equivalent of her White Stripes cover “Fell In Love With A Boy” back then. I actually find it quite agreeable, if a bit oversung. She’s obviously a very gifted vocalist, but I wish she would stop smoking pot for a second to give Eg White a call and go back to her “You Had Me” ways. Anyway, it’s quite nice to see her in a proper music video again. Watch the psychedelic video for “The High Road” below.
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.
STREAM: Sunday Girl – Human Love
And the wait continues…