Wednesday, 21 March 2018
I’ve always been a fan of bands who take their name and title a song after it, or is it the other way round where they take the title of a song and name themselves after it? Either way, I like it. Maybe it would be fun if solo artists did this as well. Time for Ed Sheeran to write a song called Ed perhaps? Mind you that sounds a little egotistical – but then Kanye West has already done it with I Love Kanye. I’m looking forward to hearing Sigrid’s tune Sigrid is Amazing or perhaps Taylor Swift’s I Am Swifty (So Hurry Up)? Maybe there's even an opportunity for Lorde to release Praise the Lorde?
Which brings me to Canada’s Little Destroyer. They of course have a song called Little Destroyer which was released on streaming services back in January. It’s one of a number of tracks they’ve put out over the last year or so from a forthcoming EP called Strange Future which is a potent blend of modern electronic pop with plenty of sharp edges.
Little Destroyer first came into being in the earlier part of this decade under the name Legs. Consisting of singer Allie Sheldan and brothers Chris and Michael Weiss, their original aim was to ‘score some festival tickets’. Legs was eventually shelved until the three regrouped as Little Destroyer, and the results with their new modus operandi impresses.
Immediate standout track is Rattlesnakes. Little Destroyer might look like a rock band in the picture above, but their sound is pop. Albeit Rattlesnakes is dark, hard-hitting industrial electronic pop tune that deals with the disillusionment that comes from the realisation that youthful partying ultimately just leaves an emptiness. Of the track the band have said: “It’s about the nights you become a mutant, and the mornings after. And it parallels the empty, dank & depressing vibe of a club, after last call, when the house lights turn on, to when the veil of fantasy lifts and you see it all for what is; a monstrous feedback loop set to empty.”
Another track, Savages takes a danceable pop verse and then throws on the noise and distorted electronic drums for the chorus as shouts of “Run wild” burst out. It’s certainly more guttural than most pop music you’ll hear and therefore when you learn that the band have worked with Dave Ogilvie (Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy and Marilyn Manson) things make sense in terms of what they are aiming for in their sound. Katy Perry this is not.
For those of you like me in the UK, you have a chance to see Little Destroyer this Spring as they hit our shores in May to play Focus Wales Festival in Wrexham and Brighton’s Great Escape 2018, so they've finally achieved that initial aim of bagging some tickets.
Little Destroyer - Rattlesnakes (Video)
Little Destroyer - Savages (Video)
Monday, 19 March 2018
Whilst some questions remain of the Pale Waves sound and if it is going to provide enough long-term variety to keep everyone hooked in, for now the buzz they’re creating continues to propel them forward. Despite not varying far from previous tunes in terms of melody or style, Heavenly, the best track from their All The Things I Never Said EP and one of the first songs the band ever wrote, still manages to be a mini indie-pop thrill that gets inside the head, beaming with a glossy mix of 80’s indie pop, energy and modern production.
Today Pale Waves released a new video for the song and its their most stylish piece to date. It features lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie in a set of minimalist coloured futuristic visuals and casts her as some sort of latex clad dancing marionette. It reminds me a little of Edward Scissorhands being trapped in Clive Barker's Hellraiser film as she is trapped by the wires.
Pale Waves - Heavenly (Video)
Thursday, 15 March 2018
There’s a school of thought that suggests that pop music somehow has less depth than other forms of music like rock, jazz, or soul.
That school of thought is absolute bollocks.
Here’s an example to prove my case. Her name is Sigrid. She’s from Norway. She does pop music. You of course have already heard of her, or you’ve been living under a rock.
Sigrid is brilliant. She can do all the things that are required of brilliant pop music. She has great tunes. She can sing. Boy oh boy can she sing. She has the moves. She has a great band around her.
But there’s more than that. Because any great art has to have more than the sum of its parts to really resonate. Songs are great to connect with, but it’s all the other stuff that surrounds popular culture that’s just as important. Of course, it’s a dangerous thing to do – putting artists on pedestals can lead to them falling off – but if we didn’t, how would we ever show off their greatness to others?
And Sigrid is great. Not just because of the music, but because of the way she is. There’s no artifice or act. People who argue that authenticity in music is important (often fans of men with guitars) will even find it difficult to argue that Sigrid doesn’t have that authenticity in huge bucket loads. Of course, they’ll argue that it’s ‘just pop’, but when you’ve been to a show like the one I saw Sigrid perform last night, it’s possible to see that sometimes pop isn’t ‘just pop’.
From her simple stage attire (jeans, plain t-shirt and tied back hair) to her self-aware and unassuming nature (before thanking the audience for coming to the show last night she asked “Can I be a bit cheesy now, is that OK?”) to her inability to surpress her emotion (last night at the start of Don’t Kill My Vibe Sigrid became so overwhelmed with the reaction she couldn’t sing, so she just held the microphone out to the audience who sang the words back whilst she stood and cried – it was a beautiful moment that made even the hardest of us well up a little). These are the things that, combined with the music, make Sigrid special. There is something about her pure and raw.
Which is 398 words just to shoehorn the word Raw into the conversation, which just happens to be the title of the new song from Sigrid.
It’s the first in a collection of brand new material, set to drop every week. It’s not a banger. Don’t worry banger fans. If you wanted another Don’t Kill My Vibe / Plot Twist / Strangers she has more of those to come. But having watched Sigrid’s set grow over the six times I’ve seen her one thing that is becoming apparent is that she’s a much more versatile pop artist than one that just does in your face jams. This one is stripped back to the very core.
“No apologies for being me,” sings Sigrid on Raw. I think this much about her we all know.
Sigrid - Raw
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
If you’re into lo-fi or bedroom pop music then the chances are you’ll have already found Claire Cottrill, known as Clairo from Boston, USA. Even if you’re not, you may well have stumbled across her homemade video for Pretty Girl, which she uploaded last August and somehow went viral with (currently viewed more than 10 million times). But if you haven't, this post is for you...
The Pretty Girl video which Clairo struck internet gold with had no clever production, no super cool direction and Clairo has gone on record to say that on the day she recorded it her hair and skin looked bad, but she felt that that was the perfect day to make it – after all it’s a song about feeling that you have to be ‘pretty’ for someone else and feeling that you have to change for someone else and ultimately how messed up that idea is. “I could be a pretty girl, I’ll wear a skirt for you, and I could be a pretty girl, shut up when you want me two,” she mouths as the words scroll across the screen and she stares into the camera with headphones in her ears.
Clairo - Pretty Girl (Video)
When Clairo uploaded Pretty Girl, she didn’t think that it would get seen by that many people. It was just her mucking around in her room – a what you see is what you get visual. “I'm still not entirely sure how Pretty Girl blew up the way it did. It wasn't really meant to. The song was originally meant for a compilation tape for a magazine called The Le Sigh, and I made the video in about 30 minutes. I only expected about 5,000 views at most! Getting a million views on a video I made is still hard for me to wrap my head around. Most of my friends back home still have no idea that any of this has happened,” she told Pigeons and Planes website recently.
With lo-fi music there are generally two types of artists. There are those who like to keep the sound quality lower than usual contemporary standards. It’s part of their aesthetic. But then there are those who do it out of necessity. Recording at home rather than using expensive studio space is a commercial reality for many musicians. This sort of musician would love to have the opportunity to record somewhere where the imperfections are ironed out and overall reproduction of the sound is improved but they just can’t afford it. Sometimes when a lo-fi artist does develop to a more polished sound they lose some of their fans but gain many more – for some it’s that DIY sound that attracted them in the first place.
With Clairo’s DIY efforts blowing up the question is which sort of artist is she? If she got the opportunity to grab the gloss, would she paint it all over in bright lurid colours.
It seems that the answer might be yes. Although not in the way you might think (yet). For yesterday Clairo released a new video for her track Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, a simplistic but weirdly addictive chill-pop song she put out six months ago which has achieved over 1.5 million streams on Soundcloud. This video has a lot more budget thrown at it than the likes of Pretty Girl. Way more. It involved directors, stylists and choreographers and er….. dancing Cheetos! Visually it’s a long way from her bedroom minimalist beginnings and has already divided fans with some calling her early work a façade. But is an artist not allowed to change an develop? Is this not part of the natural evolution of art? Can we all not just enjoy the silly dancers?
What comes next musically from Clairo will if nothing else be intriguing. Will she try to keep her low-key, minimalistic bedroom pop sound alive? Or will she aim for a bigger more expansive hi-fi pop sound? Or try and find a halfway house between the two? Only time will tell, but for me whatever direction she goes it’s the quality of the songs that’s important. It’s whether they connect, irrespective of if they’re hi-fi or lo-fi. Let’s wait and see.
Clairo - Flamin' Hot Cheetos
Sunday, 11 March 2018
Some artists take a while to establish their true artistic vision, some never fully realise it and some come with it fully formed. Chløë Black is definitely from the later school. Whether she’s singing about f*cking you for life or getting high enough for two, her take on pop has always danced towards the darker side; songs that deal with topics such as getting f*cked (by either sex or drugs) and death make up Black's arsenal. Up until now I would have said you’re hardly likely to find Chløë on the dancefloor wailing about bringing on the Good Times. But it seems I’ve been proved wrong.
Not that Chløë is covering Chic or bashing out some thoughtless happy-day-glo disco track about being in da club (the only club she’s sung about is the 27 Club). This is very much her take on things. She might sing of wanting to get high, but there's also a reminder that those transient moments of chemical euphoria come double-edged: “Everything hurts when I’m sober,” she adds. The music takes the same form as the songs lyrics, with melancholy piano balladry and heavy beats matched with Ibiza tropical rhythms and moments of lighter bliss to convey both sides of the highs and the lows.
It's another piece of stylish pop from Chløë Black.
Chløë Black - Good Times
Saturday, 10 March 2018
Let’s face it, New Music Friday can be both a blessing and a curse. Yesterday I wasted the best part of three and a half hours working my way through the UK edition of Spotify’s NMF playlist to find very little to connect with. But then away from the playlist there’s the new Sofi Tukker. Oh yes, and Sofi Tukker rule.
New single Baby I’m A Queen is the sound of Sofi Tukker grabbing pop by the nether regions and twisting them hard until an intense climax. It’s all about a chunky granite guitar riff, Sophie’s finest vocal delivery yet and some techno-club beats that thwack like they're trying to raise hell.
Of the track the band say: “Baby I’m a Queen is about embracing tumultuousness and vulnerability. Just because you are vulnerable, doesn’t mean you have to let yourself be belittled or infantilized (Why is “baby” the default nickname?) We are strong and empowered because we cry, because we desire, and because of what is chaotic about us. This song is about standing up as strong and powerful, because of that courage to share ourselves. It’s about being both a baby and a queen at the same time.”
The good news is that Sofi Tukker has announced the release of the debut album Treehouse for April 13th. They’ve also announced a world tour that runs through from late March to August. The bad news is that for those of us in the UK that tour doesn’t include our fair land. However, the tour is labelled Part 1, so perhaps we’ll all get to the chance to dance hard with them later this year?
Sofi Tukker - Baby I'm A Queen
Friday, 9 March 2018
New band Another Sky released their debut single Forget Yourself with very little online fanfare just over a month ago. Yet the beautiful quality of the track demands that you take notice, but perhaps that demand comes with a whisper first before a shout. Fans of Radiohead will probably be nodding along in quiet contemplation as the piece seamlessly grows from looped beats and chords, through gentle falsetto vocals into a crescendo and wash of noise. It all sounds awkwardly and twitchily romantic. If I was going to tag the song with a genre I’d go for something along the lines of ambient-electronic-experimental-post-rock-pop; essentially this track covers a lot of ground without ever sounding over complicated.
There’s not a lot of information available about Another Sky at the moment, but they are playing at St Pancras Church in London on April 19th and are also at London’s Bushstock and Citadel Festivals this summer. The one site that seems to know something is Highclouds which states that the band met at London’s Goldsmiths University and their name is taken from the Emily Dickinson’s poem There Is Another Sky. But that’s all there seems to be for now. No doubt as time and more music is released their story will unfold, but this is a bewitching start.
Watch the surreal digital artwork video by artist Mikey Burey below.
Another Sky - Forget Yourself
Thursday, 8 March 2018
I’ve made several failed attempts to see Thyla over the last year or so. That was until January this year when the Brighton four-piece announced they were the tour support for Inheaven, which included a show at my local venue The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea, Portsmouth.
This time nothing got in the way and everything clicked. Thyla were impressive. For me it was one of those evenings where the support band outshone the headline band. Big atmospheric guitar riffs, powerful vocals and a handful of blistering tunes that burned brightly.
New single I Was Biting is another power punch to add to the band’s growing collection of songs that you need to know. Combining elements of grunge and indie rock it propels them forward with an angsty and aggressive edge, sometimes leaving you hanging at the cliff before exploding in a glorious uproar.
There’s a whole wave of thrilling new guitar bands around at the moment but a lot of them can’t really sing. That’s where Millie Duthie comes in. She’s Thyla’s not so secret weapon. Her vocals step from dreamy etherealness to moments of soaring authority in a flash. Thyla have won me over. Again.
Thyla - I Was Biting
Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Stop what you are doing and press play now! There’s only a bloody new La Roux track on line! In fact it’s been there for a handful of days, but it seems that I never got the message.
OK, let’s calm down, it’s not really a new La Roux track, it’s a song from elusive Manchester musical project Whyte Horses who you may remember from their colourfully brilliant debut album Pop Or Not. If you missed that record it’s worth a listen – it’s the kind of long-player that sounds like nothing has been skimped on, referencing classic 60’s pop of both the British and French kinds, swirling psychedelia and twisted experimental dance. It sounds like a record made by people who are very well versed in the history of pop music and has, in certain quarters, become a bit of a cult classic. Imagine The Go Team! and Belle and Sebastian having a celebratory hug and that is where Whyte Horses are born from.
Having already released Empty Words, the title track of their forthcoming LP (two minutes and thirty-two seconds of a gem of a pop tune) now we get The Best of It (featuring La Roux). Based on just these two songs I’m calling it early and suggesting we might have another contender for those end of year album lists on our hands. It’s the sort of song that it’s just too easy to throw the word timeless at, but I’m doing it anyway. Listen to The Best of It. Then back track to Empty Words. Then if you missed it first time round dive into Pop Or Not. All come highly recommended.
Whyte Horses have only ever played a handful of live shows, but if you are in London you may like to go and see them this September 13th at the Royal Festival Hall. Special guests are pretty much guaranteed.
Whyte Horses - The Best Of It (Featuring La Roux)
Tuesday, 6 March 2018
On face value it could appear somewhat mystifying that I’ve never featured London based band Yassassin on the blog before, despite being a fan of their Vitamin Y EP and having enjoyed them when I saw them play live. But being a small scale sole author blog means that I can never feature all of the music I enjoy.
However, today I’m making amends because the band released a new video for the wonderfully titled Mermaidistic Personality Disorder, my equal favourite track from the EP alongside Pretty Face and I've found the space and time to post it. A handclap-a-go-go riot of sinister guitar riffs, the tune flits and flirts with the ideas of reality and fantasy: “Outside you’ve got the seaside. Inside you’ve got a mermaid,” chants lead vocalist Anna Haara Kristoferson before some hooky ah-ah-ahs kick in. There’s a hint of a slightly more lo-fi Wolf Alice to the song, which is no bad thing, and the video has elements of The Twilight Zone and Stay Tuned to it, creating a tale of TV nightmares and popcorn.
What more could you possibly want? This is a bad-ass indie-rock tune.
Yassassin - Mermaidistic Personality Disorder (Video)
Friday, 2 March 2018
From her acoustically based folk-pop tunes like Old Head Young Shoulders through to her biting fuzzed up indie stomps like Eliza, Isle of Wight’s Lauran Hibberd has been slowly gaining attention to the point where new cut Fun Like This isn't self-released but comes via a label proper, namely Diamond Club Records.
Fun Like This leaps out of the traps bratty and snarling. It's a song full of crude yet glamourous guitar riffs and finds Lauran casting herself as the outsider: “Told my friends that I don’t like them, told my friends I’m just not like them,” she starts out. You can never quite tell if she’s singing with tongue placed firmly in cheek or not, but either way Fun Like This sounds like a blur of a night out where the beer has started to get spilt on the carpet and someone has turned up the stereo a bit too loud. Her trashiest (in a good way) song to date, Fun Like This is a meaty slab of indie rock ready to holler along to. Get your windows open, turn it up loud and annoy your neighbours.
Lauran Hibberd - Fun Like This
Have you put an entry against 16th March 2018 in your diary yet? If you haven’t then do so now. The words you need to enter are “You Are Someone Else, Fickle Friends debut album, out today.”
By the sounds of things that album is going to be bangertastic. After all there’s Swim (banger), Glue (banger), Hard To Be Myself (banger), Say No More (banger), Hello Hello (banger) and this one Wake Me Up (also a banger) for starters. Maybe a better title for the album would have been Bangers Volume 1?
One of the things that I’ve really grown to like about Fickle Friends is that underneath the glossy pop productions and euphoric sounding tunes there’s often a layer of emotional fragility in the lyrics and Wake Me Up is no different: “We have got so much, so much to learn. What am I missing? What is it you've heard? 'Cause we are, we are, we are, we are, yeah. We are absolutely failing,” sings Natti. Not at pop songs they aren’t.
Remember. 16th March. All the bangers in one place.
Fickle Friends - Wake Me Up
Thursday, 1 March 2018
The new video from Jerry Williams for her splendid indie pop dazzler Grab Life now has a video. Hurrah!
The essence of the video is basically Jerry larking around in various seafront / watery locations with a guitar and whilst she’s at it throwing in a number of the things that make her a rather good indie-pop kid, namely:
1. Very cool trousers. I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes important points need making more than once. Jerry Williams knows a good trouser and the green ones in this video rank highly in the good trouser game.*
2. Wavey / pointy hands and arms. Jerry has become a true expert in pulling shapes and often likes to combine it with a good hair flick as well. This is all perfectly executed in this video.*
3. Good songs. That’s pretty important, right? Because it doesn’t matter how good your fashion tastes are and how nifty your moves are, if you haven’t got the tunes to back them up you’re going nowhere fast. Thankfully Grab Life is a tune and then some and combines with a whole bunch of positivity as well, which is probably why she’s not going nowhere but instead to SXSW festival in Austin, Texas to play a number of shows including ones for the BBC and Pledge Music.
Jerry Williams - Grab Life (Video)
*Footnote. There will probably be some readers who, if previous experience is anything to go by, will call me out on this post saying that points 1 and 2 are 'irrelevant shit'. Well two-fingers to you, because pop music and the culture surrounding it is about more than just music. It has always been about the clothes, the dancing, the haircuts and long may that continue. In fact maybe pop culture itself is quite possibly irrelevant shit.** But that shouldn't stop anyone talking about it.
**It's not but let's not go there. I could write a thesis on the importance of pop in life and how therefore it cannot be irrelevant. But thankfully for you I don't have the time.