Friday, 30 March 2012

Dragonette - Let It Go

Since Dragonette featured on Martin Solveig smash Hello, there's been the overarching sense that now, on their upcoming third album, they'll finally be able to achieve the proper mainstream success they've so blatantly been deserving of since they kicked things off with 2007's Galore.

We pop fans have known about them for ages, but as far as 'Hi, we're Dragonette!' introductory type tracks go, new single Let It Go is spot on. It leaps from fuzzy synth lines to whipcrack beats with all the enthusiasm and carefree exuberance that powered the Solveig collab and is peppered with just the right amount of quirkiness to keep the casual listener fascinated. It's that radio record that screams with the potential to skyrocket the group into previously uncharted levels of adoration - a gateway into a new summer of love where Let It Go blares from every speaker and car stereo.

In a post-Cinderella's Eyes world, Let It Go is a frothy, perked-up gem to compliment the carefully collated iPod playlist of any true pop aficionado.

Let It Go is released on the 2nd April.

[Official Lyric Video] The Saturdays - 30 Days

All that anticipation, all that waiting with baited breath for the new Saturdays single since the largely unspecified 'end' to the On Your Radar album campaign. And it lived up to our every expectation, exceeded them even!

Because what 30 Days represents is a new scale for The Saturdays, a fully epic club banger that builds on the All Fired Up formula and bolts on all the heartaching emotion of My Heart Takes Over for good measure. It put it in a wider scheme of things, it really is - as so many have long wanted from The Sats - their Call The Shots, their Untouchable.

As with all the best Saturdays songs, there's a top-notch middle-eight bit from Una and an incredible drum fill at 2.25 that sounds like a jet-fighter fly-by. The lyric video, in my eyes, totally fits the feel of the song - that sort of neon-drenched, fizzing realm of pure electricity - barely on the cusp of being constrained. 30 Days is that impossible, teetering moment on the edge of letting loose, of collasping into constituent atoms of pure energy. And boy does it sound good.

30 Days is released on the 13th May and a five-track iTunes EP is available to pre-order now including a karaoke version and the Ruff Loaderz Radio Mix of the track. More important though, is the studio version of fan-favourite Turn Myself In and a 'Saturdays Only' version of The Way You Watch Me (with no Travie McCoy guest raps!)

Thursday, 29 March 2012

[Single Cover] The Saturdays - 30 Days

We haven't even heard the song yet, but some quick snooping on The Saturdays Facebook page has revealed this cover artwork for new single 30 Days!

What do we reckon? Speaking style-wise, it's very much in keeping with the On Your Radar look, so could this mean the single is fronting up a re-release of the album? One thing we know for sure, Una flipping her hair sure gets us overwhelmed. We like Vanessa's finger-gesture too, very Saturday(s) Night Fever.

Anyways, the song is getting its premiere on Radio 1 at 7.55am tomorrow morning - so make sure you listen in then.

30 Days is set for a 13th May release date.

Karin Park - Highwire Poetry

They're calling her the electro-goth princess, and Sweden's Karin Park certainly has the allure of royalty to her, albeit in a deliciously outre, icy Bjork-esque way. Imagine a much grittier, dirtier version of Robyn, where the electronics throb with a brute-cut intensity. Synth-lines slap across fractured beats, frothing with barely contained energy, with Park's vocals sensuously trailed over all the while. Taster track Fryngies (from her upcoming album Highwire Poetry) plays out as if from the bowels of some darkly hidden club recessed away in the underbelly of some imagined cyber-punk city. Tiger Dreams takes a more systematic approach, injecting itself with burbling 8-bit bleeps and hissing, sibilant bass. It's haunting stuff, like the grip of skeletal fingers closing on a pumping heart, the lifeblood chilling away in the veins. Park's music is all this, all the macabre and theatricality of the gothic princess, but aligned to the all the possibilities of the quirky electro-songstress.

Highwire Poetry is released on the 28th May.

Ben Montague - Love Like Stars

Fresh from supporting The Wanted lads on tour, up and coming singer-songwriter Ben Montague is wasting no time in getting his name about. His debut album Tales Of Flying and Falling is set for release later this year and even the title seems to cry out at not only the trials and tribulations of existing within the turbulent music industry, but the ups and downs we all go through in life. Lead single Love Like Stars is packed with that same youthful, boyish charm the Wanted have, but distilled down into the essence of one man. Montague's voice is a beacon, effortlessly clear, touching and lighting from verse to chorus with sublime ease.

Firmly situated in the bedrock of good, honest pop-rock, it's everything Matt Cardle's ill-fated album should have been, but never quite managed to achieve. Because what Montague has on his side is proper, genuine likeability, and passion. Love Like Stars is brimming with it, spilling it from the seams of every hook. It's epic in the most tastefully restrained of ways, and comes with the sort of well-dressed commerciality to appeal to both the Radio 1 and Radio 2 crowds. A song firmly rooted in the perfect middle ground then, but one that works the sensibilities of that middle ground to its limits, all the better to showcase his clearly evident talents.

If you didn't get a chance to catch Ben Montague on The Wanted tour, or if you just fancy some more of him, you can catch him on his forthcoming headline tour throughout June.

Love Like Stars is released on the 18th June.

Morten Harket - Scared of Heights

When the lead singers of monumentally successful groups go solo, they usually try and make a discerned effort to move away from the sound of their parent band - but in Morten Harket's case, new single Scared of Heights is about as close to the revitalised trademark 21st century a-Ha sound as you can get. And in a way, that's what we like most about it. The song plays to Harket's strengths, taking that ethereal, angelic voice to all the sweeping peaks of epiphany he's done so well for the past 30 years or so. It's up-tempo, there's some lovely strings, and in its general spirit and airy lightness, it feels far more akin to Lifelines or Analogue than the heavier synth sounds of Foot Of The Mountain. And perhaps most crucially, it sounds like a big radio single, the kind of thing to really front an album campaign and lead it onward to proper chart success. A song this good certainly deserves it.

Scared of Heights is released on the 10th April and can be pre-ordered here.

Pulled Apart By Horses - Wolf Hand

Wolf Hand feels like a violent track - from the blood red cover of its parent Tough Love album (their sophomore effort) to the shouted intensity of the vocals - like nails hammered into splintering wood - it's got all the ferocity of a twenty man street bust-up. The brawling, bruised frenetics even seep into the lyrics: 'When I was a kid I was a dick, but nothing changes' - it's almost as if its vocalising all the frustrations of the riots and the core ethos at the heart of every disaffected teenager. It's channelling all that into a track that bristles with antagonism, and remarkably, transforming it into a storming rock pumper of a tune; albeit one that gets up in your face with its unashamed roughness. The guitars collide with a punchy weight to them that feels genuinely thrilling, and by the time the solo kicks in two minutes into the song, it's like you've been tied to the back of a car and dragged along behind it. The impetus and drive of Wolf Hand is everything, never letting up, never relenting - and it's there that Pulled Apart By Horses properly excel.

Wolf Hand is released on the 16th April.

J-Lo feat. Pitbull - Dance Again

She's done it. She's actually done it. Following up the incredible On The Floor would be a pretty nerve-wracking job for any artist, but J-Lo - with Dance Again - has actually managed to pull of a track that matches its predecessor in terms of distilled eurodance awesomeness. Already, it sounds like the makings of a proper summer anthem, the kind of thing you can't move for hearing - and if that's how it goes, we won't be complaining, because we love it. You can picture it already, cars jammed up in petrol station forecourts, everyone getting hot and flustered, and then suddenly, Dance Again comes on, and everything is suddenly right with the world.

Of course, J-Lo has far more important stuff on the mind in the song, chiefly, love: 'If this was a perfect world, we'd be together now'. We don't live in a perfect world, but Dance Again makes us feel like we do. It's got that sort of strutting confidence to it, and an ace soaring chanty bit - basically all the ingredients you want from both a J-Lo single and a full-on summer smash. A fire's lighting us up, and we just want to dance again, or more specifically, play this again, and again, and again...

Linkin Park announce new single Burn It Down

It's here! Well, a glimmer of news about it at any rate. After much anticipation, Linkin Park have announced that their new single will be called Burn It Down and that it's set for a 16th April release date. The band have already talked about how their new material will see a return to a more mainstream sound after the eclecticsm of A Thousand Suns, so will this finally see a re-emergence of the Meteora/Hybrid Theory incarnation of the group? Either way, we can't wait to hear the track.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Lawson - When She Was Mine

A lot has been made of how Lawson are the next 'Busted or McFly', but to be honest, one listen of new single When She Was Mine highlights how, at heart, they represent something far more. While the vocals and well-rounded pop hooks might be standard boy-band far, the music itself shows a group of properly accomplished musicians pushing to bring real substance to their sound. Whether it's the Cure-esque guitar, or the dreamy middle-eight, When She Was Mine isn't just great pop, it's mature pop too. There's a depth and weight to the production that really emphasises the 'band' feel of the track, a collective of talent that when combined brings forth prodigious results that feel allied to a wiser, smarter aesthetic than many of their contemporaries. It bodes well for the guys' debut album, that's for sure.

When She Was Mine is released on the 27th May.

Nneka - Shining Star (Joe Goddard Remix)

Joe Goddard off of Hot Chip is something of a go-to guy for ace remixes right now, even more so when he teams up with a slick urban-pop vocalist. We loved his rework of Delilah's Love You So, and his take of Nneka's Shining Star offers more of the same trippy delights. There's touches of the tribal in the rhythmic looseness of the full nine minute version's collective soundscape, pieced together amidst rubbery basslines and deliciously retro handclaps. It's like some long lost club cut from the mid 90s, resurfaced on some dusty 12'' vinyl and given a quick contemporary re-dress. The result is intense, thoughtful and brimming with a smooth soulfulness which dishes up a plethora of production magic with each passing minute.

Flux Pavilion feat. Example - Daydreamer

Of all the bass-toting dance acts awash in the charts at the moment, Flux Pavilion win points from the off for the sheer bonkers-ness of their name. It's got that sense of the grandstand ego, prepped and ready to obliterate dancefloors across the nation. In that sense then, Example makes for the perfect fit for new single Daydreamer and its accompanying slipstream of hi-energy laser synths. The track literally ripples like a livewire current of electricity, and while it's far from being Example's greatest moment (it doesn't hold a patch on Stay Awake), he certainly adds a certain bravado-laden swagger to the track. When the beat drops post-middle-eight, Daydreamer ends up sounding like Super Mario on crack, blippiness exploding outwards in an infusion of 8-bit madness. It's not clean, and it's not clever, but Daydreamer's sheer scale can't be faulted.

Daydreamer is released on the 30th April.

Jake Morley - Sideline

With a sold-out headline show at the Jazz Cafe under his belt and Radio 2 lapping him up, Jake Morley must be feeling pretty content right now, and if anything, new single Sideline is the affirmation of that contentment. Beautifully relaxed and confident in its brush-stroke touches of fingerpicked guitar and slow washes of strings, it glows with a warmth that's more than a match for the summer rays. Touring across the UK in May, Morley's assured soulfulness sets him a cut above the chaff, with Sideline brimming with the simple quality that comes from a man totally at one with his instrument and talent. Morley makes for a perfect new addition to anyone who's already exhausted their Ben Howard or Benjamin Francis Leftwich albums, and in its best moments, Sideline finds itself ushering in summer with delicate, tender poise.

Ed Sheeran - Small Bump

While my taste for Ed Sheeran is pretty much non-existent, new single Small Bump at least has the virtue of offering something vaguely different from the insubstantial weepy balladry of The A Team, Drunk and Lego House. Whereas Sheeran's previous singles blurred away into a formless mass of nothingness that girls cried into their pillows over, Small Bump - with its chilled, almost Balearic contentedness - feels a far better, slicker fit for Sheeran as the Big Star he now is. It feels more confident; sloughing off the slightly awkward, shy overtones that affects so much of his music - and to be honest, it just feels like it offers more variety, albeit it subtly.

It's that persistent heartbeat rhythm and the whisperings of shimmery synths that play over Small Bump's closing passages that do it, that elevate this above your standard Sheeran fare. It's by no means a complete salvation, but it does at least offer a glimmer of hope that the inevitable second album from Sheeran might be more in this vein of things.

Maximo Park - The National Health

Of all the bands that have 'been away for a while', Maximo Park were always one of the ones we were holding the most hopes for. Back when we were angsty teenagers polishing off our GCSEs, we were obsessed with them - tracks like Our Velocity became those magical 'soundtrack to your life' moments that get indelibly ingrained alongside all your formative memories. And now they've returned, at long last, with new album The National Health, and the title track is a bit of a treat - a real storming reaffirmation of the band's core values

2009's Quicken The Heart, while still a perfectly good album, felt nowhere near as vital or 'alive' as the band's first two platinum-selling efforts. Praise must be afforded to The National Health then, for catapulting the band firmly back into everything that made us fall in love with them in the first place - it's snappy, it's energised, and most importantly, it's bloody good.

Maximo Park are back, and we're loving it.

The National Health is released on the 11th June.

Lightships - Sweetness In Her Spark

You don't often get tuneful little guitar dities as beautiful as Sweetness In Her Spark these days. There's something in the song's hazy, tender picking over of blissed-out summer days that seems to recall some distant non-place in the mid 90s world of Brit-pop and positive ambition. It's an encapsulating of the best of the past, provided again, just for a moment, to allow us to escape from the hectic now.

Coming from Gerard Love's Lightships project, it makes for a life-affirming debut single, an elegant calling card that slips in nicely next to the likes of The Phoenix Foundation in terms of general jangly, chilled ambiance. It's music to fall back into the grass and unwind to - to give every part of yourself away to the wind and the sun, to dissolve into happiness.

Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe

Sure, it might be the sugariest, poppiest, almost overly sweet thing you'll have heard all year, but there's something so unashamedly carefree about Call Me Maybe that you just want to dive into its world and never leave. Because in Carly Rae Jepsen's world, POP is the order of the day and Call Me Maybe - a kind of Diana Vickers meets Disney princess gem of a song - is frankly awesome.

It's kooky to just the right degree, and touts a hook of such coquetish flirtiness, tripping off those little synth-string stabs, that we want to down a gallon of fizzy drink and go out dancing. In a way, Call Me Maybe's chief joy is it just exists in its own little world, able to charm its way onto the Radio 1 playlist where anything else this pop would never get a look in. What with Canadian Idol shooting Jepsen to fame, it just leaves you asking, when is X Factor going to produce someone like this?

After all, I just met you, and this is crazy, but we think we're in love already. Carly Rae Jepsen, will you call us... maybe?

MONSTA - Holdin On

Imagine a toss-up between classic soulful vocals and weighty, synth-tastic dub-step backing. Well, Holdin On is pretty much that epitomised, and marks a powerful debut for MONSTA (because their sound is just so big, it does quite lend itself to an all capitals sobriquet).

With the combined forces of production duo Pegasus and vocalist Bryn Christopher on board, the result is a heady concoction of retro Marvin Gaye-esque vocal lines bolted on to a bedrock of beats so tempestuous they threaten to combust. It's like Cee Lo Green if he took E and headed downtown for a right proper rave-up, and Holdin On wisely ends up as both all-out club smash and well-rounded radio hit. It's got that slickness and cleverly executed sensibility, the immediate wildness crossed with mainstream allure and a scope that feels much larger than most debut dance tracks. We've seen Chase & Status break the market for this kind of stuff wide open, and with Holdin On, MONSTA have shaped themselves up nicely to follow in their footsteps.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Zebra & Snake - Money In Heaven

For Finnish duo Zebra & Snake, paradise comes imagined in the most opulent of terms; or at least that’s what new single Money In Heaven feels like it’s about. It’s like Blancmange revitalised for a 21st century audience, channelling the glossiest, rosiest of 80s synth trills. Zebra & Snake display a remarkable knack for a pop hook, and Money In Heaven comes boasting many. It’s gloriously outrĂ© in a way only those so evidently in love with the synthesiser could have come up with. And as for Healing Music, the band’s forthcoming debut album – well, we reckon the duo’s smiley pop makes for a fitting remedy to ward off all of life’s little ills.
Money In Heaven is released on the 7th May.

Demi Lovato - Give Your Heart A Break

Let's just state this for the record - we absolutely love Demi Lovato. And her new single Give Your Heart A Break makes us want to run outside and shout it from every rooftop. Because it's that good, that exceptionally brilliant. The rest of Demi's Unbroken album might have been a mixed affair, plagued by a number of wishy-washy R&B collab-heavy moments, but Give Your Heart A Break sees Demi re-born as an empowered pop princess every bit the equal of Miley or Selena.

It's that chorus, like a fanfare of triumphant joy effusing out across the skyline to the very corners of world, a union-spanning instant of POP in its purest, most refined form. It makes you feel like you could take on an army single-handed and come out on top. It's brilliant, so brilliant. And it makes us very excited about Demi coming to the UK to promote Unbroken early in April.

Soulsavers - The Light The Dead See [Album Review]

As far as production duos go, Soulsavers feel pretty unique. With past work including remixes for the Doves and Starsailor, a fair smattering of collaborations including work with Richard Hawley, and one of their songs appearing on Grey’s Anatomy in 2007, it’s far to say their existence is one of much variety. But from variety oft springs the most intoxicatingly fascinating results, and teaming up with Depeche Mode legend Dave Gahan to provide lead vocals for the entirety of your new album is about as brilliant as you can go when plotting the course of your latest studio effort.
And new album The Light The Dead See is nothing if not fascinating. With Gahan in the driver’s seat, the record feels purposed with a profound elegance that shines through in the beautiful gospel overtones of Just Try or the languid, Western tinged expanse of blankness in Bitterman. There’s that gaping sense of isolation, like a lonely soul, lost adrift in endless miles and miles of desert.
It’s fascinating to see Gahan outside his usual darkly seductive synth-pop Depeche setting, though in many ways he brings so much of the gravity and gospel-like malevolence of his band that the results with Soulsavers are often sonically rather similar on a wider scale, just with electronics replaced with delicately plucked guitar and surging sweeps of brass.
In some of its more introspective moments, like Gone Too Far, there’s a sort of Doors-y blue-jean vibe; the openness of the American highway, again so indicative of the way Depeche Mode were always so much more than just the synth blokes from Essex, but a band to be fully embraced by every aspect of the world market. Two minutes in, Gone Too Far explodes into a medley of grinding percussion and Gahan’s vocals are set to full-pelt, crying out as if with his last breath. It’s staggering, breath-catching stuff and long-time Depeche fan that I am, there’s moments when I’m still amazed at just how good Gahan’s voice is – all the more impressive when you consider his near flirtation with drugs and death in the 90s. Moments like the epiphanial Presence of God touch and caress like some angelic host force, all string-swept magnificence.
And crucially, the album is more than just an explorative ‘production’ effort – it is every inch the ‘proper’ LP – a real body of work to sink your teeth into. It flows with sublime ease from track to track, an unfurling story of macabre power, and by the time lead single Longest Day kicks in, the theatrical scale and grandeur of the piece as grande-epic is plainly evident. Its envisionment is total, its execution perfectly reasoned, and on every number Soulsavers bring some new element to bear. Even short interlude La Ribera glimmers with spectacle.
Ultimately, and importantly, The Light The Dead See sounds much closer to Gahan’s relatively recent solo effort Hourglass than any Depeche Mode album in particular. Hourglass had that same, world-worn ghostliness to it, a sort of Teutonic bleak aspect that wrapped itself to Gahan’s essence like a tailored suit. And the same occurs here, with the Soulsavers’ richly tapestried production opening up like a book of verse, so often as deeply emotional as Gahan’s vocals. It’s a symbiotic relationship between voice and music, but one where neither party ever becomes overtly, dangerously dominant. If there was one word for The Light The Dead See, it could only ever be ‘sumptuous’ , because quite simply, it is. Employing Gahan’s assets always in the best, most respectful, of ways, it reaps a bounteous plethora of rewards – on paper, the formula seemed fascinating – in actuality, it becomes something far beyond that.
The Light The Dead See is released on the 21st May and can be pre-ordered here.

Kamaliya - Arryhthmia

Arryhthmia is apparently the technical term for abnormal amounts of electrical activity in the heart - and that's a fair summary of the way we feel after listening to the latest single from Russian temptress Kamaliya. We covered her previous track Crazy In My Heart last year and Arryhthmia goes in riding on that same wave of high-powered Europop energy via a suitably glamorous video where Kamaliya slips into a plethora of  revealing outfits.

At its heart, Arryhthmia  is a darkly ambient, seductive trance banger - the sort of thing that the most amazing hours of a night out on the tiles play out to while copious amounts of vodka are necked down in time to the pulsing neon lights above.

It's just the right blend of soft, teasing sensuality and electric-edged Euro-Epic. We're hooked... are you?

Arryhthmia is released on the 29th April.

[Official Video] Beatrice Eli - The Conqueror

We reviewed Beatrice Eli's glacial synth anthem The Conqueror back in November last year and now it's got a video to go with it - and quite frankly, we want to dive right into it in much the same way we want to wrap ourselves up in the song and never emerge.

With its snow-flecked depiction of the endless urban sprawl of tower-blocks and uniform concrete, the video paints a wild, almost untamed world of the council flat recast as fantasy landscape, which all seems very much in keeping with the twinkling, effervescent mood of the song itself.

It's that chorus - just one of those unashamed 'YES' moments where a pop song crystalises into something, which for a few seconds, is all that matters. For just that snatch of a moment, we're caught in that limbo with The Conqueror, and it's heavenly.

SD-Jem - Roll With Me

They’re from North London and they’re called Denis and Shanel – or collectively, ‘SD-Jem’. Yes, it might sound like the name of a TV, but SD-Jem in fact provide a far more tacticle kind of entertainment, by way of fizzy urban-pop party anthem Roll With Me. It’s bleepy, comes with more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle and contains the choice lyric ‘I’ll be blowing all your systems up’ – which we can’t decide if it means something a bit naughty or not. We’re going to go with the naughty option, because we love a good pop euphemism.
With their street-smart boy-girl image, there’s clear flavours of both N-Dubz and Six-D to them, but with a dancier backing. Yes, the obligatory dub-step middle-eight is in there, and ranked against the multitude of other pop tunes currently touting one, Roll With Me actually comes out pretty high.
Supporting Cher Lloyd on her upcoming Sticks + Stones tour, we imagine SD-Jem will soon have all the UK ‘rolling’ with them – and considering the archetypal Cher fan and what sort of stuff we imagine they’re into, we reckon SD-Jem are pretty much the perfect match for the tour.
Roll With Me is released on the 20th May.

Attention Thieves - You'll Be The First One

Youthful, cleanly defined rock from Reading chaps Attention Thieves - new single You’ll Be The First One finds itself as a neat bed-fellow to the likes of Young Guns. Empowered in the choruses, and with strong hooks to boot, Attention Thieves thrive with the energy and passion to mark themselves out in a tight market. With support from Kerrang and Radio 1’s Rock Show, it’s tempting to think these guys could follow in the footsteps of You Me At Six and set themselves up in the UK’s premier league of rock groups – and You’ll Be The First One certainly possesses a measure of that same glimmer of keen, accomplished vitality YMAS displayed when they first cut their way into the UK albums charts in 2008. With Enter Shikari producer John Mitchell on board too, the band are lent a clinical edge that wastes no time in establishing exactly what they’re about – You’ll Be The First One works so well precisely because of that quick-fire energy coursing through it. Driven and focussed in both sound and action, Attention Thieves are also set to head back on the road through April and May.

Pyrelli - Doing Just Fine

Thumping, meaty grime from Orange Unsigned rapper Pyrelli, with a flavour of the trippy thrown in for good measure. With a choppy female vocal sample tossed around like loose change, there’s a pleasing DIY feel to the whole thing – the video was filmed in a skate park and there’s a sort of faded ambience to the garish graffiti scrawl and concrete landscape that finds its way into the muscular rhythms of Doing Just Fine. With a bedrock of squelching, screeching bass, the tracks plays into a jungle of dubby electronics and makes for a self-assured follow up to Sway collab Up Your Speed.

Garbage - Battle In Me

We’re going to go and say it, Battle In Me sounds even better than Blood For Poppies. If the latter was the appetiser for Garbage’s long awaited new album, then Battle In Me is the fully fledged starter course, with a heap-load of trimmings. It roughens up the Garbage formula with icy guitar lines and those glitchy electronics – in a way, it’s like they’ve never really been away. There’s something timeless to Battle In Me that feels like the glory days of the band re-cast all over again. As always, the overall production quality is absolutely top-notch – everything colluding nicely into a slipstream of sonic pleasure; in this instance a racey, punked-up tour-de-force that hits with the heft of a boxer and the precision of a trained sniper. It might not be the cleverest or most adventurous Garbage track, but in terms of un-fettered enjoyment and ‘Thank God they’re back!’ factor, Battle In Me hits all the right buttons.
Battle In Me is released on the 7th May.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Justin Bieber - Boyfriend

To be fair, as a twenty-something bloke, I can't exactly be said to be Justin Bieber's target audience. But even though his new-found 'mature' angle is to be expected and even celebrated (it happens to every teen star at some point), I'm not sure Boyfriend it quite the right song for him to make his big move into the adult world with.

For starters, it's *SO* Justin Timberlake it's uncanny. With it's strummed acoustic riffing and cod-sensual whispered intro, it not only sounds like an almost entirely different artist from the Justin Bieber of old, but it also sounds like an aping of old trends. It takes JB out of the nice, comfortable pedestal he's set himself up on and tries to push him - perhaps too swiftly - into this 'serious' R&B loverman aesthetic.

Boyfriend sounds about ten years out of date, and while I'm sure it'll send hordes of Bieber fans into shuddering teenage ecstasy, musically speaking, it's just not good enough. To think, with Bieber's level of success, he could have his pick of songwriters and producers; Boyfriend is a pale shadow of the record he could have released.

Richard Hawley's 'Singles Club' - Leave Your Body Behind You

We've always been admirers of Richard Hawley - in many ways he represents a sort of last bastion of the esteemed gentlemanly British singer-songwriter of a sort that is now diminished to a handful of erstwhile champions who are still capable of catching that melodicism and inherently English charm that so wonderfully wrapped the nation in the Brit-pop heydeys.

And to be honest, we've rather been taken in by the beautiful cover art for his latest project - new studio album Standing At The Sky's Edge, and lead single Leave Your Body Behind You. It's all bright, colourful and generally a bit psychedelic in a Northern Lights sort of way. What's more, Leave Your Body Behind You will stand as the first step in a Singles Club release schedule that will span the next twelve months. Sort of like one of those magazine partworks you see advertised on TV then, but without the rubbishy free gifts. Instead, it'll just be pristine 10'' vinyls and good, honest music - which we always approve of.

We've already seen the likes of Ash experiment with instalment-styled release schedules, and Hawley's Singles Club scheme looks set to serve as a real treat for long-term fans.

Standing At The Sky's Edge is released on the 7th May.

Snow Patrol - New York

If anything, Snow Patrol's pertaining success story has to be celebrated. Where so many of their formative era have dropped off into that ghastly musical limbo of the unknown, Snow Patrol - while perhaps not always casting themselves as the Hollywood-scale rock maestros they were when they were soundtracking the likes of Spiderman - have settled themselves into a very attractive corner of the market. But their most recent studio effort - Fallen Empires - felt like more than that; it felt like a band still eager to prove themselves in so many ways. It was a band with a resonance and ability that was very much still burning in its prime - and New York, for all that it eschews the more radio-friendly mould we know Snow Patrol can do so well, is properly impressive.

New York sees Snow Patrol at their most moody and introspective and takes an almost tortuously long time to get going - but when it does, oh my is it worth the wait. Touching on the bands roots, it ranges from minimal acoustic strokes, beautifully poetic lyrics, to rousing stadium-splitting blasts of horn. It's an anthem of achievement, an affirmation of life, a calling on everything that Snow Patrol's existence has always been building towards. And just like the album itself, New York states plainly, 'We're Snow Patrol, we're still here, and we're still relevant.'

New York is released on the 30th April.

Aruba Red - Little Monster

If you like pop of the trippy Katy B styled variety, odds are Aruba Red might be just up your street. With 1 Xtra airplay and a collab with both Riz MC and Plan B under her belt, Aruba's latest track Little Monster is a burbling slow-grind of a track, pulsing with grimy synths and mechanistic beats. Previous single Never Die is even better. Having just polished off a support slot on Maverick Sabre's tour, Little Monster serves an atmospheric taster for forthcoming EP Demos in Disguise, which is set for a 26th March release date.

Jessie J - Laser Light

There's two ways to approach new Jessie J single Laser Light. On one hand, it's nice - as with Domino - to see her doing proper up-tempo pure pop again, but equally, Laser Light - as a David Guetta production - just ends up feeling like a poor man's version of Titanium. And whereas that song felt like a truly uplifting bit of anthemic club revelry, Laser Light feels like a tired going through the motions of contemporary dance tropes. Jessie, who you can normally count on to really stand out as the 'star' at the heart of the track, here feels utterly secondary, slipping away into the backdrop.

But then again, when you're appearing on prime-time telly every weekend (Oh hai, the Voice!), you've got part of your promo plan sorted already, with an ease most artists would kill for. And in that respect, Laser Light, in all its faceless commerciality, fits in rather well indeed.

Laser Light is released on the 13th May.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Tulisa - Young

I'd always wanted Tulisa to get her solo career off to a bang with a big dancey single - but I wasn't expecting something quite so dipped in the aesthetics of clubland as this. Young blasts out like a little piece of Ibiza transposed onto the airwaves and while on first impressions it seems an odd - strangely icy - choice for a lead single, it's certainly not without its merits.

Chief among these is the sheer scale of the thing. It feels properly epic, and those trancey synth riffs at their best are divine. Proper turn of the Millenium pilled-up bliss. But as for Tulisa herself, Young feels less effective - she roughens up her voice from the smooth gloss of her N-Dubz days and goes in for a ad-lib heavy Jessie J style effort, with mixed results. I'm not quite sure if all the hooks are quite in place, and it certainly doesn't seem to have the uber-magnetic pull a lead single should.

But fair play to Tulisa - especially in the wake of this week's frenzy of events - for delivering something uncompromising and true to herself. Because the idea of the X Factor judge as an empowered club diva is quite an attractive one. Let's just hope there's some better choruses on the album.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Soulsavers feat. Dave Gahan - Longest Day

Teaming up with production team Soulsavers, Dave Gahan (a bit of a musical legend in our eyes, massive Depeche Mode fans that we are) provides vocals on Longest Day, a real luxurious treat of a track and an appetising teaser for new Soulsavers album The Light The Dead See. Laced with strident piano chords, great sweeping guitar lines and a sort of Elbow-like gospel chorus, it's an uplifting hands raised anthem of a track.

Sonically speaking, it's a very different beast from anything Depeche Mode have ever put out - but with Gahan's stately vocals at the heart of it, it also feels instantly familiar in the way a classic Depeche hook always does. It's haunting in the most beautifully moving of ways, that sort of smoky horizon blur of old memories and unrealised chances that have fallen away into the past. It's all these things, and somehow more... Longest Day is that solitary 'door to take when there's no-where left to run', a gateway to newer pastures, and blissed Elysium.

Vince Kidd - Smother Me

Like us, Vince Kidd is 22 and from South London, but he's also an insanely talented singer - one of those people who possess such soul and depth to their voice they make singing seem as natural as breathing. Signed to Sony and hailed as One To Watch by MTV, things seem to be moving swiftly for Kidd who offers a richer, more personal palate of sounds than any of the man-and-a-guitar types out their at the moment.

No, Kidd is far more in the vein of a male version of Lana Del Rey - stylised in a film-noir aesthetic, a rough-punk street-smarts wisdom that's ingrained in the very essence of songs like the rapturous Smother Me. His controversial Sick Love adds a mattering of urban beats into the mix too, a whirlwind of individualism that leaves you dizzy. Kidd's world is an uncompromising one, but when it comes to budding new singer-songwriters, you'd be hard pushed to find many as inventive as him.

A major talent to watch in the coming year, that's for sure.

Introducing... Emin

As Eurovision fever starts hotting up for another year of thrills and spills, let us introduce likeable Azerbaijani chap Emin. There's a video of him below chatting about recording his album and he comes off as very charming, well mannered and into his music. All positive points for an aspiring solo star, and his music's pretty decent too.

Coming across like a sort of toss up between Enrique Iglesias, The Wanted and Ronan Keating, Emin's music touches a lot of bases but resolutely falls in the firm boundaries of big radio-pleasing pop anthems - whether it be the beautiful piano ballad Dead Roses or synthed-up number Never Enough. Our personal favourite is Walk Through Walls though, which goes for a slightly rockier sound.

The clips in the album teaser vid sound promising, so we'll definitely be looking forward to his interval performance during all the fun and games of this year's big Eurovision show.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Introducing... Ria Ritchie

These days, there’s so many apparent YouTube sensations flying around, it’s hard to know which ones are actually worth investing time in - but in the case of Miss Ria ’10 million views’ Ritchie, we reckon there’s really some substance behind all the internet buzz.
Taken under the wing of Plan B, she’s since toured with the who’s who of the British urban scene and there’s definitely something special about her, a real ‘wow!’ charm to her plainly apparent talents. At the heart of it all, there’s an impressively good, solid pop voice – the kind that could turn itself to any genre or taste with equal ease. And in debut single Only One, Ritchie goes for the big diva anthem vibe – riding a wall-of-sound wave of thundering percussion and scratchy guitar licks. It’s a towering girl-power record in the gutsiest of ways – this is no dainty doll, she’s all grit and raw passion, the kind that makes you feel every emotion ten-fold.
Plan B co-write Peculiar sounds like early Sugababes – think of Run For Cover or Stronger, that melancholy tinged street-ballad sort of thing crossed with the love-lorn hurt of countless tears and smeared mascara. Meanwhile, free download Blow Back verges on the trippy Katy B pop-dance blend; all delicate vocals and atmospheric beats. If there’s one word to sum up Ritchie, it’s sheer versatility, and to be perfectly honest, the UK could do with another properly good female artist like this to freshen up the market.
She’s rather easy on the eye too, and it’s very easy to imagine her swiftly sky-rocketing into a kind of UK Kelly Clarkson type if she plays her cards right – with the kind of online hysteria she’s already garnered, surely it’s only a matter of time?

Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know [Bright Light Bright Light Remix]

We were thinking, wouldn't it be brilliant if someone did a raved up mixed of the Gotye track (you know, that one that's sold an insane amount of copies this year). Well, our prayers were answered in the form of the Bright Light Bright Light mix which totally transforms the acoustic snoozathon into a groovy early 90s themed work-out. There's touches of Madonna's sublime Bedtime Story and all those amazing K-Klass mixes to it, and quite frankly, we love it!

L Marshall - The Wait Pt 2 feat. Sincere & Sneakbo

He’s the driving force behind Wretch 32’s Traktor and Loick Essien’s How We Roll – but L Marshall is more than just a skilled up songwriter, as he proves with fine aplomb on new single The Wait. From glossy, ambient intro to the futuristic chug of the synth-driven verses, The Wait is about as polished a radio-ready single as they come. It’s like a suited and booted charmer, with the gold cufflinks and buffed-up shoes to boot.
It’s grime, sure, but with a bit more thought and class to it. When sleek rising urban stars like Labrinth are suddenly all the rage, everyone else has to up their game to match, and L Marshall’s certainly done that. What The Wait does so well is that it puts itself there in a clearly defined, business-like manner. No pretentiousness or cocky arrogance, just a sort of self-assured ‘yeah, I know what I’m doing’. And that’s what we like.
The Wait is released on the 2nd April.

Boat To Row - Grassmarket EP

The latest in a rush of British folk-pop troupes, Midlands group Boat To Row establish themselves very much within the Mumford mould on their new EP Grassmarket, all violins and uplifting acoustic guitar. It’s gutsy, rustic music for the heart, a brothy tonic of an EP. And with Dry The River’s debut effort proving rather popular at the moment too, Boat To Row not only slip nicely alongside, but really establish their own patch too.
Working Class has a lovely sort of jaunty swagger to it and the EP’s title track is even better, a sweetly rollicking little number of such pretty charm it feels like it’s about to blow away in your hands like blades of grass.
The EP’s hand-drawn cover is rather lovely too, and fits in to the pastoral aesthetic of the songs, as does the simple elegance of the title, which trips of the tongue beautifully. All very promising indeed for the group then, who’ve already garnered Radio 2 airplay and have just polished off a tour supporting Dog Is Dead.

Madonna - Girl Gone Wild [Official Video]

So, here's the rundown. We love MDNA, but of all the tracks, Girl Gone Wild certainly feels like one of the least adventurous - a kind of Madonna by the numbers, if you will.

But throw the Voguey black-and-white video into the mix and somehow, it instantly improves in appeal. Whereas before it felt like a rather bog standard dance number, a formless entry into the current panoply of other club chart stuff awash in the charts, now it feels like a genuine part of Madonna's ouevre as a whole.

It also feels even more like something off Confessions now, which is a very good thing indeed.

And most of all, the video, like Madonna always does when she's at her best, makes you absolutely reconsider what it means to be an artist of her age in the industry. Indeed, Girl Gone Wild feels like the work of some starlet twice Madge's years, and that, more than anything is evidence of the vitality at the of both it and MDNA.

Even the ample hip thrusting doesn't put us off this one.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Olly Murs - Don't Say Goodnight Yet

We were thinking about this earlier when we were listening to Olly Murs' new single Oh My Goodness and finding ourselves enjoying it quite a bit, but we can't help liking him. We know we shouldn't, but we do. As Star Trek's Borg say: resistance is futile.

And the thing is, the b-side Don't Say Goodnight Yet is sort of tolerable too. Sure, it's nothing to write home about, but as always with Olly, he sort of strides that borderline MOR zone where his music seeps into your subconscious and you subtly find yourself enjoying it in an 'oh this is sort of alright way'.

We're not sure how we feel about this, but what we do know is that he needs to release another track as brilliant as Heart Skips A Beat.

Schiralli - The Clearing

Who are we to resist the charms of a seductive French songstress? Well, actually the rather enchanting Schiralli is from Italy (via dear old Camden), but there's a definite Parisian theme to both new single The Clearing and it's literally revelatory video. Let's just say she's certainly not shy about baring all.

With the smoky retro allure of a Caro Emerald or Rumer, Schiralli throws in a good measure of breathy vocals Kylie would be proud of. The risque video plays out like a classy perfume add, an artistic statement to match the track itself. It all comes off as a remarkably well polished package; indeed, the chorus is properly magical, a smoothly divine slip-stream of seductive pop charisma. It's fair to say we've definitely been won over.

The Clearing is released on the 26th March.

Modestep – Show Me A Sign

Modestep are very much a sort of ‘does what it says on the tin’ act – I mean, what more would expect than a dubbed up work-out of immense proportions and a whole heap of general WOB-iness? And new single Show Me A Sign doesn’t disappoint, certainly bettering previous effort Sunlight while it’s at it too. It’s trick is a Pendulum-esque fusion of all the standard club-driving elements with a rock sensibility that suggests Show Me A Sign as a real one for the festivals. You can almost imagine it now, a packed, steaming tent somewhere in Glastonbury, the lights down low, bodies heaving away to this. It’s music for the body to come alive to, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Show Me A Sign is released on the 30th April.

Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour

With a top twenty album in the bag, things must be looking pretty rosy for Band of Skulls right now. And the title track, Sweet Sour shows a suitable excitation to its fuzzy riffs, kind of like Led Zep distilled into the essence of a contemporary alt-rock group, with all the trappings such a fusion might entail. Sweet Sour bristles with both guitar virtuosity and ambition, a brawling hou-ha of a track that spits with an almost dangerous abandon. It’s bulked up, macho pomp and sets itself out as a fitting companion to the likes of the Black Keys recent El Camino effort.
Sweet Sour is released on the 7th May.

Calvin Harris feat Ne-Yo - Let's Go

The successes of Calvin Harris seem to come in waves – from quaint electro-pop bloke to worldwide dance supremo, is his Neyo collab the next step in the producer’s conquering of the airwaves. Sonically speaking, it sweeps up all the standard Harris tropes in a wide net; bouncy, rubbery basslines and those arms aloft Ibiza slaying trance bits in the chorus that erupt out as if powered by jet fuel. In a way, Let’s Go lies very much in the same vein as Rihanna’s We Found Love in that it does little to offer genuine innovativity, or to push itself beyond the familiar, yet somehow it just works. With the cool-heeled ease which Harris’s dance productions always seem to command themself with, Let’s Go already sounds like the smash hit it will surely go on to be, and in that self-assured confidence, it finds its voice.

Coldplay feat. Rihanna – Princess of China

On hearing Princess of China for the first time, we had a bit of an epiphany – it was like Coldplay melded into some new form of life, some new exciting offshoot of a band for who a collab with the biggest female popstar in the world was mere second nature. While the rest of Mylo Xyloto felt very much within the expected constraints of the Coldplay formula (and excelled through that), Princess of China felt like its own beast – a magical, mythical creation that bursted with melodic intent and synthy prettiness. In hindsight, Rihanna slips into the orient-tinged trappings of the song like a second-skin, weaving Coldplay’s trademark stadium-filling chants to a luxuriant silkiness oft not heard in her voice. The result is utterly enchanting, and assuredly one of Coldplay’s best moments to date.
Princess of China is set for a June release date.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Rhesus - Liar

Charged up guitar crunching power tunes from West Midlands band Rhesus here, with new single Liar coming on like a fused union between The Kooks and The Enemy. Riding in on a wave of DIY ethic and carefully garnered together funds from a battle of the bands-style competition on, Rhesus represent something of a second coming for the good old British guitar group sound which seems to have been brushed a little under the carpet of late. It's as if they've filched together a little of that gritty sparkle that fired so many young lads a few years ago and patched it straight into their amps. Indeed, If there was a tune that sounded like the beginnings of a sea change though, it's Liar - from the foreboding, feedback-strewn into to the meaty chords of the song's heart, it really rings true as an up-and-comer's resume should.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Preeya Kalidas - Love Between Us

The thing with Preeya Kalidas is that there always seems to be that stigma of 'Oh she's an actress doing singing' hanging over her head. But if we're to be fair, there's also the feeling that her music should be judged for its own merits, and not within the overarching aspects of Kalidas as celebrity-figure or 'her off of Eastenders'.

And as far as the music goes, new single Love Between Us is a dizzying mix-up between sultry R&B slow-jam and heady Bollywood club-groove. In its best moments it thumps with a throbbing live-wire energy that speaks of un-ending nights of pleasure and dance, a calling together of shared enjoyment. But within this comes an air of anonymity - that this could be anyone taking the vocal line, any fresh-faced club diva. Personality is diffused and what remains is largely faceless - a shame really, as you get the sense that Kalidas does, somewhere, have that one big pop smash in her, yet to surface.

Love Between Us is scheduled for an April release date.

Rihanna - Where Have You Been

The joy with Rihanna is that she's one of those preciously rare artists that can release pretty much anything and be sure of a hit. But as far as Rihanna hits-in-the-making go, Where Have You Been is a pretty good one, recapturing the darker overtones of her Rated R album via a hauntingly ambient guitar intro reminiscent of Photographs. This all builds into an apocalyptically chaotic trance section that spurts a load of synth twiddlings over the listener like a burst fire-hose. It's a wildfire, explosive cocktail but inherently fun in that way Rihanna does so well, eg. you just know that if she were to perform it on the X Factor, it'd come with a bonkers, racy-as-hell routine. But on a more serious note, on an album which could have very nearly been a misfire (see the execretable Birthday Cake), Where Have You Been is reassuringly like the Rihanna of old.

Where Have You Been is set for a June release date.