What a stellar week. Something about the cold of winter imbues the subtlest of melodies with melancholy, and I’m here for it. BUT don’t fear, there’s also a few classic bops here to keep you warm too.
BILLIE EILISH / EVERYTHING I WANTED
You would be forgiven for assuming this is going to be more of what took Billie to the top, namely the bravado filled stomper that is ‘Bad Guy’, but you’ll be taken aback when you see it’s much more akin to her delicately devastating moments like ‘Lovely’ and ‘I Love You’. There’s a deep melancholy to the delivery and lyricism, admitting dreaming about her own suicide, even with the uplifting chorus. It’s a masterclass in less-is-more with captivating flourishes in the production, underlining what is a gorgeous ballad with a proper beating heart. Lovely.
LIZ / INTUITION
I’m almost aghast at just how much influence Liz is prepared to instill through her recent output, each one sounding further placed in time than the last, and ‘Intuition’ is just… well, it’s spellbinding. Quite honestly I’m prepared for her to not receive the acclaim she deserves but for this sound to slowly creep its way into the mainstream anyway. Ride that wave, Liz. We’ll remember you at the fore-front with Rina.
HAYLEY KIYOKO / L.O.V.E. ME
Another song that relishes in a classic sound this week is the toe-tapping ‘L.O.V.E Me’, sounding like a lost boy-band classic number one. It’s easily one of Kiyoko’s best efforts yet and also probably her most immediate, packed full of incredible hooks that, I’m hoping, will draw in listeners from everywhere and every age. It’s the kind of song you can imagine Little Mix snapping up with a heartbeat, but Kiyoko is center stage and imbuing it with everything it needs.
GRIFF / SOUND OF YOUR VOICE
Who knew one of the best songs of the week would invoke such strong memories of Super Mario in me? It’s those delicious little vocal snippets, the production sounded like some sort of Gameboy Advance jingle. It’s addictive enough as it is, then you’ve got such a great vocal delivery and one of the best choruses of the year so far. By the end of the three minutes I’m practically bouncing on the ball of my feet like Mario bopping his head into a question block.
ELLEY DUHE / GOOD DIE YOUNG
Elley Duhe has been my one to watch for a while, and I’m a total sucker for any moody and brooding bass-synth driven mid-tempo as it is, so how lucky am I that Elley has produced something that practically perfects that? Nobody quite sings like Elley, some gorgeous blend of Ellie Goulding and Sia, and she uses it to great effect with haunting belts and ad-libs. It also helps that this reminds me of So Below’s recent output, perfect for the dark and rainy nights, and I’m already making another playlist just for that now.
What initially seemed a weakish week has already started to open up to me, with some major subtle hits hidden among the rough. The highlights are highlights because of how well they hit on first listen but don’t discredit the rest of the list, there’s some real gems this week.
POPPY / BLOODMONEY
Poppy’s rapid evolution has been an absolute sight to watch, despite the harshness always being a key product in her music, there’s a real new pounding angst and rebellion that you’d expect from The Pretty Reckless. It fits better than it really ought to, and what might come off as pretentious for anyone else (a whisper-talk section about losing your soul) just kind of… fits in this chaotic landscape? There’s also the fact her voice often evokes classic Avril Lavigne, and it leans into that pop styling just as much as the harsh rock. Fearless and FAB.
HANA / ANXIOUS ALIEN
Rather brilliantly, HANA produced her entire new album in a Twitch Livestream over one month. The real kicker though is that the album is damn good, sounding as expansive as a full campaign led-album. ‘Anxious Alien’ feels like the perfect evolution for HANA, with similar vibes to Skott, in all of its Alisha’s Attic glory. With such a sparse and repetitive drum beat, you really need the melody to shine and it does.
IGGY AZALEA, ALICE CHATER / LOLA
Powerhouse vocalist Alice teams up with creative genius Iggy for this ‘I Like It’-inspired-party anthem. Admittedly it’s the video which makes this shine the most, which might be both parties best yet, but at the heart of it there’s a really fun pop song that sounds like the biggest chance of a hit Iggy has had in years. Switching from Alice’s dreamy vocals to Iggy’s industrial rapping style, it’s almost impossible not to be drawn in.
ROSALIA / A PALE
Well, the award for causing the greatest whiplash of the week goes to ‘A Pal lé’, a snarling anthem that is easily her best yet. Transcending the language barrier with an addictive bassline, Rosalia commands the entire room. With her name slowly becoming renowned around the world, each song racking up millions of streams, its hard to deny the power this song clearly has. It’s Rihanna meets Billie Eilish but also with her own distinct vibe, a vibe I need MORE of.
CAMELPHAT, JEM COOKE / RABBIT HOLE
‘Rabbit Hole’ fits here not because it’s a brilliant trance-dance song, but because there are parts in which Jem Cooke sounds exactly like Adele, that trademark inflection on certain parts of a word. It’s got me wondering about the kind of thing Adele could do would she ever choose to release something with a bit of a bite again, or even package out some remixes too. It’s easy enough to get lost in this gorgeous beat, but its the vocal that really takes it to the next level. Do give us something like this, Adele. If Sam Smith can do it, so can you.
SONIA / I DON’T KNOW
This had me at the Sting guitar intro, and it just had to prove itself from there. Luckily Sonia is kind of proving herself as some kind of minimal prodigy, her songs intimate and affecting, and ‘I Don’t Know’ is her best yet. At some point you do need a spark, but for now these brain-drilling epics are tingling my spine, instilling a real interest in what she continues to do. It’s that last closing minute, where it gets really stripped back, that brings it to where it needs to be, the guitar shifting into a stunning R&B-esque refrain, and suddenly I’m repeating just to hear the song all over again.
Spooky season’s penultimate week has arrived, along with it a pretty strong New Music Friday collection. Whilst nothing quite screams phantoms and ghouls, save maybe for the haunting Nina Nesbitt cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’, there’s still plenty of highlight to dive into:
MURA MASA / NO HOPE GENERATION
Admittedly this trope of a generation left behind is fairly common nowadays, especially as those of us from that very generation starts making waves and having the audience to speak up on it, but Mura Masa has been quietly and expertly perfecting such a refined sound that moulds really well around it. The song relishes in a garageband-esque intimacy that wouldn’t sound amiss in a teen bedroom, cracking our necks as we scream along to it. The authenticity is what makes this so special, but the melodies and hooks it flits around on are just as divine.
CXLOE / DEVIL YOU DON’T
Commendation to anyone that writes around the phrase ‘Better the devil you know’ since Kylie Minogue already had one of the best songs of all time with that sentiment. Luckily for us ‘Devil You Don’t’ is sultry and seductive in all the right ways, opening as one song only for the chorus to switch up into something else entirely. CXLOE is on a bit of a run right now, her signature sound still a little murky, but this Allie X meets Spotify PopGirl mid-tempo is definitely more of the right thing.
PVRIS / OLD WOUNDS
PVRIS have, with the help of two phenomenal albums, established themselves as one of the finest female fronted rock bands of right now. ‘Old Wounds’, taken from their short new EP Hallucinations is more of what you expect and wish for from them: an intimate first half delivered with melancholic appeal, only for the shout-screaming to fade in with the anger. The way they unravel emotion with her vocals, knowing when to unreel the harsh production and when to keep it smaller, is one of the best things they’re doing right now.
AGNES / NOT DANGEROUS
Check out one of the highlights barely even having vocals in it this week, but that’s Agnes for you. You’ll know her for distilled Euro-pop like ‘Release Me’, which was a hit around the world, but what you won’t know is that following its success she has proven herself to be one of Sweden’s most intriguing artists – popping up every now and then with some of the most refined and interesting material of the year. This is taken from her new EP Nothing Can Compare and it melds perfectly with the rest of the material, the entire thing a perfect distillery of electronic music designed to get high to. Give it a chance.
TORINE / DANCING IN MY SLEEP
With Zara Larsson’s album shelved, and most probably scrapped, we’re forced to look elsewhere for material to fill that baby-Rihanna void. Luckily for us there’s plenty of songs taking the mantle, with Torine’s ‘Dancing In My Sleep’ in particular sounding exactly like the song you’d expect Zara to have followed ‘Ruin My Life’ with. Plucky strings, the stretchy chorus and mini breakdowns would sound right at home on both Zara’s first album and Rihanna’s LOUD.
Make sure you’re following the dedicated New Music Friday playlist to catch all the highlights in real time:
This is quite possibly the best new music Friday of 2019 so far, and to accommodate the extra rise in effort this week, we’ll be highlighting a few more exceptional works. With Caroline Polachek dropping one of the best albums of the year, Sasha Sloan releasing her new EP, and Katy Perry returning with another banging pop song… It’s one hell of a week.
CAROLINE POLACHEK / PANG
‘Pang’, the title track from Polachek’s mind-blowing new album, starts simply with a smattering of electronic bleeps before launching its charm offensive. A smack in the face to anyone who swears that electronic pop songs can’t accurately bring the human emotion that real instruments can, ‘Pang’ delicately explores that deep seated feeling in our chests, and might just be one of the strongest songs of the entire year. Beautifully minimal but bursting outwards when it needs to. Danny L Harle’s style continues to evolve in such an epic way that it really does feel like we’re looking at one of the next big producers of our time.
KATY PERRY / HARLEY’S IN HAWAII
Although ‘Never Really Over’ and ‘Small Talk’ occupy similar lanes to material Perry has worked on before, namely taking influence from the monumental Teenage Dream era and its pop sledgehammers, there wasn’t really any kind of expectation as to how ‘Harley’s…’ would sound once it eventually dropped – save for those leaked music video images from months ago. Luckily it’s everything you didn’t expect it to be and more. Following up from Witness album track ‘Tsunami’, it’s a sultry tropico-bop that feels more inspired by Ariana Grande than Perry’s back catalogue. And god damn, does she own it, especially when those last minute ad-libs come soaring through.
LIZ / LAGUNA NIGHTS
Liz clearly sold a part of her soul to some demon somewhere, having featured as a highlight on this very blog several times in the past few weeks, but the music continues to just astound in totally different ways each time. ‘Laguna Nights’ might be her best yet, a nostalgic 00’s floor-banger that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Selena Gomez greatest hits album. It works because of the sheer charisma in her delivery, taking us back on a time-warp to the times it clearly takes inspiration from. For those 4 minutes, you can lost in it, and that only happens with the very best.
L DEVINE / PEACHY KEEN
Had you told me that a song that samples ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ and sounds exactly like Terror Jr. would be Devine’s next release, I’d have spat in your eye. But ‘Peachy Keen’ is exactly that, and she does it so well that there’s almost no doubt that her sound was ever anything but. Smartly, it toys with the sample ever so, leaving the brain to piece together where it has heard it from. This might be Devine’s best effort yet.
SOFI DE LA TORRE / DIMELO
‘Dimelo’, meaning ‘Tell Me’, is one of Sofi’s slowest efforts yet. Still accompanied with her bedroom-style beats, it’s a stunningly intimate ballad that aims right for the heart from the very start. Nobody quite does ballads like Sofi, and that’s in part due to the beautiful delivery every time. It takes charm to blend two tongues together and for that to translate to everyone, regardless of the language they know, and it comes across effortlessly here. The pain and heartbreak practically drip from every word.
SASHA SLOAN / TOO SAD TO CRY
Speaking of heart-slashing lyricism and delivery, Sasha Sloan’s new album comes equipped with one of the most powerful lyrical creations of her entire work so far.
I’m too sad to cry, too high to get up Don’t even try ’cause I’m scared to fuck up Don’t like to talk, I just lay in my bed Don’t even try to go out with my friends Lied to my doctor, she knew I was faking Gave me some pills, but I’m too scared to take them I try and I try, but I’m too sad to cry
I mean, take a look at that right there. There’s an exceptional talent here and a bravery to discuss the hardest of topics as if they were nothing, and it’s much harder than anyone will ever give credit for. The song itself stands right back and lets those lyrics take the spotlight, until Sasha steps forward with some delicious vocals in the second half. It’s just… stunning.
DJ SPOONY, SUGABABES / FLOWERS
If there was any justice in the world, this would be picked up by every radio station around the country and the UK would have no choice but to embrace back one of the greatest home grown girlbands we’ve ever had. Yes, girls, the original Sugababes are finally back, having fought for the name for a number of years. MKS, and the bulging vault of leaked tracks, is DEAD. ‘Flowers’ is the genius first step, fitting so well that you almost forget about the original song itself. Let’s hope there’s MORE to come and SOON.
P!NK, KHALID / HURTS 2B HUMAN (MIDNIGHT KIDS REMIX)
Well I certainly didn’t expect this floundering single to have fresh life breathed into it at this point of the campaign via one of my favourite remixes ever at this point. Not really taking the song apart at all, the song instead injects this wonderful explosion of emotion that sounds like it belonged there all along. Considering the emotional weight of the original song, it’s a real feat how well this manages to slot right in. This is… exactly what remixes are about.
Well there are eight major highlights above, and even then I could keep talking about songs we’ve missed. Highasakite have dropped a Part One EP, and ‘Just a Small Quake’ is monumentally stunning, Allie X has followed up with the delightfully catchy and breezy ‘Rings a Bell’, ORKID‘s ‘CloudsNdrivebys’ features such an infectious synth/trumpet blend that I want in every one of her songs from now on, and Fickle Friends have co-opted the Wii Theme Song (Bolded for impact, yes the Wii theme song) into their new album lead, ‘Amateurs’. It’s one HELL of a week.
Here are the very best of the best for this weeks NEW MUSIC FRIDAY. Headed by the amazing ‘Talk Deep’, just you wait until you get to number five.
E^ST / TALK DEEP
The best of things fit comfortably, slotting right in between expectation and surprise, in our nostalgic range of taste. ‘TALK DEEP’ knows what you expect from it and isn’t afraid to deliver it with a little squirt of glitter, delivered handily in the form of a triple-punch chorus. With a breakdown that elicits pure nostalgic joy, it’s easily one of the best of the year already. Sometimes music just feels alive, and this is one of them.
BISHOP BRIGGS / JEKYLL & HIDE
In her most recent world tour, well known songstress P!nk proclaimed Briggs’ ‘River’ as a song she would have loved to have recorded. Might she feel a little relieved then considering the clear Funhouse-esque production that accompanies this pounding chorus, its twisted circus vibe peeking through the curtains at every integral moment. Around it is a monstrously addictive track, one which you could actually envision P!nk going on to perform again, that also recalls Halsey’s pop-tinged alternative style. It really is that piano that makes this amazing though, and that last relentless run to the end.
WINONA OAK / LET ME KNOW
‘Let Me Know’ is steeped in influence, from Aplin to Mumford and Sons, but its the contrasting quiet moments that allows this to really sink in. The chorus might be delightfully packed with pounding drums and surging strings, but those little moments where we find Winona’s voice deftly carrying the quiet air – they’re really special. It’s because of them the huge chorus can come careening in, taking your breath away. More moments like this please, Oak!
NILUFER YANYA / H34T RISES
Hilariously we follow one of the largest productions of the week with a Garageband minimalism that works just as well, if not better, than the gargantuan approach. ‘H34T RISES’ brings your typical basement production with some high quality songwriting, proving that sometimes you don’t need all the extras if you have the hooks. And this is packed full of them.
SONDR / SO BLUE
Speaking of nostalgia, there’s always at least one summer song that becomes inexplicably huge simply by sampling something we’ve all connected with in our childhood. In this case it’s the phenomenally underappreciated ‘Blue’ which has been transformed into a glacial BANKS song for the nightclub, somehow losing none of the quirky charm of the original… Sometimes you just can’t predict what’s going to work together.
KATY PERRY / SMALL TALK (LOST KINGS REMIX)
Special bonus status for one of our favourite songs of the year, gifted with several brilliant remixes before her new single release next week. ‘Sweet Talk’ is a fairly simple Puth production, swapping Perry’s usual bellowing for a more subtle approach, but each remix brings that back to the forefront. This remix, in particular, sounds as close to classic 2012 pop music as you’re going to get this year placed in a blender with some quirky electro-dance synths and… it works! Quite honestly the output coming from Perry this year is sensational. Bring on the book!
Whilst you’re here. be sure to also check out:
Harry Styles new effort ‘Lights Out’, a short walk from Zayn’s own output, and the fascinatingly sexual music video.
MisterWives ‘the end’, the most gorgeous indie film-ending song if there ever was one.
Hayley Kiyoko’s fantastically produced ‘Demons’, a nice big quirky step from her usual output.
The OTHER ‘Small Talk’ remix by Sofi Tukker, which is so good I kind of wish it was the original song? Can Sofi Tukker do any wrong?
Spooky season has settled in, bringing with it cold wind and montages of latte’s in foggy cafes all around the country. What better way to soundtrack your pumpkin spice than with some brand new pop music?
KACY HILL / MUCH HIGHER
Dreamy storytelling meets the most expansive of synth’s in Kacy Hill’s magnificent ‘Much Higher’. Make sure to give it the time to sink in, headphones and all, because the beating heart behind this is just so encapsulating. Taken from her upcoming album, ‘Is It Selfish If We Talk About Me Again’, it balances around mid-tempo range whilst teasing an explosion that doesn’t hit as you’d expect; instead aiming for the heartstrings, the layered lyricism and pounding drums a war chant before the final bridge brings it all crashing back in. Delightful.
LOREEN / WALK WITH ME
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until the world starts to hear it: Loreen is one of the greatest artists we have the privilege of watching evolve. Her journey from Eurovision winner to alternative rocker was exhilarating enough, but after teasing a much darker dance sound and now following it up with this brooding cover, we see yet again that she means to swallow the sound and regurgitate it back whole in her own way. Evoking her past cover, ‘Under Ytan’, it positively pulses along without worrying about conventional structure – and it sounds like floating on a bed of glass into the stars – her vocal another instrument of epic proportions. As always, she is an unrelenting steamroller of confidence and visionary talent.
HIGHASAKITE / CAN I BE FORGIVEN
‘Can I Be Forgiven’ is a song of two halves, and you won’t know unless you give it the time to switch up. Many times we hear bands and artists discuss their intention to switch up their sound without any substance to back that up. We wait for a slow shift, a glacial change of instruments or experimentation. How I wish they’d take a leaf out of this book, with what is the perfect package to showcase an evolution of sound – blending their songwriter folkish roots with an electronic explosion halfway through, quite literally guiding the listener into the new world they intend to create. It’s breathtaking to behold.
KING PRINCESS / HIT THE BACK
We haven’t had a song as good as this so explicitly about anal sex since Troye Sivan sung about his blooming self. The fact that there’s a fantastic little pop song behind it just makes it even more delectable, and the thought of innocent public members singing about letting their lover ‘hit the back’ is pretty iconic. The best thing about this though is that chorus, made even sweeter by the contrast in density between it and the verse. Opening up as a sickly sweet love song, it’s a delicious surprise when the funk-pop chorus swings in with a clenched fist.
ICARUS, RAE MORRIS / DREAMS OF YOU
You’d be forgiven for abandoning this Stockholm Noir-esque dance song before Rae Morris even comes in, but you’d be missing one hell of a gem. Like a classic trance song, it gives itself time to unravel itself around you in waves, unloading a subtle but defiant chorus of synths and Rae’s typical string-like vocals. It’s one hell of a duo, even for someone who has never typically enjoyed Rae Morris, that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. By the time it hits the four minute mark, the blissful ecstasy of blips and bloops are almost transcendental. It’s almost as though it was built to soundtrack every drug fuelled mind escape, channelling that tunnel of emotions into sound.
October has brought with it a delight of nostalgic epics and some seriously melancholic wonders, so do make sure to give the playlist a quick spin. You won’t regret it.
Her Spotify ‘about’ section might be about twenty years too late in that it actively namechecks her as a counter to the ‘Britney’s of the world’ (Someone might want to tell her management that Billie Eilish is the new thing?) but ‘Awake’ is brilliant enough for me to completely disregard that. The Julia Michael’s style verses lead you to believe this is heading one particular way, only for a huge Chvrches chorus to bound in with the most satisfying of stabbing synths. Don’t go, don’t leave! she begs, and honestly I feel like never leaving. What a bloody good song.
ALLIE X / FRESH LAUNDRY
There’s a hidden secret among the deepest pop fans, and her name is Allie X. Constantly releasing the tightest of pop songs, she’s been tapped by Troye Sivan and even ripped off by Taylor Swift, and yet her name continues to be that criminal secret reserved for pop lovers. ‘Fresh Laundry’ isn’t going to change that, and you could argue that if her last effort wasn’t able to do that then it might never happen, but it is the most exciting she’s been in years. The constant state of refinement is astounding in retrospect, ‘Fresh Laundry’ sounding both at place with her almost five year old material and also a hyper-polished version of it, it’s soft and introspective in all the right ways. Opening up her dream-pop to a much warmer palette, it’s understated and frankly brilliant.
KITO, EMPRESS OF / WILD GIRL
Kito’s expressive production skills have started garnering her some mainstream attention, in particular being picked up by BANKS for her amazing lead single ‘Gimme’ this year, but luckily there’s still plenty of talent still in the locker for herself. Teaming up with the criminally underrated Empress Of, ‘Wild Girl’ is a Tove Lo meets BANKS understated banger that I’m desperately hoping is leading to another EP. Whilst it doesn’t quite hit as hard as last years EP, HAANI, the production still bubbles and froths in all the right places.
LIZ, AJA / LOTTERY
00’s nostalgia might be bubbling beneath the mainstream but anyone with their finger on the pulse will realise the wave that is building, with the likes of Slayyyter and LIZ surfing the high tide. ‘Lottery’ is almost entirely early Britney, to the point where you can visibly imagine this fitting on her sophomore or even Blackout. This is an influence Liz has embraced, with her citing Britney, the 00s and the MIA-Nadia Oh as inspiration, and ‘Lottery’ revels in it. We won’t talk about the feature, which almost torpedoes the whole thing, but luckily the chorus shines through.
FLUME, VERA BLUE / RUSHING BACK
Sometimes the best pop music isn’t afraid to get a little abrasive, choosing a sonic palette that screeches a little instead of basking in familiarity. Flume already demonstrated a masterful production touch in his 2019 mixtape, Hi This Is Flume, and the pop singles he’s released around it use similar production choices well whilst maintaining the strength of a melodic pop song throughout. Drafting in songwriting excellence Vera Blue, who herself is moving away from her folk roots to explore a more electronic route, means there’s a big beating heart at the center of this all – her familiar vocal pulling it back in as the production veers wildly. It’s a masterful collaboration of the two.
Also this week:
Franky Wah has recruited Robinson for a really dreamy trance song, ‘Hide’.
Elohim continues to release material that isn’t as good as her debut, but it’s still great in a Tove Styrke kind-of way. ‘Paradise’ is a bop.
Charlotte Lawrence is releasing more ASMR pop with ‘Navy Blue’, a gorgeous ballad that has the tiniest of verses and the biggest chorus.
‘Extra Fries’ by ILIRA is the exact song we need for bulking season, even if it sounds like she’s written it over the backing of every other song of hers?