A little late on this one, but trust me this week is worth it. Let’s dig into those highlights:
FICKLE FRIENDS / WHAT A TIME
If you know anything about Fickle Friends, you know they have already mastered the vanilla-sugar-high-Paramore production with sickly sweet chorus and chants. If you’ve seen them live, you know that whatever they front comes alive on the stage. ‘What a Time’ might not suit our current times (what’s there to be excited about right now!?) but it is their biggest and best song yet. Pure anthemic joy that pushes the envelope just enough whilst keeping it Fickle.
LUNA AURA / TALKING TO ME
Luna is back with a vision. She knows the music she wants to make, she knows her sound – Sky Ferreira meets Pretty Reckless pulled through Carrie. She’s completely wiped her Spotify for these delectable pageant-gore image focused singles, which is a complete serve, and each one is bleeding out guitar riffs, atmosphere and attitude. Truly fantastic stuff here.
LOVA / ONE DAY LEFT
Speaking of best songs ever, LOVA also fires back with a breezy dedication to spending your last moments without regret. An obvious sentiment but who cares when the chorus is that damn good? Notably moving away from the plink-plonk production that once seemed to define upcoming Swedish pop, this strings and falsetto affair is far more Agnes than Styrke – and is all the better for it.
DAGNY / IT’S ONLY A HEARTBREAK
Queen of Consistency Dagny seems to have picked up the plink-plonks that LOVA left behind, luckily enough she’s got the songwriting chops for it to push through regardless. It’s hard to understand why Dagny hasn’t been picked up as songwriter extraordinaire by the greats yet when her touch for melodic hooks is this good. Heading towards a much calmer second half EP to the eventual album, we’re in for a treat from here on out.
FOXES / FRIENDS IN THE CORNER
The girls really weren’t playing this week – each one said “I’m going to drop my best ever song” and meant it. ‘Friends…’ is Foxes’ best. It’s Foxes at her best; huge chanted chorus with piercing emotion, subtle chords and production, delicate vocal delivery. It’s both understated and defiant, owing to that enormous verse-chorus punch. Hard not to be bowled over by this one, truly, and if you haven’t by the second chorus you’ll be hit by that final bridge.
Find ALL of this weeks highlights in our dedicated playlist below:
Frankly I can’t begin this without addressing the reviews Katy’s new album has been getting across the board. Each seem to have a problem with her mere existence and her insistence on releasing empowering music in a pandemic (something only she seems to deserve the criticism for). Screw the reviews, ignore them, because the album is a total triumph and possibly her best yet. ‘Cry About It Later’ brings masterful songwriters Sasha Sloan and Noonie Bao on board, and the result is a pulsing anthem to letting go of the pain for at least one night. With that sparkling pop-polish that we’ve come to know Katy for, it really is a triumph.
LUNA SHADOWS / THE NINETIES
‘The Nineties’ soars in part because of its dedicated video-game identity and production, which is still relatively fresh with its Allie-X/Terror Jr style melody and slinky synthline, but it’s the earworm of a chorus that takes this up a notch. Some songs just don’t need to explode.
DISCLOSURE, KELIS / WATCH YOUR STEP
Kelis as a vocalist does not garner the praise she deserves, perhaps because of a career overshadowed at times by the fine gimmickry of ‘Milkshake’. Here she flits from smooth to raspy, a perfect fit for the more subdued production, and really Kelis was built for dance music. Helped too by Disclosure’s evolved touch – there’s an unexpected depth to this that takes you right back to the dirty dance floor.
SASHA SLOAN / HOUSE WITH NO MIRRORS
Not content with having one song on the list with her efforts involved, Sloan surprise dropped the next single from her debut album and it’s that exact kind of introspective and cut-throat mid-tempo we’ve gotten used to with her by now. Inspired by her eating disorder developments and her dysmorphia, it’s a delicate undertaking of how much of an impact our thoughts can have on us. It’s pretty damn easy to see why people are snapping Sloan songs up left and right recently.
KATY PERRY / TEARY EYES
Yes, Perry deserves a second treatment here. ‘Teary Eyes’ is that exact frothy sequel to ‘Hummingbird Heartbeat’ and ‘Walking on Air’ we’ve been calling for. There really isn’t anything quite like it, and it’s hard not to swept up in its relentlessness, especially as that final chorus fires in. As above, there’s completely void criticism that Perry is trying to be overly happy in a dark time but if not now, when? Trust me, get those headphones on and let yourself float away to this sherbet-filled mega banger.
That’s it for our highlights, but remember that you can catch all the rest on our dedicated playlist below!
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.
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:
Nina Nesbitt is re-releasing her brilliant album as an acoustic bundle with three new songs, one of which is this intimate but catchy ode to self-abuse. Essentially another take on her song ‘The Best You Had’ but with a driving beat, much like the rest of her material the power in this is its simplicity and her vocal delivery translating a weighty amount of the emotion. It’s subtle in all the right ways, like all the best mid-tempos are, and is the exact Autumnal song I need right now.
CHARLIE PUTH / MOTHER
Sometimes the best songs come at you from nowhere, and despite Puth’s production talents being tapped by various artists now it looks as though Puth still has enough inspiration for himself. ‘Mother’ positions him as the male Eilish, complete with the warmest of plunky basses, by painting himself as the bad guy in the back of his car with his lover. Much like ‘Attention’ it’s basically just a left-field pop banger that sounds like an enormous hit before it’s even hit the ground running.
CHARLI XCX / SILVER CROSS
The Atlantic Queen of Pop Charli XCX drops her new album today, following approximately 400 promotional singles, but luckily she saved one of the best songs for the day of release. ‘Silver Cross’ doesn’t depart too much from Pop2 or Number 1 Angel, its thick bassline and reedy strings right at home in her typical sonic palette, but there’s a melodic confidence here that reminds me of True Romance all over again. Her ability to translate emotion into icy cold instrumentals is commendable, and there’s a special mention needed here for the incredible bridge. I’m glad that the best song on the album is a Charli solo track.
ROBINSON / DON’T SAY
Robinson has been on the cusp of breaking through with numerous songs clocking up the millions of streams online, and ‘Don’t Stay’ is definitely her most commercial release yet. Without sacrificing any of her acquired charm so far, it dabbles in Sigrid-esque synths but with an enormous Maggie Rogers chorus. Basically any album with this and ‘Karma’ on is an album I need delivered to my door right NOW.
HALSEY / GRAVEYARD
‘Nightmare’, Halsey’s political dedication to scream-pop, has been sanctimoniously dumped from her upcoming album. In its place is this much more melancholic, softly pastel epic. Clearly inspired by her number one hit ‘Without You’, it is a song entirely committed to substance over style – the substance being a really, really strong melody. I’d follow you to the grave is a fairly familiar melodramatic sentiment that feels apt for this dark princess of pop, and luckily the instrumental swells and bleeps in all the right places, meaning this is actually one of her warmest releases yet despite the dark sentiment.
+ Awfully titled budding artist SONIA dropped a gorgeous mid-tempo called ‘Joyride’. + Ella Henderson finally came out of the shadows to release a Julia Michaels song. + Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey team up with Ariana Grande in an effort to spice up one of her shelved songs, and they’re the best part of ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’. + Meghan Trainor is back with a little bit of a cringefest but it’s actually good? + Gabrielle Aplin is shouting quirky Japanese words in her song about pottery!
My stomach butterflies are telling me that September is going to prove to be somewhat of a stacked one, what with Charli XCX and Tove Lo both dropping their long awaited albums and plenty of other smaller releases bound to hit us between them. This week is all about the greatest band in the world, MUNA, whose stunning sophomore is already proving to be a delicately queer love letter to pop music. It’s the kind of music we deserve.
That being said, there’s also some really gems that have dropped this week too not from MUNA (although I was tempted to simply place the entire album in our dedicated playlist, it’s that good.)
MUNA / TAKEN
Proving that conceptual songwriting doesn’t have to be without relatibility, ‘Taken’ recalls an infatuation over someone already in a relationship, with Katie bemoaning her own desire to destroy someone else’s life just because they want what they can’t have. The production is smooth like silk: curving and swaying whilst the lyrics jut, particularly with gutting lines like Dad left when I was eleven, Mum said it’s ’cause he couldn’t keep from touching other women. The best lyricism is deceptively simple, almost as though it’s a topic we all recognise and expected to have been used before, but approached in an entirely different way that opens it up in new ways. ‘Taken’ does that, forcing you to sympathise with the one who wants to cause all the destruction because we can all fall in love with destruction sometimes.
OH WONDER / HALLELUJAH
Perhaps we ought to credit Oh Wonder a little for the now infamous Billie Eilish ASMR vocals? If there’s one thing about them that sets them apart from anyone else, it’s the exceptional vocal mixing. ‘Hallelujah’ is a positively stunning duet mixed perfectly, the vocals giving weight to one another, and an anthem of self-love that I really didn’t expect from them. Opening with the trademark minimal piano and whispery vocals, it’s not long before the beat picks up and the enormous chorus comes sweeping in. It’s marvelous.
CAMILA CABELLO / SHAMELESS
Camila is back, immediately following her number one single with a spunky double release. The fact an artist is actually taking the opportunity to relish their momentum in 2019 is a little surprising, let alone releasing two tracks. Once you hear ‘Shameless’ though you’ll understand that the label probably weren’t sure enough about it as a single in all of its BANKS inspired glory. It’s experimental for her, the chorus tore out in place of a hooktastic bridge and floor-shaking drop, but also feels like a decent follow up to ‘Never be the Same’?
SOFI TUKKER / PURPLE HAT
Is there anything more exciting than pop music’s ability to co-opt genres in consistently fresh ways? The way it can fit almost any other genre inside of its skin, evolving as it ingests new inspiration. Sofi Tukker understand this almost better than anyone, with their production constantly evolving as new inspirations find their way into the studio. ‘Purple Hat’, though, is the next step for them: it truly sounds like a cacophony of influences all smashed up into… a Reggaeton-Dance-Pop epic?
JAX JONES, ELLA HENDERSON / THIS IS REAL
Well, I honestly wasn’t sure we’d ever see this track come to light. How fitting that it has reared its head now attached to resident poltergeist Ella Henderson, who hasn’t been seen in years. If you don’t know already ‘This Is Real’ originally featured Selena Gomez (yes) but was seemingly shelved when a brief 10 seconds leaked on to the internet. A damn shame because, as we now know, it’s a pretty timeless house bop. Does it do much to change the wheel? Not really, and dance music doesn’t need to. The thing that makes this special? Ella Henderson’s absolutely stellar delivery, recalling every incredible dance mix vocal from the early 90’s. Those piano stabs and her belting practically transports me to a gypsy fair, spinning my brains out on the rides.
As I said this week is stacked and I could sit here and write about the new Grimes track (a dance inspired bedroom-studio bop), the new Tove Lo and Kylie Minogue feature (yes, they have done a duet!) or even the latest Charli XCX pre-release single. I could write about them, or I could repeat the new MUNA album for the sixth time today. Which is what I’m going to do.
This New Music Friday is brought to you on a Saturday, mostly because humans have not yet developed the ability to survive without sleeping and my body sporadically decided that it needed to collapse and sleep for an extended period of time. Luckily for us, great music is a continuous certainty:
THE MIDNIGHT / AMERICA ONLINE
The Midnight have, in my mind, established themselves as absolute production royalty. For a while now they’ve been dropping consistently evocative and excellently produced tracks like ‘America Online’ that successfully blend video-game synths, Deadmau5-esque house music and a brief time-trip back 30 years. Now that isn’t necessarily a perspective that hasn’t been tapped out by the masses, but ‘America Online’ is a perfect example of why they’re doing it so well – their amalgamation of sounds manages to summon so many nostalgic memories, it’s like I’ve literally been sucked into a Nintendo 64.
LUNA SHADOWS / lowercase
Luna Shadows takes aim at bisexuals everywhere that refuse to conform to typical grammar rules. Luna Shadows occupies a space somewhere between So Below, BANKS and Cappa – that defiant and epic production coupled with a great pop sensibility and a characteristically pointed vocal. ‘lowercase’ is one of those terribly exciting first singles that comes out of nowhere sometimes and shows an artist is ready to tell you something. What also helps is that the chorus is just as huge as the amount of character on display.
BANKS / GIMME
In a completely unsurprising move, BANKS has recruited the phenomenal Kito on the first step to her third album. Now anyone that listened to Kito’s latest EP will understand why that is so unsurprising, as not only was the material’s influence clear as day but it managed to elevate what was once unique to Banks’ production entirely. ‘Gimme’ is crisp, dark and an instant hitter – immediately sounding like a classic Banks song whilst also introducing some very welcome dance elements. At the heart of it we still have that clawing, sexual Banks song – Gillian’s characteristic vocal as angsty and powerful as ever despite some difficulty making out the words themselves. It’s a masterstroke pairing and the best thing she has released in years.
MOLLY HAMMAR / WORDS
Put simply, ‘Words’ is just a simple and very, very good pop song. Not necessarily delivering anything different, but with a chorus and a bass-line that would sound good blaring from every radio around the country. It should surprise absolutely nobody to know that she’s another Scandinavian talent, the production bringing to mind Janice and Sabina Ddumba, it’s just yet another example of Stockholm producing the damn goods.
BILLIE / PILLOW TALK
Billie continues to fascinate me with each new release; her music is the opposite of timeless, each one the equivalent of a time machine for the mind. ‘Pillow Talk’ is no different, from the GBA synths to the distant vocal and trance-lite bridge. At the center of it all is an artist that perfectly understands that voice and image, creating these little time warp bops.
FRAWLEY / HARD BOY
Imagine having the balls to sample ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ for your debut single? Deciding to strip down what may be one of the most recognisable choruses of all time for your own? If not commendable then it’s unfortunately stupid. Whether it succeeds or not is not for me to say, but I did feel compelled to list it due to the above – I want to know what people think. Is it a great way to kick yourself off or… the worst way ever?
There’s PLENTY more this week that I’ll briefly get into:
Ina Wroldsen has returned with ‘Body Parts’, a somewhat Sia-by-numbers ballad of self-empowerment.
Mags has dropped a new EP, conversations I’ve had with myself, of which ‘play it cool’ is the best. It’s really good at establishing more of who she is than who she is trying to be. Give it a listen.
Iggy Azalea is back with ‘Started’, another “I’m rich, b*tch” anthem that deserves credit again because the music video shows someone who is so completely dedicated to their craft despite the success it receives.
Shawn Mendes is back with the simple but cute ‘If I Can’t Have You’ with a music video all about trying to muster up the energy to go to the gym. His albums are where the great material is, so we’re excited.
Check out Froyo with ‘Blue’ if you’re into classic Busted punk-pop.
And as always there is plenty more to be found on the below playlists WEEKLY:
There’s a special place in musical heaven for songs that manage to tread a fine line between soft depression and gentle bliss. There’s a special place for songs that can appeal to you when you’re feeling lost and when you’re feeling on top of the world. ‘You Seemed So Happy’ is one of those songs.
About as lightweight as a song could possibly be, it’s about as heavy as a Dido single but it packs just as much of a punch as half of the incredible MUNA album. It just knows the exact kind of song it wants to be, but also revels in the dreamlike haze it casts over with those cloudlike vocals and guitar strings. It’s like somebody crushed Bleachers and Imogen Heap in one handheld blender and spun the dust out the car window driving down the coast. Positively gorgeous.
KSHMR, YVES V, KREWELLA / NO REGRETS
“I don’t wanna care and I’ll die with no regrets.”
Krewella have been making a living recently picking up where The Veronicas left off, but with their club friendly spin applied each time. Masters of EDM, they’ve dropped enough songs in the past year to fill an entire album – each one better than the last. ‘No Regrets’ continues the tradition.
‘No Regrets’ doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, it’s a cliche every songwriter approaches at some point. There’s a bombastic delivery to their vocals that gives this the edge, as if they truly don’t give a fuck about dying early, and an underlying melody that bursts through from start to finish.
Also the vocal buried beneath it all at the very beginning is a beautiful little touch.
MARINA / SUPERSTAR
“What I like about you is you know who you are, what you like about me is I know who I’m not.”
MARINA has never her aspirations for pop stardom a secret, basing an entire album and persona on the pursuit of the American dream, but ‘Handmade Heaven’ had me worried that she’d let go of that drive and settled into her own niche once more. ‘Superstar’ is the slap around the face I needed.
It’s ‘Power and Control’ dragged kicking and screaming into 2019 and melancholy bathed in love, it’s the sound of falling so hard for someone that you can’t quite catch your breath. Lykke Li taught us not to be afraid of artists embracing modern production, and there’s something about Marina’s voice that soars effortlessly as the production steps back. It’s nice to be excited about Marina again.
JULIE BERGAN / SHUT THE FUCK UP
“The only good thing you can do to me now is shut the fuck up and get the fuck out.”
‘Shut the Fuck Up’ isn’t quite as brash as the title suggests; its production is something you’d have stumbled into in 2016, the chorus actually quite soft in contrast to the sentiment. What is brimming with character though is Bergan herself, with what may actually be the best vocal delivery of the year so far. Is that a thing? I never really considered it a thing until I heard just how good she sounds in the verses.
Sometimes we shouldn’t be afraid to bask in the past a little, so if you need me I’ll be in my room dancing to this 2016 Melodifestivalen Ace Wilder-esque bop.
ELLIE GOULDING / FLUX
“And I’m still in love with the idea of loving you”
NOT A BOP WARNING.
Ask any Ellie Goulding fan and you’ll find that her career has been in an odd sort of crisis since the last album. Originally providing us with witty and naturally British folk-pop, she soon became the next big thing and for better or worse polished down her edges. We’ve been understandably confused about what Ellie Goulding’s sound really is, as she progressively devolved into an Americanised popstar.
That’s not to say the songs weren’t great, it just seemed as though the heart was shielded behind many other layers. ‘Flux’ however approaches you with blood on its sleeve, no layers left. It’s difficult to judge such an emotionally heavy song in such a short time span, but it sure is fascinating to see an artist dedicate themselves to opening up like this.
SIGRID / SIGHT OF YOU
“It’s a lonely feeling waving you goodbye.”
Releasing a debut album isn’t easy in our modern climate. It’s difficult to know what labels want an artist to achieve before they can successfully drop their finished works, and most artists will drop a majority of the album before its release to capitalise on interest. Sigrid has had a rocky delivery, but her album is on the way.
‘Sight of You’ isn’t the career defining single that ‘Strangers’ was, but we have to recognise the graft it has taken to get her to this point. Her prior singles, like ‘Strangers’, ‘Plot Twist’, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ pointed to somebody fearless with an entirely new sound that was ready to dominate the airwaves. ‘Sight of You’ doesn’t try to keep up with that, but it does put Sigrid back on the map with a brilliantly written and hook-laden chorus.
That’s the top picks of the week! Are there any you found that aren’t on the list? Make sure to comment and follow the Spotify playlist to keep up with the best new tracks every Friday.