Jan 1st, NMF!

That last December drought is behind us, we’re in the clear now and there’s new music on the horizon. We’ve still got a little while before the real good stuff comes out, but there’s still a few diamonds to be sifted this week. Let’s take a look

Gabrielle Aplin – When The Lights Go Out

GABRIELLE APLIN / WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT

Once victim to that oh so British Sophomore Slump curse, Aplin seemed at one point to the vanishing point so many Britstars find themselves caught up in. Of course, she spearheaded the front end of 2020 with the genuinely brilliant and frothy Dear Happy and she’s back to do it all over again. Wistfully simple almost to its detriment, Aplin has captured this piercing sentimentality that manages to come through because of the standard production. It’s something Katy Perry mastered years ago with PRISM, now torch bearer Aplin proves that she’s still not ready to go anywhere yet.

Black Coffee – You Need Me ft. Maxine Ashley, Sun-El Musician

BLACK COFFEE, MAXINE ASHLEY, SUN-EL MUSICIAN / YOU NEED ME

‘You Need Me’ serves as the perfect opener to a brand new year – a musical representation of the sun piercing through the dark cloud. Dance music thrives in repetition as a means of inducing trance, its masters of the craft that manage to distract and divert that repetition in ways that splinters your mind in the fog. Effortlessly warm, ‘You Need Me’ demands every single second of its 6 minute play time and never wears thin.

Olivia O'brien - Better Than Feeling Lonely

OLIVIA O’BRIEN / BETTER THAN FEELING LONELY

Dive into the forbidden vaults of many an upcoming Spotify girl and you’ll find amongst the scraps the bones of ‘Better Than Feeling Lonely’. Pointedly on trend, it feels very much like one of those Julia Michaels songwriter demo seized for themselves moments, made generic enough to shop around to multiple artists for their input to be made later on. Melodically it’s damn solid, that chorus hook will hold on tight and that middle-8 vocal is slathered in the most incredible gritty vocal ever. It’s hard to see why anyone would shop this around, or why someone wouldn’t want to pick it up.

Dotter - New Year

DOTTER / NEW YEAR

Swedish wonder Dotter aims squarely for the nail with a perfectly tailored release that will most certainly tickle any Swedish pop or Sia fan, if you’re out there. It’s a classic 00’s power mid-tempo without that trend of absolutely exploding at the chorus… instead designed instead to sweep you away smoothly.

Adrenaline by You Me At Six on MP3, WAV, FLAC, AIFF & ALAC at Juno Download

YOU ME AT SIX / ADRENALINE

As any emo child will surely agree, You Me At Six triggers serious introspective thought. Whether you’ve been there since those rainbow-fuelled debut days will have an impact on how you perceive them now, the two opposite sides of the spectrum. ‘Adrenaline’ takes them further still into Imagine Dragons territory (that gritty chanted delivery oughta be trademarked really) but it feels homely enough to them. It’s surely the best week for the release, as dry as it is.

March 29th, NMF!

P!NK / HUSTLE

“Don’t hussle me, don’t fuck with me.”

Beautiful Trauma showed a more focused, mature P!nk that catered perfectly to her well developed adult contemporary fan base, and it already appears like Hurts 2B Human is making steps to coalesce that with her usual RAH! shtick. In our culturally ageist and sexist landscape, it’s difficult to fault an artist that recognises a commercial peak and decides to follow it with music that caters to the wave, as opposed to breaks with the formula.

‘Hustle’ is a fiesty piece of the same old pie for P!nk, her vocal returning to its characteristic and sharp I’m Not Dead days, with some new doo-whop and Imagine Dragons-esque influences thrown in to keep it fresh. It’s interesting and endearing to see P!nk continue on establishing this punkish attitude as she continues to age, instead of turning to the smaltzy AC half of Beautiful Trauma would suggest.

BILLIE EILISH / BAD GUY

“I’m that bad type / Make your mama sad type
Make your girlfriend mad type / Might seduce your dad type”

You’re either going to get Billie Eilish’s appeal or you’re not, her ASMR mumble-core vocal is going to either force you to throw your phone or it’s going to send shivers through your spine. ‘Bad Guy’ takes Eilish’s spook-tastic appeal and puts a quivering spin on it, contorting a relatively simple hook into an energetic and fun three minutes. Without watering down her appeal at all, it perfectly packages every quirk so far into what is simply… a brilliant song. The way she purrs and coos, her vocal mastered to within an inch of its life, as if she’s right there behind your speaker. It’s spellbinding.

ZARA LARSSON / DON’T WORRY BOUT ME

“Now I been sleeping okay.”

Music labels are often the bane of every pop fans existence, as they stand in the way of common sense single releases and hold their stars to ransom if they do not conform to a particular sense of style. ‘Don’t Worry Bout Me’ was one of those, almost a victim to label boss expectation. Stepping far away from the Euro-pop stylings of ‘Ruin My Life’, ‘Don’t…’ is a far more contemporary Rihanna inspired pop-bop that positively bounces. In fact, it sounds increasingly similar to Mabel, and I wonder whether the label only let it go after seeing the success she has received with this sound…

GABRIELLE APLIN / NOTHING REALLY MATTERS

“I don’t know why I’m scared of forever, but it’s now or it’s never.”

Gabrielle Aplin has been producing world class music for years, and since her incredible sophomore album has moved into producing world class pop music. ‘Nothing Really Matters’ is a showcase of fantastic British pop music, showcasing Aplin’s razor sharp talent at songwriting. A swelling build up of a bridge? Check. A short and sweet chorus that builds and builds before cutting away? Check. A euphoric breakdown following? Check.

FOLLY RAE / FULL STOP

“No subtle meaning between the line.”

Folly Rae up and stole my heart with ‘You Don’t Love Me’ just last year, showing a unique pop mastery and a voice that stands out from the crowd. ‘Full Stop’ recalls Sigrid and Tove Styrke with its jagged production and witty lyricism, but above all there’s a popstar here that is damn well exciting. Full of character from beginning to the end, it’s the exact kind of song you need to blare out from the car all through the summer.

EMILY VAUGHN / PIECES

“Everybody wants a piece of me, and I’m running out of pieces.”

‘Pieces’ might just be my favourite song of the week, but it took a few listens to get me there. Most notably because the song really steps into its own at the last 3 quarters, introducing a pounding kick that elevates the hook to an entirely new level. It’s an interesting addition, and makes you question why the entire song doesn’t maintain that relentless drive, but the slow evolution of vocoder-heavy ballad into Tove Lo-esque banger gives this such a unique bite. Filled with melancholy and a delectable hook, it really would feel at home on a Tove Lo album, which is always a compliment.