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18th October, NMF!

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.

Music

27th September, NMF!

CECILY / AWAKE

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?

Music

JULY 26th, NMF!

ILIRA / PAY ME BACK!

Don’t lend money that you can’t afford to lose in an old adage that many of us should subscribe to, but still often find ourselves on the wrong side of. How many of us can relate to the shilling of our own finances to fund someone who in shocking news turns out to be the same typical trash most of humanity is made of?

Well if so, may I present ILIRA’s newest anthem dedicated to the rinsing of a man that who takes more than he owes, and yet also recognises her own financial issues. The song is a masterclass in tongue-in-cheek bravado that evokes the recent Eurovision winner ‘Toy’ with its witty lyricism, brash production and shouty vocals. Amazing.

LIZ, SLAYYYTER / DIAMOND IN THE DARK

May I also present to you, and this may come as a shock following a song in which the artist rides a unicorn in a skintight red suit on the artwork, the gayest song of 2019 so far. A typical PC-Music affair of robotic synthpop littered with references to shining diamonds, rhinestones in the air and glittering hearts. Liz also brings in rising internet sensation Slayyyter, and with it her typical Britney 90’s influences also flood in, to create what is one of the most unexpected and frankly excellent songs of the year.

KATY PERRY / NEVER REALLY OVER (SYN COLE REMIX)

Remixes are usually a mixed bag, and typically I wouldn’t invest any inordinate amount in a remix when the original exists right there but ‘Never Really Over’ is the best song of the year (and perhaps the last few years?) and as such I’m appreciating any reworks of it we’re given. The Syn Cole remix turns it right on its head, drawing out the melancholy with trance-esque strings and a stripped back chorus – where instead of Perry, the hidden chants of ‘Never really over!’ take front stage. It’s a brilliant decision that highlights the strength of ‘Never Really Over’ as a song in all of its different forms.

BROOKS, ALIDA / WAITING FOR LOVE

Sometimes all you need on a blisteringly hot week like this is a dance anthem that inspires you to get moving, and ‘Waiting For Love’ is exactly that. Alida delivers the effective and satisfying chipmunk-lite vocal, Brooks delivers the rolling production and drop that hits you in all the right places. Whilst this isn’t going to be steamrolling my best of 2019 list any time soon, it’s finding its way on to every gym playlist I have.

TAYLOR SWIFT / THE ARCHER

Taylor Swift finally sighs her way on to one of our best of the week lists with ‘The Archer’, an 80s inspired revisit of her slower and much more intimate moments. Following ‘ME!’ and ‘You Need to Calm Down’ with this is almost enough to give someone severe whiplash, but it’s not really that much of a surprise considering its another Antanoff co-write. I can’t help but want that reverb to sharpen up as the song plods on, and honestly I don’t think any song needs a Humpty Dumpty reference, but this is a much better blueprint we’re begging for more of on the album. But… with a bit more oomph please, Taylor.

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