This past week has involved little more than the new Empress Of album. Have you listened to it? You really should, it’s a masterclass in production and quirk. As for this week, god we have some right bangers. Last week is old news, let’s get going.
CHARLOTTE OC / FALLING FOR YOU
You should know by now that Charlotte OC has a fantastic voice, one of my favourites out there right now. But the best thing is she knows exactly when to use that gusto and when to hold back. Her greatest strength are these incredibly subtle hooks that quietly worm their way into the brain. There’s always time for a big ‘Into You’ banger, but ‘Falling for You’ is going to last a lifetime because of that subtlety.
KIESZA / CRAVE
Imagine a world in which Katy Perry snapped this up as the real followup to ‘Never Really Over’? Easily the best thing Kiesza has put out since ‘All of the Feelings’, which actually only came out a few weeks ago… Needless to say, this dreamy 80s euphoria suits her from the ground to the heaven and it deserves all the success ‘Hideaway’ once earned.
CHARLI XCX / FOREVER
First of all, do not listen to this on cheap iPhone earphones if you do not want tinnitus. Secondly, can we accept now that Charli XCX might be the perfect pop star? She certainly is for our quarantining. ‘forever’ was thrown together at light speed, which makes it even more incredible. Truthfully the production is just a sly bit too much at the verses but that chorus might be her best in years.
MOYKA / SPACES
Can’t come to the phone right now, just being transported into outer space because of those opening pads. Zara Larsson meets Lorde meets Robyn brilliance. Name a better inspiration trio, I’ll wait.
ISAAC DUNBAR / BOY
Every now and then a fantastic openly queer love song comes along and I realise how little of them actually find themselves being pushed amidst the endless releases. That actually makes them feel more special for now, because god this hit me as I sit here desperately missing my own boy right now. It feels so good to hear it sometimes.
PLENTY more this week to dive into, get your teeth wet here:
What year is it again? RedOne alone takes me back at least ten years, but Desmond Child having a hand in this and resident classic-pop-girl Max as well? Luckily this is an absolute blast. Tinged with Abba, this is everything Ava Max should have been doing following the sudden success of ‘Sweet but Psycho’.
ELLIE GOULDING, BLACKBEAR / WORRY ABOUT ME
Ellie’s upcoming album, if it ever sees the light of day, will apparently balance the trap leaning collaborations with her authentic songwriting self by splitting the album directly in two and showcasing both. ‘Worry About Me’ is more of what you’d come to expect from Ellie and doesn’t even attempt to spin the wheel, but it’s a solid affair filled with some nice little Ellie touches (operatic cooing, the gritty THIS and THAT hidden away, cahoo-ha-hool) and a pretty great feature from blackbear.
CAMDEN COX / HEALING (REDFIELD REMIX)
‘Healing’ was already one of the best songs of the year, so I wasn’t exactly expecting a remix to have much to add. Sometimes I love being wrong. Redfield manages to keep that wistful emotion throughout but suddenly it’s instilled with such a brooding and addictive energy that I might never play the original again!
KOVEN / WORLDS COLLIDE
Well, the new Koven album is currently encapsulating my entire life. A proper collision of pop music and dance, which is one of the best couplings ever really, with an absolutely faultless opening in ‘Worlds Collide’. If you’re into this D&B meets Dubstep meets pop banger, be sure to check out the entire album asap.
FLETCHER / FOREVER
I suppose sometimes an artist not breaking through keeps them hungry for it, knowing each release is important to their entire career prospects. Fletcher still feels hungry, despite having quite a few songs under her name now. ‘Forever’ might just be her best yet – a gorgeous and intimate mid-tempo with a total sugar rush of a chorus. And the best part? She clearly has even better to come still.
Do make sure to check out the playlist, updating every Friday! There’s plenty of songs that didn’t quite make it into the highlights but might have done in any other week. At least check out that Koven album!
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.
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.
‘Stayaway’ has been out for just over 12 hours and I’m already positive that it is going to end up in my top five of the year, if not the top 2. The sophomore slump is a real issue for many artists, and considering MUNA’s debut album showed itself to be one of the most impassioned and well constructed debuts in the last ten years, the pressure really was on to not only recreate that but to elevate it. ‘Stayaway’ is the kind of song careers revolve around, melodically a masterpiece and lyrically devastating, it’s hard not to find something new to love with each listen. That’s if you can stop repeating the gloriously powerful pre-chorus. If this was the 00s, I’d have the lyrics plastered all over every single online profile I inhabited.
Leaving you was easy, now I’ve got to do what’s hard – I’ve got to stay away.
MILEY CYRUS / SLIDE AWAY
Authenticity is a much sought after thing that simply cannot be fabricated and shows itself at the sparsest of moments, like Demi Lovato releasing the heartbreaking ‘Sober’ before her publicised relapse or Ariana Grande referencing her exes shortly after Malcom’s death, Miley channels her recent split with long-term-flame Liam in the devastating ‘Slide Away’ – a song about recognising the two worlds both of you inhabit have shifted so far away that they are now unreachable. Considering Miley’s career has been filled with a plethora of characters, it is simply remarkable to see her peel away the layers and present something so visceral. We haven’t seen this since the raw, and incredible, Dead Petz… experiment – which really felt like the real Miley Cyrus shining through. Hopefully between this and ‘Mother’s Daughter’, she’s more ready than ever to occupy that character completely.
PVRIS / HALLUCINATIONS
The best thing about ‘Hallucinations’ is how it manages to subvert the typical PVRIS formula by blending their enormous, effect-soaked choruses with a surprisingly intimate production. Considering how well they do LOUD it’s simply delicious to hear Lyndsey’s vocals given the space, with only strings and a slight beat accompanying her. Of course, that doesn’t stop the ceiling-crushing chorus from fitting right in to place when you least expect it. With hints of BANKS and Florence, this era really feels like PVRIS taking the next big step for their artistry.
NORMANI / MOTIVATION
Everybody I know has been, rightfully, freaking out about Normani’s sudden reintroduction (mostly because of the star quality on display in the marvelously nostalgic music video). ‘Motivation’ needed a few plays from me before it sunk its claws in but it’s so god damn exciting to see such a huge pop culture moment being made from a debuting solo artist. There’s been a lot of swing for Normani over the past year and it seems like it’s allowing her to hit the ground running. Though that’s not to discredit her, as her charisma and confidence is pouring out of every ounce of the song. She knows this is it, and it sounds like it.
And if you don’t get it yet, just watch the video. You will.
HYPHEN HYPHEN / TAKE MY HAND
‘Take My Hand’ truly reveals its cards at the three minute mark, a cathartic implosion after several minutes of atmospheric teasing. Whilst this won’t be for everyone, and at times it sounds like the soundtrack to some buzzy and dark Netflix series, it’s a momentous release that sounds unlike anything else released this year. Between gasps for breath, bass that sounds like it’s going to burst open the speakers and their trademark chant-like vocals, this is the closest you’ll come to an out of body experience this year.
This week was simply fantastic, and there’s a whole bunch of other songs that could have made our highlights on any other week. Make sure to check them out and let us know what your highlights would have been:
Seven years since she last gifted us with the masterpiece pop album Veritas, in which Agnes subverted all expectation and delivered one of the strongest pop albums of the decade; she’s back… and she’s done it again. There’s still an undeniable thread here, you’ll be expecting a European-style SMASH and that’s what you’ll get – but this dual release presents her yet again at the forefront of exciting and ever-changing pop music. ‘Limelight’ is the safer of the two: a typical Agnes mega-smash with enormous chorus fed through a dance filter. ‘I Trance’ is the delicious experiment: a Kylie-esque exploration of dance. What a woman.
KULT KYSS / RITUALS
‘Rituals’ is future pop to its core, evoking Kate Boy’s aggressive ‘One’ with its heavy synths and moody atmosphere. As with KB, the production is just one sparkly part of the package – the vocals being just as important in their world building. It’s the kind of sound I want more mainstream acts to co-opt and integrate their own sound, like when Katy Perry released ‘E.T’.
KIM PETRAS / ICY
Kim Petras’ problematic existence has been easiest to deny when her music occupied a relatively anonymous and fairly-good-but-not-amazing territory. ‘Icy’, part of her new album Clarity, may mark the end of that. Whilst still tied to Luke, and thus sounding like something you’d find The Weeknd releasing, it’s easily the best thing she’s put her name to yet. A fitting vocal for the subject material, where often she can sound slightly trill, it works perfectly to showcase the coldness she’s singing about.
MUNA / WHO
Queens of emotion, MUNA have followed their alt-banger ‘Number One Fan’ with a much more familiar ballad dedicated to obsessional stalking and unrequited love. Katie’s vocals will forever be the highlight, transforming what might be simple lyricism into heartbreaking odes of pain. It’s something they mastered with their debut, so definitely reassuring to see it return so well here.
PURE SHORES / RUSHING
Marlene and Ji helmed the best song of 2018 last year, Ear Candy, and have since teamed up to become production duo extraordinaire’s Pure Shores. ‘Rushing’ is their first release together, giving us a great first glimpse into the dance-pop they hopefully intend to keep on releasing. If there’s anyone that understands how to make a light and breezy pop song with enough substance to pierce your skull, it’s Marlene and Ji.
This might be the most packed week in recent memory… On top of the above highlights, we have new songs from Ellie Goulding, Sasha Sloan, Julia Michaels, George Maple, Jada, Iggy Azalea, Sofia Karlberg and even MORE. Make sure to follow our dedicated playlist to keep up with the best of the best!
Last week delivered one of the best new music friday’s in years, so naturally the week after would have a lot to live up to. Luckily there’s one or two songs that manage to hit like a meteor, let’s check them out:
MUNA / NUMBER ONE FAN
Two years on from one of the most realised debut albums of all time, MUNA return with the shockingly confident ‘Number One Fan’ – an anthem dedicated to learning to love yourself in the face of negative internal energies. Gone is the overtly dramatic aesthetic and gloom in place of a hyper realised 90s glam-dream and a much, much lighter vibe. Coupled with one of the best music videos I’ve seen in a long time, ‘Number One Fan’ brings MUNA right back into the fold as one of the most exciting and important bands on the planet right now.
KIIARA / OPEN MY MOUTH
Typically a Kiiara song will instill a sense of icy cool, opting to present her pop star quality as out-of-reach and slightly Madonna-esque in its ubiquity. There’s a distinct anonymity to her, like a lot of Spotify girls, but also a distinct coolness that comes with owning her own sound (much like Billie Eilish). ‘Open My Mouth’ does away with that a little to present a much warmer island-influenced bop, slowly peeling away the artist known as Kiiara. It still has her trademark vocal chop, but the production suggests a very welcome progression.
SWIMMING GIRLS / I DON’T WANNA GET TO HEAVEN
The revival of the 80s continues with Swimming Girls new track, complete with guitar riff that would play out as the credits roll of every cult indie film of that era. It’s a deadly song that will find its way into your head without you realising, perfect for sunset drives and every heartbreak fuelled getaway.
CHARLOTTE / SOMEBODY TO HOLD
‘Somebody to Hold’ starts out deceptively simple; it’s one of those songs that unfurl through multiple plays, as you dissect the lyricism and find your own pieces of the puzzle inside. Ultimately it’s a stunning ballad of longing that elevates itself with a stunning gospel choir, introducing soul aspects that makes me really excited for Charlotte’s sound. By the third minute, I’m fully prepared and waiting for an entire album of this exact template.
SABRINA CARPENTER / IN MY BED
Being part of the Disney alumni can be seen as somewhat of a curse or a blessing, either way it immediately implies a certain expectation. Sabrina’s brilliant EP, Singular, last year showed exactly why she shouldn’t be written off as another simple Disney character and ‘In My Bed’, taking from the second parter, drives the nail in deeper. Stunning art direction aside, the song is a perfectly crafted earworm which evokes Ariana Grande to a scary degree in parts but showcases a confident character in its own right. Sabrina is polished and ready to show herself as herself, and that’s EXCITING.
Be sure to follow the Eyes On New Music Friday playlist, which is updated weekly with every track worth listening to. This week is a much slower affair, so grab your earphones and prepare to mellow out: