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.

April 26th, NMF!

P!nk is hurting, queer talent is thriving and Marina Diamandis is terrified of love – it’s new music Friday. Let’s get into it:

P!NK / HAPPY

P!nk teams up with the ever-impressive Sasha Sloan to create what may be her most brutally honest song since ‘Family Portrait’. It’s the sound of a mother, a lover, a pop star twenty years into their career, looking back on a life filled with anxiety and doubt. Sasha’s razor sharp lyricism is the perfect compliment to Moore’s terrifyingly tender vocals, but it doesn’t shy away from the hooks in delivering its message. If there’s any justice in the world, this needs to be enormous.

BETTA LEMME / PLAY

This would be the Queerest song you’ll hear today, had Dorian Electra not also released this week (see below). ‘Play’ is abrasive and absolutely bonkers, its main melody one of those instantly recognizable samples that makes you question why it hasn’t been sampled before, and its absolutely undeniable. Produced by Danny L Harle, it’s Aqua reborn for the thirsty pop fans. Did anyone ask for it? Who cares. I la la la la la love it.

SAM CREIGHTON / SMILE

‘Smile’ is just as fascinated with looking into the past as ‘Play’, though revels more in the inspiration than direct replication. You won’t realise at first; the song sounds like almost every other Spotify song by Astrid S, Tove Styrke, Orchid, Kiiara (I could go on), but the chorus is a masterful sledgehammer of 00s R&B dedicated to shutting down the sleazy mass of masculinity. “Tell me to smile, I dare you” – she practically begs, oozing with cool.

DORIAN ELECTRA / FLAMBOYANT

Queer talent often has to infiltrate a system by conforming before our own talent is recognized, and even then we can find our heterosexual counterparts commandeering our efforts as if they were always their own. Dorian Electra is an enigma that would inevitably frustrate the modern pop game, and ‘Flamboyant’ is a fantastic reclamation of a word that has been used against feminine queer men for years, but the true charm of it is how it balances on such a tight string of modern and fascinating production; twisting an obvious dark-club bop with a 90’s soundboard and a totally out-of-place but perfect piano riff – it’s a masterpiece in masquerading.

TERROR JR / LOVED BY YOU

‘Loved By You’ is the sound of Terror Jr carving out their niche for success, losing some of the jagged edges that made them so interesting in the process. It’s still brilliant enough to include here, and it’s easy to get lost in the relentless production and sweet vocal, but without their typical depth and running to a short 2:20, I’m left craving more.

MARINA / BELIEVE IN LOVE

Love + Fear campaign drama aside, Marina’s first album in four years had arrived with a dull thud. Skip immediately to the second side, to find the stunning tracks like ‘Believe In Love’. Admittedly it would appear Marina’s once quirky production and lyricism has been sandblasted away, but nobody quite delivers the quiet bliss of disassociation like Marina at her best. ‘Believe In Love’ is the sound of your mind floating away, caught in melodies and fears drifting by, it should have been the blueprint for the entire album.

FLETCHER / IF YOU’RE GONNA LIE

Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’ continues to inspire some damn good pop music, the trend continues with ‘If You’re Gonna Lie’ – if Fletcher isn’t sued for stealing the guitar riff then I’m looking damn forward to the album this is taken from.

This incredible week doesn’t stop here, check out my playlists below for MORE MORE MORE of the week:

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.