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 else is there to say about this totally new, never been heard before banger? Quite honestly when Gaga fires on all cylinders, there’s nothing like it. ‘Stupid Love’ might just be the best thing she’s put out since Born This Way and it marks a return to the sleeker off-kilter ARTPOP Gaga we’ve all missed since Bradley Cooper got a hold of her. Welcome back PopGa, we’ve missed you.
CHARLOTTE OC / FREEDOM
Charlotte OC was behind one of 2018’s best songs, the subtly brilliant ‘Satellite’ and then the similarly brilliant ‘Boyfriend’ and ‘Better Off On My Own’ landed in 2019 and there was momentary hope that a bloody good album was on the horizon. It never came and we’re in 2020. ‘Freedom’ is her best in a while, an instantly charming power-in-belief anthem that, as Charlotte OC songs tend to do, will worm into your brain and find a home in there. We might be burned but that hope for an album is still there.
LPX / NEW MOOD
Aggression can be so fucking cool, can’t it? LPX gets that, and ‘New Mood’ is dedicated entirely to the vibe. With abrasive guitars, Kate Nash speak-swearing, a throat-achingly screamed chorus, it’s a literal catharsis.
SONIKKU, LIZ / WKND
I haven’t been this surprised by a song in quite a while, and speechless too. ‘WKND’ manages to make me feel things that I can’t even voice so I’ll just list them; Classic. Pop. Madonna. Borderline. Britney Spears. KPop. PCMusic. Sega MegaDrive. Dreamcast. Amazing.
JOE STONE, CAMDEN COX / MIND CONTROL
Now ‘WKND’ has decimated by brain cells with its time travelling ways, ‘Mind Control’ helps cement me back in reality. And it’s a sticky dancefloor at 11PM with a Bacardi Coke in my hand. Camden Cox is one to watch if you haven’t been already because basically amazing songs seem to flock around her in the form of her own and collaborations. Gorgeous dance music made for the club and the gym floor, with vocals that keep the emotion pounding through. What’s not to like?
Compared to recent weeks, we have a weaker effort to sift through this time. Luckily there are a few gems in the rough for our highlights as we head towards the close of the year. Check them out:
ASHS / PARANOID
You may already know ASHS as Alyssa Reid, having had brief success in 2011 with ‘Alone Again’. Initially intended to be somewhat of a side project, Alyssa has decided to put ASHS at the forefront and… well, it’s a good job because quite honestly the songs are brilliant. ‘Paranoid’ is a breath of fresh air, it’s Terror Jr meets So Below with a more grounded touch, an absolutely infectious epic. At the heart of it is a stunning R&B ballad with an equally gorgeous melody, but its the production that builds on that created world. An absolute win from every angle.
CAPULETS / SWEET ENOUGH
It’s going to take a lot to rebuild Xenomania’s lost legacy, and unfortunately their excessive pop touch hasn’t been quite the same since the era of Girls Aloud, but every now and then there’s another snap of genius. ‘Sweet Enough’ is brilliant because it actually focuses in their typically sporadic style, culminating in a classic Eurythmics styled epic dragged into the 21st century. There’s still a lot of air in the system, and it’s crying out for a fuller vocal, but the production deserves the commendation because we need more of this Xenomania.
DEVON BALDWIN / FIRE
Devon should already be on your radar, especially considering I push her at every opportunity. Already delivering an EP worth of masterfully produced mid-tempos in 2019, ‘Fire’ picks up where she left off in a much warmer capacity. Her icy production and ethereal vocal is trademark at this point, and in that regard ‘Fire’ delivers everything you need from a Devon song; atmospheric production that only amplifies the breathtaking delivery in front of it.
MALOU PRYTZ / IF IT AIN’T LOVE
Taking inspiration from The Saturdays, this time with correct grammar, Malou provides the bubblegum you need to get you through the week. Though the delivery gives you a sharpness the likes of Carly Rae usually trade for a genre-trade wisp, the production is exactly as bouncy as you need it to be. Designed to be cranked out of the car window, this is a welcome splash of sugar in a pretty sour week.
PETE TONG, HER-O, ZARA LARSSON / WITH EVERY HEARTBEAT
Well, would you look at this. A cover of one of the greatest songs of all time is a highlight of the week, but just as much for its own reasons. Zara Larsson fits the role of Robyn to a T, delivering a heartbreakingly good vocal, and there’s even a full orchestra version on the album too. This is a song that never ages, never tires and ultimately anyone could toy with and still have a great result, but there really is something to be said about how much emotion this still manages to translate and pull through. Now I’m craving a remix with Zara leading!
We’ve uncovered a massive 28 highlights this week, which can all be found below in our Eyes On NMF Playlist, so do check it out for any that you might have missed and give it a follow. That way you’ll never miss a great song!
What initially seemed a weakish week has already started to open up to me, with some major subtle hits hidden among the rough. The highlights are highlights because of how well they hit on first listen but don’t discredit the rest of the list, there’s some real gems this week.
POPPY / BLOODMONEY
Poppy’s rapid evolution has been an absolute sight to watch, despite the harshness always being a key product in her music, there’s a real new pounding angst and rebellion that you’d expect from The Pretty Reckless. It fits better than it really ought to, and what might come off as pretentious for anyone else (a whisper-talk section about losing your soul) just kind of… fits in this chaotic landscape? There’s also the fact her voice often evokes classic Avril Lavigne, and it leans into that pop styling just as much as the harsh rock. Fearless and FAB.
HANA / ANXIOUS ALIEN
Rather brilliantly, HANA produced her entire new album in a Twitch Livestream over one month. The real kicker though is that the album is damn good, sounding as expansive as a full campaign led-album. ‘Anxious Alien’ feels like the perfect evolution for HANA, with similar vibes to Skott, in all of its Alisha’s Attic glory. With such a sparse and repetitive drum beat, you really need the melody to shine and it does.
IGGY AZALEA, ALICE CHATER / LOLA
Powerhouse vocalist Alice teams up with creative genius Iggy for this ‘I Like It’-inspired-party anthem. Admittedly it’s the video which makes this shine the most, which might be both parties best yet, but at the heart of it there’s a really fun pop song that sounds like the biggest chance of a hit Iggy has had in years. Switching from Alice’s dreamy vocals to Iggy’s industrial rapping style, it’s almost impossible not to be drawn in.
ROSALIA / A PALE
Well, the award for causing the greatest whiplash of the week goes to ‘A Pal lé’, a snarling anthem that is easily her best yet. Transcending the language barrier with an addictive bassline, Rosalia commands the entire room. With her name slowly becoming renowned around the world, each song racking up millions of streams, its hard to deny the power this song clearly has. It’s Rihanna meets Billie Eilish but also with her own distinct vibe, a vibe I need MORE of.
CAMELPHAT, JEM COOKE / RABBIT HOLE
‘Rabbit Hole’ fits here not because it’s a brilliant trance-dance song, but because there are parts in which Jem Cooke sounds exactly like Adele, that trademark inflection on certain parts of a word. It’s got me wondering about the kind of thing Adele could do would she ever choose to release something with a bit of a bite again, or even package out some remixes too. It’s easy enough to get lost in this gorgeous beat, but its the vocal that really takes it to the next level. Do give us something like this, Adele. If Sam Smith can do it, so can you.
SONIA / I DON’T KNOW
This had me at the Sting guitar intro, and it just had to prove itself from there. Luckily Sonia is kind of proving herself as some kind of minimal prodigy, her songs intimate and affecting, and ‘I Don’t Know’ is her best yet. At some point you do need a spark, but for now these brain-drilling epics are tingling my spine, instilling a real interest in what she continues to do. It’s that last closing minute, where it gets really stripped back, that brings it to where it needs to be, the guitar shifting into a stunning R&B-esque refrain, and suddenly I’m repeating just to hear the song all over again.
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.
Here are the very best of the best for this weeks NEW MUSIC FRIDAY. Headed by the amazing ‘Talk Deep’, just you wait until you get to number five.
E^ST / TALK DEEP
The best of things fit comfortably, slotting right in between expectation and surprise, in our nostalgic range of taste. ‘TALK DEEP’ knows what you expect from it and isn’t afraid to deliver it with a little squirt of glitter, delivered handily in the form of a triple-punch chorus. With a breakdown that elicits pure nostalgic joy, it’s easily one of the best of the year already. Sometimes music just feels alive, and this is one of them.
BISHOP BRIGGS / JEKYLL & HIDE
In her most recent world tour, well known songstress P!nk proclaimed Briggs’ ‘River’ as a song she would have loved to have recorded. Might she feel a little relieved then considering the clear Funhouse-esque production that accompanies this pounding chorus, its twisted circus vibe peeking through the curtains at every integral moment. Around it is a monstrously addictive track, one which you could actually envision P!nk going on to perform again, that also recalls Halsey’s pop-tinged alternative style. It really is that piano that makes this amazing though, and that last relentless run to the end.
WINONA OAK / LET ME KNOW
‘Let Me Know’ is steeped in influence, from Aplin to Mumford and Sons, but its the contrasting quiet moments that allows this to really sink in. The chorus might be delightfully packed with pounding drums and surging strings, but those little moments where we find Winona’s voice deftly carrying the quiet air – they’re really special. It’s because of them the huge chorus can come careening in, taking your breath away. More moments like this please, Oak!
NILUFER YANYA / H34T RISES
Hilariously we follow one of the largest productions of the week with a Garageband minimalism that works just as well, if not better, than the gargantuan approach. ‘H34T RISES’ brings your typical basement production with some high quality songwriting, proving that sometimes you don’t need all the extras if you have the hooks. And this is packed full of them.
SONDR / SO BLUE
Speaking of nostalgia, there’s always at least one summer song that becomes inexplicably huge simply by sampling something we’ve all connected with in our childhood. In this case it’s the phenomenally underappreciated ‘Blue’ which has been transformed into a glacial BANKS song for the nightclub, somehow losing none of the quirky charm of the original… Sometimes you just can’t predict what’s going to work together.
KATY PERRY / SMALL TALK (LOST KINGS REMIX)
Special bonus status for one of our favourite songs of the year, gifted with several brilliant remixes before her new single release next week. ‘Sweet Talk’ is a fairly simple Puth production, swapping Perry’s usual bellowing for a more subtle approach, but each remix brings that back to the forefront. This remix, in particular, sounds as close to classic 2012 pop music as you’re going to get this year placed in a blender with some quirky electro-dance synths and… it works! Quite honestly the output coming from Perry this year is sensational. Bring on the book!
Whilst you’re here. be sure to also check out:
Harry Styles new effort ‘Lights Out’, a short walk from Zayn’s own output, and the fascinatingly sexual music video.
MisterWives ‘the end’, the most gorgeous indie film-ending song if there ever was one.
Hayley Kiyoko’s fantastically produced ‘Demons’, a nice big quirky step from her usual output.
The OTHER ‘Small Talk’ remix by Sofi Tukker, which is so good I kind of wish it was the original song? Can Sofi Tukker do any wrong?
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?