11th September, NMF!

SWIM FOR IT / GET WHAT YOU WANT

As shameless of me as it is, do you know I make music too? All created in my little bedroom, check it out if you’re a fan of breezy male-driven pop.

BEABADOOBEE / WORTH IT

Sometimes songs just sound like the close of Summer, carrying with them the imagery of a thousand indie movies. Beabadoobee has mastered the art of emoting through sound, ‘Worth It’ being her freshest song yet. It just sounds like an open car ride through soft sunlight.

JULIE BERGAN / ONE TOUCH

Some big pop names in the credits for this, which means it has to be good, and luckily for us it is. Bergan sort of operates in a different time-space to everyone else, where her music lives in some timeless-nostalgic flux, and there’s even more of that here. Instantly familiar but fresh enough to stay exciting, it’s more sugar sweet bliss from one of the most consistent artists out there right now.

MP3: Kiiara & DeathbyRony - Numb (feat. PVRIS) - K2Vibes

KIIARA, DEATHBYROMY, PVRIS / NUMB

Kiiara is another consistent one, out there banging her drum to her own beat regardless of the circumstances. She’s always operated on this line between mainstream and underground production, flitting just enough into the former to break through, and there’s no doubt this sounds like her biggest push yet – notably because of the feature. It’s surprisingly understated though, almost in line with Ellie Goulding’s recent album’s darker moments.

FLETCHER's Anticipated EP 'The S(ex) Tapes' Drops Early | uDiscover

FLETCHER / SHH… DON’T SAY IT

Fletcher is lining herself up as one to watch in the next few years, trust me. ‘Shh… Don’t Say It’ is basically a brilliant Selena Gomez song taken directly from Stars Dance. Delivered casually enough to earworm rather than strike, it’s that monster bassline which does the real first impression work, but it’s the melody and delivery that’ll keep it sticking.

David Guetta and Sia Join Forces on New Song 'Let's Love' - Our Culture

DAVID GUETTA, SIA / LET’S LOVE

Admittedly this was a bit of a write off on first immediate listen, and it’s only with several more plays it’s unfolded to me. Part of that is probably because the chorus is the weakest part but the bridge is so good that it more than makes up for it. A complete different vibe for what you’d expect of this two but it’s those ‘This too shall PASS!’ moments that scream Sia through and through.

What were your highlights this week?

New Music Friday: February 21st!

Quite possibly the strongest New Music Friday in months. Whittling this one down to five highlights was hard y’all, and I’m pretty sure in any other week others would be near the top. As it stands, the highlights are complete best of 2020 contenders.

EMILY BURNS / HELLO

Burns has gone out of her way to express her scandi-pop influence with that quintessential British charm, and honestly, she’s not way off the mark. ‘Hello’ basically picks up where Cher Lloyd once picked up with an absolutely stunning melody. However, it’s that little whiney synth that makes this a standout. Truly a masterstroke.

GRACEY / GONE

Often I wonder just how much impact Charli XCX has had on pop music considering her somewhat lack of chart success in contrast to her consistent status in pop music. Then I hear songs like ‘Gone’ and I can practically feel her bleeding through. ‘Gone’ is strong enough on its own merits, yet another stunner from Gracey, but that Charli-esque GONE GONE GOWAN is the one.

CALL ME LOOP / DOWNHILL FROM HERE

I wonder if I’ll ever stop featuring Call Me Loop on this blog? Considering her consistency, I wouldn’t bet on it. Keeping with her delicious pop appeal, ‘Downhill…’ doesn’t try to change the formula, but it does continue to show another side to her – just as she did with The Pussycat Dolls’ ‘React’ – that keeps me constantly looking forward to whatever she puts out next.

LOVE HARDER, JULIE BERGAN / OUTTA MY HEAD

At this point Bergan’s name is becoming a stamp of approval. Anything she features on just bounds with character, drips with cool. ‘Outta My Head’ would be in every gym around the country if there was any justice, and easily has one of the best ‘da da da’ sections since Kylie.

PURITY RING / STARDEW

Okay, so I did say this was a strong week, and this was where it got hard. Ultimately the return of Purity Ring deserves an entry every time. Atmospheric electro-pop is chronically underappreciated but somehow they’ve always managed to maintain a cult like status. ‘Stardew’ goes on to prove why – there’s always heartbreaking emotion behind the fizzing production.

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?

September 20th, NMF!

SASHA SLOAN / SMILING WHEN I DIE

Understated intimacy is so hard to do well, especially concerning songwriting. It’s ever too easy to create something that hits like a sledgehammer but there’s a real talent in balancing on the line between it, knowing when to hold back and when to let the words and melody do the talking. ‘smiling when i die’ might just be Sloan’s best work yet because not only is it immaculately produced but it is also poised to obliterate with powerful lyricism. Sloan’s secret weapon may be exposed to all now, her adaptive skill in refining depression and anxiety into relatable couplets, and with big artists like P!nk recruiting her for their own design but ‘smiling…’ helps showcase a whole new side to that songwriting style – one of delicate contrast amongst the honesty.

TOVE LO / STAY OVER

Vagina Queen Tove Lo has dropped her understated latest album, Sunshine Kitty, and despite not really feeling most of the promo tracks it really only takes one listen to understand what she’s trying to achieve and one more to realise she pulls it off perfectly. ‘Stay Over’ is the most instant of them all, with her wistfully persuading a broken lover that staying in her arms for the night is the best decision he could make. As usual with Lo’s immaculate storytelling, she isn’t afraid to play the bad guy. Disregarding his actual need to repair for the sake of her own whim is a questionable feeling, but we’ve all been there. We all believe we could be the saviour, or that our love will be all-encapsulating enough to repair any present damage, and ‘Stay Over’ captures that perfectly with its dark and melancholic bedroom-pop style.

GEORGIA / NEVER LET YOU GO

Already making waves with the wild and nostalgic 80s banger, ‘About Work the Dancefloor’, Georgia seems perfectly poised to take the mantle as next big rising UK starlet. Though taking a different path to ‘About…’, ‘Never Let You Go’ still revels in its influences, sounding like an artist that has spent years building the confidence to release these epic reminiscent bangers. The greatest asset to them all so far is how well the production plays alongside the melody, the voice as important as the instrument, but there’s a real driving force in the middle of it that sounds so palatable and ready for any radio station to pick up right now.

CAROLINE POLACHEK / SO HOT YOU’RE HURTING MY FEELINGS

  1. Take Sara Bareilles, Imogen Heap and HAIM and place them in the blender, spice appropriately.
  2. Sprinkle with a slight pinch of sexual confidence and a hefty amount of mutual attraction.
  3. Toss in razor sharp lyrics and a tongue planted firmly in cheek.
  4. Blend, though not enough to make it too serious.
  5. Pour into two bowls, serve alone in a quiet room lit by candlelight alone with the sound of your cats in the window.

What a fucking song.

Stick with me every week, around this time, for the very best of the week. Also this week look out for:

Cyn is back with her new EP Mood Swing and ‘I Can’t Believe’ is wonderfully weird and certifiably incredible… after thirty seconds.

Lauv has released the same song again but if you like him, you’ll love it. Quiet and lovely, it’s called ‘Feelings’.

The new Sofi Tukker EP contains one of their most subtly brilliant songs yet, ‘Ringless’.

Bebe Rhexa has repurposed Xtina’s ‘Beautiful’ into a feminist power anthem for Maleficent 2 called ‘You Can’t Stop the Girl’.

Mabel and Tiesto have a hit in their hands (SURELY) with the bizarrely structured ‘God is a Dancer’ which is great but not as good as ‘God is a Woman’ or ‘God is a DJ’.

13th September, NMF!

NINA NESBITT / BLACK & BLUE

Nina Nesbitt is re-releasing her brilliant album as an acoustic bundle with three new songs, one of which is this intimate but catchy ode to self-abuse. Essentially another take on her song ‘The Best You Had’ but with a driving beat, much like the rest of her material the power in this is its simplicity and her vocal delivery translating a weighty amount of the emotion. It’s subtle in all the right ways, like all the best mid-tempos are, and is the exact Autumnal song I need right now.

CHARLIE PUTH / MOTHER

Sometimes the best songs come at you from nowhere, and despite Puth’s production talents being tapped by various artists now it looks as though Puth still has enough inspiration for himself. ‘Mother’ positions him as the male Eilish, complete with the warmest of plunky basses, by painting himself as the bad guy in the back of his car with his lover. Much like ‘Attention’ it’s basically just a left-field pop banger that sounds like an enormous hit before it’s even hit the ground running.

CHARLI XCX / SILVER CROSS

The Atlantic Queen of Pop Charli XCX drops her new album today, following approximately 400 promotional singles, but luckily she saved one of the best songs for the day of release. ‘Silver Cross’ doesn’t depart too much from Pop2 or Number 1 Angel, its thick bassline and reedy strings right at home in her typical sonic palette, but there’s a melodic confidence here that reminds me of True Romance all over again. Her ability to translate emotion into icy cold instrumentals is commendable, and there’s a special mention needed here for the incredible bridge. I’m glad that the best song on the album is a Charli solo track.

ROBINSON / DON’T SAY

Robinson has been on the cusp of breaking through with numerous songs clocking up the millions of streams online, and ‘Don’t Stay’ is definitely her most commercial release yet. Without sacrificing any of her acquired charm so far, it dabbles in Sigrid-esque synths but with an enormous Maggie Rogers chorus. Basically any album with this and ‘Karma’ on is an album I need delivered to my door right NOW.

HALSEY / GRAVEYARD

‘Nightmare’, Halsey’s political dedication to scream-pop, has been sanctimoniously dumped from her upcoming album. In its place is this much more melancholic, softly pastel epic. Clearly inspired by her number one hit ‘Without You’, it is a song entirely committed to substance over style – the substance being a really, really strong melody. I’d follow you to the grave is a fairly familiar melodramatic sentiment that feels apt for this dark princess of pop, and luckily the instrumental swells and bleeps in all the right places, meaning this is actually one of her warmest releases yet despite the dark sentiment.

Also:

+ Awfully titled budding artist SONIA dropped a gorgeous mid-tempo called ‘Joyride’.
+ Ella Henderson finally came out of the shadows to release a Julia Michaels song.
+ Miley Cyrus and Lana Del Rey team up with Ariana Grande in an effort to spice up one of her shelved songs, and they’re the best part of ‘Don’t Call Me Angel’.
+ Meghan Trainor is back with a little bit of a cringefest but it’s actually good?
+ Gabrielle Aplin is shouting quirky Japanese words in her song about pottery!

23rd August, NMF!

SO BELOW / CLEAR

So Below has had somewhat of a miraculous 2019 so far, ‘Clear’ being the third release in a row that successfully melds her dream-pop into a terribly exciting package of gorgeous lyricism and roof-raising choruses. She’s always been able to translate a effervescent melancholy but ‘Clear’ really feels like something else; it’s getting lost in the ocean of emotion, the thunderstorm rolling past, and the rubble left behind. By the time it finally comes to finish, the whole world has changed. It really is that good.

5SOS / TEETH

Behind the slight whiff of pretentiousness, ‘Teeth’ marks 5SOS’s embrace into a harsher alternative rock more than ever; if ‘Youngblood’ was the walk then ‘Teeth’ is the run, in fact immediately hitting a sprint. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which the likes of Charlie Puth, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes try to replicate this sound but it feels like 5SOS beat them all to the punch. Between a Billie Eilish-esque bassline and some damn addictive hooks, I think we’re witnessing the new trend wave begin to stir?

POPPY / CONCRETE

Anything I write here cannot prepare you for this song. ‘Concrete’ is the sound of the zombie apocalypse colliding with the cutest of Japanese anime, it’s pure aggression and metal mixed with Queen and J-Pop, it’s monumentally bat-shit from start to finish and IT WORKS. Despite switching gears at blistering speeds, every shift only adds more to the power of the song. And at the heart of it is this cutesy enigma: Poppy. This is… quite simply the oddest but most brilliant song I’ve heard in months? Don’t even get me started on the closing Paramore outro. Incredible.

TAYLOR SWIFT / THE MAN

It would be easy for me to pretend that the Taylor Swift album doesn’t exist, especially after it followed a four-punch of some of the worst pop singles I’ve ever experienced, but it’s actually not that bad nor is it anything like what the singles that preceded it suggest. ‘The Man’ isn’t perfect but it’s probably the best that the album offers, it’s lyrically smart with something to say and above all it’s an undeniable pop song. Why on earth the label and Swift did not lead the album with this will be a question on my lips for a lifetime, but for now I’ll settle with this being the next single PLEASE.

ROTHWELL / FOLLOW WHEN YOU’RE DANCING

‘Follow When You’re Dancing’ is the retro 80’s banger that you absolutely needed following the past four songs. Easily the best thing Rothwell has put her name to yet, it’s a cacophony of bouncing synths and cooing ad-libs, culminating in a soulful and spirited Robyn-esque dance bop with a chorus so HUGE it instantly recalls ‘Teenage Dream’ and spending summers with tunes blaring into the smoggy heat from the car. Do I have any idea what the title means? Absolutely not, and I do not care.

BONUS GOODNESS
MURA MASA, CLAIRO / I DON’T THINK I CAN DO THIS AGAIN

Clairo is having a bit of a breakout moment right now which makes ‘I Don’t…’s release right now even more miraculous for the Summer. Fresh and delightful, it’s the complex summer banger we absolutely needed right now. Because really the best summer bangers aren’t one-note happiness, they are nostalgia, tears and fresh sweat.

EYES ON NEW MUSIC PLAYLIST:

May 31st, NMF!

Is this… Is this the greatest New Music Friday of all time? This is the time to grab a coffee, plug your earphones in and dedicate a good hour to this plethora of amazing pop songs. 2019 has never sounded better.

KATY PERRY / NEVER REALLY OVER

Returning with a point to prove, Perry really came back with her best lead single yet. Sampling Dagny’s equally amazing ‘Love You Like That’, there’s no other pop girl that has their finger on the pulse quite like Katy. ‘Never Really Over’ is absolutely exhilarating from start to finish; a total revolution of her Teenage Dream sound with the much-sought Swedish touch and a prechorus that SWELLS like an ocean into a chorus of relentless wordplay, leaving you literally gasping for breath. ‘Never Really Over’ is the sound of Katy Perry laughing at everyone who really though Witness was the nail in her coffin – it really is never over.

SASHA SLOAN / THOUGHTS

‘Thoughts’ is a brutal exercise in trepanation: the sound of Sasha Sloan drilling deep holes into her skull and allowing us to watch the demons that crawl out. She’s been somewhat of a revelation for songwriting over the past year or two: tackling her own mental health and severe self-doubt with a fearless optimism. But even beyond the piercing lyricism, ‘Thoughts’ stews in its stunning and minimal production to create a melancholic mid-tempo masterpiece.

LAUV / SAD FOREVER

‘Sad Forever’ takes similar cues to ‘Thoughts’, and it’s always great to see male artists exploring emotions we are told culturally to repress. Sonically it’s very familiar to ‘i’m so tired’ which is unsurprising considering it was both fantastic and a minor hit. I do wish the high squeak of the guitar string was phased out slightly, but nitpicking aside it’s built to be stuck in your head for days. “I don’t want to be medicated” he sings, exploring the use of antidepressants to keep us happy. It’s a much needed insight into problems so many are facing now, hidden deep inside of a bop. Great!

INGRID MICHAELSON / JEALOUS

You may or may not know Ingrid Michaelson already, but none of that really matters because ‘Jealous’ sounds like the debut of a whole new artist – one of those upcoming Spotify girls that have been in label purgatory for years slowly working on her craft. ‘Jealous’ sounds like the hit Julia Michaels has been searching for since ‘Issues’. A perfect blend of electro-pop and her traditional songwriter self… considering her last album was a collection of Christmas covers, and it has been three years since an original, consider me both surprised and elated.

CHERYL / LET YOU

There are half a dozen versions of this out already; the demo, two remixes and an orchestral version. Luckily the single version is the best of the lot, the highlight being its ecstatic Carly Rae production in contrast to an incredibly sleepy vocal. Cheryl’s real star power comes in her performances, and I can already envision the fantastic dance break she’ll hammer into that middle-8.

XYLO / YES & NO

‘yes & no’ was the big surprise this week, holding its own amongst some real heavy hitters – think Julia Michaels on a depressing acid trip and you’re halfway there. The sultry and sedated vocal giving off a positively creepy vibe alongside phenomenal production that would sound right at home on a horror video game or two.

I could sit and write about these songs all day, it really is the best New Music Friday you’ll find in a long time. Make sure to check out the rest or you’ll be missing out on some huge bangers.