Uncategorized

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.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6itOQo4r7l5ohOkb1w88xR?si=FVopFFqvRJKu5b8iwQLl6A

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

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:

Music

16th August, NMF!

MUNA / STAYAWAY

‘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 hardI’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:

Music

Friday 7th July, NMF!

It’s Friday, we’re here and ready to showcase the best of the best of the best. Let’s go:

VERA BLUE / THE WAY THAT YOU LOVE ME

Every now and then someone releases a song which sounds like something at the top of the game. Simultaneously modern, such a song has to tap into similarity and nostalgia just as it paves a whole new direction. If there was any justice, Vera Blue would be catapulted to stratospheric success because of ‘The Way That You Love Me’ – a fantastically catchy master stroke of Vera’s more atypical melodies and a Billie Eilish-esque production, both working against one another and in tandem. Just brilliant.

AU/RA / DANCE IN THE DARK

‘Dance in the Dark’ is brilliant in its odd melancholy and minimalism. Sounding like a Billie Eilish-meets-Grimes album track, it bounces between the most minimal hook-driven choruses of the year to a much more typical Paramore-esque verse. It’s almost enough to cause whiplash, especially considering the chorus opens with nothing but her voice and the bluntest of kicks, but it quickly unfolds into a total earworm.

BLITHE / MASOCHISTIC

First of all it’s kind of terrifying how much she sounds like Anne-Marie on this, but is just so happens to be better than anything on Anne-Marie’s album. Sugary sweet, there’s something slightly saccharine about the delivery until that wonderful hook hits – “I’m just a little masochistic”. Ingrained so deeply into the production and delivered so delicately, it’s arguably one of the best moments of 2019 so far.

STOCKHOLM NOIR / GLORY

Stockholm Noir have helmed some of the strongest dance tracks of the last few years, but they have had us a bit scared recently with a flurry of fairly basic and hard-to-latch-on-to instrumental tracks. ‘Glory’ is a meteoric return to form, successfully crushing simple and evocative melodies (as all Swedes understand how to do more than any other) with the most palatable of dance productions. They really are a dance force to be reckoned with.

RALPH / GRAVITY

Ralph delivers her first dedicated dance banger due to online fan demand, and despite sounding like every other dance remix around, her voice lends itself to the anonymity well. Delivering an underrated and brilliant album last year wasn’t enough, and she continues to prove her desire to keep releasing music and expanding her brand… We commend it. Now give us those quirky pop songs we know you’re sitting on.

Music

April 12th, NMF!

P!NK, CASH CASH / CAN WE PRETEND

“‘Cause honestly reality, it bores me.”

During the release of Beautiful Trauma, P!nk lamented about recording too many songs for the album and having to shelve a majority in favor of its typical, Adult-Contemporary sound. Hurts 2B Human has to be approached with this context; an outlier to her typical discography, released at her commercial peak because it can be. ‘Can We Pretend’ was clearly inspired by the phenomenal ‘What About Us’ remix that surprisingly bothered the iTunes charts, and comes equipped with their trademark production and drop. It would have been gorgeous to hear the original song before the remix, but it’s nice to see P!nk trying something completely different. And it bops!

ELLIE GOULDING / SIXTEEN

“We held on with the best intent, just two kids who kicked it on MSN.”

Ellie Goulding utilised the now infamous vocal chop breakdown way before it was popularised, with the anthemic ‘Anything Could Happen’, and ‘Sixteen’ feels like a swift return mixed with Rita Ora’s ‘Anywhere’. The weighty and surprisingly fresh lyricism helps give it the edge, but it’s Ellie’s typical vocal that infuses it with some much-needed emotion. A tight balance between nostalgia and grief, ‘Sixteen’ only makes the mysterious upcoming album even more interesting.


SEEB, HIGHASAKITE / FREE TO GO

“Did it occur to you that I could be gone from you?”

Seeb is a name we haven’t heard from in a while, right? Luckily he’s recruited one of our current favourites, Highasakite, for a stunning slice of dreamy dance-pop. Great dance music knows how to translate emotion without excessive lyricism, and ‘Free to Go’ really doesn’t have to say much to translate its emotional weight; as the vocals soar and squeak, the synths feel just like the freedom being called out for. It’s dance music at its best.

HANNAH JANE LEWIS / NOT YOURS NEVER WAS

“Can’t remember but I think I kissed you first.”

If you can see past Hannah Jane Lewis having possibly the worst artist name of current times, you’ll actually find one of the most consistent pop artists of the past few years. ‘Not Yours Never Was’ heads her self-titled EP, and is a perfect introduction into HJL’s full-hearted pop sound. Like Ava Max, Betty Who, Nova Miller, Rita Ora – it’s a great heap of perfectly scooped, creamy and delicious vanilla ice cream.

MARK RONSON, LYKKE LI / LATE NIGHT FEELINGS

“I lay in silence, but silence talks.”

In a masterstroke of genius, Mark Ronson has recruited so sad, so sexy Lykke Li for the title track of his upcoming album. Her fragile and fragmented delivery is a perfect match for his self-described ‘retro sad banger’ approach. It gets particularly good at the end (of course) when the song slows right down, before slowly speeding right up – like a heartbeat gaining pace.

HEY VIOLET / BETTER BY MYSELF

“Maybe it’s the way you used me. Watered down my love, abused me…”

‘Better By Myself’ is a departure of sorts for Hey Violet, but it brings them closer in line with After Laughter-era Paramore. It’s a more complex and encapsulating sound, one that slowly unfolds as the three minutes tick over. A subtle earworm, it cleverly introduces new elements throughout before unveiling a positively dominating final chorus. If this is the sound they’re pursuing now, count. us. in.

NOW, NOW / ENDA

“I might hate myself in the morning, but I’d do it anyway.”

Now, Now are one of the greatest bands on the planet right now. If you haven’t already heard of them, you’re missing out and absolutely have to set aside time to do so now. Their sound pivoting around a HAIM-like folk-pop and a much sparser electronic vibe, ‘Enda’ twists the dial entirely to the latter. Listen, you’ll either love or despise this; it’s minimalistic and sparse with a noisy and abrasive ending, translating a melodramatic anguish as slow as they possibly can. It’s overwhelming and dark, an experimental introduction into what seems to be a much heavier approach to songwriting, one that we think shows the band is continuing to evolve. AND THAT’S SO EXCITING.

Follow our dedicated playlists for ALL the best music:

Music

March 22nd, NMF!

DYNORO, INA WROLDSEN / OBSESSED

“I’m too invested, I can’t get obsessed with you.”

Ina Wroldsen is unquestionably one of the strongest songwriters of our current timeline of pop, each one of her songs is a showcase of fantastic and quirky melodies that swell and stick like any Abba great. Unfortunately that doesn’t immediately translate into success, and as such we’ve seen Ina invest in collaborations in a bid to get her name out there. Luckily her songwriting skill bursts through just as sharp as that vocal, perhaps one of the most recognisable voices on the airwaves right now. ‘Obsessed’ is Dynoro trying to recreate the club hit masterpiece ‘Breathe’, with an extra tint of Ina’s usual melancholy. I’m obsessed.

WILL YOUNG / ALL THE SONGS

“Only takes a spark to light this flame.”

Will Young’s Echoes remains a contemporary masterpiece and a necessary listen for LGBTQ men looking for talent that can represent our absolutely valid experiences. Living your life as a queer person, participating in queer circles, it’s easy to forget just how rare it is for people like Will Young to even be here. Of course, his sexuality is integral to his character but not his success, and ‘All the Songs’ is a fantastic return to that wistful and dreamy pop of Echoes. The video is an incredible exploration of his sexuality and a total liberation in reclaiming his image. In a world where queer talent is snubbed and blurred, it feels so good to hear and see him back with this fire again.

RAINSFORD / PASSIONATE

“Cutting your hair, I kept a piece of it.”

Rainsford’s ‘Rendezvous’ is a timeless classic that would fit right at home on Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album, seriously go stream it now. ‘Passionate’ picks up where ‘Rendezvous’ left off; it’s a quirky and off-kilter exploration of obsession with bouncing synths, a pulsing bass and a gorgeously deep vocal. Think Postal Service meets Paperwhite meets Allie X, and you’re halfway there.

TOUCH SENSITIVE, KITTEN / UNCONDITIONAL

“You nod your head but your heart is frozen.”

I remember discovering Kitten in 2013; the fantastically weird ‘Like a Stranger’ capturing me immediately with it’s bizarre intro, electro-rock eighties production and a deeply affected vocal bathed in reverb. Consider my surprise seeing them team up with EDM producer Touch Sensitive, expecting the warm opening synth to give way to a fairly non-descript dance song. Imagine the further surprise then when the song unravels into an exciting line-blurring between two completely different worlds.


NIMMO / EVERYTHING I WANTED

“I need life to excite me at night and every single morning.”

‘Everything I Wanted’ summons Kelis-Fleshtone era David Guetta with its stabbing piano chords and drifting pads, and Nimmo’s La Roux-like vocal bouncing above it like a stone skipping on the water. Honestly at times I imagine this could be the La Roux follow-up in another reality, the similarities are astounding: the piercing and emotional delivery, the nostalgic production, the dancefloor ready beats. Hopefully we won’t have to wait years and years for an album from this pair, though.

LPX / BLACK & WHITE

“Who am I fooling? In the end I’m only human.”

LPX is breaking away from MS MR with the force of an atom bomb; her self fronted music relentlessly emotional, the production aggressive and her voice tinged with angst. ‘Black and White’ heads the new EP, Junk of the Heart, and sacrifices a little of that anger for an inviting warmth. Where the likes of ‘Tremble’ and ‘Tightrope’ were more Icona Pop shout-punk-pop, ‘Black and White’ feels more akin to Amy Macdonald – which is in no way a bad thing. This is character progression, the building of an artist that has so much to give – especially if this catchy mega-hit-in-waiting has anything to do with it.

Alan Walker is back, this time with Disney chanteuse Sabrina Carpenter and Farruko for his very own attempt at an exotic Despacito/Taki Taki style banger, ‘On My Way’.

Masters of quirky production, Sofi Tukker, have had their edges trimmed to deliver a dance-pop classic, ‘Fantasy’, that would fit right in on a Eurovision stage.

Zeina is trying to warn you about some serious damage heading her and her boo’s way in ‘Killer’, a surprisingly chill ballad considering the subject matter.

With a voice of gold, Sinead Harnett, returns with a spunky Jessie Ware-esque ballad, complete with handclaps.

Marina has a new album coming soon and so far ‘Superstar’ is the only song worth getting excited for. ‘Orange Trees’ is such an enormous misfire, kicking off with an out-of-place Garageband ‘OoOoOooOrange’ refrain and a breezy dedication to love. It just… doesn’t work. Sorry.