This week’s Wonderlist features emotional records from the brilliant Kwabs and Say Lou Lou to more uplifting cuts from MisterWives and Prides.

Raye – ‘Flowers’

There’s a lot of ‘alt-R&B’ floating around at the moment, and, to be honest, it all sounds pretty similar. In that respect, south London born singer Raye isn’t much different sparse high-hat clicks and echoing drums are accompanied by ominous synths, random electronics and a low-key organ. However, it’s Raye’s lyrics that pop out from ‘Flowers’. Pulling apart the myth of dependence in love and relationships, she subverts traditional signifiers of affection (i.e. flowers), instead approaching the subject with mature pragmatism. The fact that she’s only 17 not only makes us worried for our own emotional development, but also so excited for what other pearls of wisdom Raye has to offer.

ALA.NI – ‘Cherry Blossom’

This year marks 100 years of Billie Holiday, possibly the greatest jazz singer that ever lived. It’s not unreasonable, then, to expect some to start vying for her crown, and London-born ALA.NI is one such singer. Like Lana Del Rey before her, ALA.NI has created a visual made up of Instagram filters and footage of cherry blossoms, blended together (probably in iMovie). Like Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’,ALA.NI taps into a heritage of pastoral metaphors, using them to portray the flourishes of love with a lullaby-like quality. Music like this is hard to market, so we’ll see where ALA.NI ends up. But for now we’re rather enjoying this soothing song.

Sam Smith – ‘Lay Me Down’

As Sam Smith’s album campaign comes to an end, it seems fitting that he’d finish at the beginning. It was ‘Lay Me Down’ that kick started the whole shebang, and for this release Sam has re-recorded the song, stripping the song down from the album version so it resembles his original YouTube video. The accompanying video is also rather sweet, and sees the singer getting married to a man in a church. We’re hoping that now that campaign has reached its climax, Sam has some time off, comes back recharged and shakes things up a bit before returning. And no re-releases, yeah?

Say Lou Lou – ‘Nothing But A Heartbeat’

We finally have a release date for the Say Lou Lou album, so to celebrate the girls popped a new song ‘pon the Internet. And, like all good scandipop, there’s a deep melancholy in ‘Nothing But A Heartbeat’, the verses picking apart an old relationship before the chorus swings in with hooks and brash percussion. The combined vocals of twin sisters Miranda Anna and Elektra June Kilbey-Jansson are almost affectless, drained of emotion and emphasizing the emptiness brought about by a destructive relationship. Turning this desolation into an almost uplifting synth pop song, to us, is a skill, and is so masterfully handled by Say Lou Lou it makes us wish all songs were so well crafted.

Prides – ‘Higher Love’

Prides are in a weird place. As a band, it’s clear that they’re still trying to figure out where they want to be placed – on Capital or XFM. For that reason, ‘Higher Love’ isn’t as cohesive as it could be, the epic proportions of the chorus and it’s percussion not quite matching the light glittering of synths pattering in the back of the track. Obviously inspired by their string of live shows, Prides’ sound now matches that of larger venues, and that’s a good thing for them. It’s a direction that suits them, with singer Stewart Brock’s vocals shining amongst the busy production. We just hope that for their next single Prides have found a comfortable space for themselves. 

Soko – ‘Ocean Of Tears’

Inspired by 90s normcore and Sky Ferreira’s take on grunge-pop, Soko’s return to music sees the singer embracing the fun, carefree aspect of Californian life. There’s a psychedelic quality to the video, which was recorded on a Fisher Price VHS camera, and a fuck-you attitude that so perfectly encapsulates the songs youthful exuberance. While shots of Soko smoking weed from a pipe might be a little unnecessary in expressing the song and video’s trippy properties, it’s nice to see someone letting go and just expressing whatever comes into their head at that moment. It’s something most of us wish we could do, and maybe we should.

Kwabs – ‘Perfect Ruin’

There’s a moment towards the end of the chorus of ‘Perfect Ruin’, where the song’s somber piano unexpectedly returns from a major key to an almost dissonant minor one. This chilling transition is subtle, powerful and unsettlingly emotional. Like Kwab’s own vocals, ‘Perfect Ruin’ has complex layer like the pulsing beat and the whooshing effects scattered throughout. Watching the video you feel the loneliness in the singer’s vocals as he trudges through the snow, slowly breaking down until he collapses as a rush of emotions takes control. While the chorus’ soaring vocals contain just enough hope that you’re convinced that this collapsing relationship will last, whether the supports can be built in time is left unanswered. Like Kwabs, we keep meandering through the emptiness.

Vaults – ‘One Last Night’ 

We promise you that we’re not obsessed with Fifty Shades of Grey, but rather the film’s soundtrack. This time, London-based trio Vaults explore the temporality of relationships and the darkness that accompany following the wrong person down the wrong path. The song’s elegant strings contrast well with the staccato chugging of the percussion percussion, while spaciously reverbed piano bridge everything together. Singer Blythe Pepino levels the dramatics of the production, her tender, wavering vocals gliding through the cinematics. Given the track’s momentum, it’s a shame that it doesn’t all kick off, but this doesn’t takeaway from the gracefulness so exactly portrayed.

MisterWives – ‘Hurricane’

We’ve featured MisterWives before on the #Wonderlistbut ‘Hurricane’ is an unexpected turning for a band known for it’s jolly horns and bouncy production. Rather, the track has an anthemic quality, with tinges of Avril Lavigne and uplifting lyrics tackling individuality without the didactic yawn of certain songs. Unfortunately, we can see the song closing an episode of Glee, but don’t let that takeaway from singer Mandy Lee’s vocals and the song’s instantly catchy chorus. With their album finally due for release at the end of February (in the US), we’re ready to embrace MisterWives’ enthusiasm for life.

Magic Man – ‘Paris’ (Last Lynx Remix)

What happens when you let one indie pop band remix another’s song? Well, according to Magic Man and Last Lynx, apparently you end up with a majestic Hall & Oats sound-a-like song full of life and bounce. Taking Magic Man’s already enthusiastic ‘Paris’, Last Lynx have added another element to the track, taking notes from ‘Maneater’, copying the punchy bass and warming synths. This is one that sure to put a smile on your face.

Alim Kheraj

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