Brandon Flowers – ‘Can’t Deny My Love’
It may be his second solo outing, not to count the four albums he’s recorded with The Killers, but it sort of feels like Brandon Flowers has found a comfortable place between the 80s nostalgia he obviously holds dear and the crashing, stadium sized production that he’s now used to ten years into his career. Interestingly ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ bears more similarities to Kate Bush than anything else. The bridge and the repetitive chorus, both built with layers of vocals, are magnificently plotted and structured, while a heavy mixture of drum machines, percussion, pronounced bass and funky guitars amalgamate to create an odd yet appealing cacophony. The sinister middle eight tricks you with its opening few bars, before Flowers’ gospel influences take over. In fact, there’s a sermonic quality throughout the song, not unlike the recurrent chants in a Ginsberg poem. It’s quite a lot to take in, but ultimately worth it. Ten years on Flowers is proving himself again as pop’s dark horse.
Will Young – ‘Love Revolution’
When ‘Love Revolution’ first premiered we could hear cries of anguish – Will Young had forgone the melancholic-coffee-table-dance-music he’d so expertly mastered with his previous album Echoes, and was instead heading into a worryingly joyful throwback sound. However, with repeated listens – and its accompanying music video – ‘Love Revolution’ makes sense. It’s a bit bonkers with its sample of Tomcraft’s ‘Loneliness’ in the chorus and the slightly unbalanced delivery in the verses; it’s unclear where Mr Young is coming from with this one. Regardless, it’s a bit of a toe tapper, with a brilliantly shot video, too, which sees Young as charismatic cult leader. While we do miss the electronics, we’re excited to see what other pop madness Will Young has to offer.
Jamie XX – ‘Loud Places (Ft. Romy)’
It’s hipster paradise seeing Jamie XX reunite with his XX band mate Romy Madley-Croft, but luckily the song isn’t all appearances. The mellow, humming bass from the opening verse and the stark piano are contrasted almost dissonantly with the heavily layered background voices and vocals. The bottle-like percussion tinkering in the background brings everything down a notch, while Romy’s distinctive and almost off pitch vocals are restorative. It might be a bit meandering and aimless, but ‘Loud Places’ is a pleasant listen, and the video is pretty beautiful, too.
Izzy Bizu – ‘Diamonds’
19-year-old Izzy Bizu made a bit of noise last year with her acoustic driven The CoolBeanz EP. While the songs were good they were calling out for some more production. Handily, with her latest cut ‘Diamonds’, Bizu has upped the ante. Soft percussion and low-slung strings swirl around Bizu’s rather powerful voice. The vocal arrangement in the chorus is quite astounding, ranging between multiple octaves with carefree ease that hints way beyond her years. The main lyric, “you’re a diamond in the rough” might sound clichéd and maybe it is, but there’s such sincerity in the delivery that’s it’s easy to forgive. With more new music on the way, it’ll be interesting how Izzy Bizu develops beyond jazzy MOR. She might not be an artist that should be on a massive balls-out dance track, but that doesn’t mean she should sell herself short. There’re little bundles of talent here that need to explore every avenue, and hopefully they will.
SLO – ‘Fortune’
SLO is the new moniker for British electro-pop singer Jess Mills, who has ditched the slightly more robust sound of her former tracks for a more minimalist approach. Her new track ‘Fortune’ was produced by Zero 7’s Henry Binns, but don’t let that put you off. There’s not a sign of chill-out in sight. Instead, the song is a lingering meditation on love’s escapism. The chorus reminds us of MJ’s ‘Stranger in Moscow’, the echoing reverb on the guitar and swelling synths that are hidden in the periphery are enchanting. The verse might seem a bit lacking in melody, but it’s all about that chorus, which we could get lost in for hours. The lyric “when we get lost I get better” has a holding quality that sits for you long after the song ends, capturing that rare timelessness of new love.
Darius – ‘Helios Feat. Wayne Snow’
French producer Darius is already making waves in his home country, but with ‘Helios’ he’s sure to do the same here, too. The bass heavy electronic piano and R&B percussion match effortlessly, with shimmering synths building up to a weird post chorus moment. The song is kind of structureless, but it doesn’t quite matter as the chilled production takes you on a journey. Likewise, Wayne Snow’s elegant vocal drives the song forward, giving it a soulful quality that might otherwise be lacking. There are a lot of feels going on here, and we’re basking in all of them tbh.
Tei Shi – ‘Go Slow’
Our thirst queen Tei Shi has delivered another lustful slice of alt-pop bliss, which has us both grinding to its beats and engrossed in it’s bouncy electronics. Tei Shi’s breathy vocals are delivered seductively, something that only adds layers of desire to the song. We’re not quite sure whether the song is about phone sex (the lyric goes “I wanna hear the phone box scream”), but if it is it captures the drawn out foreplay of dial tones and muffled words. Tei Shi’s knack at capturing those dark moments human sexuality is almost unparalleled. There are no faux pornographic metaphors, but instead a frank, millennial approach discussing desire. It makes us feel warm inside and gives us shivers…
Joy Williams – ‘Woman (Oh Mama)’
Whatever we were expecting from former Civil Wars member Joy Williams, ‘Woman (Oh Mama)’ certainly wasn’t it. In fact, ‘Woman’ isn’t really like anything we’ve heard for a while. Baring tiny similarities to KT Tunstall’s ‘Black Horse And The Chery Tree’ (mainly in rhythm and structure), the song is a mixed bag of country flecks, odd electronics, murmuring vocals and Williams’ defiant vocal. Speaking of the song, Williams described it with “energy and fire” and we can certainly hear that. Gone are the slightly wispy, subservient vocals from The Civil Wars, instead replaced with confidence that we’re living for. The song definitely won’t be to everyone’s liking, especially the odd structure and wall of sound production. Yet, there’s something exciting when an artist is this determined to make their mark, and after all the strife that Williams has been through with her previous musical outings it seems only fair that she’s given a chance to have some fun.
Verre – ‘Taste The Sky’
Verre’s ‘Taste The Sky’ reminds us of a song that we might hear in a teen movie, and after watching both Legally Blonde and Clueless recently, that’s no bad thing. We’re all about those wistful vocals and outro, as well as the uplifting chorus. Likewise, this wouldn’t be out of place on Dawson’s Creek. In a rather disconcerting way, the song is instantly familiar yet doesn’t really sound like anything recognizable either. There’s something joyful in the way the chorus changes pace, before it alters again. This is a song of many parts, but it works together. It’s summery, joyful and rather enjoyable.
Fifth Harmony – ‘Worth It (Feat. Kid Ink)’
Now that Fifth Harmony have been inducted into Taylor Swift’s coven, it seems that the girls might start to get the recognition they deserve outside of their devoted Twitter following. Not only did they release one of the best songs of last year (#JusticeforSledgehammer), but they’ve now returned with a Jason Derulo rip off that’s got balls of sass and a killer hook. Yes the rent-a-rapper is predictable and unnecessary, and the whole thing is completely basic, but sometimes we wanna get down to some pop bops. It’s not going to change the world, but I can see us drinks in hand dropping to this, and in our books that’s sometimes good enough.