New Music Friday #14

I don’t mind telling you I am absolutely fucking rinsed this week. I gave up my one free evening for a last minute Stefflon Don gig last night (10/10 world class popstar with bangers, absolute shambles of a show, Tape is a disgusting venue) and I don’t get any alone time until Sunday now so I’m tired and tetchy. On top of that there isn’t a sniff of new Harry Styles or new Kendrick Lamar despite today being universally known as New Harry Styles & New Kendrick Lamar Friday. What’s everyone fucking playing at? Anyway, listen along to these songs HERE and on with the show.

The great thing about HAIM being locked in Taylor Swift’s basement is that there are now a whole host of pretenders to HAIM’s throne releasing great music. Which is bad for HAIM because there is a very real chance that one of these bands could take their spot unless their new material – allegedly coming very soon – is absolute flames. Still some healthy competition could do them good. And in the meantime ‘Physical’ is amazing. Shimmery, 80s funk with an “whoa oh oh oh” refrain that borrows straight from ‘Electric Feel’ by MGMT. The Aces were one of my favourite new discoveries late last year and I’m excited for their EP to hit in the summer. This is my song of the week.

Perhaps it’s the success of Zara Larsson energising that particular corner of the world, but it feels like every new female popstar I read about recently is Norwegian or Danish or Swedish. This Scandi drive is much welcomed though, since so many of the songs are outstanding, if not obvious mainstream hits. ‘Bloodstream’ is a relentlessly dark electropop track, with barely any part of the instrumental not covered by Astrid vocals. “Wherever I go he’s been, wherever I go he’s been…” she repeats. It’s such a stressful, urgent listen which perfectly encapsulates the demented feeling of spiraling out over a crush.

I don’t have time for Beth Ditto like everyone else does – seeing The Gossip back in ’08 was one of the most traumatising times of my life, and my mum had recently died so there you have the context – but the last solo EP she did was actually brilliant electropop so I have high hopes for this new material. ‘Fire’ is a Southern flavoured rock number and though I’m not immediately lit up, I can already feel it creeping under my skin. Definite grower.

Opening with a scream of “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!!” really sets the tone for this Three 6 Mafia sampling tune. Is a hip hop slow jam what anyone wants from the man that brought us ‘Panda’? Lazy and boring.

Halsey’s typically extra album rollout campaign finally serves up a lead single – the only part anyone cares about. It’s funny how 5 years ago, revealing album artwork in the way that she did would have been supremely exciting and now it’s tired, drawn out and over done. Anyway, the music is what matters, and my immediate impression was that ‘Now Or Never’ sounds like the halfway point between Julia Michaels and Rihanna. No surprise to find out then that Benny Blanco and Cashmere Cat are on production duty (Blanco produced ‘Issues’) while that Rih influence comes courtesy of co-writer Starrah who is credited on ‘Needed Me’. This is easily Halsey’s best song so far, outstripping anything on her debut by being more slickly produced and more considered melodically, and also toning down her frankly irritating vocal quirks.

I shall update this once the song is “out there” because radio premieres still exist in 2017 apparently, but I heard from a friend who heard the song on Wednesday and his review went as follows: “thinks it’s ‘Life On Mars’… it’s ‘Child’ by Mark Owen”. Readers, I gagged. Watch this space.

EDIT: well, that Mark Owen comparison was kinda accurate, wasn’t it? ‘Sign Of The Times’ is overly long, takes itself far too seriously and while Harry’s vocal is stronger than ever before, ultimately this fails to deliver on any of those Bowie/Queen comparisons. The thing is, the average music fan is so inscrutably suggestible that just saying that the new Harry Styles songs sounds like Bowie or Queen has been entirely enough. On Friday everyone nodded and tweeted and agreed that ‘Sign Of The Times’ indeed sounds very Bowie, but it doesn’t. At all. Though I note that most of those steadfastly asserting how Bowie it is have probably never heard a Bowie song beyond ‘Life On Mars’ in their lives. It’s an odd campaign launch – I don’t see this streaming particularly well, and anything less than a #1 debut on both sides of the pond is going to be a disappointment since Zayn smashed it out the park with ‘Pillowtalk’. For someone with as much charisma as Harry, this song is oddly bland.

Do you remember that terrible girlband Parade? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, maybe you suppressed the memory. Anyway, Jessica was always the only member I thought had any kind of spark and since they split up, she is also the only member who has been incessantly pursuant of a career in music. Her latest offering ‘La La La’ isn’t a bad song, but it’s also not excellent, which is a shame because as far as British talent goes, she’s got lots more about her than say, any one of those endless wispy blondes doing dreamy synthpop that get signed to major labels only to sink without a trace because surprise! rosters suffer when artists only get signed based on the fact sleazy A&R guys want to fuck them. What Jessica needs is access to stronger songwriting talent to give her a Katy B style breakout hit.

Shamefully, I have time for Kid Ink, but this tropical R&B track is so boring. The chorus doesn’t go off, the punchlines are weak and Ty Dolla $ign is phoning it in. Not a hit.

I’m breaking my “no instant grats” rule for my favourite boys LANY only because I have technically already heard this song when I saw them at KOKO last month. ‘It Was Love’ is standard LANY fare – an ode to a high school love that never was, this time with a super 80s sax solo! – and while it doesn’t break new ground for them I still can’t get enough. Ob-fucking-sessed.

Marika Hackman is in the Dirty Hit family that includes my #1 faves The 1975, and new interests Pale Waves and Superfood, so technically I should be more interested in her than I am. Truthfully I’m only writing about her because the song started up straight after LANY and I thought I’d ride it out. Just not my thing though, is she? This folky nonsense, it doesn’t heat my blood up, though this was a pleasant enough listen if you like that sort of thing. Which I don’t.

Follow my 2017 playlist here…


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