Onward into moody dystopia: Blade Runner 2049 continues on in comic book form

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
The comic series will continue to unravel the future-set continuity of the Blade Runner universe, picking things up after the events of the long-awaited 2017 movie sequel, director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, which followed the exploits of replicant blade runner K (Ryan Gosling), whose circuitous existential crisis leads him into the crosshairs of a radical group of replicant revolutionaries, steering him on a path that pairs him with original movie protagonist Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). The events of the sequel saw a major evolution in the duality between humans and replicants, leaving things on an intriguing cliffhanger. (synopsis (c) Den of Geek)

I was relatively late to the marvellously moody world of Blade Runner – OK try really late, only watching Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece in 2017 ahead of the release of the equally-as-masterful Blade Runner 2049 – but once there, I was enraptured and enthralled by cinema that satiated the senses, satisfied the mind and went a long way to owning the heart too.

This is science fiction that is both cerebral and deeply human, that rare mix of spectacle and accessibility that says something profound without collapsing under the weight of its own self-importance.

Given the relatively poor performance of Blade Runner 2049, a criminally-sad under-appreciation of a masterful piece of cinema, my hopes for any sort of continuation of the story, and there is a rich and deep capacity for one, was pretty slight.

Read non-existent.

 

 

But as the good folks of Den of Geek have revealed, there will be a sequel and it will be in comic form:

“A Blade Runner comic book series is officially in the works, set to arrive as a written collaboration between Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (who earned a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nod for Logan, having also worked on genre offerings like Alien: Covenant, and TV’s American Gods,) and comic book writer Mike Johnson (of the recent Supergirl revival, Superman/Batman and the Star Trek franchise).”

But that is not the end of it, my sci-fi dystopia loving friends, not by a long way:

“The details don’t stop there. Titan [Comics] and Alcon [Media]’s collaboration on the Blade Runner comic series will serve as the launch pad for a new line of comics and graphic novels. Interestingly, lest anyone think that these stories will be negated in pre-Disney Star Wars Expanded Universe style, the companies have confirmed that the comics will be part of the official canon of the films.”

 

Way before they were Yellow: Coldplay documentary A Head Full of Dreams

(image (c) Coldplay)

 

SNAPSHOT
A Head Full of Dreams offers an in-depth and intimate portrait of the band’s spectacular rise from the backrooms of Camden pubs to selling out stadiums across the planet.

The film is helmed by Mat Whitecross – director of Supersonic, the acclaimed 2016 Oasis documentary – who met the four friends at college in 1996, before they’d even formed the band. From the very first rehearsal in a cramped student bedroom, Mat has been there to capture the music and the relationships on tape. (synopsis (c) Coldplay via newsletter)

I have a long, passionate and enduring love affair with Coldplay.

It’s never quite reached my deep and abiding love for ABBA, but Coldplay have come close, along with Pink, musical markers along my journey from Baptist pastor’s son struggling with his sexuality to out gay man to a writer and the husband of the most wonderful man I know.

Through all the ups and downs, the steps forward and steps back, Coldplay have been there, each of their songs awash in emotion and the most exquisite melodies, and while like any affair the ardour has dimmed from time to time – I’m sorry but the album Ghost Stories still leaves me cold – it has never gone out.

So to see what led to the creation and enduring appeal of Coldplay over 20 years (that long really? Wow) will be nothing short of fascinating and a lovely intimate insight into a band who said they would be massive, and are, but who remain very much an intimate and special part of my life.

A Head Full of Dreams is available on Amazon Prime Video from 16 November in UK, US, Australia and New Zealand (local language versions to follow), with screenings in 2000 cinemas globally on Wednesday 14 November.

 

Now this is music London: AJ Tracey, Nadia Rose, Girl Ray, S4U, Georgia

 

There are a few countries widely recognised as hotbeds of musical innovation, one of which is undeniably the UK from which has sprung major acts like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and Arctic Monkeys to name just a few.

If you thought for a moment, and for shame why would you, that the UK’s time as a musical powerhouse was spent, these five acts, and so many more beside, will quickly change your mind offering a dizzying array of fresh sounds, lifechanging insights and catchy aesthetics.

It’s a smorgasbord of riches which can prove daunting but start with these five exceptional artists and see where the musical rabbit hole takes you.

 

“Pasta” by AJ Tracey

 

AJ Tracey (image courtesy official AJ Tracey Facebook page)

 

Known to his parents as Ché Wolton Grant, AJ Tracey is an English rapper, grime MC and record producer who creates a wonderful sense of brooding atmosphere in his songs that are never less than deeply and utterly immersive.

“Pasta” is a perfect example, bringing together lo-fi melodies, insistent beats, social commentary and evocative rapping into one brilliantly-listenable track.

The recipient of a shoutout from US music superstar Drake, AJ Tracey is the king of gloriously good flow, so good that Fader, which profiled him in 2017, had this to say about him:

“The 24 year-old MC has a quick mind and a quicker mouth. The flow that catapulted him to fame over the past couple of years is distinctively, dexterously fast, bars rammed with strings of syllables spat at motormouth speed over sparse, trap-influenced beats.”

He offers up absolute poetry with a message and you would do well to check out this talented artist’s meaningfully catchy songs.

 

 

“Skwod” by Nadia Rose

 

Nadia Rose (image courtesy official Nadia Rose Facebook page)

 

Hailing from Croydon in London, Nadia Rose made a name for herself really quickly, releasing her debut EP Highly Flammable in January 2017 and making it onto the shortlist for BBC Sounds of 2017.

That’s some trajectory but one listen to the catchiness of “Swkod” and you’ll know immediately what’s behind the meteoric rise.

Her music is what The Culture Trip calls “an energetic mix of dancehall, reggae and rap”, an output made all the more impressive by the fact that she wrote her lyrics while working 12-hour shifts in that bastion of great creativity, the British betting shop.

Not exactly muse central and yet Nadia Rose made lemonade with her working life lemons, offering up songs drawn from a “cauldron of situations” that skip, swagger and slide in a melodic intensity that is never less than entirely captivating.

 

 

“Trouble” by Girl Ray

 

Girl Ray (image courtesy official Girl Ray Facebook page)

 

There is something utterly langorous about loping lo-fi pop, the kind of songs that slide over and around you, and which, far from being missable by their lack of intensity, burrow their way into your very soul with their chilled insistence.

Girl Ray, made up of one-time school mates Poppy Hankin (vocals/guitar), Iris McConnell (drums), Sophie Moss (bass), are specialists of the genre, delivering up what The Guardian calls “wan, winsome heartache”.

And honestly, if you’re going to have heartache, don’t you want the wan, winsome kind, preferably soundtracked by a North London trio like Girl Ray?

Of course you do, with some deliciously retro, early-70s flourishes which it turns out were not the result of some great creative decision but just happened, happily for us all.

“It wasn’t purposefully indie or lo-fi,” explains Hankin. “We weren’t exactly trying hard to do it, that’s just how I wrote the song and the way it was produced.”

Here’s the happy accidents and the beautiful music that results!

 

 

“Twice” by S4U

 

S4U (image courtesy official S4U Facebook page)

 

“Twice” kicks in with all kinds of off-kilter, melodically-rich ethereal distortions and otherworldly vocals that feel somehow feel simultaneously grounded and real.

This, my friends, is S4U, “a London collective of artists headed up by Rosita Bonita and Prinz George”, who deliver R & B with a slinky, chilled originality that sounds like everything and yet nothing you’ve heard before.

Quite how they came together we don’t know but I rather like Noisey‘s take on the genesis of the group:

“Imagine there’s a machine that creates pop groups. Inside it, someone has planted DNA strands from all three members of TLC, the most sublime All Saints track, and a bedrock of 1990s rap production by way of The Pharcyde or Souls of Mischief. The end result? S4U and their debut single ‘Twice.”

That’s almost as good as S4U themselves who came up with a thoroughly creative take on how this most seductive and caressing of songs came to be:

“We made this over the space of an eternity and rejoice as we still believe it’s being made elsewhere, by somewhere else, with clearer intentions. It hasn’t changed much since we started this thing of ours and for that we are grateful, we just hope you enjoy as much as we do.”

We do, and your fabulously offbeat quirky approach too. Long may it and you reign.

 

 

“Nothing Solutions” by Georgia

 

Georgia (image courtesy official Georgia Soundcloud page)

 

I have featured Georgia on the blog before with the artist engendering this piece of enthusiastic prose from me (Now this is music #35):

“What is most appealing about the track [“Be Ache”] is that, for all its influences, it sounds like nothing else around at the moment, proof positive that this talented artist-on-the-rise is very much fashioning her own artistic statements, beholding to nothing but her own vision.”

The daughter of Neil Barnes, one half of ’90s dance act Leftfield, Georgia’s is a distinctive voice, with the talented singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist once describing herself as “a bit of a melting pot myself” with a sound  that is “post-punky hip-hop soul”.

However you describe it, and that seems as apt a description as any, Georgia creates music with sizzling energy and passion, gloriously-catchy faroff vocals creating melodically-intense music that is utterly unique and alive with all kinds of freshness and intensity.

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Ever wondered why the four-chord arrangement is so prevalent in modern pop music? This fascinating video by Ethen of the Sideways explains it beautifully …

 

Now this is music #114: Moses Sumney, half.alive, Wingtip, Phantastic Ferniture, Sasha

 

What an hilariously, alarmingly, freakishly contradictory mess life is.

Were it as simple as some sections of pop culture would have us believe it is; but alas, it is not, and mired in the ups and downs, the regrets and hopes, the sadness and happiness of our lives, often and weirdly simultaneously, it can be a challenge trying to find a way to deal with and articulate it.

Keep on trying by all means since your sanity and enjoyment of life depends on it, but let these artists help you with their pithy insightful takes on everyday moments we’ve all experienced in one way way or another, all set to music that you will want to listen to again and again.

These songs won’t make your problems or ruminations go away but they will make sorting through them far easier and way more enjoyable.

 

“Rank & File” by Moses Sumney

 

Moses Sumney (photo (c) Ibra Ake / courtesy official Moses Sumney Facebook page)

 

Hailing from Los Angeles, Moses Sumney, apart from possessing a wholly memorable name, is adept at serving up seductively blissful R & B.

In the case of “Rank & File” however, the impetus and sound are different, inspired, so says We Are: The Guard, “by a protest rally that the Los Angeles artist attended following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.”

The subject matter, and the passion behind it, has imbued this track with an electrifying energy, which feels like a musically-set conversation about one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Sumney has succeeded brilliantly in delivering an upbeat, listenable track that roils and twists with what Pitchfork calls “martial protest music framed in a booming call-and-response style.”

It’s message is vitally important, the music driving and impelling and Sumney is an impressive artist of our time combining political messaging with the perfect delivery time that can’t help but get people to sit up and take notice.

 

 

“still feel” by half.alive

 

half.alive (image courtesy official half.alive Facebook page)

 

Everything about “still feel” is deliciously addictive.

The catchy beat which bounces and bops and takes you joyously along with it, the hopeful nature of the lyrics even in some dark times, and the clip which is all kinds of neon-suffused synchronised dance brilliance.

As confessions about the way life can drag us down even as something inside us pushes us up and forward, the song is sheer genius – it’s often difficult to explain the weird contradictory impulses when you feel both utterly down and yet hopeful that everything will rise up again.

And yet this gloriously-good song manages it with aplomb giving voice to life’s oft-simultaneous downs and ups, granting a kind of very unique therapy that makes you wanna dance your way back to orbit.

Possibly without the choreographed grace of the clip but frankly who cares?

 

 

“Pavement” by Wingtip

 

Wingtip (image courtesy official Wingtip Facebook page)

 

Want to keep on dancing with a giddy folk vibe percolating underneath your feet and skipping its way through your ears into the very depths of your soul?

Wingtip aka San Francisco-resident Nick-Perloff Giles has what you need and then some, serving up a blissfully danceable, beat-driven slice of mid-fi beauty that, in the words of Buzzing Daily, mixes “moderately electro vibes … in with an acoustic-pop feel display remnants of his former beach life.”

It’s a song about wondering if your best days are disappearing in the rear view window, never to be evoked again, threaded with the hope that good times also lie ahead.

It’s a heady mix of upbeat music and mood, tinged with the grim realities of life where we all have dark moments of “lost, lost, all is lost” only to find ourselves surfacing again.

“Pavement” is the perfect song to help you dig your way back to the surface.

 

 

“Dark Corner Dance Floor” by Phantastic Ferniture

 

Phantastic Ferniture (image courtesy official Phantastic Ferniture Facebook page)

 

I love acts with a quirky sensibility who also know how to say something worthwhile with the kind of music you can’t help but embrace the moment you hear it.

Sydneysiders Phantastic Ferniture (Julia Jacklin, Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K Brennan), their name a riff on a chain of budget furniture shops here in Oz, have all that wrapped and then some, serving up in “Dark Corner Dance Floor” a beguiling mix of upbeat danceable fun, a visual aesthetic that sees Jacklin and Hughes wandering the streets of Sydney in fabulous gowns, and some ruminations of life in the sometimes sweetly-delusional days of youth:

“When you’re a kid from out of the city you think Darling Harbour is the essence of Sydney. The aquarium, the Ferris wheel, the IMAX theatre. You imagine when you finally make it to the big smoke you’ll spend your weekends falling in love under the lights of the high rises. Turns out if you move to Sydney you’ll probably never go there. We wanted to capture that feeling we had when we were two starry eyed teens imagining a fake city life.” (Northern Transmissions)

 

 

“Waterworks” by Sasha

 

Sasha (image courtesy official Sasha Facebook page)

 

With some playful vocal gymnastics that suggest Imogen Heap, Londoner Sasha has given us the official anthem to oversharing that is as seductive as it is honest.

As she explains on Earmilk, the song came from the kind of place we’ve all been to at one point or another:

“We wrote the song about getting drunk and telling your friends all your problems–something I have done on multiple occasions. We wanted the track to be a tongue-and-cheek, self-deprecating ‘pull yourself together’ moment. It made me excited to explore a new version of myself as an artist, looking at the complexity of adulthood and not taking myself or my music too seriously.”

It’s a lighthearted, bright-and-breezy song that revels in the delightful simplicity of its message and music that acknowledges life can get messy and complicated but that doesn’t mean our approach to it has to be.

 

 


NOW THIS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Robyn has a new album! Her first since 2010, and following the lead single, “Missing U”, Honey will be released on 26 October. The Swedish artist announced her new musical creation via Instagram …

 

ABBA (image via BBC)

 

Way back in the heady days of April 2018, ABBA announced the unthinkable – they had two new songs in the vaults – “I Still Have Faith in You” and “Don’t Shut Me Down” – and TV special to debut them in the works! Happy days.

Then they announced a delay to sometime in 2019. Not so happy days.

Everyone thought it had something to do with the ABBAtars, the hologram versions of their concert selves from 1979, which perhaps weren’t working out as planned? Now it appears, and there’s no confirmation yet, that the delay may be because there are more than two songs, and possibly an entire album, in the works, a thoroughly possible idea given Benny has suggested they had at least a third song up their sleeve. Happy anticipatory days!

Who knows where we’ll land or what we’ll get, and honestly I wish ABBA would stop playing all mysterious and oblique, especially after their big, bombastically-exciting April announcement, but for now, everything we know is in this Standard article.

Weekend pop art: Watch pop icons change over time

Simon Pegg (image via Laughing Squid (c) Jeff Victor)

 

Nothing stays the dame for long in this fast-moving world of ours, and that truism applies to pop culture icons as much as anything or anyone else.

Recognising this salient fact, LA-based artist and cartoonist Jeff Victor who describes himself on his Kickstarter page as a “huge pop culture fan” has taken it upon himself to chart the evolution of a dizzying array of pop culture characters and actors.

Drawing (no pun intended: OK yes, totally) on his years of experience as “a character designer in animation and video games, and currently … as a children’s book illustrator”, Jeff charts the changes in about 1200 cartoon characters across the years in artwork that is both incredibly cute and insightful, neatly capturing how much a character can change and yet stay the same over time.

You can see more of his amazing artwork at his Instagram page and even buy it through his online store … and you should, you totally should because change is a good thing and Jeff’s charting of change, pop culture-wise at least, is a wonderful thing indeed.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Winona Ryder (image via Laughing Squid (c) Jeff Victor)

 

Loki (image via Laughing Squid (c) Jeff Victor)

 

Wonder Woman (image via Laughing Squid (c) Jeff Victor)

 

John Goodman (image via Laughing Squid (c) Jeff Victor)

Now this is music #113: MNEK, Elohim, Amilli, Mitski, Miya Folick + Eurovision update

 

Life huh?

Comes with all kinds of nasty baggage, unadorned reality and a distinct lack of glitzy everything at times; not exactly the kind of thing you want to dive into without some reassuring backup.

Which is where these five gorgeously-good artists come in, people who muse in a compellingly listenable way on the many great beautiful things to be found in the world even in the midst of situations that are anything but.

Kinda lost your mojo? Down in the monochromatic dumps? Eeyore no more and rejoin the brightness of life, no matter your circumstances, with these five brilliant songs …

 

“Colour” by MNEK feat. Hailee Steinfeld 

 

MNEK (image courtesy official MNEK Facebook page)

 

Falling in love the good old-fashioned, boots-and-all, head-over-heels way is a pretty wonderful experience.

Just ask English singer/songwriter/record producer Uzoechi Osisioma “Uzo” Emenike, known professionally as MNEK, whose song “Colour”, featuring American actress and singer Hailee Steinfeld (soon to be in Bumblebee, what looks eerily like a good Transformers movie) is all about the technicolours wonders and glory of falling in love.

To be fair, if you haven’t fallen in love quite this completely and absolutely, you may not totally relate to the lyrically exuberant celebration of love sweet love but you surely can’t just sit there – go on, just try and do it – while this wildly joyful song does it’s ever-escalating danceable thing.

The melody is off-kilter Caribbean, augmented with all sort of blissfully-lovely distorted bells-and-whistles and the two sound like naturals together, aglow in love’s rainbow-washed glow.

This is love writ large and visible from space and lordy if MNEK and Steinfeld don’t make it feel the best thing ever.

 

 


“Panic Attack” by Elohim feat. Yoshi Flower (DENM remix)

 

Elohim (image courtesy official Elohim Facebook page)

 

Heading way to the other end of the emotional spectrum, American electropop recording artist Elohim, now in LA, originally from Iowa, whose song “Panic Attack” is all about “freaking out” as the artist, whose name references the Hebrew name for God, tells The Fader:

“‘Panic Attacks’ represents two instances. One is eternal, while the other occurs over a matter of moments. Our intent was to show the dual nature of human spirit. Eternally – we will always be our best selves. On the other hand, reality can only be an imperfect representation of our best intent and in those moments a different self may be presented. No matter the surroundings beauty can always shine through.”

OK, not the complete other end of the spectrum since there is something beautiful lurking within the storm but hardly falling in love territory, and it’s rife with anxiety which is not anyone’s preferred state of being.

Still, Elohim, whose song, featuring partner-in-life Yoshi Flower aka Josh Smith, receives the remix treatment from US music artist DENM who knows his way around an infectiously-catchy arrangement, and the result is blissful perfection.

No one wants to ever go through a panic attack, there is nothing good about them but this musical treatment at least makes listening about the experience something appealing and as the artist, beauty is resident there somewhere and we just need to be patient and find it.

 

 

“Rarri” by Amilli

 

Amilli (image courtesy official Amilli Facebook page)

 

Humanity, for the most part, sucks at being real.

I mean draped with authenticity, face-to-face with the grim unadorned realities of life, real or imagined, real, so we deck ourselves in all kinds of diverting baubles and trinkets in a hope of assuaging the less than stellar surroundings we find ourselves in.

Relatively new 18-year-old German singer “Rarri” knows a thing about that or two, even at her tender young age, offering up a song that challenges the appeal of consumerism and urges us to give up Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Ferrari in favour of life as it really is.

When you cloak this seditious message – well if you’re a purveyor of materialism as a lifestyle it mostly certainly is – in music that Indie Shuffle calls “[a] merging [of] contemporary R&B with breezy electronica”, you have a glossily chilled takedown of everyone’s favourite way to keep reality a good-and-proper arm’s length away.

Thin is after listening to this brilliantly-seductive track, you may inclined to leave it all behind and find your true self, in which case can I have your TV?

 

 

“Nobody” by Mitski

 

Mitski (image courtesy official Mitski Facebook page)

 

Right – so you’ve been dumped, life as you know is over, and all you want to do is hide away in your bedroom with a few thousand litres of the best ice cream money can buy and eat your sorrows away.

Sounds strategy? Not so fast, says Japanese-American artist Mitski, who counsels us to “dance the lonesome way” over what We Are: the Guard calls “Abba-esque pop pianos and groovy disco riffs.”

And you know she may be onto something here? Attractive though a good macadamia honey and nougat ice cream is, or innumerable tubs of it come to think of it, in the end tunes as catchily upbeat and lyrically honest as “Nobody”, which gets up a delicious head of ’70s-inspired danceable steam by its end, is a better antidote to the loneliness of life to pretty much anything going around.

Drawn from her album Be the Cowboy, the song also has a sly dig at consumerism too, so can I have your DV player and couch as well as the TV?

 

 

“Stock Image” by Miya Folick

 

Miya Folick (Photo by Maya Fuhr via official Miya Folick Facebook page)

 

Someone else who knows a thing or two about taking life on with life and upbeat exuberance is Californian Miya Folick, raised Jōdo Shinshū Buddhist, who delivers up a luscious slice of inspiring pop in the colour-infused lushness of “Stock Image.”

All about “the conversation that you have with yourself when you’re feeling lost and your color has faded” (Pitchfork), the song is all soaring, gloriously emotionally-resonant vocals piercing the Justin Raisen-produced electropop, full of an invigorating need to mix it all up anew:

“I wrote it from a place of feeling shallow and gray and wanting to feel full! Vibrant!”

Miya Folick succeds beyond measure, offering some of the brightest, happiest pop you’re likely to hear anywhere as Pitchfork notes:

“‘Stock Image’ is wholehearted pop joy, co-produced by Folick, Yves Rothman, and Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time, Angel Olsen’s My Woman). Opening with lilting chimes and vocal coos, it quickly floors the gas to reveal an exuberant 1980s pop heart and a bassline with the same propulsive thrill of Robyn’s ‘Dancing on My Own.'”

Need to go somewhere exquisitely, resoundingly technicolour uplifting; look no further than this amazingly alive song which transform you in just one listen … but honestly, who in their right mind will stop at just one listen?

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Eurovision 2019 has a host city!

As expected, Tel Aviv, Israel’s cosmpolitan seaside city of entertainment, nightlife and culture, has been named the place to be come May next year. To be exact, 12 and 14 May for the semi finals and 18 May for the grand final at the EXPO Tel Aviv (International Convention Center), with tickets on sale by the end of the year. Tel Aviv beat out Jesusalem and Eilat to host Europe’s premier music event with Jon Ola Sand, the EBU’s Executive Supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest having this to say about the bidding process:

“All the bids were exemplary but in the end we decided that Tel Aviv provides the best overall setup for the world’s largest live music event. We are excited to bring the Contest to a brand new city and are looking forward to working together with KAN to make 2019’s Eurovision Song Contest the most spectacular one yet.”

For more on the announcement, go to Eurovision.tv

 

 

Why are pop songs so damn catchy? What musical magic makes them cling to your earworm so remorselessly? Derek Thompson, who it so happens wrote the book Hitmakers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction, knows exactly why and it has to do with mice. Yes mice. Watch and be fascinated.

 

Dear friends, you are now about to enter … a trippily colourful Willy Wonka chill-hop video

(image via IMP Awards)

 

The 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is fabulously trippy, gloriously imaginative and gleefully & subversively over the top, channelling the manically clever of Roald Dahl, on whose book the classic is based, perfectly.

Everything from the giddily colourful visuals to the brilliance of Gene Wilder’s superlative performance, equal parts charm and menace, stamps the movie as a creation apart, one of those films that lingers in the memory and the heart as something unusually special.

Now musician John D. Boswellaka Melodysheep has given the film a whole new lease of quirkily dark life by mixing key moments of the movie and it’s memorable dialogue with a dreamily evocative chill-hop video.

It’s laidback, catchy as well and perfectly in keeping with the film’s much-loved left-of-centre sensibilities and it’s going to be available for download and streaming when the album its from drops later this year.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Now this is music #112: CHINAH, Nicole Millar (feat. Muki), ViVii, CYN, Allie X

 

There is an unfortunate tendency, and this happens regardless of the creative medium used, to treat the quieter, more reflective voices as having less impact or worth than those who express themselves far more loudly and stridently.

But that attitude does a disservice to people like the five music artists featured here who have wrapped their authentic and heartfelt messages about life, love and the fractured totality of existence im music that is exquisitely chilled and ethereally beautiful.

The two go together perfectly – an iron fist of truth inside a musical velvet glove that as a whole say something really important about the human condition … and all without a single voice being raised.

Still feels incredibly truthful right? Right.

 

“Yeah Right” by CHINAH

 

CHINAH (image courtesy official CHINAH Facebook page)

 

Hailing from the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen, CHINAH is a three-piece band (singer and songwriter Fine Glindvad, guitarist Simon Kjær and electronic musician and pianist Simon Andersson) that knows its way around a highly emotionally-evocative tune.

Take “Yeah Right” from their forthcoming debut album due to drop later this year, that bristles with a gloriously-dark melody that prowls and stalks you, vocals light and airy and yet replete with all kinds of beautiful, portentous intent.

Or as We Are: The Guard rather poetically puts it …

“The song is without a doubt the Copenhagen trio’s darkest offering to date, with beats and sub-bass forming beneath Fine Glindvad’s vocals like electrical storm clouds. Zigzagging synths and a solo from guitarist Simon Kjær, meanwhile, both rain down like neon lightning, resulting in a kind of experimental pop tempest that we can’t get enough of.”

There’s a gothic grandeur to its distorted, robust fragility, a sense of being drawn into a tale replete with lines as epically-imaginative as “You’re my fear and my candy” that is relentless but deliciously laid back all at once.

It’s one-of-a-kind, brilliantly-original music and it will own your soul in all the best ways.

 

 

“All My Issues” (feat Muki) by Nicole Millar

 

Nicole Millar (image courtesy official Nicole Millar Facebook page)

 

We live in a revelatory age where anyone can nail their most intimate details to the flagpole of light with the click of a “post” or “tweet” button.

Even so, it still takes a lot of courage as a music artist to pour your soul in your song because they tend to stick around a lot longer than the ephemera of social media (not a criticism; that’s part of the medium’s charm).

Sydney-based Nicole Millar has joined forces with fellow Sydneysider Muki to record “All My Issues”, drawn from her album Excuse Me, released earlier this year, and the collaboration is as confessional as it sounds:

“[The song is] about confronting all of my insecurities, imperfections and issues, wearing them on my sleeve, and knowing that by owning them, I can be the best person I can be.” (Millar, AusPop)

The video embodies the inherent vulnerability of the song, which comes with a melody which for all its melodic bravado, is every bit as chilled and intimate as you might expect, folding into a track that celebrates being raw and true to yourself.

 

 

“Savant” by ViVii

 

ViVii (image courtesy official ViVii Facevook page)

 

Back to Scandinavia where we fall, dreamily and without reserve, into the exquisite beauty of Swedish trio ViVii‘s impossibly-luscious song “Savant”.

Made up of childhood sweethearts Emil and Caroline Jonsson and Anders Eckeborn, ViVii have marked themselves as artists who , like many of their musical compatriots, pour their souls into their lyrics.

This is markedly and wondrously evident on “Savant” which is all sweeping synth washes, ethereal vocals and a melody which is both fey and muscular all at once, underpinned by an emotional incisiveness, honesty and authentic celebration of love and relationships that you can’t ignore.

This beguiling mix makes this song and others released by the trio repeat listens on an almost infinite loop, soul-seizing concoctions that hang around in your consciousness long after the last note has been reluctantly played.

 

“Believer” by CYN
CYN (image courtesy official CYN Facebook page)

 

Let’s be really candid here – the end of a relationship is an unutterably awful episode in anyone’s life, a waking nightmare that, hopefully just temporarily, kills off all those Hallmark-frosted wispy dreams of love forever after.

Unutterable it might be for most of us but for Detroit, Michigan-raised Cynthia Nabozny aka CYN, putting her experience into music was not just optional but essential with the Katy Perry-signed artist having this to say via Billboard about this beautifully-evocative track, all hard truths and hope garlanded with some breathy vocals and a slinky, easy melody:

“The song ultimately represents the struggle of believing in a love that could last after experiencing one with a surprise ending.”

It’s a struggle that, for all its brutal honesty and empathy, comes with a fairly significant dose of hope attached (Billboard again).

“I would love for a fan to take away the comfort in knowing that falling out of love can be a normal experience and that questioning our ability to love and accept love is something everyone goes through.”

Mourning and hope in one captivatingly-lovely song? Sounds like a compelling listen to me and one that may just help you get over that broken heart.

 

 

“Not So Bad in LA” by Allie X

 

Allie X (image courtesy official Allie X Facebook page)

 

LA is both the blessed recipient and cursed victim of its own expansively-mythic PR.

Depending on who you talk to it’s a factory of endlessly unstoppable dreams or the places where hope and ambition goes to die; ask Canadian artist Allie X, known to her no doubt proud mum and dad Alexandra Ashley Hughes, and you might get a thematically-ambiguous mix of the two.

Announcing itself with a definite Lana Del Rey, “Not So Bad in LA” is all gushing, ethereal vocals, wafting, sensuous melody and a whole bundle of home truths wrapped in a self-deceptive bundle as the artist tells Billboard.

“The starlet basically represents the desperation of Hollywood. The desire to push-up your tits and cinch your waist and blow up your lips and make your hair really big and blonde and just be very shiny. She’s delusional.”

When you think about it, that’s truth of a lot of places, but most particularly LA where the glittering dream sold does not always match the gritty reality, a chasm into which Allie X plunges with an emotional truth and lyrical honesty that adds real substances to the spidery bliss of the music.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Michael Shannon is one of my favourite actors, shining in a slew of roles, most particularly for me at least, in Midnight Special, one of a number of beautifully-wrought movies from the hand of talented writer and director Jeff Nichols. These two highly-creative men have teamed up again to highly-evocative effect in what is effectively a short film promotion for the song “Long Way Back Home” by Lucero, which just happens to include Jeff’s brother Ben. (source: First Showing)

 

 

On a fun, much-lighter note, there’s a great new way to remember everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the planets in our solar system as Laughing Squid explains:

Clare Julia and Si Bennett of Planet Custard and Egg Cup Creative, the team behind videos for such bands as Muse, The Charlatans and Guns N Roses, have created a The Space Song, a wonderfully animated, educational song about the planets of the solar system. The really catchy tune explains the order of how far each planet sits from the sun, the general geological nature of each planet and even gives Pluto a brief chance to plead its case.”

 

Now this is music #111: Opia, Blair, Darwin Deez, Snow Patrol, Oliver Tree + Eurovision 2019 update

 

For songs to truly move you on all levels, they have to be the culmination of the perfect marriage of music and lyrics.

Sure some songs get us dancing, and that’s wonderful, and others get us thinking about life, the universe and everything, but it’s the ones that combine the two to impressive effect that usually really grab our hearts and souls.

The following five songs come from a diverse group of artists but all of them resonate with music and lyrics that capture the heart and feet and beguile the soul and engage the mind, a combination that might sound heady and removed from realness of life, but which is in fact as real as it gets.

Listen, feel, think and experience – music can change our lives so deeply and these songs are living, beating proof proof of this truth.

 

“Four Winds” by Opia

 

Opia (image courtesy official Opia Facebook page)

 

Now this is how you follow up graduating from Harvard my friends!

Meeting in their undergrad days, at a concert for electronic acappella group A Squared during university student event Bulldog Days, Cole Citrenbaum and Jacob Reske are making some pretty seriously catchy music together.

Kicking things off with EP Faded in 2017, the two have created some lusciously upbeat music in “Four Winds”, off their second EP, which We Are: The Guard have described thusly:

“[A] certified soul banger [the song] hears Opia pairing their Wham!-like vocal melodicism (Wham! are still relevant, right?) with their most guitar-oriented production to date.”

It’s a euphoric piece of music with some lovetorn lyrics that lifts you up and keeps you there, as near to perfect pop as you’re ever likely to get.

 

 

“New Eyes” by Blair

 

Blair (image courtesy official Blair Facebook page)

 

If being human teaches us anything, it’s that we are inevitably going to fail in one way or another and that it’s how we come back from those dark times that matters.

Los Angeles Blair has nailed his colours and well truly to his own personal mast, following a less-than-wonderful 2017 during which he spent two months in rehab, by releasing some very powerful music that lives out the line in his Facebook bio when he says “Truth in every melody, and life in every chorus”.

He explains why the driving upbeat tunefulness and lyrical honesty of songs like “New Eyes”, which make up his debut album, is such an accurate reflection of who he is, not just as an artist, but as a person.

“This body of work is not only a documentation of demons – its creation itself is a triumph over them. I’ll be releasing that music, marking a new chapter in my music and my life.” (We Are: The Guard)

This is music that doesn’t simply rev up the momentum and floor it, but which manages to be introspective at the same time, a rare feat for which Blair should be celebrated … and listened to over and over.

 

 

“The World’s Best Kisser” by Darwin Deez

 

Darwin Deez (image courtesy official Darwin Deez Facebook page)

 

Yes, Darwin is his real name (full name Darwin Merwan Smith) – “That is my real name, the one my parents gave me” (Facebook) – and it’s one he has lent to the band Darwin Deez, currently based in Brooklyn, New York.

He proclaims that he loves to dance and write songs and so vocoder-pretty is “The World’s Best Kisser”, not to mention cleverly and poetically lyrically – “For now she throws her arm around me like an evil twin” – that it appears he’s poured those twin loves, at a generous maximum into this Beatles-esque pop wonder.

It’s warm and fuzzy wonderful, a song full of romantic honesty, awash with the effervescent glow of love that revels in the soul-stirring glories of finding someone who engenders all the special thoughts and feelings that come with spending time with someone who totally changes your life.

Musically and lyrically this song is a treat, a song that not celebrates something beautiful in word but brings it musical A game too, delivering up the soundtrack to love sweet transformational love.

 

 

“Heal Me” by Snow Patrol

 

Snow Patrol (image via official Snow Patrol Facebook page)

 

Scottish band Snow Patrol are one of those bands that has long been in my musical firmament.

I have all their albums, have been to their concerts and have spent copious amounts of time losing myself in songs that wear their hearts on their sleeves so unashamedly and convincingly that you have to be a concrete-hearted monster not to feel something when they play.

Returning after a sizeable break – seventh album, Wildness, from which “Heal Me” is taken is their first since 2011’s Fallen Empires – the song speaks of all kinds of redemption and the healing power of the right person in your life:

“‘Heal Me’ is a life-affirming hymn that hears Gary Lightbody soaring to the heavens atop a spread of multitracked acoustics, with the frontman revealing that the song was inspired by a woman he met who saved him from the depths of alcoholism: “This song is about her, that journey and is dedicated to her.'” (We Are: The Guard)

It’s as beautiful and honestly brilliant as anything the band has ever recorded, testament to the enduring power of music that is both captivatingly melodic but healingly truthful.

 

 

“Movement” by Oliver Tree

 

Oliver Tree (image courtesy official Oliver Tree Facebook page)

 

Calling Los Angeles, California home, Oliver Tree has the kind of quirky persona that makes listening to pop music such an expectations-defying delight to partake in.

Sporting a decidedly-unhip bowl haircut and a love of scootering that makes him look like a “walking, talking meme” (We Are: The Guard), which is, when you’re a pop star in our digital age A Very Good Thing, you could be forgiven if Oliver Tree is all style and mot much musical substance.

But he is very much the real deal, channeling what We Are: The Guard enthusiastically calls the vocalist/rapper/sketch comedian’s “Ad-Rock-style flow” and laying it gloriously over “an earth-shaking bassline courtesy of long-time collaborator Whethan” that creates a brilliantly-thumping wonderful song.

It’s propulsive, alive, vital and wholly original, proving you can look like a meme but still make music that will stand the test of time (and have a lot of fun doing it!)

 

 


NOW THIS IS EUROVISION EXTRA EXTRA!

 

For a contest ostensibly devoted to peace, love and understanding – that was a song wasn’t it? It was totally a song I think – Eurovision has certainly been more than a little discordant of late. Particularly if you’re Israel, the host for the Eurovision Song Contest – thanks to Netta’s fabulous performance of “Toy” that won this year’s contest for the host country – and funding arrangements for the event ended as a political football between KAN, the public broadcaster and the Israeli Government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

 

According to leading Eurovision news site Wiwibloggs, it all played out something like this:

“Israeli broadcaster KAN has warned the Israeli government that without the state’s financial support they will have no choice but to notify the EBU that Israel waives its right to host the Eurovision Song Contest next year. The state responded that it has no intention to finance the contest because the independent broadcaster has enough resources in its budget — or, to be more precise, 750 million NIS per year. That’s 178 million euros.”

Raising the stakes, Netanyahu went so far as to threaten KAN with closure if they kept demanding the government provide the required funding. But a deal was struck somewhere, KAN ponied up the money and made the deadline!

Now all Israel has to do is decide where to hold it – Jerusalem or Tel Aviv – and pick next year’s contestant! Simples …

 

 

Oh and should Kazakhstan be invited to participate in Eurovision? Thank you for asking …

 

Now this is music #110: NONONO, Kirsten Ludwig, Alison Wonderland, Robyn, Miss Eaves + RIP Aretha Franklin

 

We all love music that lifts up, lightens the soul, stirs up the joyous and the good, stills the anxious and the bad.

That kind of music is all the better when it’s accompanied by lyrics that speak to the human condition in authentic, accessible, profoundly touching ways.

Too good to be true?

Hush your mouth doubters for these five artists all know their way around seriously catchy music but just as importantly how to infuse their works of danceable art with perspectives on life, love and the travails of the human condition, getting you thinking as you dance.

It’s beautiful, it’s meaningful and its yours – have a listen.

 

“Ego” by NONONO

 

NONONO (image courtesy official NONONO Facebook page)

 

With a debut single titled “Pumpin Blood” (2013), there’s a fair bet that Swedish dance band NONONO (Stina Wäppling, Tobias “Astma” Jimson and Michel “Rocwell” Flygare) are committed to their musical ethos.

So it is with “Ego”, a song that percolates with a consistently-mesmerising beat, Wäppling’s resonant vocals that glide through and over the electropop sensibilities with elan and an easy danceability that will have you up on your feet in no time.

This is not ferocious electropop; rather there’s a breezy warmth and welcome to songs like “Ego” and previous hit “Friends” balanced, as is much of Scandinavian music, with an eye on the darker realities of being human.

This balance is what makes this music so real and immediate – yes it’s instantly appealing and almost joyous and yet lurking beneath is a cautionary tale, an admission that life may not be quite as bright as the music and that gifts the songs of NONONO with as much substance as they have sparkle.

 

 

“There You Are” by Kirsten Ludwig

 

Kirsten Ludwig (image courtesy official Kirsten Ludwig Facebook page)

 

Time to think, to really dig into the marrow of our lives, is a rare commodity these days but Canadian Kirsten Ludwig (she hails from Calgary, Alberta) found it and used it to somewhat cathartic effect as she mused on a lost relationship.

Her wandering thoughts gave birth to “There You Are”, a song which carries a great deal of personal importance for her:

“It felt like every time I got in the car to make the trek to the next show, that person was there, again, with me and I couldn’t seem to get away. In a sense, this is the ‘I’m sorry’ song on the record—detailing my shortcomings as well as theirs. I somehow found the strength to admit that there are two sides to everything after all.” (Paste Magazine)

There’s a hushed beauty and sense of regret to the country-tinged, guitar-rich track which carries Ludwig’s hauntingly emotionally-evocative vocals aloft on a sea of honest recollection which is as good for the soul as it is for the ears.

 

 

“Heavy, California” by Jungle

 

Jungle (image courtesy official Jungle Facebook page)

 

Winningly-described by Australian public radio music station Triple J as “a disco ball of falsetto lines and uptempo house-filtered energy”, “Heavy, California” is a all modern soul, easy-loping melodies that suggest the broad reaches of the song’s geographical namesake rather than London where the band, founded by childhood friends Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, hails from.

Pulsing with an energy that never lets up throughout the song, “Heavy, California” is one of those tracks that gives just about every situation in which it’s played a richness and sense of chilled renewal that can’t help but buoy the soul.

 

 

“Missing U” by Robyn

 

Robyn (image courtesy official Robyn Facebook page)

 

It may hard to believe but one of the most innovative pop artists ever, and yes, I do mean ever, Sweden’s Robyn has hadn’t a single all her own for eight long years.

Sure she’s collaborated with heaps of other artists – Neneh Cherry, the late Christian Falk, Todd Rundgren and Röyksopp – but a song that’s just hers? You have to go back to 2010’s AMAZING Body Talk LP.

Happily, her new single, “Missing U” returns Robyn to her cring in the disco roots as Variety happily notes:

“Before ‘Crying in the Club’ was the title of a Camila Cabello song, it was Robyn’s entire ethos, if not registered trademark. In the eight years since the Swede released a proper solo album, no one has quite recaptured the combination of b.p.m. and pathos she perfected in the run-up to the turn of the last decade. Now she’s back with ‘Missing U’, the abbreviated title of which suggests the university-level course in loss and regret it delivers.”

Does it deliver? Oh how it delivers as Variety once again beautifully explains:

“[The song is] basically the sound of a bass drum being struck steadily for pretty much the entire 4 minutes and 51 seconds. But there’s not a lot of skimping in the rest of the production, which cycles through bittersweetly grandiose synth loops to meet Robyn at the depths and heights of her despair. It’s the partial handiwork of longtime collaborator Klas Ahlund, who worked on both her self-titled masterpiece ‘Robyn’ (2005) and the EP-combining patchwork ‘Body Talk’ (2010), along with Joseph Mount of the electronic music group Metronomy. And it’s a welcome return to somewhat traditional pop form after her mid-decade collaborative efforts took her in more experimental directions.”

Now all we have to do is wait for the eighth album to appear which hopefully won’t be eight years hence because Robyn’s music is, for all its pathos, a highlight of anyone’s day.

 

 

“Kiss Kiss I’m Fabulous” by Miss Eaves

 

Miss Eaves (image courtesy official Miss Eaves Facebook page)

 

As performing names go, it’s hard to beat the delightfully quirky inspiration for Miss Eaves (aka Shanthony Exum), a Brooklyn resident by way of North Carolina who took her music moniker from her favourite font Mrs Eaves.

It’s exactly what you’d expect from an artist whom Bust Magazine has justly cited as a multi-talented feminist rapper” whose dedicated to “combating ‘the negative body image issues that arise from the media’s narrow portrayal of beauty.'”

As you’d expect from someone of Miss Eaves socially-aware calibre, her music is similarly captivatingly catchy and substantial all at once, a beguilingly infectious mix that delights with its electro pop-rap and knowing understanding of the way the world is lamentably often better at pushing down with destructive force than lifting up with positivity and empowement.

Miss Eaves aims to combat that one infectiously-listenable song after another, with the video for the song featuring people around New York dancing in their own inimitable style, haters begone!

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

There’s more to many songs than meets the eye. Take “Message in a Bottle” by The Police which “doodling music theorist and musician” 12tone has explored in depth, focusing on how its “use of quintal harmonies, power chords and the wandering passage the music takes before it find the root (E Major) [evokes a] sense of melodic meandering emphasizes the very feeling of being lost at sea.”(Laughing Squid)

 

 

Sadly overnight the world lost one of its great musical talents – the incomparable Aretha Franklin. A phenomenon who changed soul and blues with her brilliantly-distinctive style, and known for showstopping songs such as “Respect” and “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”, she will be greatly missed. RIP

 

 

 

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