On 4th day of Christmas … I listened to Sia’s Everyday is Christmas

(cover image courtesy official Sia Twitter feed)

 

Let’s be honest – when it comes to Christmas albums, and I will be the first to admit that I am a slave to these expectations more often than not, there are two major rules that must be followed.

1. The album must feel Christmassy. Granted this is a wholly intangible idea and falls into the maddeningly obtuse camp of “We’ll know when we feel it” but if an album doesn’t leave you feeling jolly and happy and inclined to dance around the Christmas tree, and hum sundry carols at will, is it really doing its job?

2. There must a spread of carols, modern festive classics, and an original or two so the artist can stamp their own flavour upon the holiday. Yes this is creatively constrictive in one sense but as artists like Annie Lennox and Sarah McLachlan have shown, it is eminently possible to make a real statement even within these parameters.

Australian artist Sia, who have proven brilliantly adept at writing a dizzyingly diverse array for an impressive roster of artists including Rihanna and Beyoncé, is proof positive my friends that you can both adhere to these conventions and blow them, candy canes and Santa hats fully akimbo, out of the eggnog-filled water.

 

 

Everyday is Christmas is an unmitigated joy from start to finish, not so much because the facially-reclusive artist – the person on the album’s cover is longtime video and performance collaborator Maddy Ziegler – has got her Frank Sinatra and imbued her album of wholly original songs with some big band, seasonally warm-and-fuzzy flair (she has and it works beautifully in her own highly-talented way) but because she takes the sounds and feel of the season and makes them work for her.

Helping immensely in this regard is that Sia has always been an insightful artist who understands that there is more to the human condition that the blindingly obvious or that which is set down by ritual or superficial cultural trappings.

Sure Christmas is in many ways a most wonderful time of the year (the song does not lie) and there’s much to love about it, but it can also be a time of emotional turmoil and stress, and also introspective rumination, and Sia neatly balances both of these elements near perfectly in a set of tracks that artfully tread the line between happy Christmas upbeat joy and those quiet moments when quiet gratitude and contentment step into the spotlight.

 

(image courtesy official Sia Twitter feed)

 

Everyday is Christmas kicks things off in giddily jaunty mode with the slightly ironic “Santa’s Coming For Us” which takes the implied benign stalker intent of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and runs with it jingle-jingle-jingling all the way home.

The accompanying clip, which features Kristen Bell is full beatific ’50s housewife mode with real life husband Dax Sherpard as the happy cardigan-wearing husband and Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) as a dancing guest, goes all retro TV special which fits perfectly with the song’s bouncy vibe.

This track, along with the euphorically-upbeat “Candy Cane Lane” and the delightful “Puppies Are Forever which celebrates miniature canines more than the festive season itself but feels so glossily, giddily happy that you can begrudge a single effervescent lyric.

What makes these songs work, slyly subversive clips aside, is that Sia unashamedly and with the kind of gusto I can totally get behind as an avowed, tinsel-draped Christmas tragic, goes with the treacly sentiments of the season.

And why not? Life is unremittingly gloomy at the moment in many ways and invoking the idea that life can be made better by a puppet, not just at Christmas but all year round, or by consuming candy canes in a brightly-decked lane, is no bad thing.

 

 

But as noted, escapism can only get you so far and so songs like “Snowman” and “Everyday is Christmas” take things down a contemplative notch, not necessarily in a maudlin sense but more one that acknowledges there are elements of reflection to a season more commonly noted for mall-sized frenzy and fabulously gaudy decorations.

The title track is a lovely nod to the idea that Christmas really only comes into its own when that special someone is there with you and while it’s no hyper-powered wishfest along the lines of “All I Want For Christmas is You”, it’s a rich, warm and deeply-appreciative song that lovingly remarks on what life all year round, but especially at Christmas, so very special.

“Snowman” too has its own quirkily devotional aspect, one which centres around true love between snowman and his devoted otehr half who literally is a part of him; sure it’s a metaphor for real human love but what a creative way to express it, parceling it up with some trademark Sia idiosyncrasy.

The album concludes with the gloriously downtempo piano-driven track “Underneath the Christmas Lights” which is exquisitely lovely in ways that wrap you in the cosy idea of Christmas as a precious seasonal idyll, one where real life takes a temporary hike and everything is, just for a moment, well and bright.

Everyday is Christmas isn’t some cheesy nod to the sentiments of the season with Sia and co-songwriter and producer Greg Kurstin serving up a startlingly good selection of original songs which invoke the traditional sound and feel of the season while still forging some new fun festive tracks.

 

 

Now this is music: Festive chill – SYML, JW Ridley, Liyv, Hundred Waters, Shells

 

The “Silly Season”, as it’s fondly known in Australia, is well underway, and with it, the swirl of festive fun that is Christmas.

Now even if you love the most wonderful time of the year, you’ll have to admit that it can be stressful, busy and bereft of any opportunity to sit back and contemplate life in any way, shape or form.

So it’s up to you to create those precious spaces for yourself.

One way to do that is to take a batch of chilled songs,  written by thoughtful artists with their fingers on the contrary pulse of life, and let them play and take you to all kinds of blissfully ruminative places.

It may not help you find that gift you need for fussy Aunt Jean but you will feel better afterwards, with all the idea of all that falala-ing and decking of halls feeling far less onerous than it once did.

 

“Fear of the Water” by SYML

 

SYML (photo by Shervin Lainez / courtesy official SYML Facebook page)

 

There’s a stark, arresting, achingly-melancholic quality to “Fear of the Water” from Barcelona frontman Brian Fennell who records under the name SYML in his recording studio in Issaquah, WA outside Seattle.

Reflecting, says Fennell, “the complex feelings that come from unknown lineage” – the artist discovered he is descended from Welsh forebears, a discovery that led him to adopt SYML, meaning “simple” in Welsh as his recording name – this song and others such as “Where’s My Love” which is the name of his January/February 2018 tour, are evocative explorations into what it feels to grapple with dislocation and a sense of being unmoored.

The soft, gently-percussive melody is given intensely-exquisite amplification by Fennell’s resonant voice which seems to encompass all the pain, longing, insight and thoughfulness in the world.

“Fear of the Water” cuts to the bone but in the most reassuring of ways – yes there are moments when we feel utterly adrift but there are places, and most importantly, people, who can make us feel solidly tethered again, with the song a glitteringly lovely invocation to choose closeness and belonging over a lost sense of being.

 

 

“Somewhere Else” by JW Ridley

 

JW Ridley (image via official JW Ridley Facebook page)

 

One of the loveliest things about slow, more contemplative songs is the rare-in-this-hyperactive-digital-age chance they give you to completely lose yourself in a gently swirling three minute idyll of melody and lyric.

Londoner JW Ridley, one-time arts school graduate and lately purveyor of sublimely ruminative pop, is a master of creating these blissfully escapist moments, catching you up in a reverie of langorous thought that is good for the soul.

And as We Are: The Guard notes, good for the ears as well:

“‘Somewhere Else’ a dreamy, otherworldly swirl of 80s-indebted post-punk, with crisp electronic drums meeting guitars steeped in canyons of reverb, all the while Ridley’s spacey, detached vocals preside over the whole thing like some washed-out Instagram filter.”

 

 

“Maybe I Won’t” by Liyv

 

Liyv (image courtesy official Liyv Facebook page)

 

Styling herself as an artist who “songs for sad people who like bright colors”, Oregonian Liyv is not a woman to be trifled with.

Her song “Maybe I Won’t”, from her EP “It Me” is all about dispeling woefully incorrect expectations of herself while simultaneously disabusing someone who has made all kinds of wild assumption, again erroneously, about who she is and what she’ll do.

It’s a lyrical truthful song wrapped in a superlatively lush bed of gorgeous slow-moving pop that together is a finely thought-out and articulated shakedown of someone who hasn’t really thought things through.

Home truths aren’t always easy to handle but delivered this beautifully they echo Mary Poppins sage advice about the way a spoonful of sugar can make the medicine go down.

 

 

“Fingers” by Hundred Waters

 

Hundred Waters (image courtesy official Hundred Waters Facebook page)

 

First things first, Nicole Minglis, lead singer of band Hundred Waters is WAAAAY too comfortable having creepy crawlies all over her body.

It’s a brave artistic statement yes, and pulled off with suitably-composed aplomb but makes my skin crawl (12,000 different ways; yep that’s how many creatures were on her.)

The song, “Fingers” is everything luxuriously and airily lush, drawing on “the sound of muted pianos and jazz-indebted rhythms” (We Are: The Guard) that artfully discusses, with Minglis’s ethereally rustic voice articulating it with breathtakingly lovely emotional resonance, the day-to-day contrariness and inconsistencies of loving someone else.

It’s a magnificently beautiful song that immerses you completely in its ruminative, gracious wonder, letting you muse on the nature of love in a way that doesn’t necessarily all the answers (do they even exist to find, I wonder?) but give you ample to try and find them.

 

 

“Jailbird” by SHELLS

 

SHELLS (image courtesy official SHELLS Facebook page)

 

Capturimg dark lyrical matter in a gloriously beautifully fey melody is a thing of incredibly skill and artistry.

But SHELLS, the stage name of British singer-songwriter Sarah Lillie Sheldrake, manages it with ease, folding in a seismic decision to leave a toxic relationship into a song that We Are: The Guard observes marries “[SHELL’s] billowing voice meeting synthesizer droplets and organic rhythms”.

The song is ineffably lovely but comes with some lyrical barbs in its glossily delivered melody:

“I’m burning down the walls to light up the front door/Tearing down the holes to see the light once more/Jailbird, not gonna be a jailbird anymore.”

It’s serious stuff but delivered with such gently-articulated passion and voice that you are given time to come to appreciate what a momentous step forward this is for the young woman in the song.

 

 


NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Who are the most fun family you know?

The Addams Family of course and in this fantastic 2015 video by filmmaker Gabriel Magallon, the spookiest, coolest family around get down to the Ramones’ iconic song “Blitzkrieg Bop”.

(Source: Laughing Squid)

 

Now this is music #100: LANY, Novo Amor and Ed Tullett, Jacob Banks, RYD, Tom Ronsenthal

 

Our hearts and souls are often filled with so mnay emotions, it can sometimes (or often) feel like you’ll never be able to express them all.

And if we do feel like the power to articulate them all lies within us, finding the words, especially when the emotions are overwhelming us, can defeat us.

After all, even for the lyrically gifted among us, finding a way to express how we are feeling can feel like a bridge too far.

That’s these five beautiful, emotionally-in touch people are such a rare and wonderful thing – they take the difficult, the dark, the true, the authentic and the amazing and render them in ways that make sense, that move us, that take them from out of reach to well within our grasp.

Listen and come to understand life, and your part in it, just that little bit more …

 

“Super Far” by LANY 

 

LANY (image courtesy official LANY Facebook page)

 

Falling in love is great isn’t it? But staying in love – ah that is a whole other thing entirely and problematic beyond belief when the person you’re in love with doesn’t seem to as enamoured with you as you are with them.

LANY (an acronym for Los Angeles New York), an L.A.-based three-piece band featuring Paul Jason Klein, Charles Leslie “Les” Priest and Jake Clifford Goss, know exactly how that feels and in their dancey, fun but emotionally super-serious song, “Super Far”, they give a soul-aching voice to anyone who has ever felt their relationship is a one-way street.

Balancing a bright, poppy tune with some beautifully-articulated romantic angst, the song laments how really loving someone isn’t enough if they’re clearly not invested in loving you back.

It’s gut-wrenching and enormously sad to come to that realisation but the song also contains some sense of moving on as the person giving the love realises it’s time to heed their friends and leave this lopsided relationship behind and find someone who will actually match their romantic aspirations.

For all its inherent sadness and melancholic hopefulness, “Super Far” comes with a cool, lo-fi choreographed clip that neatly captures the message and feel of this heartfelt pop song.

 

 

“Silvery” by Novo Amor and Ed Tullett

 

Novo Amor (image courtesy Novo Amor & Ed Tullett Facebook page)

 

The first thing you notice about “Silvery” an exquisitely affecting song by Welsh multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, sound designer and producer Novo Amor (Ali Lacey) and similarly-talented English multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer Ed Tullett, are the inexpressibly lovely harmonies.

There is an aching loveliness to this soft, gentle song, that resonates with slow, simmering verses and guitar-drenched chorus that grants “Silvery”, a song that seems to be as much about loss as it is about timeless devotion (“I will save your blood for years”).

The song is brilliantly immersive, building and building in emotion and intensity in a way that enraptures you, a deep-dive into emotional rumination that goes headlong into the very depths leaving the shallows for the emotionally-disengaged to paddle in.

If you love this jaw-droppingly pretty track, you will love their album Heiress which has just released.

You can read a great interview with Novo Amor at We Are: The Guard.

 

 

“Unknown (To You)” by Jacob Banks

 

Jacob Banks (image courtesy official Jacob Banks Facebook page)

 

There’s something utterly intoxicating about listening to a music artists give a song everything they have got, especially if their voice possesses the superlative emotional resonance of British-Nigerian singer Jacob Banks.

On the 2017 re-recording of his song “Unknown (To You)”, the man described as a “young soul revivalist” by Billboard, reinterprets this most delicate and soulful of songs, which originally appeared on his 2015 EP, The Paradox, to, his words, “give more” to it.

Thye result is a beguiling mix of deliciously deepthroated, growly vocals, all the emotional evocation you could ask for and a glorious musical background of strings and piano.

It’s just magnificent, a supremely beautiful articulation of the great pain of the end of a romantic relationship where faults have been acknowledged but it’s too little too late and all you can say is goodbye.

 

 

“Work it Out” by RYD

 

RYD (image courtesy official RYD Facebook page)

 

We, most of us anyway, run our lives at such a frenetic pace that moments of calm introspection are too often crowded out by the ceaseless sounds of modern life.

Londoner RYD, who exists in that rarest of places these days, an unsketched out social persona – we know very little about the artist who has just released his debut EP, following the track “After” last year – delivers up music so fey and breathtakingly beautiful that you can help but step back from the fray, and take a moment to chill a little … or a lot.

“Work It Out”, anchored out by the artist’s gorgeously emotionally-resonant, is the sort of song, all lighter-than-air vocals and ambient beats, that gives you the chance, in those all too rare quieter moments, to think about how we often avoid confronting the more difficult emotions and places in life as the artist hismelf explains:

“‘Work It Out’ is about the avoidance of confrontation in order to spare yourself from grief. The song is addressed to the feeling that most choose to hide from.” (We Are: The Guard)

The song, gentle as a lullbye but possessed of a ironclad lyrical intent, gently urges the listener to step up, confront that which we often recoil from and reap the many rewards.

 

 

“Oh No Pedro” by Tom Rosenthal

 

Tom Rosenthal (image courtesy official Tom Rosenthal page)

 

“Oh No Pedro” is so brilliantly, movingly lovely that it just takes your breath away.

The work of independent music artist, London-based Tom Rosenthal, who has made quite a name for himself through the featuring of his songs on TV shows such as Skins and Hard Knocks, films like Comet and The Odyssey and even Vodafone’s official campaign, the song grants us a deep insight into what We Are: The Guard calls “the internal and external battles faced by transgender people”.

Part of his recently-released album Fenn, which addresses in down-to-earth sage fashion what it’s like to grapple with modern life and it’s often confrontational demands, “Oh No Pedro” poetically and lyrically talks embracing the truth about yourself in ways that are gorgeously empathetic and understanding:

“Pedro’s fallen in love, he’s lost all his heart to her/His love found another love, the lost words of a whisperer.”

The song speaks to the soul of the poet that anchors Rosenthal’s clever, intelligent and insightful music; his songs are resonant and true, not shirking from the realities of life but looking them in the eye and talking about them in ways that make you think and enthrall the soul.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

Stranger Things 2 dropped just over a month ago to great critical and popular acclaim and now Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the engimatic, telekinetically-powerfully Eleven on the show, has shown she can drop the mic too.

Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon recently, she rapped her way through the events of season 1 from her character’s perspective, proving that if her acting gigs ever dry up (extremely doubtful), there’s a very good chance she could make a real go of it in music.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

 

Musicals review: Muriel’s Wedding

(artwork courtesy Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures)

 

Have you ever wished ABBA could be your life guides, there in the tough times with words of advice, leaping out of your bedroom wardrobe to give you company when you’re all alone, and, of course, singing you into a better frame of mind with songs like “Dancing Queen”, “Super Trouper” and “I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do”?

No? Well, you may want to reconsider that particular life choice after seeing Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, based on P. J. Hogan’s hit 1994 hit film which put Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths on the acting map and convinced a whole generation of the unloved and the socially ostracised that they could triumph over the beautiful people of the world.

In this lengthened, feel good makeover of the original film, which retains the pointed social commentary and darker themes while bringing in some bright, punchy, walking-on-air moments that will have you skipping, out of the theatre on a cloud of confected, candy-coloured joy, ABBA take on an even more central role than in the film that played a pivotal role in bringing them well and truly back into the zeitgeist.

While their songs are now threaded through a feast of catchy, infectiously-hummably and lyrically-sharp songs by husband-and-wife creative team, Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, the Swedish foursome, dressed in some of their most iconic, fabulous costumes, play the part of guardian angels and life coaches to Muriel (played with daggy vivacity and sheer likeability by newcomer Maggie McKenna).

In Muriel’s more emotionally-downtrodden moments, and they’re a quite a few for the social outcast from Porpoise Spit in Queensland, ABBA steps out of wardrobes, shadows and stand atop a cruise ship stage to bolster the much-loved underdog’s slog to get to a place of emotional authenticity and self-acceptance.

But charming, funny and pitch-perfect though they are, ABBA (Benny (Aaron Tsindos), Björn (Mark Hill), Agnetha (Jaime Hadwen) and Anni-Frid (Sheridan Harbridge)) are not the only attractions in this superlatively good musical which updates Muriel’s Wedding into the social media age with some witty observations on the superficial banality of modern life and how that has exaggerated, rather than lessened, the great divide between the social haves and the social have-nots.

The song “Shared, Viral, Linked, Liked” is a highlight in this regard, performed with synchronised robotic brilliance by Muriel’s chief tormentors who are given catty fabulousness by Laura Murphy, Christie Whelan Browne, Hilary Cole and Marion Gunderson-Briggs.

 

(artwork courtesy Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures)

 

From the opening number, “Sunshine State of Mind”, when the buffed and tanned residents of Porpoise Spot, parade out, surfboards underarm and swimming costumes on full perpetually summery display, we’re treated to a full-on bright and effervescent pop spectacle that, allied with Gabriela Tylesova’s minimalist but colourfully evocative sets, can’t help but place in an almost giddy paroxysm of delight.

With ABBA as a wryly observant chorus, a slew of witty, clever commentaries on life in Sydney (which contains a gloriously diverse nod to everything from hipsters and leather daddies to punks and drag queens) where you can be anything you want to be; well beside a parking inspector anyway, and a willingness to be a silly as it is profoundly insightful, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical is a joy, an at-turns laugh-out-loud, dark and sombre (it’s not all a whirlwind of pretty hype) romp through life’s many contrary moments.

Enlarging on the narrative of the original, the production, directed by Simon Phillips, gives us the happy ending that the more taciturn cinematic original denied us; in the film the ending is damn near obligatory and works potently to cap off the themes it explores.

The musical, of course, since it’s not Les Miserables, and almost no one dies (save for Muriel’s poor benighted mother (Justine Clarke) for whom death is a release from the travails of being married to Mayor Bill Hislop (played with greasy, desperate perfection by Gary Sweet) amps the happy ending, throwing in a romantic comedy happy-ever-after with parking inspector Brice Nobes to add to the defiant “f**k you!” to Porpoise Spit and its small-minded shallowness that caps off both film and musical.

The key themes remain throughout, most notably the idea that you have far more value as a person by remaining true to yourself that you ever do by pretending to be someone you’re not.

As Muriel, who rechristens herself Mariel in Sydney where she comes of age but loses sight of her unique individuality, discovers, in a world now rendered ever more deceptive by the false lure of social media “intimacy”, there’s not a lot to be gained by trading your true self for a confected counterfeit, no matter how alluring it might be.

Heavy message maybe but delivered with a vivacity and truthfulness so rich and uplifting, thoughtful and infectiously happy, that you will hit the footpath after the show humming a slew of the tunes, all of which, including five or six all-cast showstoppers, punctuate the narrative with such delicious and wholly welcome joy that you will wonder how you ever got through life without this wonderful musical to illuminate (and soundtrack) the way.

Muriel’s Wedding the Musical runs from 6 November 2017 to 27 January 2018 in Sydney, Australia where it is enjoying its world premiere.

 

 

Now this is upbeat fun music: Dagny, Isador, Blonde Maze, Saints of Valory, Striking Matches

 

It’s my birthday!

Well. really my birthday eve since the big day is actually tomorrow when I shall be an age that I shall not reveal, but close enough.

And of course, being a birthday, that means there must be joy, celebration and some thoughtful rumination on life’s great issues in amongst the cake, the presents and a bottle or two of my favourite wine.

Philosophical muse while you have icing clinging to your lips? You better believe it and thanks to these five amazing artists, it’s a way more pleasurable experience than you might otherwise expect.

 

“I Love You Like That” by Dagny

 

Dagny (image via Dagny official Facebook page)

 

Remember what it felt like to fall head over heels in love? More importantly how it feels every day when you realise anew, with all the quivering butterlies-in-the-stomach joy that brings, how much you still love that person?

Dagny, who hails from Norway, sure as hell does and she’s telling the world all about it with “Love You Like That”, a joyously exuberant track that percolates with all the good things Cupid brings to you when he unleashes that longed-for arrow.

Given the emotional authenticity that exudes from every note and word of the song, you might be surprised to learn it’s the first time the artist, who sprang back into the pop consciousness earlier this year with “Wearing Nothing”, has written a good and proper chanson d’amour:

“‘Love You Like That” is the first proper love song I’ve ever released. It’s funny because I’ve always been wary of using the phrase “I love you” in songs, in fear of sounding too cliché or corny, but then I just went and broke the “amounts-of-I love you-in-one-song” record. And it feels good. I’m not a particularly romantic person nor am I great at telling people how I feel about them, so this was probably long over-due. If you love someone, you should tell them.” (Earmilk)

Damn straight you should, and while you’re at it, play them this song, the soundtrack to love’s ebullient ecstasy if ever there was one.

 

 

“Falling” by Isador

 

Isador (image courtesy official Isador Facebook page)

 

It would lovely if life was all up-and-up vivacity but as anyone alive longer than five nanoseconds knows all too well, it’s a messy business with as many ups as downs.

New artists Isador, the artist name of American Warren Heller, knows that feeling all too well, and how the downs are often the result of other peoples’ expectations being forced onto you.

It’s this sense of existential claustrophobia that suffuses the song that The Revue described as a “perfect mix of anthemic indie pop, expertly layered harmonies and meaningful lyrics”, with Isador explaining how this led to the song being written:

“I dropped out of college and became isolated at home. It felt like my life was falling apart around me. Music had always been an outlet for me in the past, so I tried to channel all this dread and fear I was feeling into ‘Falling’. It helped me process what I was feeling and start to pick up the pieces.”

As musical therapy goes, “Falling” is sublimely good, a romping track that knows all too well that sometimes life feels caught in a stationary morass from which there feels like there’s no escape but that it can also delightfully and deliciously surprise you too.

 

 

“Thunder” by Blonde Maze 

 

Blonde Maze (image courtesy official Blonde Maze Facebook page)

 

Hailing from New York City, Blonde Maze, the project of artist/producer Amanda Steckler, have crafted a song in “Thunder” that is an evocative celebration of what it means to find that special someone and stick with them through the years as you grow and change.

It’s a refreshing perspective, especially since so many love songs focus solely on the beginning or end of love and not the happily content bits in the middle that, with some attention, can be every bit as rewarding as the heady glory days at the start.

Blonde Maze has beautifully described how the song came to be, quoted in The Revue:

“To me, ‘Thunder’ is about growing and changing with someone. You start to miss older times with them, but you also acknowledge that the growth has made them an inseparable part of your heart. Sometimes, with a relationship’s maturity, you lose your patience more, you let your guard down, and you get hurt, but the beauty of this maturity is that there becomes no one else in the world you are as comfortable growing with.”

Amen to that sister, a touching paean to the loveliness of being with someone for the duration.

You can find out what else Blonde Maze, who writes and produces all her own material, has been ruminating on when her next EP drops in 2018.

 

 

“Painkiller” by Saints of Valory

 

Saints of Valory (image courtesy official Saints of Valory Facebook page)

 

Favourite sons of Austin, Texas, Saints of Valory have crafted some engrossingly captivating music in their time (although not for two year during a no doubt creatively-rejuvenating hiatus).

Take “Painkiller”, a song which the band, who formed in 2008, released this year along with “Set it on Fire” and most recently, “Red Smoke”, which display, in the words of The Revue, “awesome vocals from Gavin Jasper, SOV’s penchant for killer guitar riffs and their clever lyrical style.”

It’s energetic, alive, vibrant with a lovely loping beat and talks about how even those people who give us what we need may need something themselves; no person is an island or entirely emotionally self-sustaining and we need to give as much as we receive.

 

 

 

“Ghost” by Striking Matches

 

Striking Matches (image via official Striking Matches Facebook page)

 

Nashville-based Striking Matches (Sarah Zimmermann, guitar/mandolin/vocals and Justin Davis, guitar/vocals) know to create an immersive atmosphere in their guitar-drenched songs.

Demonstrating their impressive musical prowess, love of a bluesy riff, driving rhythm and evocative vocals, “Ghost” is an euphoric piece of full-speed ahead ballsy pop.

The song questions whether the alluring person before you is really as good as they seem – are they poison or the cure, an angel or a ghost, will they save your soul?

Maybe neither since all of us, even the best of us, fall somewhere messily inbetween but suffice to say that while you’re tapping your feet furiously in time to this intoxicatingly vigorous tune that you will be treated to a lyrically-inspired meditation on the either/or proposition that is every member of the human race.

Even the ones who might steal your heart.

 

Now these are beguiling beats: Millie Turner, BAYNK, Oliver, Satin Jackets, RAYE

(image courtesy Unsplash (c) Alessio Lin)

 

Let’s face it – life gets knda boring with just the one beat keeping you company all day everyday.

It’s good to mix things up, keeping a multitude of beats coming and going – and no, before any of you go that way, this is not an encouraging to rampant promiscuity; I’m talking rather about getting stuck in a one-note rut and staying there for the duration – and keep things interesting.

All these artists know this to be true, with each of them bringing some truly unique and different beats, and with them perspectives on life, to the table.

Listen and it’s unlikely you’ll stay listening to just one beat ever again.

 

“Underwater” by Millie Turner

 

Millie Turner (image courtesy official Millie Turner Facebook page)

 

There’s something hauntingly captivating about 17 yer old London, UK-resident Millie Turner’s debut single “Underwater”, a heady mix of thoughtful folk and gently pounding electronic beats that Line of Best Fit describes this way:

“Pairing Turner’s youthful lyricism with production from David Turley, ‘Underwater’ is a dizzying cut that defies categorisation by genre. At its core, the song is a heartfelt ballad with a folk-inspired feel accompanying seashore motifs throughout, but Turley’s beats and blips elevate the track to another plane altogether.”

Turley discovered Turner singing at a mutual friend’s house and convinced her to turn her emotionally-resonant voice to pop music.

It’s a good thing he prevailed since the new artist has the kind of voice that infuses real emotion into a song and looks destined for great things if she continues to work with people and material as good as that which went into the sublime delights of “Underwater”.

 

 

 

“Come Home” by BAYNK (feat. Shallou)

 

BAYNK (image courtesy official BAYNK Facebook page)

 

The odds are pretty good that you’ve heard songs by Auckland-producer BAYNK such as “Poolside” and “What You Need” who has, according to the good people who know music at We Are: The Guard, racked up 13 million plays on Spotify and counting.

One listen to the inestimable delights of “Come Home”, featuring the vocal beauty of Chicago singer/producer Shallou, the stage name of Joe Boston, and you will understand why his songs have proved to be such addictive streaming catnip.

The song is an ethereal daydream of a song, all wafty moments and looping beats that surges and falls back with Shallou’s langorously intimate vocals keeping perfect pace.

It’s an immersively engaging song possessed of gossamer-light pop delights that belie a song with robust pop substance that grabs your attention and never lets it go.

Be prepared to hit “replay” ad infinitum.

 

 

“Chemicals (feat. MNDR)” by Oliver

 

Oliver (image courtesy official Oliver Facebook page)

 

MNDR is one of those rare artists that seizes your attention and ardour utterly and completely from the word go and remains firmly in your musical sights everafter.

She has a unique vocal style and sensibility to her airy, emotive voice, making her the perfect choice for “Chemicals” by L.A. production duo Oliver (Oliver “Oligee” Goldstein and Vaughn “U-Tern” Oliver) which slides smoothly into aural view, makes you immediately sit up and take notice, rightly refuses to relinquish its grip on your musical consciousness.

Thanks to a collaboration with De La Soul, “Chemicals” and many of the tracks on oliver’s album Full Circle, which is out now, carry hints of disco, soul and even a little ’70s glam rock.

How can you resist? Spoiler alert: YOU CAN’T.

 

 

“Northern Lights (feat. David Harks)” by Satin Jackets

 

Satin Jackets (image courtesy official Satin Jackets Facebook page)

 

The very best kind of travel is that which leave an indelible mark on you.

One artist who can attest to this truth is Melbourne-Australia-based producer Satin Jackets, known, no doubt fondly, to his parents as Tim Bernhardt, who found himself in Scandinavia, enthralled, as happens to pretty much everybody who sees them by the Northern Lights. So powerful was the experience that it led him to upend his schedule and just glory in all that beauty:

“After experiencing a world known for its Northern Lights, I wanted to take that concept and run with it, asking myself how we could reflect this phenomena in music. Despite a busy schedule, I couldn’t help but take a day off and go on a trip exploring the country and the depths and beauty of one of the Fjords in the area. It was absolutely breath-taking.” (source: CLASH)

With the vocals of Englishman David Hark and production, appropriately enough by Norwegian Carl Louis, thrown into the mix, song “Northern Lights” came into being, a much more impressive trip souvenir than a T-shirt and a keyring.

The song’s dreamy air beautifully evokes the feeling that takes you over when you see nature in all its majesty and glory, with Satin Jackets gives us the perect soundtrack for those special moments.

 

 

“Shhh” by RAYE

 

RAYE (image courtesy official RAYE Facebook page)

 

There is brilliant, seductive playfulness to “Shh” which belies its serious, deadly serious emotional epicentre.

For this song by up-and-coming, London-based R&B singer RAYE is all about the messy, horrible end of a relationship where all the excuses and justifications in the end world by the guilty party mean NOT A DAMN THING.

So don’t say them right? Alas the perpetrator persists leading to RAYE, over tremulous but meaty pop/funk/soul beats and dark musical undercurrents, to suggest they shut the hell up.

“Shhh” may sound light and innocent but it’s anything but, all defiant and justifable putting of someone in their place with some brilliantly-evocative production burnishing the air of the end of all things and the emotional turmoil in which it takes place.

 

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

Now this is music #99: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chela, Rae Morris, Butter, Noah Slee

 

Ever have those moments in life where you feel like a good song would not only soundtrack things perfectly but add immeasurably to what you’re going to?

Or at least emote or articulate better than you’re managing at that point?

You’re not alone, and these five artists have not only heard your cry but answered it declaratively with five catchy as hell songs that take key moments in life like falling forever in love or deciding whether to take the safe route or the more exciting, riskier one, and give them all the insightful, heartfelt expression you could ask for.

 

“Deadly Valentine” by Charlotte Gainsbourg

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg (image courtesy official Charlotte Gainsbourg Facebook page)

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg, the daughter of legendary French singer/actor Serge Gainsbourg and British model/actor Jane Birkin, is one of those inestimably gifted people who appear to be able to do everything.

While she is an impressive actor, it is as a talented singer that Gainsbourg graces this blog today, specifically with her luminously evocative new track, “Deadly Valentine” from her new album Rest, which drops 17 November (conveniently just before my birthday).

Sporting a very clever, poetically-narrative clip that features Gainsbourg’s friend Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), “Deadly Valentine” is a breezily lush, ethereal, emotionally-resonant song that speaks to the glorious permanence of wedding yourself to that someone special:

“This song mixes wedding vows with an offbeat tone. I wanted to express the idea of a lifetime engagement; a couple running to church, from childhood to old age, a lifetime path. I asked my friend Dev Hynes if he would play my partner, and he very graciously agreed.”

 

 

“Bad Habit” by Chela

 

Chela (Photo by Gina Nero via official Chela Facebook page)

 

Chela is one of those nomadic artists for whom the world is her artistic canvas.

Born in Fremantle before moving to Melbourne and then to Los Angeles, Australian-Filipino Chela, known to her parents as Chelsea Wheatley, is a triple threat, showed herself to be equally talented as an artist, producer and filmmaker.

Her extensive talents are on full show with “Bad Habit” which Purple Sneakers describes thus:

“‘Bad Habit’ opens with a dynamic fusion of intricate percussive rhythms overladen with soft, commanding vocals and driving bass line. An assortment of organic and electronic instrument layers hustles this tune through its elementary introductions as we lead into an intoxicating amalgamation of dance breaks and pop sensibilities.”

This captivatingly offbeat songs is accompanied by a clip that Chela choreographed and filmed herself, marking her as one to watch following appearances at SXSW and Coachella behind her and her independently-released EP beckoning sometime in the near future.

 

 

“Do It” by Rae Morris

 

Rae Morris (image courtesy official Rae Morris Facebook page)

 

You know those times, and we all have them, when we really, really, REALLY want to do something but aren’t sure or emboldened enough?

Well the next time you’re struck by life-sapping inertia, you should play “Do It” by Rae Morris, which is all about just going for it, regrets be damned!

“This song is a dare to myself; it’s about daring to take a risk and choosing to take the more exciting route! It kind of exists as a part two of Cold from my first album Unguarded. It’s what happens when you go back into the studio to make more music. Do you write another duet and do a similar thing, or take a risk and do something you’ve never done before? It’s also pretty damn sexy!” (source: DIY)

Exciting, unknown, risky is always better, and sure you could play it safe, stick with the beige, the monotone, the unchallenging but where the hell is the fun in that?

Just do it already! And make you play Rae Morris’s catchy, beautiful song as you do.

 

 

“Lifted” by Butter

 

Butter (courtesy official Butter Facebook page)

 

I am a huge fan of quirky, one-of-a-kind artists – people who know who they are, celebrate the hell out of it, and apologise to no one for their idiosyncracies.

Take L.A.-based Lola Blanc, who describes her new project Butter in these beguilingly obtuse and winningly off-the-wall terms:

“Butter transmutes your childhood memories into far-flung daydreams — like orbiting the rings of Saturn on the Magic School Bus — so far beyond nostalgia, more like an alchemical re-processing of the Collective Unconscious, reworking Pop Culture to resurrect ancient visions, praying to Sailor Moon for protection, calling on Madonna for guidance and an open heart.” (source: Ladygunn)

Got it? Honestly it doesn’t matter if you do exactly because all you need to know is that this supremely-talented artist has delivered up a sterling track in “lifted” that is all breathless, girlish pop perfection, bouncy light beats, catchy vocals and a lightly danceable sensibility.

Care to venture off the musical beaten path? Butter is your artist and “Lifted” is your song.

 

 

“Radar” by Noah Slee

 

Noah Slee (image courtesy official Noah Slee Facebook page)

 

Ranging from his native New Zealand to the über-cool surrounds of hyper-creative Berlin, Noah Slee is a man who knows how to effectively some direct some potent, intensely catchy music to brilliantly good effect.

Thanks to a large family, Noah had plenty of musical influences growing up such as Billie Holiday and Bob Marley and he has clearly used them as inspiration in the groove-laden wonder that is “Radar”.

As Slee tells Nylon, the song, which it describes as “infused with an upbeat vibe … [a] house-inspired song that’s impossible not to dance to”, was always intended to be as upbeat as it ended up:

“‘Radar’ started as an acoustic guitar song that then became this upbeat tune that no matter how often I’ve already heard it, I still wanna dance. Which is important… music + dance = life.”

He’s nailed it with that philosophy, confirming what many of us already know – an insistently danceable beat can rescue just about any situation, with “Radar” leading the pack as immensely-infectious, restorative tracks go.

Make sure you catch Slee’s album Otherland, which is available now.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

Spoon, hailing from Austin, Texas, are a rock band who don’t like to play by the usual rules. The result, which they variously describe as “indie pop”, “art rock” and “experimental rock”, are catchy, beat-heavy, atmospheric songs that also come complete with some clever videos.

Exhibit A is latest single “DO I Have top Talk You Into It”…

 

Now this is music: 5 fantastic songs recommended by Grizzly Bear

 

I am a huge fan of Grizzly Bear.

So when I found an article on Entertainment Weekly where the band’s Ed Droste talked about his favourite current music, I knew there was a better than even chance I’d love a lot of what he picked.

And lo, I was right.

So here are the five artists that most intrigued and whose music really spoke to me – confirming for me that not only do Grizzly Bear make great music themselves, but they know how to spot other people making great music, which makes perfect sense when you think about it.

 

“Four Ethers” by serpentwithfeet

 

serpentwithfeet (image courtesy official serpentwithfeet Facebook page)

 

There’s something deliciously, gloriously grandiosely over the top (in all the very best ways) about the music of serpentwithfeet, a joint creative expression of producer Haxan Cloak and Josiah Wise, Baltimore-born, Brooklyn-resident that The Guardian rather evocatively and most perfectly describe thus:

“Gospel is not usually the kind of music that attracts tarot-reading, pentagram-tattooed occultists but then Baltimore-born singer Josiah Wise is anything but ordinary. At 28, Wise has shed more musical skins than some artists do in a lifetime: he’s trained as a jazz vocalist, formed a neo-soul group, had a goth phase and was once hellbent on being an opera singer. ‘But I didn’t like the idea of having to wear a tux,’ he explains, from his Brooklyn apartment.”

You would expect someone who sounds lushly flamboyant and winningly dresses to match to make music that defies anything you’ve heard before, and serpentwithfeet do not disappoint, creating a song in “Four Ethers” that is, in Pitchfork‘s words “fantastically operative in scale”.

It is also rather pleasingly intimate, a soothingly recriminatory but understanding blend of profanity, raw emotions and music that slinks sinuously yet grandly around elegantly, insightful poetic lyrics.

This is beautiful music with all the emotional resonance in the world, that sounds wondrously different and utterly removed and yet surges in its own defiantly quiet way with emotions any of us can relate to.

 

 

“Friends” by Sure Sure

 

Sure Sure (image via official Sure Sure Facebook page/”Friends” cover art by Zach Bell)

 

For a total change of pace, let’s dash across the wide expanse of the United States to the sunny expanse of Los Angeles where summer is near-eternal, the living (traffic aside) is suitably outdoors-ish and alive, and Sure Sure, natives of the city, are making music that is the perfect soundtrack to this and the vagaries of life.

Vagaries? Surely music this joyously fey can’t be concerned with anything more pressing than which drink to have next or party to go next? There you would be wrong with this bouncily upbeat song, which comes in just under three minutes (thus, incidentally, making it perfect for The Eurovision Song Contest), concerning itself with the glories and bliss of love, and the frustrations of its inability to always deliver on all that romantic promise.

Having made heads turns with the arrestingly laidback sounds of “New Biome”, Sure Sure return with “Friends” which marries the maudlin realisations of heartbreak with the sort of lopingly happy music that suggests there’s still some hope in there somewhere.

Taking a leaf out of many Scandinavian artists who understand life is always a messy mix of light and dark, love and loss, and that it is always so accommodating as to neatly separate the two.

 

 

“Tremble” by LPX

 

LPX (image courtesy official LPX Facebook page)

 

LPX, aka Lizzy Plapinger, the MS of MS MR, as Interview Magazine puts it, takes us to an altogether darker, more anguished part of the romantic expression, wrestling with a relationship full of more angst and emotional turmoil than blissful moments drinking wine while taking in a prefect sunset.

One so taxing in fact that, as she told Interview, it took it out of her even recording the song, which catches you with its raw emotionality:

“This song caught me at the peak of my fragility in the throes of an exhaustive relationship I wasn’t yet brave enough to remove myself from. For the first time I was able to actually be honest with myself about the situation, what I wanted, and what I needed to say. I poured every last drop of juice I had into it, embracing every fracture, squeak, and ache in my voice. After we recorded ‘Tremble’ I wasn’t able to speak for a month. I’ve never poured myself so wholly, physically and emotionally, into a song. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever made.”

It’s redolent with all the back-and-forth anguish of someone wanting to hang onto a relationship that should’ve been a place of safety and security but which is taking far more than it is giving, and devastatingly, aggressively so.

“Tremble” is the soundtrack for the end of all things, powerfully emotionally evocative, possessed of intense beat and an exquisitely beautiful melody that pounds and paces throughout the song’s length, daring you not to get swept in the intimately, cathartic sense of it all.

 

 

“Faultline” by DEDE

 

Dede (image via official Dede Facebook page)

 

Like many of us, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, brought a great deal of anxiety and deeply-held concern to the fore for Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste and L.A.-based vocalist for Tony Heats DEDE who poured “how they were feeling at the time” into the beauty of “Faultlines”.

The song, which is inexpressibly loving manages to fit a million different contradictory elements into its length, a reflection of how our reactions to most anything, but especially traumatic events, is never straightforward:

Describing “Faultlines” as ” a dreamy, dreary ballad — bleak but beautiful, pained and pulsing”, Stereogum notes that Droste and DEDE explained that the song was a reflection of “the feeling of impending doom in the aftermath of the election.”

Rather than being histrionic or Cassandra-like in its intensity, the song captures that rapidly-sinking feeling of the world closing in, of everything seeming to collapse at once, a feel of catastrophic loss which can dissipate in time (although Trump seems to be doing his utmost to keep it unsettlingly alive) but at the time is as crushingly intense but soberingly downbeat as this gem of a track.

 

 

“Swan Song” by Suno Deko

 

Suno Deko (image via official Suno Deko Facebook page)

 

Finishing with some low-fi queer operative overtones courtesy of the luminously-talented Suno Deko, the stage name of David Courtright, “Swan Song” is a contemplative thing of beauty with some very real, insights on the nature of love and how the reality doesn’t always match the rom-com magic:

“I wanted to use [this song as a way] to explore male affection and friendship, but also as a way to glorify the beauty of spring in the context of a very homo landscape. The song itself is about letting go of notions of ‘true love’, i.e. that which is sold to us in movies and magazines, and coming to terms with the fact that love is a conversation, a process, a journey, and at no point does one simply ‘fall in love and the rest is history’. Love takes work, and patience, and involves hurt, and grief. So I wanted to honor that with flowers and sunshine and some gay-ass dance moves.” (Stereogum)

The song is filled with ethereal vocals, that wash you over like the soundtrack to the most impossibly wonderful romance, and yet “Swan Song” is tinged with a gorgeous, knowing melancholy, a sense that for all the possibility and joy, there is also the cold hand of real life which is always so accompanying of St Valentinic-fantasies.

Like love itself, the piano-driven, emotionally-fragile ballad is a sobering mix of exquisitely-wrought optimism, giddy expectation and the awakening of a realisation that there is much more to the heady dream that first meets the eye.

It’s beautiful, real an immersive excursion into the human soul that will capture you as completely as the beguilingly intense throes of new love.

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 We are the midst of Stranger Things 2 fever at the moment. I spent all day Saturday last weekend watching all 9 episodes in one day, and while I don’t think I’ll do that again in a hurry only because the show felt a bit rushed as a result, it was engrossing and absorbing television.
To mark the release of series 2, The Warp Zone has added lyrics to appropriately moody theme music of Stranger Things, giving us the most perfectly Upside Down of parody videos.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

 

Sia has released the first, highly-catchy single from her Christmas album, Everyday is Christmas (due 17 November)! “Santa’s Coming For Us” is a fun festive romp, the lead song for a promising collection of entirely new Christmas songs. (source: EW)

 

Now this is music #98: courtship., TOULOUSE, DENM, What’s So Not, R3hab and Quintino, Siobhan Sainte

 

Harmonies. Attitude. Intensity. Euphoric escape.

They may not seem to have much in common but all of them talk of life, of distilling the part of it that you are at that moment in time and living it, breathing it, being it.

In other words, having a pulse.

All five of these amazing artists have immense talent, a gift for marrying melody and message to compelling effect, in the process reminding you that your heart is still beating and you are alive.

Who doesn’t want that from the music they listen to?

 

“Tell Me Tell Me” by courtship.

 

courtship. (image courtesy official courtship. Facebook page)

 

Hailing from the sunny climes of Los Angeles, Eli and Micah, who rather creatively eschew capitalisation of their first names in their Facebook info, have a gift for crafting insanely infectious pop tunes.

Song after song lodging itself tenaciously in your earworm with “Tell Me, Tell Me” another entry in their growing catalogue of lushly addictive tracks that draw on tight knit harmonies, beguiling insistent melodies and an otherworldly sense that their songs could very well take you away to somewhere a good while away from the everyday.

“Tell Me, Tell Me” especially possesses a lovely tropical lilt, a vibe that suggests balmy evenings on the seashore, lights festooned above you, wine and beers flowing freely and the companionship and laughter of good friends.

It’s perfect world removed from your own music, the perfect accompaniment to those moments when your usual reality is paused and you go somewhere altogether different, just for the night.

 

 

“Man From Pennsylvania” by TOULOUSE

 

TOULOUSE 9image courtesy official TOULOUSE Facebook page)

 

Pssst! Have I got a secret for you.

Well actually TOULOUSE, the Nigerian-born, New York City-based singer-songwriter and producer, does and he’s wrapped it up in the most deliciously sublime piece of pop you’ve heard in a while.

Zipping around the US from Pennsylvania to Chicago to Monterey to waitresses standing in the rain, this is a song that grants gossip a fair bit of condemnatory opprobrium all laid over some gorgeous mid-tempo soul.

We Are: The Guard describes it “soul with a social conscience” and it’s all that and more, the perfect mix of substance and soul beauty that will have you grooving along in no time.

 

 

“Bless Your Heart” by DENM

 

DENM (photo courtesy official DENM Facebook page)

 

Santa Barbara’s own DENM continues to gift us with songs possessed of rich melody, abiding humanity and what We Are: The Guard calls a mix of “beach pop and dance music”.

“Bless Your Heart” also serves up some deeply romantic longings with the artist making a determinedly upbeat pitch for the heart of a girl who’s nothing like all the people around her which works out perfectly since DENM says he’s a breed apart too.

Sure, there’s some playful confidence at work in the loping bright slice of pop but can you blame the guy? He’s trying to woo the girl of his dreams and if he’s going to succeed then some bold overreaching may be just what St Valentine ordered.

Honestly if I was the object of his affection, this song alone would be reason to say a great big, non-regretful “YES”.

 

 

“I Just Can’t” by R3HAB and Quintino

 

R3HAB and Quintino (image courtesy HulkShare)

 

Bouncing in with some effervescently staccato notes that speak of giddy escapist fun in just a bar or two, “I Just Can’t”, blending the talents of Dutch DJs R3hab (Fadil El Ghoul) and Quintino (Quinten van den Berg) to usher a song that is the perfect soundtrack to an Aussie summer.

Or if you’re in the northern hemisphere, a way to recall the heady drays of summer as you head into winter.

The song is lush, danceable pop that captures a whole lot of wonderful in a very short, snappy song, as Dancing Astronaut notes:

“‘I Just Can’t’ is introduced with a tropical summer vibe. Cunning, silky smooth, and warm vocals enhance this sure-fire anthem, whose drop also features relaxing synths and pads that pulsate to superbly chopped vocal samples. ‘I Just Can’t’ captures the season perfectly, allowing for an easy transition into fall.”

Want to get away, lose yourself in some transcendental, exuberantly upbeat music? Power up “I Just Can’t” and go wherever the euphoric muse takes you.

 

 

“Burn it Down” by Siobhan Sainte

 

Siobhan Sainte (image courtesy official Siobhan Sainte Facebook page)

 

Jumping away from giddy upbeat escapism, “Burn it Down” by New Zealander Siobhan Sainte which is all intensely, slo-mo propelled pop, punctuated by a insistent beats and some attractive attitude that burrows its way through the song with appealing brio.

Possessing a powerhouse voice that deftly moves from belting it out to growling swear word-laced menace, Sainte imbues the song with an immersive menace that is a thousand kinds of sultry, burning moody intoxicating grunginess.

Redolent with the sense of someone taking no prisoners and more than ably standing up for themselves, the song is suffused to the rafters with a trippy, quirky melody that ducks and weaves, jumps out, pull itself back in, always keep an air of jagged moodiness percolating through it.

It’s a darkly addictive song that gets under your skin and trust me, you won’t be seeking to dislodge it anytime soon.

 

 

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

 

One of my favourite 80s bands is a-Ha, a Norwegian group who rose to fame on the pop wonderment of “Take on Me”. Now they have recorded the iconic song, along with a number of others, for a new album of acoustic version, MTV Unplugged Summer Solstice, which released 13 October. (source: Laughing Squid)

 

 

The loss of Robin Williams three years ago was a great loss for many people. While nothing can really make up for his all-too-early departure from the world, gems like this footage from a tribute to legendary music promoter Bill Graham can take us back, if only for a moment to a world inhabited and filled with Williams’ gift for rapid-fire insanely hilarious humour.

You can watch his superlative performance at Paste Magazine.

Now this is upbeat chilled music: Maya Jane Coles, Basenji, Tusks, J.Views, Anna of the North

 

Life is relentless.

It has a momentum that is fierce and uncompromising, racing hand in hand to a future only it seems to know, leaving us hanging on for dear life.

Or maybe that’s simply how it often feels.

The truth is we do have the power to call time, to slow the ferocity of the pell-mell madness of life and chill, restoring some quietness and thought to the day-in, day-out rat race-ness of modern living.

These five artists bring you that calm, along with a thoughtfulness, adding a richness to those rare moments of contemplation that leaves you far more alive than if you had simply kept unthinkingly putting one foot in front of the other.

 

“Take Flight” by Maya Jane Coles

 

Maya Jane Coles (image courtesy official Maya Jane Coles Facebook page)

 

There is a moody, almost removed and yet quite beautiful quality to “Take Flight”, the title track from the first full album of material from the in-demand British DJ and producer in three years, that almost immediately draws you away from the urgent immediacy of your surrounds.

Lust, ethereal and punctuated by tremulous beats, the song is a gorgeous excursion into an electronic dreamscape, an escape into a carefully-crafted world which, Coles quietly promises, is “a secret place we can hide until daylight.”

The song is emblematic of the electronic artist’s singular style which melds a disparate group of sounds and tempos but all in the service of creating a soundscape into which you can lose yourself and only emerge when you’re good and ready. It’s a strategy aided by the fact her new album, Take Flight, comes in at an impressive 2 hours, delivering up 24 magically different but cohesively-whole songs.

If you’re exhausted by the demands of day-to-day life but can’t quite step away for too long, then think about putting this song and its accompanying album mates and let them take you where they will.

 

 

“Don’t Let Go feat. Mereki” by Basenji

 

Basenji (image courtesy official Basenji Facebook page / Photo by Jordan Drysdale Photography)

 

There’s a bright upbeat loveliness to this “Don’t let Go”, the new track from Sydney producer Basenji who uses the piercingly beautiful vocals of Los Angeles-based singer Mereki to add some liltingly beautiful lustre to the song’s delightfully fey melody.

Dreamy and meandering, the song has a lot going on as Purple Sneakers observes:

“Soft synths provide extra texture, harnessing the dream-like vibes and laying a gentle bed of sounds, which eventually blooms into a more dance-y chorus. The feel-good, easy listening vibe and the uncomplicated joy of the lyrics masks a complex layering of beats and sounds which is a testament to BASENJI’s seamless production.”

The song bolsters the idea that the simplest-sounding and most affecting of songs have the most moving parts, something true of all good pop songs of which “Don’t Let Go” is a current standout example.

 

 

“Dissolve” by Tusks

 

Tusks (image courtesy official Tusks Facebook page / Photo: Jodie Canwell)

 

Love is, as we all know, a powerful emotion.

Nowhere is it more combustable than when you’re young before it’s tempered by life lessons too numerous to mention; Tusks aka Emily Underhill captures the raw power and beauty of young love in a song drenched in intense emotion that contrasts beautifully with the dreamily detached melody.

So expansively, emotionally rich is her music that it possesses a vividly cinematic feel, bolstered by her lushly visual story-rich video clips, a quality inspired by her childhood and the way it has influenced her art:

“I’m a very visual person, I love being outdoors and surrounded by nature. I grew up by the sea and I’ve always tried to spend as much time outside and travel as much as possible – I think perhaps subconsciously that all influences how cinematic some of my music can be and why I love creating the artwork to go with it.” (source: DIY)

Quite simply Tusks music is intensely real, true and deeply-felt, a perfect match to unfettered life which, if you’re paying attention and this artist most certainly is, rarely expresses itself in hushed tones of beige and nothingness.

 

 

“We Moved” by J.Views (Feat. Benja Lyman)

 

J.Views (image courtesy official J.Views Facebook page)

 

Described by Billboard as a “lustrous New York-based producer”, which has to be one of the most fulsomely lovely descriptions of an artist I’ve ever read, J.Views aka Jonathan Dagan has a way with a catchy tune.

Take “We Moved”, which not only features an infectiously danceable beat with some beguiling calypso drum beats percolating through it with a deliciosuly upbeat urgency, but comes with a eye-catchingly fun video featuring the artist’s dancing as their muse takes them, in multiple locatins around the world.

These same fans were given the opportunity to be a part of the creation of “We Moved” and the album it’s from 401 Days, part of an endeavour that Billboard described as “[working] to elapse the borders of fan and musician to illustrate that art shared with the world doesn’t have to be complete — a mission that allows everyone to speak from their heart through their creation.”

It’s a wholly unique way of creating art that has resulted in some no doubt very devoted, invested faans and some truly amazing music.

Time to get your groove on people.

 

 

“Money” by Anna of the North

 

Anna of the North (image courtesy official Anna of the North Facebook page / photo by Jonathan Vivaas Kise)

 

If you think that “Money” by Norwegian/New Zealand artist Anna Lotterud is about you as you listen to its bewitchingly beautiful pop, then you might want to think again given that the artist, who works closely with Australian Bradie Daniell-Smith describes the song this way:

“‘Money’ goes out to all those fake ass people. Users who use those around them; for money, for status, for fame. S/O to fake friends and gold-diggers!”

So rethink that one, unless you like being a fake ass shallow gold-digger then have at it.

For the rest of us, this luscious song, which was recorded in Oslo and mixed in Copenhagen and London by Luke Smith (Foals, Petite Noir, Depeche Mode), is damn fine music, described by as Mushroom as “[a slice of] gorgeous alt-pop [that] follows a slew of shimmering electronic singles.”

It’s utterly entrancing, a delightful balance of gorgeous music with hard-hitting lyric, the sort of song that Scandinavian, and even Scandinavian/New Zealander artists seems to excel at.

 

NOW THIS IS MUSIC EXTRA EXTRA!

The movie of the one of the best films ever, The Princess bride, turned 30 on 26 September, and as an “ode” of celebration, the Gregory Brothers crafted this fantastically catchy song made up of the movie’s many catchphrases and great lines of dialogue. (source: Laughing Squid)