Before we begin, we just wanted to say that we have no idea what the hell is going on in the music industry at the moment. AppleMusic and the shift to a Friday Release date has been a change that almost everyone you speak to in The Biz is either scared of, excited by, or both.
Those who are fearful are worried that anything without a bajillion dollars being spent on marketing their release will be lost in the digital ether. Meanwhile, those who are far more optimistic seem to see a new dawn on the horizon. People are screaming questions like: Are playlists the future? Is curation more important now than ever before? Is anyone ever going to get paid a penny ever again? Why are record labels getting royalties and not publishers who represent songwriters? Why so many dog-darn questions...?!
All we really know is that change happens. Acts are now dropping tracks on a Thursday night and they’re in the chart next Friday. Others are still putting songs on YouTube with an iTunes store release date 8 weeks in the future - although it’s a date and pre-order link which you can only find if you click “view more”.
The idea of a “release” now seems kind of quaint. A "release" is now a fluid beast, and not something anyone can truly capture in a net for long enough to define what it is any more. All of which makes the idea of a weekly column dedicated to new “singles” or “track releases" a tricky thing to do. Rather than setting too many parameters we’re just going to roll with it; we'll try out as many different formats for what we feature and how we feature it. One week it might be one track. Another week we might write about the charts in Greece. Who knows. THERE ARE NO RULES and everyone is making it up as they go along in this brave new world, so why can’t we? Singles column at hometime on a Thursday and then not do another one for a few weeks because 'why not?!'
However, before we begin this week’s three-way assault, it’s with a tear in our bloodshot eyes that we bid farewell to Rob Leedham doing this Singles column every week. He’s been your man battling his inbox and coming up with a selection of the best and not-so-good tracks of the week since Wendy Roby departed in early 2013. He's had a terrific innings. Don’t fret Rob fans! Given the new ever-morphing manner of the singles column from now on, he has promised to come back refreshed from not being saddled to the weekly task and bombarded by PR people every single minute of every day. We look forward to being reminded how it's done.
Here’s a quick reminder of Rob’s best bits, and what we need to remember going forwards.
Top 5 Lessons From The Leedham of the Pack
5) Opinions Matter
A great column always features a tussle with your inner monologue. Occasionally it’s a ruck with your demons that spools out through the monitor. A perfectly exhumed opinion piece is not asking for a fight, but demanding you pick a side or step outside.
For instance, when Rob asked ‘Why is British guitar music so stagnant?’ the cries of clickbait (yeah, because a few extra Twitter clicks means the difference between beans on toast or just toast for dinner… like anyone is getting paid from online editorial you whiny pillocks!) were dulled somewhat by the righteous mob, fist bumping the Gods. The same crew also loved/hated this column about hype cycles. Then again, calling out BandAID 2.0 also went down pretty well.
Take away: Sometimes a column about celebrating the best new songs needs to be a little nasty.
4) Be Topical
Sometimes it’s good to go off-piste a little and focus not on what is actually being released, but what people are talking about. Be it Christmas singles, a new NOW compilation of singles, the Mercury Music Prize, the BBC Sound of Poll, the Radio1 playlist, Record Store Day, or Eurovision.
Take away: Don’t swim against the tide.
3) Know When To Focus On One Act
On occasion, “DiS Does Singles” has been dedicated to just one act. This selection of The Cribs 21 best singles got a lot of people talking, and got various people who hadn’t really checked out the band into them. Job done.
Sometimes focusing on a figure of hate and using it as a judo move to big up another act you love is also a brilliant idea (see: a column about U2 that was really about The Replacements). We also loved it when he made the column all about Robyn (and Royksopp) and that time Los Campesinos took over.
Take away: Double underline the ones you love and add a few exclamation marks.
2) Be Brave
There’s probably not a piece that has run on DiS that we’ve loved and respected more than this ode to the unexpected joys of Johnny Borrell’s ‘Erotic Letter’.
Take away: Sometimes you have to go there.
1) Make It Personal
It’s hard to pick a number one because when Rob shared parts of himself to contextualise a song, he managed to sucker you in the gut and connect on a level far beyond anything that a column about songs that-happen-to-be-out-this-week is meant to allow. So we’ll leave you with reminders of his tale of brotherly love and Brand New and this soul-scorching piece that’s sort of about a Vampire Weekend single, but more about life, religion and mortality (trigger warning: you may need a quite sit down beside a lake for a few days to get over reading that).
Take away: We’re all human, but no-one can be Rob Leedham.
So, with all of that in mind, and the bar set impossibly high, here’s our first attempt at revamping the singles column. This week DiS’ editor Sean Adams (that’s me typing in the third person, hi!), Derek Robertson and Tom Fenwick spent an hour or two flinging track at each other and writing a few sentences about each. Will we agree on anything? Let's see.
SINGLE OF THE WEEK
by YOUTH LAGOON
Sean Adams: On first listen I was a bit confused what had happened to that melancholy young lad who scorched our hearts a few years back. When the song picks up it’s clear he’s been staring at the moon whilst listen to Mercury Rev before night-swimming to some Sufjan. It’s a subtle and then sublime comeback track - although oddly it's not a trillion miles away from the new Beirut track, whose album is out in September too (Youth Lagoon’s Savage Hills Ballroom is coming on September 25th 2015).
Derek Robertson: The arc of the hyped, one-man bedroom producer/artist is usually one of diminishing returns - hello Washed Out! - often to the point you dread what might come next. Thankfully, Trevor Powers is still paddling against the tide, powered by his own, deep imagination and his ability to weave empathy and intelligence into the most beautifully lush songs. ‘Knower’ starts slow, but it’s a grower; a baleful trumpet slowly building in intensity to a muted climax of bustling drums, each element seemingly trying to outdo the rest before abruptly fading out. Sweet, forlorn, and never threatening to outstay its welcome; exactly what you want in a single.
Tom Fenwick: Just grand. All skittering beauty, mournful horns, and a sense of wonder. Basically, what they said! ^
We’re offered a lot of tracks to run first, and each week we’re going to try to pluck something for you to be the first to hear. Think of us as Zane Lowe with the world’s Hottest Record, minus the hyperbole and demanding you listen to it twice in a row.
'Scale of Volitility'
Sean Adams: One of the best things about the modern age is how easy it is to explore genres that you previously might have found too risky to plumb the depths of by splashing your cash. It’s odd to think that before hearing Sigur Ros 15 years ago, I would never have considered myself appreciating modern classical. But through listening to movie soundtracks, and Last.fm’s algorithm taking me from post-rock into the outer reaches of drone, I’ve found myself absolutely adoring orchestrations that are primarily strings and piano, or one but not the other.
It seems fitting then that FatCat (who released those early Sigur Ros records) imprint 130701 should be one of our first premieres in this new column. The 130701 label was founded by Set Fire To Flames on the 13th July 2001, and has been responsible for releases by the likes of Max Richter and Hauschka
This haunting track by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch (pictured above) takes a little from the Eluvium school of warm updrafts of drone and douses it in an early morning piano fog of Nils Frahm. The combination makes it the perfect example of what an unexpected dream it's been to ease into an ever evolving genre that involves classical instruments, and it seems somewhat contrary to be liberated by all this new fangled-technology.
It’s supple. It casts shadows as it twirls around in that dark attic in your head. It is the first taste of Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s forthcoming album Like Water Through The Sand which is due in November. It’s post-classical, modern-classical, experimental classical, whatever you want to call it… I like to call it glorious, so let’s leave it at that.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
What is a “release” any more? Is it when a song goes on YouTube/Soundcloud, the first time it’s on the radio, or when it’s released on Fridays to stream on Apple/Spotify/RDIO/Deezer/etc?! Whilst it’s nearly impossible to find a comprehensive release schedule online, we’ve gone through our endless emails to find the pick of those out tomorrow. But of course, to throw a spanner in the works, some people release songs on Tuesdays and they end up on streaming services straight away - like Youth Lagoon above. Plus it’s summer so it’s slim-pickings, but hell, we’re still gonna invent some genres and rummage around…
by LANA DEL REY
Derek Robertson: “Hollywood Sadcore”. “Narco Swing”. That’s Lana Del Rey’s music in her own words. So before she comes up with some newfangled, kooky concoction to describe album number three, I’m calling it; Bond-core. ‘Honeymoon’ sounds like her open audition for a Bond theme, all warbling vocals, dramatic strings, and moments of darkness and light. You can just imagine this soundtracking a montage of Bond sailing a vintage yacht into some glamourous harbour, staring ruefully off into the middle distance from a moutaintop, or gently stroking the back of his latest conquest, knowing full well she’s due to die in the very next scene. It even contains the line “You have violence in your eyes”! Inject some drums, pomp, and bombast, and you’d have a modern day classic. Sadly, those things are missing, which means it meanders aimlessly for almost six minutes before petering out with barely a whimper, as soft as the wind, but just as empty. In other words, classic Del Rey.
Sean Adams: Totally agree: I like how it’s like you’re watching yourself fall to you death, in slow motion, on a crackling black and white TV, whilst nuzzling a kitten.
Tom Fenwick: A six minute cure for insomnia from the self-appointed Queen of snooze-core.
'Under Neon Light’
by CHEMICAL BROTHERS ft ST VINCENT
Sean Adams: Oh ark that, it’s Annie Clark! I haven’t listened to Chemical Brothers in about twenty years, glad to hear they still know how to make something that wriggles that doesn’t sound dated, but still sounds like them. Sadly, it doesn’t have one of those big eureka moments where it all comes together to make the Jon Hopkins-ness of it really click.
Derek Robertson: It can’t be easy for a genre-blurring, cutting-edge dance duo whose combined age is now eighty-nine to stay relevant in a world awash with EDM superstars and drops the size of skyscrapers. 'Under Neon Lights' sounds like a tentative step back into the mainstream - steady but unspectacular, competent but lacking sparkle, almost, dare I say it, a little plodding. It also can’t be easy to make Annie Clark sound dull and monotone...and yet here she sounds like an after-thought as opposed to the spark that should fire this track into the stratosphere. For a group who delighted as much as they raved, a rather shabby return.
Tom Fenwick: The Chemical Brothers generally have a knack for turning flaccid beats into something spectacular, provided there’s a decent guest vocalist on the track (see: Galvanise). It’s a trick they’ve been peddling in different variations for years now. And while it’s nice to see the elder statesmen of dance still making original material, sadly the beats aren’t block rockin’ anymore. And even Annie Clark’s breathy turn on vocals can’t save this from feeling like tired nostalgia.
by NOLITA VIEW
Sean Adams: I’m not against being twitter spammed by bands when they have a sleazy-but-sleepy riff like this in their back pocket.
Tom Fenwick: They’ve got one beat and they’re sticking with it. Like a function band trying to cover the Yellow Magic Orchestra.
In this section we each pick a personal favourite from the recent weeks.
'Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me'
Chosen by Derek Robertson: Break up songs tend to wallow in a certain amount of self-pity, pitched somewhere around Stage Four on the Kübler-Ross model; stuck in bed, eating ice-cream straight from the tub, binge watching Dawson’s Creek. Not Ghostpoet though. He knows who to pin the failure on, and uncannily taps into the very modern dating malaise of “it’s not me, it’s you”. “It’s just you’re forgettable / I think that’s the issue, babe” he croons alongside Lucy Rose, a brutally honest put down that’s been perfected by Generation Me to deflect feelings of inadequacy. It’s all delivered over a pared down wash of skittering drums, bass, and woozy, sickly synths, a powerfully captivating anthem that’s as unflinching as it is intelligent. Utterly glorious, and utterly of its time.
by JANE WEAVER
Chosen by Sean Adams: If you like psych-folk, you probably already have Weaver’s latest album, but for those of you - like me - not in the throes of a sprawling cape of drones and glorious vocals, this is one hell a welcome mat to step into her world. The fact this video hasn’t reached 3000 streams yet is an atrocity; get listening and sharing DiSsers.
'Dead Format (Dalhaus Remix)'
by BLANCK MASS
Chosen by Tom Fenwick: Just when I thought I couldn’t write anymore glowing words about Benjamin John Power’s music, he releases this subtle remix of Dumb Flesh’s lead single ‘Dead Format’. It's been reworked by Scottish duo Dalhaus, who’ve transformed Power’s brutalist noise terror into a delicate piece of creeping beauty. Its gleaming ambient oscillations are the ideal soundtrack if you happen to lose yourself in an eerie hall of mirrors or find yourself alone on a distant planet. So something for everyone.
Why the fuck were we sent this?
by THE RINGADINGS
Sean Adams: This is what most Twitter spam sounds like: Daniel Beddingfield tries to be Buggles and falls into a ball pool. Gunge tank pop, for over excited fanzine kids (do “da kidz” even exist any more?).
Tom Fenwick: Milk, milk, lemonade round the corner music like this is made. We really shouldn’t be giving this kind of rubbish a platform. It feels like a marketer's idea of post-post-post-irony, from the terrible dayglow track to the vaguely Europhobic choice of spelling in the press release “Vee hope you liken our nortee debut zingle”. Is this 1994? Am I dreaming this? FFS - It’ll probably be the sound of the summer.
Derek Robertson: It's so bad, it makes me want to stick my finger through my eye, into my brain, and swirl everything around. If Hell does exist, it must surely consist of this, on a loop, played at ear-splitting volume.
'Oh Hell No’
Sean Adams: Speaking of Twitter spam and Daniel Beddingfield, it’s nice to see that Jedward are still so bad they’re good.
Tom Fenwick: After hearing this I’ve begun to re-assess the career of Vanilla Ice. But it’s better than the Ringadings. Is that a complement?
Derek Robertson: I'll say this: Jedward have guts, and anyone willing to put their name to something this bad deserves credit (if it were me, I'd spontaneously combust through sheer shame). But they're laughing all the way to the bank, aren't they, so maybe the joke is on us.
'Fun (Damaged Goods remix)'
PITBULL ft. Chris Brown
Sean Adams: Ah the king of SPDM (Sex Pest Dance Music) teams up with the guy who gave this beating to Rihanna (trigger warning: that LAPD police report is something I really wish I could unread). The only thing that could make a song about lurking in the shadows and who “know where to stick it” any worse is an unimaginative remix that repeats the same tired loop over and over again until you’ve forgotten which scumbags you’re listening to. In better news, listening to this in the gym or glancing at their faces on the tv screens is guaranteed to help you break your personal best.
Tom Fenwick: Uggggh….an awful song, by awful people, for awful people.
Derek Robertson: Great, another soft-porn-as-music-video montage, fronted by two of the worst humans on the planet. A black hole of awfulness and cliche - why does this even exist?
"Experienced banker" Stefano Bertozzi
Sean Adams: This is a genuine email sent to DiS amidst the 90 video premieres we’re offered a day and those 100s of people asking us to run gig listings and news stories (if you look around you’ll notice we don’t have a listings section and haven’t run a news story for about 7 years!).
“We are excited to announce that esteemed and experienced banker Stefano Bertozzi is debuting his equally professional music career with first single 'Let Me Decide'.
We were actually really thrown by this story..
And i'm sure YOUR Audience will be too.
It's nice to speak to such a humble man who's achieved a great deal with his life and with a natural song writing / musical talent.
So he's a leading banking professional, he's made a credible successful career, so his music is worth a listen...
That's what we thought and we were pleasantly surprised.
And hope YOU are too.”
In a word: NO.
Listen to many of the above recommended tracks and new releases as they hit Spotify by following this regularly updated playlist.
To send us your track drop an email to singles [AT] drownedinsound [dot] com.