Monday, 15 January 2018

Get Out - Jordan Peele

Get Out - Jordan Peele

It's not often that films click with the zeitgeist as completely as Get Out fits with 2017. Its satire of racism is frightening not only for director Jordan Peele's embracing of horror tropes, but for its shocking plausibility.

What's so clever about the film is that its premise is so simple: white girl takes her black boyfriend home to meet her parents and horror ensues. It plays on an obvious fear that we've all had at one point or another, but by placing race at the centre of the story it holds a mirror to society. We may get freaked out by the behaviour shown in the film, but once the credits fade and the lights come up this is everyday life for far too many black members of society.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is victim to plentiful moments of casual racism as characters question his body frame, his virility, his sense of cool. It's a biting critique of the ignorance of middle America and Peele directs the scenes with expert timing. The atmosphere slowly morphs from homely warmth to bizarre, the acting is just the wrong side of strange, and creeping anxiety gradually takes hold. The film keeps you on your toes throughout, uncertain of who to trust. And in doing so, it puts us all in the shoes of a victim.

Equally, the film is pulpy and cartoonish fantasy. The film eventually descends into schlocky horror chaos, its twists predictable, its final scenes bordering on silly. When the opening is so sincere and believable while simultaneously tapping into familiar horror tropes, it's almost disappointing that the film ends with such cartoon violence.

But that's the final trick. The film draws us in with its pop culture and its palatable horror. Yet once the blood splatters have dripped their last, we're left with a horrifying vision of our own reality that scares more than cinema ever could.

4/5

Watch: Get Out is out now.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Paramore @ The O2

Paramore @ The O2


"It's been an honour to grow up in front of you," Hayley Williams declared part way through this, Paramore's first gig at the O2 in years. "We are not those people and neither are you."

That's certainly true. Paramore have been through enough difficulty as a band to come back last year with a single called Hard Times. The album that followed, released to widespread acclaim, saw the band steering ever closer to a pure pop sound, yet beneath the tropical synths, lively rhythms and new wave guitars, the beating emo heart remains. Lyrically it depicts Williams' struggles with depression, cleverly masked with playful production.

You wouldn't think that to see them live, however. Williams high-kicks across the stage with seemingly infinite reserves of energy and a vocal that remains pitch perfect, backed by a band that sound as tight as ever. The buoyant music gets the crowd dancing throughout - there's an atmosphere of liberation and glee.

There's also a sense of nostalgia. Tracks like That's What You Get and Misery Business from their breakthrough album 'Riot!' received the loudest response, clearly aimed at those of us who have long since grown up. Yet the latter song saw Williams inviting a young fan up on the stage to sing out every word together, proving their old hits still have resonance.

It was the songs from 'After Laughter' that dominated though: sophisticated pop that show how far the band have come. "Get your dancing shoes on and have your tissues ready," Williams joked, but it's a brilliant summation of the likes of Hard Times, Forgiveness and Told You So. Nods to hits from Blondie and Whitney Houston played on the 80s influences with tongue firmly in cheek. The only sag was No Friend, the band switching pop optimism for scuzzy introversion.

That their final encore was Rose Coloured Boy just shows the importance they place on their new material that's managed to appease long-time fans while bringing in a legion of newer ones. Mostly, for a band with so much misery business, they simply exude fun. There's no extravagant staging or endless political speeches. It's just infectious pop songs and a bloody good time. There's nothing fake happy about that.

4/5

Paramore @ The O2

Paramore @ The O2

Paramore @ The O2



Saturday, 13 January 2018

New Music Friday 12/01

This week we're blessed with a new Troye Sivan track, amongst others, that you need to listen to on repeat.


Troye Sivan - My My My!

Troye Sivan - My My My!

Here's a queer artist fully embracing his identity. The stylish black and white video for My My My! is an absolute celebration of sexuality, a sweaty, sexy nod to cruising with Sivan dancing with gay abandon (literally). Beyond that, it's just a damn good pop song, the sort of song you listen to once and its power is immediately infectious. Dance beats, a simple hook and a middle eight that skips a beat - it's refined, sexy, classic pop.



Dua Lipa - IDGAF

 Dua Lipa - IDGAF

Fine, technically this isn't in NMF, but the video's only just been released and it's as meme-worthy as its predecessor. IDGAF passed me by on Dua's album, though it was a key part of the set at her Brixton show last year. It's also a worthy follow up to New Rules and while the video doesn't have a flamingo, its colourful dance battle is stunning.



Jorja Smith - Let Me Down

 Jorja Smith - Let Me Down

Smith has just been named as the BRITs Critics' Choice for 2018 and having Stormzy join her on this track is sure to add to her fame. Her vocal here is crushing as she sings "I've got you to let me down" in the chorus, Stormzy replying in the verse "Don't go wasting your love on me / When I see tears run, I'm likely to run". There's a hint of Adele's Hometown Glory in the lilting piano too - Smith is following in her footsteps.



Nina Nesbitt - Somebody Special

Nina Nesbitt - Somebody Special

Since leaving Island Records, Nesbitt has released a string of interesting pop tracks far removed from her folky beginnings. Somebody Special is the latest, its verses building towards a hushed finger-clicking chorus. "You're making me believe that I'm somebody special," she sings. This song certainly is.



Marshmello & Lil Peep - Spotlight

 Marshmello & Lil Peep - Spotlight

Spotlight is all about a devastating breakup. "Sex with you is like I'm dreaming," goes the pre-chorus, "Now you're gone I can't believe it". But since the recent death of Lil Peep, the post-emo rapper, the song has been released by producer Marshmello posthumously and its lyrics take on new haunted meaning. Nu-metal meets trap, it's a sad indication of what might have been.



Emily Burns - Bitch

 Emily Burns - Bitch

Burns has been recording in Abbey Road Studios of all places since working there as a receptionist and has since been snapped up by indie label 37 Adventures. Bitch is a spiky, biting critique of a past friendship: "I've heard from everyone else that you're so much better without me...but you don't have to be a bitch about it". With rhythmic production from biLLLy, this is a talent to keep an eye on.



Hailee Steinfeld x BloodPop - Capital Letters

  Hailee Steinfeld x BloodPop - Capital Letters

You'd expect a collaboration between these artists to be something special. Then you realise it's on the Fifty Shades soundtrack and that explains why it's so insipid.



Hayley Kiyoko - Curious

Hayley Kiyoko - Curious

Kiyoko is best known for playing Velma in the Scooby Doo films, but she's a rising star in the music world with a debut album on its way in March. Curious is a flirtatious bop with heavy beats and a coy vocal and fits neatly in the contemporary pop box. Like Sivan, she's embracing her queer identity but the video might take the title a little too literally.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Denim: World Tour @ The Soho Theatre

Denim: World Tour @ The Soho Theatre

Drag is more popular than ever and for that, we really have to thank the incomparable RuPaul. Drag Race has grown from queer niche to transcendent cultural phenomenon, with people from all genders, sexualities and backgrounds enthralled by its parade of enchanting Glamazonians.

That’s why the audience at the Soho Theatre for Denim: World Tour is such a mix. But drag in the UK is different: it’s dirty and scuzzy and punk and, crucially, they don’t lip sync – they actually sing. Denim, then, may be quite different to the polished performers the audience may be expecting.

The show itself, though, is also a mixed bag. The group consists of five queens – Glamrou La Denim, Crystal Vaginova, Electra Cute, Shirley Du Naughty and Aphrodite Jones – who together are the girl band Denim, the show’s central conceit being a stadium performance in Wembley. Except it’s a black box theatre in central London – they just haven’t realised it. Each queen has her moment in the spotlight as well as group numbers, but while the performance is a smart idea, it never quite pulls together into a joke.

That goes for the individual performances too: some of the jokes land, while some of them are missing a punchline and don’t elicit the expected laughs. The queens are at their best when they twist familiar songs: there’s a surprisingly delicate rendition of “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, a clever nod to Chicago, a Beyoncé song distorted into filth, and Whitney’s “So Emotional” warped into something quite different. But then there are moments of silliness that aren’t as witty, or moments of trite cliché (opening the show with a Lady Gaga medley is just basic, though it is acknowledged as such), or ideas with potential – a gay Muslim torn between his religion and sexuality for instance – that are stretched too thin.

Yet these queens are talented! Looks-wise Ru and Michelle Visage might have a few words to say, but vocally they are impressive. Crystal especially sings in a lovely and surprisingly powerful falsetto that rings over the other girls’ harmonies and Electra Cute eventually gets her moment and offers a triumphant rendition of the Eurovision-winning “Rise Like A Phoenix”.

This particular performance was lacking a little in spark, energy and fierceness, however. You get the sense that this type of show works brilliantly at the Edinburgh Festival, but in a more traditional theatre it lacks intimacy and audience connection. Denim are essentially a cabaret act and they deserve a cabaret venue to do them justice. They might not be Wembley standard, but their World Tour remains hugely entertaining.

3/5

Watch: Denim: World Tour runs at the Soho Theatre until 3rd February.

Denim: World Tour @ The Soho Theatre

Saturday, 6 January 2018

New Music Friday 05/01

Here we are, the first NMF of 2018. And what a way to start the year...


Justin Timberlake - Filthy

Justin Timberlake - Filthy

The trousersnake is back and now he’s out of the woods and filthy. This smacks of an attempt to regain the sex appeal of 'FutureSex/LoveSounds' after the ambitious (if pretentious) dual album 'The 20/20 Experience', its production characterised by electro funk and dangerous, womping basslines. “What you gonna do with all that meat?”, he sings with a wry smile. But this slick electronic sound seems at odds with the Brokeback Mountain-esque Americana feel of the album’s launch trailer earlier this week. And how much of this is Timberlake clinging to the coattails of long-time producer Timberland? And more than anything, where is the hook?



Bruno Mars & Cardi B - Finesse (Remix)

Bruno Mars & Cardi B - Finesse (Remix)

'24k Magic' was mostly filled with saccharine sex anthems, but Finesse is a rare example of the 90s pastiche working. Yes, it sounds just like MJ’s Remember The Time, but it’s a polished and loving throwback to an idol who has so clearly influenced Mars. Cardi B is underused in this remix version, but featuring on such a high profile release just proves how far she’s come.



Kendrick Lamar with SZA - All The Stars

Kendrick Lamar with SZA - All The Stars

It was announced this week that Kendrick will be creating the soundtrack to Marvel’s Black Panther film, which might just end up being the best thing about it. All The Stars is Kendrick at his most commercial – this is certainly a conservative track compared to his previous albums. Even so, he’s able to offer a cinematic anthem that’ll sound great over the credits, a balance of confrontation and hope between his brooding verses and SZA’s soaring chorus.



Liam Payne & Rita Ora - For You

 Liam Payne and Rita Ora - For You

From one soundtrack to another, here’s Liam and Rita with a theme song as damp and generic as the sex scenes in the Fifty Shades film it accompanies. *bin emoji*



Charlie Puth feat. Boyz II Men - If You Leave Me Now

 Charlie Puth feat. Boyz II Men - If You Leave Me Now

Puth’s second album, ‘Voicenotes’, has been pushed back from its January release, but we at least have this beautiful little a capella number featuring Boyz II Men. It might not be as fun as Bruno Mars’ 90s throwback, but this more traditional take is full of heart.



Chloe x Halle - The Kids Are Alright

 Chloe x Halle - The Kids Are Alright

Two young Beyoncés singing a youth anthem over gently hypnotic synths. The sisterly duo, discovered on YouTube and signed to Beyoncé's own Parkwood Entertainment company, are effortlessly on the bleeding edge of cool and here educate us all on youth empowerment. "Call it how we see it, we a genius generation," they sing," better go and get your life".



BØRNS feat. Lana Del Rey - God Save Our Young Blood

 BØRNS feat. Lana Del Rey - God Save Our Young Blood

This track will feature on BØRNS' second album due next week. The American singer, best known for Electric Love, lives in the past almost as much as Del Rey with his 70s inspired glam rock sound. This, though, is a breezy, polished electro-pop track that charts new contemporary territory for them both.



Superorganism - Everybody Wants To Be Famous

Superorganism - Everybody Wants To Be Famous

Superorganism is a fitting name for an indie-pop band who met online and span the Pacific, but it's also fitting for this new single: it's like an amorphous, vibrant blob of trilling synths, guitars, cash register samples and vocals leaden with ennui. "It seems like everybody wants to be famous," sings lead vocalist Orono, bored with Internet fame. Judging by this, fame is something they're going to have to get used to.



Friday, 5 January 2018

Bananaman The Musical @ Southwark Playhouse

Bananaman The Musical @ Southwark Playhouse

Despite the popularity of superhero films and comic book franchises over the last couple of decades, a musical about this 80s fruit-based hero seems an unlikely choice. Yet here we are with Bananaman The Musical, a love letter to David Donaldson’s character by Leon Parris, who wrote the book, lyrics and music for this adaptation.

I confess, I am more aware of the comic and TV show than familiar with it, it being slightly before my time. The musical’s faithfulness to the original comics is for another reviewer.

But this is clearly engineered to be a night of nostalgia, what with the stage framed by blown up images taken from the Beano comic and TV theme tunes played as the audience enter. It’s a colourful, chaotic production filled with British silliness and irreverence. It certainly feels like a comic strip come to life, its story revolving around teenager Eric Wimp who, after a freak accident, turns into the titular hero when he eats a banana and is tasked with thwarting the dastardly plans of dual villains Doctor Gloom and General Blight. Bananaman himself is a bit of a dunce, with the muscles of twenty men and the brain of twenty mussels as the comics state, but this provides plenty of opportunity for comedy in lampooning other heroes who take their power and responsibility far more seriously.

For the uninitiated, though, the flimsy and inconsequential plot is stretched paper thin and the jokes eventually become tedious. There are some modern updates – Fiona, for instance, is now a young journalist permanently attached to her phone – but Parris seems most concerned with giving it all heart by exploring Eric’s struggle with the responsibility of power. It becomes more Spiderman than Superman, when really it’s far more fun to simply watch the klutzy hero. The narrative is too slight to hold up any thematic depth.

And then the cracks begin to show in the production, with clunky staging, awkward scene changes and laughable effects. Much of the show’s humour derives from breaking the fourth wall to poke fun at the production itself, but it’s ambiguous how much of this is intentional rather than papering over the cracks, no matter how in-keeping it is with the spirit of irreverence. Bananaman himself, though, is performed well by Matthew McKenna with the slick costume to match.

The production isn’t helped by a score that’s lively but frantic, too often overlaying melodies and harmonies as to make lyrics incomprehensible. Either that or the songs slow the fast-paced action to a crawl, without offering anything particularly memorable. There is some fine singing, however, especially from Emma Ralston as Fiona, but it’s Marc Pickering’s Doctor Gloom who steals the show, dedicated to the silliness of both the character and the production with a tongue-in-cheek performance. As a whole the cast have a lot of fun and their enjoyment is infectious, even if this (literally) bananas show seems aimed squarely at children of the past.

3/5

Watch: Bananaman The Musical runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 20th January.

Bananaman The Musical @ Southwark Playhouse

Bananaman The Musical @ Southwark Playhouse
Photos: Pamela Raith

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Hamilton @ The Victoria Palace Theatre

Hamilton @ The Victoria Palace Theatre

I was worried. Hamilton arrives in London’s West End as one of the most hyped productions to hit the stage. On Broadway – and across America – it’s been nothing short of a phenomenon. But is it over-hype? Can a show so inherently American translate across the pond?

Hamilton heralds a theatrical revolution in its use of rap, but it doesn’t quite win the battle of storytelling. Its narrative depicts the forgotten Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, and recounts his place in US history: his fighting in the war for independence with both rifle and words, and his political career that followed. Yet it also attempts to transcend this, with Hamilton an immigrant seeking his legacy. America is truly the land of the free, allowing a man of aptitude and intelligence to rise to a position of power despite his background. The majority casting of black actors further highlights a poignancy to present day and the need for revolution in current politics.

It’s rich in themes – love, life, legacy and everything in between – but lacking in characterisation. And there’s a number of reasons for this. The most obvious, perhaps, is that for a Brit this period of history has less relevance than for a US audience (for them it’s the start of their modern country, for us…well, we did lose the war after all). This, however, is a moot point. Any piece of theatre should stand complete on its own, even if Hamilton relies a little too heavily on prior knowledge of history.

Really it’s to do with structure. The show whips through history at a rapid, relentless pace that barely stops to breathe for its overlong length. When it does there are some stunning musical moments, but as a whole there’s little time to form a connection with the characters. Instead they’re painted in broad strokes with tonal inconsistencies: the almost gangster-like Hamilton, the comic camp of Benjamin Franklin, the Disney princess Schuyler sisters. There are limitations to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score, too. It’s built upon catchy hooks and monotone raps, but his melodies, though often yearning, sometimes follow suit and feel stunted in the ballads. Add in a handful of performances that lack a little energy and sense of emotional truth, and the show’s big moments just don’t have the gut-punching pay-off they should. It feels too sanitised, polished and restrained.

For the most part, though, the score provides the emotional heft of the show – if not always through melody, then through its warm harmonies and fiery lyrics. There are so many nuggets of absolute brilliance: rap battles of witty rhymes; countless pop earworms and utterly infectious rhythms; beautiful choral singing; musical references to chart-topping performers; the way orchestral strings blend with hip-hop beats and disc scratching. It all weaves together into a detailed tapestry of motifs, reminiscences and foreshadowing, with rap used as recitative and pausing for song as aria. It’s essentially operatic in structure, but composed with the sounds of rap and R&B – cleverly written and hugely rewarding to listen to. No wonder the cast recording is one of the most successful albums in recent years.

It’s also smartly directed by Thomas Kail. Visually striking for its stark staging, the use of the ensemble on the revolving stage creates a maelstrom around its central characters, not to mention a subtle allusion to a spinning disc. Added to this is Andy Blankenbuehler’s modern and powerful choreography that turns the chorus into a visual representation of each characters’ mind. Together with the rapped lyrics, the show’s style takes a while to bed in, but once it clicks the effect is a truly unique piece of theatre. An early highlight is “Satisfied”, sung earnestly by Rachel John as Angelica, that spins backwards before cleverly replaying events from a new perspective.

Even if the characterisation is a little underwhelming, the technical craft of the show is undeniable – intelligent, dense and perhaps demanding of multiple views. Together, the staging and music provide a thrilling juxtaposition of history and modern storytelling.

And that’s the real battle in Hamilton, between young and old, history and modernity, a battle where both sides win. Perhaps the show’s biggest feat is proving rap to be a credible form of theatrical storytelling, a modern musical construct capable of bringing new relevance to history. Not only does the show present rap to a theatre audience, it ensures the theatre is a welcoming place for fans of rap. Never before has a musical been so damn cool.

4/5

Watch: Hamilton runs at the Victoria Palace Theatre.


Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Charli XCX - Pop 2

Charli XCX - Pop 2

A big enough name that she commands our attention but not yet in the upper echelons of pop, Charli XCX finds herself in a strange position at the end of 2017. A few months back she stormed YouTube with the gender-bending video for Boys, though it failed to storm the charts in the same way. Before that in March, she released ‘Number 1 Angel’, a brilliant yet under-appreciated release that was perhaps held back by its status as mixtape and not the long-awaited third album.

Now, at the tail end of the year, she’s back with another mixtape: ‘Pop 2’. It’s another chance to experiment with her sound and give us a taste of the “official” album to come, even if it doesn’t provide the big hit that fans are clamouring for.

Over time Aitchison has been slipping further into the PC Music scene: a record label run by A. G. Cook with a hyperactive take on pop, chaotic computerised textures and processed vocals. Cook produced much of ‘Number 1 Angel’ and returns for ‘Pop 2’. And where his influence on the music of Charli XCX has previously been subtle amongst more palatable pop (think the Super Mario chimes in Boys), it’s in full force here.

It’s perhaps most prominent on standout Femmebot, which takes the sound to its literal extreme. “Go fuck your prototype,” she boasts in the verse, “I’m an upgrade of your stereotype” over vibrant production of bleeps and bloops, choppy rhythms and vocals wrenched through a vocoder. She takes on the role of a musical cyborg, supported by Dorian Electra and Mykki Blanco whose rap references Ghost In The Shell. Yet through the sonic frenzy, Aitchison’s songwriting still shines through with a fun hook and robotic tongue in cheek lyrics. She’s the figurehead to take PC Music mainstream.

The pairing of Cook and Aitchison brings a collision of pop and computerised sound, but they’re always in balance. Hooks are cut and spliced together, synth melodies glitter and glow, and samples are overlayed in ways that only a computer could do. It’s a celebration of the computer as a musical medium, but with Aitchison bringing the human songwriting to tie it all together. Delicious is pure euphoria, a trance rave for replicants. The candy-coated Unlock It is an addictive listen. And Porsche sees her fantasising about swapping love for money over hip-hop inspired clipped beats.

That latter track is a collaboration with MØ following 3AM (Pull Up) from ‘Number 1 Angel’. And it’s one of many features on ‘Pop 2’, Aitchison proving her pop credentials by pulling in names like Carly Rae Jepsen, Caroline Polachek, Tove Lo and ALMA. Those last two feature on Out Of My Head, the lead single from the mixtape. It’s probably the most chart friendly of the songs here, but you get the impression Aitchison no longer cares about that. This release is all about experimentation, creating music freely without agenda.

The results are sometimes inconsistent and the PC Music sound is divisive. But the intriguingly titled final song Track 10 is a Pollock-esque splattering of samples that sounds like a demo of ideas, perhaps even a tantalising look at what’s yet to come.

4/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* Femmebot
* Delicious
* Porsche

Listen: ‘Pop 2’ is out now.




Monday, 18 December 2017

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Animal Crossing. It's a game about making friends with cute furry animals. A game about building a community. A game about customising your appearance and that of your home to reflect your personality.

That's as true with Pocket Camp, the mobile version of Nintendo's series, as it has been since the Gamecube days. You can be whoever you want to be - even wearing a Santa skirt, getting KK Slider the dog to play Jingle Bell Rock and pretending you're in Mean Girls. Sort of.

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

At least that's what Nintendo wants you to think. Really, it's pure evil.

For a game about friendship, it sure is materialistic. The only way to impress your fellow campers is to give them stuff - the stuff they demand from you. Maybe that's a poor fish they want to roast alive, a beautiful butterfly they want to hunt down for their "collection", or a fruit from a tree literally right next to them that they're too goddamn lazy to collect themselves.

Animal Crossing: Pocket CampAnimal Crossing: Pocket Camp

The premise of the game is to manipulate these furry little animals into becoming friends with you through the promise of gifts. And what do you get in return? Bits of wood and fluff you use to create new furniture to deck out your campsite and entice your new "friends" to come and visit. Except the demanding little bastards will only visit if you furnish the place with their specific taste in tables, chairs, and bizarre accessories. Something about feng shui apparently.

So who exactly is manipulating who? And what do you get in return? A job reference from a cartoon eagle? For all your work playing Santa Claus, they only ever demand more from you, their cute little faces staring expectantly, the fires of Satan burning in their eyes...

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp]Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp


Animal Crossing: Pocket CampAnimal Crossing: Pocket Camp


Or maybe their eyes are just red from the craving. You see, Pocket Camper is basically an allegory for drug dealing. These cutesy critters are craving and demanding stuff and you are their enabler, using your hard earned cash and materials to build the slickest gangster pad and prove your wealth to the world. I mean, just look at this stoner dog waiting for her next hit, or this hallucinating ostrich...

Animal Crossing: Pocket CampAnimal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Or maybe Nintendo are the real dealers here, delivering a pointless, never-ending quest that's thumb-shakingly addictive. What is the end goal? The animals don't stop coming, manipulation upon manipulation like an Inception of gift-giving that never leads anywhere. And when you can't play on the tube because the game requires a perpetual internet connection and you're stuck watching a spinning loading wheel while this stupid mouse just stares at you blankly and...GAH!

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

I've fallen down the rabbit hole. Someone please make it stop.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

New Music Friday 15/12

Unless you're Beyoncé with a surprise release, you're gunning for Christmas number one, or you're Ed Sheeran featuring on literally everybody's new album, nobody releases much of worth this close to Christmas. Here's a handful of the week's new music...


Anne-Marie - Then

 Anne-Marie - Then

This isn't a proper single from Anne-Marie, but it proves that next year's album will be full of hits. It's a contrast to the fiery Ciao Adios and Alarm, with emotive lyrics and downbeat production driven by handclap snaps and gentle syncopations. She's still waiting for that big breakthrough moment, but she's not far behind 2017's biggest success Dua Lipa...



Lily Allen feat. Giggs - Trigger Bang

 Lily Allen feat. Giggs - Trigger Bang

'Sheezus' didn't quite get the love it deserved, but Lily Allen is back with a new album and Trigger Bang is the first single. With a rapped verse from Giggs, Allen is - as ever - going for an urban sound as she turns her gaze to toxic people in her past, but it's hard to tell whose poorly rhymed lyrics are worse.



Pale Waves - My Obsession

 Pale Waves - My Obsession

Listening to this new track from the Manchester four-piece, it's easy to see why they were chosen to support The 1975 on their North American tour in the summer. The stadium, jangling guitars and pop hooks don't stray far from the template that Matt Healy and co. developed, although there's also something of Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry in the vocals of front woman Heather Baron-Gracie. Yet even with such obvious influences, it's all slickly produced, euphoric as hell and proves the band are worthy of their recent BBC Sound Of 2018 nomination.



joan - tokyo

joan - tokyo

Here's another group working that synth-pop-rock vibe. Here the Arkansas duo are heading off to Tokyo in a rush of crazy love, riding a wave of 80s funk guitars and weird, vibrant electronica. "Don't know what the future holds, I just wanna feel this moment," goes the fizzing chorus - probably their best yet.



Michael Brun - Easy On My Love

 Michael Brun - Easy On My Love

Although best known for his remixes, Haitian DJ and producer Michael Brun has released a string of original tracks this year that blend progressive house with his Haitian roots. Easy On My Love leans more on the former, though the Kompa rhythms prevail. Janelle Kroll provides soulful vocals over the breezy production that's very easy to like.



MGMT - When You Die

 MGMT - When You Die

Moody acoustic guitars, oriental synth flourishes, simple melodies, weird dissonances. This 70s inspired track, the second release from their forthcoming fourth album, is kind of a mess. Yet its psychedelia and brutal lyrics ("Don't call me nice, I'm gonna eat your heart out") are strangely alluring, as is the magical video.



Robinson - Crave You

 Robinson - Crave You

The latest release from New Zealand's Robinson is a sultry, hypnotic track of yearning melodies as she mourns the end of a relationship. It's not a particularly original song, but its evocative, polished and a sign of good things to come.