Sunday 17 November 2013

New Pop Roundup

We're well into Q4 of 2013 now, which means not only are there some big albums and tracks being released in time for Christmas but we're beginning to look into what the future holds for next year.  Here are some names to keep an eye on...

Lily Allen - Hard Out Here

Forget the bear and the hare, THIS is the Lily Allen comeback we've been waiting for.  And it's essentially the antithesis of fluffy animals and Christmas - a biting, satirical look at sexism in the music industry.  Musically, she pokes fun at R&B with the lyrics ("forget your balls and grow a pair of's hard out here for a bitch"), the synth breakdown and the ironic use of autotune.  Yet Hard Out Here is still obviously a Lily Allen track, from the amusing content to the central piano riff.  For all the controversy, this remains a brilliantly catchy track.

Then there's the video, filled with twerking, cheeky product placement, champagne pouring and Allen deep-throating a banana for a suited music exec.  Some have accused Allen of racism (something she's adamantly denied) and claim it sends out a mixed message that undermines the song.  That said, Allen herself sings in the verse "if you can't detect the sarcasm you've miss-understood".  Plus anyone who can so brazenly take a stab at Robin Thicke in the following fashion deserves a medal in my book:

Most of all, Hard Out Here is a talking point and a springboard for further discussion.  And for a popstar who kick-started the MySpace generation, Allen is no stranger to sparking Internet debate.


Listen: Hard Out Here is released on 16th November.

Metronomy - I'm Aquarius

After the success of their previous Mercury-nominated album 'The English Riviera', the stakes are high for Metronomy and their comeback album 'Love Letters'.  I'm Aquarius is the lead single: a typically stylish and minimalist track based around a mesmeric organ riff and the interweaving vocals of Joseph Mount ("I'm Aquarius") and Anna Prior ("shoop doop doop ah").  Clean, moody and icily cool, this is exactly what you'd expect from a Metronomy track.


Listen: I'm Aquarius is available now, with 'Love Letters' released on March 10th.

Tanika - Bad 4 U

London singer Tanika comes from a strong musical heritage: her grandmother a saxophone and piano player, her great-grandmother a New York jazz singer, and her great aunt a music teacher.  Bad 4 U, though, is straight up urban pop with a killer chorus, filthy bassline and a seismic beat.  With an album out next year featuring production from Naughty Boy and StarGate amongst others, plus a support slot on Naughty Boy's UK tour, expect to hear far more from her in the coming months.


Listen: Bad 4 U is released on 24th November.

Femme - Heartbeat

Femme, a.k.a Laura Bettinson, is an utterly unique artist.  Having written and produced her own music, as well as directing and starring in the video for Heartbeat, every element of the track is infused with her signature, quirky style.  "I've no heartbeat" she intones above deep, clattering percussion.  This is the sort of marketable track that you can easily see being snapped up for licensing deals, thanks to its unique appeal - someone get on it quick.


Listen: Heartbeat is released on 25th November.

Only Girl - Perfect High

Ellen Murphy is releasing new tracks as Only Girl at a rapid rate of knots and, incidentally, has worked with Femme in the past.  Her previous releases revealed different sides to her sound: the sombre, gloomy synths of End Of Time and the folky, dreamy feel of Mountain.  Perfect High sits neatly between, Murphy's cooing vocals floating above a dreamy bed of synths as she sings "you're lifting me higher" with effortless melisma.  With an ever growing body of work, Only Girl is one to watch for 2014.


Listen: Perfect High will be released in early 2014 as a full EP.

Lulu James - Sweetest Thing

I'm running out of superlatives to describe Lulu James.  Soulful, futuristic and sexy as hell spring to mind, but still don't really do her justice.  Sweetest Thing is her latest jam, all pulsating beats, a deep electro bass and slinky vocals, accompanied by a video that's a stylish as we've come to expect from her.  When her debut album is eventually released, it should be pretty special indeed.


Listen: Sweetest Thing is available now.

Velour Modular - Forward

Velour Modular bring a sense of French artistic cool to ominous electro-pop.  The duo comprise French singer Guilhem and Spanish producer Hektagon, for a pan-European sound that bubbles menacingly beneath the mesmeric vocal lines that stem from Guilhem's background in traditional Indian singing.  They've also been inspired by science-fiction and the poetry of William Blake, manifesting in the futuristic yet spiritual feel of this track - the first from their forthcoming EP.  Fans of The Knife will be sure to lap this up.


Listen: Forward is available now.

The Fauns - Seven Hours

Shoegaze has been making a big comeback recently and fans of the genre will be eagerly awaiting the second album from Bristol-based band The Fauns.  Seven Hours is the first track to be taken from the album and it's typical stuff: ghostly vocals from frontwoman Alison Garner above a sea of evocative, shimmering guitars for a widescreen sound with cinematic appeal (film composer Clint Mansell is a big fan).  There's plenty of specific cinematic influences on the full album (entitled 'Lights'), including Tron and Mansell's Moon soundtrack - be sure to check it out come December.


Listen: 'Lights' is released on December 2nd.

Abigail Wyles - Mantra

Wyles would probably describe herself as more of a singer-songwriter than a popstar.  Her smoky, rich vocals have a soulful feel matched by a sense of jazz experimentalism in her music.  Yet she's been snapped up by Chase & Status' MTA Records label, undoubtedly responsible for the sombre, electronic beats.  It's a wonderful fusion.


Listen: Mantra is available now.

Sam Smith x Nile Rodgers x Disclosure x Jimmy Napes - Together

The soulful vocals of Smith, the disco guitar of Rodgers and the woozy, skittering electro of Disclosure.  Yes, this is just as cool as you imagine.


Listen: The result of a single studio session, fingers crossed this sees general release.