Saturday, 23 September 2017

New Music Friday 22/09

This week's NMF really isn't up to much, so here's just a handful of tracks to check out...


Anne-Marie - Heavy

Anne-Marie - Heavy

Anne-Marie has had two platinum singles this year, between Ciao Adios and her feature on Clean Bandit's Rockabye. Heavy could well be her third. It's a mid-tempo banger that's more emotional than we're used to from her, that descending hook sounding more like an outcry each time it repeats. The tropical production is a little tired, but the song at least showcases more of her personality - that giggle at the end especially.



Demi Lovato - Sexy Dirty Love

Demi Lovato - Sexy Dirty Love

If you're after sexy dirty love, I suggest you go and listen to Cool For The Summer. Sure, this has a very arousing bassline and Lovato's vocal has quite a range, but this funky little number is more of a one off fling than a repeat affair.



ALMA, French Montana - Phases

ALMA, French Montana - Phases

Finland's ALMA has undoubtedly become of the biggest breakout stars of 2017, what with the brilliant Dye My Hair, Chasing Highs and now Phases. Written by Noonie Bao and Charli XCX no less (amongst others), the song details a short-lived romance - "you were just one of my phases," she sings over mellow synths. Hopefully French Montana is just one of her phases too - his outbursts can do one.



Maggie Rogers - Split Stones

Maggie Rogers - Split Stones

Another breakout star from this year is Maggie Rogers, who managed to impress Pharrell Williams in a songwriting session broadcast across the internet. There's no doubt she's a clever producer and that's certainly showcased here - the beat comprises recorded percussive sounds, lapping water and her own breath to give an earthy sound that's juxtaposed with the glossy dance synths. Amongst it all, her vocal sounds angelic as she sings in the yearning chorus "if you could only move like you had something to lose" in a nod to the song's dance structure. This is euphoria, but on a musically technical level.



Emeli Sandé - Starlight

Emeli Sandé - Starlight

Emeli Sandé has finally reached her ultimate form - guest singer on a generic dance track. Except this is her own single and, in truly clichéd form, it's called Starlight. Does this mark the end of her career?



Noah Cyrus ft. XXXTENTACION - Again

Noah Cyrus ft. XXXTENTACION - Again

Both Cyrus sisters (yes this is Miley's younger sibling) have singles out this week, and this is definitely the pick of the two. While Miley is busy making terrible puns (her track is entitled Week Without You), Noah sings wistful, haunting melodies over harsh industrial beats. It's controversial for its inclusion of rapper XXXTENTACION, who's currently facing charges of domestic abuse and on this track does a good Drake impression. A Cyrus girl courting controversy? Well I never...



Gate @ The Cockpit Theatre

Gate @ The Cockpit Theatre


The team behind Gate are an ambitious bunch. Artemis Fitzalan Howard has written a play that seeks to explore religion, the purpose of faith, the meaning of life. Yet the results, under director Sadie Spencer, fail to live up to such lofty, celestial expectations.

It starts with a rather trite setup. Four stereotypes are stuck in purgatory awaiting God's approval to enter heaven. This 'gate' is literally a waiting room run by receptionist Eve (Emma Dennis-Edward), who leads a series of games and team exercises to test the faith of the four recently deceased - throwing a ball of shame between them, for instance, or answering quiz questions on the Bible.

There's nothing particularly dramatic or exciting about this, however, and in the process of these games we learn little about the characters beyond a love for pies, calzone and dick pics. None of the characters are particularly likeable - they certainly don't deserve to be in heaven, no matter how much they may try - and they never develop beyond their initial stereotypes. There's the narcissistic bitch Rebecca, played with real zest by Eleanor Henderson; there's the good Christian know-it-all Esther with a taste for wine (Katie Sherrard); the arrogant fop (Wil Coban); and the gullible nice guy who's so nice he simply irritates the others (Joe McArdle).

The setup does allow for plenty of comedy, with some witty moments in the script and some amusing performances. It also whips along at a good pace and its short runtime ensures there's no room to be bored. Yet by playing everything for laughs, it undermines any sincerity in exploring the subject matter. It might be fun to watch, but what are we actually learning? The idea of being a 'good person' is not particularly insightful.

Some added atmosphere is provided by four angels singing sacred tunes, but they (understandably) struggle singing a capella stood independently around the stage. Indeed struggle is the operative word here: where the characters are in a state of existential crisis, so too is this production.

2/5

Watch: 'Gate' runs at the Cockpit Theatre until 24th September.


Friday, 15 September 2017

New Music Friday 15/09

Björk is back! She headlines this week's update, leading the way for a whole rush of giddy pop songs...


Björk - The Gate

Björk - The Gate

After the dark melancholy of her last album, Björk's next release is set to be a more positive affair. She's found love again, but it's a love for music, for humanity, for the Earth - love as utopia, as explained in a recent interview with Dazed. The Gate potently depicts that transition: "my healed chest wound transformed into a gate," she sings in the opening verse, "where I receive love from, where I give love from". Fittingly, it's an absolute head rush of a song: beginning with a sort of gibberish chorale, it's ambient production slowly fills up the void of empty space with deep bass rumblings, electronic flurries and repeated cries of "I care for you" that layer up mesmerically, overwhelmingly. With Björk at the helm, this is a utopia I can get onboard with.



Rae Morris - Do It

Rae Morris - Do It

Another rush of a song, this time some magical pop from the returning Rae Morris. Previous release Reborn set the tone, and now Do It takes us on a giddy, nervous ride. "Do it, do it..." the chorus insists repeatedly, Morris spurring herself on - and us too. It's a fun and cutesy little track, but it leaves you feeling you can take on the world. Also there's an awesome key change.



MUNA - In My Way

MUNA - In My Way

Not content with releasing one of the most essential albums of the year, MUNA have now unleashed this power pop rush. It's at once vulnerable and empowering, with frontwoman Katie Gavin exploring modern relationships and our inability to connect emotional and physical intimacy. "I'm not afraid to say it," she blurts out in the chorus over thumping rhythms, "I love you in my way", before a guitar solo takes over - words no longer matter. This is pure joy.



Tove Styrke - Mistakes

Tove Styrke - Mistakes

Sweden's Tove Styrke isn't one to shy away from a stomping chorus and Mistakes is no different. The production cuts out leaving just the vocal with autotuned harmonies, before the drums come pounding back in. It's a release of coiled sexual tension - "you got me buzzin' like a street lamp," she sings in the verse, "got me all up in the zone now". And in the bridge the music cuts out again like a knowing wink. Brilliant stuff.



Jessie Ware - Alone

Jessie Ware - Alone

Soon we will have heard most of Jessie Ware's forthcoming album 'Glasshouse' before it's even out. Alone is the third track released so far, a mellow, romantic, soulful ballad subtly underpinned with electronic beats. Ware sounds stunning and the warm production slowly envelopes, but she's starting to veer a little too close to Adele / Sam Smith / Emelie Sande territory. Let's hope she can match their success and not their style.



Nick Jonas - Find You


The previously released Remember I Told You was a total flop, so now Jonas is releasing new single Find You in the hopes of making up for it. With polished production from Swedish duo Jack & Coke, it certainly has chart potential, but the mix of laidback vocal with acoustic guitars and dance beats - already so prevalent thanks to the likes of David Guetta, Robin Schulz and Klingande - lacks the necessary personality to really make this a hit.



Jessie J - Think About That

Jessie J - Think About That

Finally, Jessie J has learned that less is more. Vocally, this is her most restrained track but emotionally this is an outpour, each line an exhale, a fierce release, a defiant snarl. Whether she's singing about a former lover or a professional relationship is ambiguous ("all you disturb is my work and my patience, years of grinding, you took it, you broke it"), but it's clear she's not a woman to be messed with. And all this over minimal, experimental, skittering production - this is her best track in a long long time.



Niall Horan - Too Much To Ask

Niall Horan - Too Much To Ask

He's yet to release his debut album, but so far Horan is definitely outdoing Harry Styles. That's not to say his music is good - it's unoriginal and bland, sounding like a mix of so many other artists - but he's maintained a grip on his pop past and isn't strutting around like a jumped-up rockstar. That's preferable at least.



Now, Now - Yours

Now, Now - Yours

It's been five years since the American pop-rock duo Now, Now released their debut album. Now (ha!) they're releasing new music: Yours follows SGL from a couple of months back, but brings a much more electronic sound, with its 80s widescreen synths and chugging groove. It's a welcome change though that will hopefully see the duo reach a wider audience.



Sarah Close - Only You

Sarah Close - Only You

"I need a little more than only you," sings Sarah Close on the chorus of her first single signed to a major label. She's managed to weave an intoxicating track around that lyric, all muted beats and whirring synths, even if her vocal is a little unremarkable.



Thursday, 14 September 2017

Anna Of The North - Lovers

Anna Of The North - Lovers

An album of 80s inspired electro pop exploring love and romance. She's not the first and she won't be the last.

But this debut album from the Norwegian-Kiwi duo Anna Of The North shouldn't be dismissed so lightly. Arriving some ten years after their first single, it's an absolute diamond: sparkling Scandinavian pop polished to a crystalline sheen.

The songwriting does just enough to stand out. As the title suggests, it's an album of love songs, but in a clever twist, many seem to be written from the position of the outsider looking on at a breakup. "It's gonna be alright, it just takes some time," singer Anna Lotterud comforts in opener Moving On, but who is she consoling: her friend or herself? When a relationship goes south we rely on our friends for support, but what if that friend was a lover all along? Later on Money she warns "she's not the one for you", while more explicitly on Always she bemoans being "always in the background" and repeats mournfully "I'm tired of being in love".

Lotterud has admitted going through heartbreak while writing the album, the lyrics hinting that perhaps this love was unrequited. Elsewhere the lyrics depict the melancholy of a breakup in visceral fashion. "I'm in the dark, I can't see," she sings on the title track, and on the brittle, downbeat Friends she repeats painfully "I don't think I'm strong enough for us...I don't really wanna give it up". Closer All I Want ends the album on a tragic note, almost desperately repeating "Can you stay the night? Can you hold me tight?"

Throughout there's a quiet, cool detachment to Lotterud's vocal: ghostly and pained. There's a rough quality to it too that contrasts to the gleaming production. Featherlight synths and frosty, processed beats are at once icy and metallic yet sensual, soft and warm. Even where the melodic writing isn't quite as strong and memorable as it could be, the production varies just enough from song to song: the softly pulsating Lovers; the firm, insistent beats of Money; the shivering romance of Always; the tentative rhythms of the questioning Baby; the yearning, clipped Friends.

Lead single Someone, though, is the real centrepiece here. With its cascading, twinkling melodies, electronic drum fills, and that incredible key change, it's a perfect pastiche of 80s synths meets Scandi cool. Throw in that helpless chorus of "I'm only human baby" and Someone really does sum up the brilliance the duo have captured on 'Lovers'.

4/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Someone
* Friends
* All I Want

Listen: 'Lovers' is out now.


Friday, 8 September 2017

New Music Friday 08/09

We've hit the autumn, so the first of the big hitters are releasing new music in the long run-up to Christmas (when Ed Sheeran will inevitably top the charts...again).


Sam Smith - Too Good At Goodbyes

 Sam Smith - Too Good At Goodbyes

It's been two years since Sam Smith's last release, his Oscar-winning Bond theme, and yet this is all he could come up with as a comeback? A very polite, gentle breakup ballad that sounds like every other song from his debut?



ZAYN & Sia - Dusk Till Dawn

ZAYN & Sia - Dusk Till Dawn

And here's another artist releasing pretty much the same song all over again. Sia's teamed up with ZAYN for this one, but as a duet it's simply the two singers straining to be heard over each other. The cinematic video is a fun heist, but the song doesn't warrant such hefty, expensive treatment.



Taylor Swift - ...Ready For It?

Taylor Swift - ...Ready For It?

I don't think anyone was ready for this new Taylor Swift. Popstars revel in reinvention, but this is just such a shockingly awkward change in sound. As with LWYMMD, this second track from 'reputation' is a hard-edged hip-hop tinged hot mess that's simply out of character. And in her pursuit of cool, Swift seems to have forgotten how to write a melody, something she's undoubtedly known for. There's actually an enjoyably dreamy pre-chorus in here that deserves to be attached to a much, much better song.



Tove Lo - Disco Tits

Tove Lo - Disco Tits

Only Tove Lo could release a track called Disco Tits. Only Tove Lo could sing lyrics like "I'm fully charged, nipples are hard, ready to go" with conviction. Honestly, this NYC disco track isn't her best - she seems to be drifting further away from the brutal intimacy of her debut to aggressive feminism that's musically less interesting - but if there isn't a drag queen catwalking to this right now then society has failed her.



Kelly Clarkson - Love So Soft

Kelly Clarkson - Love So Soft

Considering Clarkson is responsible for the likes of Since U Been Gone and My Life Would Suck Without You and basically the whole of 'Breakaway', this is a disappointment. She's one of the strongest singers to have graduated from American Idol, but the rap-sung chorus doesn't do her voice justice and the horn-soaked R&B sound stinks of Meghan Trainor.



Nina Nesbitt - The Best You Had

Nina Nesbitt - The Best You Had

"How does she taste, is it sweeter than mine was?" Not a lyric you'd expect from cutesy folk singer Nina Nesbitt. But that singer is long gone, replaced by a popstar singing dark love songs underpinned by electronic production (see also: Kyla La Grange, Gabrielle Aplin). But the candid lyrics of The Best You Had are what sets it apart, along with its compelling mix of vulnerability and brutal honesty.



Priest - White Wing Dove

 Priest - White Wing Dove

This is the first track from the Orlando-based duo's forthcoming debut EP 'Lost Lions': hard synths, hypnotic melodies and 80s-tinged futurism make for quite the chilling concoction. Maybe not the most original of sounds, but the euphoric Depeche Mode-esque chorus is pure magic.



Nadine - Go To Work

Nadine - Go To Work

As the best singer from Girls Aloud, it's a shock that Nadine Coyle hasn't had a strong solo career. But tracks like this don't help. She's little more than a featured vocalist on her own single here, belting over cheap funky house production. Technically proficient, but lacking in personality.



Loote - Out Of My Head

Loote - Out Of My Head

You know when someone just gets you? This cute little electro-pop song from New York duo Loote is in my head in more ways than one and doesn't show any signs of leaving.



Michael Jackson - Blood On The Dance Floor X Dangerous (The White Panda Mash-Up)

 Michael Jackson - Blood On The Dance Floor X Dangerous (The White Panda Mash-Up)

You know when someone just ruins your favourite artist?



Thursday, 7 September 2017

Britney Spears: The Cabaret @ The Other Palace

Britney Spears: The Cabaret @ The Other Palace

Britney Spears has become the popstar we love to ridicule, from her attempts at singing live and preference for lip synching, to the countless memes, parody performances, and misguided laughter at her shaved head episode. We remember fondly the songs, videos and performances, but she’s an easy target we can’t help but poke fun at – in loving jest of course.

Australian actress Christie Whelan Browne encapsulates all of this brilliantly with her irreverent take on the singer in Britney Spears: The Cabaret, written and directed by Dean Bryant. Through song and monologue she takes us through Spears’ life: growing up a child star, rising to fame, her struggles with relationships, and learning to deal with the pressures of press and fan attention. It’s all done with tongue firmly in cheek, Whelan Browne’s Spears a ditzy and crude star with a filthy mouth, who’s not the sharpest of people but sure as hell knows how to deliver a song. Her stories are hilarious, touching on various scandals in Spears’ career to offer an amusing and bawdy ‘honest’ portrayal of what really happened behind the scenes.

What’s particularly arresting, however, is actually how good Spears’ music is. We all know the catchy hooks, the dance routines and the sing-along choruses, but in the context of the show, her songs taken on lyrical depth – partly down to the new arrangements from pianist and musical director Mathew Frank. I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman becomes a musical theatre ballad about Spears’ struggles with motherhood; Toxic a jazzy ode to sex with Justin Timberlake; and darkest of all, I’m A Slave 4 U becomes a tap routine performed by an overtly sexual yet utterly naïve child Britney. It brings a neat twist on familiar songs for a more theatrical and engaging take.

And Whelan Browne sings them all impeccably. At times she mimics the singer’s intonation and inflections for comic effect – her “oohs” and “babys” are almost as memorable as Michael Jackson’s “hee hees” and “chamones” – but for the most part this isn’t an impersonation. Whelan Browne plays Spears as a character with a squeaky, drawling voice, but her own vocal technique and power remain intact.

There’s a running joke, for the musical theatre nerds, that Liza Minnelli helped Spears in creating this cabaret, and her advice was to leave the audience on a high. Yet the show’s main mission is to depict Spears as a tragic heroine, providing a character arc that draws us into the woman behind the songs, a gullible, fragile woman in need of guidance and support. In the process, the light-hearted humour of the opening soon changes to melancholy with a string of lengthy ballads that leaves the audience on a downer – in particular the encore of Everytime, though beautifully sung. The balance between humour and sincerity might be lop-sided, but this cabaret remains a hit thanks to Whelan Browne’s engaging and likeable performance.

4/5

Watch: Britney Spears: The Cabaret runs at The Other Palace until 9th September.

Britney Spears: The Cabaret @ The Other Palace
Top photo: John Tsiavis
Bottom photo: Jeeves

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

The Ys series of games is unlikely to be familiar to most gamers outside of Japan, but it's a series with a history as long as the likes of Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. The very first game was released for the NEC PC-8801 system in 1987 and became best known for its music and combat that required players to simply run into enemies, in contrast to the turn-based role-playing-games of the time.

Over the years, the series has seen countless new releases, re-releases and remakes across a multitude of consoles but rarely in the West. Most recently it's become synonymous with Sony's portable handhelds - Lacrimosa of Dana, the eighth in the series and the first new game for eight years, was released last year in Japan for the PS Vita. But it was always planned to hit the PS4, which will finally happen in Europe and North America this September with exclusive extra content.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
For many then (myself included), this will be their first Ys experience. And while some references will undoubtedly be lost, it works perfectly fine as a standalone game to introduce the series (as with Final Fantasy, each game is separate with certain recurring features). Still, this is clearly a game that's living in the distant past.

That's firstly apparent with its graphics, admittedly upgraded from the originating handheld version. Low resolution textures and stiff animations are in abundance here, though it all runs perfectly smoothly. The anime art style also feels old fashioned - for some that may be a fun throwback, but the game lacks a distinctive style with characters, enemies and environments that all feel overly familiar.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
It's the game's treatment of its female characters that's most archaic, however. Scantily clad anime girls are a sadly recurring trend throughout, with the voyeuristic camera too often ignoring their faces completely. Your first female teammate is introduced while bathing in a river, another wears armour that barely covers her nubile breasts, and there's even a sexy nun who whips off her habit and skirt in revealing fashion. This is worrying and cannot be simply disregarded as a quirk of Japanese culture.

Narratively, there are two strands to the game. The main plot revolves around a group of castaways who wind up on a remote dangerous island and strive to survive. As lead protagonist and red-headed hero Adol Christin (a common character in the series and, yes, just one letter away from Hitler's first name), it's your task to rescue survivors from the clutches of strange monsters and help to rebuild the Castaway Village.

This would be exciting if the rescued characters were interesting. Sadly, these are some of the most one-dimensional characters with laughably trite names who stick to stereotypical tropes. Speaking to them does reveal snatches of characterisation, but conversation is mostly optional, making them only useful as practical additions to the village: merchant, doctor, blacksmith etc. A core team of survivors join Adol as battlemates, but they too are hackneyed: the stuffy, stroppy female; the large, bumbling father figure; the brooding man of mystery; the eccentric young girl. Adol himself escapes stereotype by being mostly mute - the player is able to make choices in his dialogue (though they have little immediate effect), but the lines are rarely spoken. He is simply a silent, empty shell for the player, doing little to draw us into the plot.

The second strand to the narrative is another tired trope: the exotic maiden. Adol dreams of a mystical girl with blue hair (the titular Dana) and between chapters we witness her story, seemingly from another time. Soon their worlds collide and we're sucked into another story about ancient species, magical trees, long-demolished civilisations, and chosen ones, all told with stilted, laborious dialogue. Thankfully, the cut scenes are easily skippable.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
For the most part, the game consists of combat. And while there's more to it than running into enemies as in the past, it's not the most complex of systems. An action RPG, you control one character in a party of three who has a standard combo of attacks and a suite of special attacks that slowly upgrade with use. Dodge at the last second, Bayonetta-style, and you get a few moments of slow-motion to get in some extra hits, which gradually builds up the enemy's stun meter. There's also a rock-paper-scissors system between slash, strike and pierce to add a layer of depth - these attack types coincide with your party of fighters and their brilliantly oversized weapons.

As enemies are all vulnerable to a specific attack type, there is some strategy in switching between your three characters. But rarely does the game demand it, even with its bosses. Instead, it's far too easy to simply hammer away at the attack button, throwing in the occasional dodge or special attack, and watching a flurry of swipes and slashes on screen. And in a nod to the original game, you can regain health by simply standing still. While this doesn't occur in dungeons, it's all too easy to just heal between fights and never be close to death (on normal difficulty at least).

Character customisation is minimal, with only one type of weapon per fighter that is upgraded in one way once the requisite resources have been found (there are, however, plenty of accessories to equip with a variety of status effects). And the village too can be upgraded which serves as defence in the invasion missions - side quests where waves of monsters must be destroyed. The game does get plenty of mileage from its combat system, between the 30 hour main story, invasions, suppressions and other side quests. The remains of the game is little more than following a quest icon and hoping the next bit of story is told through one of a handful of colourful, wonderfully drawn anime scenes.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Eventually, though, the game's flaws become its greatest strengths. Combat may be button mashing, but its mindlessness is strangely relaxing and its swift pace never allows boredom to set in. That pace extends to the short loading times and the ability to fast travel between locations, allowing you to dash easily between battles and story progression. It makes for a very addictive and compelling high-speed game.

And it's all accompanied by a raucous anime soundtrack of techno rhythms, blaring guitars and hammering synths. It doesn't quite fit the fantastical feel of the game, perhaps contrasting with the orchestral music we're used to in other RPGs, but its intense nature matches the dazzle of combat. It also makes up for some dire English voice acting.

Despite its shallowness, its familiarity, its sexism, and its weird story tangents, Lacrimosa of Dana remains an enjoyable game, predominantly for its satisfyingly mindless combat and Japanese charm. Yet it has a lack of individuality or depth compared to its contemporaries. And as a series that's relatively new to the West, it does little to stand out in a crowded market.


Play: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is released on 15th September in Europe.


Friday, 1 September 2017

New Music Friday 01/09

Who's next in line to challenge Taylor Swift's inevitable reign at the top of the charts for the next few weeks? Probably none of the below, but nonetheless this week's NMF has a nice mix of good and bad to sink your teeth into.


Jessie Ware - Selfish Love

Jessie Ware - Selfish Love

For her forthcoming album it's clear that Jessie Ware has swapped the skittering beats and cool electronica of her debut for warmer, intimate, more traditional production. With Selfish Love, which follows Midnight, she takes tropical pop back to its roots. Her hushed vocals, as sensual as ever, shimmer like heat haze over a lazy Bossa Nova, Spanish guitars and rattling Latin percussion, as she sings of a torrid yet passionate romance. The accompanying video, shot in Mallorca, portrays this beautifully while soaked in Mediterranean glamour.



Mollie King - Hair Down

 Mollie King - Hair Down

I might be in the minority here, but I was a fan of Mollie King's single from last year, Back To You. It might have been an overly serious, earnest attempt to forge a synth-pop career, but it hit the spot with its melancholic lyrics and polished tropical-tinged production. This though? This is the opposite. It's a vacuous and dated Xenomania track that sounds like a bad Girls Aloud offcut (it probably is) with a blaring horn riff and some horrendously awkward lyrics. It's a total misstep, which is ironic when she's about to star in Strictly Come Dancing...



Paloma Faith - Crybaby

 Paloma Faith - Crybaby

Here's the usually honking Paloma Faith offering a mellow summer track that questions archaic views of masculinity. "Oh go on and cry baby," she sings over funk guitars and bright, soulful pop production, "you don't have to keep it inside". It's probably one of the best tracks she's released.



Jason Derulo - If I'm Lucky

Jason Derulo - If I'm Lucky

If we're lucky this won't be as big a hit as Swalla turned out to be.



Matoma and The Vamps - Staying Up

Matoma and The Vamps - Staying Up

The Vamps have definitely outstayed their welcome in pop, but here they're joined by Norwegian DJ and producer Matoma who does a great job of ripping off Kygo and Avicii. It's hardly original, but equally the joyful Eurodance chorus is hard to utterly hate.



Maroon 5 feat. SZA - What Lovers Do

Maroon 5 feat. SZA - What Lovers Do

Is Adam Levine actually just a robot now?



Ingrid - 1234

 Ingrid - 1234

There are countless songs around the first four numbers in our numerical system, but few are as spiky and sass-filled as this from Sweden's Ingrid. She literally counts the beats as her prospective lover shows of their dance skills and she responds with biting commentary ("you know what I'm looking for...so fake it 'till you make it babe"). It's slinky and sensual and oozes ennui: "being cool is such a bore," she sighs at the start with delicious allure.



Frida Sundemo - Gold

Frida Sundemo - Gold

Frida Sundemo is the queen of cinematic, emotional synth-pop. Gold is no different: the soft hush of strings beneath the fragmented melody of the verses; the way the chorus achingly rises upwards; the key change in the final third where the vocals stop and the instrumental just gradually drifts into the distance. This is, literally, golden.



Hurts - Ready To Go

Hurts - Ready To Go

Let's face it, Hurts haven't had a good track since Wonderful Life or Stay from their 2011 debut 'Happiness'. Was that album just a fluke?