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Posted on 18, August 2014 August 18 2014 2014年8月18日 by headphoneicon

Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

Here is the first official single from Ben Howard’s new album that shares its name with said single.

Good thing I love it, because you know Radio 1 are going to be hammering it for the next two months. Love the slightly higher tones to his voice in this; they give it an oddly uplifting tone. There’s a lot more contentment in this than there was in any of Every Kingdom, which was so fraught with restlessness. But yes, bring it on.

Posted on 18, August 2014 August 18 2014 2014年8月18日 by headphoneicon

Charli XCX - Break The Rules

This track almost feels like satire that Charli has put out as some kind of social experiment to see just how much the brainless masses gobble it up. The bridge is a whole load of fun, but Charli could have written this in her sleep. Even “Boom Clap”, which was similarly twee, came across as more genuine and overall stronger.

And of course you don’t want to go school, Charli. You’re twenty-fucking-two.

Still, the album is out in two months, which is refreshingly soon in an age where most artists piss away hype and the opportunities that come with surprise success. Hope it’s of a higher standard than this though.

Posted on 15, August 2014 August 15 2014 2014年8月15日 by headphoneicon

Ella Henderson - Glow

Is it already time to start cranking out the Autumn second single torch ballads made for X Factor performances? I’ll admit that I actually loved this when I heard it a couple of days ago, only for “Ghost” to overtake it in those stakes.

It has that irritating thing where the second verse is shorter than the first. Arg.

Posted on 15, August 2014 August 15 2014 2014年8月15日 by headphoneicon

Ariana Grande - Best Mistake (Feat. Big Sean)

As a predominantly pop blog, I feel rather obligated to cover Ariana Grande despite her not really doing anything for me (The howling void of charisma she is in the “Break Free” just beggars belief.) outside of her songs making my head vaguely nod for about two minutes.

However, this latest cut from My Everything is brilliant. There’s a proper atmosphere to it that, for once, is entirely down to Ariana’s rather low-key vocal delivery. Whereas “Problem” and “Break Free” clobber the listener with their overall scale and noise, this trades on proper heat and intensity. A big fan of Big Sean’s more laidback verse too; it gives the song a call-and-response feel as if it’s a dialogue between two people, and expands it even further. More of this, please.

Posted on 15, August 2014 August 15 2014 2014年8月15日 by headphoneicon

Nicki Minaj - Anaconda

I mean, okay. I guess we all thought “Pills N Potions” was boring as fuck, but I don’t think I’ve seen this aggressive an over correction in a while in music.

To be honest, I don’t have much thought on this outside of thinking the sample does most of the heaving lifting when it comes to it being memorable. It’s kind of disjointed, and Nicki’s flow just seems to evaporate after her first verse before it crumbles into cartoon cackles and OH MY GAWD, etc.

Nicki overall continues to confuse. She spends most of the year lending her skills to dark as pitch hip-hop tracks, spitting verses like bullets… Before turning to her own career once again to release a sedate Dr Luke affair and to rap one verse over a “Baby Got Back” sample. You can’t say she’s predictable I guess.

Posted on 15, August 2014 August 15 2014 2014年8月15日 by headphoneicon

Ben Howard - End of the Affair

Been working a lot, so let’s see if I can catch up.

I came late to the music of Ben Howard a couple years back through many a drive in the summer in a friend’s car with his album soundtracking a lot of it, so I’m pleased to be on the ground floor to what is no doubt going to be an outstanding release.

I like more what this promises rather than what it delivers. The first half is familiar territory but the tempo change is something a little different. I mean, it kind of takes its time getting there and struggles to justify its running time somewhat, but overall it acts as a very effective taster for what’s to come. And of course, his voice is as gorgeous as ever.

Posted on 30, July 2014 July 30 2014 2014年7月30日 by headphoneicon

Alex Clare - War Rages On

Okay, so this isn’t all that game-changing or even much of a change in style for Alex Clare, but with his voice I’m willing to let him get away with murder. Suitably huge and attention grabbing for the first single, so I’m wonder how it’s taken so long to reach my attention. Oh well. Let me go and hit replay again.

Posted on 19, July 2014 July 19 2014 2014年7月19日 by headphoneicon

Album Review: Sia - 1000 Forms Of Fear

I fee like Sia’s new album is a culmination of the gradual changes that she’s been making her songwriting and her overall process over the last few years. She’s been in the driving seat for some huge hits that I won’t even bother insulting your intelligence by listing, all rather starkly different from her own solo material yet with something that makes them unmistakably her. Usually it is the person who she gave the song to shamelessly copying her vocal tics from the demo she gave them to work with.

1000 Forms Of Fear, for better or worse, is easily her most commercial effort to date, but I find it hard to be moved by it.

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Posted on 14, July 2014 July 14 2014 2014年7月14日 by headphoneicon

Cheryl Ann Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini - Crazy Stupid Love

Fit that on an album cover.

I’ve been harsh on Cheryl’s solo output in the past. Nearly all of it is cheaply produced, poorly sang sludge with only a handful of tracks rising up to be remotely salvageable. She would be formidable on stage to a certain degree if she was capable of taking to it for more than once in an album cycle, but mostly she’s just something I have to suffer as a UK citizen. As a member of Girls Aloud, she was magnetic and fiery. On her own, she’s potential squandered.

That said, this might be my favourite single of hers ever. I don’t know why it has taken her so long to release something so outwardly cheery and percussion-driven when it’s clearly a setting that suits her more than the rest of singles that saw her attempting to be rather po-faced and stately. The evidence is there in the video as she dances up a storm with a great big smile on her face. The intended mood has never been more translatable. Add in a “LA LA LA” hook, her starstruck, lovesick tone in the verses, that utterly joyous bridge (Or it a chorus? A brorus?), and handclaps and you’ve got a rather infectious bop on your hands. The dreadful sax break seems almost irrelevant in the face of that assault of happiness.

Tinie’s verse is mortifying, but I can forgive it for the way the instrumental delightfully bubbles and simmers underneath him in what is probably one of the slickest thirty seconds of production in Cheryl’s solo career. It actually doesn’t sound like it was produced with the profits of one iTunes pre-order for a change. Hooray for progress!

I of course await the utterly terrible mother album and ill-fitting ballad as second single, but I’ll enjoy this until then.

Posted on 14, July 2014 July 14 2014 2014年7月14日 by headphoneicon

The Ting Tings - Wrong Club

Nothing makes you feel older than realising six years have passed since “That’s Not My Name” was your mobile ringtone (Back when people still actually set songs as their ringtones. Does anyone still do that? Do comment if so.) and was used to terrorise a friend at a festival, who was mid-shag in the shared tent and had the mood constantly ruined by my friends calling my phone that I had left in the tent. Served the bastard right; three other people were sharing the damn thing!

That said, I also remember the abuse I got for having that as my ringtone, but I’m far less apologetic for my music tastes these days. I loved The Ting Tings’ brand of rather bratty, shouty, chant-based pop. It gave them an odd and endearing niche in the year of Duffy, Adele, and Kings of Leon. Which is why it is a tad disappointing to see something so understated and understated, but not as offensive as anything off the second album (That I heard at least. I never bothered with the full thing.). “Get Lucky” and the entire disco fad looms over this to the point where it’s hard to find anything of proper identity or uniqueness. The fact that Katie White’s vocals are slightly drowned in the mix doesn’t help matters either, especially given what a strong presence she is on previous material. She sort of glides in and out of the song, not leaving much of a stamp in the middle.

Still, there’s a low-key charm to it. That bridge, while a syllable smorgasbord, is wonderfully light and airy, and that guitar riff is just as infectious as it was a year ago with Daft Punk. Stuff like this is never offensively bad also, just perhaps a little… anonymous.

Full marks for the video though. I never knew Katie had that kind of thing in her.

Posted on 09, July 2014 July 09 2014 2014年7月9日 by headphoneicon

Usher - She Came To Give It To You (Feat. Nick Minaj)

Don’t worry, everyone. It looks like my fears of Usher releasing a straightforward and utterly hollow EDM misery as a second single were actually unfounded.

It turns out Pharrell was the thing I should have been scared of. There’s probably a good song above that “Blurred Lines” beat and Pharrell’s hollering at random intervals like fucking foxes mating in the night, but considering said hollerer in question has recycled this shit about a million times in the last year, my patience has run out.

It shouldn’t surprise me that Pharrell’s popularity is running exactly in line with his shittiness, but whatever. This does everything that “Good Kisser” didn’t do, because “Good Kisser” was actually good. Nicki seems as over the whole affair as I am; turning in a rather pedestrian verse after a string of outstanding features this year, but her single is terrible too, so fuck her too I guess.

A headshaker for all involved.

Posted on 07, July 2014 July 07 2014 2014年7月7日 by headphoneicon

Foxes - Glorious

This is a fucking terrible video for an amazing song, but I can’t help but feel that the huge crescendo of the song being met with nothing but a man falling into a pool is a metaphor for the impact Foxes has had this year.

I mean, she’s had rather moderate success, but you get the feeling that nothing is really sticking right now. The album push-back killed any sort of hype she had, only for it to eventually be supported by a less successful single in the form of “Holding On To Heaven”, which was probably her best chance at getting a hit.

"Glorious" more than lives up to its title, but with that video and overall out-of-season sound it has, I don’t see it doing much else. It’s a shame, because it’s probably one of my singles of the year so far and I would have liked to see it do far better. Alas.

The fact the video robs the song of one of its two shots at that brilliant climax just adds insult to injury.

Posted on 06, July 2014 July 06 2014 2014年7月6日 by headphoneicon

Florrie - Little White Lies

This is the first single from anyone this year that I’ve instantly loved.

It’s all about that bridge. God, that bridge.It’s like the eye of the storm that is this song, but there’s so much electric tension in it too. You feel like the song is about to snap before it crashes into that rush of noise that is the chorus. But yes, the melody, the way Florrie’s vocals ratchet up higher and higher, the added instrumentation on the second wave… It’s a perfect pop moment. I’m quite hungover as I write this, and I might just cry at how beautiful that bridge is. Damn.

It also feels like we’re maybe possibly thinking about perhaps finally jump-starting Florrie’s career after years of EPs and false starts and whatever that nonsense she released earlier this year that I’m trying so hard to forget about. I’d love to hear this blasting out of the radio over the next month.

There’s a six week build up to the release. Fingers crossed things are in place and we can finally get our hands on that fucking album and the original version of “Call 911”. Although I’m probably pushing it with at least one of those things.

Posted on 03, July 2014 July 03 2014 2014年7月3日 by headphoneicon
Ariana Grande - Break Free (Feat. Zedd)

I’m starting to think that despite being an extremely gifted singer, Ariana Grande doesn’t have enough character or star power to fill a thimble.

Let’s not muddy things: I’m sure it’ll be a spectacle when she perfectly replicates these vocals live at the VMAs next month, and being able to sing live is always an amazing asset, but this is pop music. A good voice doesn’t mean jack shit if it’s not attached to good songs and instantly recognisable. Ariana’s biggest problem on this track is that she imbues it with no personality or attitude or identity. Her vocals are like glass to me every time I hear them; shiny and polished, but utterly transparent, and without Iggy’s ferocity, Big Sean’s seductive murmurs and the overall superior production of “Problem”, she’s exposed as someone who doesn’t have the character to carry a song like this.

It’s a poor outing for Zedd too; nowhere as warm and heartfelt or utterly bonkers as previous offerings. But then, perhaps my perception of those tracks is down to Foxes’ emotive vocals or Gaga’s crazed dominance infusing both productions with far more spirit. This is like the fourth single off a re-release, and I’m actually a little flabbergasted that Pitchfork named it Best New Track and dared to compare it to the utterly godly “Since U Been Gone”, which blows “Break Free” away effortlessly.