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Arcade Fire are a band that have thus far had a near-perfect career. Innately good song writers with a sound that’s always remained their own, each album has seen them take a different route and truly flourish on each musical path they’ve tread. Needless to say it is therefore always exciting when something new comes out of the blue and teases at what’s to come from their next album. This is true tenfold when the names David Bowie and LCD soundsystem producer James Murphy are also credited on new single ‘Reflektor’.

The first thing to hit you upon first listen is that this is clearly Arcade Fire’s most dance influenced single, perhaps excepting 'Sprawl II'. It operates within the kind of sonic sphere that is perfect for both Bowie and Murphy to put their stamp on: cold, driving minimalistic drums and brilliant square wave synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on TV on the Radio’s ‘dear science’ before erupting into trumpet and guitar lines that should remind Bowie fans of his work on Lou Reeds ‘transformer’ and even his tampering with Krautrock in places. However, its a song that continues to evolve and turn through its mammoth 8 minute playtime, Plenty of changes and timbres catch the listener off guard, but each and every layer added only broadens their bopping grin further. 

If tracks like ‘No Cars Go’ and ‘Ready to Start’ set stadiums pounding, this should put them into a more civil but no less enthused eruption. A formidable return, exhibiting a band that has no intention of releasing an easy album any time soon. Reflektor is a band transcending expectation, so download it or go out and by the 12”. Then dance around your bedroom.

Words: Jake Williams

 
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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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Diane Young, released yesterday as one half of a brand new double A-side from Vampire Weekend, is a blisteringly fun song. It bursts into life like a 100m sprinter who’s jumped the starting pistol, stumbling and falling, hopping over hurdles, spinning and whirring its way with all the determination of a Year Nine desperate to win gold; (which it does, with flying colours). The opening line, ‘You torched a Saab like a pile of leaves’, is typical of the latest output from the band: it’s immediate, striking, idiosyncratic, and a little nihilistic.

Chris Baio’s pumping synthetic bass bumbles beneath guitar squawks, culminating in a guitar solo that sounds like the robot from Short Circuit having a breakdown in a moshpit. Koenig’s vocals are playful and self-aware, owing something to the ‘50s swagger of Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly, spitting out consonant heavy quips like ‘You got the luck of a Kennedy/ So grab the wheel’, and jittering convulsively within the automated soundscape dreamed up by band-mate Rostam Batmanglij. 

On the skins drummer Chris Tomson does a stellar job of upping the ante from previous energetic contributions on tracks like Cousins, bundling in an athletic power with relentless snare fills, underscoring the song with boundless abandon. The result is a fun, bouncy, instantaneously listenable song which hints at the quality of the band’s forthcoming album.

The second track, Step, deals with similar themes but in a softer, more heartfelt way, akin to offerings from previous albums such as I Stand Corrected and Taxi Cab. The accompanying video on Youtube draws attention to the self-consciously learned lyricism of the track, in which classical allusions and geographical references are scattered liberally, like a glimpse inside Diderot’s notebook. Ultimately though the references are like a roadmap to the nostalgia of the romance described; they are signposts to memories, and far from being show-offy or pretentious, make the sentiment feel all the more genuine.

The inclusion of piano is a subtle but important development – allowing for a more grounded atmosphere. The bass is refreshingly simple and the vocals are stripped back and honest. The chorus is chanty but holds back from cliché; the sort of refrain that should help the band firmly establish their position at the top end of festival bills: it would suit a Glastonbury crowd nicely.

Words: Francis Blagburn

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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Song No. 1 is German singer/songwriter Alev Lenz’s debut UK single. The track is delicate and fresh, not to mention the wonderful femininity of both the piano melody and Alev Lenz’s vocals. Song No. 1 manages to express a minimalist/simple feel whilst striking gold with the blissful harmonies and experimental electro. The influence of European classical is cleverly munipulated and intertwined with the electro sound to create a diverse yet simple track that is perfect for a quiet, sunny morning.  You simply can’t help but feel at ease whilst listening to this, and the steady transition from the long intro to the crux of the song is particularly effective. The use of delicate vocals and the assimilation of electro sounds are similar to that of Jessie Ware & Sampha’s ‘Valentine’ single. Song No. 1, however,  is more unpredictable with the layering of harmonic vocals and the displaced drum beat of Samuli Kosimen, which, in the track’s entirety, works wonders.  Although this is her first UK release (18th March), Alev Lenz has been working hard back home with the release of her debut album and becoming involved with soundtracks for German films. Her creative diversity is one that should be more recognised, having had her artwork being used in an enhibition, as well as performing in London’s jazz club ‘The Vortex’. 

It’s difficult to find ambience and excitement in one track, but the wholeness of Song No. 1 sends chills up my spine as well as bringing the sun out on that gloomy, March day.

Words: Cerys Kenneally

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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From what sounds like the crackle of a vinyl player emerges the soulful yet snappy piano chords that set the tone for Girl Called Johnny’s debut single ‘Heaven Knows’. This song acts as an appropriate medium for Karen Anne (who previously fronted the minimally successful punk outfit ‘Ramona’) to divulge the listener in her tragic relationship woes. It’s a subject that has been covered time and time again by artists and whilst she croons about being ‘unable to live without you’, it is done in a way that is a homage to 90s radio pop.

Laced with multiple ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’, a plodding bass line and some well arranged guitar hooks, it’s both an upbeat and a foot-tapping take on a relatively melancholy topic. Karen Anne’s vocals float pleasantly over all of this and although a subtle Londoner’s accent can be heard throughout the track, it never becomes too overwhelming. Fortunately this means that she avoids falling in to an ‘annoying Kate Nash-esque’ shaped hole. However, whilst this track is something I welcome with open arms on to the current pop scene, I can’t help but feel that it holds the essence of a karaoke classic rather than a pioneering record worth getting excited about. I dunno, perhaps it’s just a little too ‘Gossip Girl’ friendly for me.

Hear it now.

Words: George Hemmati

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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Following the announcement of second album ‘I’m Leaving’, electronic trio Is Tropical have released a much more calm, sentimental sounding track ‘Yellow Teeth’. The 7 minute long epic is a new sound compared to that of the chaotic wonders of ‘Native To’, and is blissful to listen to. The lyrics are creative, meaningful and work well with the moody guitars, and strained, emotive vocals. The female harmony works wonders in adding to the delicate tone, and it’s definitely a new, raw Is Tropical that hasn’t been seen before now. The track is infused with early 70’s psychedelica as well as streaks of good, quintessential British pop. ‘Yellow Teeth’ has a similar raw but exotic feel to that of WU LYF, yet manages to preserve the stripped back sound that I believe will work incredibly well if their second  offering is akin to this track. The album has been produced by Luke Smith who has worked with Depeche Mode and Foals, so there’s no reason to doubt that Is Tropical have a good album waiting to be released through Paris’ Kitsune records.

Words: Cerys Kenneally

ALBUM OUT // 20051

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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The surrey based brothers that make up Disclosure have hit a new level in a la mode electro by working with AlunaGeorge- a London duo that have been shortlisted for the BRIT Award Critics’ Choice for 2013 already. White Noise is ferociously catchy, and incorporates upbeat tempo with the feisty vocals of Aluna Francis. The garage/house track is a great start to 2013, and Aluna’s vocals will definitely hit the underground clubbing scene hard, if they haven’t already. The lyrics ‘If you want to play tough, then let’s get rough’ highlight the feisty character Aluna is playing up against the relentless production. The endless sweep from weakness to strength in the lyrics proves a strong point, cracking down to the chorus in a dark and energetic manner. Disclosure and AlunaGeorge have created an anthem, and it’s extremely impressive. This track is opening doors for the landscape of pop in 2013, and it showcases the effortless cool of Disclosure and the super-swagger of AlunaGeorge. Both parties will be unmovable heavyweights in 2013 music. Get down and dirty. Skank your ruddy Jordans off- the single is out March 24th.

SINGLE OUT // 240313

Words: Cerys Keneally

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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When you tour with Marilyn Manson and collaborate with a Nine Inch Nails affiliate your musical orientation as a band may seem like a foregone conclusion. You Need The Blue Key is the debut single from Binary's upcoming 'Amber EP' and actually does something quite exciting. Their sound is unmistakably aggressive- clearly dark and starless. The mono synth line that infects the song mere seconds in suits the retro-tech stylings of the video impeccably. Whilst there are streaks of heavier influences the song is most akin to the gloom-rock of The Horrors. The melody is simple but effective and runs in and out of the production once the track hits its crescendo. The band are leather-clad, dingy and unwelcoming. The song carries a really nice texture though, interesting sounds, obnoxious lyricism and hard-pressed production that make the upcoming EP a rather exciting prospect.

Words: Duncan Harrison

SINGLE OUT // 250213

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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Vocals are getting lost a little too much at the moment. Heavy production and artistic experimentation can occasionally compromise the quality and focus on melody and vocals. Noir-pop NY bred kids MSMR haven't fallen victim to this at all. Fantasy is a song from the ilk of Florence that carries a swagger and confidence which is absent in a lot of colossal choruses like this one. Having so far amassed praise from Pitchfork, Jay-Z and NME- there is a lot resting on these singles and Fantasy won't disappoint. It races, soars through a simple melody with rolling drum lines, dreamy glockenspiel sounds and most importantly- an incredibly airtight chorus. The mixing for the track was done by the same bloke who did Adele's 21 and Amy Winehouse's Back To Black which shows the faith invested in this duo. They are also headlining London's super trendy XOYO in March. ShufSounds will try and go. For now, let Fantasy take you.

Tumblr // SoundCloud // Facebook

Words: Duncan Harrison

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
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Despite a lengthy hiatus from the music industry, Justin Timberlake is back. The pop pioneer behind such classics as Rock Your Body and Senorita has announced the release of his upcoming album ‘The 20/20 Experience’, and the first single has been released.

For the most part the new track, “Suit and Tie” is pitch-perfect. Production credit goes to Timberlake’s long-time collaborator, Timbaland, who keeps things simple with punchy brass and a recurring, reverberating snare. Unlike on Cry Me A River, Timbaland is not sat in a car causing damage (or, indeed, leaving), but instead takes a backseat as Jay-Z steps up to power through an effortless verse in half-time.

The highlight of the song drops within the first minute. A super slow hook blasts into the frame, “I be on my suit and tie shit” is the refrain. It’s not quite as catchy as Drake’s YOLO, but nonetheless will no doubt provide the witty caption to plenteous instagram photos of school proms, weddings and graduations this year.

After half a minute or so of this lacklustre, heavy drone there’s a brief pause for breath before Timberlake whips out the tip-toe-light tone his fans have missed with the line “I… can’t… wait ‘til I get you on the floor, good lookin’”. From there on it’s a light, breezy tour-de-force in dance-floor dynamics which has unsurprisingly earned a top spot on the iTunes chart.

Words: Francis Blagburn

Posted
AuthorDuncan Harrison
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A spokesman for Columbia Records said  "Throwing shadows and avoiding the industry treadmill is very David Bowie". This video came after next to no speculation (well, no more than ever) and a full announcement. David Bowie's first studio LP will come out on British shores on March 11 2013.

This song serves as a stirring preview to that offering. "As long as there's me, as long as there's you." sings Bowie on top of a track produced by Brooklyn's Tony Visconti. The musicality and drama is colossal but not over bearing. The song slowly gains momentum and becomes something that rests in the grey area between a cry for help and a euphoric realisation of nothing ever changing. The song is chilling but strangely uplifting. It's tangled in narrative and the melody is simple but perfectly poigniant. Bowie's voice doesn't sound strained and even on the more staccato delivery of phrases like "Sitting in the jungle" the quintessential element of reverie that seeps through Bowie's work appears ever present  but now masked by an almost discerning and reluctantly accepting view of the real world. 

Nothing sums this view up better than the artwork that iTunes have released for the LP (Left). The Next Day is coming. Even if the story is unsmiling and the colours aren't as obvious as they once were. On the day David Bowie turns 66 all talk of possible comebacks and reunions seem to pale in to insignificance. Don't expect interviews, and I wouldn't anticipate a morning on Ticketmaster but for now, we've got a story teller.

Words: Duncan Harrison

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
GHXST

GHXST

This is my first encounter with GHXST, and they’ve won me over in the first two bars; a wonderfully scuzzy and fuzzy intro to the song seems like a fitting way to introduce new listeners to the band, which for many this track (Doom Girl) will be.

Fans of bands such as sonic youth and more recently PINS should heavily enjoy the spring reverberant, slap echo drenched howls of female vocals and guitars that seem to be deeper than the devils swinging bollocks. The video’s a bit of a controversial one, not in any sense of offending anyone but just a bit ‘errr’ but again, that’s not why either of us are here is it? If it is, perhaps you’ll be better off when ShufSounds inevitably achieves world domination and stretches its tendrils to ShufVisuals, but until that time I’ll just tell you that GHXST are a very promising act. They channel the ghost of those parts of the 90’s that you wish never died, overlapping riffs that never back themselves in to any predictable or cheesy corners, just inventive lo-fi, with a thick undercurrent of broodiness and empowerment, a must for every ripped jean and my friend goo clad nihilists everywhere. Definitely worth a listen and a self conscious head bang. Expect a lot more from them this year coming.

Listen and download it for free.

Words: Jake Williams, London, UK

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
BEACH FOSSILS

BEACH FOSSILS

Beach fossils most recent offering “Careless” is a more urgent and screeching understanding of their usual breezy New Order-on-a-surfboard vibe. It largely works very well, buoyantly propelling the listless vocals across the undemanding three minute running time. A particular highlight is the song’s coda that allows the lustre of the track to fade, leaving the washed out remnants of the track to burn out. As with so much of this sub-genre, occupied by Beach Fossils, Wild Nothing et al, the music treads a tightrope between genuinely affecting spacial guitar rock and white-washed ‘I Wanna Go Surfing’ inspired sunny advert music. Yet “Careless” has enough character and enough nerve to place it firmly in the former category. This is a promising introduction to Beach Fossils album ‘Clash the Truth’ which will be out Feburary the 19th.

Words: Angus Harrison, Manchester, UK

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
JONNY PIERCE

JONNY PIERCE

This is the first track to emerge from the solo project of The Drums’ singer Jonny Pierce and if we were living in Jonny Pierce’s world this is how all pop would sound as he revealed that ‘this is pop done the way I think it should be done’. How would you feel about that? I suppose it would beat the bass inflicted mantras that drown the airwaves at the moment but for me this doesn’t match anything we’ve heard by The Drums. At points the track sounds as if he’s captured a bee in a jar, not let it escape and recorded the result. Could be worse though...

Words: George Hemmati, Calgary, Canada

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AuthorDuncan Harrison
WU LYF (RIP)

WU LYF (RIP)

Following the announcement this week that ‘Wu-Lyf’ are ditching their guitars and wiping their hands clean of the music scene, it seems that the Mancunian tropical rockers won’t be sticking around for a lyf-time (lmfao). However, they have left us with parting gift and it’s a delight to the ears. In a typical reverb-laden fashion they have produced a track that exemplifies their signature sound, climaxing with lots of sharp crashing cymbals jumbled with high pitched guitar cries. We’ll miss these chaps. Hopefully some new up-starters might be able to recapture their strangely invigorating rebellion on the industry. Even if that shit never worked out, we had fun.

Words: George Hemmati, Calgary, Canada

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AuthorDuncan Harrison