Banks - Brain

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It’s been almost a year since we first brought you coverage of Banks, and it’s fair to say that in the last 3 months, her stock has risen considerably. If you’re keeping score, that’s about the 50th act we’ve broken with a promise of wider recognition. We’re that good.

Her first release of the year is more important than it would be for most acts, purely because of the lavish praise and coverage she recieved from many outlets, as part of endless end of year lists and 2014 predictions. Thankfully, she does not disappoint, coming through with her unique spin on the dark R&B/electro soul style once more. The production is helmed by the gifted Shlomo, who engulfs a blend of gentle electronic melodies and synths in a thick bass coating, giving the track’s atmosphere plenty of depth and gravitas. The development of the beat for the track’s second half is excellent too, throwing forth more percussive elements for a climactic finish, and it’s a strong showing from the upcoming producer.

Banks’ vocals are as seductive and sultry as ever, winding through the first half of the track at a slow, reflective pace, before exploding into life for the second half with an empassioned, powerful delivery that showcases a range we’ve not seen a great deal of thus far. It’s a very strong show of variety, and certainly demonstrates that she has far more in her arsenal than some may believe. Another excellent release, and the buzz for her debut LP will stand to increase even further as a result.

Pandr Eyez - Heartbreaker

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Technically, this is a Mariah Carey remix/cover, but the first time I heard this, that didn’t occur to me at all. Call me stupid if you like, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s more of a testament to the original spin that Translatlantic duo Pandr Eyez have put on the old school classic.

Every element of the bubbly original is thrown out (besides the lyrics, of course) in favour of a spaced-out, mellow style that gives the track a dark wintery vibe, and hence opens it up to a whole new audience. That’s courtesy of luxuriously airy synths, winding through the track at will and intertwining effortlessly with the smooth vocals on offer, whilst the occasional flashes of background vocals and additional melodies pads out the soundscape rather well. The vocals deserve plenty of credit for showing versatility throughout- with a sombre production of this ilk, a consistent delivery would end up nullifying any attractiveness the track’s modernism has by boring everyone to death, and hence the mixture of subtle and not-so-subtle delivery changes is a wise play here.

Worth a go for sure, and look out for more from the upcoming duo. Their Present EP lands on 4th February.

White Sea - Prague

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Circumstances (including a lack of good music) have resulted in a month-long silence over here, but allow me to return tonight covered in all of my former glory. And blood.

Membership of M83 is always a weird thing to figure out, especially as most of the coverage seems to go to Anthony Gonzalez, but as both a tour and studio contributor to M83′s work since Saturdays = Youth, it’s fair to consider Morgan Kibby a member of the band. Here, as White Sea, she branches out on her own with a light, laidback effort that’s not a million miles away from some of her work with M83. An easy thing to say given the enormous spectrum of styles they’ve worked within, but whatever. Deal with it.

Those familiar elements come via the reasonably loose structure of the song, with pulsating industrial-esque hooks broken up by verses that jump in where and how they can. Morgan’s drifty, high-pitched vocals combine well with the soft synths and samples in the verse for an atmosphere that’s gentle, whilst their delicateness is contrasted superbly in the hook by an industrial, sharp-edged production, built on crunching percussion, jagged synths and even a dash of distorted guitar work. It’s a strong listen from start to end, and sign that M83′s individual parts may be just as good as their collective presence.

Flying Lotus - Ideas + Drafts + Loops (Compilation)

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To celebrate reaching 300k followers a few days back, FlyLo let loose of a .zip file full of remixes, draft tracks, loops, unreleased material and much more for his evidently growing fanbase. Given the amount of material some artists sit on (looking at you Dre), it makes you wonder why more acts don’t just do the same with tracks they never intend on doing much else with, though in fairness recieving this from someone the calibre of Flying Lotus at least comes with the comfort that even his cast-offs will be good material.

Plenty of his previous collaborators are invovled, from Thundercat to Earl Sweatshirt, whilst it seems the remix of Kanye West’s Black Skinhead has been one of the releases from the pack gaining the most traction thus far. Add to that the inclusion of material from his “side project” as Captain Murphy, and you’ve got plenty of potential contained in this archive, and enough to keep fans going until the next album. That being said, there’s another of these generous offerings planned before his next LP release- we’re basically spoilt.

Flying Lotus – Ideas + Drafts + Loops

The National and Bob's Burgers - Sailors In Your Mouth (Video)

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It’s weird and trippy, and yet hilariously brilliant. The National’s slow, sombre song is given an animated twist by the creators of the excellent Bob’s Burgers (if you don’t watch it, cancel your subscription to life). Watch the video here.

If you close your eyes and just listen to this first, there is absolutey no way you can expect this to be the video. The vocals are sombre, the instrumentation is downbeat and morose, and there’s a general moodiness that seems more suited to sitting alone in a field of snow rather than accompanying one of TV’s finest animated comedies. That being said, a closer listen reveals the lyrics to be rather well-suited to the video, given that they’re focused around gravy and other food, and it’s a fun, slightly brilliant contrast with the vibe of the instrumentation.

As good as the song is (and it is good), the video is the highlight, featuring the band as the gravy sailors who gradually make their way into Bob’s mouth. They do so in an expresionless, dour manner that again makes for the most hilarious contrast, before performing slightly more emotionally inside his mouth. The attempt at seriousness is great fun, and the video closing with the kids frolicking in the gravy (except for Tina, who steals the show by doing nothing) finishes off what is an utterly ludicrous and clever effort. Very fun video, and a surprisingly good song too.

Death Grips-Government Plates (Album)

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Of all the groups that you’d consider an acquired taste, Death Grips have to be somewhere near the top. The sheer anarchy of their sound is somewhere between insane and addictive, with the harsh, discordant combination of punk, electro, hip-hop and alternative being entirely unique and yet with strands of familiarity lying within the chaos.

They famously cancelled many of their live appearances this summer, to the disappointment of their rabid fanbase that had lapped up the two free album releases on 2012. Thankfully, it seems that time wasn’t exactly wasted, with this new album release landing way ahead of its original 2014 schedule. 11 tracks make this one up, and I fully expect it to be another eardrum-tearing, cacophonous ride through their own inimitable style. You can stream and/or download the album below.

Death Grips-Government Plates (Stream)

Death Grips-Government Plates (Download)

Childish Gambino-Melrose

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Because the Internet is rumoured to land on 10th December, and though this track was only released as part of a tweet to Jhene Aiko (who, contrary to semi-accepted belief, is not romantically involved with Gambino), it’s probably fair to accept it’ll land on the album given that it’s potentially only a month away.

Compared to recent releases (and arguably anything since Camp), it’s much lighter and soulful in nature, featuring Gambino exclusively singing throughout over a melancholy production. A lot of the longtime Gambino fans will be quite pleased to hear this, as it’s much closer to his early work and a departure from the harsher style Royalty came with (and arguably didn’t really succeed with). The production begins with sombre piano notes, before involving a strong percussion line and a little more melody to thicken up the backdrop, and eventually throwing forth a synth-driven, comparatively cacophonous final third. It’s good progression throughout, and despite that last third being far livelier than the first third, it still maintains an air of reflectiveness, which matches up to the desperate, lonely vocals that Gambino delivers throughout. There isn’t much variety vocally, as it’s essentially just Gambino crooning out a hook and a couple of adlibs, but that simplicity works quite well here in synergising with the production to create an atmospheric, introspective vibe, and deliver what is a fairly likeable effort.

Childish Gambino-Melrose

The Killers-Just Another Girl

The Killers have a greatest hits album due out on 11th November (after four albums, is it a little too soon for one?), which is set to feature a couple of new tracks, including this effort.

Admittedly, their last two albums really haven’t struck a chord with me, which is bitterly disappointing as I listened to the first two religiously, but this track does undo some of that bad work. Whilst it does carry much of the electronic influence that was rife in their most recent pair of albums, it’s tempered by enough ‘organics’ to keep it on the right path, particularly the acoustic strums in the verses and the bubbly, instrument-packed hook. That being said, the general vibe of the track has a driving quality that will reel you in, and that ends up being the result of a successful marriage between the electronic and rock elements included, with the end result being a far better synergy of the two than they’ve previously managed. Brandon’s vocals are typically catchy and will rattle around your head for weeks, throwing forth an extremely infectious hook that should set this up for plenty of radio play, and they cap off what could turn out to be a fairly popular song over the next couple of months. Available on the Direct Hits album, landing next week.

Sampha-Too Much (Video)

Of those who enjoyed Drake’s recent Nothing Was The Same album (and yes, I’m one of those folk), a large percentage cited this as the album’s standout or their current favourite. That widespread praise was heavily indebted to Sampha’s work on the intro, hook and outro, and it appears that was just a taster of what was to come, as he comes through with a full solo version.

Taken from an upcoming double A-side vinyl release, this mastered version of the track (you’ll notice the version on Drake’s album is a little rougher in comparison) is a beautifully gentle piece that will definitely find a home with those who enjoyed the NWTS version. The production is stripped down to the bare bones, swapping out the lavish soundscape of the Drake edition for lonely, isolated piano notes that create a simple, delicate backdrop. They’re perfectly suited to the anguish and emotion in Sampha’s voice throughout too, with his delivery and lyrics throughout being packed full of heartfelt sentiment and a rawness that would have been badly-placed in front of a heavily-layered production. It’s nothing complicated: this is pure ballad territory, and Sampha croons his heart out with great skill and believability.

An excellent listen, and one that could get a lot of play time on these cold winter nights. Look out for the iTunes release on 12th November.

Mogwai-Remurdered

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As much as I like these guys, they seem to be in a small group of bands that I do really enjoy, but always forget to check out whatever their upcoming album is after its release. I’ll buy into the singles, get on board with the promo, but come crunch time, I’ve forgotten everything I knew. Nightmare customer.

So, let’s do the same dance again. Their newest LP, Rave Tapes, is on the horizon (21st January, for those who aren’t as forgetful as I am), and this single precedes that release in some style. It’s a very slow build, opening in a much less rock-oriented manner than some might expect, and instead relying heavily on dark synth lines, crisp yet light percussion, and a general sense of sombreness mixed with menace. That is, until the second half springs right into life: a bubbly electro melody enters the fray, alongside much more vibrant, lively percussion work, and eventually a hint of grungy guitar can be heard propping up the soundscape in the background. It’s a lovely build that ends up actually becoming quite the head-nodding affair, and as far as I’m aware, seems to be a change of direction for the band- it works for me, and it’s probably going to help me keep better pace with their upcoming album.

Linkin Park-I'll Be Gone (Vice Remix) ft. Pusha T

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Can you believe Hybrid Theory came out 13 years ago?

LP’s decision to remix that entire album for the Reanimation project was an interesting one at the time that I slightly struggled with. The years have been kind though (puberty eventually passed), and some of its highlights have become top tier pieces in the Linkin Park back catalogue. The band are revisiting the concept with Recharged, an album of Living Things remixes- for fans who have strayed, it’s worth noting that Living Things was a huge improvement on its predecessor and half of the album before it too.

This effort is the remix album’s first single, and features hip-hop’s man-of-the-moment with a good contribution. The original track was a strong effort with powerful, rousing instrumentation, and here those guts are removed and replaced by a glitchy, electro-style backdrop that packs in plenty of energy of its own, though it does retain some of the melodies from the original as well as fragments of its pacing. Chester’s vocals initially don’t quite have the raw, primal effect over such a beat, but the inclusion of more edgy work for his final hook towards the end works well, whilst the production does certainly lend a hand to Pusha and Mike Shinoda’s rapped verses. A decent effort, and probably a good indicator of how that album will shape up in terms of sound.

Toro Y Moi-Rose Quartz (Video)

Almost 9 months removed from the release of Anything In Return (which is close to holding on for my “best album of 2013″ accolade), and Toro manages to get more mileage out of it with a video for what is emerging as my favourite song from the album. Though a large chunk of it remains in my regular rotation, it’s this one that I find consisently unskippable, regardless of the listening environment, and this far down the line that’s rather high praise.

For a track of this quality, the video had to be one of two things: an excellent story, or visually impressive. It opts for the latter, and delivers in a unique manner with a fantastic concept and execution by Lauren Gregory: the entire video is animated from what I assume are a series of paintings, with the thick strokes and vivid colour palette making for a hypnotising watch. It’s a very original idea that captures the vibe of the track well, with its easygoing nature mirrored by the imperfect, rough-edged painting, whilst its more fun, lively elements are brought out by the chromatics and relatively busy level of activity. Whereas a story-driven video would have sought to add a layer of complexity and depth to proceedings, this direction instead allows the strength of the music to speak for itself, and merely adds a nice artistic touch to help enhance the track’s natural qualities. Worth a go whether you’ve heard the song or not, and grab that album if you don’t already own it for some reason.

Martina Topley-Bird-Crystalised (Cover) ft. Mark Lanegan & Warpaint

The original has probably been out of our collective memory for quite some time now, and not only is this a nice reminder of its qualities, but it’s also a fantastic cover that warrants just as much attention.

The track is taken in a rough-edged direction, contrasting the smooth, rounded sounds of the laidback original with a crisp percussion line and a more diverse vocal output. Mark Lanegan opens up with low, bassy vocals that aren’t hugely dissimilar to Oliver of The xx’s own dulcet qualities, but carry a less-refined, grittier quality that makes them wholly endearing in their own right, and almost bring a more “grown-up” feel to proceedings. Martina joins in with her own brand of higher-pitched yet gentle vocals, offering a strong contrast to both the original and Mark’s raspy output, without diminishing the relaxing quality that made the original track so addictive. She’s generally regarded as one of the most well-rounded vocalists in almost any genre, and her performance here is about as close to a perfect delivery as you could hope for, whilst the same can certainly be said for the opposing vocals of Mark Lanegan, who admittedly I’d never heard before.

An excellent cover accompanied by a part-animated video that doesn’t get too frenetic, and instead captures the sombre, nighttime vibe of the track well whilst adding just enough colour and activity. You can grab this cover now on vinyl, or 7th October digitally.

HAIM-Days Are Gone (Full Album Stream)

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For whatever criticism they may field, HAIM’s unique blend of styles and sounds still wins me over almost every time. It’s good to see that they’ve achieved relative mainstream success, and with their debut LP due out tomorrow, they let the full thing go (a few days ago) for streaming. I’ve said several times previously that such a move is confident, but it’s especially so by an act without a full album to their name, and fingers crossed the material holds up.

There are four or five tracks that relatively long time fans will recognise, including the three openers, which should allow for a good level of familiarity with the 11-track album. Within those few previously-released tracks is a wide array of musical influences, so it’s only fair to assume the rest of the album will further display their eclectic, adapatable nature, and result in a very diverse project. Check the stream out below, and grab that album tomorrow if you’re suitably impressed.

HAIM-Days Are Gone

The Internet-Feel Good (Full Album Stream)

There are some big acts that have released/are releasing albums in September, but my anticipation for any of them pales in comparison to the interest I have in this particularly project. Their last album was excellent, and the previews we’ve had from this, particularly the hugely-acclaimed Dontcha, have suggested that’s only going to evolve and get better with their sophomore LP.

13 tracks make up the project, one which promises to be a little livelier and more instrument-driven than their synthy, atmospheric layering found in their debut album. Of course, it’ll still all be tied together with a chillout sensibility, and it’s that combination which could make this essential listening this winter, and probably again in the summer.

Their burgeoning status has given rise to a few noteworthy appearances- their recent work on Mac Miller’s tour has been repaid with a Mac feature, whilst Jesse Boykins III reprises his connection with Matt Martians (see The Jet Age of Tomorrow’s most recent album), and the wonderfully gifted Yuna lends her vocals to proceedings. Adding to that is Tay Walker, a previous collaborator, rounding off what is a small but promising batch of features, all of which make plenty of theoretical sense. It’s all about Syd and Matt though, and I’m sure they’ll deliver once again- find out here with the stream, and be sure to buy the album on Tuesday.

Toro y Moi-Campo

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Following his acclaimed full-length, Anything In Return, Chaz Bundick’s latest 2013 entry as Toro Y Moi is the “Campo” 7-inch, available exclusively on his fall North American tour.

Unfortunately, it’s not a dedicated to the bushy-haired footballer of Real Madrid and Bolton Wanderers fame. However, it is an easygoing, fun track that might perk up your day a little.

It’s far more funk driven than his work on Anything In Return, throwing out the heavy synth reliance and bringing in a much jazzier range of backing elements, from the immeasurably bouncy bass plucks through to the crisp, dynamic percussion. It’s a solid end result that retains Toro’s easygoing sound, but plies it with a hint of vintage rawness that demonstrates a good level of versatility, and ends up being a track that will slide into any chillout playlist with consumate ease. No word on availability for those not living in North America though, so good luck.

MGMT-MGMT (Full Album Stream)

MGMT’s psychedelic sound is hit and miss. Parts of their previous albums have been fantastic, whilst others go beyond skippable into deletable. Hence, it’s with some trepidation that I approach this album, dubbed as their most experimental to date, but also with a little bit of hope- they undoubtedly have a streak of brilliance in amongst their wild playfulness, and more creative freedom might just allow that to expand further into the music.

Or it might not. Alien Days wasn’t terrible by any means, but Your Life Is A Lie failed to win me over, and with a relatively short album at 10 tracks, you’ve got to hope that the other 80% isn’t too close in quality to the already-released 20%. Don’t allow my caution to put you off though: this is an experienced duo, and one with a lot of talent- for all the confusion this LP’s sounds might bring, that shred of genius will hopefully come to the fore. Available to buy next week.

Frightened Rabbit-Wildest Moments (Cover)

An excellent cover from the Scottish folk band, and whilst their introductory statements are absolutely on point, their performance is even more so.

They’ve captured the best parts of the original, particularly the reflective, somewhat downbeat elements, and added a raw quality that only serves to enhance those facets. Hearing a song stripped down to absolutely minimal proportions is always an interesting listen, and here it’s a style that completely suits the original work, pushing forth the emotion in the vocal and lyrical content by adding an organic aspect to the backdrop- it ends up being a blend that arguably takes the original song’s content into an area that allows it to properly flourish.

There’s something likeable about hearing it sung in such thick Scottish accents too, and whether that’s just the novelty factor or not remains to be seen, but for now it adds another twist that allows this cover to completely standalone from the original piece. Most definitely worth a listen, and a watch if you’re a fan of good beards.

RAC-Let Go ft. Kele Okereke and MNDR

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Attentive readers will remember RAC remixing Bloc Party’s Octopus around a year ago, and Kele returns the favour somewhat here with a feature on RAC’s very likeable solo single.

It’s one of those that’s perfectly suited for summer, but not in a lively, blast out loud in the car sort of way. Rather, it’s suited to laying around relaxing, and with so much of a feelgood vibe that it’s almost romantic- you could easily hear this soundtracking a kiss in a chick flick. It’s wholly infectious, blending together funky bass, slow-moving percussion, faint synths and gentle backing vocals from MNDR for mellow, easygoing verses, and throwing forth more energetic guitars, samples and vibrant vocals for the anchoring choruses- it becomes much livelier, but not to such an extent that the verses become redundant, and hence it’s a good production all-round.

Kele’s vocals in the verses are sure to be a highlight for many, their delicate qualities hovering gently above the soft production, and building enough emotion to allow MNDR’s more urgent hook to offer a climactic release. With a little radio play, this could quite easily become a late mainstream favourite for the summer. And if not, some of you dealing with TV/film music (yeah, we know you read this) should really be grabbing hold of this for your next sync.

M.I.A.-Unbreak My Mixtape

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Despite the promo run for the Matangi album going a little quiet, she’s back with a new release that we can only assume is set for that upcoming LP.

It’s a rather offbeat effort too. Fom glitch electronica through to classic alternative, it’s a production built on sharp percussion, a meandering pace and stuttery melodies, and despite its minimal nature, it manages to throw together the sounds of several genres. That’s before even mentioning the Blur and Karen Dalton samples. M.I.A.’s vocals are rather off-kilter, facets which sound quite deliberate throughout as she appears to be trying to capture a raw, almost-’homemade’ style feel. Combine that with the relationship-oriented lyricism, and you’ve got a track that ends up being even more off-centre in the context of M.I.A., for its unusually ‘regular’ lyrical output. Like much of her music, the first listen probably won’t win you over, but stick with it as there’s definitely something likeable about it.

Phoenix-Trying To Be Cool Remix ft. R. Kelly

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Erm. What?! Having been unaware that they once performed on stage together, R. Kelly popping up on a remix of French band Phoenix’s excellent single was beyond unexpected. A massive surprise, but it’s always fun to hear acts of such distant genres come together in this format, and in this case it actually ends up working quite well.

The original is one of my favourite alternative/alt pop tracks in recent times, and as hard as you might try, it’s one of those songs that so inescapably positive you’ll rarely be able to skip it. Throw that bubbly production under R. Kelly’s refined vocal output, and you’ve got a layer of smoothness and warm familiarity to add to that liveliness, rounding the track off rather nicely. It’s difficult to imagine if you’re well-accquainted with the original, but Kels’ vocals legitimately blend in so well here, as he takes over on hook duty and also lends a verse to proceedings; the impact is so effective that admittedly, part of me wanted to hear him take over on vocals for the entire track. That’s pretty greedy though, as this is a superb little refresh of an already-enjoyable track, and one that might just push it toward the kind of mainstream spotlight that this sort of track would thrive underneath. A strong original, a fun video, a likeable dance remix, and now a big name official rework. That, my friends, is how you roll out a single. Hit iTunes for the download.

John Mayer-Paradise Valley (Full Album Stream)

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Paper Doll was a great jump-off point for this album, and with its release only a week away, Mayer lets the full LP out for your streaming enjoyment.

His previous album, Born and Raised, was a little disappointing in honesty and certainly didn’t match the quality of the two albums prior to that. The aforementioned single provided more than a glimmer of hope for this one, whilst an appearance from Frank Ocean also offers plenty of promise, and for those of a mushy nature there’s even a collaboration with his on-again off-again female companion Katy Perry. Always a confident move letting your album out a week early, and you can head below to stream the LP on iTunes before your purchasing decision next week.

John Mayer-Paradise Valley

Banks-Waiting Game

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Track-by-track, Banks not only seems to double her fanbase, but also continually one-ups herself in terms of song quality. This, the third release of hers (that I’ve heard) is another laidback, mellow effort but from a much different angle than her previous effort, the slightly more positive Warm Water- this one opts for a similar emotional vibe, but in a more pained, downbeat manner that highlights Banks’ introspective lyricism in a much more reflective, visceral manner.

Where the aforementioned Warm Water was notable for the synergy between the velvety production and smooth vocals, this one utilises the contrast between the two for a much sharper, more penetrative effort. The production opens gently, allowing the vocals too pierce through its minimal, gentle sound, before progressing upward into a hazy combination of synths, haunting vocal samples and menacing percussion, creating a dark, moody and intense vibe. The momentum created by the more vibrant sections of the production allow Banks’ vocals to scale back when the beat is at its peak, whilst she slides into the brief production pauses to let out more emotive, sharper deliveries, in what is a comfortable show of vocals versatility and also of production awareness, in terms of allowing it room to blossom. Worth a listen for sure, and another solid release from the talented upcomer.

M83-Claudia Lewis (Video)

Time has only improved the Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming LP, probably to the point that I’d consider it one of my favourite albums of the last 5 years, and as it approaches its 2nd birthday, they revisit the LP with new visuals.

If ever a band took the inherent cinematic quality of their music and pretty much did whatever the hell they want visually, knowing it would work anyway, it’s these guys. Their previous releases have sat somewhere between mysterious, brilliant and bizarre, and this doesn’t change that in the slightest, though leans more toward the bizarre than the brilliant if we’re being honest. It’s pretty much a leftfield take on the schoolboy/girl crush scenario, with the girl in question having some unusual supernatural qualities, particularly an E.T.-esque finger, which then escalates into her essentially proving to be some kind of alien being. Simple on the outside, but it seems the suggestion is that rather than her being a literal alien, it’s more an implication of the impact she has on him, and his view on her unbelievable…ness. Or, she’s an alien.

Either way, when it’s soundtracked by a typically-grandiose M83 affair, it can be as weird or corny as you like: it ends up being gripping either way. If you were left behind whilst the rest of humanity were evolving and you don’t have this album, get it now.

RDGLDGRN-Lootin' In London ft. Angel Haze (Video)

RDGLDGRN’s progression to international acclaim will be no surprise to frequent OTU readers, and the praise and co-signs keep on rolling in. With both Dave Grohl and Angel Haze featuring on this track’s audio, that’s only going to grow.

It’s another anthemic track from the trio, but one with a much moodier, more intense undercurrent that moves away from their more jovial, upbeat style. The instrumentation has an engulfing harshness, with the driving guitars taking the production somewhere between indie and heavy punk, whilst the comparatively slowed-down percussion adds a head-nodding hip-hop quality to prevents the track getting lost in the blistering guitars. Green’s raps are well-delivered again, taming a ferocious production with consumate ease, whilst the infectious hook anchors the track with its defiant, singalong nature. It’s a move into the motivational and rebellious side of the rock-rap style, a hybrid sound they can now claim to have delivered in several guises with skill and consistency.

Their long-term fans know they’ve got a great love for football, and they’ve incorporated that quite organically here. Featuring two opposing teams, the aggressive instrumentation and brash raps would suggest a violent confrontation brewing, and its fitting to instead see the clip conclude with a game of football between the two factions. Another potential radio favourite. Available now.

Kid Cudi-Going to the Ceremony

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Usually, as far as releasing new material goes, Cudi’s pretty quiet in between albums. Yet, here he is throwing out a new freebie for the fans, just a couple of months removed from the release of his Indicud album. A pleasant surprise for sure.

With WZRD (Cudi and Dot Da Genius) listed as producers, you can rightly expect a heavy alternative influence- whilst many weren’t into their alt-heavy WZRD album, I felt it certainly had its moments, and this would have stood up rather well on that album. The razor sharp guitar chords command attention from the very beginning, with a chunky nature that drives the track forwards, and a slow-paced delivery that assists the airy synths in creating a nice sense of nighttime atmosphere, particularly on the hook. It’s rare to hear such spiky guitars used in that sort of dreamscape-esque context, and it most definitely works a treat with Cudi’s naturally melodic vocals, as his mellow delivery crawls through the track with a stop-start delivery that allows the production plenty of room to breathe. It’s an expansive sound that may be a taste of what a possible follow-up to the WZRD album may sound like, and one with lots of promise.

M.I.A.-Bring the Noize (Video)

Every listen of this makes M.I.A.’s flow ever more impressive, and whilst my initial audio review commented on it being a return to her earlier style and away from a mainstream direction, those repeat listens have created the realisation that this could actually end up being a huge mainstream favourite. The intense funk and distinctly British flavour flowing through the track overpower the more offbeat elements, making it a fun, lively track that could concievably be a club favourite this summer.

Therefore, the high-octane video quite simply makes sense. There’s no overbearing storyline, and instead it’s generally a light-hearted, energetic clip that begins in automobile-heavy fashion (much like the Bad Girls video), before switching into a club and dance-oriented scenes that pack in plenty of bright colours, high levels of activity and a general freneticism that fits the audio very well. Clearly, M.I.A.’s having a ton of fun with this throughout too, and her natural charisma only serves to enhance the infectiousness of the audiovisual, further shoving it into potential dancefloor filler territory. It’s definitely worth a watch if you were a little undecided on the audio, and of course if you were already a fan then you’ll need no encouragement. Available now.

John Mayer-Paper Doll

Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy his Born and Raised album, the Battle Studies LP that came before it was a definite winner, and it’s on that basis that I’ve given his newest single a go.

Taken from his upcoming Paradise Valley album, this is one that should appeal to those with a similar opinion on his back catalogue. The production is built on a gentle blend of guitar plucks, with several individual strums working both in tandem and in contrast to create a layered yet rather minimal backdrop, supported occasionally by soft, barely-there synth work and easygoing percussion. The sound is completely mellow, and hence it’s a perfect fit for Mayer’s naturally-relaxing vocals, which once again manage to pack plenty of emotion in without sacrificing the overall vibe of the track; the overall blend of vocals and production is weighted nice and evenly throughout, and creates what is uncomplicated, easy listening that’s smooth and consistent throughout.

A good addition to a laidback summer playlist that you can get on iTunes now. Look out for the Paradise Valley album on 13th August.

M.I.A.-Bring the Noize

bring the noize
After a mixtape-focused 2012 and various reported release dates earlier this year for her fourth album, M.I.A.’s back with the lead single from her upcoming Mathangi LP.

I’d imagine the longtime fans will be quite happy with this. It’s far removed from her more mainstream-friendly excursions last year, particularly the highly-addictive Bad Girls, and instead goes back to the jittery, offbeat style that warmed so many music heads to her work. The production is built up on a cacophonous blend of tribal percussion, bass hits, unpredictable synths and much more, with the impact being a high-octane, energetic listen that’ll have your equilibrium doing somersaults initially, but becomes a more comfortable listen with time. The vocal work is typically rhythmic on the hook, made up of little more than short vocal hits, though her speedy, high-speed delivery on the verses is considerably more notable, with her natural sense of control seeping through into the fast-paced rap work. A lively, pulsating lead single and a good return to the scene.