The Best New Songs Of The Week: Future, Lana Del Rey, More
After a slow start to 2017 it’s time for 411’s music reviews to keep pace with our rapid-fire news coverage.
Expect a few older songs to sneak in this week as it’s our first column of the year, but in the weeks to come: head to 411 for a round up of the best, biggest and most exciting singles released in the last seven days.
Note: We’re going to include fewer tracks in these columns than we have in years past; in the hope we can deliver more consistently, but we will always try to make space for as much new music as possible, spreading the love around.
“Love” by Lana Del Rey [Pop]
Now this is quite the unexpected detour. Sure, Lana Del Rey singing with a seductive severity about obsession, lust and love is nothing new, but the purity of her message is something entirely new. Rather than chasing bad boys or fetishizing the brutality of the bad breakup and the doomed romance, Lana is simply opening her arms and saluting low-key love. She takes the role of the light illuminating the dark: using her voice to shine a cinematic and heroic wash on the lives of ordinary lovers stuck working a nine-to-five. Their dreams may be on ice, but their sex is no doubt on fire. The perfect accompaniment for a nostalgic age, ridden by insecurity and wilting ambitions: “it’s enough to be young and in love” is the rallying cry, “you get ready, you get all dressed up, to go no where in particular” the reality (and the best line Lana has ever written).
“Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Sigrid [Pop]
Credit where it’s due, Sigrid’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe” is full of surprises. It’s sub-aquatic opening suggests a melancholy single inspired by James Blake – the kind of severe and emotionless fare that made 2016 one of the worst years for mainstream pop – but then the chorus explodes. Sigrid’s vocal soars, her finger begins to wag and suddenly there’s an injection of attitude, charisma and lavish hooks. Almost a satire of recent lily-livered pop history, Sigrid isn’t defined by her ex-lover, she’s no down in the dumps miserablist, she’s dancing on rooftops and skipping down the hallway with out a care in the world. We live in hope; pop might just get its groove back in 2017.
“Slide” by Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos [Pop]
Talk about a clash of civilizations: on one hand we have Calvin Harris, the EDM sledgehammer capable of occasionally brilliance as well as crass paint-by-numbers dancefloor tedium, and on the other, Frank Ocean, the downcast master of the subtle and illusive middle ground. So who wins out in this battle between a quiet and conflicted soul and a brawny pop bruiser: well, Frank Ocean mercifully – and, while it’s easy to pick holes in Harris’ artistry, it is impossible to deny his talents and his ear for a chart-topping groove. “Slide” is a summery sojourn: a soft shimmering slice of tropical funk that treads lightly as Ocean weaves a murky tale of fast love, wealth and potentially hurtful hedonism. Migos arrive to seal the deal with a charming and playful pair of airy verses destined to put smiles on faces.
“Crystal Fairy” by Crystal Fairy [Rock]
Now this is exactly what you want from a supergroup: the professionalism and honed skill that comes with veteran status, but with an almighty spanner thrown in the works. Take the heart of the Melvins and throw in Terri Gender Bender’s howling vocals and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s flair of dynamic production and inherent oddness – and suddenly you have a band with a rip-roaring rhythm section and a dementedly odd edge. The real shock is not that these disparate elements hold together, but that The Melvins are suddenly transformed into a swashbuckling 70s style stadium outfit – sure there’s a layer of sludge, but this is big, ballsy, psychedelic rock music.
“First Fuck” by 6Black feat. Jhene Aiko [R&B]
Time to delve beneath the sheets into a strangely dark and vacant world of hazy sterility. “First Fuck” isn’t a traditional slow jam, following The Weeknd’s lead, there’s no heat in the instrumentation, no sense that two warm bodies coming together, instead “First Fuck” is instrumental spare, a series of long strained siren sighs atop which 6Black and Aiko weave their magic. What the music lacks in carnal delight, it gains in a frightening intimacy. There is no where for these lovers to run. No extraneous sound, just two voices, two bodies, lying beneath the sheets and staring each other dead in the eye. Remember kids: sex is serious business in 2017, it’s not fun and it’s certainly not funny (okay I’ll stop trolling now, this is exciting R&B, but hopefully R&B’s lovermen lighten up at somepoint).
“I Spend My Days” by Employed To Serve [Hardcore]
It’s hard not to love a rhythm section so downtuned and dirty that it sounds like some great pulverising machine has been slung in a sewer and the only way to hear its hypnotic onslaught is by lifting the nearest manhole cover. Hardcore vocals will always divide a crowd (and for me they take away more than they add), but every time I hear the glorious elastic rhythms of “I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away)”, I feel the urge to hurl by body against the nearest wall (that’s a good thing for the record). Come festival season, expect Employed To Serve to brutally decimate whatever tent has the misfortune of hosting them.
“There’s A Honey” by Pale Waves [Indie]
Manchester four-piece Pale Waves are the latest hotly tipped stars in waiting to arrive courtesy of the Dirty Hit label. Despite the aesthetics, Pale Waves are no forlorn mopers. This 1975 produced gem gleams with an optimistic energy. The riff might tease and flirt with classic indie redolence, but frontman Heather’s vocals are full of yearning urgency and the chorus snaps and seduces simultaneously. There might be an 80s veneer (no surprise given The 1975 connection), but rather than speaking to power pop, “There’s A Honey” is informed by a deeply indie insecurity: “I would give you my body, but am I sure that you want me”. Fans of Haim, The 1975 and, you know, dancing in general should love this single.
“Damage” by Future [Rap]
Future is back with the second of two albums in a week and, suffice to say, “Damage” is monster club hit hiding in plain sight. Seductive and surprisingly considered (by Future’s hyperactive standards), this is the kind of track that slowly wraps the listener around its little finger with its distorted pied-piper synths and swirling smoke ring production. The chorus is a masterpiece, try to avoid slinking down on your barstool and crooning: “Girl I been there for you you and you know that’s it true”. Future might be too prolific for his own good, but it’s still worth combing his back catalogue so tracks like “Damage” don’t slip between the cracks.