Wednesday, 21 March 2018

New Music: Introducing - Little Destroyer

I’ve always been a fan of bands who take their name and title a song after it, or is it the other way round where they take the title of a song and name themselves after it? Either way, I like it. Maybe it would be fun if solo artists did this as well. Time for Ed Sheeran to write a song called Ed perhaps? Mind you that sounds a little egotistical – but then Kanye West has already done it with I Love Kanye. I’m looking forward to hearing Sigrid’s tune Sigrid is Amazing or perhaps Taylor Swift’s I Am Swifty (So Hurry Up)? Maybe there's even an opportunity for Lorde to release Praise the Lorde?

Which brings me to Canada’s Little Destroyer. They of course have a song called Little Destroyer which was released on streaming services back in January. It’s one of a number of tracks they’ve put out over the last year or so from a forthcoming EP called Strange Future which is a potent blend of modern electronic pop with plenty of sharp edges.

Little Destroyer first came into being in the earlier part of this decade under the name Legs. Consisting of singer Allie Sheldan and brothers Chris and Michael Weiss, their original aim was to ‘score some festival tickets’. Legs was eventually shelved until the three regrouped as Little Destroyer, and the results with their new modus operandi impresses.

Immediate standout track is Rattlesnakes. Little Destroyer might look like a rock band in the picture above, but their sound is pop. Albeit Rattlesnakes is dark, hard-hitting industrial electronic pop tune that deals with the disillusionment that comes from the realisation that youthful partying ultimately just leaves an emptiness. Of the track the band have said: “It’s about the nights you become a mutant, and the mornings after. And it parallels the empty, dank & depressing vibe of a club, after last call, when the house lights turn on, to when the veil of fantasy lifts and you see it all for what is; a monstrous feedback loop set to empty.” 

Another track, Savages takes a danceable pop verse and then throws on the noise and distorted electronic drums for the chorus as shouts of “Run wild” burst out. It’s certainly more guttural than most pop music you’ll hear and therefore when you learn that the band have worked with Dave Ogilvie (Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy and Marilyn Manson) things make sense in terms of what they are aiming for in their sound. Katy Perry this is not.

For those of you like me in the UK, you have a chance to see Little Destroyer this Spring as they hit our shores in May to play Focus Wales Festival in Wrexham and Brighton’s Great Escape 2018, so they've finally achieved that initial aim of bagging some tickets.

Little Destroyer - Rattlesnakes (Video)

Little Destroyer - Savages (Video)

Monday, 19 March 2018

New Music: Pale Waves - Heavenly (Video)

Whilst some questions remain of the Pale Waves sound and if it is going to provide enough long-term variety to keep everyone hooked in, for now the buzz they’re creating continues to propel them forward. Despite not varying far from previous tunes in terms of melody or style, Heavenly, the best track from their All The Things I Never Said EP and one of the first songs the band ever wrote, still manages to be a mini indie-pop thrill that gets inside the head, beaming with a glossy mix of 80’s indie pop, energy and modern production.

Today Pale Waves released a new video for the song and its their most stylish piece to date. It features lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie in a set of minimalist coloured futuristic visuals and casts her as some sort of latex clad dancing marionette. It reminds me a little of Edward Scissorhands being trapped in Clive Barker's Hellraiser film as she is trapped by the wires.

Pale Waves - Heavenly (Video)

Thursday, 15 March 2018

New Music: Sigrid - Raw

There’s a school of thought that suggests that pop music somehow has less depth than other forms of music like rock, jazz, or soul.

That school of thought is absolute bollocks.

Here’s an example to prove my case. Her name is Sigrid. She’s from Norway. She does pop music. You of course have already heard of her, or you’ve been living under a rock.

Sigrid is brilliant. She can do all the things that are required of brilliant pop music. She has great tunes. She can sing. Boy oh boy can she sing. She has the moves. She has a great band around her.

But there’s more than that. Because any great art has to have more than the sum of its parts to really resonate. Songs are great to connect with, but it’s all the other stuff that surrounds popular culture that’s just as important. Of course, it’s a dangerous thing to do – putting artists on pedestals can lead to them falling off – but if we didn’t, how would we ever show off their greatness to others?

And Sigrid is great. Not just because of the music, but because of the way she is. There’s no artifice or act. People who argue that authenticity in music is important (often fans of men with guitars) will even find it difficult to argue that Sigrid doesn’t have that authenticity in huge bucket loads. Of course, they’ll argue that it’s ‘just pop’, but when you’ve been to a show like the one I saw Sigrid perform last night, it’s possible to see that sometimes pop isn’t ‘just pop’. 

From her simple stage attire (jeans, plain t-shirt and tied back hair) to her self-aware and unassuming nature  (before thanking the audience for coming to the show last night she asked “Can I be a bit cheesy now, is that OK?”) to her inability to surpress her emotion (last night at the start of Don’t Kill My Vibe Sigrid became so overwhelmed with the reaction she couldn’t sing, so she just held the microphone out to the audience who sang the words back whilst she stood and cried – it was a beautiful moment that made even the hardest of us well up a little). These are the things that, combined with the music, make Sigrid special. There is something about her pure and raw.

Which is 398 words just to shoehorn the word Raw into the conversation, which just happens to be the title of the new song from Sigrid. 

It’s the first in a collection of brand new material, set to drop every week. It’s not a banger. Don’t worry banger fans. If you wanted another Don’t Kill My Vibe / Plot Twist / Strangers she has more of those to come. But having watched Sigrid’s set grow over the six times I’ve seen her one thing that is becoming apparent is that she’s a much more versatile pop artist than one that just does in your face jams. This one is stripped back to the very core.

“No apologies for being me,” sings Sigrid on Raw. I think this much about her we all know.

Sigrid - Raw

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

New Music: Introducing - Clairo

If you’re into lo-fi or bedroom pop music then the chances are you’ll have already found Claire Cottrill, known as Clairo from Boston, USA. Even if you’re not, you may well have stumbled across her homemade video for Pretty Girl, which she uploaded last August and somehow went viral with (currently viewed more than 10 million times). But if you haven't, this post is for you...

The Pretty Girl video which Clairo struck internet gold with had no clever production, no super cool direction and Clairo has gone on record to say that on the day she recorded it her hair and skin looked bad, but she felt that that was the perfect day to make it – after all it’s a song about feeling that you have to be ‘pretty’ for someone else and feeling that you have to change for someone else and ultimately how messed up that idea is. “I could be a pretty girl, I’ll wear a skirt for you, and I could be a pretty girl, shut up when you want me two,” she mouths as the words scroll across the screen and she stares into the camera with headphones in her ears.

Clairo - Pretty Girl (Video)

When Clairo uploaded Pretty Girl, she didn’t think that it would get seen by that many people. It was just her mucking around in her room – a what you see is what you get visual. “I'm still not entirely sure how Pretty Girl blew up the way it did. It wasn't really meant to. The song was originally meant for a compilation tape for a magazine called The Le Sigh, and I made the video in about 30 minutes. I only expected about 5,000 views at most! Getting a million views on a video I made is still hard for me to wrap my head around. Most of my friends back home still have no idea that any of this has happened,” she told Pigeons and Planes website recently.

With lo-fi music there are generally two types of artists. There are those who like to keep the sound quality lower than usual contemporary standards. It’s part of their aesthetic. But then there are those who do it out of necessity. Recording at home rather than using expensive studio space is a commercial reality for many musicians. This sort of musician would love to have the opportunity to record somewhere where the imperfections are ironed out and overall reproduction of the sound is improved but they just can’t afford it. Sometimes when a lo-fi artist does develop to a more polished sound they lose some of their fans but gain many more – for some it’s that DIY sound that attracted them in the first place.

With Clairo’s DIY efforts blowing up the question is which sort of artist is she? If she got the opportunity to grab the gloss, would she paint it all over in bright lurid colours.

It seems that the answer might be yes. Although not in the way you might think (yet). For yesterday Clairo released a new video for her track Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, a simplistic but weirdly addictive chill-pop song she put out six months ago which has achieved over 1.5 million streams on Soundcloud. This video has a lot more budget thrown at it than the likes of Pretty Girl. Way more. It involved directors, stylists and choreographers and er….. dancing Cheetos! Visually it’s a long way from her bedroom minimalist beginnings and has already divided fans with some calling her early work a façade. But is an artist not allowed to change an develop? Is this not part of the natural evolution of art? Can we all not just enjoy the silly dancers?

What comes next musically from Clairo will if nothing else be intriguing. Will she try to keep her low-key, minimalistic bedroom pop sound alive?  Or will she aim for a bigger more expansive hi-fi pop sound? Or try and find a halfway house between the two? Only time will tell, but for me whatever direction she goes it’s the quality of the songs that’s important. It’s whether they connect, irrespective of if they’re hi-fi or lo-fi. Let’s wait and see.

Clairo - Flamin' Hot Cheetos