Happy Friday, dear readers! Well, it was a pretty bumper week to say the least, wasn’t it? And that’s not just because we’ve spent a long time listening to and watching Charli XCX’s new reversal of the male gaze (and seeing how many famous boys we can spot in the video, of course). Not only that, but we had Purity Ring celebrating five years since the release of their debut album ‘Shrines’ with a new tune that bridged the gap between those earlier days and what’s still to come from the duo. Alvvays also took another faultless step forward with their latest offering.
Phew, that’s a lot to take in just there. But there’s so much more! Elsewhere, Partybaby gifted us with a new track pretty much out of nowhere, Blue Hawaii returned with a disco-leaning new cut, rapper Aminé turned a very unlikely collab with Girlpool into a sweet hip hop gem, Boy Harsher delivered an eerie yet floor-filling techno wonder and singer-songwriter Siobhan Wilson pondered the unknowable.
Charli XCX – Boys
Take a cursory glance, and music has its fair share of songs written about loving girls; and not just specific girls - all women. When it comes to the flip-side, there are far fewer songs about unapologetic yearning for boys, and as many boys as possible, at that.
Enter Charli XCX, who - since her ode to self-pleasure ‘Body Of My Own’ - has not only specialised in expressing her desires with no messing about, she’s succeeded in seizing them and making them happen, too. At first glance a fun, pogoging pop bop with infectiously simple lyrics (“I was busy thinking ’bout boys”) and synthetic chimes, there’s far more going on in the implied meanings beneath ‘Boys’’ hooks. Instead of merely day-dreaming about her favourite hotties, the video for ‘Boys’ sees director Charli XCX - complete with a fake moustache, natch - swivelling the camera and taking control, ordering swathes of recognisable male stars around in performing her every kitschy fantasy.
World class athletes, huge grime stars and famous band’s frontmen all lie among rose petals, willingly chomp cereal, and pose with a variety of fluffy teddy bears and puppies on her command. What’s more, she’s totally unapologetic about it. Quite right too, she’s written yet another corker. (El Hunt)
Purity Ring – Asido
“I imagine a tractor digging graves, I imagine crying blood, and I imagine eggs being swept away in it”. That’s how Megan James describes Purity Ring’s latest track ‘Asido’. Its focus on human emotion, the finite and the body is pretty apt though. ‘Asido’ has been released to mark the fifth anniversary of the duo’s debut album ‘Shrines’, where on the likes of ‘Fineshrine’ Megan twisted the notion of the body being a temple, asking another to cut open her sternum to make her ribs a protective cage.
With its own unique preoccupations with the body, ‘Asido’ easily sits alongside some of the tracks on ‘Shrines’. Megan sings about how her “tongue dried to the dust”, about drilling a hole “just the size of my thighs” and holding pain “in the soft crux/ with our palms facing up”. It seems pretty oblique and abstract too, but with one exception: the sparse, eerie chorus. It sees Megan simply repeating the line “feel as lonely as I do” with stark vulnerability, Corin Roddick’s whirring, bass-laden beats giving way to an icier, almost harp-like refrain that lets her words hang in the air.
As such, ‘Asido’ deftly balances some of the bombast of ‘Shrines’ with a more measured, eerie approach, weaving an attention-grabbing yet sometimes subtle reflection on where Purity Ring have been, and where they might be headed. It might be a standalone single, but it’s one that thoroughly ramps up the anticipation for whatever the pair do next. (Eugenie Johnson)
Alvvays - Dreams Tonite
There’s something about Molly Rankin’s voice that could make any old gobbledygook sound poetic and heartfelt. It’s possible to listen to any Alvvays song and zone out, letting the beauty wash over you. When you really lean in though, they become even more fascinating.
New single ‘Dreams Tonite’ floats along with buzzy expectancy, staring at strangers across the street before dreaming about them later. Joining previous cut ‘In Undertow’ in previewing new album ‘Antisocialites’, ‘Dreams Tonite’ shows Alvvays are at their best when crafting gorgeous, slow daydreams. Another faultless step forward, we really are so lucky to have Alvvays back. (Will Richards)
Partybaby – Loverbones
It feels like forever since Partybaby released the five-star-rated debut not-quite-album-but-sort-of, ‘The Golden Age Of Bullshit’, but it was, dear readers, just last September. Still, if you’ve missed the Californians’ angst-fuelled pop-punk as much as us, freebie ‘Loverbones’ (it won’t be released anywhere “properly”, say the pair) will go some way to quenching that thirst.
As gloriously pogo-able as anything Jamie and Noah have concocted thus far, and still just as brimming with grown-up angst, it’s unsurprisingly another gem of a track. If the weather hadn’t suddenly taken a turn for the worse (thanks, school holidays), it’d be perfect summer listening. Just make sure you play it loud. (Emma Swann)
Blue Hawaii – No One Like You
It’s been four years since Raphaelle ‘Ra’ Standell and Alexander ‘Agor’ Kerby last released an album under the name Blue Hawaii but now, after rekindling their musical relationship in 2016, they’re set to return with new album ‘Tenderness’ in October. Whereas their previous effort ‘Untogether’ was characterised by fairly ambient electronica and tricky beats though, this time round the pair have been inspired by not only the need for a little more tenderness in society in general, but by 90s dance and deep disco cuts.
As such, lead single ‘No One Like You’, which features some string arrangements from none other than Owen Pallett, is a cosmic dive into a pretty new realm for the pair. It’s bigger and brighter than anything they’ve released in the past, Ra’s voice shimmering against a backdrop of vibrant synths layered in echo and reverb, the accompanying beats providing something of a contemporary twist on garage classics. All of this means that ‘No One Like You’ exudes the kind of warmth that was sometimes missing from their icy debut. They’ve tried a little tenderness, and it’s paid off with this disco belter. (Eugenie Johnson)
Aminé – Hero (ft. Girlpool)
Portland rapper Aminé has been delivering some bright, effervescent hip hop cuts recently, and has just released his debut album ‘Good For You’ (his slightly off-kilter, fun side in plain sight on the album cover). On it, he’s got a few collaborations, including with Ty Dolla $ign, Nelly and Charlie Wilson, while Kehlani makes an appearance on the bonus track ‘Heebiejeebies’. But there’s a collaboration on here that comes at you from nowhere.
Yes, out of the blue Los Angeles duo Girlpool swoop in and pop up here and there on the track ‘Hero’. On paper, that shouldn’t work at all. Right? Wrong. Surprisingly, the addition of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad isn’t jarring at all. Instead, their contribution to Aminé’s track is bold enough that you can hear them, but subtle enough so that there’s no clashing with his breezy, lilting, romantic jam. “Sometimes I wonder if you’re bad for me/ But that’s what keeps me excited” Aminé says. Well, this isn’t a collab that’s bad for anyone, and blows any expectations you might have about the odd-couple team-up straight out of the water. (Eugenie Johnson)
Boy Harsher – Motion
Northampton, MA duo Boy Harsher are releasing their debut EP ‘Country Girl’ in October. That title gives almost no indication of what to expect from its lead single ‘Motion’. A little hint: it sounds absolutely nothing like country, nor like Primal Scream’s ‘Country Girl’. Instead, Augustus Muller and Jae Matthews get about as far away from the homely, comforting twangs and drawls of the genre as you can get, instead burying themselves in layers of icy techno and waves of electronics.
‘Motion’ therefore layers on the staccato, tinny beats that pierce through the track, little stabs of vintage, almost 808 sounds seeping through their reverberating vibes as more ambient synth occasionally wash beneath the surface, with Jae’s growls and whispers floating on the top. All this means that ‘Motion’ is, yep, filled with movement, keeping a core pulse while introducing and retracting little elements here and there that keeps you firmly on your toes. By piecing together little aspects of industrial, techno and drone, Boy Harsher have delivered a coldwave gem whose beats have you on the dancefloor but whose eeriness will send shivers down your spine. (Eugenie Johnson)
Siobhan Wilson – Dark Matter
Dark matter is a completely hypothetical substance. Scientists believe that its existence could explain a variety of anomalous astronomical observations, but it’s never been directly observed. This means that although are theories surrounding its existence and properties, it’s something of an unknown entity.
It also makes it the perfect metaphor for Scottish singer-songwriter Siobhan Wilson’s latest track. After presenting a slice of shimmering Francophone splendour with ‘Paris Est Blanche’, her latest single focuses on what she calls “the uncertainty and frustration of never truly knowing what is on somebody else’s mind”. It’s a contemplative piece, one that sails along on light strums of electric guitar and a smattering of percussion, but this simple foundation allows Siobhan’s thoughts on the unknowable to stand front and centre.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a sensitive performance, and despite the sub-three minute length it’s also one where she moves through moods deftly. On the one hand she laments the fact that “nobody sees more than their two naked eyes can take in all at one time”, as if yearning for a vision into someone else’s psyche. By the end though, as her voice glides on air, she reaches a point that’s not necessarily content but at least accepting that the mind of another is “somewhere only you know”. Dark matter is still hypothetical, but there’s no mystery surrounding why it’s so easy to fall for Siobhan Wilson’s emotionally engaging songwriting. (Eugenie Johnson)