As you might have guessed, it’s been a pretty manic past couple of months here at The Music Radar UK. Wave after wave of new tracks, albums and festivals have caused a backlog for us but nevertheless as always we promise to keep you up to date with the best that the music industry has to offer. Here are our Tracks of the Week with in depth reviews.
Track of the Week: PJ Harvey Feat. Ramy Essam – “The Camp”
One of music’s most talented songwriters PJ Harvey made a surprise return this week with The Camp, a stark address to the refugee crisis. Opening lyrics “I saw a child through a fence / Standing by blue canvas tents” spark images similar to that of the refugee camps in Calais whilst the following lyrics invoke harrowing images of the consequences and dangers of living in these camps. There’s an open, unpolished quality to Harvey’s tracks which almost deliberately allows her skills as a storyteller to be on display. Gentle whistling ushers in the second verse in which Egyptian artist Ramy Essam’s breathtaking contribution is so raw and honest that whilst we don’t know the meaning of the lyrics, we feel a deep connection to his story. Harvey’s repetition of verses just cements the fact that so much suffering in the world is continuing to happen. Throughout her career, PJ Harvey has been a key political artist and this latest track shows that her insight is still valuable and important.
Death From Above 1979 – “Freeze Me”
Death From Above 1979 have continued to be one of rock’s most intriguing and secretive forces. Having released their second album in 2014, ten years after their debut record, the fiery duo return with their first piece of new material since that 2014 second album. Opening with a rhythmic groove, there’s no doubt that the rock duo want to expand their sound on Freeze Me. Sebastian Grainger’s thundering drums crash through the chorus whilst his vocals reminisce the dynamism of Muse’s Matt Bellamy. The effectiveness of the track’s piano line is undeniable and it sinks deep to the core of the track. Whilst there are elements of blues rock like The Black Keys, DFA 1979 manage to ignite a significantly stronger sound, one that’s more stylistic of Royal Blood when the injections of bass make an appearance. There’s a brilliant show of variation from the duo on the new track and proves that despite only having two members, the band are capable of blending a variety of ingredients together to make addictive and groove filled rock.
Little Hours – “How Could I Love You”
Straight from Donegal, Ireland, Little Hours are slowly introducing themselves into the mix as one of 2017’s most promising duo’s. Whilst previous EP’s started turning heads towards the duo, latest track How Could I Love You looks to be their breakthrough track. Starting with a Bon Iver styled piano notation, there’s a sublime sense of rawness right from the beginning. Handclaps keep the track rolling at a steady pace whilst also injecting some rhythm into the frame whilst small pauses for vocal expansion cut the atmosphere like a knife. As more drums get added to the track, a melodic indie rock quality comes out within the Donegal duo, similar to that of Half Moon Run and if their upcoming tracks are anything like this, then there’s sure to be a bright future for the group.
Royal Blood – “I Only Lie When I Love You”
Brighton rock duo Royal Blood swept the nation into a frenzy with their debut album and have gained a staggering following across the world. Their return single Lights Out stunned everyone and latest track I Only Lie When I Love You appears to continue their mission to dominate rock music. From Mike Kerr’s aggressive “I only lie when I love you” opening call, it’s clearly apparent that the ferocity of their self titled debut album has not been eradicated and in fact has been doubled. The riff oozes the carnal activity that only the likes of Queens of the Stone Age have been able to produce in the last five years. The duo slowly are building themselves to a level in which they can be compared to the likes of The White Stripes, such is their ability to create thunderous rock anthems that are undeniably addictive. The dominance of an accented cowbell throughout the track adds a variation to the duo’s sound.
Jordan Rakei – “Sorceress”
Whilst relatively unknown in the UK, take note that New Zealand born multi-instrumentalist Jordan Rakei is most definitely a star for the future. Taking oozing synths alongside his luring, sensual R&B styled vocals Rakei manages to arrange delicate layers of musical beauty to create the soulful and sexy Sorceress. Whilst spacious strings allow some air into the track, rolling drums carry a jazz tinge to the track which overall takes elements from HONNE and Jack Garrett. Now UK based, there is a deep sense of maturity already within the young artist that looks to be developing him into a unique talent.
Jorja Smith – “Teenage Fantasy”
One of the UK’s most talented rising singers, Jorja Smith carries an edge to her music and latest track Teenage Fantasy not only shows this, but highlights a maturity of an artist that looks set to break through the industry this year. From the off, there is a distinctive 90’s R&B vibe to the track and lyrics “I need to go and find myself” highlight Smith’s desire to progress from a previous teenage mindset of carefree love. The track is also Smith’s best vocal performance to date, proving that she has both style and substance, and ending the track with an unpolished chuckle, it’s very hard not to be mesmerised by this rising star.
Panama – “Undertow”
Deeply emotional personal experiences have always inspired Australian singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist Jordan McCleary aka Panama. Latest track Undertow is a shining example of refreshing and youthful indie electronic which uses bouncing and uncontrollable drum rolls to spark a track about loss and reminiscence. Line “I don’t want to give this up till my heart gives out” showcases the importance in keeping the memory of an individual whilst the first line of the chorus “I’ll see you in the undertow” suggests a more infinite and utopian thinking as eventually paths will align again. A sombre yet hopeful message, the track is a wonderful example of the uplifting nature McCleary has when tasked with facing strong emotions and we hope to see him soon in the UK.
Sia – “Free Me”
Without doubt, one of pop’s most staggering voices, Sia has had her fair share of perfect ballads and this week she returns with yet another one. Released to raise awareness for HIV, Free Me is a simple yet startling piano tribute. Lyrics “Peace may come / I hope it won’t take long / Just a faith I cannot see” call for the relief of chronic pain, a pain which the artist stated directly relates to HIV patients. As sweeping strings fade into the track, there is no denying the sheer emotion of the message portrayed and as the lifting climax hits its highest moment, Free Me is surely one of the most perfect charity singles released in the past five years.
Declan McKenna – “Humongous”
For the past year, Declan McKenna has risen up the ranks to become one of Britain’s most promising stars. An indie hero for the future, the youngster returns with yet another brilliant musical offering. Humongous sees McKenna dig deeper into himself as a songwriter, channeling personal challenges with relationships. Line “You spend too much time on your phone, on your hair” implies that McKenna had been pitted against things of a non living entity, something more superficial that the singer couldn’t combat himself. Ending in a wild flourish of synth distortion, Humongous seems to be more of a combination of two tracks rather than the flowing nature of a single. The mellowness of the first three quarters of the track implies that the singer is reflecting instead of ranting and his emotional approach to the track highlights a stunning quality to the young star as a songwriter and following previous successes with tracks, a huge future awaits McKenna.
David Guetta Feat. Justin Bieber – 2U
The superstar French DJ returns with another anthem perfect for the summer, this time featuring global star Justin Bieber. 2U uses a slow groove connecting Bieber’s loving lyrics and it follows a trend for Bieber having collaborated with Major Lazer and DJ Khaled. A dance giant, 2U provides a chorus drop that is both powerful and charismatic. Guetta has always managed to give space to his collaborators, using their vocals to build the track before switching into his own, soaring choruses and 2U is another example of his ability as a chart topping DJ.
Other Noticeable Tracks
Nilufer Yanya – “Sliding Doors”: Calm summer breezes are the effect you get when listening to rising London singer Nilufer Yanya’s latest track Sliding Doors. Spacious, with only a guitar line to guide the way, Yanya’s jazz tinged vocals spark with a richness then engrains itself into your mind and ending with a floating sax line, the track soothes the mind and calms the soul. It’s a brilliantly different offering from a London pop artist and could see her fit straight into the market behind Lianne La Havas and Izzy Bizu.
Sigala Feat. Ella Eyre – “Came Here For Love”: Motivational summer anthem from young British pop star and dance star which embraces the calmness of tropical house but boosts it with an emphatic drop that blasts through the core of the track.
Fleet Foxes – “If You Need To, Keep Time On Me”: Robin Pecknold’s gorgeous vocals dominate this acoustic beauty by folk rock giants Fleet Foxes. Allowing a moment of reflection, the track is simple with an acoustic guitar leading the way before small flourishes of keys and synths come in. A perfect example of how the band have matured since their comeback, If You Need To, Keep Time On Me shows a new light to one of the world’s most loved band of misfits.
MY – “W.I.L.D”: Following the ever expanding group of Scandinavian pop stars, Sweden has produced their current offering to the world in MY. Her new track W.I.L.D highlights some serious girl power. The track thunders with synths, guitars and effects, switching between full on pop track to bass ridden dance heavyweight. Full on from the beginning, MY’s enigmatic sound provokes thoughts of a stunning and energetic live show which if true, could see her join the ranks of the rising group of fierce pop stars.
Pharrell Williams – “Yellow Light”: One of pop’s funkiest stars, Williams returns to lend his helping hand to the latest Despicable Me film. Whilst its bouncing, popping effect allows a retro wash to cast itself over the song, Pharrell takes a distinctly negative swipe at Presedent Trump and his current status of power.
T. Matthias – “Here For You”: Huge blend of dance and R&B from rising London DJ T. Matthias on Here For You, which uses a soulful groove and a brilliant club drop whilst also highlighting the artists skills at both rapping and singing. A glimpse of the future from the talented DJ.
Miley Cyrus – “Inspired”: Following the matured change in direction in Malibu, Cyrus goes emotional and acoustic for an LGBT anthem. Vocally impressive, Cyrus digs right to the very core of one of the most important movements around the globe and with small flourishes of strings, manages to craft something of simple beauty.