1. Pstereo – Emilie Nicolas
I’m going to go in very boldly with this one and open with the statement that this is probably one of the best songs ever to feature on the Listening Post. Norwegian hero Emilie Nicolas has dropped an absolute epic. The song, from her debut album Like A Warrior, can only be described as such: an epic. The song starts with a fairly simple and unassuming beat and her vocal is good but not astounding. As the first verse builds it’s very good but nothing out of the ordinary. However, you can hear as it continues a faint note in the background, a low and soft synth, and you get the sense that it’s building to something. Everything then fades out before dropping back into a chorus that manages to create the same effect as when you slip on the stairs and one of the stairs winds you in the back. This effect is only increased when combined with the music video. The video is surreal and overwhelming, as whales jump out of the mountains in the bleak and grey Scottish highlands. Who knows what “Together we’re pstereo” actually means but I believe in it, I believe in it with my whole soul.
2. Fast Lane – Rationale
The only criticism I have of this song is that it’s too bloody short. At two minutes thirty five seconds it is not long enough by any means and it gives you a real excuse to completely abuse that repeat button. Another track that has summer anthem written all over it, Fast Lane by Rationale opens with an echo-y deep male vocal singing “Everybody speeds in the fast line surely now.” After a quiet and reserved start over nothing but a few chords the drop comes in, tropical and chilled, and it begs for summer evenings. It’s very easy to fall in love with the vocal, drowsy and deep, the guitar sound in the drop embodying the sonic equivalent of dropping a stone in a lake. It ripples outwards.
3. Shine – Years & Years
When Years & Years release a new track there’s almost a 100% chance that it’s going to feature on this column. They’re one of the biggest and most noteworthy bands in British music at the moment. Their signature sound, punchy tropical synths with emotive lyrics sung in an angelic voice, features again on new single Shine. It’s typical Years & Years without being same-y or monotonous. Whatever process they go through creatively, something is obviously working. While not being as heartbreaking as Memo or as truly iconic as Take Shelter, Shine has summer anthem written all over it. On Radio 1 Olly described it as being about that period when you’re first falling in love with someone. That feeling at the core of the song is contagious and radiates outwards. You can’t help but fall into it. “Don’t leave me behind / Can you see me, I’m shining / And it’s you that I’ve been waiting to find” rings out, his voice carrying the weight of that message beautifully. You become fully invested in his blind faith whilst wanting to dance. It’s magic.
4. Paper Light Revisited – Loreen
For reasons unknown, though rumours suggest are due to unrest over at Loreen’s record label, the song Paper Light (Higher) has been revisited. It is unclear as to whether this is the original version Loreen wanted or whether the record label put this out, but either way I am eternally grateful. Rather than a Euro-pop song that is nothing but a strong female vocal and a basic instrumental (not that I have a problem with that), some serious production magic has gone into reworking what was already an amazing song. The chorus now features distorted vocals and an electronic backdrop that pops and stops and jumps about, almost remnant of some deep house you may hear underground. The added production is hard to explain but well worth listening to and when the drop finally comes in at the end there’s a plethora of layers and sounds and notes dipping and weaving in and out and around each other, all tied together by Loreen’s unwavering and reliable voice. I’m a huge, huge fan. The music video is also completely ridiculous in that it’s absolutely wonderful. Loreen is a goddess in low red and blue lighting, and slow motion shots lasting two seconds are rapidly layered over one another, creating strobe light sensation. It’s dark and sexy and powerful and warm and is an utter joy to watch.
5. The Nile – Sivu ft. Rae Morris
This one is a considerably slower and more restrained entry, but that doesn’t take away from its majesty one little bit. It’ll make you feel, this one. Sivu’s soft and unforgivingly emotive vocal opens, and is shortly accompanied by a wonderful piano riff that carries into the chorus, which becomes slightly less restrained. “Come sweetheart,” he repeats. “Don’t go, stay,” rings out over a nothingness punctuated by piano chords that tug at the heartstrings. Rae Morris features on this track and completely enhances the subtle and slow building power that has been growing throughout. Their voices blend perfectly together, neither singing over the other but rather the juxtaposition bringing out the husky individuality in each. It’s hard not to fall in love. By the end, the instrumental has been slowly growing for a while and hits a dramatic peak, and the final thirty seconds of this one embodies such a stoic and ethereal reverence that once it’s over you’re left feeling fragile, to say the least. The song lulls you into a false sense of security, delicately and silently, and before you know it it’s wormed it’s way in under your skin and demanding that you feel the thing you’d rather not. Rude, but utterly beautiful.