Listening Post #5

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Emily Pratten's back with the best new music for November.
Monday 10th November 2014

Halloween is done and over with and everyone is absolutely horrified that it’s now November and oh God, it’s very close to Christmas and God, it’s ridiculous that it’s pitch black at 5 o’clock now. Walking home from lectures at 6pm in the dark after a long day makes for a very long Winter and it’s a good job holiday season falls in the middle of it. What would we do without it? That being said, there’s plenty to be relatively happy about, these songs being some of them. There’s a lot on the cards at the moment with many artists releasing new EPs and announcing headline tours in 2015, not to mention Taylor Swift’s 1989 selling 1.287 million copies in it’s first week of release, which shocked everyone, including Taylor herself. These tracks are all from slightly smaller artists than dear Ms. Swift, but they’re in need of even more respect and adoration because they really are quite wonderful.

1. Cut – Papaoutai

The song Papaoutai, pronounced “Papa où t’es”, meaning “Dad, where are you?”, was originally by Belgian singer Stromae. It was covered in April by Cut and translated mostly into English apart from the chorus, securing a place in the French charts. It’s an extraordinary cover, in my opinion. The original vibe of the song remains but instead is built upon; soft yet persistent background percussion combined with a beautiful female vocal that carries the entire track forwards means that this song has been on repeat for quite a while. It’s quite emotional lyrically but the song remains very easy listening. It’s painfully catchy and seems almost tribal in places. It’s textured and exciting and very different to anything else on this post.

2. PVRIS – My House

This track takes me back to my pop punk days. Taken from their debut album released this week, My House is, as my friend described which I shall now steal, a mish-mash of popular electronic synth group Chvrches and old school Paramore. As soon as I heard this description I knew I’d enjoy the song, ashamed or not, and I wasn’t wrong. It’s very pop punk. Fifteen year old me would have been so in love. Twenty year old me isn’t far off. The female vocal is punchy and raw and energetic, combining beautifully with the powerful and persistent chord progression of any good pop punk classic. There’s a trippy bit towards the end where phasers occur before dropping into a rock drum heavy final verse. It’s headbang-worthy material and I am completely obsessed with it. The production of the song is very clever, using fade ins and fade outs and echoes and reverb expertly to make an otherwise average song very much stand out. It’s almost as catchy as Papaoutai. Almost.

3. Marlene – I Do This For You

New track from Scandinavian singer, Marlene, rivals that of her previous hit, Indian Summer, which was one of my personal summer anthems. Again, this is a song which does extremely well in terms of combining emotional intensity with a gripping synthesised foundation that whirls in and out of brutal cries of “I do this for you”. Piano and slower synth notes play a part in the smaller choruses, and increasingly prominent snare-like sounds take you up to a peak before dropping into complete silence… and then crash you back into the chorus once again. It’s another very catchy one, I’m afraid. It also appeals to a very wide range of audiences and genres – I would implore that everyone give this one a listen. It would not sound out of place in the charts, in a small underground club in London, or on the new Taylor Swift album, which, given the current climate, is very high praise indeed.

4. James Bay – Hold Back The River

Holding down the fort for the male vocalists on Listening Post #5 is James Bay. So far this guy has released two very successful EPs, has supported Hozier on his tour of America, and has produced a very successful Live Lounge cover of Haim’s Forever. Now, he’s dropped this bombshell of a track. It’s so good. It’s just so good. I would almost endeavor to say that if someone hates this track with any level of passion then I just wouldn’t trust that person. It’s another one that appeals to many – it’s upbeat without being annoying, it’s singer songwriter without being overly emotionally painful, and it’s production and melody could be a pop track. No synths I’m afraid, but James has a very good band behind him now. He asks “Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes,” and his voice is layered at times which adds real depth and feeling to the piece. It’s almost like a less peppy folk version of Ben Howard’s Old Pine, and is certainly ten times better than any track on the new Ed Sheeran album. I can only hope it gets the recognition it deserves and everyone should be very excited for his third EP and upcoming album if this song is anything to go by. His voice is uplifting and easy to connect with. It’s honest and it breaks and falls in all the right places. The simplistic guitar riff that bookends the track will have you reaching to replay it as soon as it ends.

5. Folly Rae – Run For Cover

The most recent song on this list, this track was released just last week by the previously unknown, Folly Rae. The voice has elements of Lana Del Rey in it, though perhaps more accessible and with a slightly more British accent. It’s akin to that of Laurel, who’s song, Shells, featured on a previous Listening Post. It’s another strong pop track and whilst I may be criticised for sticking to songs that hover in or around one particularly genre, I couldn’t leave this one out. It’s very impressive for a debut track. It’s slightly more based in piano rather than excessive synth or percussion but there is definitely a pop-type production that takes it forward. It’s not overly emotional or painfully catchy, but it’s very accessible and definitely shows a great deal of promise.