Friday, 23 February 2018
What is going on in Bergen, Norway? First we get the all conquering Sigrid and now here comes its latest protégé. She’s called Halie (I’m reliably informed pronounced “Hahh-lee”) and just like Sigrid she’s clearly an impressive talent. This song, Youth, has a colossal chorus. It’s like someone has pulled together all of the best bits of some of the world’s best pop singers (Adele, Sigrid, Florence, Jessie Ware) and wrapped them up into one delicious musical wrap. Oh, and Halie is only 17. Yes, she’s still at school.
It seems it’s not only me that Halie has impressed. She’s been signed to the same people that manage Sigrid and Aurora and after just her fourth ever live show at Where is The Music, a festival that’s the equivalent of Sweden’s Great Escape last week, she was immediately offered a slot on Skavlan, which (again) I’m reliably informed is the biggest TV show in Norway & Sweden. Next up for Halie is Oslo’s By:Larm festival in March, but if like me you are stuck in another country at least you can enjoy this five-star pop song now and whilst you are at it check out her debut song Echo by clicking here, which was released last year. If Halie has more in her bag of the same quality as Youth, she's a contender for sure.
Halie - Youth
My first encounter with Æ MAK was when I selected them as one of my nominations for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition longlist back in 2017. Although they didn’t progress through to the shortlist they seem to have been developing quite nicely anyway; they are the first act chosen for Festival Republic's ReBalance programme this year. The programme was introduced to combat the lack of female acts on festival line-ups (you can read more about it by clicking here), and as a result will be appearing at Latitude Festival in 2018.
This week Æ MAK released a new cut called Glow, their first new tune since the departure of former member Ellie McMahon. It suggests an exciting new chapter for the band. Glow is a bewitching electronic piece that evolves from a shadowy slice of experimental art-pop into a full blown fiery tribal dance tune complete with a strong vocal delivery from Aoife McCann that seems to hint at recognising the good and bad in people as well as yourself and coming to some sort of acceptance of that. It's a fine new season opener, with more music promised as the year progresses.
If you are in Ireland you can catch Æ MAK when they support Django Django in Dublin on the 2nd March.
Æ MAK - Glow
Last year when Canadian whizz-kid Boniface put his debut track on line it felt like he was almost embarrassed about pop music. I Will Not Return As A Tourist was the sound of someone sneaking into the room and standing huddled in the corner for a bit before suddenly pulling out the party poppers, balloons and dancing wildly whilst spilling champagne on the carpet. Then second track Again & Again took Boniface back to being all introspective, sentimental and probably offering to pay for the carpet cleaning bill, whilst singing about ‘smoking weed and watching Hitchcock’, a little bit like Conor Oberst / Bright Eyes. However, track three, Phantom Limbs, released earlier this week, steps fully out of the closet. This is wide-eyed unashamed pop music.
Of the track, Micah Visser, who is Boniface says: “I wrote Phantom Limbs a few years ago when I was starting to become really unhappy with the way I was treating myself and the way my friends were treating themselves. I wrote it out of frustration without much redemption, and in the years since I’ve really tried to stop doing that. I think it's stuck with the band and I because it’s just really fun to play and we like that contrast.”
With big glossy hands in the air synths and a sense of euphoria in the music this one is geared up for hedonistic times. It's panoramic electronic pop for you to adore.
You can catch Boniface at SXSW in Austin, Texas this March and the Great Escape in Brighton, UK in May.
Boniface - Phantom Limbs
Thursday, 22 February 2018
Looking back at my last few hours Twitter feed (which mainly consists of the music types that I follow), there has been one singular opinion that has stood out with universal agreement, and that is that the new Janelle Monáe single is really rather bloody brilliant.
This worried me a lot. Because every now and then, when the internet gets excited about a song en masse, I often find that I’m a bit underwhelmed by it. Sometimes my opinion changes; for example I initially thought Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, which had that same extreme online reaction, was just OK. But now I’m firmly of the mindset that it is one of the best pop songs of the last 10 years and hope and expect it will be on all those end of decade lists (not too long before we get those folks…). Yet other times I find myself failing to understand why everyone that I follow seems to love something so much and I never ever get beyond that point.
But it’s OK here. More than OK. Because Make Me Feel, from Janelle's new album Dirty Computer, her first in five years, is ridiculously good. Yes, there’s a big dollop of Prince’s Kiss in the track, but heck if you’re going to reference something, choose something great. And Kiss is great. Sure Prince had even greater, but Kiss is up there in the leading pack.
This is pop music’s equivalent of a couple of strong cocktails downed quickly then getting straight onto the dance floor without a care in the world.
Janelle Monáe is here to make you feel damn good. You’re not going to be able to help yourself.
Well done Janelle. Well done Twitter. Well done music.
Janelle Monáe - Make Me Feel (Video)