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Love Without Violins – The Gift

You have to promise me that you’re going to watch this one all the way to the end. The Gift come from Portugal and have been making arch, deeply alternative, extraordinarily visual rock music for ten years. Brian Eno is one of popular music’s most important thinkers. Both of them think in terms of grand artistic statements.

Incidentally, if you are interested in Brian Eno’s process and thoughts on the importance of creativity and expression, have a listen to this wonderful rambling Eno interview by Adam Buxton.

So I’m guessing that you just got to the end of the video (the part with the boobs in, seriously I told you to watch to the end) where they show you the incredible intimacy and ambivalent nature of the process of making the artworks featured in the video. Beautiful. Now, go and make some art yourself.

The Gift have a website

Brian Eno has a website

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Higher – ARY

I am having a bit of a Norwegian pop moment right now. The shimmering synths, the lovely accents, the major/minor shifts. You can hear a lot of it on Norwegian pop reality competition The Stream – they’ve put an album of beautifully produced covers on Spotify and whoever gets the most plays wins? My favourites are the covers of Yellow and This Year’s Love, which remove all of the landfill-indie era vibes and replace them with chilly Nordic synthpop.

But today’s song is by ARY, who is not on The Stream. I’ve only heard two things by ARY – this song and this incredible, sobering vignette and I am distinctly eager to hear more.

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Hayaletler – Glasxs

There was a bit of fabulous news from Turkey this week – Listen Outside favourites Model are releasing a new album in early 2017 after spending late 2016 on their separate projects.

Because we’ve already posted Mey twice (do go and have a listen if you haven’t yet!) it’s time to recommend something else from Turkey with huge emotional vocals and a sort of 90’s vibe…

Glasxs are an indie-electronica project with a big element of trip-hop. They have an album of English-language songs out soon, but also work in Turkish. The video for their most recent single Hayaletler is part of an ongoing relationship with visual artist A Orçun Can. I like Glasxs, I wonder what’s coming next?

Glasxs have a website

Glasxs are on Soundcloud

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Valgeks/Into The Light – Mick Pedaja

I’m continuing to make good on my threat to always keep you up to date with the latest Mick Pedaja news. There’s a new single! Here it is!

Valgeks is slow and thoughtful, like the rest of his work, but as his vocals ebb and flow through mysterious lyrics about transcendence and the music moves through an expanded range of sonic textures (there’s a gently squalling electric guitar, and a beat almost threatens to kick in at one point) I feel like we’re seeing something new take shape.

Valgeks is the first single from Mick Pedaja’s upcoming album Hingake/Breathe

(A linguistic aside: If you’ve been following along, his first album was ‘Ärgake/Awaken’ – as far as I can work out, the -ake suffix on some verbs makes the plural imperative case so we might be looking at future records called things like Hakake/Start!, or Kuulake/Listen! if the pattern continues)

 

 

Beauty Sucks – Kezzy

So here you have another song currently charting in Europe, Kezzy’s offering as of Friday is Number 40 in Austria’s music charts. It was released back in May so she’s doing a cracking job to stay in the charts this long.

Kezzy is a young, Austrian artist at the beginning of her career and this is a fun track. I love the pitch of her voice – its a bit country music down the bottom end and super poppy when she’s doing the ‘Oooh’s’.

The video is pretty bizarre, the dancers in hospital gowns and socks I can’t tear my eyes away from, plus the twerker with her head in a lampshade. I don’t know.
The two other song titles referenced leads me to believe Kezzy has a wide taste in music herself (The Smiths and Nirvana, I approve.) So we’ll listen out for her future tracks.

Thought Experiment: Scotland In Eurovision Part 1

Let’s deal in hypotheticals for a moment. Let’s say that in 2017 the people of Scotland are offered the second referendum and go for independence within the EU. Let’s say that one of the first bits of nation-state paperwork that gets filled in is the application to join the European Broadcasting Union and let’s say that all the pieces fall into place so that Scotland can make its Eurovision debut in 2019.

For many new European nations, participation in the world’s largest and most sparkly musical entertainment show is often an important opportunity for building and broadcasting their brand new national identity, and there’s no reason why Scotland would be any different. (If you’re interested, Paul Jordan’s thesis on the Estonian & Ukrainian Eurovision experience is a cracking read)

So let’s assume that Scotland are about to prepare their first Eurovision entry. What approach should they take? How should they best express their independent spirit?

One option is to go for a solid Eurovision genre which consistently produces winners and fan-favourites – the female-fronted electronic pop song. At the time of writing, I think I would try CHVRCHES. You have almost certainly heard of CHVRCHES, because they’re very cool, very good and very popular, but once you rid yourself of the idea that a ‘major act’ won’t do Eurovision, and think of it more as an easy opportunity to beat the rest of the UK at something, I think you’ll find a lot of enthusiasm. CHVRCHES’ songs are a little bit more downbeat and minor than your traditional Eurovision fare, but they’ve got the ability to put a huge singalong chorus together.

Given their existing level of fame, their stage experience and their live vocals, how might they do for Scotland? Comfortable left hand side of the table, at least.

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Game on: Portugal vs France [POP VERSION]

And here’s the second half of our Grand Final. This time we’re looking at some music that sits somewhere within the broad church that is pop.

The Gift are an alternative band from Portugal who’ve been going for over 20 years. Their most recent single, Classico is an expansive, emotional piece of chamber pop, with a big billowy string arrangement and a weepy chorus. The rest of the band’s work seems to reach from the Jesus & Mary Chain to chart anthems that you could give to the winner of the X Factor. This band should be enormous everywhere, really.

From France we’ve got the new single from Parisian dance chaps, It’s A Fine Line. You’ll recognise the voice on the track as being that of Alex Kapranos. Even after a few listens I’m still not quite sure what this is about, or what it even is. It’s definitely got a film noir slink to it, so give it a couple of listens to sink in.

Which country has the better music? Portugal or France?

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Clássico -The Gift [Huge, sophisticated widescreen cinematic anthem]

The Delivery – It’s a Fine Line ft. Alex Kapranos.

Kriger – Bendik

 

Today we’re listening to Kriger, by Norwegian band Bendik. This video looks like it took absolutely everything out of the singer Silje Halstensen, and provides a decidedly visceral support to the emotional power and synthy whoosh of this song, which is about being a fighter and overcoming the odds. The whole album, Fortid, is available on Spotify and it’s full of uplifting choruses, judicious electronica and Nordic melancholia, if you like that sort of thing.

Bendik have a website

Bendik are on facebook

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Game on: Germany vs Italy

It’s two of the Big Five facing off on a Saturday night, so we’ve got new songs from two Eurovision alumni.

For Germany we have Lena Meyer-Landrut’s 2016 single ‘Beat to my Melody’. You’ll remember that she won with Satellite in 2010, and then came back in 2011 with Taken By A Stranger which is much less ‘Eurovision’ despite having the freaky dancers in the silver bodysuits. Anyway, Lena is a proper pop star and this is her most recent single.

For Italy we have Emma Marrone, whose song ‘La Mia Citta’ was the hot mess of Eurovision 2014 (a contest which wasn’t exactly short of baffling costume and staging decisions, including my faves Twin TwinPortugal’s Suzy and the last recorded sighting of Fun Ukraine with the canonical man in the canonical hamster wheel – blimey 2014 was a great contest). But back to Emma Marrone. Tonight she’s representing Italy and continuing the theme of confusing staging in her music video for ‘Occhi Profundi’ where I can’t even work out what is going on. What do you think?

Which country had the better song? Germany or Italy?

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Beat To My Melody – Lena [Breezy, super-cool dance pop]

Occhi Profondi – Emma [Anthemic chart pop with a massive Sia-type chorus]