Singles Of The Month: August 2017
Miguel ft. Travis Scott 'Sky Walker'
If you're thinking ‘cute title, is that a Star Wars ref?’, Miguel wants you to know he's a ‘major Star Wars geek’ and is planning to go to a convention next year in full costume. I'm not sure how advisable it is to tear down his sexy steal-your-girl reputation, but this track is refreshingly real and, dare I say, an insight into a Miguel who seems to have found his groove. Still lyrically adept, ‘Sky Walker’ has allowed Miguel room to stop taking himself so seriously. Travis Scotts helps ground the song back to safe territory, with the expected references to ‘ice all on my chain’ and ‘damn the police’ ensuring Miguel doesn't go full geek on us just yet. Shame.
‘I was there for you when you overdosed’ has been circling round my head all August, which, yes, is somewhat macabre, but when accompanied with Collard’s dreamy young vocals (the Londoner is a fresh faced twenty two and sounds straight out of Westminster Abbey Boy’s Choir), you're in for a treat. Produced by his close friend Zach Nahome, the pair turned a traumatic tale of a lover’s overdose into something poetic, a teasing guitar solo putting ‘Sofa’ deep into ‘Purple Rain’ territory of perfectly executed emotion. Lyrically, ‘Sofa’ leans into realism, with lines like ‘baby, please don't be sick on my sofa’ capturing a moment of tender intimacy without jolting the listener away from the sweet soulfulness of Collard’s voice. He's absolutely one to watch later this year, and in the meantime, put ‘Sofa’ on repeat and try not to freak out your flatmates singing along.
Quiet Luke 'YHP'
New-Yorker Quiet Luke brightened up August with an immediately ear-catching (I'm not sure that's a phrase but roll with it) bop of a guitar riff on ‘YHP’. Short for ‘your happy place’ Quiet Luke is unashamedly delivering what he describes as ‘a bit of fun amidst a lot of chaos’, and the track is an ideal escapist summer jam. This is 2017 however, so expect jovial lyrics ‘feeling Alive! I'm living today!’ juxtaposed with the infinitely more grim ‘my president rapes’. With an accompanying jolly animated video via designer Santangelo Williams and animator Derek Zheng, Quiet Luke is keen to err on the side of positivity, whilst reminding us all that our happy places are never totally safe from raping presidents and other ills.
Following high profile collaborations with Gorillaz (‘Submission’) and Solange (‘Scales’), Kelela returns with ‘LMK’, the latest offering before she drops her eagerly anticipated debut album Take Me Apart due later this Autumn. Another expert serving of sultry R&B with a conscience, ‘LMK’ might be Kelela’s most commercial sounding record to date, but a non-threatening bass minimalism allows her vocals to elevate the track to something more interesting. ‘LMK’ fits into a current trend in modern pop/R&B of reinforcing female agency and subverting the male gaze, a fave line being ‘Did you think you're my ride home baby? / ‘Cause my girls are parked behind’. Will be using on all future dates, while pretending we actually drive anywhere in London.
Jorja Smith X Preditah ‘On My Mind’
Jorja Smith is only 20 years old and is already by some way the reigning toast of the town with her rich and diverse influences. Her latest release has us asking: ’what can’t Jorja Smith do?’ ‘Beautiful Little Fools’ is a ballad of the Macy Gray variety (albeit updated for 2017), and ‘Teenage Fantasy’ was a smooth slow jam with a break beat to be proud of, while ‘On My Mind’ is a garage anthem that feels even more 00s than Dj Luck and MC Neat. We love Jorja - what else can we say other than it is no surprise that Boy Better Know’s in-house producer Preditah delivers on all levels, and the stripped back production will no doubt result in the track making the rounds as a killer instrumental.
Is there a more popular electronic music duo out there at the moment? We think not. Dekmantel was the place to be this summer and whilst many of the plaudits went to Ben UFO’s genre spanning set at the main stage, the Belfast bloggers (http://www.feelmybicep.com/ ) made their mark with their live show. ‘Glue’ is the second single from their upcoming debut album released on Ninja Tune this week. If ‘Aura’ is their party starter, then ‘Glue’ has got to be the closer. This is not simply a return to a proven formula (and with the success of ‘Just’ who could blame them), but rather a development of sound which see s the duo pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a common-or-garden definition of dance music. Don’t be fooled by its pace, this record has real legs and will be putting a smile on faces for many years to come.
IDER 'Learn To Let Go'
According to a popular music publication, IDER’s music can be defined as ‘Folktronica’. It’s a sonically unattractive smush of words but nonetheless a pretty accurate description. All the best Folk music is spontaneous, off-kilter and pushes all the right emotional buttons, and London duo IDER deliver all that in spades, all the while keeping it crisp and modern. The opening choral chant interrupted by a sweeping pad is infectious and when the harmony creeps to centre stage throughout the 3 mins 18 seconds it makes its mark without becoming overbearing. The reverbed clicks, reversed snares and deep kicks surround a haunting chorus that seamlessly weaves between vocal and instrumental. We get the feeling that taking the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds by storm is very much just the beginning. There’ll be lots to come from IDER over the coming year.
Obongjayer 'Set Alight'
Nigerian artist Obongjayer is a poet. We could have picked any of the tracks from recent EP Bassey but for me it had to be ‘Set Alight’ because on this record, its poetry first, music second. He can sing - of course he can - but I keep coming back for the deep, dark and descriptive story Obongjayer tells. Such is the eloquence through which he describes the connection between mind, body and soul, it could probably have made this list devoid of any musical accompaniment at all. But why stop at story-telling when you can create a track of dystopian quality with a heart-pump kick, worked 8-bit on the off-beat and some of the smoothest sax this side of the Atlantic.