In the spirit of all things new and exciting – inspired no doubt by New Year optimism run delightfully amuck – I have decided to re-name my “Sonic Bliss” series as “Now this is music” to better reflect the sense of excitement I experience every time I hear a new track from a known, or better yet, unknown artist.
To kick things off, I have gathered together five songs that have taken up almost permanent residence in my ear worm – which seems to be showing its usual predilection for all sounds eclectic – and I present them here for your listening pleasure.
So grab a pair of bright oversized headphones, a lovely glass of wine (or not if you think you may feel like getting up and dancing) and a sense of musical adventure and dive on in!
FOXYGEN – “San Francisco”
Hailing from Westlake, California, Jonathan Rado and Sam France produce the sort of sublime, whimsical indie pop that warms the heart and puts a smile on the face.
And that’s when the song is all about leaving your love behind in San Francisco – she seems distinctly untroubled by it claiming “That’s OK, I was bored anyway” – when by rights the song should be a dirge-like recitation of regret, loss and gnashing of teeth.
Instead, what you get is a quirky, lilting song with a sweet melody and mix of boyishly charming and spaced-out far-off vocals that sound suitably distracted (the latter belong to the aforementioned bored ex-lover) that reminds me in all the best ways without being remotely derivative of Scandinavian group, Peter, Bjorn and John, and even the Kings of Inconvenience.
In fact there is a decidedly Nordic feel to the song that fits in perfectly with the retro 60s look of the clip which as my favourite music blog, Amazing Updates, quite correctly points out has a very Wes Anderson look to it.
It is music for those whimsical, happy moments in your life and yes even the sad ones because this magical band have a way of making even them seem lighter and more buoyant that they have any right to be.
KITTY – “Dead Island”
Keeping with the dreamily, sparkly vibe – literally in this case since the clip features a chandelier that sparkles and glitters in epic style – but with a hint of edge and attitude comes Florida rapper Kitty Pryde and her rap-infused pop gem, “Dead Island”.
Again, lyrically, the song is full of taunts to a rival referenced only as “bitch” on multiple occasions, and an evocation of new York as the perfect city to commit suicide in thanks to “all the bridges you can jump off”, and should by rights induce tension and a random chills of aggro as you listen to it, but instead the melody, which liberally samples Major Lazor’s “Pon de Floor”, has you wafting up the clouds.
It is a clever musical and lyrical juxtaposition, accented by the clip which features her in full flower power mode (a visual reference to the title of her EP, D.A.I.S.Y. Rage) staring into the twisting refracted light of the chandelier like it will reflect back the answer to all her questions about life, the universe and everything.
Attitude and existential angst she may have in abundance but the music is a delicious, almost warm counterpoint to that, and the whimsy in her voice, which deliver acid-laced raps like they are school girl sing-a-longs is beguiling and attractive and well worth having a listen to.
You can read an awesome review of her EP D.A.I.S.Y Rage on Pitchfork.
RA RA RIOT – “Dance With Me”
Lest you think I am caught in some sort of bizarre mellow dream-state today – given the fast pace of my life, that is not such a bad thing really – I present to you Syracuse-based Ra Ra Riot who charge from the gate with their guitars-a-jangling and an upbeat sound and attitude that would makes Anne of Green Gables look positively maudlin.
This is an immensely fun song.
It’s all synths and yes the aforementioned jangly guitars with an irresistible bouncy edge to it that is ridiculously contagious.
You will find yourself jumping up and dancing along to this, and frankly who cares where you are. Let the other commuters join in – who knows, they might finally have some fun!
It’s a marked changed in sound and pace for a band who, since their inception back in 2006 on the grounds of Syracuse University in New York state, were best known for their gorgeous slow tempo orchestrally-based music.
There is some of that here, but for the most part, Ra Ra Riot have upped the pace, and the fun, and appear to be having the time of their lives.
LAURA MVULA – “She”
My this lady has soul!
This is such a beautiful, goose-bumping piece of art with a sunlit clip that perfectly evokes the stripped back, vocally rich song that accompanies it.
To say that Laura Mvula, from Birmingham in the UK is a talented vocalist with a gift for not only hitting the notes with pinpoint accuracy but giving them an emotional texture that many other technically perfect singers would envy, is a massive understatement.
The classically-trained composer, who in an interview with The Guardian newspaper described herself as “the geeky kid of R & B”, is joined by a choir that gives the song the most exquisite layering of vocals I have heard in quite some time.
She is being compared to Amy Winehouse and Adele, and while she is happy to accept those comparisons, rest assured she is very much her own person with her own unique sound, and I predict she won’t be little known for too much longer.
I AM A CAMERA – “Factory Boys”
The London duo, I Am a Camera are great lovers of dirty, infectious harmony-drenched synth pop with an intelligent edge and “Factory Boys” captures that spirit beautifully.
With a clip that evokes the Studio 54 era of the late 1970s that is reflected in both the music and lyrics (which tell the story of the Dupont Twins, two brother who arrived in New York from the cornfields of the midwest and became friends with people like Andy Warhol), the song grabs hold of a fast moving groove and hangs on in flamboyant fashion for an exhilarating 3 1/2 minute ride.
But unlike a lot of synth pop which fastens vacuous lyrics to catchy beats (not that it largely matter since you’re too busy dancing to care), the duo, who have professed a love of writing about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, infuse their songs with a storytelling sensibility that enriches them immensely.
The pay off?
You get to dance and be enthralled by an amazing tale well told.
Pretty much the perfect combination and one that guarantees you won’t get sick of I Am a Camera in a hurry or, I suspect, at all.
REBECCA AND FIONA – “Jane Doe”
The Swedes have done it again!
I have no idea what’s in the water in the country that has produced all manner of talented artists like ABBA and Jonas Oakland, but it must be potent because Rebecca and Fiona, who describe themselves as the “bezzt djs in the world”, are two of the freshest voices in electro-dance pop at the moment and while I can’t guarantee they will make it as big as their Eurovision-winning compatriots, they are bound to make waves.
Tsunami-big in fact.
A big point in their favour is that they have personality and lots of it.
Their clip is great evidence of their ability to forge a look and sound that is uniquely and winningly their own, with a quirky aesthetic that stands out head and shoulders over the million and one cardboard-cut out pop diva wannabes out there.
The song itself is all Hammond Organ synthesiser-delicious beats and bouncy melodies and echo-chamber-esque haunting vocals and the sort of music that would fill a dance floor in a second.
In fact, I may just go and start my own dance floor here in the office.
I will be the one dancing like a fool in the photocopier room if you need me.
* So what did you think? Loved them? Hated them? Want to commit them to a music asylum?
Oh and I’d love to know what you’re listening to at the moment.