Some weeks I come here and wax philosophical about all the doom and gloom occurring around the world across the previous seven days. But after a week that has seen Iraq aim to take back control of some of the last ISIS stronghold lands, 45 make up more laughable bullshit about incidents in foreign countries (the buffoon could have his own Danny Baker-style ‘Own Goals and Gaffs’ VHS series by now), and Piers Morgan get one step closer to crawling back under the rock from whence he came, things seem a little bit better. Only a little, but a little counts for a lot in these fragile times.

Instead of just presenting a ‘Here’s Some Songs We’re Loving This Week’ that no one will give a toss about, here are some inspirational songs that might just carry you through another week on Planet Earth. If you don’t like them then we’ll SEE YOU IN COURT.

The Amazons – Black Magic

When it comes to The Amazons, I don’t want to Echo any thoughts that others have already Kindled up about the four-piece, but the band find themselves in their absolute Prime in 2017 with a Drive to release every bit of Fire possible, lest they get forgotten by the Marketplace.

Now that I’ve officially written the greatest opening sentence ever, the song itself is worth talking about, as ‘Black Magic‘ commands the attention of all who get sucked into its vortex of swirling guitars and climbing melodies. Like all Amazons songs it almost beggars belief that it’s only four people behind the huge wall of sound that cannonballs through the speakers; Cymbals crash and collide with one another, as guitars scream in unison with singer Matt Thompson’s instantly-recognisable hollering.

Black Magic‘ also continues the Reading band’s knack for communicating mystique and intrigue through ambiguous love songs that never knowingly indicate happiness or heartbreak; “Do you still feel the way you did?” is the question constantly asked, with no answer ever received. Hopefully they won’t have to wait too long for an answer, especially if they clicked ‘One-Day Delivery’.

OUTLYA – The Light

“I pray for sweet salvation from the deep end of my mind // Because I can’t help seeing crimson in a crystal clear blue sky // And if no God can save me I’ll take the wait alone.”

Such doomsday-accepting lyrics are always welcome here at the Stereo Tonic, and OUTLYA have burst onto the scene with plenty of gusto ahead of the oncoming apocalypse. A labour of love for frontman Will Bloomfield, ‘The Light‘ blends swaggering blues with piano pop, as Black Keys meets Cold War Kids for a raucous, melodical two-fingers up to anyone stood in the way.

Bloomfield’s vocals ride a distorted wave of call-and-response, pleading for someone to carry his soul as sauntering beats play him out into the void. The riffs are tight while the drums remain loose, and the production is superb at conveying passion and flair while staying within the lines of perfectly-crafted pop; like seeing crimson in a clear blue sky.

Speech Debelle – Strange Ways

South London’s Speech Debelle is making up for lost time after the five year wait since second album ‘Freedom of Speech‘, and the 2009 Mercury Prize winner is quick to enjoy that freedom on her newest record’s third single, ‘Strange Ways‘.

Firing out rhymes like “low cuts and chinos // early hour burritos“, this ode to ups and downs and everywhere in between enjoys minimal production, letting Debelle’s low mumbles shine over finger-picked acoustic guitars and rattling percussion. It serves as a reminder that life is all about balancing the ups with the downs, from someone who knows all too well what it means to hit rock bottom after climbing to unimaginable heights.

Barely scraping in at three minutes, ‘Strange Ways‘ works almost as a spoken word piece as much as it does a song, and the latest single from upcoming LP ‘Tantil Before I Breathe‘ marks a more sophisticated direction for the hip-hop artist, and the wait seems to have been worth it (though she loses points for not incorporating another ‘Speech’ pun into an album title).

Sarah Walk – Still Frames

Hailing from Minneapolis-via-Chicago, Sarah Walk‘s latest single, ‘Still Frames‘, forms a strong narrative when combined with its music video, which tells the story of a gay couple through their happenstance meeting right through to their unfortunate demise. Directed by Dutch filmmaker Stefanie Kolk, it’s a poignant and all-too-brief artwork that celebrates reflection and the strength in letting go;

“It’s an insight into those moments that lead you to reflect on what you have built with someone and the process of having to let go of something that you care deeply about.

Walk’s own moments of reflection come via her delicate piano playing and vocal expressiveness; the husky tone in the Berkeley graduate’s voice earns its comparison to the Joni Mitchells and Joan Baezs of the world, but remains clear and current, never indulging in nostalgia or her influences for one second. The way her words wrap themselves around the loose chord movements almost inform the direction of the song – if Walk had decided to sing it differently, it’s almost like the entire piano part would need rerecording.

For all of its sentiment, ‘Still Frames’ is a lush, luxurious listen complete with strings, relaxed guitar strumming, and jazz drum fills; perfectly encapsulating a snapshot of relationship synchronicity between two people and what it feels like to be at peace with one another.

VANT – PUT DOWN YOUR GUN

Probably the most politically-driven out of all of this week’s songs, London punk-rockers VANT shout their way through an uncompromising attack on gun ownership, with one eye on the United States at all times.

“Censor me, this is present day // We’re still shot for being black or gay // You know it’s law that let’s them pull the trigger // But seem confused by another dead.”

As a topic, it’s one that continues to dominate conversation among pretty much everyone apart from the legislators of our many lands, and VANT’s take is hardly revolutionary. It’s also not one that has to take precedent over say a black artist, or latinx, or LGBTQ+. However, it’s worth noting that there’s a lack of acknowledgement for these kinds of sociopoliticial issues within the predominantly-white world of guitar rock, and that’s something to celebrate a song like ‘PUT DOWN YOUR GUN‘ for.

Another reason to celebrate it is the rollicking garage-rock that adorns the song throughout, and euphoric power chords climb around singer Matthew Vant’s snarled melodies. Much like another H&H favourite, Dinosaur Pile-Up, VANT manage to combine all the best bits of punk, grunge, indie, and all-out rock ‘n’ roll while singing blissfully empowering pop songs.

Little Dragon – High

 

Swedish pop act Little Dragon celebrate their 21st year in existence by getting ‘High‘, like everyone does when they come of age. Or something like that, I wouldn’t know.

Combining electronic pop and ambient psychedelia, ‘High‘ is a chilled out, vibe-heavy listen that suits the avid headphone wearer perfectly. Deep, rumbling synths and mid-tempo beats wrap around singer Yukimi Nagano’s requests; “Right there, a little bit slower // Feel free to roll another one for me.” She’s definitely talking about burritos, and not the other thing.

High‘ ‘s video paints a perfectly hazy vision of the song’s kaleidoscopic nature, and the bright imagery fits the lucid, dreamy feel to this simple lullaby. The vid also happens to be 4:20 in length, which might just be the funniest thing ever.

Off Bloom – Falcon Eye

Now, to the future of Scandanavian electro pop; Off Bloom. Falcon Eye‘ cavorts around defeatist hedonism like a Danish pop group cavorts around an exceptional beat, as the three piece confront, “the fight between the ecstasy and destruction that exists in all great things: love, partying, passion, sex, believing, nature.” Easy.

Falcon Eye”s charm exists in the catchiness of eastern-influence electronic motifs that intersperse between the chorus’ repeated demands to “shake it like you want it all“. While we’re busy shaking like we may or may not desire all of ‘it’, the follow-up to last years EP ‘Love To Hate It’ also exhibits an intimacy rarely found in upbeat pop, and convincingly attacks with impressive dynamic range and contrast. Perfect for love, partying, passion, sex, believing, nature.

About The Author

Mark Riley

Always pick the Fire starter-Pokemon.