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Best Songs Ever: New singles reviewed, featuring Nadia Reid, Prince, Cut Off Your Hands & more

‘Best Songs Ever’ features various contributors to The Spinoff Music assessing recent songs and singles.

SONG OF THE WEEK

Nadia Reid – ‘The Arrow & The Aim’

The first single from her forthcoming sophomore album, Nadia Reid’s ‘The Arrow & The Aim’ sounds exactly like a sophomore record should: assured, confident, taking the best of what brought that artist to your attention and amplifying it with whatever new resources are now at their disposal. For Reid, this means layers of both strummed acoustic and warmly distorted guitars, percussive piano, restrained drums, all supporting her voice, which continues to be the deserving sonic centre of her music. – Henry Oliver

Cut Off Your Hands – ‘Hate Somebody’

While New Zealand in the aughts produced a decent amount of stuff on the dance-punk side of the post-punk revival, it was much easier to output Gang of Four metronomic hi-hat action than, say, Remain In Light-era Talking Heads polyrhythms. During that period Cut Off Your Hands often seemed to be as to Orange Juice what Orange Juice were to Chic. ‘Hate Somebody’, though, has a tropical swirl reminiscent of mutant disco label ZE Records’ Kid Creole & the Coconuts. I’d wondered if the boogie’d-down productions of She’s So Rad (who share personnel in bassist Philip Hadfield) had rubbed off before I found out Jeremy Toy had produced it. The lyrics aren’t too shabby, either – an arch birds-eye view of gentrification in Grey Lynn reminiscent of both Kid Creole’s ‘There But For The Grace Go I’ and, improbably, David Dallas’ ‘Don’t Rate That’. An utterly unexpected delight. – Stevie Kaye

Prince – ‘Moonbeam Levels’

The centrepiece of the new Prince 4Ever compilation, and the first new music to released from The Purple One since his untimely passing earlier this year, ‘Moonbeam Levels’ is classic Prince. The track is a majestic ballad, rooted in a stomping R&B piano figure, featuring guitar flourishes and cryptic, elegiac lyrics about “looking 4 a better place 2 die”. Since the heavily-bootlegged track was recorded between the 1999 and Purple Rain albums it’s tempting to see it as a bridge between those twin masterpieces, but the melancholic theme and off-kilter melody in the verses also nod towards the slightly paranoid, insular, psychedelia of Around the World in a Day. ‘Moonbeam Levels’ is a welcome addition to the canon and whets the appetite for what might be unearthed if Prince’s massive vault of unreleased music is handled with care. – Pete Douglas

Rousseau – ‘Familiar’

The third single from local talent Rousseau, ‘Familiar’ is a standout. Thick with tension and fit for a brooding, dark Brad Pitt/Amy Adams film adaption, ‘Familiar’ centres around two co-workers who are in love with each other but both engaged to other people. It’s a gloomy middle-class narrative that feels scarily close to home – the kind of suburban tale you hear muttered about behind closed doors at dinner parties. Ghostly echoes, slow thumping percussion and eerie vocals make ‘Familiar’ a dark but beautiful listen. – Kate Robertson

Polyester – ‘Lucky Me’

The former Kip McGrath’s first single under their new moniker consolidates the sound they established on the Kip McGrath and Sour Grapes EPs – supple, shimmering highlife-via-Manchester’n’Glasgow guitars (I feel like John Campbell, seeing Orange Juice everywhere) and sunny musicroom horns backing a kitchen-sink vignette delivered in rueful, matter-of-fact tones (“Nothing makes me happy / Stay in bed, drink coffee”) brightened by backing whoops. It’s nice to hear such poppy maximalist, non-folk-inflected tweeness in local music after the demise of St Rupertsberg and the Gladeyes half-a-decade-or-so ago, or to imagine a Sneaky Feelings where ‘Husband House’ was baseline rather than outlier. Fingers crossed for Polyester’s debut album. – SK

Noah Cyrus feat. Labrinth – Make Me (Cry)’

While Miley Cyrus is busy being a coach on The Voice USA, it’s up to younger sister Noah to carry on the Cyrus family pop tradition. But without the teen pop baggage of Miley’s ‘Party in the USA’, 16-year-old Noah can debut with rather a sophisticated tune. ‘Make Me (Cry)’, a duet with English R&B singer Labrinth, is lovely and sad and understated, with bare modern production that lets the two singers bring a rawness to the track. The best thing about the song? Most of the time, the lyric “cry” has been replaced with a water plop sound. After the cartoon sounds in Drake’s ‘Fake Love’, does this mean comedy sound effects are officially a 2016 pop thing? – Robyn Gallagher

Isaiah Firebrace – ‘It’s Gotta Be You’

When it comes to picking a first single for X Factor and Idol winners, the ballad is a reliable fallback – and The X Factor Australia’s Isaiah Firebrace’s debut is no exception. Mentored by Adam Lambert, the 17-year old with better eyebrows than you will soon be breaking hearts across the nation with ‘It’s Gotta Be You.’ Reminiscent of James Arthur’s ‘Impossible’, ‘It’s Gotta Be You’ puts a knife straight to your feels, while still radiating some kind of triumph that I assume has been injected into the song for ‘winner’s single’ purposes. Keep an eye on this kid, he’s good. – KR

 


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