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Pop CultureFebruary 20, 2017

Best Songs Ever: New singles reviewed, featuring Aldous Harding, Lana Del Rey, Chronixx & more

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


Aldous Harding – ‘Horizon’

‘Horizon’, the first single from Aldous Harding’s forthcoming album Party, is straightforward and certain, rooted in her gothic folk past, but not bound to it. Three piano chords repeat throughout, leaving room for her singular, trembling ghost of a voice to settle in. It would be remiss to assume her tremors signal hesitance – ‘Horizon’ is sure of itself, a controlled haunting. The track was produced by John Parish, most well known for his work with PJ Harvey and Tracy Chapman and is Harding’s first single for British independent label 4AD, home of Cocteau Twins, Pixies, Bon Iver, St Vincent, The National, and Grimes. The video features Aldous’ mother, dressed in white and full of grace, practising tai chi in a tree-lined field, interspersed with Aldous, wet hair and wild eyes lined in red, reminiscent of Park Chan-Wook’s Lady Vengeance. Radical softness, weaponised vulnerability, a gentle rage; no matter how you slice it, Aldous’ voice shivers sharp as a knife. – Amanda Robinson

Lana Del Rey – ‘Love’

Lana is an auteur. She orchestrates every aspect of her identity, and there’s nobody else out there like her (tonnes of second-rate imitators though!). Fans will be expecting more of the usual “looking for love in all the wrong places” themes on her new album, and although the style of the music is just as slow and decadent as ever, the lyrical matter has taken a hard swerve towards the genuine. Utterly devoid of cynicism, Lana here sings to her fans – her young fans, who hang off her every melodramatic lyric, and may come to the conclusion that the world is a dark place. Here, though, she talks about love with all the drama taken out of the equation. She talks about what love is on a very basic level, and reassures us that if we’ve felt this way before that we are okay, we are normal. I never would have believed Lana was capable of being this unabashedly positive, but this song proves me wrong. Time will tell if the music – and the tone – of her new album is as good as this single. – Mitchell Houlbrooke

Chronixx – ‘Likes’

One piece of music criticism that’s stuck with me over the years came from – of all people – Chris Rock: “People don’t have a problem with conscious rap; they have a problem with conscious beats. If you make some ignorant beats, you can say all the smart shit you want.”

Chronixx has been associated with various contemporary reggae and dub revivalist trends in Jamaica, holding his nose at the lyrically slack mainstream, but thankfully he’s never held himself musically above dancehall, turning ‘Likes’, a track scolding people for being obsessed with social media (“Me do it for the love, me don’t do it for the likes”) into a bona-fide summer anthem. It’s apparently self-produced, boding well for his upcoming Chronology album. You have to laugh at his last verse, a credits-scroll litany of dancehall artists he likes that doesn’t extend that far past the nineties, but hey, I’m willing to forgive a lot for a Lady Saw shoutout. – Stevie Kaye

oklou x MHD – ‘Champions League Defeat (Detente Blend)’

While there’s been lot of light shone on next-gen African pop’n’club music from both the Anglophone Nigeria-Ghana-London & Lusophone Angola-Brazil-Portugal axes, it’s the Francophone realms of Senegal, Cameroon and the Parisian arrondissements that’s held my attention lately, nicely summed up on Teki Latex’s Bérite Club Music mix. An early highlight is a refix of Parisian afrotrap MC MHD’s giddily propulsive 2015 cut ‘Afro Trap, Part. 3 (Champions League)’ – which reached the French top 20 – crafted by oklou (of DJ collective TGAF/These Girls Are on Fiyah) and Detente with their sound finding a sweet spot between synthpop and Wiley’s video-game grime. Truly a Jock Jam for the modern age: “Paname…” [Paris’ most common hip hop nickname] “… c’est la Champions League, fuck si t’es pas d’ma team.” – SK

Linkin Park feat. Kiiara – ‘Heavy’

Sometime after their second album Meteora was released in 2003 Linkin Park drifted away from nu metal and into an adult alternative flunk, shepherded for three albums by Rick Rubin, producer/guru to lost musicians everywhere. All the aggression and angst of early soundalike hits such as ‘Crawling’ and ‘Somewhere I Belong’ (with the benefit of hindsight, it’s striking how much Linkin Park’s biggest singles sound the same) were overthrown for meandering electronics and a mature musical outlook. This walkabout ended with 2014’s The Hunting Party, a return to rock that was actually pretty good but which was largely ignored. Reemerging here with a new single titled ‘Heavy’, you might think the group is sticking with that hard rock revival but the reality is quite the opposite. They instead enlist electropop singer Kiiara to feature on a smoothly produced and completely forgettable ballad which mimics the form of something you might hear climbing the charts today, but with none of the feel. Despite its brevity, the track allows the listener plenty of scope to consider: where do nu metal bands go to die? – Pete Douglas

Lambchop – ‘When You Were Mine’

Last year’s excellent album FLOTUS saw Lambchop add a new fold to their summer evening country-soul vibe: Kurt Wagner began layering his vocals with gurgling, Future-ish autotune. For some it was an unwelcome noodly affectation but me, I can’t get enough of it. Their new reinterpretation of top 10 all-time great Prince tune ‘When You Were Mine’ continues in that fashion. Wagner’s manipulated voice blends in and out of the other instruments and occasionally jumps out and catches you off guard: I’ve listened to the Prince version a hundred times but only listening to this one did it hit me what a heavy line “I love you more than I did when you were mine” really is. – Calum Henderson

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