Sunday, 27 October 2013

Rising stars: Tove Lo, Emma Stevens and Alexa

Tove Lo

Swedish singer Tove Lo has already attracted a lot of blog attention over the past year or so with her atmospheric, Robyn-esque pop that improves with each release. Love Ballad and Evil Spawn were pretty good, Habits was pretty great and then her recent dance collaboration with Lucas Nord, Run On Love, was absolutely excellent. She's gone one better again however with new single Out Of Mind. A simply massive pop song, it has understated but effective verses that suddenly build into a huge anthemic chorus before closing with some stunning ad-libs. Add to this the high production values and brilliant video and all signs point towards this song being the one with the potential to launch Tove Lo internationally. One of the best pop songs of 2013.

Emma Stevens

British pop singer-songwriter Emma Stevens has already received major support from BBC Radio 2 with singles such as Once and Riptide getting playlisted, the former also played regularly in Debenhams, useless fact fans! Having bought her album last week and all of her EP's previously, I've really been enjoying her sunny brand of folk-pop and it's a shame that the album didn't manage to chart. A mixture of charming guitar led strummers and piano ballads, the highlight for me is the now unseasonal single Hey Summer, a great catchy late 90s/early 00s-esque bubblegum pop type track. The singalong chorus is breezy and fun but the verses are just as good, particularly the backing vocal harmonies which really add to the track. Check out her album Enchanted, it certainly deserves some success.


London based singer-songwriter Alexa's profile has been steadily growing in recent years with her album Gravity on iTunes and a number of live appearances around the capital. Her strong electro-pop tracks point towards a successful future with plenty of promising songs already under her belt. Album track Famous looks at the subject of fame and fortune in a very melodic way with a punchy and memorable pop-rock chorus whilst Alexa's more recently uploaded non album track Electric Lover is more 80s influenced in sound and boasts very strong production and a hypnotic chorus melody. Alexa's confident vocals are perfectly suited to the genre and she clearly has potential to break out in the future and achieve everything that Famous suggests! Listen to more of Alexa's music through Soundcloud.

Monday, 7 October 2013

In Focus: Hozier, The Arrows and Sarah McLachlan

There have been three very different acts that have fascinated me with old or new material in the past few weeks so I thought I'd do a round-up post to share. 

Hozier - Take Me To Church

Dublin singer Hozier's new single Take Me To Church has been rapidly building support over the past few weeks, largely due to the incredibly hard hitting video that criticises Russia's views on homosexuality. But it's the song itself that deserves to be the source of the thousands of views that the video has racked up because Take Me To Church is a real gem. Hozier's soulful and deep vocals wrap around a song that lies somewhere between gospel, indie and blues. It massively stands out from everything else around at the moment but also packs in an incredibly strong and melodic chorus that make it perfect for radio. The track is quickly gaining chart traction in Hozier's native Ireland and the rest of the world will hopefully soon follow. 

The Arrows - Entropy

I first mentioned South African duo The Arrows on this blog a short while ago when they featured on what has become one of my favourite songs of the year, Spin My World by DJ Kent, the recently released video of which does a very good job of selling their home city of Durban as a potential holiday resort! I decided to check out Pam and Christie's other material and downloaded their first album, 2010's Make Believe. The album is packed with perky jaunty pop similar to the likes of Lenka or Mika musically, but is a very strong and engaging listen, particularly lyrically where the girls' Christian upbringing shines through heavily. 

My instant standout from the album was Entropy. Looking at the problems of modern day South Africa lyrically, it's completely juxtaposed with the music which almost sounds like a broken Disney song. I say that because whilst musically it sort of sounds Disney-esque, the structure is completely erratic, jumping from verses to bridges to random string laden sections whilst a chorus never particularly emerges. But the song works so well as a sort of disjointed musical poem, that it doesn't need any one major reference point. I can't recommend the song, or this duo, more highly. Recent single Disaster Queen is also absolutely brilliant and their style is fantastic. It's almost as if they've taken bits out of the wardrobes of all of Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga whilst looking even more bizarre than this combination suggests. Check out Pam's croissant inspired hairstyle and Christie's turquoise wig in the Spin My World video for example!

Sarah McLachlan - World On Fire

I've been listening a lot in the past week or so to Canadian singer Sarah McLachlan's album The Essential. The newly released two disc compilation houses Sarah's biggest hits as well as some of her early and more recent singles and some songs from film soundtracks. She's always been one of my favourite singers and I've always felt that she's criminally underrated in the UK. She experienced huge success in the US and Canada in the late 90s with classics such as Angel (somehow only a No.36 hit in the UK, but I guarantee you'll know it!), Adia and Building A Mystery. Her only notable UK hit came in 2000 when she was the featured vocalist on Delerium's top three hit, the dance classic Silence. The original version of Silence, an almost church like track that sounds nothing like the hit remix, features on this compilation alongside all of those mentioned above. 

Also worth checking out are covers of The Rainbow Connection, Blackbird and Time After Time and a couple of film soundtrack songs, When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2 (you'll know it if you've seen the film) and the uplifting Ordinary Miracle from Charlotte's Web. But my personal favourite song on the compilation is 2004 single World On Fire, originally from the incredible album Afterglow. My favourite song of the year back in 2004, it's a beautifully written pop song with a very thought provoking music video that looks at how $150,000 that could have been used to shoot a video was put to better use. It seems a great shame that Sarah McLachlan never fulfilled her career potential in the UK but at least she was rightfully recognised on the other side of the Atlantic.