Friday, 5 April 2019

new (and old) music friday #36: will young, leland, MARINA, aly & aj

i'm taking it back to basics this week with a written post, but before we continue, i'd like to announce that my anchor podcast is now available on apple podcasts (!) and a whole host of other places such as radiopublic and breaker

now that's out of the way, i'd like to direct you towards this noisey article about the rise of "moody pop" before doing a complete 180. i've written myself about how pop music has gradually become more depressing, and while i share the view that people often gravitate towards more sombre sounds in this frankly terrifying time, i can't help but wholeheartedly disagree with the second to last line: "listening to anything stupidly upbeat as the world burns around us isn’t going to be anything less than maddening". 

for me, pop music has been an escape from problems personal and political, and though fifteen-year-old me devoured every lyric from the smiths, nowadays i find myself taking a more is more approach to pop and i firmly believe that listening to upbeat music has improved my Mental Health significantly. 

so while everyone between the ages of 14-24 plays billie eilish on repeat - try as i might i just can't get into her music - i'll be blasting bonnie tyler and belinda carlisle at full volume. 

these new releases i'm about to discuss also buck the trend of "moody pop" in a big way, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. 

1. MARINA

while writing this i had enjoy your life on repeat, a track from LOVE, which forms the first part of marina's upcoming release, LOVE + FEAR. in true beyoncé  style, she dropped the first half of the album yesterday and i wasn't sure what to expect. 

i've discussed my long standing devotion to marina here, but when i heard handmade heaven - the first single from LOVE - i really couldn't get Into It (though this krystal klear remix is a Certified Banger). a similar feeling overtook me when i pressed play on superstar and orange trees, and i've been trying to work out why her new music just hasn't been doing it for me. 

i fear it feeds into a larger trend of artists hitting their creative peak - will carly rae jepsen ever do anything that matches the euphoric joy of run away with me on her upcoming album dedicated? - but in marina's case, i suspect it has something to do with clean bandit, who she collaborated with on baby

i was staring to worry that their influence would completely overpower the rest of the album, so imagine my relief when i heard enjoy your life, a complete rebuttal of the doom and gloom provided by billie eilish. i felt at once attacked and vindicated by the lyrics - "looking to the future like it's gonna make you happy / save you from reality" in the pre-chorus, before marina urges me to "sit back and enjoy your problems" as "you don’t always have to solve them". as someone who over-analyses every decision i make, this couldn't have come at a better time. recently i've found that the less control i try to wield over a situation, the better things turn out, so i'm trying to do as marina says and enjoy my life, and with its stupidly catchy chorus, this song will no doubt help me do so.

other highlights include true, with its thumping club-ready beat and life-affirming lyrics. though she's talking about a relationship where "they can never do it better / than when we are, are together", it's clear that marina values her own self worth above any boyfriend. it's a total contrast from the despair she felt in fear and loathing, as she seems to have made peace with who she is, "cause you don't need nobody else / when you are true, true to yourself". turns out rupaul was right all along; if you can't love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else? 

recently i've been trying to sit with my own emotions - specifically the impact shame has had on my life so far; i've clearly been reading too many ask polly letters - and fully allowing myself to Feel Things. it's by far one of the most terrifying but important things i've ever done, and it seems marina feels the same as she reminds the listener that "you're skin and bone, you're full of fear / but you are just a human being"in my 2018 year in review i talked about the importance of trusting your instincts and marina is clearly in agreement when she says: "sometimes it feels right to do the wrong, wrong thing / let it go and listen to your own instincts"

this totally unexpected deep dive into My Feelings has left me with an understanding that it's okay to want and need things and that my emotions are valid. at the risk of sounding like a (terrible) therapist, it's this work i've done on myself since graduating nearly two (!) years ago that has been more valuable than any job could ever be. it's even carried over into my search for employment as i refuse to settle for any unpaid work, trying to dodge the word "intern" as i do with drag race spoilers on twitter each week. when you finally realise your own worth, it feels like anything is possible, and i'm trying to maintain this new positive way of thinking when it feels like everything is at a standstill. 

2. leland

it doesn't get more positive than another lover, the long-awaited new single from leland. i first heard this song when he supported troye sivan on tour back in february and have been awaiting its release ever since. i have to be honest; the key change - an aspect of pop music sorely overlooked in recent years - didn't pack quite as much of a punch as when i heard it live, but that's simply a testament to leland's talent as a live act. speaking of which, a tour is in the works for autumn, and i'll be playing another lover - along with his entire back catalogue - on repeat until tickets go on sale.

3. aly & aj

i first heard this song while hungover, meaning every lyric hit me harder than normal. though i was extolling the virtues of Positive Thinking earlier, i had to make several mistakes before arriving at my current state of mind, and as soon as i heard the opening line of church - "i do bad things for the sake of good times" - i felt like they were reading my mind. 

in keeping with the subdued synth pop that has slowly become the duo's signature, they try to make peace with "all the times i can't reverse" and i'm instantly reminded of every bad decision i've made, all those times i stayed out too late because i was scared to be alone with my thoughts, and the people i may have inadvertently hurt along the way. 

now with a clearer head, i still find myself tearing up each time i listen to the song. though there's nothing wrong with going out and Having A Good Time, it's always worth exploring the reasons why so many of us feel compelled to drink to excess. for some people it's simply a stress reliever, but for those of us who are naturally anxious, it can often act as a smokescreen for feelings we'd rather not face. i'm slowly trying to peel back those layers and get to the truth of why i'm always the last one standing at Tha Club, insisting on one more drink when everyone else is ready to leave, and though it's a painful process, i feel much better for it. though i've never been particularly religious, music has always been my church, that feeling when you hear a great song for the first time equivalent to a religious experience, and this one is no exception.

4. will young 

after what feels like forever, the man who brought us iconic songs such as leave right now, jealousy and runaway is back with all the songs, a classic Sad Bop which sees him reminiscing about a former flame. we all know that feeling; you think you're finally over somebody until you see them out with someone else and it hurts all over again. the power of pop music is its ability to take that pain and contrast it with a Big Chorus that sees our heartache slowly fade away with each listen. despite being perennially single, i take great pleasure in blasting this song as loud as my speakers allow and i can imagine it will become a regular fixture of gay clubs across the country. the video for all the songs is possibly the campest thing i've ever seen, yet will has sustained a loyal following of forty-something facebook mums who comment on all of his instagram posts like they're old friends. again, it's the power of pop which unites us all. gay or straight, young or old, music doesn't discriminate, even as the BBC questions whether it's "morally right" to discuss LGBT relationships in UK schools.

5. the chainsmokers 

arguably the most critically un-acclaimed band of all time, my love for the divisive duo knows no bounds. feeling ashamed about loving pop music is so 2000-and-late, so i've been playing beach house (and the ashworth remix) at full volume since i heard it in an episode of the charlotte show, which just wrapped its second series (i'm eagerly awaiting the third). the aforementioned critics recoiled in horror when this song was released last year - spin's headline was "the chainsmokers love beach house now", implying that a band who make dance-leaning pop music couldn't possibly like an indie band revered by men who regularly use a beard oil and (claim to) make their own pale ale. 

sonically, the song is a world away from beach house themselves, and perhaps it was the duo's attempt to claw back some credibility. while their career didn't get off to the best start when selfie was released in 2014, i can't help but cringe at this pitchfork article which is essentially 600 words of the author throwing a tantrum because an artist dared to like something they also like. it reminds me of my teenage self who was weirdly territorial about my favourite bands, but i'd expect better from the senior editor of a site that claims to be "the most trusted voice in music".

i'm not saying that the chainsmokers are the greatest lyricists of our time, but is their music really that much worse than the crop of dreary bearded men infiltrating the UK charts as of late? at least you can dance to side effects and yell along to the five seconds of summer-assisted who do you love after one too many. see also: the midnight kids remix of young, which is number four in my top 25 on itunes, and for good reason; it Goes Off. 

6. ciara

this was an unexpected discovery; we all know ciara for her 2004 hit 1, 2 step, and she's had a successful career ever since, making a string of R'n'B albums that - according to her artist page on spotify - have made her the 405th most listened to artist on the platform. however, everything changed with thinkin bout you. featuring a smattering of 80s-inspired synths and a guitar riff prince would have been proud of, i can't get enough of this track. 

also worth a listen is dose; though it was released last september, it forms part of her upcoming seventh album beauty marks, due for release in may. again, it's far more upbeat than i'm used to hearing from her, its stomping beat backed by a marching band reminiscent of early gwen stefani hits like what you waiting for? and hollaback girl. here's hoping beauty marks contains more of the same.  

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