Christmas is drawing ever nearer. And before that wonderful day arrives, New Music Monday is on hand with a whole load of musical presents, gift-wrapped to perfection, with ribbons and bows on the top. This week, Friday’s Drivetime presenter Ross Millen joined me to carve out snow angels in this week’s latest tracks.
Although there were more genres played tonight than you could fit underneath a Christmas tree, if you want even more great tracks from this week then be sure to check out the New Music Monday Spotify playlist! Highlights include a new song by Natalie Portman of all people, two examples of music industry nepotism, and an…alternative Christmas carol from Lil Aaron, with an unrepeatable title. Find out what it is by clicking on these glowing orange words.
But here were the songs that made our cut for this wintry New Music Monday:
JAMES STEPHENSON’S TRACKS OF THE WEEK
One of the major rules I have on New Music Monday is this: Scandinavians just do it better.
Shy Martin is the next off the seemingly endless supply of Swedish starlets – her new single Just A Little Longer is a complete banger, one of those that grabs you right from the get go. Taken from her debut EP Overthinking, Martin (whose real name is Sara Hjellstrom) delivers a sharp and sweet vocal over the classic Scandi-pop recipe of powerful drums and glittering synths.
I’m not usually one to make big predictions about songs, but I’ve seen this all over Spotify this week and I reckon that Just A Little Longer is going to pop massively.
About a week before New Music Monday came on air, the original premiere show was cancelled at the last minute – a playlist had been decided and everything. And Ward Thomas, twin sisters who grew up on a farm in nearby Hampshire, were on it.
Luckily, they’ve released a new single, and its equally spectacular. Ward Thomas are, perhaps surprisingly for UK musicians, country singers. And brilliant ones at that: their latest track No Filter is a superb mix of pop and Americana that blends incredibly well.
Catherine and Lizzy, the names of the Ward Thomas twins, harmonise superbly with a subtly meaningful song about not hiding away your thoughts and feelings for fear of them being exposed. No Filter is a lovely record, and Ward Thomas is one of the most exciting musical projects in this country right now.
Everyone who’s ever written a song (myself included) can attest to how hard it is to make a fantastic one. For Ella Vos, its been more difficult still.
You see, Ella Vos nearly died not long ago. She was diagnosed with Lymphoma from nowhere, and all of a sudden had her own mortality to cope with. Luckily for Ella, her music became an escape, a place to pour all of her feelings about the sudden urgency of her life.
Ocean is the result. The second single from an upcoming full-length, following Cast Away (which, along with Ward Thomas, was planned for the pulled premiere), its a hauntingly beautiful record. Ella’s voice is truly stunning, and the atmospheric, minimal instrumental plays like a dream you can’t remember having, but you can’t help but feel you’ve lived.
Closing out my picks for this week is a brilliant, festival-ready indie rock track from Picture This. The Irish four-piece hail from the small town of Athy, an Irish settlement with about a third of the population of Bournemouth University, and their first album (a self-titled effort) slammed straight to the top of the Irish Albums Chart.
Everything Or Nothing is from their upcoming follow-up record MDRN LV, and it’s a track that feels like it should only be played to a massive, drunken festival crowd. It’s got an ending so massive you’ll need a rooftop to shout it from. And even despite that, Picture This have made an awesome track all the way through.
Vocalist Ryan Hennessey sings this very well, and his raw-sounding tone really fits this track’s theme of unrequited love. Not only that, but there’s excellent guitar work, and the whole song has a piano chord motif that gives Everything Or Nothing a soulfulness that really takes it to another level. This track is brilliant.
ROSS MILLEN’S TRACKS OF THE WEEK
American Authors, still most widely known for their 2013 smash Best Day Of My Life, are due to release their third album, Seasons, on the 1st February 2019. The single Neighbourhood is their second single to be released from the upcoming album.
They’re most associated with pop rock, alternative rock or folk rock when it comes to looking at genres. This single follows that same genres as most of their other singles. The song follows a storyline of the someone leaving their neighbourhood and saying goodbye as they look into the unknown.
However, in the song they find themselves coming back to the neighbourhood as they struggle to leave. A resemblance could be seen in someone leaving home for the first time.
It’s arguable whether this song is actually new as it was first performed on the 5th June 2016! It was then teased to be a part of Bastille’s then-upcoming album Wild World. However it was later confirmed not to be on the album and fans have had a near-three-year wait for the release of this single.
The lyrical difference between the 2016 demo and the 2018 release are near a perfect match. The only difference being the actual soundtrack to the song. The original has a lot of drums in it which were quite powerful and there was no drop in the track as the band went straight into the next verse.
Dan Smith, the leadman of Bastille, admitted that they had been working on different version of the songs for a long time and gave it to Seeb to work with. This could potentially be heading towards the top of the chart after a positive reception.
Gabrielle Aplin is an artist that rose to fame back in 2012 thanks to the John Lewis Christmas advert. Her cover of ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood charted at number one in December that year. Although most people seem to have forgotten about that, she is still making music.
This Friday, she released a brand new single featuring Welsh singer-song writer Hannah Grace. This isn’t the first time the two have worked together after Hannah Grace joined Gabrielle Aplin on her 2013 English Rain album tour.
The two have released a four piece Christmas EP together, and it features this beautiful piano-led ballad which showcases the stunning vocals of the duo.
Another artist that most people have probably never heard of. Tinashe Fazakerley is professionally known as Rationale, and he’s a Zimbabwe-born British singer-songwriter. He combines his soulful R&B lyrics with more electronic influences.
I first discovered him as a support act for Bastille back in 2016 and have actively listened to his music ever since. He built up success on streaming platforms, where he managed to reach No. 2 in the Spotify Global Viral charts with his first single under the Rationale name, Fast Lane. He’s also worked with Bastille, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Katy Perry and others.
High Hopes is a song that could be referenced as a classic love song where it references isolation, hope and pain. However speaking after the release of the single he said “I didn’t write the lyrics as an address to another person but instead, my relationship with music, my career and my creative process at the time.”
JAMES STEPHENSON’S ALBUM OF THE WEEK
This week’s album is a truly interesting one. New Music Monday usually revolves around the latest gems from pop. rock, hip-hop, dance, and sometimes some more niche genres. But rarely, if ever, have we yet taken a left turn into classical jazz.
But that’s where we’re going right now. Classical jazz.
This particular record of classical jazz is packaged underneath the boyish face of 24 year old Jacob Collier, the sort of guy you’d usually expect to fancy himself on the guitar as a kind of Bob Dylan and Beyonce lovechild. But Collier is no pop-star – on the contrary, he’s been hailed as a genius, signed to Quincy Jones’s label straight out of his bedroom, and has won two Grammys. Casually.
And now, he has the nerve to release Djesse (Volume 1), an album that serves as the first of four quarters. FOUR!? THE NERVE!! And he has the nerve still to make it amazing. Perhaps its not perfect – Collier is like a wide-eyed boy playing with his Christmas presents who just wants to try everything, and some of it doesn’t work. But when it does…music is scarcely more unique and more transcendent.
It starts with six minutes of voices in harmony, with absolutely no form. It continues with incredible arrangements, features by many renowned classical artists, and even a cover of a song by The Police. It’s hard to process a disc (or in my case, Spotify page) that has so much in it, but if you can its worth listening to just for those little moments of true, absolute magic.
HEART TO MOUTH – LP
MARY POPPINS RETURNS – ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE CAST RECORDING
Got a track, or manage/represent somebody who does, that you’d love to be featured on the show? Let me know by emailing me via firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘New Music Monday’!