Katy B works the stickier side of the dance floor on “Turn The Music Louder”

THE ONEAs chart-ready bangers go, “Turn the Music Louder (Rumble)” is virtually foolproof.

KDA’s “Rumble” instrumental earned kudos from the likes of Annie Mac and Pete Tong when a re-edit from Shadow Child started doing the rounds back in April, while a guesting Tinie Tempah has already proven to be an enduring chart presence since scoring his sixth UK number one with “Not Letting Go” this summer.

Yet the track’s real pull is a riveting turn from London-born vocalist Katy B. The coalition that Katy’s cool but expressive voice forms with KDA’s ricocheting beats highlights just how badly 2014’s Little Red failed to capitalise on the singer’s innate understanding of dance music.

The success of electro-ballad “Crying For No Reason” allowed Katy to exhibit some versatility, but in a year where every other number one took cues from sounds Katy arguably helped usher into the charts with her 2011 debut On A Mission, it was frustrating to see her shine from the sidelines of pop.

KDA’s “Rumble” is a simple but heady cocktail of arcade synths and pummeling percussion, but without the pointed angles of something like Oliver Helden’s “Gecko” – another club-tested instrumental given the ‘vocal treatment’ to become last year’s chart-topping “Overdrive”– a rewrite would have had to be lyrically bold in order to truly impress.

Alas, Tinie Tempah’s raps are mere splashes from an alcohol-addled stream of consciousness. This isn’t normally a problem when dealing with a dance track, but the song’s superior second half presents a missed opportunity.

Morphing into what is essentially a solo track, the song allows Katy to reel off a bunch of clichéd observations about her ride-or-die infatuation (“I wish I could forget / the day that we first met / But now it’s blowing up / I just can’t get enough”). That Tinie never thought to play the Lothario to Katy’s blushing damsel throughout his verses is a disappointment, as this would added a sense of cohesion to the listener’s experience.

An unimaginative but infallible chart hit, “Turn the Music Louder (Rumble)” is most notable for returning Katy B to the stickier side of the dance floor. Here’s hoping her tears don’t wash her away from it yet again.

[Music] JMI – Kix EP (review)

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Review: There’s something rather quaint about JMI’s approach to product placement. On each chorus of her fizzy new A-side “Kix”, her revolving door policy for footwear magnates resembles less of a display of collar-popping narcissism than it does an earnest stab at promoting the very kind of inclusivity inherent to the most seminal dance cuts. After granting shout-outs to both Puma and Nike, the New York-based singer-producer ousts them both on the track’s final charge of adrenaline, bidding adieu to her listeners with the more neutral image of her having her “heels on” – an appropriately unpretentious note for this decidedly rough-and-ready slice of EDM to finish on.

JMI gleefully pilfers the Icona Pop formula of throwing down walls of crunchy synth, before breaking out the spray paint and putting her own underground stamp on them. “Kix” hurtles along like a rogue spaceship, complete with zippy effects and JMI’s own breathy moan coming straight in from Houston to remind us to don our dancing shoes. With more than a hint of the bratty coquettishness that powered Princess Superstar’s most compelling moments, she’s an effective Mistress of Ceremonies, although it is on the slinky B-side “Amanda” that her personality comes closer to the fore. A sparse creep-a-long built on dry percussion, yodeling BV’s and a catchy proposition (“Amanda, do you wanna?”), it’s a striking antithesis to the sugary chaos of its A-side. If the “Kix” video demonstrates anything, it’s that JMI’s shoes were almost definitely made for dancing, but on “Amanda” she proves herself a versatile talent.

7.0/10

[Music] Almamy – Digital Love (review)

Almamy

Available to buy from iTunes

Review: Given their regal status in the industry, it takes a brave soul to even contemplate reworking the chrome-plated beats of Daft Punk. While the French duo may be best known for tracks propelled by a kind of cold vacuum-packed energy, their 2001 single “Digital Love” is unusually warm. The track excelled not only on the back of a guitar riff sampled from George Duke’s “I Love You More”, but also a rare emphasis on lyrics that amounted to more than glib party-baiting rhetoric.

Lines as bleakly sentimental as “Oh, I don’t know what to do […] We’ll make this dream come true / Why don’t you play the game?” flew over helmet-shielded heads thanks to the emotional impotence of the robotic voice that sang them. By lending them a human avatar, New York-based ballet dancer-turned-singer Almamy unearths a few new layers of a beloved post-millennial classic.

His cover is something of a grower, beginning with a subdued squawk of a voice that we were initially tempted to compare unfavourably to Eric Cartman on helium. The presentation is extremely raw and borderline confrontational, but multi-tracked harmonies and a burbling bassline soon come to brighten up the palette. By the one minute mark, this breathy timbre makes imperfect sense among the colourful production. As Almamy fattens up the track’s hook with a series of coos, “Digital Love” hits the same sweet spot as the vocoded sections of Lipps Inc.’s disco staple “Funkytown”.

Just as the track finds its footing, however, it descends into a breakdown that clumsily apes the industrial crush integral to Daft Punk’s DNA. It’s a bemusing but ultimately satisfying U-turn that solidifies the track’s sweaty, late-night feel.

Not only is Almamy playing the game his own way, he’s doing a damn good job of it.

6.5/10

[Music] Shamir – Northtown EP (review)

shamir

Available to buy from iTunes

Review: A pseudo-harpsichord strain lands with an authoritative thud; its echoing presence still felt even when followed by successive stabs. A kick drum soon underscores a light, trembling squall: “You came without warning.”

The same cannot be said for Las Vegas-born teenager Shamir Bailey, whose sweet, affable features have been smeared across the pages of any alt music blog worth its salt since his icy house cocktail “If It Wasn’t True” gained traction this February. The sugar-coated apathy that won “True” its buzz is nowhere to be found on “I Know It’s A Good Thing”, a gospel-drenched ballad prone to lyrical regurgitation; once over a stark, church atrium-like soundscape, and again over a euphoric build powered by handclaps and a captivating vocal.

The swerve in tone is almost disorientating. The cloudy pessimism of lines such as “I would say I’m happy, but they say talk is cheap” take on a whole new significance in the celestial light Shamir recasts them in. It’s a revelatory song, one that could just as easily be synced with a bride and groom’s first dance as it could with an Apple campaign (or, indeed, a runway show at Paris Fashion Week), and engages just enough with the house music trend to feel current, but also marks out the long-term versatility of the artist behind it.

Elsewhere on the Northtown E.P., Shamir asserts his dance credentials on the still-brilliant “If It Wasn’t True” and “Sometimes A Man”, which attempts to mix its predecessor’s dispassionate throb with kitchen-sink production tricks. Sirens, growling vocal hooks, and crisp synth breakdowns all fight to make up for the track’s unflappable lack of melody, but it still carries a dark and compelling mystique.

The ballads rounding off the package – the sparse “I Will Never Be Able To Love”, a faithful cover of Lindi Ortega’s “Lived And Died Alone” – give weight to the hedonistic bent of the dance cuts. But as admirable as his abstinence from all things romance is, that final hopeful minute of “I Know It’s A Good Thing” will always beg to differ – at least until his first full-length arrives to add further dimensions to this fascinating character.

9.0/10

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[Music] Top 35 Tracks of 2013 (#20 – #6)


20. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball, Bangerz

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No chorus this year described an artist’s arrival into the pop arena better than “Wrecking Ball”. The reinvention of the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana was one of the most blatant stab-in-the-dark attempts at relevance in recent memory, but when you consider how Disney stars of a similar pedigree have fallen to the wayside over the years, you can admire Cyrus’ smash-and-grab approach. And as tiresome as her schtick could be, this gutsy, Fleetwood Mac-esque ballad offered the twenty-one year old some redemption. The main concern when it comes to ballads in the 2010’s is that they be appropriated and rendered anonymous by the singing competition circuit, so kudos to Cyrus for providing a raw, impassioned, twerk-free performance that should by right go down as her greatest achievement to date.

19. Jon Hopkins – Open Eye Signal, Immunity

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Jon Hopkins’ astonishing collection of muscled dancefloor odysseys was one of the most acclaimed albums of 2013. Gone are the soft ambient flavours of his early work; the weighty anthems of “Immunity” crack and fizz at an often hypnotic pace, lulling the listener into a state of astral projection. Standout track “Open Eye Signal” repurposes the dancefloor as a battlefield. Razor-sharp synths gurgle and race over a 4/4 beat, with occasional detours to the cosmos, and – at its finest moments – Heaven itself.

18. Sasha Keable – Careless Over You, Black Book Mixtape

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With production from All About She – who, between their dark electro-banger “Bullet” and Top 20 hit “Higher (Free)”, have been demonstrating their range for some time now – this magnetic mid-tempo chimes along as Keable’s vocal flits from smoky to breathless. The production is dense but never overpowers – ceasing almost entirely in time for an interpolation of Rudimental’s melodramatic hit “Waiting All Night”. It’s an inclusion that could have gone either way, but Keable manages to convey all of the heartbreak without any of the histrionics.

17. The 1975 – Chocolate, The 1975

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In 2012, Madonna included a song called “Masterpiece” on her twelfth studio album. The track is pleasant enough on its own terms, but considering the a) the stature of the artist in question and b) the portentousness of its title, the listener expects – nay, deserves – more, and as a result we’ve come to regard this track with disdain. Any track named “Chocolate” runs into a similar problem. How does one commit the many sensory pleasures associated with said food item to an aural experience? Kylie Minogue mapped out a sexy little number based on the stuff, and while we know The 1975 aren’t averse to the subject , their hit single is instead a colourful tribute to the joys of smoking marijuana. Frontman Matthew Healy may have the worst rock star name in recent memory, but his nasally squall is refreshing for its blunt emoting and bold lack of pretension.

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