We asked award wining music journalist Peter Robinson to give us the low down on some of his favorite tracks that he’s currently listening to.
It’s fair to say there’s no shortage of music right now. You don’t open Spotify and see a ‘NO NEW MUSIC — COME BACK SOON’ sign. You’re not going to get radio stations shutting down, tearfully telling listeners in frantic final broadcasts that “we’d keep going — if only there was new music to play you”.
Every week I listen to hundreds of new songs and most, I’ll be quite honest, are absolute drivel. But that just means that when gems do pop up they should be cherished — and here, for you to also cherish, are five of my current go-to corkers.
Jess Kent – ‘The Sweet Spot’
Pop’s overdue a new global superstar and Jess Kent’s amazingly confident debut EP has been one of 2016’s most convincing opening gambits. Endorsed by Coldplay and striking a fresh balance between Lily Allen, MIA and Santigold, Jess was born in the UK but grew up in Adelaide — her suburban upbringing inspired ‘Get Down’, a song she uploaded last year and which kick-started her current success. There’s some stuff in her official record label biog saying that the ‘My Name Is Jess Kent’ EP “gracefully fuses hip-hop and alt-pop and beat-heavy electronic music”, which I suppose it does, but to these ears it just sounds like the sort of pop music that could take over the world.
Sia — ‘Midnight Decisions’
I’m not saying Sia writes a lot of songs, but I’ve heard she’s investing all her royalties in advanced human cloning technology in the hope that by 2025 there will be enough inhabitants of planet earth to sing every song she’s ever written. Seriously though, I’ve heard she went to the doctor because every time she sneezed another twelve platinum-selling singles appeared in the Billboard chart. I’m not joking! I’ve heard Sia employs one of those ‘your name on a grain of rice’ ladies to keep track of all her lyrics, and that the rice lady’s daily output could feed the average family for three months. But what’s so impressive — and what makes Sia one of the current era’s most exciting artists — is that she matches her astounding workrate with an incredibly high level of quality control. Elegant pensivebanger ‘Midnight Decisions’ appeared as one of various bonus tracks on this autumn’s reissue of February’s ‘This Is Acting’. (You might not be surprised to hear that there’s another Sia album due in 2017.)
Leo Kalyan – ‘Together’
A brilliantly talented singer, songwriter and producer, Leo’s one of British pop’s best kept secrets. He’s worked with the likes of MNEK and Shift K3y but Leo’s front and centre in the recent ‘Outside In’ EP, where you’ll find diverse influences from trip-hop and sparse alt-pop to soul and electronic pop. ‘Together’ is the perkiest of the lot, but if you get a chance make sure you investigate the nocturnal energy of tracks like ‘Silhouette’ and ‘White Light’.
Tigertown — ‘What You Do’
The funny thing about Tigertown is that you look at their photos and you think, not unreasonably, “here is a very credible and serious US band whose obvious penchant for multi-buy offers on white t-shirts pretty much rules them out of knocking out high-octane pop choruses”. And then you listen to ‘What You Do’ and it’s like the sort of thing that’d make Carly Rae Jepsen go “lads, do you not think this is a bit on the pop side?”. In fact the more I’m listening to this song, the more I’m wondering if, fifteen years ago, it could have been a Number One for Steps. See that as a criticism if you must, but it was intended as a pure compliment.
Raye – ‘Shhh’
This is officially the best song on the EP Raye released a couple of months ago, and she’s just unveiled really interesting visuals. Basically the video was shot at one of her gigs — in quite a small venue — but the lighting and general production values make it look like it was shot in a posh and expensive studio. Interesting, right? RIGHT! It’s also worth noting that, as various global fiascos throw the planet’s currency markets into disarray, Raye has rather presciently returned to the concept of bartering: she recruited Charli XCX to work on some of her music, and in return co-wrote Charli’s ‘After The Afterparty’. A solid and honest exchange of labour. In twelve months, when all money means absolutely nothing, Raye will be praised for her forward-thinking pop escapades.
Peter Robinson is the creator of award-winning pop blog Popjustice.com, and contributes to publications including the Guardian, Q and Vice.