Daves Heatseekers Chart Update September 24

We have a first in this week’s Heatseekers Chart – two songs sharing the No 1 spot. As you may know if you are a regular reader, the position songs take in the Heatseekers Chart is determined by my prediction of the peak position they will eventually reach in the main singles chart. You’d think I would be pretty good at making this prediction, but sometimes you would be surprised – ‘Through The Cellar Door’ for example never got beyond a peak of No 8 in the Heatseekers Chart and actually dropped to No 15 the week before it crossed over into the main Singles Chart. At this point I was predicting a Singles Chart peak of No 40 for it, rather than the 9 weeks at No 1 it actually achieved. I think to be fair that when I think a song is going to get to No 1, it often does. Two songs this week share the distinction of me predicting that they will reach No 1, and so they are sharing the top spot on the Heatseekers Chart as well. Avec Sans’ ‘All Of Time’ was on its own at the top last week, but the more you listen to Massive Attack’s ‘The Spoils’ the more you are drawn in by its orchestral beauty. Massive Attack have had two previous No 1’s in my chart with ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ (unsurprisingly) in 1991 and ‘Sly’ in 1995 – ‘The Spoils’ looks a solid bet to become their third chart topper.

Next up, let’s mention two songs which are going to be very major hits. I thought when I first heard Bat For Lashes’ should-have-won-the-Mercury-Music-Prize album ‘The Bride’ that ‘Joe’s Dream’ was the standout track. For the uninitiated (and given that I forgot to review ‘The Bride’ in this blog, you can be forgiven for that), the album is a concept work following the journey of a woman whose husband-to-be is killed in an accident on his way to their wedding. He had a premonition of this event, the aforementioned ‘Joe’s Dream’. It’s gorgeous and haunting. Natasha Khan has a beautiful voice, and the stripped back nature of many of the tracks on ‘The Bride’ showcases this to perfection. I’m really pleased that ‘Joe’s Dream’ has appeared as a single – it may well reach the top 10, something which neither of the two previous singles from ‘The Bride’, ‘In God’s House’ and ‘Sunday Love’ managed to achieve.

And then we have a song with a very difficult standard to live up to. ‘The Crawl’ is the third single from Lanterns on the Lake’s magnificent, majestic, outstanding album ‘Beings’. I should say immediately here that I suffer from the same bias when discussing Lanterns on the Lake as I do when I talk about Laurel, because they are my favourite band. I absolutely adore ‘Beings’ and the two singles taken from it so far, ‘Faultlines’ and ‘Through The Cellar Door’ both made No 1. I was keen to find a third single from the album but wasn’t quite sure which song would work best… ‘Stuck For An Outline’ seemed like one contender. ‘The Crawl’ is certainly an unusual single – gently paced and echoing, with lyrics that cut you to the bone. “Prize my ribs apart – and we can watch the blood drip dry” sings Hazel Wilde in that eerie, foreboding, slightly threatening style she shares with the Jezabels’ Hayley Mary. “I’m not the only one to have pieces gone” the song concludes. The imagery, the style, the atmosphere so unique to Lanterns on the Lake is all present and correct here, and the video is another thing of beauty. I am so happy that Lanterns are touring again this autumn: I know we’ve already seen them once this year, but frankly they are one of the only bands who I would go and see every single time they tour. We are going to see them in Cambridge this time because we are already tied up when they play in London (and you can ask Avec Sans why if you see them!)

 

 

 

 

 

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Dave’s Chart Update September 11th

Chart moves can give a misleading impression of which songs are improving in the most significant fashion in the chart. The reason is obvious – while songs in the lower end of the Top 100 can jump 30 or 40 places, it is rather hard to do that if you are already at No 20. A major jump at the bottom end of the survey often doesn’t lead to that significant a final peak position – but a big improvement in chart points within the Top 20 is a very strong indicator of a very high peak. So let’s look at this week’s chart in a slightly different way by namechecking the songs that have made the biggest improvement in chart points this week.

1st – ‘Vetiver’, Snow Ghosts (19 to 8, 233% improvement)

I have been talking about ‘Vetiver’ becoming a major hit for weeks, and this week’s big jump merely proves the point. A song reaching No 8 on just its third week on the chart is a major feat, and ‘Vetiver’ continues to look like a very likely No 1. The harrowing, eerie synths and those gorgeously poetic lyrics make an impact every time you hear the song. Reaching the Top 10 within 3 weeks is not a guarantee of a No 1 however – among the songs that have not reached No 1 after such a fast start in the last year are On And On’s ‘Drifting’ (which reached No 5 on its second week on the chart), Jess Glynne’s ‘Take Me Home’ and The Slow Show’s ‘Breaks Today’.

2nd – ‘So Well’, The Invisible f/ Jessie Ware (38 to 20, 216% improvement)

This song is rapidly turning into a huge hit – which I didn’t expect after ‘Love Me Again’, the first single from ‘Patience’ failed to even crack the Bubbling Under chart. The haunting music, Jessie Ware’s gorgeously pitched, breathy vocal and some searing lyrics create something special. “Conversation is not enough – Just another way for you to stay out of touch”. Songs that tell of how people don’t really know each other are always really potent and powerful and this is another excellent example.

3rd – ‘Closer’, The Chainsmokers f/ Halsey (59 to 29, 209% improvement)

‘Closer’ is doing as well as its current rate of climb suggests (88 to 59 to 29, and the highest climber in each of the last two weeks). The Chainsmokers have sneakily become the hottest electro-dance-pop act on the planet: their three singles (‘Roses’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ preceding ‘Closer’) have all been massive hits in the States as well as in my chart. Really good electro-pop is often very straightforward, but top notch vocals are a massive boon – look at the colossal (and still uncredited contribution) Iselin Solheim has made to Alan Walker’s two major hits ‘Faded’ and ‘Sing Me To Sleep’. Then there is Foxes and her vocal on ‘Clarity’. Obviously the vocalist has to be female. If you were going to pick a female vocalist, as I’ve said before, you cannot go wrong with Daya or Halsey. All of the Chainsmokers’ hits this year are top class and why it took me a few weeks to wake up to the excellence of ‘Closer’ I have no idea. Top 1o for sure.

4th – ‘My Hood’, Ray BLK f/ Stormzy (1 to 1, 200% improvement)

Yes, this proves my point. ‘My Hood’ reached No 1 last week, but in pure chart terms it was only chalking up as many points as your average No 2. Now it is a clear No 1 after a huge increase in points. I have said a lot about this song before – suffice to say that I still get a lump in my throat every time I hear the line “Through concrete flowers grow”. Take a walk through Catford, or Lewisham, or Deptford and you will see how true that is.

5th – ‘Impossible Tracks’, The Kills (13 to 5, 186% improvement)

I have been singing the praises of ‘Impossible Tracks’ for weeks too, but it has slowed down a little up to last week. This huge leap into the Top 5 has set it right back on course for No 1. It is a toss up frankly which of ‘Impossible Tracks’ and ‘Vetiver’ will get there first. “I’m gonna roll on back on impossible tracks and get carried away”. My money’s on The Kills, for what it’s worth.

What else has been happening? Well, the unsurprising highest new entry is ‘My Heart’s Always Yours’ from Arkells, but a more surprising second highest new entry is ‘Daisy Chain’, a piece of electro genius from the terribly named Loose Meat. Analogue synthesisers and ‘old skool drum machines’ are heavily involved in the creation of this excellent track. Why Loose Meat? No idea, I’m afraid – one to file alongside those mysteries such as why Lissie never plays ‘Hollywood’ live and why the Augustines are about to embark on a farewell tour. Glad we saw them earlier this year when we did. And finally, ‘Cowboy Joe’ is stubbornly hanging around in the Top 5 – it has now spent 12 weeks in the Top 5 (plus another one at No 6). It is about to go platinum (those symbols beside the top selling songs on the chart list? Green for platinum, yellow for gold, red for silver) and it is right up there with ‘Come Alive’ and ‘Through The Cellar Door’ for the year’s top seller now.

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Avec Sans – Heartbreak Hi Album Review

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Now, it is time to introduce you all to something really special. Avec Sans (French for ‘With Without’) are Alice Fox (vocals) and Jack St James (electronics). The duo have been together now for 4 years, and have gained something of a reputation for their moving electropop and their exciting live performances. A variety of songs had seen the light of day before they broke through into my chart in a big way with ‘Heartbreak Hi’, the title track from their newly released debut album. You will already know how highly I rate ‘Heartbreak Hi’ – it’s a gorgeous song, combining a reflective verse with a soaring chorus, and it has climbed as of this week to No 21 on my singles chart. Indeed, Avec Sans have a lot of the hallmarks which I really like in a band – spiralling, sweeping electronic music, heartfelt lyrics, evocative song titles, excellent female vocals. So I was pretty excited to take my first listen to ‘Heartbreak Hi’ the album this week. I was not disappointed.

This is an absolute cracker of an album, and the tone is set right from the start. ‘Even The Echoes’  is a superb lead off track – atmospheric, with beautifully layered synths and a real sense of unease behind the music. ‘Heartbreak Hi’ itself comes next, and ‘Shiver’ adds some extra touches. The verse is sparse, but as the chorus comes in and the song continues the instrumentation becomes more and more intricate. There is a lot going on in these songs behind the classic synthpop music. There is a minor dip at this point – I didn’t find much in either ‘We Are’ or ‘When You Go’ to remember – but the album bursts back to life with the nicely defined ‘Hold On’ and the swirling ‘Resonate’. There are hints of School of Seven Bells and of Chvrches layered throughout the music – Lauren Mayberry’s vocal particularly came to mind during the classically mid tempo, sure fire potential single ‘Close My Eyes’. And there is something of Phoria in the pulsing bass backbeat to ‘History’.

And then, we have possibly the best song I have heard all year. If you like ‘Heartbreak Hi’, then you are going to absolutely adore ‘All Of Time’. This song has actually been around for a couple of years now – it was one of the first that Avec Sans released onto Soundcloud. I hadn’t come across it before though – so thank God I have now. I don’t actually think your life can be called complete until you have heard ‘All Of Time’. It is a stunning paean to lost love. The song kicks off with a beautiful key change vocal from Fox, and as the song builds it gets more and more bewitching, and more and more heartbreaking. The imagery in the lyrics is gorgeous. “The sadness of leaving will crystallize, and break into pieces that we can hide – So no one will ever know that I was ever lost without you” sings Fox in the bridge, before the chorus kicks in. “I spent all of time on your trail, trying to find you – I spent all my life on your trail, trying to reach you”. It’s a passionate, extraordinary song that swells and twists its way into your heart. Honestly, after two or three listens you will be completely hooked. I absolutely adore it.

And the rest of the album is great too – there’s a nice build from the slow paced bass start to ‘Perth’, and then the closing track ‘Mistakes’ brings us full circle with the same kind of carefully constructed, atmospherically haunting music with which we opened the album in ‘Even The Echoes’. So, there we have it. A superb album full of songs that could stand alone just as well as they stand together. There are pop hooks a plenty but with a huge variety of ideas floating in the background. It is uplifting in places, and in others your heart is shattered. It is a truly outstanding work – and Avec Sans have become one of the most important bands of the year in the blink of an eye.

*****

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Dave’s Heatseekers Chart Update September 9th

OK, I have a confession to make. Life is so busy and there is so much going on at the moment that it is very difficult to keep up with all the new releases and all the new albums appearing. I have about eleven albums stacked up waiting to be reviewed, and I can’t always get through the new singles either. So I have started to place new songs in the Heatseekers Chart based on the artist’s past record. This week for example we have new entries in the Heatseekers Chart from Jimmy Eat World, James Vincent McMorrow and Everything Everything that I have yet to actually hear. It has worked out pretty well when I’ve tried this before – there are very few songs that have been a lot worse than I expected.

But plenty that have been much better. And the highest new entry in this week’s Heatseekers Chart is an absolute stunner. Massive Attack’s return this year with their Ritual Spirit EP has not perhaps quite led to the kind of chart success I was expecting: ‘Ritual Spirit’ itself peaked at No 13, but two of the other tracks from the EP, ‘Voodoo In My Blood’ and ‘Take Me There’ did rather less well. In anticipation of the new album, Massive Attack have released another new single. ‘The Spoils’ features vocals from Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, has a video starring Cate Blanchett and is absolutely superb. The song is a gentle, moody and melancholy, as Sandoval muses on the man she thinks she loves, but realises that she should not love. “But I somehow slowly love you, and wanna keep you the same. Well, I somehow slowly know you, and wanna keep you away.” There are beautiful,soaring strings above the backing electro beats in the second half of the song. It’s delicate and mesmerising. Massive Attack have produced many songs which feature among my all time favourites – ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ obviously, but also ‘Sly’ and ‘Karmacoma’. ‘The Spoils’ looks set to join the ranks of their very best songs. It is going to be (pardon the pun) massive.

 

 

 

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Autoheart – I Can Build A Fire Album Review

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Seven years ago the worst year of my life was brightened to a small extent by a song. ‘The Sailor Song’ by London band The Gadsdens was a glorious piano led indie pop ballad (beautifully described as ‘strange and gorgeous’ by the Telegraph’s Marc Lee). It promised much for this band, but there was no sign of any follow up music and as time went by, The Gadsdens curiously faded from view. The band ‘evolved’ (their words) into Autoheart in 2011, and released an album in 2013. Entitled ‘Punch’, the album somewhat passed me by – and the inclusion of ‘The Sailor Song’, by then four years old seemed in some ways to be a little desperate. And then… nothing more. Until this year – and it turns out that the seven year wait was well worthwhile. Autoheart have released their second album, ‘I Can Build A Fire’, and it is absolutely fantastic.
Autoheart are lead vocalist Jody Gadsden, guitarist Barney JC and pianist Simon Neilson. Their music is probably best defined as ‘indie pop’, but this is not ‘guys with guitars’ indie – the influence of piano and keyboards is very strong. The band’s (possibly tongue in cheek) description of the album as “Erasure meets Abba via Limahl’s ‘The Never Ending Story'” does strike a chord – there are lilts and sways and swoons here that fit with the best examples of 80’s pop, allayed to a contemporary backdrop, with lyrics which are poetic, and moving, and heartfelt. There are many songs here to enthuse about, but four in particular are worthy of special mention.
Lead single ‘Oxford Blood’ is a powerful electro-based song, led by Gadsden’s poetic vocal and the backing of Berlin based singer songwriter Anne Haight. “We need a lot of love to combat the evil – lying in a bathtub hoping for a miracle” runs the lyrical hook. It’s magical. Almost-title track ‘We Can Build A Fire’ in contrast pounds along to a rhythmical beat. The use of the metre and pace of the lyrics as a counterpoint to the music is one I have always loved, and ‘We Can Build A Fire’ uses this perfectly. “In my assassination there are constellations lighting up the sky above, the night is full of love” – the words themselves are less important in this song than the texture they create. Then there is the most gorgeous ballad you could wish to hear. Gadsden wrote ‘Before You Came’ for his boyfriend Matt, and sent it to him on Christmas Day. You can quite understand why this is his favourite track on the album. Here the lyrics mean everything. “On the day before you came – Every view I ever saw was never good enough, there was little in my life that I was proud of”. Beautiful stuff.
There are plenty of other excellent songs – the electro vibe of ‘Possibility’, the more staccato charms of ‘Murky Waters’ – but the album saves probably the best for last. ‘Joseph’ started life as three separate songs, and the band were unable to work out which one should be the final version. Two decisions resolved their dilemma – the song was transformed into a duet between Gadsden and Haight, and elements of all three versions were combined together to create the finished article. The result is a quite majestic album closer – one that the term ‘epic’ might have been coined for. It’s all pretty tragic too – probably the saddest song on what is a hugely uplifting record. “You don’t heal me like you used to” the final chorus goes, before concluding “I don’t need you like I used to – you can’t cure me like before”. Haight’s vocal, alongside Gadsden’s gorgeous voice is quite perfect, a fragile and delicate contrast.
Autoheart have created something exceptional here. They are completely contemporary now, but you kind of feel that had this album come out 30 years ago it would have fitted in perfectly then too. The melodies are masterful, the lyrics are poignant and emotional, and the voices are perfect. Finally, seven years after they released what is still possibly my favourite song ever, Autoheart have taken their rightful place at the very top of the tree.

*****

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Dave’s Chart Update September 5th

We will start today with massive congratulations to Ray BLK and Stormzy, who have climbed to No 1 with the debut entry for both in my chart, ‘My Hood’. This wondrous tribute to the run down and yet romantic area of South East London where both come from (and where I live) becomes the first hip hop chart topper since ‘See You Again’, Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s massive worldwide smash from ‘Fast 7′. “Top floor of Pepys Estate will show you our world” – the song is so moving that you just want to go there and look for yourself. A thoroughly well deserved No 1. The next immediate threats to reach the top are Nieves’ heartbreaking ‘Broken Oars’ and Adele’s ‘Remedy’ (from the stronger half of her rather polarised single releases) – further down the Top 10 we can congratulate Ingrid Michaelson, Black Foxxes and Polica who all enjoy their first Top 10 single this week. We’ve spoken about ‘Hell No’ and ‘I’m Not Well’ before, but I’ve not said anything much about ‘Wedding’. This is the second chart hit from Polica’s album ‘United Crushers’ which I reviewed a couple of months ago: ‘Wedding’ was always the standout track, but it has done much better than I expected as its melody gradually sneaks into your mind, and Channy Leaneagh’s vocal counterpoints the music beautifully. The song has a pretty powerful message too, hitting out at police brutality and the streets where kids have to be raised to fight. “Saying hands up, the bullet’s in” references protests following the shooting of unarmed Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. I think this song will hang around the Top 10 for a few more weeks yet.

Many of the songs I have discussed recently are making progress up the chart – one song which I have not talked about but which is now activating is ‘Closer’, the collaboration between The Chainsmokers and Halsey. In a rare show of taste, the British public have actually bought / streamed ‘Closer’ to No 1 in the official chart! The Chainsmokers are unrecognisable from the band who annoyed as many people as they impressed with their Top 20 single ‘#Selfie’ last year. Huge hits with ‘Roses’ and ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ have now been followed by a third highly impressive collaboration with a female vocalist – the one disadvantage of seeing The Chainsmokers live will be the fact that Daya and Halsey won’t be with them (I don’t suppose). Great choices for featured vocalists by the way guys! ‘Closer’ has taken a while to properly impress me, but its 29 place jump to No 59 (making it the joint highest climber with The Invisible’s ‘So Well’, another electro band collaborating with an excellent female vocalist) suggests that it will do pretty much as well as its two predecessors.

Three of the new entries finally are worth highlighting. SOAK had a major hit last year with the haunting ‘B a noBody’ – Bridie Monds-Watson has now hit the chart with her eerie cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’. “We come from the land of ice and snow – From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow” – Robert Plant was inspired by a trip to Iceland, apparently. Led Zep blow the walls off but Monds-Watson’s take is sultry, moody and not a little scary. Why she chose this song to cover I am not sure, but if it was to give it an alternative musical life, then she’s done a bloody good job. Then we have the return of Warpaint, who have clearly rid their system of the ethereal wispiness that flowed through much of their self titled 2014 album, judging from the bouncy, almost funky sound of ‘New Song’. I actually really enjoyed ‘Warpaint’, and the band had a couple of Top 40 hits with ‘Biggy’ and ‘Love Is To Die’, but there was a sense that the album wasn’t quite there – as if the songs were so ethereal that they had floated off somewhere. I’m expecting a bit more punch in the new album ‘Heads Up’, which is due out later this month. And then we have Dusky, who you may not be familiar with. This electronic band, Alfie Granger-Howell and Nick Harriman have been together since 2011. They released a studio album that year in ‘Stick With This’, but since then have bounced around between a variety of labels releasing EP’s. They do now have a new album in the pipeline in ‘Outer’,and they can celebrate their first chart entry with the atmospheric, swirling rave crossover ‘Ingrid Is A Hybrid’. It’s a great title (God knows what it means though) and the video is really cool, as you can see below.

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Dave’s Heatseekers Chart Update September 2

I promise we will get back to the regular album reviews soon, but for now, you will have to make do with possibly the most exciting Heatseekers Chart for months. There are a horde of excellent tracks either entering the chart for the first time, or making significant moves towards the top. We have already covered some of them – but it is worth sending out our congratulations to The Courteeners, who have jumped to No 1 with ‘The 17th’, preventing ‘Georgia’ by Bear’s Den from regaining the top spot. And there are major climbs for the three tracks we discussed in detail last week, Autoheart’s ‘Oxford Blood’, Foreign Fields’ ‘I Killed You In The Morning’ and Arkells’ ‘My Heart’s Always Yours’.

So, what else is happening? Let’s start at No 4 with one of the year’s biggest breakthrough acts, Christine and the Queens. ‘Saint Claude’ follows ‘iT’ and ‘Tilted’ as singles from the No 1 album ‘Chaleur Humaine’, and this is another absolute cracker. No, it’s better than that, actually. The music is gorgeous, Heloise Letissier’s voice is hauntingly emotional, but the lyrics… bloody hell! How astonishing are they? There are so many things wrong with the man Letissier is telling us about. “Such an attitude – impatient, gloriously rude” she sings, adding “Every breath you take is a violent strain that breaks”. But then there is an absolute killer line in the chorus. “Here’s my station – but if you say just one word I’ll stay with you”. The song is even more sublime in French. It’s quite exceptional stuff. What a star Letissier is – and how brilliantly well deserved. I have said this before, and I will say it again probably, but to see a top class singer hit the heights purely on the strength of her music and her performances – it kind of restores your faith in the world, really.

So, here come some more superb new songs. Daughter have released a fourth single from their No 1 album ‘Not To Disappear’ – ‘No Care’ isn’t quite as mesmerising as ‘Numbers’ and ‘How’ but it does add a bit of an extra edge to their approach. “No one asks me for dances because I only know how to flail” is a great first line, building to a rather cutting chorus. “No care, no care in the world: I don’t care, I don’t care anymore”. Daughter are another of the year’s major successes – their show at Brixton in October is one of the highlights remaining this year. Then we have Ingrid Michaelson’s second single from her new album ‘It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense’, which has just been released. I suggested a few weeks ago that Michaelson’s marital breakup might have given her music the necessary kick to take it out of AOR land and into something more interesting. Well, on the evidence both of ‘Hell No’ and her wonderful new song ‘Whole Lot Of Heart’ that is exactly what has happened. The cutting vitriol of ‘Hell No’ has been replaced with a magical and moving piece of work. “You said it’s life that moves too much – We’re losing touch, but I’m not losing you”. It’s great – and Michaelson is also hitting the big time.

There’s more! We have new songs from Empire Of The Sun (‘High And Low’), Charlotte OC (‘Blackout’) and Carly Rae Jepsen (‘Higher’)… it’s all so competitive that even a solid piece of indie rock from Jimmy Eat World (‘Get Right’) has only managed to enter the chart at No 37. But the most auspicious new song of all is the first release from the forthcoming Bon Iver album ’22: A Million’. Justin Vernon has been discussing the album at a press conference in the last 24 hours: the album has a genesis mixed up in drum loops, a trip to the Greek Islands and an uncredited Stevie Nicks sample among many other things. Plus all those weird song titles. We are promised something of a departure from Bon Iver’s previous work, but encouragingly there is a lot that is familiar in the opening single (and lead off track) ‘22 (OVER S∞∞N)‘. Vernon’s haunting vocal is centre stage as ever, of course. Are Bon Iver responsible for possibly the best song of the millenium to date in ‘Holocene’? Answers on a postcard please (or in the comments box).

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