It's been a long month, hasn't it? And we're just past the midway hump. Hang in there – it will be bank holiday weekend soon and you'll be sipping rum punch and losing your friends at Notting Hill Carnival before you know it. Until then, we've once more collated the very best new music the week has brought us, from the awaited return from both indie-disco legends Friendly Fires and Manchester's understated alt-pop icon Shura to new cuts from the likes of Jorja Smith, RAY BLK, Michael Kiwanuka and, yes, Taylor Swift.
Find the playlist below, along with some words on the particular standouts.
Shura – forevher
"Are we gonna kiss? (Excited) / I promised you my lips (in writing)", sings Manchester's Shura (Aleksandra Denton) on 'the stage', from her dazzling new record forevher. The steady rhythm of the pianos belies the tension and nerves that we feel with Denton in the approach to this moment of intimacy.
Given the sense of disassociation that characterised her debut Nothing's Real ("I see my heard beat inside a television screen", she sang on the title-track, "My body's not connecting, no"), it feels significant to be so aware of Shura's senses, and in turn our own. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, forevher is informed by falling in love, a transatlantic love no less, and the sentiment seems to have seeped deeper into the production, which maintains the crisp synth-pop of Nothing's Real but with far more textural character and reach. It might be on the late side, but it's a summer record to be reckoned with. JB
Leila Samir – No Music
The latest release from More Time records sees the independent label continue their trend for showcasing the best in percussion heavy, dancefloor focused club music from around the globe; Saudi Arabian DJ and producer Leila Samir adding her name to the label’s roster alongside the likes of Ghanaian MC Bryte, Trinidadian producer Blasé Vanguard, UK-Congolese rap collective Bala Bala Boyz, and British-Pakistani label co-founder Ahadadream.
No Music takes its title from a message that was continually reinforced to Samir during her upbringing in a religious Saudi family, with little exposure to Western music. Fittingly, the four track EP expertly fuses traditional Saudi Arabian music – including a wedding song on opening track ‘Bridal’ – with sounds from the worlds of modern techno and club music, with the result a hugely original, imaginative and atmospheric melding of these cultures. JK
Taylor Swift – 'Lover'
By no means a committed Swiftie, it’s been interesting watching the American superstar try to recover from her first brush with a negative response. After spending the majority of her career as a prodigal child, her 2017 album reputation was generally accepted as a misstep, so I was intrigued to see how she’d try to correct course.
Now on her fourth single from her upcoming album, we’re able to pick up on the general direction Swift is heading in. The main thing that jumps out to me is she’s decided to take a more timeless approach to songwriting. “Lover” has a stripped back, natural feel to it that pulls from 70s roots balladry. It’s a step in the right direction as the track sounds like she’s forgoing any preoccupation with getting to the top of the charts in favour of something a bit deeper. And that’s a great thing. What comes through is more of a focus on songwriting, less on a particular soundscape, which was one of the biggest complaints for her reputation era music.
Every artist needs to figure out how to carve out a space for themselves going forward, especially when they’ve been as overexposed as Taylor Swift has been for what seems like forever. It seems like she might finally be making the transition from teenybopper stardom to legit songwriting force.
I for one am all for Taylor Swift as a songwriting elder statesman, leaving the charts race to the kids and just concentrating on the music. At least I certainly hope that’s the case as she is a force to be reckoned with when she lets loose and cuts out all the noise that comes with being ultra famous. But we’ll have to wait till the album drops next week to get the full picture. AW