New Music Review - "Hurt Me" by Låpsley, "Sapokanikan" by Joanna Newsom & "Leave a Trace" by Chvrches

1.  "Hurt Me" - Låpsley 

I don't know what's cool and what's not at the moment.  And - to be frank - I don't care.  The benefit of having listened to a lot of music over the years leads to an unshakeable self-assurance in one's own tastes.  And while some songs grip you over time, others scream instant classic within the first ten seconds.  "Hurt Me" by Låpsley is an example of the latter.  The last time I felt so strongly about a song within the first few seconds was back in 2012 when I first heard "Angels" by The XX.  Songs like "Station", "Falling Short" and "Painter (Valentine)" established the 19 year-old as a prodigious talent.  But it is with the addition "Hurt Me" to her repertoire that may herald her breakthrough.  It is the most anthemic of the teenager's career so far and possibly her most radio-friendly.  It is a huge sound.  All the songs add up to an auspicious start.  Greatness beckons, I am quite certain of it.  

2.  "Sapokanikan" by Joanna Newsom 

When Joanna Newsom first came onto the scene with her first official release in 2004, she was placed with the likes of Devendra Banhart and CocoRosie around the so-called "freak-folk" campfire.  But then in 2006 she released "Ys" and in doing so outgrew this classification.  The supposed difficult second album became her masterpiece and the harpist was catapulted from relative obscurity to fully-fledged folk royalty.    Her five-song, fifty-five-minute epic was so unlike anything else out there that her style quickly became impossible to pigeonhole.

Newsom has since resided in a genre occupied only by herself.  Her music therefore is not for everyone.  It's easy to get fatigued by the density and intellectual depth of each song, not to mention her voice, especially in the early days, although many fans prefer her early style. I am a huge fan of Newsom and could praise her oeuvre all day, so to posit that her entire musical output is wonderful would be heavily partisan.  But this is my blog and I'll wax lyrical if I want to: everything she does is just so refreshingly different and pure and filled to the absolute eyeballs with character that even her bad songs are good.  Each one has the ability to transport the listener on a wonderful journey through a world that exists within this singer's mind.  And she's doing it her own unique way and this creative control in itself is reason to celebrate.  

In the early days I would try and justify my passion for Newsom's music to friends and family who tried to dismiss it.  Now I just offer those same people the confidence of a discerning smile and - in very exceptional circumstances - offer them a link to this live performance of "Baby Birch", which builds to such a heartfelt crescendo that it brings Newsom's passion to the fore, while re-establishing YouTube as one of the great privilege of this age.  

"Sapokanikan" ends a five-year wait for new material and even comes with an official  music video, which we have only ever seen from Newsom once before.  It was directed by the great Paul Thomas Anderson (who directed Adam Sandler in "Punch Drunk Love", arguably his greatest serious screen role), in doing so repaying Newsom the favour of narrating his most recent film, "Inherent Vice".  Don't ask me what it's about, but I love it all the same. 


3.  "Leave a Trace" - Chvrches 

Until a few moments ago, I wasn't aware of the controversy surrounding the video for "Leave a Trace", the first single from Chvrches' forthcoming second album.  Lauren Mayberry, Chvrches' lead singer, was unfairly criticised by internet trolls for her appearance in the video when it was released earlier this month.  She is a target for these faceless misogynists because she is extremely talented young woman who doesn't mind standing up for herself.  You only have to watch the talk she did for Google to see how intelligent and articulate she is.  She is a real credit to the music industry and a bastion of gender equality.  Allow the song to speak for itself.  It's a richly-textered, hypnotic and catchy tune and I cannot wait for the new album, Every Eye Open, to be released on 25 September.  I've loved her voice since hearing "The Mother We Share" on Jools Holland, perhaps my favourite song of 2013.   Internet trolls are irrelevant.  Chvrches' music conquers all. 


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