Ólafur Arnalds featuring Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir
For the many readers who are familiar with Icelandic composer Olafor Arnalds from his stunning soundtrack of Broadchurch, the filmic nature of “Particles” will come as no surprise. But there is no happy ending here, in fact you had better take along a family-sized box of tissues, and some good gin just in case. Nanna Bryndís from Of Monsters and Men sings, drowning and siren-like to her love, saying a final “goodnight” from (dramatic pause…) the murky depths of lake death itself.
2. Fear & Force
Vagabon caught our attention with the incredible debut ‘The Embers’ last year, and her follow-up ‘Fear & Force’ is also something special. “I’ve been hiding in the smallest spaces, I am dying to go, this is not my home…”. This is intimate, sometimes challenging songwriting delivered with a raw honesty. Video director Zadie remarked of it “The love it portrays is not interested in your labels; the world it creates is too expansive and realistic for that.” PHOENIX recommends booking now for her October dates in Europe, while US readers can catch her supporting Tegan & Sara.
3. Light Up (Acoustic)
Salute featuring Liv Dawson
Hailing from Vienna and now living in Manchester, salute describes Light Up as ”an ode to being happy” before going on to explain “I’ve become a much more joyful person over the past year and it is starting to manifest in the music I’ve been making. This record took me a long time to complete so I’m glad it’s finally out there!” Bypass the glitzy production of the original and head straight for this acoustic version featuring the sublime vocals of Liv Dawson.
4. Close But Not Quite
Everything Is Recorded featuring Sampha
If Sampha was cast in a remake of The Usual Suspects I suspect he would fit the role played by Benicio del Toro perfectly, with his disarming, half-mumbled style. In ‘Close…‘ he regrets his tongue-tied shyness in romantic situations. But then… Curtis Mayfield is magically summoned from the grave to drop an entire section of the 1970 masterpiece The Makings Of You. Just wow! I think Curtis would approve of Sampha’s romantic sincerity, unlike Audrey Hepburn, who one imagines spinning in her grave like a furious dynamo when digitally reanimated to sell beer and chocolate.
5. Teenage Fantasy
Stunning PHOENIX SS17 cover girl Jorja Smith is back with a stylish black & white concept video set in Paris. Jorja’s inspiration for the song was some words of advice from her parents: “I was told by my mother if I look into the future, do I really see this boy that I think I’ve fallen for?” Check out our in depth interview with Jorja in our gorgeous print edition here.
6. Bad Feeling
Londoner Joy Crookes effortlessly channels Frank-era Amy Winehouse in this infectious summer jam ‘Bad Feeling’. Joy mixes us a storm as she muses on love and trust. While she’s not sure she trusts herself, it sounds like she will be having an enjoyable but complicated time figuring it all out.
7. Breathe Into Me
To whoever is dating Katrína Mogensen, the lead singer of Icelandic rock band Mammut, I think it would be fair to say your “dance card is marked”, you are definitely “on a promise”, we “won’t wait up for you” etc. Katrína is a woman in a mission, and calls to her lover to come and kiss her, cover her breasts, “hide underneath” her, devour her, and… I’ll stop there. This is a mysterious and hypnotic rock jam, and magnificently horny.
This single ticks a lot of my favourite boxes by combining widescreen orchestral drama with compelling electronic production; but the real star here is Rae’s voice. This is the sound of someone shedding the skin of a dead relationship and finding their true power. Rae’s lyrics and vocals embody this transformation and she sings like a phoenix rising from the flames. This integrity is matched to perfection by the hypnotic electronic heartbeat, orchestral sweeps and precise ambition of Ariel Rechtshaid’s faultless production.
9. The Road
American road movies are a timeless and enduring cultural trope of the 20th century, and as such are revisited across many areas of modern culture, regardless of the location. With driverless cars predicted to replace much of what we know to be transport sooner than we think, its reassuring to listen to Soffia Bjorgs classic tale of a girl on the road, going nowhere fast, with iconic tremeloed guitars in steady pursuit.
10. Blue Magic (Waikiki)
The first track to be released from Son Little’s new album is ‘Blue Magic (Waikiki)’, a powerfully reimagined modernist reinterpretation of Philly soul complete with chiming glockenspiel bells and old school female backing vocals. Son has toured with artists as diverse as Leon Bridges, Kelis, Mumford & Sons, and Shakey Graves and received a Grammy Award as producer of Mavis Staples’s ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.’
11. Get Lost
Did you watch Portlandia? It’s one of my favourite shows, gently but mercilessly poking fun at what became hipster culture. Well, the head-nodding theme music was by Washed Out, retuning here with a characteristically eclectic mash up of dreamy indie vocals, space disco, freeform jazz and a large groovy dollop of WTF.
12. Times We Had
SG Lewis featuring Toulouse
SG’s elastic references span soulful R&B, disco, hip-hop, dark techno and deep club bangers, an eclecticism that leads him to blend and cross genre boundaries. ‘Times We Had’ features NYC singer Toulouse and follows his recent collab with rising London rapper Dave for his frantic grime cut ‘100Ms’.
13. Pretty Big House
As you might be aware, PHOENIX loves the Swedes, and this month we welcome the smoking-hot Swedish production duo Jarami to the Playlist. Hej hej! ‘Pretty Big House’ is a fun and funky summer jam, guaranteed to make your head nod. The killer live bassline, jazzy guitar licks, and signature production flourishes add up to one hell of a good time. You can easily hear why Gizzle and Frank Ocean recently collaborated with them. On repeat.
Sticking with the Swedes we are also loving the dream/electropop sound of David Alexander aka Summer Heart. Fans of Washed Out, Blood Orange, and Toro y Moi will like “101”, a hazy, sun-bleached soundtrack to hot July nights “filled with skinny dipping and sleeping in”. That would be in Sweden. Obviously.
Your new favourite Irish hip-hop trio are back! Following the group’s critically acclaimed debut EP Supernormal Hare Squead released ‘Pure’. Check out the brooding, after-hours video which matches the track’s soulful r’n’b vibes, dialling back the lads usual infectious energy and bringing new offerings to the table with their smoothest track to date. You can also catch them at Birthday’s in Dalston, London on July 26th.
16. Unravel Me
Wow, did sultry R&B diva Sabrina Claudio deliver this years ultimate slow jam? “I know you’re trying but you’ll never unravel me” she croons over a low-slung backing track, optimised to be pondered horizontally. Indeed, the video features the stunning songstress in a horizontal state herself, wearing only pastel flowers and butterflies, musing on love, life and lust.
Princess Nokia is the best-known project of New Yorker Destiny Frasqueri, who has been rapping and releasing tracks online since high school, originally under the name of Wavy Spice. Destiny has been busy building a huge fanbase and a phenomenal reputation as a live performer “I show up for them and rip that mic so they leave feeling inspired and happy”. She recently signed with Rough Trade Records, and we are loving the distinctive wordplay for her first release G.O.A.T.
Oisin Lunny has been performing, producing and DJing since the early 90s, first with his band Marxman and then with his solo project Firstborn. Today he is a keynote speaker, composes music for film & TV, DJs globally, and sends out mixtapes to 12,000 friends via his website oisinlunny.com