This Week In Records (03/11/17): Sam Smith, Gorillaz, & N.E.R.D

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Another week, another #TWIR, and this time we have a host of familiar faces to carry you through the day and beyond with their fantastic new music. Sam Smith, Maroon 5, and Gorillaz have all found it fitting to grace us with a couple exciting releases, and Pharrell has even teamed back up with his old band N.E.R.D (as well as Rihanna) to deliver an unexpectedly boppy yet minimalist comeback track. Oh, and there’s some more Taylor Swift embracing her new “bad girl” persona, which is just lovely. Anyway, it’s all good, and all worth your attention, so take just a few minutes out of your day and sit down so we can explore this week in records.

Sam Smith – The Thrill Of It All

This one hardly needs an introduction, with Sam Smith dropping just the one chart-topping single in the form of ‘Too Good At Goodbyes‘ back in September to announce its imminent arrival, building huge anticipation for what was to come from the ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ and ‘Money On My Mind’ singer. Fortunately, this record lives up to that expectation – as far as second albums go, you can’t go much worse than The Thrill Of It All. Deep, intimate and touching, Smith’s follow-up to his stunning 2014 record In the Lonely Hour is everything that album was, and then some. Smith’s alluring vocals are as powerful as ever throughout, and he has another couple of absolute hits in the form of ‘Burning’, a piano-led ballad charting the singer’s early success, and ‘Pray’, a little bit of gospel hidden among the heartbreak and hopefulness featuring a stunning handclapped groove thanks to the production of Timbaland. Need I say more to get you listening to this one? Didn’t think so.

Maroon 5 – Red Pill Blues

This one’s been a long time coming, with lead single ‘Don’t Wanna Know’ featuring Kendrick Lamar released all the way back in December. Of course, we didn’t know at the time that the boppy, upbeat track would make it onto the album – or that there even was an album in the works – but we’ve still been waiting just over three years since the L.A. pop-rock band last graced us with a record in V. In that time Maroon 5 have been working on and refining their sound, with the result being that Red Pill Blues has them sounding probably the most polished they’ve ever been. There are a whole host of influences here – from slick Melbourne bounce (‘What Lovers Do’, ‘Don’t Wanna Know’) to enticing 80s synth-pop (‘Who Am I’) and even a bit of poppy R&B (‘Cold’). In any case, it’s recognisably Maroon 5, and that means it’ll have you on your feet and dancing long into the night, which right now is something I think we need more of.

Gorillaz ft. Little Simz – ‘Garage Palace’

I’d heard rumblings about this track since it was played at the Demon Dayz festival back in June, but it took until Monday for it to finally debut on Beats 1. It’s one of 14 tracks that didn’t quite make the cut for Humanz but are now being released on vinyl as part of a “Super Deluxe” box set, and you can certainly tell that it’s cut from the same cloth as ‘Ascension’ or ‘Saturnz Barz’ with its darkly seductive synth spiraling away under Little Simz’s frantic vocals – so it’s just a shame that to hear the other 13 tracks you’ll need to fork out an eye-watering £274.99 for that super deluxe box set. Regardless, this one’s out, and it’s good, so listen.

N.E.R.D ft. Rihanna – ‘Lemon’

This is certainly an interesting one. We’d heard rumours that Pharell was going to drop some new music this year before, but we didn’t expect it to sound like this, and we certainly didn’t expect Rihanna to be rapping so ferociously in his return. The production behind ‘Lemon’ is brutally minimalistic, but that works in its favour – Pharell and Rihanna are given plenty of space to spar with some truly stinging lyrics (“I pull up with a lemon / Not ’cause she ain’t livin’ / It’s just your eyes get acidic”) whilst the elctro-hip-hop beat keeps you hooked from start to finish. It may not be quite what we expected, but damn is it good.

RAYE ft. Mr Eazi – ‘Decline’

Fresh off her appearance at quite possibly the best 9am ever, BBC Sound of 2017 nominee RAYE is back with another effortlessly danceable single ‘Decline’ featuring Mr Eazi. It’s not doing anything new musically but that really doesn’t matter as it definitely hits that spot better than most, being a perfect song for just letting go and going out both in lyrics (“But I know I’m gonna be fine / And I gave you my all / So now you call, I decline”) and through its deliciously upbeat drum rolls and synth snaps. Certainly one to look out for at parties and pre-drinks as we head towards New Year’s.

Shawn Mendes – MTV Unplugged

After our favourite Canadian pop singer-songwriter headlined the first MTV Unplugged since its rebooting on the flagship network, he’s now offering up a recording of his 8th September live acoustic performance. It’s full of hits, including ‘Stitches’, ‘There’s Nothin’ Holding Me Back’ and ‘Don’t Be A Fool’, so if you’re keen for a different look at some of your favourite tunes from Shawn Mendes then it’s definitely worth checking this one out.

Taylor Swift – ‘Call It What You Want’

Although ‘Gorgeous’ gave us a bit of a taste of the old Tay-Tay, in her fourth single from the upcoming Reputation she’s back to showing off how dark she’s become in the style of ‘Look What You Made Me Do‘ and ‘…Ready For It?‘. That said, it is also the most chilled tune we’ve heard from her upcoming album – if you can ignore the biting lyrics (“All the drama queens taking swings / All the jokers dressing up as kings”) – with Swift having only a rolling snare and some floaty synth for company. It’s strangely addictive, and probably my favourite track yet from the pop queen’s upcoming sixth album.

Sia – ‘Santa’s Coming For Us’

Because Sia is bae and Halloween’s over now so it’s officially Christmas (go on, you can’t say you aren’t at least a little excited!).

Selected Other Releases

Albums

Chris Brown – Heartbreak On A Full Moon
Emeli Sande – Kingdom Coming EP
Goldie Lookin’ Chain – Fear Of A Welsh Planet
Guy Sebastian – Concious
Jack Savoretti – Songs From Different Times
Kygo – Kids In Love
Skepta – Vicious EP
Ministry Of Sound – The Annual 2018

Singles

Carrollton – ‘Made For This’
CLiQ ft. Alika – ‘Wavey’
David Guetta & Afrojack ft. Charli XCX & French Montana – ‘Dirty Sexy Money’
Ella Mai – ‘Naked’
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – ‘Spray Paint Love’
Fredo – ‘Change’
Freya Ridings – ‘Lost Without You’
Marsicans – ‘Throw Ourselves In’
Miguel – ‘Told You So’
Migos ft. Nicki Minaj & Cardi B – ‘MotorSport’
Nick Talos ft. BullySongs – ‘Glass House’
Robbie Williams – ‘Run It Wild’
Saint Raymond – ‘We Are Fire’
Tokio Myers – ‘Angel’
Tom Misch – ‘Movie’
U2 – ‘Get Out Of Your Own Way’
Vance Joy – ‘Like Gold’
Wiley ft. JME – ‘I Call The Shots’
5 After Midnight – ‘Talk’

This Week In Records: Playlist Edition

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I play/watch/listen to things, then write about playing/watching/listening to things. Special powers include downing two litres of tea at a time and binging a 13-episode Netflix series in only 12 hours. Deputy Records Editor 2017/18, or something like that.

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