45s of the week: Arlo Parks, Rina Sawayama, King Princess and more!

The tracks you need to hear this week, reviewed by Kate French-Morris

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Arlo Parks – ‘Caroline’

Like a friend relating an anecdote in the pub, Arlo Parks tells you quietly about the break-up she witnessed one day at a bus-stop. ‘Caroline’, the latest single from her forthcoming album ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’, is a love song from an outsider’s viewpoint, told in Parks’ trademark soft-rock, R&B tones. An urban observer with a poet’s eye for detail, she starts with the ordinary (“I was waiting for the bus one day”) but by the end of the song she’s reached a deep observation about heartbreak (“Shards of glass live in this feeling”) and humanity (“Watched his world dissolve in his hands”). On the single’s cover she notes, “They were both dying in different ways”. If your heart gets torn up in public, the best you can hope for is that a talented singer-songwriter is listening nearby, who’ll transform the grim experience into art. 

Laura Grove – ‘Foolish Game’

London by night teems with dangerous thrills. ‘Foolish Game’ sees Laura Groves face the tempting ruin and yearning obsession of an impossible situation, her rich vocals illuminating the shadowy streets. The track’s smooth eighties arrangement – stretched-out synths and slow drum beats – belongs to the cityscape, and gives Phil Collins, Kate Bush, and Wendy & Lisa a run for their money. Laura Groves’ debut album arrived eleven years ago under the Blue Roses moniker, but ‘Foolish Game’, part of EP ‘A Private Road’ which lands next week, proves the merits of taking your time: right from the start it’s confident, sophisticated, and darkly sexy.

King Princess – ‘PAIN’

The tugging contradictions of desire – “I’d just hate for somebody to need me / I need you now” – guide ‘PAIN’, which recovers from a slightly irritating start to develop into pop excellence as usual from King Princess. Apparently her favourite song she’s ever written (but not in the same league as ‘1950’ or ‘Pussy Is God’), ‘PAIN’ is part of the highly anticipated follow-up to her debut ‘Cheap Queen’. The Ronson production almost dominates the song, but it’s saved by a George Michael ‘Freedom! ’90’ touch to the keys. “Like to be trapped in the feeling,” she sings, and if she means the feeling of dancefloor lust – who doesn’t?

Rina Sawayama – ‘LUCID’

If you’re hungry for more ‘Chromatica’, this one’s for you. Gaga’s executive producer BloodPop teamed up with Rina for ‘LUCID’, which will appear on an upcoming deluxe version of her debut album ‘SAWAYAMA’. It doesn’t live up to Rina’s ambitious streak – there’s not really a chorus to speak of, and the long, gull-like drop might lose some listeners – but it’s just the right dose of mindless fun to propel us into the new year. Speaking of… 

Phoebe Bridgers – ‘If We Make It Through December’

Too soon for Christmas tunes? Nope, Phoebe’s called it. With all proceeds going to the LA Downtown Women’s Center, her timely cover of the late great Merle Haggard fits this year almost uncomfortably well. No other holiday song is needed in 2020, except maybe Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’: unlike the perennial numbers, Bridgers’ reverent, heart-rending cover doesn’t jar. “I don’t mean to hate December,” she sings, echoing us all, “it’s meant to be the happy time of year.” 

Not that the new year is a finger-click back to normality (whatever that was), but if we make it through December, maybe, just maybe, we’ll reach a pandemic-free, Trump-free world. Don’t forget, though, that this song’s emotional power is contained entirely in its first word: “if”. 

Follow our Brand New playlist for more new tracks.

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