BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Nikitch & Kuna Maze’s Sultry New Single ‘ZBRA’

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Mostly marginalized in the States, in Europe, jazz still retains a particularly high level of cache amongst the cultural cognoscenti. So, no surprise, Nicolas Morant and Brussels based producer Edouard Gilbert first met as young messieurs at Chambéry Conservatory in Southeastern France, and the influence remains essential to their music.

Now partnered under the intriguing moniker Nikitch & Kuna Maze, they will release a new EP, Mush, this Friday, March 22, via UK label Tru Thoughts. And BlackBook premieres the first single “ZBRA” here, a smooth, groovalicious four-and-a-half minutes of immersive chill. Replete with sexy nonchalance and cool insouciance, it takes us back to those early post-Millennium days of sipping martinis to the sounds of Thievery Corporation and Groove Armada.

“There’s a new wave of musicians and producers heavily influenced by the melting point of jazz and UK club culture,” explains Morant. “We were listening to a lot of people like J.Armon Jones, Neue Graphik and Nubya Garcia.”

Tru Thoughts itself is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and Gilbert enthuses that they are “excited to be a part of this historic label.”

 

Watch: The Good, The Bad & The Queen’s Striking New Video For ‘The Truce of Twilight’

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If it’s possible for a band to be headed by two more monumentally groovy chaps, it’s certainly managed to elude us. So, yes, The Good, The Bad & The Queen remain the very epitome of musical coolness, led as they are by that unfailing genius Damon Albarn, and punk’s suavest four-stringer Paul Simonon. (Verve guitarist Simon Tong and drummer Tony Allen are also none-too-shabby.)

The Simonon-directed, strikingly shot new video for the ideologically incisive single “The Truce of Twilight” finds them captured in stark black and white, seeming from their facial expressions somewhere between exasperation and detachment. And no wonder – Damon’s lyrics ostensibly speak to the complete collapse of modern society and culture, led by new age gobbledygook and environmental decay.

 

“Enjoy it while it lasts because soon it will be different
Pernicious playgrounds and new age cultism
Outbreaks of optimism in care homes of England
The famous goodwill dumped in your fly tips so
Go fill your pockets now
With tomorrow’s landfill”

 

The track is taken from their stunningly poignant 2018 long player Merrie Land, which the Sunday Times called, “a masterpiece, album of the year.” (We unconditionally agree.)

But you’ll have to hop the Pond to catch them live, as they launch a short UK tour in Liverpool March 30, before heading to Europe for spring/summer festival dates in Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Moscow, and nearly everywhere between.

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Haunting New ‘Golden Harvest’ Video From Helsinki’s Lone Deer Laredo

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We’ve spent enough time in Finland to know that there is a singular sort of melancholy that pervades the air there – especially during winter. And our newest favorite Finnish band Lone Deer Laredo are a revelation, in that they somehow manage to sound soulfully Scandinavian, and yet hauntingly Lynchian at once.

The dreamy duo is comprised of New Silver Girl’s Olli Happonen, and ethereal vocalist Paolo Suhonen, founder of fashion house Ivana Helsinki. And BlackBook premiere’s here the intriguingly enigmatic video for their wistfully beautiful new single ‘Golden Harvest’ – which was actually filmed in the American Pacific Northwest, with all of the clothing supplied by her label.

 

 

“We shot this video on 16mm with this serious looking young Finnish girl in Redwoods, Oregon,” explains Suhonen. “There is a ghost girl in the story who cannot be reached by the storyteller due to Golden Harvest. It is also a song about the dreams that can only be incarnated on the silver screen.”

She reveals of the choice of location, “Redwoods has always been a magical place for me. It reminds me very much about ancient, endless forests that Finland is covered with – but with an Americana twist. It’s like our music, Americana mixed with Slavic and Nordic flavors.”

Lone Deer Laredo’s debut album Laredo (Vol. 1) is released today – and to celebrate, they will be doing a trio of shows this week at SXSW – including tonight’s special Finnish House Party.

 

BlackBook Interview: Greyson Chance on Fame, Joni Mitchell & His Cherished Friendship w/ Lady Gaga

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If ever a star was “born,” it was on the fateful day of April 28, 2010, when a 12-year-old kid from Oklahoma belted out a shiver-inducing cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” (for a school talent show) and left a room full of onlookers gasping in awe. When the video of the performance was uploaded to YouTube, it became an instant sensation – and soon record biz honchos (including Guy Oseary) were beating a path to the door of a very young Greyson Chance.

The past nine years have brought a lot of highs (lasting friendships with superfans Ellen DeGeneres and Gaga herself), as well as some lows, with two album releases and the requisite touring leaving him with an impressively devoted fanbase. It also made him the artist he is now, the one who has finally made the record he’s always intended to make. Indeed, portraits will be released by AWAL this Friday, March 15, and it’s the work of a songwriter who has genuinely found his voice, by learning from some of the very best – from Amy Winehouse to Joni Mitchell, Sylvan Esso to Brandi Carlile…and even, lyrically, a little Hermann Hesse.

Of course, growing up in public generally comes with its share of pitfalls – and he admits he’s learned some tough lessons about the music biz along the way. But he’s come out exhibiting a remarkable sense of self-possession, as well as a resolute sense of purpose.

As he preps for a run of March/April live dates, starting with The Roxy in West Hollywood on the 16th, we slowed him down long enough for a chat about where he’s been, and where he is now determined to go.

 

 

Were you initially shocked by how quickly your cover of “Paparazzi” went viral?

Absolutely, in every sense. It is funny, many people think I had a pre-conceived intention of posting that video in hopes of becoming famous, but that honestly was just not the case. I remember wanting to put it online so that my friends could see it, and that was my sole objective. It changed the trajectory of my life in every single way.

Were you a big fan of Lady Gaga?

Yes, I was a massive fan, that is why I chose “Paparazzi.” There was something so mesmerizing about the way she performed it, and I have distinct memories of losing my mind at the VMA performance – the one with the blood bag and the wheelchair. I think that was my main inspiration for why I wanted to play it. You watch her and instantly know that she is a rock star.

Gaga actually called you – what was that like?

That was amazing, but I’ve been more blessed for my friendship with her since starting out in music. We were signed to the same management and label, so Gaga made herself very accessible to me during the beginning when it was really chaotic. I think she understood and sympathized with how quickly my life was changing. We’ve shared some really intimate moments together; I’ve learned a lot from her wisdom and her guidance.

What did you learn during that time? What were your big takeaways?

My biggest takeaway from starting out in the industry at a young age was a quick understanding of how cruel it can be. The music industry is not a place for the weak-hearted or the thin-skinned; that was a lesson I learned early. Nevertheless, I believe that I also understood the blessing of it all from the beginning, which is something I owe to my parents. Regardless of how a record was or was not performing, how tickets were selling, etc., I got to travel the world at a very young age and see people from all different cultures and backgrounds singing along to my songs. What an amazing experience. That sort of thing still inspires me and keeps me going. The industry side of music is difficult, sure; but there is so much beauty in the creation and performance of music, it’s worth it.

Your new single “shut up” has a very soulful vibe. What have you been influenced by lately?

For the album, I was incredibly inspired by Sylvan Esso, Bon Iver, and Brandi Carlile. I studied all of their work, both from a production and lyrical standpoint; it really got me into the headspace of wanting to make an album that was captivating and vulnerable. At the moment, I’ve been reading a lot of fiction, mainly Hermann Hesse and Max Frisch. I’ve noticed their writings have influenced a current turn in my lyrics.

 

 

 

The lyrics make a reference to Alex Turner – are you an Arctic Monkeys fan?

A big one. I find Alex so alluring and mystifying.

Your new album portraits is out this month. What can we expect, musically and lyrically?

I think people who have been familiar with my work in the past will be surprised by the album just because it feels much older. I also view this record as my debut, as I think it’s the first time I am presenting myself in a truly honest way, considering I wrote it fully; I didn’t cut any corners this time. portraits can be best defined as a journal [of] my life last year. I wrote it all from experience, which included my decision to pursue music again full time, a difficult breakup, and an evolution within my own life as an individual. I don’t know what to tell people to expect “musically” when they put on the album; I don’t really believe in genres anymore. Long story short, I made an album that I felt happy listening to; I hope people feel the same.

Do you feel like your songwriting has matured?

Absolutely it has. The songwriters that I most admire are the ones who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable in their work: Joni Mitchell and Amy Winehouse come to mind. What people on the outside do not realize, however, is that such expression of vulnerability through art isn’t a choice, but rather, it is the only way creatives know how to move through life. I studied a lot of Joni’s work this past year, and I began to see this and understand it. She portrays her journey in her lyrics in the same way she does in her paintings. It’s not a conscience choice, she just does it; it’s just what she knows. So, to answer your question, has my songwriting matured? Yes, but only because I have matured as a person.

You’ve got several live dates in March and April – will you be doing any of the spring and summer festivals?

I will be performing some festivals this summer. I am booked for a few Pride shows, and I am the most excited about those.

What will the live shows be like?

I do not want to reveal too much, but in the same way that I have been honest in my writing, I will be honest in my performance. Music moves me, and I want to show that. My biggest goal for myself has been to just have more fun with it all.

What do you still hope to achieve with your music?

Since music is so integrated into my life, I think my musical goals perfectly align with my overall goals for myself. I just want to be happy.

 

 

BlackBook Interview: Brit Pop-Soulstress Jess Glynne Opens Up

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Raw. Soulful. Organic. They’re words that the British pop sensation Jess Glynne used to describe a fellow star – but they are also easily applied to her. With her mop of fantastic, ginger hair, her sparkling blue eyes, an earthen purity of emotion to her voice and a purpose that transcends the ordinary, much less expected, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the 29-year-old North Londoner has managed to clinch more number-one hits than any female artist in the UK…ever. (That would be seven.) She’s also, remarkably, the only female to achieve a number-one album in her home country.

As far as rises to fame go, there are ones that are meteoric…and then there is Glynne’s – which could be said to be from another universe entirely. Her debut album, 2015’s I Cry When I Laugh, not only topped the charts and went triple platinum, but “Rather Be” also won her a Grammy for Best Dance Recording of the Year. Her collaborators have spanned from Rudimental and Ed Sheeran to Tinie Tempah and Macklemore, but Glynne in the middle always rings true.

She’s a girl, like any other, trying to find her way through life, romance, friendship and confusion. Never a victim and always a step ahead of herself, she strives to come out empowered. Her lyrics are both supportive and moving, and she never shies from sharing her vulnerabilities with what has become nearly the entire world. She certainly thrives where the average angel often fears to tread.

 

 

To her, it’s never been easy being a woman, much less in music; but it’s through the difficulties and often wild emotions that this shimmering diamond was cut.

In her own words: “I think I speak very openly and honestly and I’m not afraid to try anything.”

Glynne has just released her sophomore album, Always in Between, and is not only slaying the charts once more, but is also revving up to embark on a pair of very high-profile 2019 tours. The first will bring her stateside, sharing a stage with Leon Bridges; the second will see her on the bill with the one and only Spice Girls. It’s hard to say how to top the British pops more than she has, but give her time – there is certainly much more story still to tell.

We caught up with her as she prepped for that tour of America next month, to chat about insecurities, riding on horses with girls, and what we all have to learn about life through music.

 

You shell out number-one hits the way one may pistachios. Are you sometimes surprised by how it’s turning out?  

I don’t think surprised is the word. I feel like I’ve worked hard for a long time and that’s why people succeed. If you put the work in, at some point you’ll find success. I’m very grateful for it and I’m very blessed that it’s worked out the way it has.

Would the nine-year-old Jess have ever guessed she’d one day go on tour with the Spice Girls?

If you had told her that she would be standing onstage with the Spice Girls, she would have laughed in your face and said, “good one!” But if you told me it was true, I would have been running around the house screaming and telling all my friends!

How does the Jess Glynne of today feel on stage, compared to the one from 2015?

I know myself a lot better and trust myself more. I’ve grown. I’m a stronger performer. I’ve learned how to be onstage and really love it.

 


 

As a woman in music, how has the process been for you as you rose to success?

It’s not been easy at all. There are so many turns and so many put downs along the way. It’s genuinely harder as a female to connect and get people to believe in you. But you know what? I’ve enjoyed every minute of it because it’s been so amazing. It’s just given me determination and made me work harder. Every inch of success I’ve gotten along the way seems even better just knowing that nobody can stop me from doing what [I’ve done].

Many of your songs are a breath of honest, fresh air, with messages of self-empowerment. And everything from your body image to sexuality gets bravely explored in your music. Is it a genuine reflection of who you really are?

You’re absolutely right. The writing and creating process are about self-reflection for me. I reflect upon what I’ve been through – the highs and lows and what is in the current moment. It’s also to teach myself a lesson and remind myself of the things I forget constantly.

Do you hope that your listeners will perhaps take a cue and be more open in their self-discovery too? 

Yes, once I create those songs, it’s a really nice feeling to know that I can release [them] into the world and potentially help people. I always hope that when people do listen to my music that they listen to it from their own point of view. I want people to relate to the lyrics and let that make sense of their own lives. That’s what I do, I listen to artists who inspire me, and I listen to what they have to say and relate that back to myself. And that’s what’s so amazing about music – you can’t buy those feelings and you can’t buy those moments.

Your lyrics point back to insecurities…not wanting to have them, not wanting to admit that you do. Where are you today in relation to some of the feelings that were exposed on your last album?

Everyone has insecurities, it’s a part of life and growth. At the moment I feel like I’m in an okay place. I’ve had a lot of lows, but my insecurities have to be my friends at times. You have to learn to live with them, look at them as positively as you can, and learn to deal with them rather than push them under the carpet. That’s what the song “Thursday” represents.

 

 

What inspirations and experiences have gone into Always in Between? And what does that phrase mean to you?

It’s a story of emotions and a journey of everything I’ve been through over the past few years. My life has been in between for that long, through relationships, through work, through traveling, my friends, my family. Everything has been so in between in my life that I began to look at it in a negative way. I felt like I could never really find a balance. But I eventually came to realize that it’s not always about being one way, or being balanced. This is just where I am. I have my personal life and my friends and family and the people who really know me from that little girl growing up; and I have the people who know me through my music and my fame. And that essentially is my life, I had to come to a point where I accepted that.

Who are the girls you are riding horses with in the “I’ll Be There” video? Why are you riding with them?

The [Excaramuza] Charras girls. It’s a sport in Mexico. They all ride and do crazy things on horses. The reason I chose them for the video is that riding is a really empowering sport. I horse rode from a really young age, it was my lifetime hobby. It can come across as something quite masculine, but it can be truly empowering to see females on horses in control.

You’re touring with Leon Bridges, who BlackBook interviewed recently. How do you feel that your music intersects with his? What do you admire most about him? 

I love that he’s a raw, organic artist and that he has such soulful roots. He’s a really cool guy and a great performer, very inspired by culture and fashion – he does what he knows best works for him. He doesn’t follow trends, and I find that really inspiring. I’m very excited to go on tour with him!

 

 

 

 

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: New Mini Mansions Video For ‘GummyBear’ is Super Disco Fabulous

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Image by Brian Tamborello and Lo Nguyen

 

Mini Mansions, the Beatlesque ‘super-group’ comprised of members of Last Shadow Puppets (itself a supergroup fronted by Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner), and Queens of the Stone Age, are celebrating a decade of existence this year.

To properly fete the anniversary, an eagerly awaited new album is coming in July – and in the meantime, BlackBook premieres here the video for the deliciously titled new single “GummyBear.”

Decidedly less dark, and less rock, respectively, than either of their direct ancestors, Mini Mansions rely more on lavish keyboards and electronics than guitars, and the drums and bass bring way more funk than might be expected from their respective histories. Indeed, “Gummy Bear” is a groovily perky track that documents a stage in singer/guitarist Michael Shuman’s recent ill-fated whirlwind relationship – and if the music makes you want to get up and dance, the neon lights, glitterball, and ’70s vibe of the Liam Lynch (Foo Fighters, Tenacious D) directed video only serves to further emphasize the song’s dancey DNA.

 

 

Shuman elaborates, “We made a video for new single ‘GummyBear’ with our friend and comedic legend, Liam Lynch. Inspired by Saturday Night Fever and the classic videos of the early 2000s, we created some serious visual eye candy for a song that sonically tastes the same. Pun intended.”

“I kept coming back to this Bee Gees feeling, but it was more like a realm in between,” adds Lynch. “This got me thinking about the gateway door on the album cover, and maybe that was a doorway to that realm. So this video is a collage and mish-mash of elements, but they sort of come together in their bar/disco/neon and city lights to support the vibe.”

A perfectly bright and shiny bauble for the, hopefully, the last days of winter, “GummyBear” has us thinking warm thoughts, and very much anticipating the new MM album, which is rumored to include duets with The Kills’ swoon-inducing Allison Mosshart, as well as Z Berg.

 

Watch: Freaky New Pram Video for ‘Doll’s Eyes’ Brings the Retro Psychological Terror

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For twenty years (until 2008), British art rockers Pram were the very epitome of freaky experimentation, surely even baffling their record labels on more than a few occasions. They returned in 2016, perhaps sensing that music had gotten far too normal without them.

Once again signed to Domino, their eighth album Across the Meridian saw release last summer, with Q magazine observing, “these songs [have] a bloodless, etiolated quality that’s as sinister as it is pretty.” And sinister is surely the only way to describe the new Scott Johnston directed video for the opulent, retro-’60s album cut “Doll’s Eyes.” It would be nigh impossible to fully explain, but it involves scratched out eyeballs, a mad female scientist, and, well, feline sleep control experiments – all shot in a purposefully grainy fashion.

“Pram’s music often conjures a world for me that lies disconcertingly between adult nostalgia and childhood terrors,” Johnston explains of his inspiration for the video. “The concept became, what if I were making this video when I was a 12-year old home movie monster kid, using Super8mm, crude props and family pets, all mashed up with a teen’s heightened view of love and obsession?”

And now we have the answer.

 

BlackBook Interview: As a New Season of ‘Riverdale’ is Prepping, a Chat w/ Series Fave Mädchen Amick

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Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper in ‘Riverdale’

 

Unlike most teen soaps, the parents of Riverdale go through just about as much drama as their teenage counterparts. Consisting mostly of young heartthrobs of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the grownup portion of the cast (including Luke Perry, Skeet Ulrich, and Molly Ringwald) has portrayed the likes of brothel madams, drug kingpins, gang members, and serial killers.

But perhaps the most complex of these is Alice Cooper, brought to life by the indomitable talent that is Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks, American Horror Story, Witches of East End). The type-A mother to Betty (Lili Reinhart), Alice has been the subject of a once-hot affair with FP Jones (Ulrich), an impostor claiming to be her abandoned son, a tumultuous marriage to a masked serial killer, and now the protégé of a charming cult leader. Why should teenagers get to have all the fun?

“Roberto [Aguirre-Sacasa, creator of Riverdale] and I talked about the concept that Alice was a lot like Annette Bening’s character in American Beauty, where she’s trying so hard to be perfect, and she’s super uptight,” she tells BlackBook. “But she’s a complete mess underneath it all. The higher we build her up and the more you hate her, the farther she can fall, and hopefully the more you can feel for her about what her life circumstances are.”

 

Mädchen Amick as Alice Cooper in ‘Riverdale’

 

As Season 3 was in full swing, and Season 4 has just been announced, we caught up with Amick at the Chateau Marmont, the historic Hollywood hotel/hangout, and a particular fave of hers.

“This used to be my home away from home when I wasn’t living in LA,” she recalls. “But this was before the big renovation when it became fancy again. It was super cheap and kind of rundown, but really cool.”

Admittedly, she’s still possibly most known for playing Shelly Johnson in the original Twin Peaks. One of her first roles, she admits she perhaps didn’t fully comprehend the opportunity to work with David Lynch so early in her career – but now understands how lucky she was to have the chance.

“I can look back on it now it’s more than rare – it’s one of a kind,” she said of working with iconoclastic director. “Then, I had another layer, going back to it 25 years later, after all the experiences I’d had since then, being able to appreciate how special of a set David creates, how collaborative he is with everyone.”

Amick indeed reunited with Lynch in 2017 for the show’s long-awaited return. It featured the original cast, including Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee, as well as new faces to the series, such as Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, and Amanda Seyfried – who played Shelly’s troubled daughter.

Although originally reluctant about the idea of a Twin Peaks reboot, Amick did not hesitate to work with Lynch once again. The chance to return to the set proved to be an emotional trip as well.

“It definitely felt familiar for me because I was back in the diner in my waitress uniform,” she explains. “I was an emotional wreck the entire time. When I went to wardrobe for my fitting, I looked down and saw the initials they put into my uniform originally were still there. I was just bawling.”

 

Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson in ‘Twin Peaks’

 

Amick has discovered an intersection of her following that loved Twin Peaks and has also become fans of Riverdale, as well as vice versa for younger fans just discovering Lynch’s opus. Given the similarly dark stylized aesthetic of the CW series, the overlap isn’t all that surprising. Even the creators of Riverdale acknowledge the homage.

“It’s funny, I didn’t see or know the comparison at all until we filmed it and the critics started talking about it. And that’s when Roberto and [Executive Producer] Sarah Schechter admitted they were huge Twin Peaks fans, and they were paying homage. They didn’t tell me the entire time we were shooting the pilot.”

Three seasons in, Alice has evolved more than most characters on the show. Since finding out the truth about a son she once abandoned and the shocking discovery that her husband is a serial killer, her character has coped by joining what seems to be a cult. As the season continues to unfold and the cult’s charming leader (portrayed by Chad Michael Murray) is introduced, we’re still hooked on Amick’s masterful performance of such a complex character.

“The first season was fun to play as just an overbearing mother,” she smirks, “screaming at people, hitting people. And in the second season, we see all of her baggage behind the perfect red door and the skeletons in her closet from her past – and what emotional wreck she was, how heartfelt and passionate she was about her family and her children. It’s a nice journey to play.”

Amick’s personal experience with motherhood has been a completely separate journey. She and her husband chose to raise their now adult children away from the glare of Hollywood. Since then, their family has returned to LA, and she’s begun to include them in her career.

 

 

Still challenging herself, she made her directorial debut in 2016 with her daughter Mina Tobias’ music video for “Kings & Queens.” Most recently, they collaborated for the Destiny’s Child inspired video for “Another One (featuring Gabi DeMartino and Kai Lucas).”

She’s also producing a docuseries about mental health in America. An extremely personal project, it was inspired by her son Sylvester’s diagnosis with bipolar disorder, and the family’s struggle to find resources.

“I’ve been a reluctant celebrity my entire career,” she admits. “I never really wanted to be famous, and I always felt a little weird – though I knew it came with the job. But when we went through what we went through as a family, and knowing how hard it was to get our son help, I just immediately wanted to reach out to everyone else going through this to help them navigate. There’s no path, there’s no communication, it doesn’t even feel like there are resources. It just gave me a meaning behind my celebrity.”

 

Mädchen Amick at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood (Photo by Glenn Garner)

BLACKBOOK PREMIERE: Captivatingly Stripped Down Video for The Bliss’ Debut Single ‘Got The Love’

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We’re not exactly sure, but we think it might be saying something that Felix Snow left behind his bourgeoning music project Terror Jr., to eventually wind up as part of the duo going by the telling nom de guerre The Bliss. A duo whose other half happens to be Chelsea Davenport (you may know her as TYSM), they’ve just dropped their debut single on the universe, and it’s some pretty sexy, slinky stuff, if we might say.

Indeed, “Got The Love” is all ’80s R&B vibes with a sly, old-school funk groove – think Janet Jackson, Tom Tom Club – and Davenport’s sensual, ethereal vocals, expounding on the eternal confusion of new romantic feelings.

“The song poured out of me in like ten minutes after hearing what Felix did,” she enthuses. “I was trying to write about how even though you care about someone in the beginning stages of a relationship, you might still hold on to things that hurt you in the past. To me, the song is about letting go of all your past loves and allowing a new thing to happen.”

And for the purposes of getting a little more cozy with the buzzy new duo, they’ve released this stunningly visceral, stripped down version of the track, along with an accompanying video – which BlackBook premieres here.

“Just you and me / We got it all, we got the love,” croons Davenport. And really, what more could you possibly want?