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Nelly's Gone Indie

The latest LP by the Canadian songstress sees her offering up a newfangled persona with the help of Grammy-winning producer John Congleton.

Nelly Furtado/ The Ride

The shape-shifting evolution of Canadian chanteuse Nelly Furtado has been an intriguing thing to behold. Her 2000 debut album Whoa, Nelly! introduced her to the world as a free-spirited folk songstress who sang about having the freedom of a nestless bird ("I'm like a bird, I only fly away/ I don't know where my soul is/ I don't know where my home is"). That endearingly unassuming single proved to be something of a pop dark horse that went on to win her the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2002, beating industry veterans such as Faith Hill, Janet Jackson, Sade and Lucinda Williams.

Seemingly seduced by the lure of the glossy pop world, Furtado began to inch away from the folk-pop sensibility of her debut and gravitate towards the urban R&B route. Bridged by her passable second studio album Folklore, the transition was complete by the time her third LP, Timbaland-produced Loose, dropped in 2006. Instead of going on about bird-like freedom, she took on a role of a sassy vixen, singing songs with worldly titles like Promiscuous and Maneater. A pop star was well and truly born.

After the massive global success of Loose, a perfunctory Spanish-language album (Mi Plan) followed three years later. By this time, the novelty of Furtado's reinvention started to fizzle out, leading to a lukewarm reception for The Spirit Indestructible, a Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins-produced studio outing regarded by many as a below-par attempt to replicate the sonic aesthetics of Loose.

Fast forward to 2017, and the Canadian singer-songwriter returns with her sixth LP, The Ride. Sporting an edgy short hairdo and an outfit that could be described as Tumblr's brand of "soft grunge", she appears to be back at the whole self-reinvention game once again. And to match her new look, she's recruited super producer John Congleton (Sigur Ros, Blondie, St Vincent) to steer her into a new musical direction.

Opener Cold Hard Truth and Right Road serve up ample jagged melodies and offbeat funkiness that characterise St Vincent's self-titled fourth studio album.

Congleton's left-field indie-rock influences here are unmistakable and it feels slightly odd to hear them loud and clear on a Nelly Furtado track. Elsewhere, lead single Pipe Dreams is straight up reminiscent of Dev Hynes' retro-pop and R&B hybrid whereas those missing simpler synth-pop numbers will be delighted by tracks like Flatline and Sticks and Stones.

The Ride, for the most part, is a refreshing addition to Furtado's ever-eclectic discography. She's gone from a hippie to a brassy vamp and then to something of a too-cool-for-school indie starlet in the same vein as Lana Del Rey and Sky Ferreira.

As a comeback record, it may not reveal her true musical identity, but if anything, it further reaffirms her status as a keen adopter of styles -- a pop chameleon who's always at the ready to blend in with whatever sonic environments she finds herself in.

THE PLAYLIST

Thaitanium/ Sabai Dee Rue Pao 2017

Thailand's very own hip-hop squad Thaitanium get into a nostalgic mode with their remake of XYZ's breakout hit of the same name. Previously covered by synthpop outfit Polycat in 2014, the song was a massive hit back in the early '80s and has become a perennial go-to anthem for a long-lost friendship. Here, the trio give the beloved classic a 2017 update by adding a couple of rap verses about the people in their lives who have passed on. The chorus also features guest vocals courtesy of Nui Wiriyapa from The Peach Band.

Whitney/ Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can)

Another unlikely cover this week comes from Chicago indie-rock outfit Whitney who are serving up their rendition of Dolly Parton's Gonna Hurry (As Slow As I Can). Not an obvious choice but nevertheless a fantastic one, especially when the twangy vintage vibe of the original brilliantly plays to the band's strengths and sonic sensibility (not to mention the fact that Julien Ehrlich's delicate falsetto matches that of Parton's). The song appears on Whitney's new digital 12" alongside a cover of obscure Dutch duo Lion's You've Got A Woman.

Perfume Genius/ Slip Away

"Don't hold back, I want to break free/ 'Cause it's singing through your body," goes opening statement of Mike Hadreas' latest cut under Perfume Genius. The song, lifted from his forthcoming fourth LP No Shape, finds the singer-songwriter essentially flipping the bird to his detractors, likening their toxic criticisms to "them voices" that he intends to disregard like water off a duck's back. "If we never see them coming, we never have to hide," he sings to his long-time boyfriend as the drums erupt and the synths flourish. Gloriously defiant, this is a stirring declaration of genderless love that demands to be heard.

Future Islands/ Cave

Cave is a follow-up to last month's lead single Ran, both coming from Future Islands' new LP The Far Field. Musically, the track is not too far removed from what we've come to expect of the Baltimore trio -- a propulsive new wave production characterised by a robust bassline and evocative synths. "I don't believe anymore … 'Cause all we know, is gone and cold/ I don't believe anymore/ Don't grieve anymore/ 'Cause all I hold, is all I own," croons frontman Samuel T Herring in his trademark disgruntled baritone.

Kasabian/ You're In Love With a Psycho

The UK indie-rock quartet are back with a new single, You're In Love With A Psycho, which marks the first taste of their upcoming sixth studio album For Crying Out Loud. Underpinned by melodic guitars, the track features a seriously hummable chorus in which vocalists Tom Meighan and Sergio Pizzorno collectively remind their lovers of their psychopathic tendencies: "You're in love with a psycho/ And there's nothing you can do about it/ I got you running all around it … You're never gonna be without it."

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