#NewMusicFriday: ‘Serious’ by Midnight Kids feat. Matthew Koma

Creative, fluttering and unrestrained, Midnight Kids’ follow-up single Serious continues the electronic euphoria despite a few rhythmic hiccups.

Kyle Girard and Dylan Lee have had quite the busy couple of months since Find Our Way dropped in June. Their debut single after a string of hit remixes, the track (featuring newcomer klei) propelled the mysterious EDM duo into the spotlight. It soon gained over a million streams on Spotify and landed them their first few live performances – including as a support act for Alesso.

Now the pair keep the momentum going with their sophomore release Serious, featuring dance music titan Matthew Koma. Although revealed to have been “a year in the making”, the track’s tempo is slightly disorganised at points – Koma’s versatile vocals struggling to weave their way around fluttering synths in the pre-chorus. Instead, it’s the chorus which grounds the track, with punchy snare making the hook impactful and euphoric. It’s enough to make the single a worthy listen and solid addition to Midnight Kids’ catalogue.

Serious sees the Californian producers pushing themselves in a new direction – a different lyrical pacing compared to the relaxed, late-night listen that is Find Our Way. Aside from the occasional issue with timing, their latest single does well to build up the hype around Midnight Kids, showing them as experimental and imaginative musicians – and one to keep an eye on in the future.

Serious (feat. Matthew Koma) is out now.

Update: This article was updated on 13 November, when tempo issues described in my previous released were no longer apparent on the track.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Perfect to Me’ by Anne-Marie

After a smash debut album and a string of high-profile collaborations, the Essex singer returns with a fresh take on a previous release with the chilled but confident single, Perfect to Me – ★★★★☆

2018 is Anne-Marie’s year. Speak Your Mind was a hit record while her list of featured appearances currently includes the likes of Rudimental, Marshmello and David Guetta. Now the singer-songwriter keeps things rolling with a new version of album track, Perfect.

A sharp, real take on society’s perceptions of perfection and beauty, Perfect to Me has a sassier, more pronounced feel. While the rhythm of the original was staggering and complex, this latest version sounds tight and controlled. The quiet piano is replaced with expressive guitar chords to give it a vibe which fits in with past releases 2002 and F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Perfect to Me is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Remember’ by Gryffin (with ZOHARA)

After a string of hit singles, American DJ and producer Gryffin starts building up the hype for his debut album with fluttering synth and deep, hard-hitting bass on the track Remember.

“Couldn’t be more stoked to announce I’ve got an album coming,” Dan Griffith revealed earlier today. Continuing the atmospheric album artwork of his previous track, Tie Me DownRemember appears to be the promising second single from the upcoming record.

While Tie Me Down was a slower, chilled release, Remember is more intense and expressive. ZOHARA’s soulful vocals take the song to new euphoric heights with an impressive range, while Griffith’s producing work includes hard-hitting bass, bubbly synths and a driving beat. With Remember, Gryffin not only ramps up the tempo, but successfully builds up anticipation for his debut album – and already, it’s sounding very good indeed.

‘I’m Not Running’ review – David Hare’s Labour drama fails to score political points

Siân Brooke (Sherlock) is powerful and emotive as junior doctor Pauline Gibson despite a weak, confusing script from the political playwright – ★★☆☆☆

With politicians like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson gaining increasing popularity in the word of personality politics, one would hope that a play exploring the relationship between the individual and the party – written by someone described as “the premiere political dramatist writing in English” – would be a sharp, critical look at a rising trend.

Siân Brooke (Sherlock) is the doctor faced with a tough decision in David Hare’s I’m Not Running. Photo: Mark Douet.

I’m Not Running, David Hare’s 17th production for the National Theatre, chronicles Pauline Gibson (Brooke) and her journey into Labour party politics after campaigning to save her local hospital. It’s a story which, in the 70th birthday year of the NHS and at the time of Corbynism, has a lot of promise in terms of political commentary. Yet instead, it all feels rather dated. Old jokes about Labour are cracked which we’ve heard in the political arena already, and the disorienting jumps between the past and the present fail to keep things fresh.

As such, what could have been a tense political drama becomes a slow, dragging romance. Ralph Myers’ revolving, domestic set design feels repetitive after several scenes, while the many subplots of the show only really gain impact in the final moments of the second and final act.

Pauline’s relationship with ambitious young campaigner Meredith Ikeji (Amaka Okafor) is raw and emotional, while the main feud between Pauline and her ex-boyfriend Jack (boldly played by Alex Hassell) comes to a head in the last few moments of the show. The tension is entertaining, but long overdue – an underwhelming result of a whole act’s worth of build-up. There’s two contrasting feelings that the production has more to offer, or could have a much shorter running time.

On the topic of running, the play’s title, I’m Not Running, relates to the question of whether Pauline is considering standing for leader of the Labour party – something brilliantly set up in the first scene with her advisor, Sandy (Joshua McGuire) during a refreshing, intelligent take on a typical press conference. As the show edges towards Pauline’s decision, her reasons aren’t quite so clear as a result of the rather confusing, tangled plot. Its closing remarks feel like a rushed attempt at making political comments about issues such as female representation in the Labour party which don’t fit in to the wider plot. Whatever points Hare were trying to make are lost in what is a predictable, disappointing conclusion.

There’s a sense that the playwright wanted the motif of running to relate to Pauline’s character. It could well refer to her shying away from press attention throughout the play – the result of a broken woman with a lot of emotional baggage – but such an idea doesn’t work when the character is passionately played by Siân Brooke. It could never have been a tale of ‘soul searching’ when her character is confident from the start. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the script.

I’m Not Running is currently playing at the Lyttleton Theatre until 31 January 2019.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Access’ by Martin Garrix

It’s Avicii’s X You meets Lucas and Steve’s Anywhere on Martin Garrix’s latest release Access – taken from his new EP, BYLAW.

Chinatown sounds a lot different now than it did back in 2017. Since premiering at Ultra Miami last year, Garrix’s instrumental hit has undergone a bit of a harsher makeover. Where the main synth melody initially felt soft and light, the Dutch producer has added a heavy edge. The bass feels grittier and hard-hitting, and the drums feel a lot more pronounced. What was initially a comfortable EDM track is now a bold electronic dance hit.

Multi-layered with synth, bass and snares, Access is true creative and nostalgic electronica. It’s certainly familiar (both for it being a new version of an old track and for it having similar technicalities as other EDM hits), but Martin’s gift for a catchy melody shines through here. In turn, it delivers an imaginative, uplifting and standout track from his BYLAW EP, and returns us to the dance styles we don’t hear enough of in this genre.

Access is taken from Martin Garrix’s latest EP, BYLAW, which is available now.

Charity Commission receives assurances that charities can “speak out” on Universal Credit

The Charity Commission says it has “sought and received assurances” that charities dealing with Universal Credit “are not prevented from speaking out about any challenges” faced by those claiming the benefit. 

The news comes after The Times reported that organisations which have signed contracts as part of their role of helping Universal Credit applicants “must support the policy’s implementation where it affects their work”.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey MP has been criticised following the revelation by The Times. Photo: Number 10.

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy, Planning and Communications at the Charity Commission, said: “The public rightly expect charities to put the interests of those they help first, and that will sometimes mean speaking truth to power. It is vital charities are free to do this.

We have sought, and received, assurances from DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] that charities in contracts to deliver elements of the Universal Credit programme are not prevented from speaking out about any challenges that recipients may be facing.”

The body, which regulates UK charities, has guidance on charities and political activity, which states that a charity “may give its support” to specific party policies “if it would help achieve its charitable purposes”.

The document also says that a charity “must stress its independence” and that any involvement with political parties is “balanced”.

“A charity must not give support or funding to a political party, nor to a candidate or politician,” it reads.

The Times’ report also found that the contract states signatories “shall pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of the work and pensions secretary, prohibiting them from doing anything which could “damage the reputation” of the secretary of state or “attract adverse publicity”.

In a letter to Esther McVey MP, shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood MP called for the minister to publicly announce that the clauses will be removed by the Government, describing it as “unacceptable”.

“The human suffering already caused by the failed roll out of Universal Credit is unacceptable, and the next phase could bring even more severe problems.

“All civil society organisations, whether or not they are contractors of your Department, must have the right to speak out about this injustice. And yes, that must include the right to criticise you and your work.

“This is not a bureaucratic technicality; it is a fundamental element of democratic accountability,” she wrote.

In a statement to The Mirror, a DWP spokesperson said: “It’s completely untrue to suggest that organisations are banned from criticising Universal Credit.

“As with all arrangements like this, they include a reference which enables both parties to understand how to interact with each other and protect their best interests.”

The spokesperson then went on to add that it is in place to “safeguard any commercial sensitive information” for both the government and the organisation in question.

‘A Very Very Very Dark Matter’ review: Martin McDonagh pushes new boundaries in this edgy comedy

Jim Broadbent is hysterical in a production that is classic McDonagh: hilarious, dark and absolutely bonkers –

There’s a degree of newfound self-awareness and confidence in McDonagh’s latest production. The humour is edgier and the plot is his most absurd yet – and he knows it.

Jim Broadbent portrays another quirky and eccentric character in his latest role – this time its the children’s author Hans Christian Andersen. Photo: Manuel Harlan.

In a house in Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen (hilariously and comfortably portrayed by Broadbent – an actor known for playing bumbling, over-enthusiastic characters) has a secret hiding in a box in his attic in Copenhagen. A Very Very Very Dark Matter is an apt description of what unfolds.

As much as the play reaches new extremes for the Irish playwright, there’s the usual McDonagh tropes dotted throughout the plot. Striking similarities with The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Ryan Pope and Graeme Hawley play the two antagonists trying to hunt down and kill one of the lead characters. Except this time it’s two red men named Dirk and Barry from Belgium.

Outside the role of being daft comic relief, the pair’s part in the story centres historical grudges and time travel. It’s to be expected from such a production, but its execution – save from a couple of laughs – is confusing and somewhat meaningless on a larger scale.

Perhaps the funniest chemistry comes from Andersen’s interactions with fellow author Charles Dickens (Phil Daniels). Daniel’s bluntness and dry wit as Dickens mixes brilliantly with Broadbent’s charming, naive Andersen in scenes where most of the play’s one-liners can be found.

Contrast this with the scenes between Hans and young girl ‘Marjorie’ (Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles) where the play’s darker, serious side comes to light. Bold and sharp, it’s an impressive theatrical debut for Ackles.

Running for an hour and 30 minutes, A Very Very Very Dark Matter is short, but by no means sweet. Finely directed by Matthew Dunster, the short running time keeps things fast-paced and gripping, before leaving you wondering what the hell just happened.

This review is of a preview performance of the production. A Very Very Very Dark Matter is now playing at the Bridge Theatre until 6 January 2019.