Musical Discovery: ‘Rockabye’ by Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie

The past few months have had their ups and downs for the electro-classical Clean Bandit. Tears (feat. Louisa Johnson) was a welcome return, but now the band are without one member, after violinist Neil Amin-Smith announced he was leaving the band earlier this month. It’s an absence which has shocked fans, and can be felt when listening to Clean Bandit’s latest single, Rockabye (feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie).

Rather Be defined Clean Bandit. Their fusion of violin melodies alongside dance rhythms and synths introduced classical music (well, in a sense) to a new audience. It was a new style of pop, with a sprinkling of an orchestral vibe, which made the single – featuring Jess Glynne – and their debut album such a success.

It’s now 2016, and Clean Bandit join Two Door Cinema Club and other artists by releasing new material with a fresh new tone. Audiences love that: a sense of progression yet similarity. With Tears, there’s a different club-like feel to their electronic style, and the strings make an appearance in the chorus. Yet, apart from the build-up at the start of the song, they’re absent in the verses. It felt less like a 50/50 split between the two musical genres that we can hear on Extraordinary (feat. Sharna Bass) and Real Love (feat. Jess Glynne), with more of a focus placed on the various synth tones Clean Bandit can explore.

If anything, the calypso Rockabye is reminiscent of Come Over, with bouncy synthesiser chords and an offbeat drum rhythm. Yet this time, Sean Paul is on hand to provide the smooth-sounding vocals instead of Stylo G, and he does this alongside Anne-Marie – who offers a more soulful voice in the chorus. Aside from a change in featured artists, the main melody is a funky mishmash of choppy lyrics and a pronounced bass riff. However, strings seem to have taken a step back in Clean Bandit’s latest release.

Granted, this is the band’s first single since Neil’s departure, and that may be part of it, but apart from the fluttering introduction and conclusion, most of the track seems to be more of a tropical pop song as opposed to one which fuses that with orchestral undertones. It was this perfect merging of genres which made Come Over so successful. Whilst Rockabye fits nicely into the rise in tropical music, it feels out of place compared to Clean Bandit’s previous work.

Hopefully future releases see the trio continue to cover new ground in the world of music, whilst returning to a more even split between classical and electronica – the unique blend which helped them to stand out in the first place.

What do you think of Rockabye? Do you like Clean Bandit’s new style? How do you feel about Neil leaving the band? Comment below!

Liam

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A Fictional Reality: Thankful

Channel 4’s Humans left me with a sense of euphoria. Excitement combined with robotic thought processes forced me to sit down by my laptop and convert my opinions into computer code. Ideas were released without restraint and I ended up with three pages of commentary.

It was a chain reaction. A nuclear fission of engagement occurred on my computer screen. An idea on a blog was shared across social media. A thought-provoking programme led to new opinions on a blog post, and now these thoughts travelled all over the country into the minds of others. Then came a new wave of excitement in the form of success. People had enjoyed what I had written. My excitement and enthusiasm were contagious.

An opportunity presents itself. A chance for my work to be recognised at an awards ceremony and read by more people. I fill in the entry form, and click submit…

*

I shuffled uncomfortably at the back of an auditorium, a small programme resting on my lap but keen to fall to the floor at regular intervals. I am underdressed, sporting a smart-casual look when fellow students don suits and dresses. It’s clear that I’m not used to awards ceremonies just yet; it’s my first event in a while, and after browsing the other nominees, I was surprised to have even been on the shortlist.

Never compare yourself to others. It’s a mantra we hear all the time and are told to adopt, but it brewed and fizzled in my mind as I waited for the Blogger/Vlogger category to come next. My mind was an essay. One thousand words flooded the blog post on my website and filled my head as I waited, before it dwindled down to two.

Highly Commended.

*

Now, as the second series of Humans airs on Channel 4 tonight, I always look back on this post with fondness. I remember the Colin Morgan fan accounts who retweeted my post and left kind comments. I was fearful that the fact it spanned three pages and was around 1,000 pages in length had me worried that no one would read all of it. Yet, the post was Highly Commended at the Midlands Student Media Awards, it’s the tenth most popular post on my blog of all-time, and over 360 people have read some or all of the article.

It’s inspired me to not hold back on my enthusiasm and talking about big topics. I like to think it’s influenced my writing when it comes my Friday Articles too.

You can read the post in question here, and you can expect me to write a follow-up post or review once the series has finished.

I decided to try something different for this post and write a story from my life in a fictional narrative style. I’m not too sure if I’m a fan of this just yet, but if you liked it, let me know in the comments below.

Liam

Why forced comedy means it’s the end of the Vine | The Friday Article

Given how information is being consumed as quickly as possible, a six-second video sharing app known as Vine sounded like a fitting addition to the social media industry when it was introduced in 2013. Yet, with such a strict time constraint, creators were desperate to produce content which could be the next viral hint (‘do it for the Vine’ became a phrase which mocked and tapped into this notion). The app then became overpopulated with pranks, wacky dancing videos and slapstick comedy. Vine had its moments – with personalities appearing over its three-year lifespan – but everyone knows comedy cannot be forced. Therefore, it’s no surprise that yesterday, Twitter took the decision to discontinue Vine.

vine
The announcement that Vine was to be discontinued was announced yesterday.

In a blog post in January 2013 by Vine’s co-founder, Dom Hofmann, he shared his belief that “constraint inspires creativity”. Twitter’s 140-character limit works because we can be creative with words regardless of restraints. Video, on the other hand, is much harder to limit without impacting creativity. We can use sentences and paragraphs of various lengths to communicate a message via. text, but when most videos explore stunning scenery or convey an important message, six seconds is simply not enough.

Vine tapped into a branch of social media which was on the rise. Snapchat’s ten-second messaging encouraged a new, fast-paced way of communicating, and looped GIFs have always lingered on the Internet. Twitter’s video app had to offer something different, so it messed around with looped videos with an even tighter limit of six seconds. Whilst it was popular in the short run, people soon returned to Snapchats and GIFs, with Vines only appearing should they be a massive viral hit.

There’s something to learn from Vine’s demise. Some mediums cannot be restrained – certainly not to six seconds. Twitter’s magic number of 140 just works and Snapchat’s success comes down to having those four extra seconds.

They know their limits; you can only restrict communication to a certain extent.

I made a mistake…

A while ago, I said that I wanted to change my schedule around a little bit. I wanted to move my Musical Discovery reviews to Fridays (as this is the day most new music is released) and push back The Friday Article to Sunday. I gave this new schedule idea a trial run last week, and it’s safe to say that I made a mistake.

As you may have seen, I missed a post last Sunday. It was meant to be a political post and a ‘pilot’ of The Sunday Article. In the end, I just didn’t have time, and the confusion that came with mixing around my schedule meant my creativity took a hit.

Granted, whilst there’s a few Sunday politics shows on TV which discuss the latest news over the past week whilst keeping it relevant, I don’t have access to these MPs to continue the conversation further. So, when I considered writing an opinion piece on scrapped A-Levels for last Sunday, it soon felt outdated without a fresh new angle. That being said, I probably will still end up publishing this post on Friday this week.

As for Musical Discovery posts on a Friday, it’s great that it fits with the day that most new music is released, it’s a bit of a rush to formulate an opinion in the morning before the post goes up at 12pm. The Monday slot gives me a weekend for a song to grow on me and for me to gather my thoughts. I like to think that I end up with a better review as a result.

Whilst the new schedule won’t be going ahead, the trial run did give me some ideas as to what I could write about on Wednesday or Sunday.

Since I’m quite protective over my poetry and works of fiction, I’m still not too sure about this, but I’d like to go back to writing regular poems on this blog, along with the occasional short story. In particular, I was thinking of doing posts where I would describe my week in a narrative style you’d hear in a book. I’m thinking about calling the series A Fictional Reality, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen yet. If I do try it out, it should add to the range of writing styles which I showcase on The Life of a Thinker.

What do you think? Should I write more poetry and fiction on this blog? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Waste A Moment’ by Kings of Leon

Of course, Use Somebody was the defining song for Kings of Leon, when pulsing bass, chanting vocals and pounding drums set their style in stone. Now, back on the scene with Waste A Moment, the band return with their traditional tone, but with new energy and passion.

Aside from a chorus which sounds rather similar to Biffy Clyro’s Many of Horror (or Matt Cardle’s cover version, When We Collide), the song does sound rather ‘samey’. Whilst it’s great that they are sticking to a style for so long, they could try something different to try and stand out in the over-concentrated alternative music industry we have at the moment. Waste A Moment is great, but it sounds like a song from a soundtrack to a FIFA game. The energy and enthusiasm is there, which is great and what makes this song successful, but I feel like there could be something more. Perhaps some high-pitched lyrics, I’m not too sure.

What do you think of Waste A Moment by Kings of Leon? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Under Our Feet’ by Frances

Aside from beautifully soft vocals and harmonies we’ve never heard before, Frances’ impressive collection of songs give listeners a choice between singing the chorus wholeheartedly, or having a cathartic cry at the emotive nature of the lyrics. Under Our Feet is the latest track from the BRIT Award nominee which follows this pattern, whilst offering fans a glimpse at her upcoming debut album, Things I’ve Never Said.

Once again, emphasis is placed on Frances’ vocals from the start. It’s a stylistic decision which we also see in Don’t Worry About Me, too, except this time, it’s not long before the song flourishes further.
We see a drum rhythm of a more chilled nature, in contrast to the more vibrant, pounding tempos we hear in singles such as Say it Again and Borrowed Time. It’s a song for reflection – a sombre interlude amongst the more fast-paced tracks.

As excitement builds for Things I’ve Never Said, singles released before an album are crucial – offering fans an insight into the overall tone of a record. Under Our Feet is an exciting tease at what’s to come, showing listeners that we’ll continue to hear more of Frances’ unique vocal style alongside songs with different tones and emotions at their core. My only hope for the upcoming release is that we see an album which balances emotive vocal solos (such as Don’t Worry About Me, which brilliantly demonstrates the power of her voice) with the more upbeat, poppy tracks (like Borrowed Time and Say It Again). However, with an impressive, varied and wide range of singles already under her belt, there’s no doubt that a lot of people will be watching closely to see what the singer has up her sleeve next.

What do you think of Under Our Feet? Are you looking forward to Things I’ve Never Said? Comment below!

Liam

Review | Shelter: The Animation

Music videos have changed. They’ve somewhat moved away from the typical ‘singing artist’ video and now focus on unique storytelling. Granted, some still offer a different take on the typical love story, but the real beauty lies in animated music videos like Shelter – a real rarity within YouTube’s catalogue of music videos.

Shelter is the result of an eagerly anticipated collaboration between DJs Porter Robinson and Madeon. Whilst Porter is responsible for the animation, there are some creative moments which nod to Madeon’s futuristic style of storytelling (in particular, his Adventure trilogy). With regards to this, the technology and 3D elements of the video are particularly interesting.

Asides from the unconventional three-dimensional shots, the rest of Shelter: The Animation is told through 2D anime – a style which Robinson has completely fallen in love with and makes a regular appearance in his previous work.

On Twitter, Porter gives a brief description of the story behind the video:

“‘shelter the animation’ tells the story of a girl living alone in a simulation built by her father to save her from the end of the world.”

As someone who has never really watched any anime before, electronic music is a genre which I didn’t think would fit well with the delicate style of Japanese animation. However, I was proved wrong when the lyrics of Shelter took on a completely different meaning – ‘shelter’ being the simulation the young girl finds herself in.

The magic of this music video is that in such a short space of time – six minutes and six seconds, to be exact – Porter conjures up a new world for us to explore. This is the future of music videos and storytelling.

It’s the fact that the animation and music fit so well together which really makes the video an emotional watch. The soft piano melody towards the end strongly emphasises the emotions we feel whilst watching and listening to create something beautiful which leaves you with a lump in your throat.

Liam