Musical Discovery: ‘Friend of Mine’ by Avicii feat. Vargas and Lagola

It was earlier this month that Avicii returned to the music industry with his six-track EP, AVĪCI (01), with Without You being the lead single on the release. Yet, whilst it carries the traditional Tim Bergling sound, there’s a sense of blandness to the song, with a stripped back chorus which lacks a certain something. Instead, for those in pursuit of a different take on the country-house vibe, Friend of Mine (feat. Vargas and Lagola) offers a groovy alternative.

After all, it’s a pretty simplistic song, complete with straightforward lyrics and an upbeat guitar. What gives the track the edge are the soulful vocals from Vargas and Lagola and a saxophone-sounding main melody. As mentioned previously, Without You – although a classic Avicii track – lacks a punchy electronic tune, but this can be found here, flowing around a steady drum beat and adding some excitement in amongst the tamer verses. Funky and colourful, it’s another strong song from the Swedish DJ’s latest EP.

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Musical Discovery: ‘Wonderful Wonderful’ by The Killers

It was only a matter of time before the relaxed rock side of The Killers’ upcoming fifth album came to light. The title track, Wonderful Wonderful, was released last Friday and sees them move away from the fast pace of their previous single, Run For Cover. From funk, to driving rock and now something a little bit slower, the American band are still finding new ways to experiment with their style after more than 15 years in the game.

Bassist Mark Stoermer’s contribution to the track is clear from the outset. Much like the other two singles, a tense build-up occurs – this time complete with whining and scratching guitar, a rough rhythm and a tight bass riff. Throughout, the latter two instruments maintain the pace in a way which somewhat detracts from Flowers’ vocals, which, although distinctive, feel a tad mumbly and bland this time around. As a track, Wonderful Wonderful is on the same wavelength as Read My Mind – albeit when it becomes a bit more anthemic towards the end of the song.

Coincidentally, it’s the final verse which begins with the lyrics wonderful, wonderful where the song really packs a punch. With emphasised guitar chords and crash cymbals aplenty, it has the traditional grandiose flair to be expected of a Killers track. Yet, 3 minutes and 36 seconds in to a five-minute-long song, one has to ask if this is too little too late. On this occasion, its the instrumental aspects of the track which save it, even if the pace or tone of the vocals aren’t really your preferred rock style.

Wonderful, Wonderful is set to be released on September 22, 2o17.

A Thousand Words: Visiting Southampton

Being able to explore different parts of the UK as part of a job is always an exciting and rewarding thing to do. My final week working for the UK disability charity Scope as an Online Community Intern saw me head down to Southampton to tell people at the city’s football club about the Scope’s wonderful online forum for disabled people to get involved with.

The outside of Southampton Football Club – featuring a statue of a person whom I don’t know, I’m sorry.

Even when I’m not the biggest football fan in the world (I do support the England team and watch a few of their games from time to time, but that’s only out of patriotism), one has to commend the sense of community that surrounds the game. Everyone that came over to my little stall was friendly, and when it comes to fellow stall holders, I was positioned next to some nice people from Autism Hampshire on my left, and on my right were a trio of magicians performing tricks for intrigued individuals.

It made me realise that magic is a wonderful thing. Seeing children gasp and stare wide-eyed at the tricks these three magicians were performing brought a smile to my face throughout the afternoon. I even had my mind blown myself thanks to one particular magician.

On top of this, I was approached from a viewer of my YouTube channel, which made my day. It was completely unexpected and so lovely to chat to them. Thanks so much again for coming over, Sophie!

Four hours later and I was making my way back to Southampton Central to get the train back home. Though, it’s only as I write this that I’m fully struck by the sense of community inside the stadium. A common sight everywhere around the country, the way in which football clubs can bring people together is fascinating – even to someone who isn’t sporty like myself.

P.S. Once again, a huge thank you to everyone at Scope for being such wonderful people to work with over the past few months and for giving me the opportunity to visit Southampton. I’ve had a blast and shall miss the role very much.

 

 

Review: ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ by Taylor Swift

“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now… Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead.”

It’s not unusual for an artist to undergo a change in style (the ever-changing music scene requires it), but Taylor Swift’s latest evolution is by far the most radical in a long time. The aforementioned song lyric from her latest single, Look What You Made Me Do – taken from upcoming sixth album, Reputation – states bluntly that the Love Story singer has ditched the sweet country and pop in order to pursue a much darker, hip-hop sound. Whilst previous digs by Swift have been masked under cheery, seemingly upbeat tracks such as Shake it OffI Knew You Were Trouble and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, the 27-year-old isn’t holding back on this lead single, which is believed to be about the star’s rivalries with fellow musicians Katy Perry and Kanye West.

Haunting piano and strings provide a gothic opening for the track, before Swift’s smooth vocals flow on top of a strict drum rhythm. Despite the rigid tempo, that doesn’t stop Swift fluctuating with varying pace throughout. The first two verses follow the same pattern, with lines such as Of the fool and Locked me out keeping things fresh and moving at speed. There’s no doubt that the song is extremely repetitive (look no further than the chorus, which appears to sample the 2006 hit by Right Said Fred, I’m Too Sexy), but the flow of the pre-chorus makes for some interesting listening. With most of the words being sung on the same note, but with sharp staccato and atmospheric synthesisers, it certainly builds up the tension ahead of the chorus. Granted, when it eventually comes, it can feel underwhelming and basic with monotonous vocals, but when one considers the nature of the track, the sassy, almost sing-song nature is clearly intentional.

After all, the third verse – beginning with the world moves on/another day/another drama drama – is the most telling for both the content of the song and Swift’s evolution. The subject (or indeed subjects) of the singer’s remarks is told that you’ll all get yours [karma] in a series of lines sung in a chanting cheerleader style similar to that of Shake it Off. Yet, underneath the lyrics, warped synths and effects prove that this is much darker than the 1989 track – especially with the vocal distortion on the final line.

The new Taylor is certainly here and she’s certainly out in force.

Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back by Matthew d’Ancona (REVIEW)

How does one begin to explain the current social and political climate in the Western world? A chain of unprecedented events has created a plethora of new, futuristic vocabulary (such as alternative facts, fake news and the Oxford English Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2016, post-truth) that are yet to be properly defined. Although, that hasn’t stopped some individuals from taking on the mammoth task of providing much-needed clarity. Matthew D’Ancona’s exploration of post-truth delves into existentialism, post-modernism and digital mediums with a final call-to-action which is to be expected from an established British journalist and columnist.

Photo: Penguin Books.
With such a relevant background, one would assume that fake news – as a by-product of post-truth – would be featured heavily in the 150-page book. Yet, save for a couple of small sections on the topic, fake news isn’t mentioned that often. Instead, D’Ancona’s analysis of post-truth acts as a centre-point – a springboard – for him to jump seamlessly from discussions about social media and clickbait to the role of satirists.

Given the short length of the book, Matthew is quick to jump to the heart of his commentary, which appears to be that of post-modernism. To explain such a complex subject (and one which lacks clarity) with a critical perspective that is just as vague and detailed is a bad move, but a move d’Ancona makes nonetheless. Whilst he should be commended for trying to define the indefinable, a couple of sentences is not enough to clarify the main basis for his argument. Long story short, I was thankful that my knowledge of post-modernism from A-Levels hadn’t left my mind completely, but that’s not to say that I didn’t struggle to understand the basis for d’Ancona’s argument. As someone who approached the book with a brief knowledge of what post-modernism entails, one has to wonder whether someone without said understanding would be able to comprehend the more intrinsic aspects of Matthew’s commentary.

Nevertheless, like most works of non-fiction, Post-Truth includes some interesting and thoughtful points about the decline of trust and accuracy following Trump and Brexit. It’s towards the end of the book – the fifth chapter titled ‘”The Stench of Lies”: The Strategies to Defeat Post-Truth’ – where d’Ancona really sells his perspective. Summarising the best bits from previous chapters, the columnist reminds us of the current situation, and attempts to provide some solutions to the post-truth problem the Western world is currently experiencing. Although this section contains the motivational bravado possessed by most successful newspaper columnists, it still feels somewhat disorientating despite D’Ancona stating many options for society going forward.

If anything, Matthew d’Ancona’s Post-Truth raises more questions than it does providing answers, although that is understandable given the complexities of the subject matter. Whilst it is far from the definitive conclusion to the problem of falsehood, the journalist has at least begun to shed some light on an important socio-political issue in this small publication.

Musical Discovery: ‘Wait’ by Martin Jensen feat. Loote

Martin Jensen finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places. Squeaky toys, Minions and Cristiano Ronaldo have all made an appearance in the Danish DJ’s previous work. Now, hot off the release of his hit single Solo Dance and a collaboration with The Vamps, it makes sense that the next thing to lend their voice to one of his songs is his ever-growing fanbase.

Mid-July: Jensen puts out the call for submissions to his 2.5 million Facebook followers. It was no surprise that the DJ received plenty of vocals to play with; the platform is home to his many viral remixes of popular online videos. With so many contributors, it was understandable that Martin tried to include as many people as possible in the final track with Loote, called Wait.

Yet, upon listening to the track, it’s hard to detect the contribution from Jensen’s fans. A post on his Facebook page appears to show the vocals being added to the chorus, yet it all feels lost underneath Loote’s singing. Although, that is to be expected and nevertheless, it sure looked like a fun project for fans to be a part of.

Wait is a song about a relationship complete with its highs and lows. A romance which fluctuates just as much as the tropical synth that flows through the song. The lyrics – sung by the American duo Loote – also come with different rhythms that playfully merge with the instrumentals. Once again, Jensen maintains his unique style of vibrant, exotic house.

As much a marketing project as it was a follow-up single, Wait is an impressive attempt by Jensen to build on the success of Solo Dance and expand his growing audience.

Enough is enough – the Tories must wake up and tackle the disability employment gap | The Friday Article

“We must close the disability employment gap.” It was a simple enough statement made by the Minister for Disabled People Penny Mordaunt on her website last year. A consultation on ‘work, health and disability’ and a commitment to halving said employment gap in 10 years was announced by the government a short while later. From a party that has passed ruthless reforms to disability benefits, it’s likely that it had a few disabled people scratching their heads. Have the Conservatives finally started to care about a group in society which they have cruelly targeted for years?

Disabled person in powered wheelchair driving down the street
The disability employment gap remains stagnant at 31.3%. Photo: Pixabay.

One only has to look at what was announced on Wednesday this week for the answer. The disability employment gap the Tories planned to work on cutting down has stayed at 31.3%, lingering above the 30% mark for a decade. If they really wanted to tackle the issue, then the changes would be visible – be it in the statistics or in public announcements. James Taylor, Head of Policy at the disability charity Scope, said ‘these figures should be a wake-up call to the Government’ and he is absolutely right. The latest data shows the Conservatives’ current approach is indolent, lazy and slothful.

Granted, it can be argued that ministers have 10 years to get somewhere close to closing the gap, but the fact that there have not been any significant updates since the consultation closed in February is a cause for concern. The Brexit argument is likely to be an excuse given by some for this work taking a back seat during the middle of the year (following the triggering of Article 50 at the end of March), but it’s always worth mentioning that there are other burning issues and injustices that need to be addressed whilst also focussing on those all-important negotiations in Brussels. A crumbling NHS, the housing crisis and many other social issues can’t be brushed under the carpet because of our vote to leave the European Union. Ministers are yet to provide an explanation as to why the disability employment gap remains at the current level, but no excuse is valid.

So what could possibly cause a lack of disabled people in employment? As much as it comes down to the current benefits system, a more ideological issue is the stigma, stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding disability that have been generated from years of Conservative policies. Confusing and complex regulations and assessments have degraded disabled people – presenting them as inconveniences or numbers to meet a particular quota.

Whilst assuming all employers see a disabled candidate or employee as a pain in the backside in terms of paperwork and workplace support is a completely inaccurate and flawed judgement, it’s likely that some employers are unaware of how they can support disabled people in their company. The communication between the government, firms and workers about such things is inefficient if not non-existent. It’s part of the reason why I’ve always been reluctant to tick the ‘are you disabled’ question on an application form. Aside from the fact that I don’t really consider myself disabled (except under ‘the social model’), the possible discussion about workplace support if I did mention it always felt daunting – where would I start?

Although the ‘work, health and disability’ consultation intends to look at how health and work interconnect, more needs to be done to address attitudes and improve communication. The communities of disabled people in society must continue to call for better support when it comes to employment – only then will we have the chance to wake Conservatives up from their slumber when it comes to addressing the needs of the community of disabled people.

Now, one can hope that a stat-obsessed government which always likes to shout about increased employment or a stronger economy will notice one of the more concerning pieces of data that has come from the Office for National Statistics’ latest release. If the state of the disability employment gap led to a planned reform of the Work Capability Assessment, then here’s hoping that the gap remaining static will finally prompt the Department for Work and Pensions to take action. Enough is enough.