#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.

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‘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.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Always In Between’ by Jess Glynne

Although diverse and wide-ranging, the Hold My Hand singer’s sophomore release is generic, pandering pop which for the most part lacks impact and distinction – ★★★

There was something promising about Always In Between. With just under half of the tracklist for Glynne’s debut being taken up by singles we’d heard before, the new sounds of I Cry When I Laugh were overshadowed by the déjà vu of the old. Her follow-up was destined to be fresh, unheard of and a continued exploration of new directions for the London musician, yet the end result was a lot more underwhelming.

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian sums up the mediocre nature of the album well in his review. The second album should always offer a sense of progression, which Always In Between offers, albeit through the popular vocal styles and musical genres of the day. There’s ballads such as Insecurities for the Adele fans, while Never Let Me Go blends the Sheeran-esque guitar melodies with the harsh trap which has been dominating pop music lately.

Once again, it’s the singles which pack the punch on the record. Hit-makers Rudimental make These Days a vibrant summer jam, while talented singer-songwriter Frances lends a helping hand on the stripped-back pop track All I Am. 123 has a sense of soulful familiarity to it that we’ve probably heard before, while I’ll Be There has hard-hitting drums and catchy yodel-like vocals. The final single, Thursday – released a day before the album – is a refreshing, soft track away from the usual vibrant, loud sounds.

Glynne’s portfolio of hits is testament that there’s a winning formula there somewhere working with a phenomenal voice, yet Always In Between lets this descend to a point of disappointing blandness. It’s a comfortable background listen, but for a voice like Glynne’s, it should be one which commands your attention.

Always In Between is available now.

No, Twitter does not need an edit button – and here’s why | Liam O’Dell

Adding the ability to edit tweets would not only be impractical, but would open the floodgates to further abuse of the platform.

“Sexy edit button” were the three words Twitter used today to say that it is terrified of the edit button.

While slightly unconventional, the tweet – which was in response to a post from voiceover artist and writer Summer Ray – finally provided some acknowledgement from the platform that they are aware of the repeated calls for the function. Twitter think it’s a bad idea – and they’re right.

Supporters of the introduction of the new button may well cite Facebook’s ‘edit history’ feature as an example of this setting being successful, but it is far from it. Clicking ‘view edit history’ is the only way in which we can find out if a post has been altered, and even then, we’re unlikely to click it and interrupt our automatic and robotic scrolling of our News Feed.

Transfer this over to Twitter, where a chronological algorithm makes things feel a lot more instantaneous, and the chances of us noticing that a tweet has been edited are even smaller. Even if a sign was added to suggest that it has, it would have to fight for space in a rectangle which is already populated by countless icons and pieces of information. People just wouldn’t be bothered.

The main argument for editing tweets is on the issue of spelling mistakes, where having the ability to edit out a rogue comma or a misspelling could prove useful. Indeed, while we have all fallen victim to the occasional grammatical error, how would such an edit function be enforced?

Even when one considers the detailed coding required, what would happen to a tweet when it’s edited? If it remains in situ, in its original place in the timeline, then what’s the point? The edit remains unacknowledged unless the scroller happened to retweet it onto their account. On the other hand, boosting edited tweets to the top of the timeline would be an algorithmic nightmare.

So the alternative is to leave it buried, drowned out by all the other tweets which populate our busy timelines. This is where it becomes dangerous.

Those who make the point about the feature potentially being exploited refer to how we could retweet a tweet with a statement we agree with, only to find it’s been changed to something abhorrent later. Even when we put a disclaimer in our bios saying that sharing other tweets do not imply endorsement, the association and connection is still there.

So some have suggested a character limit to prevent misuse. After all, character limits and the need to be succinct was at the heart of Twitter until it doubled its trademark 140-character count. Yet, where would such a limit end? One or two characters would be enough for a punctuation error, but may not be enough for autocorrect’s many failures. On the other hand, increasing it to account for bigger mistakes makes it easier for someone to type ‘arse’ or something far more hateful and vitriolic.

When you consider what this ‘perfect limit’ is, and how one even begins to design and implement an edit button, you start to realise that it’s probably easier to just delete and try again.