Musical Discovery: ‘Ultralife’ by Oh Wonder

Over the years, many duos have used contrasting vocals to their advantage. Rizzle Kicks (which is made up of Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule) blend rap and soulful singing, whilst Nanna and Ragnar from Of Monsters and Men offer a soft back-and-forth between male and female voices. Now, the London-based Oh Wonder are the latest band to follow this trend.

Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht make up the duo, and much like Of Monsters and Men, light, gentle vocals are apparent throughout the lead single and title track of their upcoming second album, Ultralife. Supported by powerful, calypso-style drums in the chorus, the similarities to the Icelandic group are obvious. With that being said, fans longing for a third album from OMAM may enjoy Oh Wonder’s music as they eagerly await new music from them.

The upbeat name of the song is certainly supported by lines such as ‘I got love falling like the rain‘, ‘I got so much soul inside my bones‘ and ‘ever since you came, I’m living ultralife‘. All of these lyrics appear in the chorus, and so it is no surprise that we hear the pounding percussion to heighten this sense of euphoria further.

As Oh Wonder continue to unveil more singles from their sophomore album, it’s clear that Ultralife does a good job of summarising the record. Imaginative and emotive, the track hints at a release full of feeling, with a mix of calmness and excitement to keep the listener intrigued throughout.

Oh Wonder’s second album, Ultralife, is to be released on July 14, 2017.

Where have you been?

I’ve always liked structure in my life, and whilst that’s not to say I don’t like spontaneity, breaking a pattern which I have been maintaining for the past few years does feel a little disheartening. In the middle of April, my blog schedule fell apart and the ‘post every other day’ theme crumbled. So, what happened?

The simple and short answer is university. As the course geared up for the May deadline, every module had at least one final essay or piece of coursework to complete before the academic year was over. As a result, The Life of a Thinker had to be put on the back burner until now, when the final exam for second year is done and I have the long summer months to look forward to.

After a decline in posts, I’ll be back to my normal routine – at least until September (for I am yet to know how much time I’ll have to blog in third year). Whilst I’ve been away, I have realised is that surpassing last year’s 16.1K views this year is unlikely. At present, the blog has reached 5K views, which could mean that I end the year with 12K – a disappointing drop when The Life of a Thinker has been on the rise year after year. Now is the time to get back to writing.

As you may have seen over the past few days, since Friday I have been posting every day and for the next week, that shall continue. Each post next week – except possibly for The Friday Article – will be a music review, as there’s been a lot of good music which has come out whilst I’ve been away.

Normal scheduling will resume soon – including music reviews and more political posts.

Stay tuned…

Musical Discovery: ‘Magnetised’ by Emma Blackery

Described as a record about ‘mending’, it was only a matter of time before we saw the emotional side of Emma Blackery’s upcoming EP, Magnetised. The first single, Nothing Without You, was a pop-heavy reflection on a positive break-up. Now, the title track adopts a more woeful tone, as Blackery opens up about a summer heartbreak.

Light guitar and a soft, off-beat rhythm set the tone before stepping aside for Emma’s vocals. A rise and fall in notes during the chorus almost representing the heartbreak, should the song wish to be interpreted on such a level. Nevertheless, this track explores a different style of singing for the singer-songwriter – a pure, quiet feel which, although in direct contrast to Nothing Without You, shows the variation in her voice which we can expect from the EP.

Whilst the instrumentals are minimal, there are moments throughout the song where additional melodies only add to the emotion. A fluttering synth sequence during the chorus is a smooth way to bridge the gap between the lines which works well. It’s clear that alongside the lyrics themselves, guitars, synths and drums all do their bit to emphasise the mood of Magnetised, making the passion within the words all the more crystal clear.

The single, Magnetised, is now available on iTunes and Spotify. The EP, of the same name, is out on May 26.

Deaf Awareness Week 2017: A celebration of collective action | The Friday Article

‘A celebration’ is the theme for this year’s Deaf Awareness Week – something which, to me, suggests that we should celebrate the power of collective action within the deaf community. It’s now that we should celebrate the charities and campaigners, as well as their achievements. At a time when politics has divided Britain, it’s important for us to show society the power of collective action and what we, as a community, can accomplish.

Photo: Deaf Council.

One example is the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) – a charity with which I have very strong connections. In 2014, I was part of their Youth Advisory Board (YAB), a group of 18 deaf young people from across the UK who came together over the two years to discuss issues affecting deaf people. Whilst on the board, I campaigned for better audiology services and contacted key figures in the NHS about the matter, amongst other things. Now, the new YAB have launched their new campaign, calling for sign language to be taught in schools. They found out that 97% of young people want British Sign Language (BSL) in schools, and through the NDCS, they have taken to the local and national press to get their message out there during Deaf Awareness Week.

Elsewhere, Action on Hearing Loss’ Subtitle It! campaign called on on-demand TV services to provide subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing people. Through an amendment to the Digital Economies Bill, the broadcasting regulator Ofcom has the power to ensure on-demand programmes have a ‘minimum level’ of subtitling.

Then there’s the landmark achievement in Scotland back in 2015, where the BSL (Scotland) Bill became an act, calling for its Parliament to ‘promote the use of British Sign Language’. Now, the fight continues to make British Sign Language a legally recognised language in the UK.

Yet, it’s not just deaf people coming together which we should celebrate, it’s the creative talent of the deaf community, too. Entertainers such as John Smith and Danny’s Skits offer funny videos which promote deaf culture at the same time, and, of course, the deaf website The Limping Chicken offers individuals a platform to air their views on deaf issues.

Every year, the theme for Deaf Awareness Week is different (last year’s was ‘a common purpose’, for example). However, whilst these topics are subjective, it can always come down to highlighting the power of the deaf community. As a strong subculture, we can make positive changes in society and ensure our voices are never ignored.

Musical Discovery: ‘Middle of the Night’ by The Vamps & Martin Jensen

Fresh off the release of his hit, Solo Dance, Danish DJ is back again – this time, with a high-profile collaboration with the British band, The Vamps on the track, Middle of the Night.

Unlike previous singles, Jensen adopts a more trap-like drop for this song. Hi-hat heavy drum beats and whiny synth make for an off-beat, slightly exotic feel. That being said, the producer is aware that The Vamps four-piece want a more emotional, heartfelt release this time as opposed to the club track with Matoma, All Night. At this point, it’s worth pointing out the band’s fondness to have songs with the word ‘night’ in them (All NightMiddle of the Night and Last Night being the three on the list so far). Thankfully, this song does well to stand out when put alongside the other two.

The track’s quiet tone – as previously mentioned – is also no doubt helped by the brooding, mumbling lyrics, with the occasional vocal outburst. The introduction of the complex drum beat in the second verse also allows for a bit more soul, whilst also rushing The Vamps to the next chorus. As much as the track should be about them, it’s Martin Jensen’s producing talents which really take centre stage here. Hot off the back of Solo Dance, the Danish DJ is making waves with this release. A big increase in his fanbase and a huge debut in the future looks likely.

Geo-Music: The pop world’s response to the Pokémon Go phenomenon

It was only a matter of time before other industries picked up on the success of Pokémon Go. An augmented reality app was encouraging mobile phone users to go outside and explore the world, promoting the franchise in the process. It was perfect advertising for one thing, which tapped in to an emerging form of gaming. Now, it’s unsurprising that the world’s biggest pop stars are making use of this interactive concept.

Katy Perry is one of the artists who’s jumped on this craze when promoting her latest single, Chained to the Rhythm. Photo: Samantha Sekula

Whilst Pokémon Go can be described as an ‘augmented reality game’ (or ARG for short), what artists such as Katy Perry and Gorrilaz are doing isn’t really a game as such, and it doesn’t quite cover the definition of geocaching. Instead, this sees them hide their new song or album at specific locations around the world, ready for fans to find. Although Gorillaz are using a mobile app when it comes to giving listeners the chance to hear their new album in advance, Perry’s ‘game’ to promote Chained to the Rhythm doesn’t – leading me to use the term ‘geo-music’, unless there’s already a term used to describe this phenomena.

So, do I think it works? Can it deter the leaking of albums in the search for exclusivity? Maybe not, but for strong fanbases and passionate fans who are dedicated to hearing music from their favourite artists first, it’s certainly a way to motivate them. They’ll get talking to others in search for these surprises, word of mouth will occur and the excitement about an upcoming release will rise. It’s additional advertising prior to the actual song coming out, and it’s working. Fans get rewarded (in some cases, even with tickets in the case of Frances), and artists get the word out. It’s a win-win situation for both parties which could very much rise in popularity over the years.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hard Times’ by Paramore

There’s certainly been some ‘hard times’ for Hayley Williams and the rock band Paramore over the years, what with the departure of some of its members in the past. Now, as the current trio return with a new pop hit, it’s an upbeat musical style which contrasts all this, and sees the band move away from their grittier sound.

Instead, this is their offering in a pop scene dominated with plucky guitars and tropical vibes, even when it feels a little flat. A marimba opening and heavy riffs certainly keep the listener interested, but there’s nothing particularly fruitful in the verses to maintain our attention (the repetitive melody here is more annoying than catchy). It’s the funky groovy chorus which we have to thank for injecting some originality into this track, with lyrics that actually are memorable.

It’s the first single from the upcoming album, After Laughter, and whilst a daring change of direction for a band is to be respected, hopefully the record will see some more rocky tracks as well.