Musical Discovery: ‘Obsession’ by Vice feat. Jon Bellion

Obsession is a collaboration between two artists I’ve yet to listen to (although I have heard of Jon Bellion before). As a song by Marshmello finished on Spotify, the streaming service was quick to suggest another song that I might enjoy, and it was right. High-pitched vocals combine with clear, bouncy synths in this dance track that sounds all too familiar.

It’s familiar in the sense that straight away, the opening synth sounds reminiscent of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, whilst the chorus – as some commenters on the above YouTube have claimed – has hints of NEIKED’s Sexual. However, this song is lucky enough to not be shoved under the typical ‘dance’ or ‘club’ genre, and that is thanks to Jon Bellion’s vocals.

A soft, smooth voice guides us through the verses, but it is, of course, the chorus where the emphasis is placed. Bellion’s whining taps in to the groovy, lazy and laid-back style of this song, offering something different at a time where dance and pop all sounds too similar.

Exploring the Lincoln Knights Trail 2017

Whilst I’ve said about turning The Life of a Thinker into an online portfolio for my journalism, Sunday blog posts have always been an opportunity for me to update you all on what I’ve been up to recently, and I don’t think that will ever change.

Despite finishing university already, I was back in Lincoln this weekend for the School of English Journalism Ball (where, surprisingly, I won the ‘Photo of the Year’ award, which was nice). However, prior to all the exciting celebrations, I had a day to myself, and decided to embark on the Knights Trail which has descended on the city for the summer.

It’s because of this timing that I missed last year’s event – the Barons Trail. Now, it’s sculptures of knights to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln. It was a beautiful day, and with more free time on my hands, I thought I would also film the experience too.

Although I am keen on this post being light-hearted and informal, the rise in ‘tourism trails’ (Paddington Bear, Gromit and Shaun the Sheep have all had their own trails in other areas of the UK) has interested me lately. After all, it promotes a sense of adventure and experience which taps into the current souvenir culture in society.

Gone are the days where just an autograph or anything materialistic would suffice, it’s now about having the evidence to show that such an occurrence, meeting or activity took place. Whether that’s a photo of the celebrity whose autograph you asked for, or something else to trophy, tourists want a sense of satisfaction and gratification – and the Lincoln Knight’s Trail certainly does that.

As I took a photo of the final sculpture outside the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, I felt a great sense of accomplishment, as I browsed at the collection of photos on my phone of all 36 sculptures. Tourism is all about a sense of adventure, and even when I’ve been living in Lincoln for two years, I felt that this weekend.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a gallery of all of the sculptures:

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The Lincoln Knights Trail runs from May 20 to September 3, 2017. More information can be found here.

Emma Blackery’s ‘Magnetised’ – an honest, powerful EP about heartbreak and moving on

YouTuber and singer-songwriter Emma Blackery’s latest EP Magnetised is, quite simply, an emotional rollercoaster. Granted, the record jumps between dance tracks (such as Nothing Without You and Don’t Come Home) and stripped back soul (in Magnetised and Instead), but all songs unite around the same powerfully honest tone. Over six tracks, the artist packs in a variety of feelings, accentuated with atmospheric instrumentals, to create the sense of ‘mending’ – the one word which Blackery has used to describe the EP.

‘Magnetised’ was released on iTunes and Spotify today. Photo: Emma Blackery on Twitter.

Whether it’s a thanking an ex, moving reflections on unrequited love, or a dismissive ballad, the message in each track is conveyed with confidence by Emma’s voice and her choice of lyrics. It’s a skill which means that every song stands alone in its own right, whilst also contributing to a bigger picture. Similarly, for new listeners, there’s something for everyone. For fans of upbeat, drum-heavy pop, Nothing Without You or Don’t Come Home would appeal to them, country fans may sense a Taylor Swift vibe in Fixation or Human Behaviour, whilst those seeking catharsis may prefer the title track, for example.

Meanwhile, for fans of Emma Blackery’s YouTube channel, some songs will of course sound similar. Instead and Don’t Come Home have already been released to fans online, albeit in a different form. Now, with a refreshing studio quality to them (and even a complete redesign for Don’t Come Home), the two tracks take on an entirely new identity within the EP’s narrative. With moving violins melodies, Instead is even more emotional this time around, whilst Don’t Come Home is transformed into a sad poppy track which is in direct contrast to Nothing Without You.

As each track tackles a different problem in a relationship, Blackery has six tracks to demonstrate her vocal talents. The two ‘bops’ of the EP (the opener and Don’t Come Home) see the artist tackle and execute impassioned high notes, whilst the other, more stripped-back releases see Emma showcase her softer voice. As well as having a brilliantly constructed message at its core, Magnetised is the EP which solidifies her style as an artist.

Musical Discovery: ‘Don’t You Feel It’ by Sub Focus feat. ALMA

It’s been nearly four years since Sub Focus (real name Nick Douwma) released his sophomore album, Torus, in September 2013. A drum-heavy collection of tracks perfect for the club, the record built upon the drum-and-bass style of his self-titled debut album. Yet now, the 35-year-old DJ appears to have spiced up his music a little. Nobody KnowsLove Devine and Lingua (feat. Stylo G) all contained edgy, deep house vibes with numerous musical effects. However, with his latest release – Don’t You Feel It (feat. ALMA) – the artist returns to somewhat familiar ground.

Of Douwma’s latest releases, Don’t You Feel It is the second single to feature credited vocalists. The first, which saw Stylo G take to the mic, involved more vocal distortion and a bouncier dance track. This time, with ALMA lending a helping hand, the song’s structure sees a return to the Torus days – with a clear voice (with no effects) and the build-up appearing in the chorus, not throughout.

With pulsing bass and simplistic rhythm guiding the song to the instrumental, the focus in the verses is very much on ALMA’s sassy, smooth and groovy vocals. As for the main melody itself, this is where long-term listeners can detect an evolution in Sub Focus’ style. Gone are the days of fluttering, euphoric dance, instead being replaced with a slightly tropical, heavy tone.

Whilst previous releases saw Douwma delve into a harsher club sound, Don’t You Feel It sees the DJ return to comfortable middle ground, with a strong vocalist and a progressive instrumental to boot.

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.