#NewMusicFriday: ‘Cheetah Tongue’ by The Wombats

The Wombats are certainly painting an interesting picture as to what their upcoming album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Their previous single Turn calmed things down a bit, but now the Liverpudlian trio have returned to vibes explored in Lemon to a Knife Fight with their new track, Cheetah Tongue.

Getting its first play on BBC Radio 1 on Wednesday this week, host Annie Mac referenced comments by lead singer Matthew Murphy (published on sites such as Dork and The Prelude Press) during an interview with the guitarist: “I wanted to make an album that had more swagger, was a bit more laid back, something that wasn’t punching you in the face every time you listen to it,” he had said. In a clear sign that the band have progressed since the days of A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation and Glitterbug, the latest trio of singles have proven that The Wombats have been able to tone down their more pulsing rock, without that damaging their unique style.

After all, Cheetah Tongue (another bizarre but quirky song title) starts with tight, solid guitar strums underneath the opening verse, before an off-beat drum groove is introduced in the chorus – adding that traditional catchiness and kick to the single. Reading this, one might wonder what sets this era apart from previous releases. My answer? The Wombats have eased off backing vocals (seen on tracks like Kill the Director and Moving to New York) and slowed the tempo a little bit. The end result being a more stripped-back vibe, whilst still being brilliantly anthemic.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Only You’ by Shift K3Y

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to some music from Shift K3Y. With hits like TouchI Know and Gone Missing, I was drawn in by the 24-year-old DJ’s (real name Lewis Jankel) unique blend of synth with a deeper, buzzing club sound. Now, after a couple of promotional singles last year and the release of his album NIT3 TALES in 2016, Jankel returns with Only You – a single which mashes together some old vibes with the new.

With Jankel taking to the mic once again underneath vibrant piano chords, listeners will be reminded of the producer’s older material, before the track is quick to descend into a pulsing beat complete with deeper synth sounds. A constant back-and-forth between two styles, Only You keeps things flowing before the aforementioned styles come together in the final drop: a fluttering mix of piano chords with dirty synth underneath.

Returning with a more mainstream sound, Shift K3Y kickstarts 2018 off with a groovy club hit.

Musical Discovery: ‘FOOLS’ by Troye Sivan

Hold music is an interesting concept. If it’s a bad song, it can make a 10-minute call to your bank feel like eternity, and if it’s catchy, then you can end up singing The Human League down the phone just as Steve from Apple tech support picks up. Sorry, Steve.

Yet, on this particular occasion, I didn’t have to worry about talking to anyone down the phone. One particular internet webinar – another intriguing thing – on social media had some rather catchy ‘hold music’ before starting. In amongst the dodie songs and other tracks, was a new musical discovery in the form of Troye Sivan’s FOOLS.

For someone who’s never listened to music for those ‘chill vibes’ (I’m either listening to songs to try and establish what exactly they’re saying, or because I like the melodies) or has been tempted by the thousands of Spotify playlists offering laid-back listening, Troye’s 2015 track is one of those few songs I can leave playing in the background when scrolling social media and not feel bad that I’m not giving it my undivided attention.

And that is not me saying that this is a song which isn’t worth paying attention to – not at all. FOOLS is a track which jumps from piano chords on a slow tempo to fuzzy synthesiser to keep things flowing. An electro-track that isn’t too heavy, it can certainly be both a ‘chill’ song for easy listening as much as it can be one to dance along to.

After all, it’s a track with a kind of synth-pop that one would expect from a collaboration between French DJ Madeon and Closer producers The Chainsmokers. Atmospheric chords commonly associated with the former combine with the hazier, bouncy melodies of the latter to form a staggering, jumpy beat which tie-in nicely with Sivan’s softly sung lyrics.

Despite reviewing this just over two years after its release, FOOLS still sounds current with a style that could easily slide in to the trap theme we’ve seen take the music world by storm lately with its off-beat rhythm and sprinkling of synth melodies.

Blue Neighbourhood (which includes the track FOOLS) is available on Spotify and Apple Music now.

Musical Discovery: ‘Breathe’ by Mako

It’s Christmas Day (Merry Christmas, by the way), but for today’s post, we’re putting that aside. With this being the last Musical Discovery of 2017, I wanted to review a track by an artist which would take me all the way back to the start of this year – a ‘full circle’ of sorts, if you will.

It was the middle of January. I was in Bristol on work experience, loving the placement and loving the new city I happened to find myself in. Early morning walks to BBC Bristol and late night journeys back to the house I was staying at were soundtracked by Mako’s debut album, Hourglass – particularly the track, Run for Your Life (feat. Rat City and Natalola).

So now that they’ve released a new single earlier this month, called Breathe, it makes sense for me to review it.

As those who have listened to Hourglass will know, Mako’s style can easily be split into synth-heavy tracks and the more stripped-back songs. If one were to compare Breathe with the American DJs’ back catalogue, then the similarities to Smoke Filled Room and Our Story are certainly apparent as the single adopts a calmer tone.

An all too familiar chord progression on the guitar opens up the track, before Alex Seaver’s equally soft vocals are introduced. With lyrics in the verses that fluctuate in pace, the listener’s attention is caught before things are truly slowed down for the chorus. Harmonised backing vocals float above a gentle rhythm in a break which restores a tempo to the track (drums are absent in the first verse) and help create a relaxing feel. In that regard, Breathe lives up to its name.

Putting the song’s structure to one side, if one was to consider the fact that this is a solo single from Alex, and that group member Logan Light announced his absence ‘from the majority of [Mako’s] 2017 shows’, then Light’s absence can be felt somewhat when listening to Breathe.

Whilst, as mentioned previously, it fits nicely amongst tracks such as Smoke Filled Room, it lacks that slight synth feel which Logan tends to bring to songs as ‘the DJ of the group’. Nevertheless, with Breathe possessing many of Mako’s musical characteristics, Alex’s solo single does a great job of carrying the group’s baton whilst Light takes a step back.

New music from Mako is certainly very promising, and here’s hoping more is on the way (hopefully with Logan’s involvement) come 2018…

 

Review: ‘The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye’ by David Lagercrantz

Foyles Bookshop, London, September, 2015. David Lagercrantz takes to the stage to talk about The Girl in the Spider’s Web – a book which sees him continue Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium trilogy.

Photo of book cover.

One would be surprised if the author didn’t feel a little bit under pressure that night, or, more specifically, after the book was released. The original three novels chronicling Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist’s adventures are classics, and there was a chance that some were worried about the reboot of the series.

Yet, the book did well. Keen to stay true to the lore, Lagercrantz kept character development minimal and instead, it was how the main duo interacted with a gripping plot which made the book interesting.

Fast forward to today and the Swedish writer has lost the air of hesitation. In some regards, The Girl in the Spider’s Web was Lagercrantz dipping his toe into the water. This time, however, with The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye, he’s prepared to take some risks, and be a bit more daring.

There’s two main plot points in particular which will probably leave devoted fans shocked, but for the sake of this review and spoilers, I won’t mention them. Nevertheless, it shows bravery and competence on Lagercrantz’s part to change the story in such a way.

Although, with that being said, the story perhaps could have worked better as a ‘personal vendetta’ story, as the name suggests. The plot in itself was interesting somewhat, but it was nothing extraordinary. However, the character development in this follow-up is to be commended.

Whether or not this is down to my lengthy breaks between reading (I blame university) or the story itself, but as I turned the last page whilst on the tube, I couldn’t help but feel a little confused. In some regards, the title hadn’t lived up to my expectations, and the epilogue lacked the sense of completion and satisfaction that one normally feels.

So, as a whole? It’s an enjoyable book which is satisfying for the most part. To some, it may well be seen as the ‘filler’ that the second book in a trilogy tends to be. Nevertheless, we approach the final instalment in the new trilogy knowing Lisbeth and Mikael a whole lot better, and with a refreshed, confident writing style from Lagercrantz.

The sixth Millennium novel looks set to be a gripping tale indeed.

Musical Discovery: ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’ by The Wombats

It’s always a joy rediscovering a classic band, and it’s even better when you realise that they’re back with new music. In my case, after months of re-listening to Kill the Director and Moving to New York, The Wombats return with Lemon to a Knife Fight.

If you were to compare Lemon to a Knife Fight to songs from A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation, then you’ll hear a subtle difference. The fast-paced feel of the latter is replaced with a slower tempo, yet the chanting vocals remain – along with the traditional, bizarre song titles…

This makeup creates a song which has the potential to be both a festival hit, and a laid-back track for a bedroom listening session.

Lemon to a Knife Fight shows maturity from The Wombats in what is a solid single marking their return.

Musical Discovery: ‘We Could Go Back’ by Jonas Blue (Jonas Blue & Jack Wins Club Mix)

Unlike previous releases, Jonas Blue’s We Could Go Back has a much slower tempo, opting for a smooth marimba feel complete with tropical house vibes. However, as with any track with a low BPM, the potential to speed things up a little bit is there. Cue the producer joining with the Dutch DJ Jack Wins to do just that.

Jumping straight in with the first verse, already we hear the flow of Moelogo’s vocals increased which sees the chorus brought in just 22 seconds into the song. At this point, we get a flavour of the instrumentals to come, with light synth melodies gaining prominence before coming to the forefront.

Staggering piano stabs keep things nice and bouncy, providing the first build-up of the track before a second build follows, complete with backing synth and drums. Then, come the actual drop, it’s the deeper, backing synth (a sound often apparent on a Jack Wins single) that we hear as the instrumental.

If there’s one thing to be admired for the track, then its smooth transitions into different musical styles. The DJ duo’s remix sees bursts of deep house, traditional piano stabs and, with regards to the second verse and beat drop, hints of drum-and-bass.

Whilst, of course, Jonas Blue’s original style is suited to the club scene (tropical house still makes a regular appearance at nightclubs around the country thanks to tracks such as Despacito), with a wonderful blend of styles, the UK DJ’s collaboration with Jack Wins is also the perfect track for any party-goer, with any musical preference.