Fickle Friends’ ‘Glue’ – a groovy assortment of sweet, sticky pop

It was nothing but coincidence that all three songs from Fickle Friends’ new EP have a viscous substance as their title, but even so, with intricate guitar riffs, smooth vocal harmonies and rocking beats, SugarVanilla and Glue all live up to their names.

EP artwork for 'Glue' by Fickle Friends
The EP comes exactly two months after the title track, ‘Glue’, was released.

Look no further than the title track, Glue. Natti Shiner’s dreamy voice is guided with light synths and plucky guitar to produce an excitable track about rushed romance on a night out. Strip back all the funky instrumentals for the acoustic version and you have a song which really shows off Shiner’s soft vocals.

Then comes Sugar, which is essentially Glue 2.0, but tamer. Yet, the chorus is what’s distinctive. The line: and you don’t, and you don’t know, you don’t know you’re sugar interlinks beautifully with the beat underneath, and the harmonised sugar in the next line helps make it a strong second track for the EP. Calm but still funky, it bridges the gap between Glue and Vanilla – a song which certainly drifts away from the tone of the previous two.

Although, that is no doubt because of the new direction which the band pursue in this track. A slow drum beat immediately calm things down as the electronica takes a back seat for the most part and is replaced with a slouching rhythm and atmospheric bass.

If one was to dissect the record in more detail, it could be said that Glue splits up the feel-good sound we’ve heard on previous releases (such as Brooklyn and Hello Hello) to begin with, before the more chilled side of the five-piece comes through on the final two songs. Vanilla is a breakaway from the funk, and the acoustic version of Glue – as mentioned previously – demonstrates Natti’s talent.

It’s definitely a clever way of keeping fans excited for the band’s debut album, which is believed to be released early next year.

Musical Discovery: ‘Silence’ by Marshmello feat. Khalid

We all remember when The Chainsmokers dominated the UK charts. Andrew Taggart’s mumbling and groaning vocals defined their style as DJs and meant that any other track by another artist with the same low vocals would be labelled repetitive or ‘samey’. It’s since been used by Frank Ocean (in Calvin Harris’ Slide) and OneRepublic (in Rich Love), but now the hit DJ Marshmello has offered his take on the more chilled side of dance with his track, Silence.

Every now and then, the masked musician (whom everyone has now assumed to be Chris ‘Dotcom’ Comstock despite no official confirmation) lurches back into the mainstream and moves away from the snappy trap and electronic vocals. The last track to do so was the 2016 single Ritual, which saw the singer Wrabel step up to the mic with high-pitched emotion. Now, Marshmello has done the complete opposite, adopting a slow tempo and low tone for his with release of the year.

This sudden shift could very well be part of what makes it distinctive, but there’s no denying that Khalid is the centre of attention on Silence. There’s a sense that Marshmello’s backed away this time around, sticking to soft piano chords, pulsing synth and plucky guitars which underlie the 19-year-old’s soulful lyrics.

Described by the American singer as being ‘a sad song… about being content with loneliness and turning it into a positive’, it makes sense that the vocals are raspy and the instrumental aspect of the track is stripped back. Lines such as ‘love only left me alone, but I’m at one with the silence‘ and ‘I found peace in your violence‘ demonstrate the reflective nature of Silence. It’s far from being a song for people to dance along to, but it’s certainly one for fans to wave their phones in the air for when the DJ gives it a spin during his August and September shows.

Silence is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube.

Musical Discovery: ‘Little Secrets’ by Passion Pit

Passion Pit is a band who always seems to find their way into my life at those euphoric moments. Their collaboration with my favourite DJ Madeon on the track Pay No Mind welcomed me into adulthood, and now Little Secrets was part of my Summer in the City 2017 soundtrack – a weekend which was absolutely incredible.

With kazoo-like electronica that sounds reminiscent of an old Nintendo game mixed with summery French music, there’s a sense of blissful nostalgia which distracts oneself from Michael Angelakos’ slightly irritating falsetto. It’s how the lyrics and vocals intertwine with fluttering synth and bouncy drums which makes Angelakos just about bearable on this track. Whilst there’s no denying that his high-pitched singing is impressive, using this as in an attempt to heighten the emotions isn’t entirely successful.

Instead, you have a track which is worth listening to because of the instrumentals. It defeats the purpose of the track somewhat, but the feel good vibes are nonetheless apparent – despite the song supposedly having a much darker meaning.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hometown (Radio Edit)’ by Jack Wins feat. Raphaella

There’s something liberating about being on the brink of making your debut as an artist. Yet to be defined by a single sound from a breakthrough single, DJs, bands and singers are free to experiment with different genres and styles before that one moment comes. For Jack Wins, previous releases ranged from poppy piano stab tracks such as Good Love to hazy synth and deep house vibes as heard in I Used to Love You. Now, with plenty of singles to his name and a brand new EP, Hometown is a wonderful mix of his past work.

Look no further than the introduction to the track – a series of haunting synth notes that hold a striking resemblance from Years and Years’ Shine that taps into the more mainstream side of the Dutch DJ’s style. Add in some light, soft vocals with a hint of soul from Raphaela and you have the typical low scene-setter to build up from.

As a drum beat grows in the background, it halts two lines before the end of the verse to create a smooth acapella with the vocals and a satisfying drop into the main melody of the song.

Cue the club vibes, with the common underlying bass notes mixed with high-pitched synth. As much as the song’s structure makes this sound euphoric, credit must also go to Raphaella, who is no longer constrained to the calmer side of her vocal range. Now, the bottled-up soul bursts out, merging perfectly with Jack’s constructed instrumentals.

If, surprisingly, this fails to get the crowd pumped or the bedroom listener excited, then the fact that the producer slips in a brief nod to tracks such as Good Love and Give it Up with sharp piano stabs should do the trick. After all, it’s an instrumental element included in tracks by artists such as Blonde and Sigala that have smashed the UK charts.

Yet, with a timecode of 2:40, there can be a sense of disappointment that comes with the end of the song. In amongst all the excitement packed into such a short duration, it’s easy to abandon that sense of structure we look out for in songs (with most songs, we know when it’s the final verse). With smooth transitions from verse to chorus, it certainly doesn’t feel like two minutes, but time flies when there’s good music playing, and there’s always the longer full house mix to listen to.

Musical Discovery: ‘Would You Ever’ by Skrillex feat. Poo Bear

It’s been a while since teenagers raved in nightclubs and bedrooms to Bangarang and Breakn’ a Sweat, and for those who haven’t kept up with Skrillex’s releases since then, the producer’s new track with Poo Bear, Would You Ever, can come as a surprise.

If you excuse the artist’s detour with Diplo (called Jack Ü), when the duo released the club hit Where Are Ü Now, Skrillex has always lingered in the harsher side of the party subgenre – trap, dubstep and so forth. Now, with soft synths and vocal distortions, Would You Ever sounds like the 29-year-old’s most mainstream track to date.

After all, it contains all the necessary ingredients: catchy, high-pitched vocals (supplied by Poo Bear), and a mix between mellow verses and a fast-paced chorus. We’ve seen male falsetto from other, recent releases such as Marshmello’s Ritual and Vice and Jon Bellion’s Obsession. There’s certainly a few boxes ticked with this latest collaboration.

Speaking of Poo Bear, it’s his vocals – as opposed to Skrillex’s contribution – which really takes centre stage in this single. Aside from the aforementioned high notes, the singer (real name Jason Boyd) sets a smooth tone in the verses as well as the musician asks adventurous, rhetorical questions – paving the way for Skrillex to make things all nostalgic in the chorus.

And if that wasn’t enough, then a professional longboarder dances down a US high street in the official music video. Whilst it’s not an unusual sight in today’s videos, the visual cliché keeps the good vibes flowing.

If it wasn’t for Poo Bear’s stand out vocals, one wonders just how popular this track would be. Nevertheless, Skrillex’s exploration of a mainstream sound has paid off, and could well win him a couple of new listeners – for now.

Musical Discovery: ‘Run for Cover’ by The Killers

It’s hardly an unusual occurrence in the music industry: a band, returning from a lengthy break with a desire to try out a new sound, release something different before backing it up with a single that sounds familiar. Yet, this is The Killers we’re talking about – the group behind Mr Brightside who are still full of versatility after more than 10 years on the music scene.

Run for Cover is the latest single from the hitmakers’ upcoming album, Wonderful Wonderful, and follows on from The Man – a track full of falsetto and machismo. This time, however, Flowers delivers gritty and harsh lyrics about toxicology, dirtbags and a difficult relationship with a brand of rock that’s reminiscent of a previous hit (Spaceman) and the Kaiser Chiefs. It’s no surprise either, after the lead singer revealed that “Run for Cover was written about nine years ago for Day & Age but it wasn’t completely written”.

Opening up the track with driving drum beats and intense guitar riffs, a sense of nostalgia is created for fans – and that’s even before Flowers begins the first verse with Ricky Wilson-esque vocals. Then comes the chorus, which sounds both familiar and distinctive at the same time, with the usual blend of anthemic lyrics, stand-out guitar melodies and pounding drums. Whilst The Man offers a more laid-back groove to sway to, there’s no denying that Run for Cover will have fans rocking out when the band go on tour later this year and in 2018.

Musical Discovery: ‘Lifetimes’ by Oh Wonder

With the title track of Oh Wonder’s second album being a euphoric song with pounding drums and soothing harmonies, one would have assumed that Ultralife would have more of this heavy alternative sound, with quieter songs for balance. Follow-up singles such as Heavy and High on Humans also hinted at a similar path, yet the majority of the record sees Vander Gucht and West take on a softer tone. Despite this, there is one track with this particular style that stands out: Lifetimes.

At the heart of the track is the harmonies. Much like the male-female vocal contrast in Ultralife, we hear delicate high notes in Lifetimes – the repetitive line ‘doing it right’ adding to the distinctive chorus. It also adopts the slow build-up of the aforementioned single. Yet whilst there are structural similarities, there are some differences which show the duo are exploring new avenues in the wider album – take Anthony’s fast-paced, rhythmic vocals under a complex drum rhythm in the pre-chorus, for instance.

Whilst there’s no denying that Oh Wonder have a traditional sound which underlies every song (a sound which, one would argue, is somewhat similar to Of Monsters and Men), there’s a sense that Ultralife – the album, that is – is a ‘pick-and-mix’ record.

With Anthony and Josephine following the pattern of their last album and releasing Ultralife on a song-by-song basis, there’s a sense that listeners are invited to choose tracks which take their fancy. Whether it be electronic vibes apparent in SoloHeavy and High on Humans, or a more mellow sound heard in My Friends and Waste, there’s a fun element of choice for fans of this London-based duo.