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.

Advertisements

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.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hard to Be Myself’ by Fickle Friends

‘Something a bit different’ was how Fickle Friends described their latest single in a tweet last month. Whilst a more synth-heavy track could certainly be described as ‘different’ compared to  the usual funky guitar vibes, the five-piece band from Brighton once again strike a hit with their latest bop, Hard to Be Myself.

It’s a track which is as catchy as it is relatable. Soft vocals from lead singer Natti see her talk about overthinking, reading between the lines and feeling like ‘a prisoner to [the] mood‘. We’ve all been there: sitting in the corner of a party feeling lost and insecure when everyone else is dancing away. It’s a song about a position we’ve all been in, beautifully presented with bouncy synth and triplet vocals, and soul.

Hard to Be Myself is available now on Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music.

Musical Discovery: ‘Ego’ by Ella Eyre feat. Ty Dolla $ign (Jack Wins Remix)

A successful remix is always one which could be passed off as the original, if the listener hasn’t heard anything different. In my case, as I listened to Jack Wins’ remix of Ella Eyre’s Ego, despite knowing it wasn’t the initial song, it certainly sounded like the first version.

There’s no denying that Eyre’s vocals can’t fit a good dance track (look no further than her recent hits with Sigma and Sigala, which both entered the UK Top 40). From something a bit tropical (Came Here for Love) or drum-and-bass (Good Times), Jack’s remix shows Ella’s suitability for a more club-like sound. With the original version adopting a slow calypso, the club version injects some much-needed fun and pace into the track. Whilst the initial track’s chorus contains nothing more than flowing drums and soulful vocals from Ella, Jack Wins brings a new instrumental melody to this part of the song which gives it that added punch.

Disappointingly minimalistic in its makeup, the slower tempo of Ella’s song lacks a satisfying beat drop and chorus. It may well serve as a more atmospheric single compared to the 23-year-old’s previous, fast-paced pop releases, but it just lacks a certain substance. Ego sounds very much like a track one would see accompanying a big-budget emotional movie trailer. It is great background listening, and is comfortably mediocre, but there’s nothing there to warrant our full attention.

This brings me to Jack Wins’ remix, and my point about this having the potential to be considered the original. The Dutch DJ’s impressive portfolio of hits shows he is no stranger to creating the perfect hook, beat drop and chorus, and fixes all the mistakes in the initial track with ease.

The underwhelming beat drop at the start is replaced with a satisfying drum fill, followed by a chorus complete with a bouncy rhythm and sharp synth chords to set the tone. Yet again, like his Rockabye remix, Jack Wins cuts out the featured rapper in the track (Ty Dolla $ign) for the benefit of the song as a whole.

With a perfect balance between adding new things to the song, and taking other parts away, Jack’s remix style yet again brings out the best in a single in a way that makes it his own – and if that’s not the sign of a good remix, then I don’t know what is.

Musical Discovery: ‘Dancing in the Daylight’ by Scouting for Girls

It’s been a while since we danced to She’s So Lovely at school discos. Scouting for Girls’ strong collection of pop hits were always popular throughout the noughties and early 2010s – HeartbeatElvis Ain’t Dead and This Ain’t A Love Song were songs about love and heartbreak with cheesy guitar melodies and straightforward vocals. Now, 10 years on from their debut, the band return with Dancing in the Daylight.

It’s a song taken from their upcoming album, Ten Add Ten – a release which will see 10 of the four-piece’s biggest tracks appear alongside 10 new songs. If it wasn’t for the fact that they’re celebrating such an anniversary, then the continuous regurgitating of their biggest hits would have been a bit tiresome by now (they released their Greatest Hits album in 2013 and have also re-released their debut album this year). However, there’s something smart about the idea behind Ten Add Ten: an album which will no doubt take a look back, whilst also looking forward.

Yet, Dancing in the Daylight contains all the elements of a traditional Scouting for Girls song, as opposed to being something completely different. From lyrics about a midnight kiss, to bouncy piano chords and a lively drum beat, it’s packed full of bubbly euphoria which fits the tone of the song perfectly. With hints of a Heartbeat vibe, Dancing in the Daylight sees Scouting for Girls give us a wonderful sense of nostalgia and another good song to have a dance to.

Ten Add Ten is set to be released on October 13.

Kygo develops his tropical house sound with ‘Stargazing’ EP

If one was to look a bit too deeply into the name of Kygo’s new EP, then you may think that Stargazing is a nod to the Norwegian DJ’s inspirations. After all, with U2 – one of his favourite bands – featured on You’re the Best Thing About Me, and country-style guitars appearing on This Town (which may be seen as an homage to Avicii), what’s not to say that the producer’s latest release sees him gaze at his ‘stars’ with admiration?

Though, first and foremost, the name of the EP comes from the title of the opening track, which sees Kygo (real name Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll) collaborate with American singer, Justin Jesso. Once again, whether it’s the delicate chords in the verses which intertwine with the Jesso’s rhythm, or the bouncy stabs underneath the choppy vocals in the chorus, Kyrre’s talents with the piano shine through once again. Add this to Jesso’s voice – which has the ability to be both soft and soulful (with a slight rasp to it) – and imaginative vocals, then you have a successful first track which certainly sets the tone and lives up to its name.

What follows next is two tracks we’ve heard before: It Ain’t Me (feat. Selena Gomez) and First Time (feat. Ellie Goulding), so there’s a possibility that a few people will be annoyed at the lack of new material on the EP, but at last, we have the release which includes these previous singles. Kyrre’s collaboration with Gomez sees a brief guitar melody before quickly descending into the traditional piano tune with slight vocal distortion. It’s fitting that it follows on from Stargazing, as there’s certainly a few similarities.

Compare this to First Time and you have a more minimalistic sound from Kyrre. Yet again, the producer paves the way for the vocalist (in this case, Goulding) to take centre stage in the verses, before slowly progressing into the drop. Yet, the build-up this time around feels calmer and more stripped back. Rather than a melody playing before the main tune, Kyrre relies on Ellie’s vocals in the pre-chorus before introducing the interlude. It’s a movement which makes an interesting change from other tracks, highlighting a lighter tone from the DJ.

However, by far the most intriguing track of the five is This Town. The second new song on the EP, Kygo ditches the heavy, plucky synth and piano for a more chill, country vibe. It was something the artist flirted with a little in his track with Kodaline, Raging, but now it has a much stronger influence. The tempo is slow and in a sense, it feels more like a Sasha Sloan track than a song by Kygo, as yet again, Kyrre places heavy emphasis on the featured vocalist.

It’s a track which moves away from the Cloud Nine era whilst also building upon it, but it’s not the only song on the EP to do so, as the record comes to a close with a collaboration with U2 for a remix of their track, You’re the Best Thing About Me.

Whilst Kygo has always preferred piano or acoustic guitar in his tracks, he can now have a bit of fun with a grittier guitar sound that Bono and co. like to use in their music. In that regard, Kyrre does a great job of preserving the best parts of the original (including the smooth guitar and, for the most part, Bono’s unique sound) whilst adding a bit of a spring to the tempo and some slight distortion in his melody.

As an EP which shows off Kygo’s remixing capabilities and his new direction alongside his traditional sound, it may not be just the stars which the Norwegian is looking at, as it’s a release which shows that the DJ is very much looking onwards and upwards.