Musical Discovery: ‘Million Bucks’ by Smallpools

It’s always interesting listening to the music that artists themselves listen to, as they can often lead to some fascinating new finds. Look no further than Emma Blackery’s recent livestream, which saw viewers listen to a snippet of Million Bucks by Smallpools.

It’s a quintessential indie bop, released in the height of this year’s summer season and complete with seaside guitars and anthemic vocals singing about Los Angeles. Pack all this into a 4 minute song and you have a track on the same level as Chocolate by The 1975 and T-Shirt Weather by Circa Waves. In a sense, to group Million Bucks into such a genre does give the impression that it’s yet another upbeat indie song which lacks that particular unique edge, but that’s where the catchy chorus comes in, selling the track and sets it apart from all the others.

The lyrics and instrumentals have a strong part to play in its catchiness, but without a doubt, the pacing of the chorus keeps things flowing, fluttering and interesting to listen to. Take lines such as I’ve got all my, money on you/And though my, dollars are few, where a slight pause in the middle leaves enough room for punchy guitar chords and you have a solid chorus from the three-piece band. Then, when followed by an expressive instrumental interlude, the feel-good vibes are strong as the song comes to a close.

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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.

Musical Discovery: ‘The Man’ by The Killers

Bass-heavy alternative is sweeping the genre at the moment, whether it’s full-on funk or something a little bit more inventive, everyone seems to be jumping on the musical bandwagon. Now, with a song that sounds like the lovechild of Jamiroquai and Two Door Cinema Club, Mr Brightside singers The Killers return from a five-year absence with The Man.

Although far from an anthemic rock single, the fluid drum beats and groovy guitars apparent in Battle Born and Hot Fuss still linger underneath Brandon Flower’s falsetto vocals. The Man (taken from the band’s upcoming album, Wonderful Wonderful) debuted as Annie Mac’s Hottest Record on BBC Radio 1, and certainly hints at a record which strikes a balance between funky alternative and hard-hitting rock.

However similar it may sound compared to other alternative bands in the industry at the moment, we can all be thankful that The Killers are back after a lengthy absence.

The Man is available to stream on Spotify and iTunes now.

Musical Discovery: ‘You’ by BLOXX

There’s always something exciting about finding a new band at the start of their musical journey. With nearly 3K followers on Twitter and only two singles under their belt, BLOXX (a four piece indie band from Uxbridge, West London) are still very much in their early stages, but have jumped in to the indie genre with gusto. You only need to look as far as their first track (Your Boyfriend) and their latest release, You – which came out last Friday – for proof.

A guitar melody which, upon first listen, sounded reminiscent of the Friends theme tune sets the upbeat, rocky tone for this track. Contrast Mozwin’s pounding drums with Ophelia Booth’s soft, mumbling vocals and you have a gritty indie anthem perfect for both live gigs and bedroom listening.

For the most part, it’s the ‘all too familiar’ guitar riffs and bass drums which are the true driving force of the song, but credit must also be given to Booth’s sound in the chorus. Now adopting a louder voice, it adds to the emotion created by the backing instruments to form the usual indie track we know and love.

As You builds on the success of Your Boyfriend, it looks as though we can expect to hear more of Bloxx on the radio in the future (the band have already had some coverage from the BBC), as well as some new material to boost the summer mood.

Musical Discovery: ‘Fools’ by Lauren Aquilina

Lauren Aquilina is a name I’ve often seen mentioned in tweets on Twitter or elsewhere online, but I never thought to listen to her music – until now. With a humble, warm singer-songwriter sound similar to that of Gabrielle Aplin, I was disappointed that I hadn’t listened to one of her earlier tracks, Fools, sooner.

There’s something about Lauren’s vocals that leads to you imagining yourself lying down on a deckchair listening to this track, or standing watching her perform it in a festival environment. It’s that mellow style of music which calms those who listens to it, rather than boring them.

With light piano melodies and bouncy bass riffs to begin with, the instrumentals are there purely for rhythmic purposes. The emphasis is truly placed on Aquilina’s voice, which is equally as soft. Although timid, that is not to say that it lacks power. Atmospheric drums build the tone for the chorus, telling the listener to pay attention. They are rewarded with occasional high notes and pure soul to add to a relaxing song. If pop’s white noise becomes too much, then the calming voice of Lauren Aquilina is the perfect alternative.

After looking more into Lauren’s music, I saw that she released her debut album, Isn’t it Strange? in 2016. Now follows the excitement that comes with discovering a new artist: I can now continue to discover more of their great music. I look forward to listening to the album in the future.

 

Review: ‘Gameshow’ by Two Door Cinema Club

It’s been three years. The upbeat guitar riffs of Tourist History and Beacon have to be adapted to suit a completely different market. For any band, an album is a chance to try out new directions. Gameshow is the eagerly anticipated third album from Two Door Cinema Club, which sees them burst back into the music industry with euphoric electronica mixed with haunting guitar riffs.

GAMESHOW COVER
Two Door Cinema Club are back with ‘Gameshow’. It’s time for music lovers to rediscover them again.

The first glimpse at their new direction through Are We Ready? (Wreck) – a track with gloomy guitar melodies and synthesisers. With lyrics and a music video poking fun at consumerism, fans knew the band’s latest release will take a edgier, darker tone.

That is, until Bad Decisions, Gameshow and Ordinary all challenged expectations of what Two Door’s new style will be. It’s only when the album was released today in full that we could see which avenues the trio are exploring.

It’s a record which combines vibrant funk with gritty rock. Sam offers new, hard-hitting and fluttering guitar tunes, groovy songs such as Fever and Je Viens De La give bassist Kevin free rein, and Alex tries his hand at falsetto – something which mimics the Scissor Sisters and The BeeGees in terms of style, but also provides a modern spin.

It’s a wise move for Two Door Cinema Club to take. Funk is a genre which has been slowly creeping into the spotlight. After Gameshow, we may just see the popularity of this music style increase further.

Yet, at the same time, the album bursts to life with the synth-heavy Are We Ready? (Wreck) and we hear a Kings of Leon-like tone on the rough title track. That is until the track, Lavender, complete with calm, mellow vocals and punchy guitar riffs, which kickstarts the more laid-back songs and the funky side of the album.

Fever is the smooth alternative to Bad Decisions and a perfect track to drive along to late at night. Meanwhile, Invincible is more reflective and emotional, placing emphasis on Alex’s soft, mumbling vocals. However, this album does not reach a calm atmospheric (to end the record on such a tone would go against the new style the band are trying to create). Instead, Je Viens De La is the fast-paced funk track which sums up Two Door’s new direction: funky, electronic, falsettos and more creative guitar melodies.

Gameshow is a wonderfully diverse third album for Two Door Club, they’ve moved forward without leaving their old style behind (as we hear in Ordinary‘s plucky guitars). This contrast and the individualism of each song is what makes Gameshow such an intricate, diverse and powerful album. After a long absence, Two Door Cinema Club are back. It’s time for music fans to rediscover the band and fall in love with them all over again.

Rating: 4/5

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Ordinary’ by Two Door Cinema Club

Gameshow is two days away, and Two Door Cinema Club have intrigued fans with singles which span various musical genres. The band’s three-year absence has both allowed and forced them to adapt their style. Their third album clearly has a darker tone at its core – whether it be masked behind Bad Decisions‘ poppy falsetto or through the gloomy electronica of Are We Ready? (Wreck). The Irish trio have moved away from the upbeat, vibrant style we hear in Tourist History, but not completely. For the fans who will inevitably moan about the band’s new direction, or for those who miss their old songs, Ordinary may just be the track for them.

With vocal melodies reminiscent of Handshake, the final single to be taken from Gameshow is a reassuring one for those who prefer TDCC’s fuzzy guitar and bass riffs – complete with a bouncy drum beat – right at the forefront of the song.  That being said, the electronic undertones is something present in the band’s most recent releases. It’s a track which fuses Two Door Cinema Club’s new direction with their past work. It’s the perfect middle ground.

Once again, like Bad Decisions, we hear a more falsetto and high-pitched voice from Alex. It’s a risk which pulled off for the lead singer, and in terms of instrumental developments, we still hear the catchy, flourishing guitar tunes which the band are known for, but in tracks such as Gameshow and Are We Ready? (Wreck) there’s a slightly eerie, electronic and gritty style.

Ordinary is a single which bridges the gap between old and new for Two Door Cinema Club. If there’s more of these types of tracks on the album, then fans uncertain about the wide ground which Gameshow appears to be covering in terms of genres may be satisfied. However, I’m not one of these people. From the sound of things, Two Door Cinema Club’s new release is going to be wonderfully intriguing, inventive and diverse. It’s certainly an album worth listening to when it comes out this Friday.

Whilst their first three singles are an exciting look at what’s to come, Ordinary is a refreshing look back at the band’s earlier work, which still lives on.

What do you think of Ordinary? Are you looking forward to Gameshow? Do you like their new direction? Comment below!

Liam