#NewMusicFriday: ‘Always In Between’ by Jess Glynne

Although diverse and wide-ranging, the Hold My Hand singer’s sophomore release is generic, pandering pop which for the most part lacks impact and distinction – ★★★

There was something promising about Always In Between. With just under half of the tracklist for Glynne’s debut being taken up by singles we’d heard before, the new sounds of I Cry When I Laugh were overshadowed by the déjà vu of the old. Her follow-up was destined to be fresh, unheard of and a continued exploration of new directions for the London musician, yet the end result was a lot more underwhelming.

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian sums up the mediocre nature of the album well in his review. The second album should always offer a sense of progression, which Always In Between offers, albeit through the popular vocal styles and musical genres of the day. There’s ballads such as Insecurities for the Adele fans, while Never Let Me Go blends the Sheeran-esque guitar melodies with the harsh trap which has been dominating pop music lately.

Once again, it’s the singles which pack the punch on the record. Hit-makers Rudimental make These Days a vibrant summer jam, while talented singer-songwriter Frances lends a helping hand on the stripped-back pop track All I Am. 123 has a sense of soulful familiarity to it that we’ve probably heard before, while I’ll Be There has hard-hitting drums and catchy yodel-like vocals. The final single, Thursday – released a day before the album – is a refreshing, soft track away from the usual vibrant, loud sounds.

Glynne’s portfolio of hits is testament that there’s a winning formula there somewhere working with a phenomenal voice, yet Always In Between lets this descend to a point of disappointing blandness. It’s a comfortable background listen, but for a voice like Glynne’s, it should be one which commands your attention.

Always In Between is available now.

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Musical Discovery: ‘Disconnect’ by Clean Bandit & Marina

For some people, seeing the name Marina next to Clean Bandit is a pleasant surprise. Not least because the single in question – Disconnect – first debuted two years ago at Coachella, but also because it was in 2015 that the Hollywood singer last released some music.

Now, she joins forces with Jack Patterson of the classical-pop trio to produce a song that’s finally graced our song libraries in full studio quality.

Almost following the template of Symphony (Clean Bandit’s collaboration with Zara Larsson), soft vocals and piano chords can be heard at the start of the song – the appearance of the latter instrument being no surprise given that Jack is the band’s pianist.

It a sound which is reminiscent of Rather Be, Extraordinary and Real Love. It builds on the success of Symphony to deliver another track which balances the classical and electronic aspects of the band’s style perfectly, complete with yet another soulful vocalist.

As mentioned previously, Marina’s last musical venture was two years ago. Since the release of her debut album, The Family Jewels, in 2010, the 31-year-old is yet to score a number one single (2012’s Primadonna being the closest at No. 11). Hot off the success of Rockabye and Symphony, a collaboration with Clean Bandit could be the song that takes her all the way to the top spot.

Musical Discovery: ‘Symphony’ by Clean Bandit feat. Zara Larsson

You’d have thought that a song called ‘Symphony’ by the electro-classical band Clean Bandit would involve bursts of violin and cello. Yet, with orchestral flourishes only appearing in the background, it’s another pop song by the trio which has this imbalance between dance and strings.

It’s a track much like Extraordinary and Dust Clears in nature. Bouncy, light synths and snappy drum beats are at the forefront underneath the vocalist’s sound, with the occasional, classical flair. In this case, it’s the artist behind Lush Life – Zara Larsson – and sings with pure, soft vocals reminiscent of her ballad, Uncover.

This track came out on Friday – the same day that Larsson’s debut album, So Good, was released. In that sense, Symphony‘s delicate nature was the perfect track to coincide with the record. It shows Zara in her true form, displaying her vocal talent. For fans of Clean Bandit who have only just been made aware of the Swedish singer, it’s certainly a great way to introduce herself.

As Larsson’s vocals take centre stage (both in the song and literally in terms of the music video), everything else – including Clean Bandit’s contribution – feels somewhat supplementary. There’s even an orchestra in the video, despite the classic elements of Symphony not being at the forefront of the song. Despite the lack of strings and the absence of a move towards the style shown on their debut album (New Eyes), that is not enough to be dismissive of this particular Clean Bandit track.

As with every collaboration, the trio always manage to pick a mood and singer which work well together. In this case, Zara Larsson leads a soulful single complete with impassioned verses and fluttering choruses. It continues the pop vibe of Tears and Rockabye, albeit with a completely different tone this time round.

Musical Discovery: ‘Rockabye’ by Clean Bandit (Jack Wins Remix)

Rockabye as Clean Bandit’s latest release built upon this new style the trio had started to create ahead of their next studio album. However, with messy vocal chop-ups, the appearance of ‘love him or hate him’ artist Sean Paul, and it being their first track without Neil Amin-Smith, Clean Bandit’s new song got off to a bumpy start – taking three weeks for the single to make it to number one. Whilst Rockabye is quite calypso and tropical in nature, fans who miss the band’s more pop-sounding style may enjoy a remix by the Dutch DJ, Jack Wins.

 

After all, at the core of the track is a build-up and drop with vibrant piano/synth stabs, which will take listeners all the way back to Clean Bandit’s earlier releases such as Rather Be and Extraordinary. Alongside a fast-paced tempo and bubbly instrumentals, Jack breathes life into Rockabye with a remix full of colour and emotion – which is a refreshing change from the laid-back original.

However, as well as being transformative (including offering an interesting alternative to Sean Paul, with Anne-Marie singing his lines instead), the track remains heavily faithful to the original – with the vocals remaining untouched and a slight hint of strings heard in the original. It’s a version which balances old and new – and that’s exactly what a remix should be.

Overall, Jack Wins’ style is wonderfully up-beat, tapping into the vibrant piano/synth chords trend we see adopted by DJs such as Sigala (Ain’t Giving Up) and MK (Piece of Me). Jack has already been noticed by key DJs and radio stations, and now, with another high-profile remix under his belt – this time in the form of Clean Bandit’s Rockabye – something tells me it won’t be long before Jack Wins makes even bigger waves on the house scene.

Musical Discovery: ‘Rockabye’ by Clean Bandit feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie

The past few months have had their ups and downs for the electro-classical Clean Bandit. Tears (feat. Louisa Johnson) was a welcome return, but now the band are without one member, after violinist Neil Amin-Smith announced he was leaving the band earlier this month. It’s an absence which has shocked fans, and can be felt when listening to Clean Bandit’s latest single, Rockabye (feat. Sean Paul and Anne-Marie).

Rather Be defined Clean Bandit. Their fusion of violin melodies alongside dance rhythms and synths introduced classical music (well, in a sense) to a new audience. It was a new style of pop, with a sprinkling of an orchestral vibe, which made the single – featuring Jess Glynne – and their debut album such a success.

It’s now 2016, and Clean Bandit join Two Door Cinema Club and other artists by releasing new material with a fresh new tone. Audiences love that: a sense of progression yet similarity. With Tears, there’s a different club-like feel to their electronic style, and the strings make an appearance in the chorus. Yet, apart from the build-up at the start of the song, they’re absent in the verses. It felt less like a 50/50 split between the two musical genres that we can hear on Extraordinary (feat. Sharna Bass) and Real Love (feat. Jess Glynne), with more of a focus placed on the various synth tones Clean Bandit can explore.

If anything, the calypso Rockabye is reminiscent of Come Over, with bouncy synthesiser chords and an offbeat drum rhythm. Yet this time, Sean Paul is on hand to provide the smooth-sounding vocals instead of Stylo G, and he does this alongside Anne-Marie – who offers a more soulful voice in the chorus. Aside from a change in featured artists, the main melody is a funky mishmash of choppy lyrics and a pronounced bass riff. However, strings seem to have taken a step back in Clean Bandit’s latest release.

Granted, this is the band’s first single since Neil’s departure, and that may be part of it, but apart from the fluttering introduction and conclusion, most of the track seems to be more of a tropical pop song as opposed to one which fuses that with orchestral undertones. It was this perfect merging of genres which made Come Over so successful. Whilst Rockabye fits nicely into the rise in tropical music, it feels out of place compared to Clean Bandit’s previous work.

Hopefully future releases see the trio continue to cover new ground in the world of music, whilst returning to a more even split between classical and electronica – the unique blend which helped them to stand out in the first place.

What do you think of Rockabye? Do you like Clean Bandit’s new style? How do you feel about Neil leaving the band? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Tears’ by Clean Bandit feat. Louisa Johnson

It was the lead single from their debut album which launched both Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne into the limelight. Whilst New Eyes went on to be hugely successful, Rather Be defined the unique style of both Clean Bandit and their first album. Now, Tears (feat. Louisa Johnson) has the power to do the exact same thing. In this case, it can kickstart Louisa’s musical career whilst setting the tone for the eagerly-anticipated second album.

If this does indeed hint at what their follow-up album has to offer, then Tears certainly leaves me both curious and sceptical. There’s no doubt that Clean Bandit have once again chosen an amazing artist to work with (Louisa’s vocals are soft, soulful and powerful), but in terms of instrumentals, it does get off to a bumpy start before settling on the right mood.

At the start, we hear nothing much apart from the lyrics, but over the course of the first minute of the song, the pace becomes rather messy. It starts with no electronic drums before developing into a slow, simplistic beat around 30 seconds in. Then, it morphs into an odd, triplet-style tempo before finally settling on a more complex, fast-paced rhythm.

It’s towards the end of Tears where the track enters familiar territory, with a groovy drum beat, flourishing strings and traditional synth stabs.

This new track from Clean Bandit is certainly different, but suggests a new direction for an already unique band.

What do you think of Tears? What do you think of Louisa Johnson’s vocals? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Take Me Home’ by Jess Glynne

Last week, Adele returned with Hello – a track with mellow piano chords and pure soul. Now, it seems as though other artists are keen to follow suit. One of the latest singers to release a soulful single is Jess Glynne, with Take Me Home.

For a while, Jess’ songs have all been the usual upbeat track similar to her debut track with Clean Bandit – Rather Be. After that, Real LoveHold My HandRight Here and Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself all continued the vibrant, upbeat pop style. But now, Jess Glynne has leant her vocals to a song with a more sombre tone, with Take Me Home being revealed as being this year’s official Children in Need single.

Upon listening to the track, there’s certainly some similarities in both the song and the music video. From the first few seconds there’s light piano chords which are like the opening chords to Hello by Adele. Then, in terms of the melody and the video, both can be seen as being similar to Jessie J’s Who You Are, especially when Jessie and Jess both share a similar vocal range.

Then, with simple piano chords and a relaxed drum beat, it’s these vocals which really make the song unique. The chorus contains emotive lyrics and a memory melody. Whilst the piano melody and drum beat remain uniform throughout the song, the pace of Jess’ vocals varies throughout the song. It is this creativity which really add the emotion to this song.

On a separate note, it is also the music video which really adds to the mood of the song. Both audio and visual work together to create something different for the singer.

What do you think of this track? Comment below!

Liam