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: ‘Wearing Nothing’ by Dagny

Facebook adverts are just as interesting as they are concerning. Over time, the social networking platform has managed to nail my complex taste in music, offering a mix of musicians I had never come across before. Most recently, the mysterious algorithms were responsible for me finding the Norwegian singer, Dagny, and her track, Wearing Nothing.

A pop-heavy blend of Kylie Minogue and Charlie XCX, Dagny encapsulates the soft vocals of the former, and the screaming cheerleader sound of the latter. It’s a flashback to the older days of pop with the singer, whilst also hanging on to the genre’s current style through sophisticated instrumentals.

Stripped-back (pun not intended), the chorus offers a sluggish, bouncy rhythm. The bass drum keeps the song in time, before a plucky guitar riff adds in an off-beat groove on top. Rather than being an excitable, loud melody, the almost anticlimactic drop sets a smooth tone fitting of the track’s meaning.

Whilst the pop industry descends into this weird tropical, calypso mash-up (which is, quite frankly, getting a little bit tedious), it’s refreshing to hear a pop song that offers a more chilled tone for people to listen to – and all thanks go to Dagny for that.

Musical Discovery: ‘Don’t You Feel It’ by Sub Focus feat. ALMA (Sub Focus & 1991 Remix)

Whilst the original version of Don’t You Feel It showed that Sub Focus (real name Nick Douma) had adopted a more deep house style, it’s his latest remix with 1991 which takes us back to the drum-and-bass style of the DJ’s previous two albums.

It’s a remix fit for clubs and gigs. An atmospheric introduction calms the crowd whilst emphasis is placed  on ALMA’s vocals, then it quickly progresses into the DnB at the centre of the track itself. However, the balance between vocals and rhythm isn’t exactly 50/50, with the song eager to progress to the next hook: a loop of the line I need to be close to you which repeats one time too many. However, when combined with the lyric don’t you feel it too, the rhyme and vocal melody fit together seamlessly.

As for the beat drop, the first half sees drums underneath the original chorus, before a synth tune is introduced. It’s the light trill during this section which is a joy to listen to. The blending of euphoric and fast-paced music, although unequal, keeps the track moving forward in a satisfying rise-and-fall motion – getting listeners excited for the next drop whilst also offering the space to breathe in between.

As a whole, this new remix seems to suggest that Douwma hasn’t forgotten the drum-and-bass vibe of his sophomore album, Torus. Now, with a third album approaching, here’s hoping the DJ establishes the perfect balance between old and new which will keep long-time fans happy.

Emma Blackery’s ‘Magnetised’ – an honest, powerful EP about heartbreak and moving on

YouTuber and singer-songwriter Emma Blackery’s latest EP Magnetised is, quite simply, an emotional rollercoaster. Granted, the record jumps between dance tracks (such as Nothing Without You and Don’t Come Home) and stripped back soul (in Magnetised and Instead), but all songs unite around the same powerfully honest tone. Over six tracks, the artist packs in a variety of feelings, accentuated with atmospheric instrumentals, to create the sense of ‘mending’ – the one word which Blackery has used to describe the EP.

‘Magnetised’ was released on iTunes and Spotify today. Photo: Emma Blackery on Twitter.

Whether it’s a thanking an ex, moving reflections on unrequited love, or a dismissive ballad, the message in each track is conveyed with confidence by Emma’s voice and her choice of lyrics. It’s a skill which means that every song stands alone in its own right, whilst also contributing to a bigger picture. Similarly, for new listeners, there’s something for everyone. For fans of upbeat, drum-heavy pop, Nothing Without You or Don’t Come Home would appeal to them, country fans may sense a Taylor Swift vibe in Fixation or Human Behaviour, whilst those seeking catharsis may prefer the title track, for example.

Meanwhile, for fans of Emma Blackery’s YouTube channel, some songs will of course sound similar. Instead and Don’t Come Home have already been released to fans online, albeit in a different form. Now, with a refreshing studio quality to them (and even a complete redesign for Don’t Come Home), the two tracks take on an entirely new identity within the EP’s narrative. With moving violins melodies, Instead is even more emotional this time around, whilst Don’t Come Home is transformed into a sad poppy track which is in direct contrast to Nothing Without You.

As each track tackles a different problem in a relationship, Blackery has six tracks to demonstrate her vocal talents. The two ‘bops’ of the EP (the opener and Don’t Come Home) see the artist tackle and execute impassioned high notes, whilst the other, more stripped-back releases see Emma showcase her softer voice. As well as having a brilliantly constructed message at its core, Magnetised is the EP which solidifies her style as an artist.

Musical Discovery: ‘Don’t You Feel It’ by Sub Focus feat. ALMA

It’s been nearly four years since Sub Focus (real name Nick Douwma) released his sophomore album, Torus, in September 2013. A drum-heavy collection of tracks perfect for the club, the record built upon the drum-and-bass style of his self-titled debut album. Yet now, the 35-year-old DJ appears to have spiced up his music a little. Nobody KnowsLove Devine and Lingua (feat. Stylo G) all contained edgy, deep house vibes with numerous musical effects. However, with his latest release – Don’t You Feel It (feat. ALMA) – the artist returns to somewhat familiar ground.

Of Douwma’s latest releases, Don’t You Feel It is the second single to feature credited vocalists. The first, which saw Stylo G take to the mic, involved more vocal distortion and a bouncier dance track. This time, with ALMA lending a helping hand, the song’s structure sees a return to the Torus days – with a clear voice (with no effects) and the build-up appearing in the chorus, not throughout.

With pulsing bass and simplistic rhythm guiding the song to the instrumental, the focus in the verses is very much on ALMA’s sassy, smooth and groovy vocals. As for the main melody itself, this is where long-term listeners can detect an evolution in Sub Focus’ style. Gone are the days of fluttering, euphoric dance, instead being replaced with a slightly tropical, heavy tone.

Whilst previous releases saw Douwma delve into a harsher club sound, Don’t You Feel It sees the DJ return to comfortable middle ground, with a strong vocalist and a progressive instrumental to boot.

Musical Discovery: ‘Middle of the Night’ by The Vamps & Martin Jensen

Fresh off the release of his hit, Solo Dance, Danish DJ is back again – this time, with a high-profile collaboration with the British band, The Vamps on the track, Middle of the Night.

Unlike previous singles, Jensen adopts a more trap-like drop for this song. Hi-hat heavy drum beats and whiny synth make for an off-beat, slightly exotic feel. That being said, the producer is aware that The Vamps four-piece want a more emotional, heartfelt release this time as opposed to the club track with Matoma, All Night. At this point, it’s worth pointing out the band’s fondness to have songs with the word ‘night’ in them (All NightMiddle of the Night and Last Night being the three on the list so far). Thankfully, this song does well to stand out when put alongside the other two.

The track’s quiet tone – as previously mentioned – is also no doubt helped by the brooding, mumbling lyrics, with the occasional vocal outburst. The introduction of the complex drum beat in the second verse also allows for a bit more soul, whilst also rushing The Vamps to the next chorus. As much as the track should be about them, it’s Martin Jensen’s producing talents which really take centre stage here. Hot off the back of Solo Dance, the Danish DJ is making waves with this release. A big increase in his fanbase and a huge debut in the future looks likely.

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.