#NewMusicFriday: ‘Broken Sleep’ by Fickle Friends

Hot off the heels of their debut album release and a string of summer festival performances, Fickle Friends explore new ground on the driving pop track, Broken Sleep.

It’s time for some new directions for the Brighton band. Leaving Polydor Records to start up their own record company, the five-piece are back with an evolved pop sound ahead of their new EP out later this year.

Their first album, You Are Someone Else, was a strong introduction from Natti Shiner and co. Colourful instrumentals and soft vocals on a slow beat cemented the group as a band with a clear, distinctive sound, and room to experiment.

Listening to the lead single of their new EP, this traditional sound remains, but it feels different. While hits from You Are Someone Else packed a punch with a slower tempo, Broken Sleep has a driving rhythm which is much more urgent and excitable. If we’re seeing Fickle Friends move towards faster, poppier hits, then the band is heading in a very exciting direction indeed.

Broken Sleep is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Villains’ by Emma Blackery

Bold, impactful but also incredibly personal, Emma Blackery’s Villains is a confident debut from the Essex-born singer-songwriter.

A vlogger on the video-sharing site YouTube, the musician has been involved in a fair bit of online drama over the years. Much like her previous EP, Emma’s album Villains chronicles another period of reflection for the singer, as she went through what she describes as “personal relationship issues”.  Her 11-track debut is just as honest as Magnetised – except this time, with a side order of sass and one heck of a punch.

In a tweet ahead of the launch, Emma described the record as a “concept album” – the linear narrative clear from the start, with Villains Pt. 1 and Villains Pt. 2 discussing Blackery’s list of “good and bad” and serving as two very different bookends to the artist’s many emotions across the tracks – moving from the colourful, confident hits DirtAgenda and Fake Friends into the more stripped back sounds of Icarus, Petty and What I Felt With You.

The bold tone of the album has already attracted comparisons to Taylor Swift’s reputation era (which Emma shorty responded to on Twitter after the lead single Dirt was released), but there’s also some slight Madonna and Charlie XCX vibes – on Fake Friends and Take Me Out respectively. The latter in particular warranted a few more listens before becoming a catchy hit.

Alongside Fake Friends and What I Felt With You, Blackery comes into their own on the track Third Eye. Her interest in electronic music on full show, the track offers up pulsing synth and sharp vocals. As the artist prepares to go on tour in October, this is one which is likely to get the crowd going in a concert environment.

As a whole, Villains breathes confidence. Even on the chilled electronic track What I Felt With You – arguably one of the stand-out songs on the album – Emma is in her element as she takes a more delicate approach to the song, something we’ve already seen her accomplish on the hit Magnetised. There’s also the small matter of the high notes at the end of Villains Pt. 2, a final demonstration of her vocal talents and an indication to fans and to anyone else listening that she’s here and ready to rock.

Rating: 4/5

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Tie Me Down’ by Gryffin (feat. Elley Duhé)

In keeping with his traditional style, Tie Me Down sees Gryffin combine a powerful female vocalist with flowing lyrics, a trap beat and hazy synths to make another catchy and vibrant dance hit.

Elley Duhé is certainly making a name for herself in the dance community lately. Riding off the success of a collaboration with Zedd on the track Happy Now, the American singer-songwriter has joined forces with yet another dance great.

With Duhé’s original music already containing somewhat of a trap rhythm, Gryffin certainly caters to the artist’s talents whilst also offering something a bit more creative and challenging. Lyrics are delivered at different speeds flirt with an offbeat rhythm underneath. There’s a sense that the singer is in her element here – and that’s certainly shown in her performance.

Elsewhere, Gryffin’s production talent shines through with the song’s seamless progression through verses and chorus. A subtle guitar melody guides the vocals through the verse into the build-up, switching from light instrumentals to full-on hazy synth vibes. Such is Gryffin’s skill as a producer that such a development from a stripped-back feel to a loud hook never feels rushed or sudden.

Credit must also be given to the lyrics to the track, which offers something different to the over-saturated topic of a difficult relationship and helps create a catchy chorus at the heart of the song. Tie Me Down is an incredibly slick, fresh and creative collaboration from the American DJ and Elley Duhé.

Tie Me Down is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

New Music Review: ‘High Enough’ by Justin Caruso feat. Rosie Darling

Just three notes are at the heart of the melody in DJ Justin Caruso’s latest track, High Enough, but when mixed with singer Rosie Darling’s vocals and impressive production skills, the single makes for a vibrant dance hit.

From the outset, instrumentals in the verses let Darling take centre stage with the traditional soft sound expected on a dance track like this, but it’s enough to keep the track moving.

It’s a seamless process which extends to the track’s build-up, flowing effortlessly into the basic melody at the heart of the single.

The only disappointment comes with the final chorus, where one expects the lyrics in the build-up are now placed over the main melody. In some songs, this happens whilst the main lyrics are played at the same time, but on this occasion, it could have made for a less abrupt ending than the one Caruso adopts.

With creative pacing in the lyrics and a simplistic but effective melody, Caruso and Darling deliver a chilled hit with High Enough.

The single is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘I See Love’ by Jonas Blue feat. Joe Jonas

It’s Jonas-meet-Jonas as DNCE frontman Joe Jonas joins forces with tropical house hitmaker Jonas Blue on I See Love, taken from the Hotel Transylvania 3 soundtrack.

With the animated sequel being called Summer Vacation, it’s fitting that the team at Sony called on Blue to produce a summer single to accompany the movie. Mix this in with the funk typical of Joe Jonas and you move into your usual, commercial pop track. However, that is not to say that this latest collaboration isn’t at all enjoyable.

While previous singles such as Alien and Rise have seen the Essex DJ and producer flex his tropical house music muscles, I See Love sees him explore a new genre entirely. If you’re a Joe Jonas fan, then you’ll definitely enjoy this song, as it sounds more like a DNCE single than a Jonas Blue one. It’s alright for those like myself who will happily settle for typical funk pop, but for those who expected another single with tropical house at the forefront, then they may be disappointed.

In terms of the main hook, it’s the mixture of Joe’s chanting vocals and the underlying, refined bass notes which give the song its catchiness. Outside the realms of the chorus, the rhythm of the lyrics in verses follows the same off-beat pace throughout. Although this is both ideal and typical of this genre of music, if there’s the opportunity for experimentation with the speed of the vocals, then it feels somewhat lazy to have the same sound running all the way through. Sure, it may help with the song’s memorability, but it’s not the most creative.

Despite the criticisms, I See Love sits comfortably within this week’s new music playlists, but as your traditional pop track. If you’re looking for a casual, commercial sound and an easy dance track, then this is it.

Musical Discovery: ‘Find Our Way’ by Midnight Kids feat. klei

Slowly but surely, a more relaxed form of dance music with a euphoric feel is making a resurgence, and Midnight Kids are certainly helping to bring it back with their atmospheric hit Find Our Way.

Having made a name for themselves already with huge remixes of tracks from the likes of The Chainsmokers and The Temper Trap, the DJing duo are now switching over to production with the release of their debut single.

In keeping with the pair’s remixing style, Find Our Way is quickly establishes a chilled tone in the verses, sticking to soft piano chords and a controlled beat in order to allow the vocalist (in this case, up-and-coming singer klei) to shine through and guide the listener to a loud and ecstatic chorus.

After some trap in the build-up, the track descends into galactic electronica full of intriguing synth sound effects, yet it’s the pulsing chords and bass lingering underneath the vocals and melody which deliver the subtle kick to this single.

Capturing a sense of mystery and intrigue with lingering instrumentals, Midnight Kids certainly live up to their name with this chilled dance debut.

Find Our Way is available now on Spotify and Apple Music.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Glass Mansion’ by Elephante

The second EP from American DJ and producer Elephante (real name Tim Wu) contains songs as delicate as the record title itself. Glass Mansion, following on from the artist’s 2016 debut I Am the Elephante, seems to adopt a more stripped-back sound whilst still preserving the electric grit and punch of the previous release.

It’s a sound which was hinted by singles such as Troubled and Come Back for You, switching pulsating  synths for smooth guitar melodies. With that being said, the chill vibes of Plans appear throughout the EP, and the grungy Black Ivory instrumental gets a follow-up in the form of Red Smoke.

Come Back for You opens up the EP with smooth guitar, dramatic fanfare and marimba alongside soulful vocals courtesy of Matluck. It’s a song which feels somewhat selfish lyric-wise, working with the instrumentals to give off a sense of loud, bold bravado. It’s certainly a strong introduction to the nine-track release.

Contrast this with the following three songs, and the record becomes more reflective. Have It All featuring Elephante regular Nevve (from Catching On and Sirens on the previous record) comes with a slightly harsher feel no doubt compounded by deep, hazy synths. It’s a return to true Phante grit, but unlike previous tracks, the instrumentals are saved for the hook. Soft verses pour out emotional messages before being bolstered by expressive choruses which, although not your traditional party sound, bring with them a feeling of calm euphoria.

Off the back of perfect seaside track The In Between, Wu returns to the mic to sing alongside singer Knightly on the bouncy All Over Again – the layered vocals seeming to cleverly represent the frustrations of two individuals stuck in a complicated relationship.

Yet, it’s the fifth track of the EP, No Room for Lovers, which is perhaps the most significant. Not only does it serve as the beginning of a new emotional mindset across the remainder of the record, but it also strikes listeners as being the most ‘out there’ in terms of Elephante’s typical sound.

Completely devoid of any electronica, this track – featuring female vocalist Crystal – instead adopts plucky guitar and a fluid drum beat to give it a boisterous, confident groove. It’s your traditional sassy funk hit, and it sure as hell embraces that.

After Red Smoke serves up an expressive instrumental break, the final three songs of the EP become increasingly reflective, uploading and upbeat in nature, concluding an emotional arc present across the nine tracks.

In a series of tweets on Twitter, Wu said the EP is about “the journey of finding grace and happiness in a half-built home” and over the course of the record, the producer takes a creative and imaginative approach to this concept whilst also fleshing out a new stripped back style.

If his debut I Am the Elephante was the weekend party record, then Elephante’s Glass Mansion is the EP for chilled evenings.

Rating: 4/5