#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: ‘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

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Just Got Something’ by Codeko feat. Alex Winston

Lyrically speaking, it has the traditional make-up of a summer dance song. Cue vague and confusing lyrics about something romantic or some unorthodox relationship. Yet, it’s the instrumental elements of Codeko and Alex Winston’s Just Got Something which gives this track an edge.

A fluid, off-beat drum beat allows for some interesting experimentation with pace and tempo throughout the song, Winston’s soft vocals often overlapping with the snappy snare drum. It’s this bouncy rhythm already established at the start of the song which lends itself to the track’s build-up, working alongside pulsing, hazy synth to create suspense before the main hook.

The melody itself clearly establishes what sort of vibe the song wanted to go for. Pronounced synth notes which sound somewhat like trumpets allude to a carnival tone, complete with an electronic fanfare. Mix that with a punchy drum beat and you have something a lot more interesting…

Just Got Something is available now, both on Spotify and Apple Music.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Dirt’ by Emma Blackery

It was no surprise that Emma Blackery’s latest single Dirt was going to be firing some shots at a certain someone. With promotional images seeing her posing with bitter labels, sipping tea and bathing in receipts, the singer-songwriter’s track is packed with sass as radiant as the synths at its heart.

While the music video has the vibrant art style of a Chloe Höwl video, the song itself has clear Taylor Swift vibes with blunt, sly muttering in amongst the vocals. Add this to the nursery rhyme of the key line I’ve got dirt on you and you have a song packed with soft, bubbly instrumentals with sharp, flowing and edgy lyrics.

Sure, Dirt is a clear and stark contrast to the calmer tones of the Magnetised EP (which Blackery described as being about ‘mending’), but with cup and saucer in hand, Emma Blackery is stronger than ever.

Musical Discovery: ‘Message’ by Audien

As the name suggests, Some Ideas – the latest EP from the American DJ Audien – contains three songs all completely different from each other. From chill house to hazy synths, it’s a release which sees the musician flex his producing muscles. Yet, by far the most traditional-sounding song of the lot is the EP’s opener, Message.

After all, there’s the repeated lyrics – message from my heart/too loud to stay apart – alongside Audien’s signature beat drops (be it a bass drum or sudden pause in the song) and delicate piano. It follows the usual structure, too: minimalistic piano chords guide the track all the way up to the main lead, which is complete with the occasional off-beat note and a satisfying rising and falling melody. Yet again, US artist sure knows how to create a euphoric dance hit.

Whilst part of this song is down to sampling and the repeated lyrics may come across as simplistic, it must be remembered that this is quite an experimental assortment of songs. Message, Resolve and Rampart see Audien try out new sounds, with each track different from the other. Simply put, it’s a pick-and-mix EP, and there’s a high chance you’ll like at least one of the three.

Musical Discovery: ‘Night Bus’ by Gabrielle Aplin

We’ve all been there: a rainy car journey or an early train ride and we picture ourselves in a music video or black-and-white movie with sad, upsetting undertones. For Gabrielle Aplin, however – known for her 2012 cover of The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood – a bus ride home is the focal point for a track from her EP, Miss You.

A bouncy 6/8 beat is at the heart of Night Bus, which, when combined with a triplet synth melody, only adds to the reflective and heavenly vibe Aplin always manages to create with her soft vocals. When analysed alongside Miss You, both use electronica to heighten their tone. There’s no doubt that this injects some positivity into this particular song, but not enough to detract from the bittersweet meaning of the track itself – that on the way home, the singer is considering ending a relationship.

To throw Night Bus into the ‘generic breakup song’ category would be a terrible mistake. Throughout, the lyrics are wonderfully imaginative and take the us back to a reflective journey on public transport which we have all experienced. The second verse, complete with descriptions of dazed and complacent reflections and lovers that hide from the cold white light, paints the perfect picture of the bus ride. Whilst the setting may be simplistic, the adjectives and the individual’s thought process makes this an honest and open track from Aplin.

As the lyrics float around the fluttering rhythm perfectly, it’s likely that the beat is the more distinctive part of the track, emboldening and placing emphasis upon Gabrielle’s reflective vocals. From her electro-heavy EP Miss YouNight Bus is a blissfully relatable and heartfelt song from the 24-year-old artist.