Fickle Friends’ ‘Glue’ – a groovy assortment of sweet, sticky pop

It was nothing but coincidence that all three songs from Fickle Friends’ new EP have a viscous substance as their title, but even so, with intricate guitar riffs, smooth vocal harmonies and rocking beats, SugarVanilla and Glue all live up to their names.

EP artwork for 'Glue' by Fickle Friends
The EP comes exactly two months after the title track, ‘Glue’, was released.

Look no further than the title track, Glue. Natti Shiner’s dreamy voice is guided with light synths and plucky guitar to produce an excitable track about rushed romance on a night out. Strip back all the funky instrumentals for the acoustic version and you have a song which really shows off Shiner’s soft vocals.

Then comes Sugar, which is essentially Glue 2.0, but tamer. Yet, the chorus is what’s distinctive. The line: and you don’t, and you don’t know, you don’t know you’re sugar interlinks beautifully with the beat underneath, and the harmonised sugar in the next line helps make it a strong second track for the EP. Calm but still funky, it bridges the gap between Glue and Vanilla – a song which certainly drifts away from the tone of the previous two.

Although, that is no doubt because of the new direction which the band pursue in this track. A slow drum beat immediately calm things down as the electronica takes a back seat for the most part and is replaced with a slouching rhythm and atmospheric bass.

If one was to dissect the record in more detail, it could be said that Glue splits up the feel-good sound we’ve heard on previous releases (such as Brooklyn and Hello Hello) to begin with, before the more chilled side of the five-piece comes through on the final two songs. Vanilla is a breakaway from the funk, and the acoustic version of Glue – as mentioned previously – demonstrates Natti’s talent.

It’s definitely a clever way of keeping fans excited for the band’s debut album, which is believed to be released early next year.

Review: ‘Swimming Pool Summer’ by Capital Cities

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Capital Cities. Late last year they returned with their track, Vowels, but it was all the way back in 2013 that the duo released a collection of songs – that was their debut album, In A Tidal Wave of History.

Now, the band reveal their new EP, Swimming Pool Summer. For those who hoped that Vowels was the build-up to their second album, it looks like that isn’t coming just yet.

Swimming Pool Summer Album Cover
‘Swimming Pool Summer’ follows on from Capital Cities’ 2013 debut album, ‘In A Tidal Wave of Mystery’.

The EP’s title track is a welcome return to Capital Cities’ original style (following a little funk detour with Vowels). Much like Safe and Sound‘s standout trumpet melody, this song has a repeated synth tune which makes this track memorable. Add that to the odd trumpet flourish, traditional harmonised vocals and a bouncy drum beat, and you have the groovy sound we know and love. At the end of the EP, we hear THCSRS remix the track, which is a fair re-version, but it’s the original which is the best of the two, with its nostalgia hit making it a stand-out track on the record.

The band’s signature tone is distorted in the second track on the four-song EP. Drop Everything still maintains the bouncy tempo apparent in a traditional Capital Cities bop, but now, the main melody is an electronic-heavy tune that feels somewhat out of place when listening to the band’s previous work. In the past, the group have always flirted with synths and electronica, though it has always been tame, calm and euphoric. With Drop Everything, much like how Vowels tapped into the increasingly popular funk scene, the track tries to chip in to the current electro scene (with a sound reminiscent of the DJ, Marshmello) – to mediocre success.

By the third track on the EP, one starts to assume that the record will be ‘old, new, old, new’ in terms of structure. A mix of Love Again and Farah Fawcett HairGirl Friday sees singers Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian repeat vocals in the hope that this will deliver a hit for them. Whilst the chorus and first verse set a chill tone, this vibe is quickly destroyed by the rapper Rick Ross. Regardless of the smooth flow, Rick’s interruption of the chorus just ends up being obnoxious, ruining the 50/50 balance that a collaboration should convey.

With a laid-back rhythm, the penultimate track, Drifting, has a fitting name. It’s a different style of electronica to the three other songs. Gone are the slightly auto-tuned vocals and bouncy drums, instead we hear a more pure, chilled sound which brings the EP to a relaxed finish (if we exclude the aforementioned remix).

However, with Girl Friday containing a flawed collaboration, Drop Everything drifting too far away from Capital Cities’ original style, THCSRS’ remix not adding much to the song, and Drifting being a chill track, it’s Swimming Pool Summer which is the only memorable song of note from the EP. At which point, you have to ask: would it have been better to have released the aforementioned track as a single in order to build up excitement for the second album, whenever that may be?

Although the EP does showcase further experimentation from Capital Cities, we are still left in the dark about what’s next for Simonian and Merchant.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you decide.

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: ‘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: ‘Caught Up’ by Sarah Close

There’s something reminiscent of Natasha Bedingfield and Eliza Doolittle in Sarah Close’s voice. Soft and sweet vocals are something her 754,000 YouTube subscribers (more or less) have been treated to for many years now. However, it was last week that the 21-year-old singer-songwriter released her debut EP – which includes the title track, Caught Up.

Jumpy synth chords and double-bass drums introduce the track, setting the perfect, bouncy rhythm to accompany Sarah’s fast-paced, rap-like vocals. With each line having its own speed (take the slowed down tick, tick, tick and the opening line, I’m dressed like a beauty queen, for example), listeners are entertained and intrigued right up to the chorus, which adopts a softer approach.

It’s almost as if the flowing verses see Sarah air her frustrations and annoyance at the partner, whilst the delicate chorus sounds more curious and intrigued, with nothing more than light synths accompanying the first refrain. On the second occasion, piano and drums heighten this emotion and upbeat feel. It has the traditional vibe of the pop genre from the noughties, with modern synths bringing the track up-to-date.

With Close already receiving Radio 1 airplay with her track, Call Me Out (also on the debut EP), it looks likely that this fun and upbeat pop track will also reach similar levels of success for Sarah in the future.

Musical Discovery: ‘Nothing Without You’ by Emma Blackery

Even before YouTuber and singer-songwriter Emma Blackery released her first track from her upcoming EP, Magnetised, fans were offered cryptic hints about the record’s story. ‘Mending’ was the one word the 25-year-old used to describe the collection of songs, and is an accurate term upon hearing the first single, Nothing Without You – which came out at midnight on Tuesday.

Aside from the line ‘I would be nothing without you‘ obviously alluding to Blackery’s gratitude at an ex-boyfriend for everything he has helped her achieve, lyrics such as ‘you shape me into who I wanted to be/and you made me take a look at myself and see‘ also touch upon this theme. In a comment on the music video on YouTube, Emma explained that this was a happy song – which provided some clarity after hearing negative lines like ‘I got shackles round my feet/They’re tying me to this place‘ in the track. Yet as a whole, the positive message becomes apparent after multiple listens (it’s that catchy) but it’s not just the lyrics which give off this vibe.

From the lively piano chords to the expressive drum rhythm throughout, the track’s instrumentals certainly continue this upbeat tone, but it’s Blackery’s refreshed vocals which really heighten these emotions. Throughout the nearly four-minute long song, listeners can be surprised with the occasional, powerful high notes (particularly in the chorus) from Emma, displaying increased passion and confidence both in terms of the subject matter and her singing in general.

With Nothing Without You being the first song on the six-track EP, it’s a release which has not only teased Blackery’s direction as an artist, but offered a first glimpse into the narrative of the record. It’s enough to justify the word ‘mending’ whilst keeping us intrigued in finding out how ‘the era of Magnetised unfolds.

Nothing Without You is available now on iTunes and Spotify. The EP, Magnetised, is out on May 26.