#NewMusicFriday: ‘First Aid’ by Eliza and the Bear

As Eliza and the Bear explore new sounds on their upcoming album, Group Therapy, their latest single First Aid is a little look back at the band’s beginnings – with lead singer James Kellegher taking centre-stage on this raw and impactful track.

After having revealed some of their personal struggles and their difficult journey to get to a second album, Eliza and the Bear think it “felt so right” that First Aid was released to fans this week – and they’re not wrong.

For one thing, it’s a break from the funk pop style we’ve seen on previous releases such as Higher, Hell and Real Friends. Instead, it feels like an emboldened version of what we already know from their debut. Out goes the loud drums and chanting vocals, replaced by a steady, controlled beat and soul from James. If Eliza and the Bear wanted to gently introduce their new sound, as opposed to a more daring and surprising approach, then this could very well have been a solid first single.

With the band already hinting that Group Therapy will be more funky release than their debut, First Aid moves away from that idea to deliver a passionate and raw track. Such a detour suggests that a bit of experimentation can be expected on their sophomore album, and for a band which has gone through some difficult times, they’re back, and the creativity is flowing.

First Aid is out now on Apple Music and Spotify. Eliza and the Bear’s second album, Group Therapy, is released on 5 October.

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Musical Discovery: ‘FRIENDS’ by Marshmello & Anne-Marie

It’s only three days until the love-fest that is Valentine’s Day, and rather than releasing the typical love song, Marshmello and his latest featured artist Anne-Marie wanted to go down the more anti-romance route with their single, FRIENDS.

Described in the title for the lyric video on YouTube as being the ‘official friendzone anthem’, Anne-Marie’s smooth vocals give the perfect sassy edge to this track for heartbreakers in a style where you can almost sense the smug grin on her face as she sings the lyrics in the recording booth.

Such a vibe isn’t only given off by Anne-Marie, as Marshmello dabbles in a bit of deception. A fluttering and catchy guitar melody creates an intimate, contrasting tone to that of Anne-Marie’s, right before dropping into a dirty trap beat. FRIENDS is a beautiful anti-climax – both instrumentally and vocally – which continues Marshmello’s mellow sound in a fresh, interesting and unexpected way.

Musical Discovery: ‘Higher’ by Eliza and the Bear

Follow-up singles after a band’s first album offer a lot of opportunity and risk for those still riding the waves of a successful debut. It’s a chance to pursue new directions, but artists can only experiment so much before the original style starts to disappear, and long-time fans despair at the absence of the traditional vibe. It’s a tough balance between old and new, but most artists pull it off. However, when the indie folk Eliza and the Bear start to pursue a funkier sound with their latest track, Higher, one wouldn’t be surprised if some fans were taken aback by such a big change.

But does it work? Well, with an introductory verse that sounds like a cringeworthy American boy band, it’s clear from the outset that this isn’t your usual Eliza and the Bear track. Pounding drums or atmospheric guitar riffs are pretty much non-existent in this single, instead replaced with smooth bass, falsetto vocals and the occasional brass melody (the latter being one of the few intriguing aspects of the release). Sure, there are certain strengths to the track such as this, but they do little to shake off the feeling that this single is a little bit ‘meh’, and that it was the band’s attempt to slide in to the already over-populated funk trend taking over the pop scene at the moment.

Granted, respect must be given to Eliza and the Bear for exploring new ground, but the big leap is somewhat surprising and seems to disregard the indie folk which made their debut album such a success. Higher is a decent attempt at funk by the four-piece, but sadly, save for the change in genre, there is little to make this track special.

With a change of logo too, the question of whether this is the first of many funk tracks from a second album is an interesting question indeed…

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.