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: ‘Fools’ by Lauren Aquilina

Lauren Aquilina is a name I’ve often seen mentioned in tweets on Twitter or elsewhere online, but I never thought to listen to her music – until now. With a humble, warm singer-songwriter sound similar to that of Gabrielle Aplin, I was disappointed that I hadn’t listened to one of her earlier tracks, Fools, sooner.

There’s something about Lauren’s vocals that leads to you imagining yourself lying down on a deckchair listening to this track, or standing watching her perform it in a festival environment. It’s that mellow style of music which calms those who listens to it, rather than boring them.

With light piano melodies and bouncy bass riffs to begin with, the instrumentals are there purely for rhythmic purposes. The emphasis is truly placed on Aquilina’s voice, which is equally as soft. Although timid, that is not to say that it lacks power. Atmospheric drums build the tone for the chorus, telling the listener to pay attention. They are rewarded with occasional high notes and pure soul to add to a relaxing song. If pop’s white noise becomes too much, then the calming voice of Lauren Aquilina is the perfect alternative.

After looking more into Lauren’s music, I saw that she released her debut album, Isn’t it Strange? in 2016. Now follows the excitement that comes with discovering a new artist: I can now continue to discover more of their great music. I look forward to listening to the album in the future.


Musical Discovery: ‘Miss You’ by Gabrielle Aplin

A young musician walks on to the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury. Guitar in hand, it’s a usual sight at music festivals, so the focus shifts from the guitar to the voice. For Gabrielle Aplin, her shy, soft vocals intertwine with light piano chords and fluttering guitar riffs. An appearance on a John Lewis advert plus a solid debut album, English Rain, defined her style as calm, upbeat folk. Yet now, her latest single, Miss You, sees her break away from the world of folk, dabbling into the mainstream and overpopulated world of dance music.

Is this Aplin succumbing to the latest musical trends in order to gain more listeners? Hopefully not. Although, the world of synth heavy dance/club music is dominated by the likes of the soulful Becky Hill or the sassy Zara Larsson. The genre is over-saturated with generic or powerful vocals, because that’s what pop music tends to demand. Beautifully smooth and mellow, Gabrielle’s tone isn’t something we usually hear in this genre. Miss You may detract from her earlier work, but it’s a successful move for the Panic Cord singer.

At first, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s another traditional song from Aplin – a brief piano melody having the possibility of fooling some listeners. That is, until off-beat synth chords and a bouncy drum beat are introduced alongside Gabrielle’s vocals. Throughout the track, the lyrics fluctuate around the single’s distinctive rhythm. It’s when the line And I won’t let go oh (or its variant, And I won’t let go again) matches the staccato synth chords in the chorus that Aplin’s emotion is truly emphasised.

Whilst the style is different, once again, the focus has always been on Gabrielle Aplin’s unique vocal style, which remains emotive and unchanged even when the singer tries out a new musical genre. Miss You is a risky move by the artist, but one perfectly and cleverly executed.