Musical Discovery: ‘Lifetimes’ by Oh Wonder

With the title track of Oh Wonder’s second album being a euphoric song with pounding drums and soothing harmonies, one would have assumed that Ultralife would have more of this heavy alternative sound, with quieter songs for balance. Follow-up singles such as Heavy and High on Humans also hinted at a similar path, yet the majority of the record sees Vander Gucht and West take on a softer tone. Despite this, there is one track with this particular style that stands out: Lifetimes.

At the heart of the track is the harmonies. Much like the male-female vocal contrast in Ultralife, we hear delicate high notes in Lifetimes – the repetitive line ‘doing it right’ adding to the distinctive chorus. It also adopts the slow build-up of the aforementioned single. Yet whilst there are structural similarities, there are some differences which show the duo are exploring new avenues in the wider album – take Anthony’s fast-paced, rhythmic vocals under a complex drum rhythm in the pre-chorus, for instance.

Whilst there’s no denying that Oh Wonder have a traditional sound which underlies every song (a sound which, one would argue, is somewhat similar to Of Monsters and Men), there’s a sense that Ultralife – the album, that is – is a ‘pick-and-mix’ record.

With Anthony and Josephine following the pattern of their last album and releasing Ultralife on a song-by-song basis, there’s a sense that listeners are invited to choose tracks which take their fancy. Whether it be electronic vibes apparent in SoloHeavy and High on Humans, or a more mellow sound heard in My Friends and Waste, there’s a fun element of choice for fans of this London-based duo.

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.

Musical Discovery: ‘It Gets Cold’ by Eliza and the Bear

It was a while back that I first heard this song on the radio. If I remember rightly, it was on my journey up to Lincolnshire for the next semester of university. I had previously heard Friends by Eliza and the Bear when I noticed it on a recent Bulmers advert. But now, It Gets Cold is this week’s Musical Discovery.

Despite the song’s title, It Gets Cold begins with an upbeat guitar melody which belongs more on a summery, The 1975-style track. Although, that certainly isn’t a bad thing and – combined with lead singer James Kellegher’s chanting vocals – it makes the perfect feel-good song. Similarly, and very much like Friends, the drum beat is strong in It Gets Cold, only adding to the sense that this song is a brilliant, euphoric anthem. Then, finally, towards the end of the song, there’s a massive rock instrumental break, before ending on a chant-like verse. On the whole, Eliza and the Bear really do have a way of creating atmospheric and emotional songs.

What do you think of It Gets Cold? Comment below!

Liam

Musical Discovery: ‘Talk to Me’ by Kopecky

Last weekend, I had a list of songs that I was going to listen to in detail in the hope of finding this week’s Musical Discovery. I had a shortlist, but none of them were good enough for review. As I listened to the final track, I noticed whilst it wasn’t my cup of tea, another song which happened to have the same. Talk to Me by Kopecky grew on me and is this week’s Musical Discovery.

Admittedly, the song does have a mellow start, with smooth bass and electric guitar riffs. However, this develops throughout the track, with the drum beat becoming more upbeat drum beat and the vocals changing from a soft, relaxed tone to a soulful and vibrant feel. This then paves the way to a equally colourful chorus.

One of the main things which grabs a listener’s attention in the chorus is the experimental drum beat, with the drummer creating driving tom fills. Alongside this, the sharp, pronounced guitar melody emphasises the emotive and catchy vocals in the chorus. It definitely creates a euphoric and feel-good tone for the listener.

After an interesting, quiet verse, the song makes an abrupt but satisfying ending, leaving the listener on a high.

What do you think of this track? Comment below!

Liam