When it comes to bops, Fickle Friends like to go big and loud. Yet, with every album, live show or string of singles, there’s that one track (or two) which strikes a calmer, more contemplative tone. Today, the Brighton band release that single with their song, Wake Me Up.
In an interesting contrast to previous tracks, it’s pulsing bass and drums which take centre stage in the verses, as opposed to bubbly piano melodies or plucky guitar.
However, the synth, as usual, makes an appearance in the chorus with bouncy chords interlacing with the fluctuating flow of Nattie’s soft vocals.
What is unusual though is the synth’s chord progression, which creates a low, minor tone which isn’t usually heard on a Fickle Friends release. Past releases from the band have begun with calmer introductions, only to quickly progress into fast-paced melodies. Here, we see the same mood throughout, which works well with the song’s tale of a struggling and troubled relationship, as well as showcasing a fresh take on their traditional sound ahead of their debut album release.
You Are Someone Else comes out on Friday, 16 March.
The Wombats have certainly made some changes since their last album in 2015. Whilst the edgy album titles remain (this one being Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life), the rock trio from Liverpool certainly succeeded in making an album which doesn’t “[punch] you in the face every time you listen to it” – pursuing a much more laid-back sound this time around.
Although, that is not to say that the band have completely ditched the rockier vibes heard on previous tracks like Moving to New Yorkand Let’s Dance to Joy Division. They’re still present on the album – albeit in a slightly new and different (but interesting) way…
Take the opener, Cheetah Tongue, which slowly eases listeners into Beautiful People… with a gritty underlying guitar riff before dropping a loud, punchy drum beat. It’s stripped-back, yet still has that Wombats kick to it we’ve felt before.
That doesn’t stop with the following song, Lemon To A Knife Fight. As the lead single from the album, the group knew it had to offer a glimpse into what the ten-track record had in store. With anthemic vocals in the chorus on top of casual instrumentals, it perfectly balances the driving rock of the old with the chilled vibes of the new. It’s certainly the stand-out track from the album, so if you have to listen to one song from Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, make it this one.
Then follows the third and final single from the album, Turn – a track with retreating guitar and drums that make it a song focussing more on Matthew Murphy’s vocals than an all-round dance hit. It strikes that perfect balance between full-on rock and a slower, phones-in-the-air type track – an interesting in-between.
Yet, it’s not just the singles where we see such a balance between slower and faster vibes. Over the course of the next seven tracks, we either see the punch come from pulsing drums and guitar (BlackFlamingo, Dip You in Honeyand Lethal Combination), or from Murph’s loud lyrics (Out of MyHead). Such a switch between the two keeps each track fresh as we progress towards the end of the album.
With that being said, the change-up in style is apparent when one considers the tempo of the tracks. Far from the pace of A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation, their latest release, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life plays with a more relaxed rhythm – some tracks hiding the change with colourful beats and melodies, others placing emphasis on it to create a calmer feel.
This leads us to the final track, I Don’t Know Why I Like You but I Do – a track which, for the most part, is in clear contrast to the first three. A simplistic drum beat (with the odd bit of flair here and there) and smooth guitar melodies slow things down for Murph, before a gritty guitar interlude refreshes the feel and makes it a perfect showcase of the two sides of the album.
A refreshing change of style is always a risky, tough and lengthy process for any band to deliver, but with Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, The Wombats return to turn things down a notch, whilst maintaining the traditional groove fans know and love.
It was only three months ago that Coasts were on the road celebrating the release of their second album, This Life Vol. 1. Now, in the middle of a European tour with rock band The Hunna, the five-piece band have offered up a brand new anthemic track in the form of the anthemic You Could Have Been the One.
Take Me Back Home, albeit with a fresh kick to it. It’s the band we know and love, yet with some interesting new vibes thrown in.
As well as this, when one considers the fact that Coasts announced the single on Facebook yesterday with the hashtag, #vol2, it’s likely that the next album from the band continues the euphoric sound of their previous record. With You Could Have Been The One having a bubbly synth tune at its core, what’s not to say that Volume Two expands upon the electronic melodies teased in Paradise and Make It Out Alive?
Ignoring the bizarre fading out of the song 30 minutes before the end of the track, You Could Have Been The One is a welcome return from the group, hinting at bigger things from the band in the months to come…
The Wombats are certainly painting an interesting picture as to what their upcoming album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Their previous single Turn calmed things down a bit, but now the Liverpudlian trio have returned to vibes explored in Lemon to a Knife Fight with their new track, Cheetah Tongue.
Getting its first play on BBC Radio 1 on Wednesday this week, host Annie Mac referenced comments by lead singer Matthew Murphy (published on sites such as Dork and The Prelude Press) during an interview with the guitarist: “I wanted to make an album that had more swagger, was a bit more laid back, something that wasn’t punching you in the face every time you listen to it,” he had said. In a clear sign that the band have progressed since the days of A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation and Glitterbug, the latest trio of singles have proven that The Wombats have been able to tone down their more pulsing rock, without that damaging their unique style.
After all, Cheetah Tongue (another bizarre but quirky song title) starts with tight, solid guitar strums underneath the opening verse, before an off-beat drum groove is introduced in the chorus – adding that traditional catchiness and kick to the single. Reading this, one might wonder what sets this era apart from previous releases. My answer? The Wombats have eased off backing vocals (seen on tracks like Killthe Director and Moving to New York) and slowed the tempo a little bit. The end result being a more stripped-back vibe, whilst still being brilliantly anthemic.
It’s always interesting listening to the music that artists themselves listen to, as they can often lead to some fascinating new finds. Look no further than Emma Blackery’s recent livestream, which saw viewers listen to a snippet of Million Bucks by Smallpools.
It’s a quintessential indie bop, released in the height of this year’s summer season and complete with seaside guitars and anthemic vocals singing about Los Angeles. Pack all this into a 4 minute song and you have a track on the same level as Chocolate by The 1975 and T-Shirt Weather by Circa Waves. In a sense, to group Million Bucks into such a genre does give the impression that it’s yet another upbeat indie song which lacks that particular unique edge, but that’s where the catchy chorus comes in, selling the track and sets it apart from all the others.
The lyrics and instrumentals have a strong part to play in its catchiness, but without a doubt, the pacing of the chorus keeps things flowing, fluttering and interesting to listen to. Take lines such as I’ve got all my, money on you/And though my, dollars are few, where a slight pause in the middle leaves enough room for punchy guitar chords and you have a solid chorus from the three-piece band. Then, when followed by an expressive instrumental interlude, the feel-good vibes are strong as the song comes to a close.
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 Solo, Heavy 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.
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…