Musical Discovery: ‘Obsession’ by Vice feat. Jon Bellion

Obsession is a collaboration between two artists I’ve yet to listen to (although I have heard of Jon Bellion before). As a song by Marshmello finished on Spotify, the streaming service was quick to suggest another song that I might enjoy, and it was right. High-pitched vocals combine with clear, bouncy synths in this dance track that sounds all too familiar.

It’s familiar in the sense that straight away, the opening synth sounds reminiscent of Iggy Azalea’s Fancy, whilst the chorus – as some commenters on the above YouTube have claimed – has hints of NEIKED’s Sexual. However, this song is lucky enough to not be shoved under the typical ‘dance’ or ‘club’ genre, and that is thanks to Jon Bellion’s vocals.

A soft, smooth voice guides us through the verses, but it is, of course, the chorus where the emphasis is placed. Bellion’s whining taps in to the groovy, lazy and laid-back style of this song, offering something different at a time where dance and pop all sounds too similar.

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: ‘Don’t You Feel It’ by Sub Focus feat. ALMA

It’s been nearly four years since Sub Focus (real name Nick Douwma) released his sophomore album, Torus, in September 2013. A drum-heavy collection of tracks perfect for the club, the record built upon the drum-and-bass style of his self-titled debut album. Yet now, the 35-year-old DJ appears to have spiced up his music a little. Nobody KnowsLove Devine and Lingua (feat. Stylo G) all contained edgy, deep house vibes with numerous musical effects. However, with his latest release – Don’t You Feel It (feat. ALMA) – the artist returns to somewhat familiar ground.

Of Douwma’s latest releases, Don’t You Feel It is the second single to feature credited vocalists. The first, which saw Stylo G take to the mic, involved more vocal distortion and a bouncier dance track. This time, with ALMA lending a helping hand, the song’s structure sees a return to the Torus days – with a clear voice (with no effects) and the build-up appearing in the chorus, not throughout.

With pulsing bass and simplistic rhythm guiding the song to the instrumental, the focus in the verses is very much on ALMA’s sassy, smooth and groovy vocals. As for the main melody itself, this is where long-term listeners can detect an evolution in Sub Focus’ style. Gone are the days of fluttering, euphoric dance, instead being replaced with a slightly tropical, heavy tone.

Whilst previous releases saw Douwma delve into a harsher club sound, Don’t You Feel It sees the DJ return to comfortable middle ground, with a strong vocalist and a progressive instrumental to boot.

Musical Discovery: ‘Ultralife’ by Oh Wonder

Over the years, many duos have used contrasting vocals to their advantage. Rizzle Kicks (which is made up of Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule) blend rap and soulful singing, whilst Nanna and Ragnar from Of Monsters and Men offer a soft back-and-forth between male and female voices. Now, the London-based Oh Wonder are the latest band to follow this trend.

Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht make up the duo, and much like Of Monsters and Men, light, gentle vocals are apparent throughout the lead single and title track of their upcoming second album, Ultralife. Supported by powerful, calypso-style drums in the chorus, the similarities to the Icelandic group are obvious. With that being said, fans longing for a third album from OMAM may enjoy Oh Wonder’s music as they eagerly await new music from them.

The upbeat name of the song is certainly supported by lines such as ‘I got love falling like the rain‘, ‘I got so much soul inside my bones‘ and ‘ever since you came, I’m living ultralife‘. All of these lyrics appear in the chorus, and so it is no surprise that we hear the pounding percussion to heighten this sense of euphoria further.

As Oh Wonder continue to unveil more singles from their sophomore album, it’s clear that Ultralife does a good job of summarising the record. Imaginative and emotive, the track hints at a release full of feeling, with a mix of calmness and excitement to keep the listener intrigued throughout.

Oh Wonder’s second album, Ultralife, is to be released on July 14, 2017.

Musical Discovery: ‘Magnetised’ by Emma Blackery

Described as a record about ‘mending’, it was only a matter of time before we saw the emotional side of Emma Blackery’s upcoming EP, Magnetised. The first single, Nothing Without You, was a pop-heavy reflection on a positive break-up. Now, the title track adopts a more woeful tone, as Blackery opens up about a summer heartbreak.

Light guitar and a soft, off-beat rhythm set the tone before stepping aside for Emma’s vocals. A rise and fall in notes during the chorus almost representing the heartbreak, should the song wish to be interpreted on such a level. Nevertheless, this track explores a different style of singing for the singer-songwriter – a pure, quiet feel which, although in direct contrast to Nothing Without You, shows the variation in her voice which we can expect from the EP.

Whilst the instrumentals are minimal, there are moments throughout the song where additional melodies only add to the emotion. A fluttering synth sequence during the chorus is a smooth way to bridge the gap between the lines which works well. It’s clear that alongside the lyrics themselves, guitars, synths and drums all do their bit to emphasise the mood of Magnetised, making the passion within the words all the more crystal clear.

The single, Magnetised, is now available on iTunes and Spotify. The EP, of the same name, is out on May 26.

Musical Discovery: ‘Middle of the Night’ by The Vamps & Martin Jensen

Fresh off the release of his hit, Solo Dance, Danish DJ is back again – this time, with a high-profile collaboration with the British band, The Vamps on the track, Middle of the Night.

Unlike previous singles, Jensen adopts a more trap-like drop for this song. Hi-hat heavy drum beats and whiny synth make for an off-beat, slightly exotic feel. That being said, the producer is aware that The Vamps four-piece want a more emotional, heartfelt release this time as opposed to the club track with Matoma, All Night. At this point, it’s worth pointing out the band’s fondness to have songs with the word ‘night’ in them (All NightMiddle of the Night and Last Night being the three on the list so far). Thankfully, this song does well to stand out when put alongside the other two.

The track’s quiet tone – as previously mentioned – is also no doubt helped by the brooding, mumbling lyrics, with the occasional vocal outburst. The introduction of the complex drum beat in the second verse also allows for a bit more soul, whilst also rushing The Vamps to the next chorus. As much as the track should be about them, it’s Martin Jensen’s producing talents which really take centre stage here. Hot off the back of Solo Dance, the Danish DJ is making waves with this release. A big increase in his fanbase and a huge debut in the future looks likely.

Geo-Music: The pop world’s response to the Pokémon Go phenomenon

It was only a matter of time before other industries picked up on the success of Pokémon Go. An augmented reality app was encouraging mobile phone users to go outside and explore the world, promoting the franchise in the process. It was perfect advertising for one thing, which tapped in to an emerging form of gaming. Now, it’s unsurprising that the world’s biggest pop stars are making use of this interactive concept.

Katy Perry is one of the artists who’s jumped on this craze when promoting her latest single, Chained to the Rhythm. Photo: Samantha Sekula

Whilst Pokémon Go can be described as an ‘augmented reality game’ (or ARG for short), what artists such as Katy Perry and Gorrilaz are doing isn’t really a game as such, and it doesn’t quite cover the definition of geocaching. Instead, this sees them hide their new song or album at specific locations around the world, ready for fans to find. Although Gorillaz are using a mobile app when it comes to giving listeners the chance to hear their new album in advance, Perry’s ‘game’ to promote Chained to the Rhythm doesn’t – leading me to use the term ‘geo-music’, unless there’s already a term used to describe this phenomena.

So, do I think it works? Can it deter the leaking of albums in the search for exclusivity? Maybe not, but for strong fanbases and passionate fans who are dedicated to hearing music from their favourite artists first, it’s certainly a way to motivate them. They’ll get talking to others in search for these surprises, word of mouth will occur and the excitement about an upcoming release will rise. It’s additional advertising prior to the actual song coming out, and it’s working. Fans get rewarded (in some cases, even with tickets in the case of Frances), and artists get the word out. It’s a win-win situation for both parties which could very much rise in popularity over the years.