Their first album, You Are Someone Else, was a strong introduction from Natti Shiner and co. Colourful instrumentals and soft vocals on a slow beat cemented the group as a band with a clear, distinctive sound, and room to experiment.
Listening to the lead single of their new EP, this traditional sound remains, but it feels different. While hits from You Are Someone Else packed a punch with a slower tempo, Broken Sleep has a driving rhythm which is much more urgent and excitable. If we’re seeing Fickle Friends move towards faster, poppier hits, then the band is heading in a very exciting direction indeed.
Bold, impactful but also incredibly personal, Emma Blackery’s Villains is a confident debut from the Essex-born singer-songwriter.
A vlogger on the video-sharing site YouTube, the musician has been involved in a fair bit of online drama over the years. Much like her previous EP, Emma’s album Villains chronicles another period of reflection for the singer, as she went through what she describes as “personal relationship issues”. Her 11-track debut is just as honest as Magnetised – except this time, with a side order of sass and one heck of a punch.
In a tweet ahead of the launch, Emma described the record as a “concept album” – the linear narrative clear from the start, with Villains Pt. 1 and Villains Pt. 2 discussing Blackery’s list of “good and bad” and serving as two very different bookends to the artist’s many emotions across the tracks – moving from the colourful, confident hits Dirt, Agenda and Fake Friends into the more stripped back sounds of Icarus, Petty and What I Felt With You.
The bold tone of the album has already attracted comparisons to Taylor Swift’s reputation era (which Emma shorty responded to on Twitter after the lead single Dirt was released), but there’s also some slight Madonna and Charlie XCX vibes – on Fake Friends and Take Me Out respectively. The latter in particular warranted a few more listens before becoming a catchy hit.
Alongside Fake Friends and What I Felt With You, Blackery comes into their own on the track Third Eye. Her interest in electronic music on full show, the track offers up pulsing synth and sharp vocals. As the artist prepares to go on tour in October, this is one which is likely to get the crowd going in a concert environment.
As a whole, Villains breathes confidence. Even on the chilled electronic track What I Felt With You – arguably one of the stand-out songs on the album – Emma is in her element as she takes a more delicate approach to the song, something we’ve already seen her accomplish on the hit Magnetised. There’s also the small matter of the high notes at the end of VillainsPt. 2, a final demonstration of her vocal talents and an indication to fans and to anyone else listening that she’s here and ready to rock.
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.
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.
FirstAid is out now on Apple Music and Spotify. Eliza and the Bear’s second album, Group Therapy, is released on 5 October.
Lyrically speaking, it has the traditional make-up of a summer dance song. Cue vague and confusing lyrics about something romantic or some unorthodox relationship. Yet, it’s the instrumental elements of Codeko and Alex Winston’s Just Got Something which gives this track an edge.
A fluid, off-beat drum beat allows for some interesting experimentation with pace and tempo throughout the song, Winston’s soft vocals often overlapping with the snappy snare drum. It’s this bouncy rhythm already established at the start of the song which lends itself to the track’s build-up, working alongside pulsing, hazy synth to create suspense before the main hook.
The melody itself clearly establishes what sort of vibe the song wanted to go for. Pronounced synth notes which sound somewhat like trumpets allude to a carnival tone, complete with an electronic fanfare. Mix that with a punchy drum beat and you have something a lot more interesting…
It’s been nearly three years since the Norwegian DJ duo Seeb shot into the spotlight with their hit remix of I Took A Pill in Ibiza. What followed was a string of collaborations on remixes and original tracks – the group working with the likes of One Republic and Ocean Park Standoff – before last month, the hitmakers finally announced the launch of their debut EP.
Nice to Meet You is out on 20 April, but today saw the release of the first single from the record – Drink About, featuring fellow Norwegian, Dagny.
Once again, Seeb’s traditional, bouncy synths shine through underneath a steady rhythm – a style which has sadly become a bit too repetitive after a lengthy back catalogue from the group, yet still strikes a unique tone with calming piano chords in the verses which make Drink About a more laid-back release.
Although the instrumental backdrop to the track may appear all too familiar, it’s usually the vocal structure of the song which tends to deliver the fresh sound. In this case, Dagny – another artist close to their big music breakthrough.
Like Paloma Faith but without the slight raspiness, the 27-year-old experiments with the flow of lyrics in a playful manner, moving seamlessly between controlled, soft vocals and smooth high notes on this anti-love song.
Packed full of the typical characteristics of a Seeb hit, Drink About easily falls into the uniform structure of the Norwegian group’s previous works, yet somehow also generates a calmer pace unlike remixes such as Lost Boys and Rich Love.
If the lead single is ever demonstrative of the full picture of an EP, then there’s a chance we could see more relaxed tones in addition to club hits when Nice To Meet You is out in two weeks’ time.
It’s quite hard trying to pinpoint when exactly I stumbled across Illenium. In most instances, it’s YouTube channels like MrSuicideSheep and Proximity to whom I owe my thanks for discovering up-and-coming dance artists. Yet, on this occasion, it may have been an announced collaboration by Mako which led to me listening to Illenium’s track with Said the Sky, Where’d U Go.
With no vocals (save for the song title itself), the track is completely instrumental, broken down into the main, stuttering melody and softer, atmospheric backing chords. In the space of just over three minutes, Where’d U Go flits between quieter breaks with subtle drum-and-bass into euphoric, hazy drops.
Interestingly, there’s not always just the main melody to focus on. In the opening, fluttering piano chords are played underneath jittery synth, whilst in the choruses, multiple tunes combine with a steady drum beat to create a busy but vibrant hook of euphoric proportions.
On YouTube, listeners were quick to compare the track to Divinity by the US DJ Porter Robinson. Whilst the stumbling synth is common on both songs, Illenium’s track builds an ethereal tone through loud melodies, as opposed to Robinson’s (primarily) delicate sound in Divinity.
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.