#NewMusicFriday: ‘23’ by Chlöe Howl

If Taylor Swift has the jubilant party hit for 22-year-olds, then Chlöe Howl has the confident, reflective follow-up with 23.

Maidenhead singer-songwriter Howl has never shied away from being honest. Now, in her usual candid and soulful style, the artist explores adulthood and the realisations that come with growing up.

Opening with the fuzzy piano chords seen on previous singles Do It Alone and Magnetic, it’s easy to assume that 23 might be the delicate, personal track on the upcoming EP, Work. Yet with a steady beat, the release is in fact a chilled song perfect for slow dancing at parties.

Though the tempo is standard, there’s still a strong pace to the track as Howl’s words float and experiment with the rhythm of the track. Refusing to descend into the structural and lyrical clichés that come with nostalgic looks back at years gone by, 23 is both a confident and delicate story of young adult life.

23 by Chlöe Howl is available to buy and stream now.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Serious’ by Midnight Kids feat. Matthew Koma

Creative, fluttering and unrestrained, Midnight Kids’ follow-up single Serious continues the electronic euphoria despite a few rhythmic hiccups.

Kyle Girard and Dylan Lee have had quite the busy couple of months since Find Our Way dropped in June. Their debut single after a string of hit remixes, the track (featuring newcomer klei) propelled the mysterious EDM duo into the spotlight. It soon gained over a million streams on Spotify and landed them their first few live performances – including as a support act for Alesso.

Now the pair keep the momentum going with their sophomore release Serious, featuring dance music titan Matthew Koma. Although revealed to have been “a year in the making”, the track’s tempo is slightly disorganised at points – Koma’s versatile vocals struggling to weave their way around fluttering synths in the pre-chorus. Instead, it’s the chorus which grounds the track, with punchy snare making the hook impactful and euphoric. It’s enough to make the single a worthy listen and solid addition to Midnight Kids’ catalogue.

Serious sees the Californian producers pushing themselves in a new direction – a different lyrical pacing compared to the relaxed, late-night listen that is Find Our Way. Aside from the occasional issue with timing, their latest single does well to build up the hype around Midnight Kids, showing them as experimental and imaginative musicians – and one to keep an eye on in the future.

Serious (feat. Matthew Koma) is out now.

Update: This article was updated on 13 November, when tempo issues described in my previous released were no longer apparent on the track.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Perfect to Me’ by Anne-Marie

After a smash debut album and a string of high-profile collaborations, the Essex singer returns with a fresh take on a previous release with the chilled but confident single, Perfect to Me – ★★★★☆

2018 is Anne-Marie’s year. Speak Your Mind was a hit record while her list of featured appearances currently includes the likes of Rudimental, Marshmello and David Guetta. Now the singer-songwriter keeps things rolling with a new version of album track, Perfect.

A sharp, real take on society’s perceptions of perfection and beauty, Perfect to Me has a sassier, more pronounced feel. While the rhythm of the original was staggering and complex, this latest version sounds tight and controlled. The quiet piano is replaced with expressive guitar chords to give it a vibe which fits in with past releases 2002 and F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Perfect to Me is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Access’ by Martin Garrix

It’s Avicii’s X You meets Lucas and Steve’s Anywhere on Martin Garrix’s latest release Access – taken from his new EP, BYLAW.

Chinatown sounds a lot different now than it did back in 2017. Since premiering at Ultra Miami last year, Garrix’s instrumental hit has undergone a bit of a harsher makeover. Where the main synth melody initially felt soft and light, the Dutch producer has added a heavy edge. The bass feels grittier and hard-hitting, and the drums feel a lot more pronounced. What was initially a comfortable EDM track is now a bold electronic dance hit.

Multi-layered with synth, bass and snares, Access is true creative and nostalgic electronica. It’s certainly familiar (both for it being a new version of an old track and for it having similar technicalities as other EDM hits), but Martin’s gift for a catchy melody shines through here. In turn, it delivers an imaginative, uplifting and standout track from his BYLAW EP, and returns us to the dance styles we don’t hear enough of in this genre.

Access is taken from Martin Garrix’s latest EP, BYLAW, which is available now.

Why ‘Kiss’ is the stand-out track on Pale Waves’ monotonous debut

Hard-hitting drums and buzzing guitar melodies makes Kiss the punchiest track on Pale Waves’ repetitive debut album. Here’s why…

When it comes to breakthrough releases, the best show off the range of the artist or band, flirting with the fringes of their talent, whilst also strengthening their familiar, traditional sound. For this Manchester goth-pop group, My Mind Makes Noises is just more of the same.

Save for a few stripped-back songs such as SheWhen Did I Lose It All? and the emotional Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die), most tracks follow particular structural motifs. If it’s not tight bass notes introducing a track, then it’s sharp snares. Heather Braon-Gracie’s howling vocals are more monotonous than explorative, and there’s always a brief pause before the chorus in a bit to make it more impactful than it actually is. It’s a sense of rigidity and structure which strips each track of its creativity and much-needed ‘oomph’.

Then, when you consider the fact that single Kiss is one of Pale Waves’ older songs, written when Baron-Gracie was in her late teens, one can see why this packs a punch many of their newer songs lack. If one was to adopt a popular criticism of most bands, then Kiss is the band’s vibe before they were associated with The 1975 and launched into the musical mainstream and its focus on having one specific “sound”.

Here, we see instrumentals which are much more wedded to each other than their own individual part of a song. In the verses, drum and bass work together, along with Heather’s unconventional lyrical structure to give the song a slight driving rhythm on what is a rather steady tempo. Guitar solos feel so much more creative and expressive than just a simple filler, and as such, the drums feel so much more present.

A sophomore album isn’t easy for any musician or group, as it offers a choice of similarity or a whole new direction. Yet, when it comes to Pale Waves and their debut, a return to where it all started may be the answer to creating fresh, catchy and exciting music.

My Mind Makes Noises is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Woman of the World’ by Amy Macdonald

With empowering Scottish soul, the This is the Life singer returns with a strong lead single from her upcoming greatest hits album.

Amy Macdonald has been one of the few one-hit wonders to stick in one’s mind over the singer-songwriter’s 11-year career. Now, the musician reflects on the journey with a new album, Woman of the World – of which the title track is out today.

Traditional and impactful, a driving beat and underlying electric guitar give the track a punchy, gritty kick which serves the meaning of the song well. A beautiful chord progression provides the soft tone for Macdonald’s lyrical delivery, which comes packed with emotion and a hint of sass worthy of a confident break-up hit.

Woman of the World: The Best of 2007-2018 will be released on 23 November 2018.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Broken Sleep’ by Fickle Friends

Hot off the heels of their debut album release and a string of summer festival performances, Fickle Friends explore new ground on the driving pop track, Broken Sleep.

It’s time for some new directions for the Brighton band. Leaving Polydor Records to start up their own record company, the five-piece are back with an evolved pop sound ahead of their new EP out later this year.

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.

Broken Sleep is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.