Review: ‘Swimming Pool Summer’ by Capital Cities

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Capital Cities. Late last year they returned with their track, Vowels, but it was all the way back in 2013 that the duo released a collection of songs – that was their debut album, In A Tidal Wave of History.

Now, the band reveal their new EP, Swimming Pool Summer. For those who hoped that Vowels was the build-up to their second album, it looks like that isn’t coming just yet.

Swimming Pool Summer Album Cover
‘Swimming Pool Summer’ follows on from Capital Cities’ 2013 debut album, ‘In A Tidal Wave of Mystery’.

The EP’s title track is a welcome return to Capital Cities’ original style (following a little funk detour with Vowels). Much like Safe and Sound‘s standout trumpet melody, this song has a repeated synth tune which makes this track memorable. Add that to the odd trumpet flourish, traditional harmonised vocals and a bouncy drum beat, and you have the groovy sound we know and love. At the end of the EP, we hear THCSRS remix the track, which is a fair re-version, but it’s the original which is the best of the two, with its nostalgia hit making it a stand-out track on the record.

The band’s signature tone is distorted in the second track on the four-song EP. Drop Everything still maintains the bouncy tempo apparent in a traditional Capital Cities bop, but now, the main melody is an electronic-heavy tune that feels somewhat out of place when listening to the band’s previous work. In the past, the group have always flirted with synths and electronica, though it has always been tame, calm and euphoric. With Drop Everything, much like how Vowels tapped into the increasingly popular funk scene, the track tries to chip in to the current electro scene (with a sound reminiscent of the DJ, Marshmello) – to mediocre success.

By the third track on the EP, one starts to assume that the record will be ‘old, new, old, new’ in terms of structure. A mix of Love Again and Farah Fawcett HairGirl Friday sees singers Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian repeat vocals in the hope that this will deliver a hit for them. Whilst the chorus and first verse set a chill tone, this vibe is quickly destroyed by the rapper Rick Ross. Regardless of the smooth flow, Rick’s interruption of the chorus just ends up being obnoxious, ruining the 50/50 balance that a collaboration should convey.

With a laid-back rhythm, the penultimate track, Drifting, has a fitting name. It’s a different style of electronica to the three other songs. Gone are the slightly auto-tuned vocals and bouncy drums, instead we hear a more pure, chilled sound which brings the EP to a relaxed finish (if we exclude the aforementioned remix).

However, with Girl Friday containing a flawed collaboration, Drop Everything drifting too far away from Capital Cities’ original style, THCSRS’ remix not adding much to the song, and Drifting being a chill track, it’s Swimming Pool Summer which is the only memorable song of note from the EP. At which point, you have to ask: would it have been better to have released the aforementioned track as a single in order to build up excitement for the second album, whenever that may be?

Although the EP does showcase further experimentation from Capital Cities, we are still left in the dark about what’s next for Simonian and Merchant.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you decide.

Musical Discovery: ‘Thinking of You’ by Busted

I was wrong to assume that an electronic-funk style for Busted was a bad move for the trio. Whilst my opinions on their return single, Coming Home, remain the same (that its attempts to appeal to a teenage demographic with expletives is unneccessary), the band’s new album Night Driver is far from a turbulent transition into a new musical genre.

Take Thinking of You. Fluttering synth arpeggios linger underneath electronic vocals, as the band sings another song about another girl. From air hostesses to great-great-great granddaughters, to a woman who is ‘on fire’, a typical Busted theme remains in the new music – and let’s not forget the guitar bridge towards the end, which is a brief nod to older days.

Yet, the aspect of the track which stands out the most is the keyboard melody during the chorus, which sounds like three meowing cats (in a good way – it’s the best way of describing the sound). With regards to Bourne, Simpson and Willis’ vocals, a harmonic style in the verses mean that they’re pretty forgettable in the song, save for the chorus.

A track which has hints of Busted’s older days in amongst the new stuff, one wonders if Thinking of You would have made a better lead single than Coming Home. The answer? Quite possibly.

Musical Discovery: ‘Disconnect’ by Clean Bandit & Marina

For some people, seeing the name Marina next to Clean Bandit is a pleasant surprise. Not least because the single in question – Disconnect – first debuted two years ago at Coachella, but also because it was in 2015 that the Hollywood singer last released some music.

Now, she joins forces with Jack Patterson of the classical-pop trio to produce a song that’s finally graced our song libraries in full studio quality.

Almost following the template of Symphony (Clean Bandit’s collaboration with Zara Larsson), soft vocals and piano chords can be heard at the start of the song – the appearance of the latter instrument being no surprise given that Jack is the band’s pianist.

It a sound which is reminiscent of Rather Be, Extraordinary and Real Love. It builds on the success of Symphony to deliver another track which balances the classical and electronic aspects of the band’s style perfectly, complete with yet another soulful vocalist.

As mentioned previously, Marina’s last musical venture was two years ago. Since the release of her debut album, The Family Jewels, in 2010, the 31-year-old is yet to score a number one single (2012’s Primadonna being the closest at No. 11). Hot off the success of Rockabye and Symphony, a collaboration with Clean Bandit could be the song that takes her all the way to the top spot.

Musical Discovery: ‘Glue’ by Fickle Friends

With a growing fanbase and a big debut imminent, all eyes are on the Brighton electro-pop band Fickle Friends when it comes to their next release. For a while now, news outlets have reported that the five-piece group are to unveil their debut album in the summer, but with the announcement of an August EP (entitled Glue), could that be delayed? Even if that is the case, Fickle Friends continue to build the hype around their music, as they revealed the title track from the record late last week.

Bouncy synths introduce a track which sounds far more electronic than previous singles such as Brooklyn and Hello Hello. However, it isn’t long before it is balanced out with the traditional guitar riffs which are such a strong part of Fickle Friends’ style. Accentuated notes tense up the track ahead of the song’s catchy chorus, where Natassja Shiner’s soft and smooth vocals add to the euphoric, plucky electronic guitar and bass.

It’s yet another groovy track for the band to add to their already impressive collection, complete with summer vibes to keep us hyped throughout the season until the big EP release. Even when the band said in a recent newsletter that the song was ‘kinda born out of frustration from lots of writing sessions that hadn’t gone all that well’, there’s no dip in quality when it comes to this new single.

So, if this is indeed a teaser for bigger things to come (that debut album), then Glue certainly is a single which perfectly summarises the upbeat electro-pop vibe of Fickle Friends, and will no doubt be a great opener to the three-track EP coming our way on Friday, August 11.

Musical Discovery: ‘Wearing Nothing’ by Dagny

Facebook adverts are just as interesting as they are concerning. Over time, the social networking platform has managed to nail my complex taste in music, offering a mix of musicians I had never come across before. Most recently, the mysterious algorithms were responsible for me finding the Norwegian singer, Dagny, and her track, Wearing Nothing.

A pop-heavy blend of Kylie Minogue and Charlie XCX, Dagny encapsulates the soft vocals of the former, and the screaming cheerleader sound of the latter. It’s a flashback to the older days of pop with the singer, whilst also hanging on to the genre’s current style through sophisticated instrumentals.

Stripped-back (pun not intended), the chorus offers a sluggish, bouncy rhythm. The bass drum keeps the song in time, before a plucky guitar riff adds in an off-beat groove on top. Rather than being an excitable, loud melody, the almost anticlimactic drop sets a smooth tone fitting of the track’s meaning.

Whilst the pop industry descends into this weird tropical, calypso mash-up (which is, quite frankly, getting a little bit tedious), it’s refreshing to hear a pop song that offers a more chilled tone for people to listen to – and all thanks go to Dagny for that.

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: ‘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.