#NewMusicFriday: ‘First Aid’ by Eliza and the Bear

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.

After having revealed some of their personal struggles and their difficult journey to get to a second album, Eliza and the Bear think it “felt so right” that First Aid was released to fans this week – and they’re not wrong.

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.

First Aid is out now on Apple Music and Spotify. Eliza and the Bear’s second album, Group Therapy, is released on 5 October.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Icarus’ by Emma Blackery

There’s something different about Emma Blackery’s latest single Icarus. Moving away from the buzzing pop of Dirt and Agenda, the release takes a more delicate, personal approach – using a tale from Greek mythology as an unusual source of inspiration.

While there’s no doubt that some of Emma’s fans will have to take to Google to find out more about Icarus (a man who flew too close to the Sun, causing his wings to melt and him to fall into the ocean and drown), the story serves as a wider metaphor for online drama – of which Emma has had her fair share.

Working as a YouTuber as well as a musician, the 26-year-old has had a few heated arguments with fellow creators in the past, and Icarus serves as a reflection on that period in her life. “A song I wrote as a letter to myself,” Emma writes on Twitter, before explaining later that it’s “about retaliating to the people who want to see you fall, and looking like a fool.” Even Icarus flying to the Sun could well be symbolic of rising to the ‘heat’ or bait in an online argument. Either way, this creative take on the Greek legend is incredibly imaginative, and is a promising demonstration of the singer’s songwriting talent.

Yet it is not just the lyrical aspect of Icarus which helps it strike a more anecdotal tone. Opening up with a fragile harp melody (almost like one out of a music box), we not only see a nod to the song’s Greek inspiration, but it lays down the foundation for an emotional outpour. This is slightly different from the short, sudden burst of cymbals we hear during the chorus, which almost symbolises the lashing out online in retaliation to a public dispute. This is all down to interpretation, of course, but the large amount of symbolism in this song is incredibly impressive.

Almost like the Magnetised of the Villains era, Icarus is a hit packed full of creative imagery, emotional vocals and fluttering instrumentals.

It is available now on Apple Music and Spotify.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Dirt’ by Emma Blackery

It was no surprise that Emma Blackery’s latest single Dirt was going to be firing some shots at a certain someone. With promotional images seeing her posing with bitter labels, sipping tea and bathing in receipts, the singer-songwriter’s track is packed with sass as radiant as the synths at its heart.

While the music video has the vibrant art style of a Chloe Höwl video, the song itself has clear Taylor Swift vibes with blunt, sly muttering in amongst the vocals. Add this to the nursery rhyme of the key line I’ve got dirt on you and you have a song packed with soft, bubbly instrumentals with sharp, flowing and edgy lyrics.

Sure, Dirt is a clear and stark contrast to the calmer tones of the Magnetised EP (which Blackery described as being about ‘mending’), but with cup and saucer in hand, Emma Blackery is stronger than ever.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘Wake Me Up’ by Fickle Friends

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.

#NewMusicFriday: ‘You Could Have Been The One’ by Coasts

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…

Musical Discovery: ‘FOOLS’ by Troye Sivan

Hold music is an interesting concept. If it’s a bad song, it can make a 10-minute call to your bank feel like eternity, and if it’s catchy, then you can end up singing The Human League down the phone just as Steve from Apple tech support picks up. Sorry, Steve.

Yet, on this particular occasion, I didn’t have to worry about talking to anyone down the phone. One particular internet webinar – another intriguing thing – on social media had some rather catchy ‘hold music’ before starting. In amongst the dodie songs and other tracks, was a new musical discovery in the form of Troye Sivan’s FOOLS.

For someone who’s never listened to music for those ‘chill vibes’ (I’m either listening to songs to try and establish what exactly they’re saying, or because I like the melodies) or has been tempted by the thousands of Spotify playlists offering laid-back listening, Troye’s 2015 track is one of those few songs I can leave playing in the background when scrolling social media and not feel bad that I’m not giving it my undivided attention.

And that is not me saying that this is a song which isn’t worth paying attention to – not at all. FOOLS is a track which jumps from piano chords on a slow tempo to fuzzy synthesiser to keep things flowing. An electro-track that isn’t too heavy, it can certainly be both a ‘chill’ song for easy listening as much as it can be one to dance along to.

After all, it’s a track with a kind of synth-pop that one would expect from a collaboration between French DJ Madeon and Closer producers The Chainsmokers. Atmospheric chords commonly associated with the former combine with the hazier, bouncy melodies of the latter to form a staggering, jumpy beat which tie-in nicely with Sivan’s softly sung lyrics.

Despite reviewing this just over two years after its release, FOOLS still sounds current with a style that could easily slide in to the trap theme we’ve seen take the music world by storm lately with its off-beat rhythm and sprinkling of synth melodies.

Blue Neighbourhood (which includes the track FOOLS) is available on Spotify and Apple Music now.

Musical Discovery: ‘Ego’ by Ella Eyre feat. Ty Dolla $ign (Jack Wins Remix)

A successful remix is always one which could be passed off as the original, if the listener hasn’t heard anything different. In my case, as I listened to Jack Wins’ remix of Ella Eyre’s Ego, despite knowing it wasn’t the initial song, it certainly sounded like the first version.

There’s no denying that Eyre’s vocals can’t fit a good dance track (look no further than her recent hits with Sigma and Sigala, which both entered the UK Top 40). From something a bit tropical (Came Here for Love) or drum-and-bass (Good Times), Jack’s remix shows Ella’s suitability for a more club-like sound. With the original version adopting a slow calypso, the club version injects some much-needed fun and pace into the track. Whilst the initial track’s chorus contains nothing more than flowing drums and soulful vocals from Ella, Jack Wins brings a new instrumental melody to this part of the song which gives it that added punch.

Disappointingly minimalistic in its makeup, the slower tempo of Ella’s song lacks a satisfying beat drop and chorus. It may well serve as a more atmospheric single compared to the 23-year-old’s previous, fast-paced pop releases, but it just lacks a certain substance. Ego sounds very much like a track one would see accompanying a big-budget emotional movie trailer. It is great background listening, and is comfortably mediocre, but there’s nothing there to warrant our full attention.

This brings me to Jack Wins’ remix, and my point about this having the potential to be considered the original. The Dutch DJ’s impressive portfolio of hits shows he is no stranger to creating the perfect hook, beat drop and chorus, and fixes all the mistakes in the initial track with ease.

The underwhelming beat drop at the start is replaced with a satisfying drum fill, followed by a chorus complete with a bouncy rhythm and sharp synth chords to set the tone. Yet again, like his Rockabye remix, Jack Wins cuts out the featured rapper in the track (Ty Dolla $ign) for the benefit of the song as a whole.

With a perfect balance between adding new things to the song, and taking other parts away, Jack’s remix style yet again brings out the best in a single in a way that makes it his own – and if that’s not the sign of a good remix, then I don’t know what is.