#NewMusicFriday: ‘Cheetah Tongue’ by The Wombats

The Wombats are certainly painting an interesting picture as to what their upcoming album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Their previous single Turn calmed things down a bit, but now the Liverpudlian trio have returned to vibes explored in Lemon to a Knife Fight with their new track, Cheetah Tongue.

Getting its first play on BBC Radio 1 on Wednesday this week, host Annie Mac referenced comments by lead singer Matthew Murphy (published on sites such as Dork and The Prelude Press) during an interview with the guitarist: “I wanted to make an album that had more swagger, was a bit more laid back, something that wasn’t punching you in the face every time you listen to it,” he had said. In a clear sign that the band have progressed since the days of A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation and Glitterbug, the latest trio of singles have proven that The Wombats have been able to tone down their more pulsing rock, without that damaging their unique style.

After all, Cheetah Tongue (another bizarre but quirky song title) starts with tight, solid guitar strums underneath the opening verse, before an off-beat drum groove is introduced in the chorus – adding that traditional catchiness and kick to the single. Reading this, one might wonder what sets this era apart from previous releases. My answer? The Wombats have eased off backing vocals (seen on tracks like Kill the Director and Moving to New York) and slowed the tempo a little bit. The end result being a more stripped-back vibe, whilst still being brilliantly anthemic.

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#NewMusicFriday: ‘Only You’ by Shift K3Y

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to some music from Shift K3Y. With hits like TouchI Know and Gone Missing, I was drawn in by the 24-year-old DJ’s (real name Lewis Jankel) unique blend of synth with a deeper, buzzing club sound. Now, after a couple of promotional singles last year and the release of his album NIT3 TALES in 2016, Jankel returns with Only You – a single which mashes together some old vibes with the new.

With Jankel taking to the mic once again underneath vibrant piano chords, listeners will be reminded of the producer’s older material, before the track is quick to descend into a pulsing beat complete with deeper synth sounds. A constant back-and-forth between two styles, Only You keeps things flowing before the aforementioned styles come together in the final drop: a fluttering mix of piano chords with dirty synth underneath.

Returning with a more mainstream sound, Shift K3Y kickstarts 2018 off with a groovy club hit.

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.

Thoughts on my 2017…

I’ve never had a quiet New Year’s Eve before. Usually a night of music and fireworks would see me welcome in the next year with this weird sense of ‘happy sad’ as I’m stuck between looking forward and looking back. This year, however, I can reflect without the assistance of listening to Mr Brightside by The Killers, or gathering around the TV to watch the official countdown.

However, whilst there may not be so much of an opportunity to reflect in person this year, I can of course reconsider the past 12 months here, on this blog.

January contained one of the best experiences of the year: exploring the fantastic Bristol whilst on work experience with the BBC’s deaf magazine programme, See Hear. Weekdays were spent conducting interviews, researching, visiting politicians in London and brushing up on my British Sign Language, whilst the one weekend saw me see the Clifton Suspension Bridge and Banksy artwork around the city. It was fantastic (you can watch my vlog from Bristol on my YouTube channel).

February saw me conduct some interviews with some big names in entertainment, and it’s always a joy to have a chat with them about their craft. I spoke to Britain’s Got Talent runner-up and magician Jamie Raven, former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond, as well as the legendary singer behind the hit Amarillo, Tony Christie.

March involved me going on a placement at the local newspaper in Lincoln, The Lincolnshire Echo. As well as conducting interviews by myself I was also fortunate enough to find, source and write up my own news story, which became the most popular online story on the day and made the print edition that week. I also had the opportunity to get a sneak preview of Frances’ debut album, Things I’ve Never Said, before it was released that month (I reviewed it as well). On top of all this, I turned 20 too, but that’s no big deal…

April saw me do a talk to my local Youth Voice/Parliament about journalism, social media, fake news and so forth. I ended up staying for the whole residential and it was great to be involved in the group again since I was social media manager for them many years ago. It was also good to try my hand at public speaking again. I think I did okay. I became the Editor of the University of Lincoln’s student newspaper, The Linc, and I also found out that I passed my NCTJ 100wpm shorthand exam. Whilst that’s the speed level required to get ‘the gold standard’, I’m still planning to get my 120wpm shorthand at some point next year. I just can’t stop.

May was the month that I ventured up to Glasgow on my own to celebrate a friend’s 18th birthday. I made so many new friends and met a few old ones as well (that I hadn’t seen in so long). It was also great to be back in wonderful Scotland, as well.

June was the month where Theresa May called a snap election, and I was very lucky enough to a part of an election night radio programme, where I reported live from the count in my constituency, Mid Bedfordshire. It was an all-nighter which truly made me feel like a journalist as I camped out in the official press room, conducting interviews, editing them and then giving live two-ways at certain points as well. I also started my three-month job as an Online Community Intern at the disability charity Scope – a job which I absolutely loved (and now miss) doing. Glastonbury and seeing Busted and The Human League were all a hoot, too.

July was a busy and exciting time. It started with a visit to see a relaxed performance of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time with a good friend of mine for the second time (it was just as good), then continued with the Future News Worldwide conference in Scotland where I made friends with so many international students journalists. Then came a week at the newspaper in London, which saw me get my name into print at multiple times throughout the week. Result!

August saw me make my first visit to Southampton with Scope. It’s always great to visit new parts of the UK and so that was good fun. Summer in the City happened, I made new friends and was my first year where I went for all three days. As well as that, I saw the incredible Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at The Palace Theatre.

September was a quiet month. Putting university aside, I didn’t have much on except for seeing the recording of a pilot of The Russell Howard Hour in London with a friend (which was great fun) and going to watch The Killers in concert at the O2 Brixton Academy – probably one of my favourite gigs of the year.

October was a month full of journalism. I reported on a council bye-election for The Linc and Siren Radio (Lincoln’s community radio station), interviewed Coasts (arguably one of my favourite interviews of the year) and became an official reporter and press photographer at Lincoln’s 2Q Festival, where I interviewed Marsicans and the lead singer of Circa Waves, Kieran Shudall. A busy and awesome month!

November was arguably one of the best months of 2017. I did a TEDx talk (something which I have always dreamed of doing), I made loads of new friends and I returned to Sky in London for two weeks’ work experience at Sky News. Brilliant!

December is the traditional end of the year. It was lovely to spend Christmas with family and have long-overdue catch-ups with people I haven’t seen for weeks, if not months, thanks to university life. My first semester of third year concluded with the publication of The Linc‘s first print edition of the academic year (something of which I was very proud) and then the rest of the month has been spent revising and working on my dissertation, before it’s all over in May 2018.

 

Speaking of next year, I don’t think I have any New Year’s Resolutions as such – at least, not yet. If I remember rightly, this year’s one was to capture more and take more videos and photos, but my anxiety around shoving a phone in people’s face asking them to pose for a snap still prevented that from happening, but I do like to think that I had a bit more fun with photography this year.

Resolutions aside, and I know that there’s some big and exciting things to come in 2018 after a superb 2017. Some things will reveal themselves as the year progresses, but one thing I know for certain, as mentioned above, is that my three years at the University of Lincoln will end around May next year – and I’m not ready. We naturally look ahead to the next milestone or event in our lives, but after May, I have no idea what happens, and that’s both exciting and terrifying.

Bring it on.

 

Review of the Year:

Song of 2017: Hello Hello by Fickle Friends or The Man by The Killers

TV Show of 2017: BBC Sherlock – Series 4 (A controversial choice, but new Sherlock always has me excited)

Book of 2017: Happy by Derren Brown

Play of 2017: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

Happy New Year! 

Musical Discovery: ‘Breathe’ by Mako

It’s Christmas Day (Merry Christmas, by the way), but for today’s post, we’re putting that aside. With this being the last Musical Discovery of 2017, I wanted to review a track by an artist which would take me all the way back to the start of this year – a ‘full circle’ of sorts, if you will.

It was the middle of January. I was in Bristol on work experience, loving the placement and loving the new city I happened to find myself in. Early morning walks to BBC Bristol and late night journeys back to the house I was staying at were soundtracked by Mako’s debut album, Hourglass – particularly the track, Run for Your Life (feat. Rat City and Natalola).

So now that they’ve released a new single earlier this month, called Breathe, it makes sense for me to review it.

As those who have listened to Hourglass will know, Mako’s style can easily be split into synth-heavy tracks and the more stripped-back songs. If one were to compare Breathe with the American DJs’ back catalogue, then the similarities to Smoke Filled Room and Our Story are certainly apparent as the single adopts a calmer tone.

An all too familiar chord progression on the guitar opens up the track, before Alex Seaver’s equally soft vocals are introduced. With lyrics in the verses that fluctuate in pace, the listener’s attention is caught before things are truly slowed down for the chorus. Harmonised backing vocals float above a gentle rhythm in a break which restores a tempo to the track (drums are absent in the first verse) and help create a relaxing feel. In that regard, Breathe lives up to its name.

Putting the song’s structure to one side, if one was to consider the fact that this is a solo single from Alex, and that group member Logan Light announced his absence ‘from the majority of [Mako’s] 2017 shows’, then Light’s absence can be felt somewhat when listening to Breathe.

Whilst, as mentioned previously, it fits nicely amongst tracks such as Smoke Filled Room, it lacks that slight synth feel which Logan tends to bring to songs as ‘the DJ of the group’. Nevertheless, with Breathe possessing many of Mako’s musical characteristics, Alex’s solo single does a great job of carrying the group’s baton whilst Light takes a step back.

New music from Mako is certainly very promising, and here’s hoping more is on the way (hopefully with Logan’s involvement) come 2018…

 

Musical Discovery: ‘Lemon to a Knife Fight’ by The Wombats

It’s always a joy rediscovering a classic band, and it’s even better when you realise that they’re back with new music. In my case, after months of re-listening to Kill the Director and Moving to New York, The Wombats return with Lemon to a Knife Fight.

If you were to compare Lemon to a Knife Fight to songs from A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation, then you’ll hear a subtle difference. The fast-paced feel of the latter is replaced with a slower tempo, yet the chanting vocals remain – along with the traditional, bizarre song titles…

This makeup creates a song which has the potential to be both a festival hit, and a laid-back track for a bedroom listening session.

Lemon to a Knife Fight shows maturity from The Wombats in what is a solid single marking their return.

Musical Discovery: ‘We Could Go Back’ by Jonas Blue (Jonas Blue & Jack Wins Club Mix)

Unlike previous releases, Jonas Blue’s We Could Go Back has a much slower tempo, opting for a smooth marimba feel complete with tropical house vibes. However, as with any track with a low BPM, the potential to speed things up a little bit is there. Cue the producer joining with the Dutch DJ Jack Wins to do just that.

Jumping straight in with the first verse, already we hear the flow of Moelogo’s vocals increased which sees the chorus brought in just 22 seconds into the song. At this point, we get a flavour of the instrumentals to come, with light synth melodies gaining prominence before coming to the forefront.

Staggering piano stabs keep things nice and bouncy, providing the first build-up of the track before a second build follows, complete with backing synth and drums. Then, come the actual drop, it’s the deeper, backing synth (a sound often apparent on a Jack Wins single) that we hear as the instrumental.

If there’s one thing to be admired for the track, then its smooth transitions into different musical styles. The DJ duo’s remix sees bursts of deep house, traditional piano stabs and, with regards to the second verse and beat drop, hints of drum-and-bass.

Whilst, of course, Jonas Blue’s original style is suited to the club scene (tropical house still makes a regular appearance at nightclubs around the country thanks to tracks such as Despacito), with a wonderful blend of styles, the UK DJ’s collaboration with Jack Wins is also the perfect track for any party-goer, with any musical preference.