Musical Discovery: ‘Ultralife’ by Oh Wonder

Over the years, many duos have used contrasting vocals to their advantage. Rizzle Kicks (which is made up of Jordan Stephens and Harley Alexander-Sule) blend rap and soulful singing, whilst Nanna and Ragnar from Of Monsters and Men offer a soft back-and-forth between male and female voices. Now, the London-based Oh Wonder are the latest band to follow this trend.

Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht make up the duo, and much like Of Monsters and Men, light, gentle vocals are apparent throughout the lead single and title track of their upcoming second album, Ultralife. Supported by powerful, calypso-style drums in the chorus, the similarities to the Icelandic group are obvious. With that being said, fans longing for a third album from OMAM may enjoy Oh Wonder’s music as they eagerly await new music from them.

The upbeat name of the song is certainly supported by lines such as ‘I got love falling like the rain‘, ‘I got so much soul inside my bones‘ and ‘ever since you came, I’m living ultralife‘. All of these lyrics appear in the chorus, and so it is no surprise that we hear the pounding percussion to heighten this sense of euphoria further.

As Oh Wonder continue to unveil more singles from their sophomore album, it’s clear that Ultralife does a good job of summarising the record. Imaginative and emotive, the track hints at a release full of feeling, with a mix of calmness and excitement to keep the listener intrigued throughout.

Oh Wonder’s second album, Ultralife, is to be released on July 14, 2017.

Musical Discovery: ‘Magnetised’ by Emma Blackery

Described as a record about ‘mending’, it was only a matter of time before we saw the emotional side of Emma Blackery’s upcoming EP, Magnetised. The first single, Nothing Without You, was a pop-heavy reflection on a positive break-up. Now, the title track adopts a more woeful tone, as Blackery opens up about a summer heartbreak.

Light guitar and a soft, off-beat rhythm set the tone before stepping aside for Emma’s vocals. A rise and fall in notes during the chorus almost representing the heartbreak, should the song wish to be interpreted on such a level. Nevertheless, this track explores a different style of singing for the singer-songwriter – a pure, quiet feel which, although in direct contrast to Nothing Without You, shows the variation in her voice which we can expect from the EP.

Whilst the instrumentals are minimal, there are moments throughout the song where additional melodies only add to the emotion. A fluttering synth sequence during the chorus is a smooth way to bridge the gap between the lines which works well. It’s clear that alongside the lyrics themselves, guitars, synths and drums all do their bit to emphasise the mood of Magnetised, making the passion within the words all the more crystal clear.

The single, Magnetised, is now available on iTunes and Spotify. The EP, of the same name, is out on May 26.

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.

Musical Discovery: ‘Hard Times’ by Paramore

There’s certainly been some ‘hard times’ for Hayley Williams and the rock band Paramore over the years, what with the departure of some of its members in the past. Now, as the current trio return with a new pop hit, it’s an upbeat musical style which contrasts all this, and sees the band move away from their grittier sound.

Instead, this is their offering in a pop scene dominated with plucky guitars and tropical vibes, even when it feels a little flat. A marimba opening and heavy riffs certainly keep the listener interested, but there’s nothing particularly fruitful in the verses to maintain our attention (the repetitive melody here is more annoying than catchy). It’s the funky groovy chorus which we have to thank for injecting some originality into this track, with lyrics that actually are memorable.

It’s the first single from the upcoming album, After Laughter, and whilst a daring change of direction for a band is to be respected, hopefully the record will see some more rocky tracks as well.

Musical Discovery: ‘You’ by BLOXX

There’s always something exciting about finding a new band at the start of their musical journey. With nearly 3K followers on Twitter and only two singles under their belt, BLOXX (a four piece indie band from Uxbridge, West London) are still very much in their early stages, but have jumped in to the indie genre with gusto. You only need to look as far as their first track (Your Boyfriend) and their latest release, You – which came out last Friday – for proof.

A guitar melody which, upon first listen, sounded reminiscent of the Friends theme tune sets the upbeat, rocky tone for this track. Contrast Mozwin’s pounding drums with Ophelia Booth’s soft, mumbling vocals and you have a gritty indie anthem perfect for both live gigs and bedroom listening.

For the most part, it’s the ‘all too familiar’ guitar riffs and bass drums which are the true driving force of the song, but credit must also be given to Booth’s sound in the chorus. Now adopting a louder voice, it adds to the emotion created by the backing instruments to form the usual indie track we know and love.

As You builds on the success of Your Boyfriend, it looks as though we can expect to hear more of Bloxx on the radio in the future (the band have already had some coverage from the BBC), as well as some new material to boost the summer mood.

Musical Discovery: ‘Caught Up’ by Sarah Close

There’s something reminiscent of Natasha Bedingfield and Eliza Doolittle in Sarah Close’s voice. Soft and sweet vocals are something her 754,000 YouTube subscribers (more or less) have been treated to for many years now. However, it was last week that the 21-year-old singer-songwriter released her debut EP – which includes the title track, Caught Up.

Jumpy synth chords and double-bass drums introduce the track, setting the perfect, bouncy rhythm to accompany Sarah’s fast-paced, rap-like vocals. With each line having its own speed (take the slowed down tick, tick, tick and the opening line, I’m dressed like a beauty queen, for example), listeners are entertained and intrigued right up to the chorus, which adopts a softer approach.

It’s almost as if the flowing verses see Sarah air her frustrations and annoyance at the partner, whilst the delicate chorus sounds more curious and intrigued, with nothing more than light synths accompanying the first refrain. On the second occasion, piano and drums heighten this emotion and upbeat feel. It has the traditional vibe of the pop genre from the noughties, with modern synths bringing the track up-to-date.

With Close already receiving Radio 1 airplay with her track, Call Me Out (also on the debut EP), it looks likely that this fun and upbeat pop track will also reach similar levels of success for Sarah in the future.

Musical Discovery: ‘Nothing Without You’ by Emma Blackery

Even before YouTuber and singer-songwriter Emma Blackery released her first track from her upcoming EP, Magnetised, fans were offered cryptic hints about the record’s story. ‘Mending’ was the one word the 25-year-old used to describe the collection of songs, and is an accurate term upon hearing the first single, Nothing Without You – which came out at midnight on Tuesday.

Aside from the line ‘I would be nothing without you‘ obviously alluding to Blackery’s gratitude at an ex-boyfriend for everything he has helped her achieve, lyrics such as ‘you shape me into who I wanted to be/and you made me take a look at myself and see‘ also touch upon this theme. In a comment on the music video on YouTube, Emma explained that this was a happy song – which provided some clarity after hearing negative lines like ‘I got shackles round my feet/They’re tying me to this place‘ in the track. Yet as a whole, the positive message becomes apparent after multiple listens (it’s that catchy) but it’s not just the lyrics which give off this vibe.

From the lively piano chords to the expressive drum rhythm throughout, the track’s instrumentals certainly continue this upbeat tone, but it’s Blackery’s refreshed vocals which really heighten these emotions. Throughout the nearly four-minute long song, listeners can be surprised with the occasional, powerful high notes (particularly in the chorus) from Emma, displaying increased passion and confidence both in terms of the subject matter and her singing in general.

With Nothing Without You being the first song on the six-track EP, it’s a release which has not only teased Blackery’s direction as an artist, but offered a first glimpse into the narrative of the record. It’s enough to justify the word ‘mending’ whilst keeping us intrigued in finding out how ‘the era of Magnetised unfolds.

Nothing Without You is available now on iTunes and Spotify. The EP, Magnetised, is out on May 26.