Monday, 30 May 2016

New Music Roundup

Clean Bandit – Tears (feat. Louisa Johnson)

Clean Bandit – Tears (feat. Louisa Johnson)

Well this is a win-win for everyone. It’s been two years since Clean Bandit released their debut album ‘New Eyes’ and now they return with a sure-fire smash. And Louisa Johnson? She’s that youngster who ugly-cried when she forgettably won the X Factor last year. But positioning her as a featured vocalist is a smart move – it worked for Jess Glynne at least. It’s “an epic trap-2step breakup ballad” apparently, which in practice means anthemic vocals, shifting stylistic changes to keep you on your toes, and lots of strings. Finally Louisa will get the number one she was expecting at the end of X Factor.




Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?

Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?

Can we all agree this is the best pop track of the week? All breezy melodies, fizzing synths and an infectious beat, it’s a modern update of an 80s pop sound with emotive lyrics (“I don’t wanna give you up, I don’t wanna let you love somebody else but me,” she sings in the chorus). That might seem familiar, but there’s a reason this sound is so popular – it’s flippin’ brilliant.




Craig David – One More Time

 Craig David – One More Time

We are in the midst of a Craig David Renaissance. And One More Time fits in neatly with the rest of his recent oeuvre. That is, it sounds exactly the same as all those other tracks he’s featured on recently – garage infused with current dance vibes. That said, it remains a slickly produced jam that proves Craig David is finally getting the recognition he deserves.




NAO – Girlfriend

NAO – Girlfriend

This is pure sex. Try not hold your breath in those pregnant pauses between electrifying synths.





Jessie Ware – ‘Till The End

 Jessie Ware – ‘Till The End

On the one hand this is a lazy track from Jessie Ware, written for the soundtrack of ‘Me Before You’. But my god does she do sultry well, breathlessly cooing “gonna love you day and night” over laidback guitar riffs. It’s likely this is the best thing about the film.




Bright Light Bright Light & Elton John – All In The Name

Bright Light Bright Light & Elton John – All In The Name

Bright Light x2 is a big name in the gay community but hasn’t quite crossed over to the mainstream. This track, with casual pal Elton John, could well change that with its Prince-esque funk guitars and blaring horns. It’s an irresistible, uplifting concoction that’ll get you dancing immediately – fitting then that the next album is called ‘Choreography’.




SÄLEN - Diseasey

 SÄLEN - Diseasey

“I can taste the teeth dying in my mouth,” begins this track from London trio SÄLEN. It’s a pretty rank opening to a track filled with bluntly frank lyrics – “why am I in bed with you?” questions vocalist Ellie Kamio, “I’m into your sickness”. It’s a song, then, about falling for the wrong person, the vocals set atop polished beats and twinkling synths. But it’s those lyrics that set this apart.





Bat For Lashes – Sunday Love

Bat for Lashes – Sunday Love

The problem with the current vogue for releasing a whole string of singles in the build up to an album release is that you never quite understand the full context. And with an artist like Bat For Lashes that’s crucial (forthcoming album ‘The Bride’ is a concept album about a woman whose fiancé is killed on his way to the wedding). As it stands, this is a throbbing, urgent track of gothic synths, Natasha Khan singing angelically “even though I’m falling apart, I want Sunday Love in my heart”. How this fits in with the rest of the album remains to be seen.




Anne-Marie - Alarm

 Anne-Marie - Alarm

The Rudimental vocalist was hotly tipped at the start of the year and Alarm is the first track she's released in 2016. There's no denying the power of her voice as she sings of a cheating lover (and is that a cheeky Rihanna reference in the bridge?), but besides the reversed intro the production is a little non-descript and lacks the personality the singer deserves. Let's hope there's more to come.




Prides - Rome

 Prides - Rome

The Glaswegian band return following their 2015 album 'The Way Back Up' with another banging synth anthem. Big melodies, big vocals, big drums and guitars - it's typical stuff from them, but not to be missed.


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Romeo & Juliet @ The Garrick Theatre

Romeo & Juliet @ The Garrick Theatre

Classical columns frame the piazza. The inhabitants of Verona - chic, suave and sophisticated - sip their morning coffee. There's tension between the warring families that crackles in the sizzling Italian heat. Enter Richard Madden's boyish Romeo, swaggering across the stage in crisp white and aviators, jacket nonchalantly swung over his shoulder.

This production of the Shakespearean favourite, the latest in Kenneth Branagh's series, is an incredibly sexy take on the love story. Italian passion radiates from the stage. It's there in Howard Hudson's scorching lighting design. It's there in the passing feuds between the ensemble who spit Italian phrases like daggers. It's there in the nighttime dances, the whole family dispute playing out like a tango. And it's there in the lustful chemistry between the leads, as desperate to sleep together as they are to fall in love.

It's an aesthetic that owes more than a passing debt to The Godfather, with its emphasis on family values and its soundtrack that oscillates between jazz and mournful strings. It might not be original, but there's no denying this modern adaptation is a perfect setting for Shakespeare's text.

That's not to say it's faultless. There are some missteps here. For the most part, the first act breezes by and finds plenty of humour in the text, though it feels a little lightweight. Meera Syal makes for a particularly comic and boisterous Nurse, but she borders on caricature. Then there's Derek Jacobi as Mercutio - an older, camp, jester of a character. It's certainly an amusing portrayal, but would Romeo and Benvolio really be hanging out with a bumbling idiot a good forty years their senior? There's little justification for this casting decision beyond offering Jacobi some stage time.

It's in the second act that the play really finds its feet, depicting the defiance and strength of a young girl (Lily James' Juliet) mature beyond her years, lustful with passion, and desperate with love. Resisting her father, Michael Rouse's Mafia-like Lord Capulet, results in the play's most tense scene, emphasising that focus on family and its volatility. The mise en scene, from set designer Christopher Dram, of Juliet's false death is classically framed and beautifully done, only bettered by the climactic death of the lovers. For such a melodramatic scene, it's played with utterly believable sincerity by James and Madden whose performances find the humanity in these somewhat fantastical young creatures.

The use of sacred chant is the tear-stained icing on the cake of this sexy yet mournful production that blurs the lines between classicism and modernity. It's not quite iconic, but Shakespeare's tragic romance is as moving here as it's ever been.

4/5

Watch: Romeo & Juliet runs at the Garrick Theatre until 13th August.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman

Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman

"Ain't you ever seen a princess be a bad bitch?" asks Ariana on Bad Decisions. It's a not so subtle nod to her television past and how she's become the dangerous woman of today.

Of course, it's a transformation we've seen countless times, from Britney to Miley Cyrus. But Ariana has traversed that journey with ease. Dangerous Woman gives us a young woman reaching maturity, taking control of her sexuality and her career.

It's all there in the lyrics. Take Into You, the album's standout banger. "Been waiting and waiting for you to make a move, before I make a move," she breathlessly intones before commanding in the chorus "a little less conversation and a little more touch my body". The title track, meanwhile, opens with the line "don't need permission, made my decision to test my limits" and then "taking control of this kind of moment, I'm locked and loaded". Coiled, tense, her sexuality is empowering.

And what makes her crazy? Boys. "I'm so into you I can barely breathe"; "something 'bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman"; "Boy, you know that you drive me crazy"; "every time I see you I don't wanna behave". There's definitely a running theme to the lyrics here, female sexuality as hysteria, reckless and powerful.

What's most powerful of all, though, is that this sexuality is subtle. She may have the vocals to belt out some impressive histrionics - and belt she does - but for the most part her voice is hushed and restrained. This is sexuality in a playful way, Ariana toying with us, giving us knowing femininity with a dash of girlish innocence that's far more enticing than overt innuendo. The cover art says it all, with its mix of cuteness and Playboy bondage.

That restraint, though, also proves her popstar confidence. 2014's 'My Everything' may have purposefully been filled with outlandish vocals as she put her stamp on the pop charts singing anthems from Max Martin and Ryan Tedder, but on 'Dangerous Woman' she knows that's now unnecessary, saving her voice for only the most climactic of moments.

For every thrilling pop track - the camp fun of Greedy, the seductive Into You, the reggae-soaked Side To Side featuring Nicki Minaj - there's the hushed opener Moonlight, the sensuous R&B of Let Me Love You with Lil Wayne, and the moody Leave Me Lonely with Macy Gray. Future lends his talents to Everyday, all grinding synths and trap beats, whilst the deluxe edition ends with Thinking Bout You that gently shimmers into moonlight. There's a variety of genres covered with a leaning towards R&B. It's polished and mature, but unafraid to not be too serious.

Of course, both Max Martin and Ryan Tedder (plus a host of other talents) pop up here to lend a hand. But Ariana herself crops up as a writer on the majority of tracks. She's testing her limits, it's her business, she's taking control.

She's a dangerous woman.

4/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Dangerous Woman
* Into You
* Thinking Bout You

Listen: 'Dangerous Woman' is out now.


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Meghan Trainor - Thank You

Meghan Trainor - Thank You

So here’s the rub: Meghan Trainor is a decent songwriter. Sort of.

Most of the songs on ‘Thank You’, the follow up to last year’s ‘Title’, are catchy, solid pop tracks. From lead single NO and funky opener Watch Me Do, through fifteen songs to the title track (on the deluxe edition), the album is laden with infectious hooks. But you’d expect that from the writer of All About That Bass, no matter how irritating that song may be.

That said, the whole album is based on pastiche rather than originality. Watch Me Do? Pure Timberlake. Me Too? A really bad Will.I.Am track. NO? Classic Destiny’s Child meets Britney. Better? Reggae inflected, Rihanna-esque R&B. And that’s just the first four tracks. Not once does Meghan Trainor show an ounce of novel thought across the whole album. Most likely, that’s due to her career as a songwriter and producer for others. Trainor was behind Fifth Harmony’s banger Sledgehammer and latest J-Lo single Ain’t Your Mama amongst others. ‘Thank You’, then, is on a par with Sia’s latest – songs that should’ve been performed by others.

Imagine if Timberlake had sung Watch Me Do, though he’d never do anything this basic. Imagine if Rihanna had sung Better, though she’s too busy courting an edgier hip-hop sound. Imagine if Beyoncé had sung Woman Up, though she’d never agree to such a terrible lyric.

Speaking of which, it’s with lyrics that Trainor massively falls down. “I been on a no-hater diet,” she sings on Watch Me Do, before boasting about her “nice curves, nice breasteses”. Woman Up may be a twist on the misogynistic phrase “man up”, but isn’t it just conforming to female stereotypes? And that’s before we hit the terrible tropical house of Champagne Problems, where Trainor moans about her Uber being late and her wi-fi not working before dousing herself in champagne. Mom, meanwhile, is the sonic equivalent of dried vomit on the side of the street.

The real crux of the matter, though, is that Trainor simply is not a popstar. Her voice is nothing special. Her aesthetic lacks distinction. Her music is just an amalgamation of other genres without originality. She is completely lacking the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to be an actual popstar. All it takes is one look at the video for NO. That half-arsed dance routine. The terrifyingly blank stare. There’s no denying that Trainor is dead behind the eyes. If this ends up being the best music 2016 can provide, then pop is dead.

1/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* Watch Me Do
* NO
* Better

Listen: ‘Thank You’ is out now.


Friday, 13 May 2016

New Music Roundup

OneRepublic - Wherever I Go

One Republic - Wherever I Go

Ryan Tedder and co. have moved away from the gospel tinge of their last album and headed in a darker direction, haunted by a past lover. It's as solid and infectious as anything the band have recorded, but the syncopated, stomping chord changes of the chorus really make this a winner. Wherever he goes, Tedder always delivers.




MNEK - At Night (I Think About You)

MNEK - At Night (I Think About You)

Melancholic, yearning lyrics laden with melodic hooks; a rich, powerful vocal; slowly simmering synth production. And then the beat kicks in.

THAT BEAT.




Chvrches - Warning Call

Chvrches - Warning Call

Written for the forthcoming Mirror's Edge game (notorious for its evocative synth sounds), it's not the first time the Scottish trio have written for a soundtrack, following their appearance on Mockingjay Part 1 (as curated by Lorde). Even when they write one-offs, they write bangers. This is pure Chvrches brilliance and perfectly suited to the clean, futuristic style of the game.




David Guetta feat Zara Larsson - This One's For You


David Guetta feat Zara Larsson - This One's For You

Is this the best Guetta could do? This is the UEFA EURO 2016 official song and features a million voices of footy fans chanting. Mainly though it features Zara Larsson being amazing over generic EDM rubbish.




MØ - Final Song

MØ - Final Song

MØ does tropical pop. And obviously she does it better than everyone else (even if she received some help from MNEK). But it's still tropical pop. Make of that what you will.




Metronomy - Old Skool

Metronomy - Old Skool

After the 70s disco of 'Love Letters', Metronomy look to the 80s in the ominous sound of Old Skool: pulsing synths, menacing harmonies and an almost whispered vocal from Joseph Mount that sounds vaguely threatening. The video, meanwhile, remains pure 70s and features Sharon Horgan being amazing. Also Robyn is on new album 'Summer 08', released 1st July.




Allie X - Too Much To Dream


Allie X - Too Much To Dream

"Anyone can see that I've had too much to dream," sings Allie X in the chorus of this latest track. Besides a whirring, string-based middle eight, Too Much To Dream is typical pop stuff for her - but that's still better than 93% of chart music. And if the introduction is anything to go by, this forthcoming 'COLLXTION II' thing should be intriguing...




Paperwhite - Storm


Paperwhite - Storm

Not to be confused with a Kindle, Brooklyn duo Paperwhite have released a new EP ('Escape') from which Storm is taken. And pure escapism is exactly what they've created, all airy vocals and gently tropical synths to take you to cloud nine and back. Stunning.





Reggie N Bollie - New Girl

Reggie and Bollie - New Girl

"I've got the Netflix, do you wanna chill?" might just be the best lyric you'll hear all year.




Stone Roses - All For One


Stone Roses - All For One

NOBODY CARES.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War (2016) - Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Captain America: Civil War

The trick to watching any Marvel film is not to overthink it. That’s even more pertinent with Captain America: Civil War. In short, the story is a mess and the action is cool as hell – but you knew that already, right?

The real question is why isn’t this an Avengers film? Because really, this is an Avengers film. It’s just the narrative is ever so slightly focused on the Cap’n.

That’s because the team has now been split in half, with Captain America (Chris Evans) leading one team and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) leading the other. The UN are seeking to control the Avengers and limit their powers. Iron Man’s into it. Captain America, not so much.

All this limited plot device serves to do is pit the heroes against one another in a huge fight two thirds through the film. Yes it’s exciting. Yes it’s well choreographed. Yes their powers are combined in cool ways. But really, throughout the film the plot is there simply to signpost towards the next action sequence. At the heart of the story is an interesting notion: with all the epic CGI explosions and destruction, should the Avengers be forced to compensate for their actions? Yet the writers never build a compelling narrative around this question, leaving it ultimately unanswered. None of the characters develop over the course of the film, so there’s no need to emotionally invest – least of all with new villain Zemo (the excellent Daniel Brühl). It’s a clever idea for an everyman to manipulate the heroes into destroying each other, but in the process Zemo himself is hugely underdeveloped.

What’s more, the film takes a more-is-more approach by throwing in every character you can imagine. Sadly Thor and Hulk are M.I.A, but all those characters you forgot from the last couple of films are included, as well as Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man whose “humour” is just embarrassingly misjudged. Admittedly there’s a great sense of equality and inclusion with these characters, and it’s great to see Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch getting plenty of screentime. But if you missed out on a couple of films in this grand soap opera of a superhero series, then tough. It’s less a film franchise than an elongated TV series – miss an episode and you’ll be lost.

And then there’s Spiderman. That’s right, Spiderman. He’s back…again, this time played by Tom Holland. And yet this is one of the film’s brightest spots. One particular scene sees Iron Man recruiting the young Peter Parker to join his side of the fight. There’s some great comedy between the pair and Holland’s is a goofier more youthful take on the character than in past films. His standalone Spiderman film will certainly be worth watching.

And so is Captain America: Civil War. As popcorn entertainment goes, it’s a rollercoaster ride of mindless action that is never less than enjoyable. Just ignore the story – let the special effects seep into your face and don’t even try to create an emotional connection with the characters. Sit back and…well...marvel.

3/5

Watch: Captain America: Civil War is out now.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Eurovision 2016: Ones To Watch

Eurovision 2016

^^don't worry Sweden, we will.

Who are the ones to beat?
Who are the ones to miss?
What are this year's key trends?

Gizzle has you covered...


Screens
After Måns Zelmerlöw's win for Sweden last year, everyone seems to be doing interactive screens. None are as impressive as Russia though, who will probably deliver the standout performance of the night.

Men
Rather than offering a string of pretty women, there seem to be more male performers this year than before. Know your audience...know your audience...

Western Europe
With the Nordics being sub par this year and Eastern Europe continuing to offer dull eurodance, it turns to Western Europe to deliver the goods. France, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain and (dare I say it) the UK could all have a strong year. Not Germany though.

Game of Thrones
Stunningly moody vistas. Wolves. And so...much...hair (and that's just the men). Eurovision has gone medieval this year, in the videos at least.


On to the entries. Strap in, there's gonna be WWIII at the top...


Finland: Sandhja - Sing It Away
This is quite possibly the best of the Nordics this year. Catchy chorus, blaring horns, camp dance routine and a video message that all Brits can get behind: tea makes everything better.

Greece: Argo - Utopian Land
It starts off pleasingly traditional, until the verses are...rapped? Is that what that is? This is just too bizarre to make an impact.

Moldova: Lidia Isac - Falling Stars
Well there's not much you can do with a white backdrop and a wind machine is there?

Hungary: Freddie - Pioneer
It's not hard to see why this chap was chosen: he has a voice as pleasantly rough as his stubbly beard...I presume.

Croatia: Nina Kraljić - Lighthouse
Guys! National Emergency! Ellie Goulding has been kidnapped by Croatia!

Netherlands: Douwe Bob - Slow Down
The Netherlands haven't won since 1975. That won't be changing anytime soon.

Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan - LoveWave
"Hey. It's me" is the new hello. SO MUCH HAIR. To be fair, this more experimental electro track is pretty decent.

San Marino: Serhat - I Didn't Know
This sultry funk sounds like some sort of dodgy 70s porno. Terrible. But also kind of amazing.

Russia: Sergey Lazarev - You Are The Only One
Look, nobody really wants Russia to win (except Russia). Yes the opening sounds just like Euphoria. And yes the lyrics are dire. But this has everything you could want from a Eurovision song: throbbing beats; kitchen sink production; a cool screen gimmick; a cute semi-naked guy who definitely isn't into men; terrible acting; and a goddamn key change. Putin could well be welcoming us all next year.


Czech Republic: Gabriela Gunčíková - I Stand
This is actually a really beautiful power ballad with folky melodies and a yearning chorus. It just won't win.

Cyprus: Minus One - Alter Ego
Eurovision isn't all cheesy electrodance. Minus One are bringing some rock to the competition, 30 Seconds To Mars style. They might stand out for that at least, even if this wolf-themed track is no She Wolf.

Austria: ZOË - Loin d'ici
Austria definitely peaked with Conchita. This cutesy little ditty pales in comparison. Please fall over on that treadmill, we could do with some excitement...

Estonia: Jüri Pootsmann - Play
The sort of deep-voiced, twinkly-faced performer that only mothers will love.

Azerbaijan: Samra - Miracle
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink...seriously did Sia actually write this?! (That is absolutely a compliment)

Montenegro: Highway - The Real Thing
Sexy guitars, heavy beats, hypnotic synths. And then the vocal starts. Awks.

Iceland: Greta Salóme - Hear Them Calling
Iceland, as ever, a second-rate Sweden. Staging that mixes Loreen and Måns, with a track full of synth-folk drama. Unoriginal.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Dalal & Deen feat. Ana Rucner and Jala - Ljubav Je
Well the church is nice..... *cough*

Malta: Ira Losco - Walk On Water
She looks like a popstar. She sounds like a popstar. It's very current. And the beaches are stunning. A pretty strong year for the Maltese.

Latvia: Justs - Heartbeat
Last year Latvia had the most interesting song of all. And whilst this isn't quite as good as Love Injected, it continues along the same lines with experimental electro that suggests there's a thriving club scene in the Baltics. Let's just hope he can sustain that vocal until the end.

Poland: Michał Szpak - Color Of Your Life
Beautiful video. Boring song

Switzerland: Rykka - The Last Of Our Kind
This fizzing little pop track sounds like a load of other familiar songs spliced together. That's actually a very good thing.

Israel: Hovi Star - Made Of Stars
Whilst promoting this track in Russia, ex-Idol contestant Hovi Star was reportedly the victim of homophobic abuse. It's the sort of story that could push this ballad of acceptance and equality towards the top of the pile. The drone symbolism in the video further adds a military feel to the ballad that only fuels the power of this song after political unrest in the Middle East.


Belarus: IVAN - Help You Fly
Oh look, another interactive screen. This synth-rock track is just too bizarre.

Serbia: Sanja Vučić ZAA - Goodbye (Shelter)
Her voice might have power, but the way she exhales at the end of every line is infuriating.

Ireland: Nicky Byrne - Sunlight
Am I supposed to vote for you, when you're singing like that? This is average fare from the Westlife singer, despite the anthemic chorus.

F.Y.R Macedonia: Kaliopi - Dona
Dona Dona Dona Dona Dona Dona Dona Kebab.

Lithuania: Donny Montell - I've Been Waiting For This Night
So the song is a basic Eurovision anthem, but the video is about a young guy going to a drug-fuelled rave so he can bang the girl of his dreams? Inappropriate.

Australia: Dami Im - Sound Of Silence
Australia are still definitely not in Europe. But when their entry is X Factor winner Dami Im all is forgiven. Probably the best singer in the competition, there's a powerful chorus, a hot ballet dancer, and Asian glamour. Australia are actually taking the competition seriously with a proper popstar performance. Well done everyone.


Slovenia: ManuElla - Blue And Red
"You're not a composer, I'm not your song". Slovenia serving some Taylor Swift realness here, but they'll never ever ever win the competition.

Bulgaria: Poli Genova - If Love Was A Crime
Solid. Safe. Standard.

Denmark: Lighthouse X - Soldiers Of Love
Oh Denmark. We expect more of you. What is this cheesy boyband shite?

Ukraine: Jamala - 1944
Moody, haunting, ethnic melodies. Stark production that sounds like nothing else in the competition. Political undertones of Stalinist oppression. And a raw, intense vocal. Ukraine are fighting back against Russia with real spirit and could well take the top spot from them.


Norway: Agnete - Icebreaker
In many ways, Norway are simply repeating Margaret Berger's performance from a couple of years ago: hot blonde in a white dress, industrial beats and euphoric synths. The rhythmic changes just about make it stand out.

Georgia: Nika Kocharov and Young Georgian Lolitaz - Midnight Gold
Did this band genuinely learn their instruments on Guitar Hero? It sure sounds like it.

Albania: Eneda Tarifa - Fairytale
This is utterly forgettable.

Belgium: Laura Tesoro - What's The Pressure
HIT IT. In a sea of electrodance and moody ballads, this entry from Belgium stands out for its bubbly rhythms and youthful performance. Frothy and fun.

France: Amir - J'ai cherché
The French are storming the competition this year. No longer the weird arty lot, they're singing (partly) in English and delivering a brilliant, contemporary pop song. It's a change of tactics that will likely pay off.


Germany: Jamie-Lee - Ghost
Have Germany given up this year?

Italy: Francesca Michielin - No Degree Of Separation
Not into it.

Spain: Barei - Say Yay!
Initially this sounds like generic eurodance. But then the handclaps kick in, the chorus builds and the feet are moving. This could do very well.

Sweden: Frans - If I Were Sorry
This could legitimately be in the charts, which makes sense when we all know Sweden deliver the best pop. But this? No thanks.

UK: Joe and Jake - You're Not Alone
It should've been this.


Friday, 6 May 2016

New Music Roundup

Ariana Grande – Into You

Ariana Grande – Into You

Listening to this ABSOLUTE BANGER will make you feel like more than just a dangerous woman. “I’m so into you I can barely breathe”, she purrs at the start before the chorus drops to leave you truly breathless – “a little less conversation and a little more touch my body”. This sex jam should be your new obsession.




Dua Lipa – Hotter Than Hell

Dua Lipa – Hotter Than Hell





Salt Ashes - Save It

Salt Ashes - Save It

Brighton-based Salt Ashes, a.k.a Veiga Sanchez, has released this banger just in time for the summer. Infectious beats, rousing vocals, and a properly stonking chorus make this an absolute winner.





Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling

Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling

This would’ve sounded brilliant two summers ago. Written with Max Martin and Shellback to soundtrack the new Trolls movie in which he stars, this is essentially Timberlake’s Happy, with its breezy, pop-funk production. It’s a fun summer track, but this is far from the Timberlake comeback we deserve.




Charli XCX – Explode

 Charli XCX – Explode

Another soundtrack piece, this is from the upcoming Angry Birds movie. It’s a world away from the belching computer music of Vroom Vroom, but as fizzy pop tracks go it’s hard to beat.




Katy B – Honey

 Katy B – Honey

It’s a shame that this album is so inconsistent. Over the course of her career, Katy B has become the pop-dance voice of the clubs and this latest album is no exception. The London singer has drafted in some top talent to assist, including KAYTRANADA on the sultry opening title track, Four Tet on the throbbing bass of Calm Down, and of course the now obligatory Craig David vocal on Who Am I – a sad-pop banger that also features Major Lazer. So Far Away is also a highlight, beginning in warm muted fashion before building towards a climactic DnB beat courtesy of Wilkinson. What’s missing, though, is the raw emotion of her last album and its standout single Crying For No Reason. Instead, ‘Honey’ is more Katy B and friends, with a few misplaced steps into grime. When they’re bad they’re bad, but when they’re good they’re great.




Niki & The Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now

 Niki & The Dove – Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now

In stark contrast to the usual Swedish icy cool, Niki & The Dove have followed up their brilliant 2012 debut with an album geared squarely at the summer. So Much It Hurts immediately sets the tone with its warm synths and lazy beats, whilst subsequent tracks deliver Prince-style funk guitars and live drums far removed from the metallic euphoria of their past material. ‘Everybody’s Heart…’ certainly lacks pop hooks, but as the title suggests there’s subtle melancholy in the lyrics and downbeat melodies. The sun-dappled Play It On My Radio is a beautiful summer lullaby, the moody Scar For Love has further hints of Prince, Brand New is all dancing minimalism, and Ode To Dance Floor is a seven and a half minute laidback funk groove that rounds out the album in style. The dance floor, though, is where this Swedish duo ultimately belong.




Pvris – You and I

Pvris – You and I

You and I features on the re-release of the band’s debut album ‘White Noise’, originally released in 2014 – if you missed them the first time there’s no excuse now. In many ways they’re Chvrches meet Paramore, blending electropop with heavy rock to create an awesome sound that epitomises youthful angst. This is a band for the tumblr generation, the gruff vocals of Lyndsey Gunnulfsen soaring over a dense mix of huge guitar riffs and dramatic production, with some pop hooks and “heys!” thrown in for good measure.




Muna – Promise

Muna – Promise

“You tell me you wanna stay and you wanna watch me change / but I’m scared so I tell you to fuck off / why do I do it?”
It’s raw, it’s honest, and it’s alluringly dark electro pop from the L.A girl band.




Fifth Harmony – Write On Me


The basics finally stoop to tropical house. It’s good in a “this is so bad I’m enjoying it” kind of way.




Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities

The Chilis haven’t sounded good since 2002 (‘By The Way’). The bloated ‘Stadium Arcadium’ failed to see the band reach new heights and did anyone even listen to 2011’s ‘I’m With You’? Now the band return with a new album, ‘The Getaway’, but on Dark Necessities they’re showing their age. The funk bass is sluggish, the vocals lack energy and the more mature sound is just dull. This is far from essential.




Alicia Keys – In Common

Alicia Keys – In Common

This is quite a change of pace from the usual piano ballads we expect from Alicia Keys. “It’s sunrise and I’m still in your bed” she sings suggestively, the buoyant dancehall beats providing a rhythmic basis for the tropical production that sounds eerily similar to Drake’s Take Care. It’s not quite iconic, but it’s intriguing hearing the singer heading in a new direction.




Radiohead – Burn The Witch

 Radiohead – Burn The Witch

It’s no Idioteque is it? The video is fun though.

Daydreaming though, is BEAUTIFUL.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Show Boat @ New London Theatre

Show Boat @ New London Theatre

It's fitting that a show about the joy of theatre should itself be such a joy to watch. This revival of the 1927 classic from Kern and Hammerstein has docked at the New London Theatre after a successful run at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre, but it has an upstream battle on its hands in the fight for audience attention.

This isn't a piece of high octane event theatre. And there's no star power to draw in the crowds. Instead it's refreshingly quaint, subtle and overflows with a charm that you can't help but love. Aboard the titular show boat, the Cotton Blossom, is a microcosm of romance, family feuds and racial politics, with a love of theatre drawing together the show's various narrative threads.

More than this, though, it's a show about acceptance. Here we see the show at its best and worst. Kern's wonderful score is a beautiful fusion of operetta and bluesy negro songs; the whole cast come together to perform Alistair David's choreography with unsegregated gusto; and the black characters are given equal opportunity to touchingly portray family life - a first for the time.

Yet we're also expected to accept that a mother and daughter would allow an estranged husband and father back into their lives after years away, an example of the old fashioned sexual politics seen throughout the show. And that's after a second act that moves too swiftly through time as it struggles to wrap up the story.

Show Boat, though, is a vitally important show in the history of musical theatre, integrating music with story and black with white for the first time. Even if it does show its age, the cast are sympathetic to its classic status. As the romantic leads, Chris Peluso and Gina Beck offer some delicate classical singing; Alex Young and Danny Collins make quite the comedy pairing as Ellie May and Frank; and Sandra Marvin truly leads the black cast as the amusingly sassy Queenie. Rebecca Trehearn may only have a couple of short songs as the faded actress Julie La Verne, but her stunning vocal is a real stand out.

Emmanuel Kojo also shines as he leads the men in a softly rumbling rendition of Ol' Man River. And as the song suggests, this joyful, powerful and important show deserves to keep rolling along in the West End for some time to come.

4/5

Watch: Show Boat runs at the New London Theatre until January 2017.

Friday, 29 April 2016

New Music Roundup

Calvin Harris & Rihanna – This Is What You Came For

Calvin Harris & Rihanna – This Is What You Came For

Lightning does not strike twice. We Found Love was a one off.

This Is What You Came For is…fine. A solid banger. A standard non-chorus. An uninspiring vocal from Rihanna, recorded after Harris played her the track at Coachella a mere two weeks ago.

It’s a solid and enjoyable grower, if pretty generic. And generic is not what we came for.

Listen: This Is What You Came For is out now.




Zedd & Kesha – True Colors

Zedd & Kesha – True Colors

Fans of EDM producer Zedd will already be familiar with this, the title track of his debut album. Now Kesha has defiantly stepped up to take on the vocals, and it’s hard not to read new meaning into the lyrics: “I won’t apologise for the fire in my eyes / Let me show you my true colours” she sings in the chorus. The first track released after her court battle with Dr Luke, it’s a clear middle finger to the producer. And rightly so.

Listen: True Colors is out now.




AlunaGeorge & Flume – I Remember

 AlunaGeorge & Flume – I Remember

The title track from the duo’s forthcoming album, its spacious beats, expertly chopped vocal samples and glittering synths blend their sultry R&B sound with Flume’s unmistakeable production style. After previous single I’m In Control and another new single in My Blood with Zhu, anticipation for the album is literally building by the day.

Listen: I Remember is out now.




Flume feat. Tove Lo – Say It

Flume feat. Tove Lo – Say It

And AlunaGeorge aren’t the only ones to be working with Flume. The Australian producer has paired with Swedish sensation Tove Lo for Say It, on which her trademark raw lyrics float over clattering syncopation and whirring synths. It’s a match made in heaven.

Listen: Say It is out now.




Blink-182 - Bored To Death

Blink-182 - Bored To Death

This is the first track to be released since original guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge left the band to be replaced by Matt Skiba (originally from Alkaline Trio). And yet, it still sounds undeniably like a Blink-182 track, albeit without their trademark teenage comedy lyrics. And isn't that why we loved them in the first place?

Listen: Bored To Death is out now. New album 'California' is out on 1st July.




Disciples and David Guetta - No Worries

Disciples and David Guetta - No Worries

Look, this is an absolute banger. The beat is HUGE. The talky bits give an 80s House vibe. The vocal hook is infectious. And the deep bass production will shudder you to the core. This is absolutely your new weekend anthem.

Listen: No Worries is out now.




Kyla La Grange – Hummingbird

Kyla La Grange – Hummingbird

Hummingbird might just be the most Kyla La Grange song that Kyla La Grange has recorded. We all know the shift from folksy songstress to icy synth queen, but this new track is the most assured combination of the two to date, its catchy pop chorus stomping beneath lilting melodies and romantic lyrics. When is that album coming?!

Listen: Hummingbird is out now.




Shakka feat. Chip – You Don’t Know What You Do To Me

Shakka The Lost Boys

This track is taken from Shakka's 'The Lost Boys' EP released last year, but now it's reworked with an additional rap from Chip (formerly Chipmunk). This is simply two bright young London artists combining soulful, future R&B with grime and making a massively exciting track in the process.

Listen: You Don't Know What You Do To Me is out now.