Sunday, 16 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Yes it's another reboot of Spider-Man. But this time he's a wannabe Avenger, Marvel creating a different take on an origin story as the titular teen finds his power but without the spider bite - literally and figuratively.

After the events of Captain America: Civil War, 15 year old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is taken back home to New York and performs his superhero duties under the guise of "the Stark internship". Mainly, that involves helping old ladies with directions or apprehending bike thieves. He is, simply, a bored teen struggling to live up to his identity and desperate to impress Tony Stark (Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr) once more. Parents gone, Peter's daddy issues are instead directed towards Stark as his surrogate father. And while Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) is his legal guardian, Karen his "suit lady" plays an equally motherly role.

Homecoming is a superhero film as teen fantasy, Peter balancing his secret life with schoolwork, competing in the academic decathlon team, escaping detention and, of course, impressing his crush enough to invite her to the homecoming dance. All that while rebelling against his surrogate father and discovering numerous powers within the suit he's been given. Even then he struggles to control them: he clumsily chases after villains with pubescent comical effect. His geeky best mate Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the only person he shares his power with, Ned keen to live up to the "man in the chair" side-kick character and living vicariously through Peter - just as we do.

It's a film of vibrant, youthful charm that's a mile away from the "with great power comes great responsibility" theme of the earlier films. The tone is far from serious and while this does make it all feel shallow, it's typical of Marvel's cinematic style that fits with Spider-Man far more than their other characters. He's a playful hero, wisecracking as he incapacitates his enemies to ensure that tongue is firmly in cheek throughout the enjoyable action sequences. The boyish and charming Holland succeeds at this comedy with aplomb.

"I'm nothing without the suit," Parker eventually pleads to Stark. And that's disappointingly true. Rather than discovering physical powers, he unlocks abilities in his suit. This ultimately undermines the character, tying him to Stark and his money rather than relying on himself. That is, until the predictable cheesy hero climax.

And then there's the bad guy. Initially underdeveloped, Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes / Vulture is just a bitter man who lost his job, stumbled across some alien tech left over from a previous film and miraculously utilises it to create a flying mech suit (his casting a nod to Birdman?) in a somehow secret underground base. It's one of many unbelievable moments in a film that asks us to suspend our disbelief too many times.

Then it all gets political. In the final face-off between Spidey and Vulture, he spouts a speech about revolting against those at the top with money, his aim to fight against the establishment and show them who's boss like some cackling Trumpian villain. Maybe, though, it's Stark who's playing the role of Trump: a businessman with too much money and too much power.

Either way, they're both ultimately thwarted by the youth: Peter Parker. Homecoming might be a typical Marvel film and a childish take on the notorious superhero, but like Spider-Man himself the film evolves with surprising maturity.

3/5

Watch: Spider-Man: Homecoming is out now.

Friday, 14 July 2017

New Music Friday 14/07

Lots to get through this week, so let's get cracking shall we?


Ke$ha feat. The Dap-Kings Horns - Woman

Ke$ha - Woman

Just a week after she unveiled Praying, Ke$ha has unleashed Woman - a stomping feminist anthem with funk-soul group The Dap-Kings Horns. The song was written as a response to Trump's pussy grabbing comment - "I'm a motherfucking woman, baby!" she furiously roars in the chorus. But when her singing erupts into giggles in the second verse, you know that Ke$ha is back stronger than ever and having fun.



Selena Gomez feat. Gucci Mane - Fetish

 Selena Gomez feat. Gucci Mane - Fetish

Fetish is essentially Good For You part two, but not as good. Dark, sensual R&B with a hip-hop beat, a rap feature and a sexual theme ("you've got a fetish for my love") - it ticks all the boxes, but it lacks the catchy hook and originality to be a massive hit.



Lana Del Rey - Summer Bummer feat. A$AP Rocky & Playboy Carti / Groupie Love feat. A$AP Rocky

 Lana Del Rey - Summer Bummer

Summer Bummer might just be one of the best song titles ever. But from these two tracks released in anticipation of forthcoming album 'Lust For Life', Lana's star might be fading. They're more hip-hop infused than ever and while that's a direction she's been gradually moving towards from the beginning of her career, it feels like she's struggling to remain relevant. Her whining vocals meanwhile are beginning to grate. Bummer.



MY - Hate On Myself

MY - Hate On Myself

Swedish synth-pop. Carly Rae Jepsen levels of bright production and catchy melodies. Lyrics tinged with sadness over a vibrant chorus. This is simply brilliant pop from an artist whose name is impossible to Google.



Demi Lovato - Sorry Not Sorry

 Demi Lovato - Sorry Not Sorry

You should be for this hun.



Tigertown - Warriors

 Tigertown - Warriors

The Australian group's EP 'Papernote' from 2015 was a fizzy pop delight. Warriors follows suit, with bigger beats, vocals that soar and a double chorus of greatness. Highly enjoyable.



Loreen - Body

 Loreen - Body

Loreen has certainly stuck to a formula since the phenomenal Eurovision juggernaut Euphoria, but it's suited her just fine resulting in a string of (under-appreciated) electro-bangers. Body is no different: sexual and mysterious, with tinges of Middle-Eastern melodies.



Echosmith - Goodbye

 Echosmith - Goodbye

Unless you remember Cool Kids from the band's 2013 debut album, this is likely more of a hello than a goodbye. Yet where that album was all tweeny guitar-pop, Goodbye ramps up the pop with slicker production, a catchy chorus and tropical melodies. If this is goodbye, then please come back for more.



Galantis - True Feeling

 Galantis - True Feeling

The Swedish EDM duo are releasing new album 'The Aviary' in a couple of month's time, which is great news for fans who like to listen to the same song across ten tracks. Still, you can't deny the infectious happiness their music seems to instil - True Feeling is no different.



Bonzai - I Feel Alright

Bonzai - I Feel Alright

The Dublin-raised singer has already released a handful of EPs, but for the unfamiliar I Feel Alright makes a strong impression. Produced by Mura Masa (and sounding very different from his work), this is a fun pop track that erupts into an infectious bass-heavy chorus. "Bonzai, search for my name like a Holy Grail," she sings in the second verse - and don't forget it.



MNEK - Paradise

MNEK - Paradise

MNEK jumps on to the current trend for reworking 90s classics by stealing Ultra Nate's Free and turning it into some choppy R&B. His soulful vocal adds a sultry element over the top, though he's such a strong songwriter it makes you wish for something more original.



Raphaella  - Turn Around

Raphaella  - Turn Around

I'm cheating with this one as technically it was released last week, but this sultry jam from the Brit-Persian artist is too good to pass up. Sparse production lets the beats breathe beneath a yearning vocal that hovers deftly above, while Persian instruments rub shoulders with alt-electro sounds. It's a mesmerising concoction.





Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The Drag @ The National Theatre

The Drag @ The National Theatre

Who knew that Mae West was such a brilliant queer playwright? Best known as an actress and Vaudeville star, West wrote a number of plays including this rarely performed work which was first performed at Poli's Park burlesque house in Connecticut in 1927 but closed after a handful of performances for violating obscenity laws. West even received a ten-day jail sentence.

The play was recently revived as a one-off rehearsed-reading by the National Theatre as part of its LGBT+ Readings season to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. Even in this form, the play is a riveting comedy-drama that, under the direction of Polly Stenham, reveals West's bold writing and radical thinking.

In structure, this is a traditional comedy of manners in the spirit of Oscar Wilde or Noël Coward. The plot revolves around a socialite of the upper class - the son of a homophobic judge and married to the daughter of a gay conversion therapist - who revels in debauched parties, while his servants look on knowingly. The characters mostly perform to type (fools, schemers, jealous lovers) with little development, the focus instead on satire and witticisms. So far, so stiff.

And yet, as you'd expect from a sexual provocateur as West, The Drag is a scandalous affair. Its central protagonist is revealed to be homosexual, his marriage concealing a secret life of male affairs and drag balls. By subverting such a traditional genre, the implication is that, as one character remarks, gay people are all among us whether you know it or not. Nowadays this thinking is normality, but it was outrageous at the time.

Further, there's the sheer bawdiness of the humour. West's script is full of double entendres and innuendo - in particular, there are raucously funny scenes involving drag queens openly bitching and flirting with one another. It's bold and eccentric writing that in present day takes on new life: as a diverse audience we're in on the sly jokes offered with a wink, finding humour where before there was only horror.

What's most remarkable of all, though, is West's authenticity as a queer voice. The Drag encapsulates so much of queer culture from a woman who spent much of her time in queer spaces and was an advocate for gay rights. In writing the play, for instance, she employed specifically gay actors and it's not hard to image the drag scenes being improvised - it's like watching Ru Paul's Drag Race in sepia tones.

It's the seriousness of the monologues that are truly eye-opening, however, proving West isn't just a master of comedy. There's the doctor who, despite being a gay conversion therapist, offers radical views on the treatment of homosexuals as equals. There's the young man caught up in the affair, desperate, frightened, unsure of himself. And there's the seemingly omniscient female assistant to the doctor, perhaps representing West herself in the midst of the drama. In fact, it's not hard to read West's political views in much of the writing, most of all in the clashes with the judge character that could reflect West's own run-ins with the law.

The Drag is not just a riotously funny comedy that should be snapped up for a full performance by The National, it remains a hugely empowering piece of queer theatre some 90 years after it was written. Further, it's a play that cements West as both a key queer playwright and a writer far ahead of her time, fearlessly pushing boundaries no matter what the consequence. To use her own famous phrase, "when I'm good I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better".


Watch: The Drag was performed as part of The National Theatre's LGBT+ Readings season.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

HAIM - Something To Tell You

Haim - Something To Tell You

HAIM launched the campaign for their second album with an in-studio video for new track Right Now. While the sisters are known for their catchy pop hooks and dance routines as much as being instrumentalists, this video focused more than ever on the latter. It posed them as authentic ‘real’ musicians, hard at work in the studio, visibly making music, headphones on and concentrating. Where’s the fun?

Right Now, though, was the right track to launch with. ‘Something To Tell You’ is the more serious follow-up to their debut ‘Days Are Gone’ – an album with tracks written when the girls were still teenagers. Now they’re showing off their musicianship, their production skills, their more complex songwriting. It certainly sounds like a HAIM album, but something’s missing.

As with their debut, HAIM take the soft-rock of the ‘70s and ‘80s (Fleetwood Mac most notably of all) and whip it up with modern pop and R&B. That’s at its most prevalent on You Never Knew, co-written with Dev Hynes. The laidback tropical feel of its groove all covered in glittering sparkles, it’s immediately recognisable as his work but tempered with the cascading acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies that make HAIM…HAIM. It’s there too in the subtly driving Nothing’s Wrong that sounds straight from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tango In The Night’, it’s in the stuttering R&B rhythms and funk guitars of Ready For You (co-written with Twin Shadow), the clattering percussion and bubbling bass of the title track.

They’ve also incorporated that mainstay of pop: upbeat production with aching melancholy. Kept Me Crying for instance details hanging on the phone for a lost lover (“Kept me crying for so long my tears have dried,” sings Danielle) while drums beat incessantly. There’s a simplicity to the lyrics that really hits home, with lines like “sleeping back to back, you’re turning away” on Nothing’s Wrong, or there’s lead single Want You Back that repeats “just know that I want you back” with yearning desperation over funk guitars and piano chords of quiet finality.

It’s rhythm that ties their sound together, be it funk grooves, laidback shuffles, or pointed vocal hooks with a delivery that’s heavy on the consonants. Yet this hinders the melody writing, which tends to consist of short rhythmic phrases, giving their music its distinctive character – the songs are all quite literally bops – but lacking a sense of flow or lyricism. In attempting a hook-laden pop sound, the music just sounds choppy and, ironically, unmemorable. As a result, most of ‘Something To Tell You’ lacks the immediacy of their debut and the album lacks a real killer track to draw in pop fans. It takes time for these songs to unfurl.

Instead, the sisters have focused on cementing their sound. And while ‘Something To Tell You’ doesn’t stray too far from the familiar - owing to the continued production of Ariel Rechtshaid - there’s still room for some experimentation. Little Of Your Love has more of a doo-wop feel though it feels a little saccharine; Found It In Silence revolves around an urgent string refrain that mostly eschews the girls’ trademark guitars; and Walking Away is all sparsely hushed synths and minimalist percussion.

That brings us back to Right Now, a track that encapsulates much of ‘Something To Tell You’. Its lyrics depict a love gone unresolved and in its structure the song slowly develops without reaching a true climax, layering up its roaring guitars and thunderous drums over simple piano chords. It’s a clever integration of music and lyrics, the lack of resolution as frustrating for us to hear as for the protagonist. This is, right now, a new era for the band – one of serious musicianship and pop-rock rooted in sadness. You won’t find much dancing here.

3/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* Nothing’s Wrong
* Something To Tell You
* Right Now

Listen: ‘Something To Tell You’ is out now.


Sunday, 9 July 2017

New Music Friday 07/07

After a weekend of being proud at Pride, it's time to catch up on some music for the week...


Ke$ha - Praying


No guesses for who this song is about. After probably the highest profile legal case in recent music history, Ke$ha pours her heart and soul into this comeback track. And it really is a comeback, rising from the courtroom ashes with an empowering ballad written with Macklemore's Ryan Lewis. The song's message is detailed in a Lenny Letter piece, but really it's an anthem for overcoming any form of struggle and coming out stronger in the end, that high note in the middle eight a soaring moment of catharsis. (The vocals are a bit shouty though, let's be honest)



Zedd & Liam Payne - Get Low

Zedd feat. Liam Payne - Get Low

This is the second single from Liam Payne after the pretty abysmal Strip That Down. Get Low is just as generic, this time swapping light hip-hop for tropical house courtesy of Zedd. It's smooth and sultry enough but haven't we heard this a million times before?



Coldplay - A L I E N S

Coldplay - A L I E N S

This is probably one of the best tracks Coldplay have released in recent memory, partly because it's so different for them. It harks back to the cold electronica of 'Ghost Stories', all clipped beats and whirring synths. Still, Coldplay doing experimentation is basically Radiohead on a bad day. Writing a song in 5/4 time just comes off as pretentious.



AlunaGeorge - Turn Up The Love

AlunaGeorge - Turn Up The Love

Listening to Turn Up The Love, I can't help but feel AlunaGeorge are running out of ideas. It's another dancehall flecked electro pop track with tropical beats and a title Jessie J would be proud of. They're currently on tour with Coldplay so let's hope that a) that doesn't rub off on them and b) they're given some room to develop further before the next release. Still, I'm a big fan of the pop "hey!".



Lewis Capaldi - Lost On You

 Lewis Capaldi - Lost On You

This sounds like James Bay offering up a track for some American teen drama: the lead girl has tragically died in a car crash / drug overdose and this song is played over a montage of tears, ending on the rebellious boyfriend silently weeping. Sadly, this isn't Dr Who's son.



HONNE - Just Dance

HONNE - Just Dance

The London duo's alt-pop electronica hasn't quite received widespread acclaim, so now they're back with a radio friendly hit that's part Disclosure part Todd Terje: vibrant and funky and summery and fun. It might be a cynical way of widening their appeal, but damn if it isn't working. And that's even with the chorus lyric "there's a kind of sweetness oozing out of you". Eugh.



Four Tet - Two Thousand And Seventeen

 Four Tet - Two Thousand And Seventeen

The indie blogs are already getting excited about this track being the precursor to a new album later this year. Meanwhile I'm still mesmerised by this song's plaintive, quietly mournful beauty. The dulcimer melody sends tingles down the spine among a whirling soundscape that's like relaxing in a calming crystalline pool. Stunning.



James Hype feat. Kelli-Leigh - More Than Friends

James Hype feat. Kelli-Leigh - More Than Friends

Can everyone stop ruining old classics please?



Baby Driver - Edgar Wright

Baby Driver - Edgar Wright

I think Edgar Wright has been playing a fair bit of Grand Theft Auto recently. But then that doesn't seem surprising for the director that gave us one of the best video game films, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. 

Baby Driver: a crime caper full of car chases and comedic quips, set to a thumping, grooving soundtrack. You play as Baby, the titular heist getaway driver, who speeds across the city, steals cars, evades the cops, and cranks up the volume on the car stereo and his iPod to drown out the tinnitus.

It sounds like a video game plot, but it's an incredibly cool and stylish movie (even the poster looks straight out of GTA). Car chases are dynamically filmed but without disorientating the viewer, tense enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, yet awesome enough to have you whooping and praising the stunt guys. It's bold, vibrant and cartoonish, balancing the fun side of high speed thrills with a tightly woven plot.

It's got more than a little Tarantino to it too: Wright's playful filmmaking, the witty script, the outlandish style, the use of music. The difference is that where Tarantino revels in brutal violence, in Baby Driver it's mostly hidden, cleverly blocked from view through the cinematography. Violence is implied and, for all the film's glee at showing off high octane action, is not to be laughed at.

The soundtrack is what ties it all together, though. Wright himself has described the film as a musical and that's true, the drama and music so intrinsically linked. Baby spends his spare time turning voice recordings into music, with voice samples layered with beats and synths; likewise Wright layers up the film's audio with gunshot percussion, tyre squeals and engine roars. And then the soundtrack kicks in: funk, Motown and rock tracks providing the inner-monologue to the frequently mute Baby. It's both diagetic and non-diegetic, part of the action whilst simultaneously a rolling commentary.

Elgort moodily charms as Baby; Jamie Foxx's Bat is suitably batshit crazy; Frank Underwood a.k.a. Kevin Spacey is both dangerous crime boss and kind father figure; and Jon Hamm sees red as the relentless yet handsome Buddy. Along with Elza González's Darling (disappointingly the typical sexy woman) they make quite the volatile mix, enough to keep you guessing until the end.

Really though, Baby Driver is a love story, with Baby thwarting the robbers to run away Bonnie and Clyde style with new cute girlfriend Debora (Lily James). Beneath all the slick polish, the top speeds and the pounding stereo, the engine of this vehicle is its heart.

4/5


Thursday, 6 July 2017

Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

Calvin Harris - Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

Calvin Harris has achieved something remarkable. With the help of no less than nineteen different vocalists, he's managed to create an album of ten tracks that all sound the same.

You can't really blame Harris for finding a sound and sticking with it. After all, he's been riding the EDM wave for years with familiar single after familiar single. And you can't blame him for all the collaborators either, considering he's responsible for some of the biggest tracks from Rihanna, Ellie Goulding, Haim, Florence Welch and so many more. In that respect, 'Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1' is a very Calvin Harris sort of album.

Yet it doesn't really sound like a Calvin Harris album as, seemingly bored with EDM, he's moved into funky hip-hop grooves. This is the sound of summertime California, of beautiful people lounging at exclusive parties, champagne sipped by the beach, heatstroke, hangovers. The only thing that rains is dollar bills.

It's also as plastic and manufactured as that description sounds, an album that just feels forced and calculated. Hand-picking the most prevalent vocalists for maximum popularity? Check. Techy sounding album title to seem credible? Check. Desperately trying to become The Sound Of The Summer? Check. Leaving past pop bangers behind in a pretentious attempt to somehow be taken more seriously? Check again.

It certainly has the funk and the bounce the title suggests, mixing old school hip-hop and R&B vibes with contemporary collaborators. Basslines groove, laidback beats stutter and synths sparkle on tracks with names like Heatstroke and Holiday, all specially designed to make you feel as if on perpetual vacation. And as lead singles Slide and Feels exemplify, it's all delivered with exquisite polish. Yet with the same instrumentation and constant drawling rap vocals from the likes of Migos, Frank Ocean and Future, the album blurs together like heat haze. The Kehlani and Lil Yachty featuring Faking It alone stands out for its drop in tempo and sensual female vocals.

It's about time Harris branched out into new territory, but in the process he's lost what he's best at: writing a banging hook. How many volumes of this will we have to go through until he rediscovers that?

2/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Slide
* Holiday
* Faking It

Listen: 'Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1' is out now.





Wednesday, 5 July 2017

King Kong @ The Vaults

King Kong @ The Vaults

King Kong is such an intrinsic part of cinema, the iconic image of the ape atop the Empire State Building a symbol of cinematic technological advancements. It's a film of grandeur and awe based on spectacle and visual effects - so how could this ever translate to the theatre?

This particular production, however, comes to us from the co-writer of Potted Potter, Daniel Clarkson. And as the audience take their seats to the sound of "I'm the King of the Swingers...", it's clear that we're in for an evening of comedic, irreverent fun.

At just over 80 minutes long and performed by a cast of just five, this is King Kong on a small scale. The plot is heavily condensed and streamlined, though there's still plenty of room for wit in the script. It's like a Saturday morning cartoon version of the ape story: lively, fast-paced and amusingly silly. Not all of the jokes land, while others are wholly predictable, but the script mostly does a great job of subverting our expectations through repetition and recurring gags ably directed by Owen Lewis.

And the small-scale doesn't hold back the visuals. Simon Scullion's set consists of a series of Art Deco platforms that mimic the Empire State Building, but also allow for multiple levels of staging both in height and depth. This is cleverly used to give a sense of perspective, not least of all with the use of puppets that provide some of the most amusing moments. And how do you present a giant ape on stage? A mixture of frightening sound effects, clever use of costumes, and more puppetry. A spoof of Nintendo's Donkey Kong game was a particular, anachronistic delight and I'm not sure I'll ever look at a banana in the same way.

The performers also bring cartoonish flair, from Ben Chamberlain's flailing, feeble Jack Driscoll, to Sam Donnelly's pirate-esque captain Skipper. Props too to Brendan Murphy playing a multitude of roles to great comedic effect, most of all Token Guy.

It's all thoroughly entertaining, but still manages to make a point. That said, it's less about man's greed and attempts to control nature, but of his ineptitude in times of crisis. Alix Dunmore's Ann is far from a damsel in distress, she's the real brains behind the whole operation.

4/5

Watch: King Kong runs at the Vaults theatre until 27th August.

King Kong @ The Vaults

King Kong @ The Vaults

King Kong @ The Vaults
Photos: Geraint Lewis

Monday, 3 July 2017

Justin Bieber @ BST, Hyde Park

Justin Bieber @ BST, Hyde Park

Clearly it’s ok to like Justin Bieber these days, judging by the huge crowd at his headline BST gig consisting not only of screaming tweens but unapologetic adults (myself included). But that doesn’t mean he likes you back, or gives off any air of actually wanting to be there.

Has there ever been a more half-arsed popstar? Sure, he seems to be featuring on a new track each week (although the setlist here was mostly a copy of his Purpose Tour), but as a performer he’s quite simply unprofessional. Fireworks shot into the sky as he appeared on stage, but no amount of visual trickery can make up for his lazy vocals, frequent miming and general limb movement that’s meant to pass for dancing. When we go to see our idols we expect to be wowed, to be dazzled, to be blown away by breathtaking talent. Bieber gives us none of this, his performance lacklustre, weak and apathetic.

Between songs he’s even worse. His idea of stage banter is to complain about the amount of Vicks he had stuffed up his nose (he had a cold). “It’s a rough night,” he moaned, as if that was an excuse. He even snapped at his dancers at one point, his self-importance wrapped up in the retort “is what you’re talking about more important than what I’m saying?”.

Then there’s the music. Besides the handful of hits the majority of the audience came to see, Bieber’s output is mostly average R&B-pop songs that even his star power can’t lift. There was no Despacito here (he probably still doesn’t know the words), nor recent hit 2U with David Guetta. Cold Water on which he featured with Major Lazer was included in a stripped back acoustic section, as well as Love Yourself, though this proved he really needs a few more lessons on those strings. An a capella rendition of Usher's U Got It Bad was a nod to his old mentor, even if he was too lazy to learn the chords.

Thankfully for the rest of the set his backing dancers provided some much needed visual energy, while the exceptional band added extra riffs and funk grooves to his biggest hits.

And what hits they are. Where Are Ü Now, What Do You Mean, Sorry. The three big hitters, still sounding as brilliant now as they did two years ago, whipping the crowd up into a frenzy. Even Boyfriend and Baby sounded fantastic, no longer cheesy bubblegum songs but credible pop tracks by a credible popstar. For most of the crowd, hearing these songs alone was enough.

Yet no amount of money, talented backing, or fireworks can hide the burnt out star at the centre of it all, a young man who performs not with cool ennui but the petulant boredom of a teenager.

Those songs though…those songs!

And the rest of the afternoon you ask? Naughty Boy proved he has zero good songs. Anne-Marie played a few pop songs that everyone knew. Tove Lo played some great pop songs nobody knew. And Martin Garrix played some dance tracks for the kids to pretend they were in Ibiza, though his set picked up dramatically when he stopped playing his own stuff and switched for remixes of Daft Punk and The Weeknd. In all it was fun, if inconsistent.


3/5 

Friday, 30 June 2017

New Music Friday 30/06

Yes I was awful and didn't post last week, but half the industry was at Glastonbury and nothing worthwhile was released so *shrug*. Onward and upwards to this week...



Rudimental feat. James Arthur - Sun Comes Up

  Rudimental feat. James Arthur - Sun Comes Up

Considering James Arthur's early solo material was all Rudimental-style rough soul meets hip-hop cool, it's ironic that he's now featuring on their comeback single. It is, however, one of THE songs of the summer. The tropical marimba, the clipped beats, the way the song builds from acoustic guitar and then breaks down to build up all over again in the middle eight. This is a brilliantly constructed pop song with an intoxicating sound that marries sunny warmth with cool darkness.



Mura Masa feat. Christine And The Queens - Second 2 None

Mura Masa feat. Christine And The Queens - Second 2 None

Take the choppy, crystalline production of Mura Masa and the effortless vocals of pop darling Christine And The Queens and you get Second 2 None, which sounds like the sort of thing Imogen Heap would release these days. Hushed vocal harmonies float delicately over fluttering synths before colliding in the chorus - for all the song's metallic experimentation it remains a beautifully soft little love song.



Clean Bandit & Marina and the Diamonds - Disconnect

Clean Bandit & Marina and the Diamonds - Disconnect

This track was actually put together a couple of years back, but has been given a surprise release following Clean Bandit's Glastonbury performance. More importantly, it's the first we've heard of Marina since she declared she'd be taking a break after her 'Froot' album. That makes the lyrics to this all the more poignant: "I've been feeling anxious, ain't been feeling right...Need to look after myself, need to take a break." Is new music from Marina on the way? We'll have to wait and see...but this'll do nicely in the meantime.



Liam Gallagher - Chinatown

Liam Gallagher - Chinatown

Against my better judgement I accidentally listened to this song and...it's not as bad as I thought. It certainly shows a softer side to the Mancunian, with its fingerpicked acoustic guitar backing and gently sung melodies. Perhaps that's the influence of producer Greg Kurstin, best known for his work with Adele. Still, that vocal is as grating as ever.



Redlight, Liv Dawson, Kojo Funds - I'll Be Waiting

Redlight, Liv Dawson, Kojo Funds - I'll Be Waiting

Redlight: a Bristol-based DJ producer. Liv Dawson: an up and coming singer who's worked with Disclosure. Kojo Funds: London rapper. I'll Be Waiting: an utterly pedestrian R&B track that's devoid of personality despite its three collaborators.



Dusky Grey - Call Me Over

Dusky Grey - Call Me Over

Are Dusky Grey aware they've ripped of Sigrid's Fake Friends with this new track? Well the verse at least; the chorus suddenly lurches into a light reggae tropical feel that's equally unoriginal. Still, it sounds very 2017 and is an enjoyable bop so perhaps this will give the duo their first real mainstream hit, despite having a name that sounds like a Dulux paint.



Astrid S - Such A Boy

Astrid S - Such A Boy

Such A Boy is the next single to be taken from the Norwegian's EP 'Party's Over'. Sonically this is frothier and more playful than the icy cool of the title track, but that belies its honest lyrics that depict uncertainty in a relationship: "You say you want a break so we break up, you tell me stay so we make up." The repeated chorus hook "don't be such a boy" might be seen as a little sexist, but the song is as frank and relatable as it is infectious.



Anna of the North - Someone

Anna of the North - Someone

The second Norwegian release of the week (well, Norwegian/Kiwi if we're being pedantic), this glistens with 80s synths and polished drums reminiscent of Betty Davis Eyes meets Fleetwood Mac's Everywhere but with added Scandi shivers and a yearning, widescreen chorus of "I'm only human baby". And then the key changes, the whole song turns up a notch and the ice shatters into glorious, melancholic euphoria.



St. Vincent - New York

 St. Vincent - New York

On this new release, Annie Clark switches guitars and weirdness for brutal honesty, wistful strings and reflection. "I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend," she sings longingly, "but for you, darling, I'd do it all again." It's a searing, beautiful break-up anthem tinged not with regret but a loving sigh of acceptance.



Dan Caplen feat. RAY BLK - Flat Champagne

Dan Caplen feat. RAY BLK - Flat Champagne

We all have delusions of grandeur, visions of a bubbly future of fame and fortune that ultimately fall flat. That's the focus of Flat Champagne, which feels a little cynical. The production, though, is anything but flat, all funk grooves, joyful piano and gospel vocal harmonies, while the addition of RAY BLK should help to bring Caplen the recognition he so richly deserves.