Friday, 20 April 2018

New Music Friday 20/04


Look, I’ll be honest, I haven’t even bothered listening to anything else but Ariana today. Anne-Marie has an irksome song called 2002 that references a load of songs that in fact didn’t even come out that year. There’s a new Liam Payne track that’s probably rubbish. The Prince version of Nothing Compares 2 U can now be listened to whenever you like. And then there’s some other stuff…I guess…


Ariana Grande – No Tears Left To Cry

Ariana Grande – No Tears Left To Cry

This is weird. It’s slow and it’s fast. It’s yearning and soulful and gospel, yet skittish and upbeat. It flits from minor to major. The vocals soar and purr and rap. And which bit is the chorus?

All this written by Grande and Savan Kotecha, with production from Ilya Salmanzadeh and Max Martin – yes, the guy who said Lorde’s Green Light was “incorrect songwriting”.

Thing is, this weirdness is fitting for an artist whose 2017 Manchester concert was overshadowed by tragedy after a suicide bomber killed 22 of her fans. The song, like Grande, can’t be pinned down. “Ain’t got no tears left to cry,” she sings in a nod to the attack, “I’m lovin’, I’m livin’, I’m pickin’ it up.” It’s a bold anthem of hope: the perfect response, the perfect message to fans, the perfect pop song.

There are hints of Madonna’s Like A Prayer in the gospel opening, before it all erupts in a swirling, heady vortex of dance beats, synth stabs and R&B rhythms, all led by Grande’s voice that expertly traverses melodic and dynamic range. And that’s before the choir step in: celestial voices raised in harmonious defiance. There are so many details in this layered production, creative an addictive track that invites repeat listens.

Above all the musicality, though, is Grande’s voice – literal and metaphorical. This is a young popstar in her prime, delivering assured pop and a powerful statement. Expect this to be played all summer long.

Add to playlist.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Chicago @ The Phoenix Theatre

Chicago @ The Phoenix Theatre

For a show about celebrity, it's fitting that Chicago has so often been used as a star vehicle for both male and female actors. This revival of Kander & Ebb's sexiest show features the Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr as Billy Flynn - a piece of stunt casting that doesn't pay off.

He certainly has the dance moves as he swaggers on to the stage with boyish charm and an ill-fitting suit. Yet rather than exuding confidence, he appears nervous for his debut on the West End. Worse, he sings in a croaking whisper that lacks power, richness of tone, or faith in his ability - all necessary traits of this sleazy lawyer role.

Sadly, the remainder of this - exceedingly white - cast also fail to do their parts justice. Josefina Gabrielle purrs as Velma Kelly and Ruthie Henshall (well known for playing both other female roles) barks as Mama Morton, but both lack stage presence, rendering their performances forgettable. Sarah Soetaert plays Roxie Hart with girlish glee, commanding the stage and her group of male dancers in "Roxie" especially. But then, this is a role you can have so much more fun with than the other female protagonists.

The show itself is as timeless as ever, its satire of celebrity culture and the criminal justice system remaining potent and biting. No one could doubt this score, so full of memorable melodies and glorious orchestration.

This production, however, sticks stoically to the script - or at least that of the 1996 revival from Walter Bobbie. The staging is stark and minimalist, featuring the orchestra on-stage and a cast clad entirely in black. It's meant to be stylistically cool and to throw the performances into sharp relief, but here they flatline from an orgasmic cry to a whimper. Director Tânia Nardini has been tasked with simply re-creating Bobbie's vision - there's no room for flair or creativity here, so it all feels dated as a result.

Choreographer Gary Chryst, meanwhile, has recreated the choreography from that same 1996 revival, itself based on Fosse's original work - Chicago wouldn't be Chicago without it. The ensemble of dancers slink and prowl across the stage, but too often they skip over key moments and quotes instead of relishing in the dark comedy, in the seduction. The "Cell Block Tango", for instance, is a real disappointment here. Even Velma and Roxie's "Hot Honey Rag" finale is far from the showstopper it should be, lacking in excitement, energy and spark.

It all amounts to a Chicago that shoots and misses the mark. It's all sex and no substance, no originality, no danger. The slow ooze of style and effortless charisma has been lost. Razzle dazzle is nowhere to be found.

2/5

Watch: Chicago runs at the Phoenix Theatre until October 2018.

Chicago @ The Phoenix Theatre

Chicago @ The Phoenix Theatre

Saturday, 14 April 2018

New Music Friday 13/04

Janelle Monáe - Pynk (feat. Grimes)

Janelle Monáe - Pynk (feat. Grimes)

This is your new favourite queer anthem. The video, with its vagina trousers and sexual imagery, is already iconic. But musically this is a new side to Monáe: a sweet girlish vocal over gentle bleeps, before lurching into a guitar heavy, almost punk rock chorus. That mix of rock and pop is Grimes all over, but Monaé's vocal eventually cries out over the top in ecstasy.

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Zayn - Let Me

Zayn - Let Me

"Duvet days and vanilla ice cream," sings Zayn in the first verse. Between this and Pillowtalk he sure likes being in bed. Let Me is a polished, laidback gem that oozes sex appeal. While its R&B influences remain clear, this is a more confident artist less afraid to go it alone.

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Sigrid - High Five

Sigrid - High Five

Island Records sure are rinsing that BBC Sound Of win. Every week a new single from the Norwegian singer, but none of them quite as good as breakout Don't Kill My Vibe. High Five remains a solid electro-pop track, but can we space these releases out a bit?

Worth a listen.



Chvrches - Miracle

Chvrches - Miracle

Chvrches are another band rapidly releasing new music each week. Miracle is a much heavier beast than their previous tracks, though, with a chorus loaded with industrial beats, rock guitars and a distorted vocal. The glittering synths and pop hooks remain, anchoring the Chvrches sound.

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Florence + The Machine - Sky Full Of Song

Florence + The Machine - Sky Full Of Song

A criticism of Florence's previous music is the descent into a grandiose, epic sound without the substance. This comeback song is a more subtle, minimalist affair - for the most part it's a bare vocal over a creeping bassline. The textures build though and that trademark harp whispers in the background. "I thought I was flying but maybe I'm dying tonight," she questions repeatedly in the middle eight - either way her voice has never sounded better.

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Nicki Minaj - Chun Li / Barbie Tingz

Nicki Minaj - Chun Li / Barbie Tingz

Not one but two new tracks from Nicki Minaj, both as ferocious as the other. On Chun Li she compares herself to the Street Fighter character, the first female in the game, before shouting "They need rappers like me!" Barbie Tingz, meanwhile, is pure braggadocio, as she proves she's still number one in the game. Between this and Cardi B's debut album released last week, female rap has never been in better shape.

Worth a listen.



5 Seconds Of Summer - Youngblood

5 Seconds Of Summer - Youngblood

Youngblood follows the brilliant Want You Back in transforming this punky boyband into a proper pop band. The chorus throbs with a driving beat and a breathless vocal, fusing their rock roots with a dance-pop structure. It's angular and yearning and addictive, youthful yet full-blooded.

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King Princess - Talia

King Princess - Talia

The first artist to be signed to Mark Ronson's Zelig Records label, King Princess has already racked up a load of streams with debut hit 1950. Talia is even better though, a yearning synthpop ballad of heartbreak addressed directly to "my love". "I buried you a month or two ago," she begins, before stumbling abruptly into a swirling vortex of a chorus with the telling line "but four drinks I'm wasted". Dark and dangerous, yet tragically beautiful.

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Icarus - Flowers

Icarus - Flowers

Taken from the Bristol duo's new 'In The Dark' EP, Flowers is a spacey, mournful dance track, all clipped beats and sombre synths. The EP as a whole explores the changing moods of a new relationship and Flowers is the downtempo break-up track of the bunch - that moment in the club when it all falls apart.

Worth a listen.



Bebe Rexha - Ferrari

Bebe Rexha - Ferrari

Rexha is still to release her debut album 'Expectations', but her songs have varied in style. She's paired up with multiple rappers and leaned towards a hip-hop heavy sound, with some R&B-tinged pop too. Ferrari, though, is a rock ballad with shades of Gwen Stefani, Rexha's vocal sounding more raw than ever. In comparison to the rest of the week's releases, though, this doesn't quite cut it.

Don't bother.



Thursday, 12 April 2018

Kylie Minogue - Golden

Kylie Minogue - Golden

Gaga. Timberlake. Miley Cyrus. And now Kylie. More and more artists are looking to country music for their new sound. For authenticity. For maturity.

But why?  'Golden' is Kylie's fourteenth album after thirty years in the industry and with it she promises country and camp. But is listening to Dolly Parton some sort of rite of passage?

There's plenty of good music here that thankfully avoids the twangy guitars, jaunty melodies and other trappings of the genre. Acoustic ballads like Radio On or the duet with Jack Savoretti Music's Too Sad Without You certainly offer a more raw side to the bubblegum popstar, while Lost Without You soars with a rush of synths and a spoken word middle eight. Even the slightly saccharine Sincerely Yours is enjoyable for its yearning chorus lines.

But no, much of the album is a monotonous hoedown. It's like listening to Avicii's Wake Me Up on repeat, Kylie singing of dancing, broken hearts and old cars in her squeaky, girlish vocal over banjos and fiddles and synth beats. If you can swallow all that country, though, there are some fun choruses. That's especially true with Live A Little, its fingerpicked verses and sing-along build up eventually lurching into a fizzing pop chorus. And later there's the throbbing, pounding four-to-the-floor of Every Little Part Of Me.

There are moments when the dance and country elements do coalesce. The title track, for instance, has a nod to Morricone over a darker, wistful guitar line and driving handclaps. "Burn like the stars, stay golden," she sings in the chorus, the perfect metaphor for a maturing artist with a sparkling career.

Best of all, though, is Raining Glitter. Its guitar arpeggios are like fairy dust, underpinned by funk bass. This is pop perfection, perhaps her best song since Love At First Sight. And its not hard to imagine this song ending a future live performance, confetti cascading over the crowd. With a name like Raining Glitter, it's clear that even while her style matures and develops, she still has her fans at heart.

3/5

Gizzle's Choice:
* Live A Little
* Raining Glitter
* Lost Without You

Listen: 'Golden' is out now.




Monday, 9 April 2018

Victim @ The Kings Head Theatre

Victim @ The Kings Head Theatre

Victim covers a lot in its short, 60 minute run-time. A black comedy about a female prison (with a little Orange Is The New Black flair), it’s a one woman play about two characters: prison officer Tracey and inmate Siobhan. Actress Louise Beresford plays both characters, relaying fragments of story that cover a whole host of themes: motherhood, the female psyche and finding your purpose in life, amongst others.

Individually these scenes are intriguing. Writer Martin Murphy has a keen ear for witty, conversational dialogue and together with Beresford’s performance, we are drawn into the narrative – even if she does speak the lines breathlessly quickly. The plot actually revolves around a third character – a notorious, celebrity inmate - but really this is a character portrait of these two women. Tracey is naïve and upright, who longs for a romantic life but is (understandably) horrified when her husband urinates into a bottle during a theatre trip. Her idea of rebelling is to sneak off after work to take part in a pub quiz. Siobhan, on the other hand, is a provocative, manipulative Irish woman. She tells us about murdering her ex-boyfriend almost nonchalantly, and amusingly pulls apart the prison system from the inside. Beresford clearly relishes in this sexy role, eyeballing the audience with a knowing look.

As the narrative progresses, the stories of the two women become shorter and Beresford switches between them with ease, offering just enough variety in characterisation that we can follow along. When their paths cross, the drama ignites. Beresford’s performance is captivating, but the individual fragments and anecdotes don’t quite create a cohesive whole. Rarely is the celebrity inmate referred to and the two disparate narratives ultimately feel too separate. Tension builds towards a violent climax, but it doesn’t provide the necessary shock factor – we’re more invested in the private lives of these two women than we are the events inside the prison which as a result lack urgency.

As such, Victim tries to do too much and so doesn’t satisfy. It’s a play of interesting smaller moments that are wonderfully told, but don’t quite come together.

3/5

Watch: Victim runs at the Kings Head Theatre until 21st April

Friday, 6 April 2018

New Music Friday 06/04

Calvin Harris (with Dua Lipa) – One Kiss 

Calvin Harris (with Dua Lipa) – One Kiss

Has Calvin Harris done for Dua Lipa what he did for Rihanna? Nope. After flirting with funk on his last album, Harris seems to be returning to the dancefloor – One Kiss is all 90s house production with chirruping horns, but it just doesn’t really go anywhere. Throw in Dua’s nonchalant vocal and a flat melody that consists of about three notes, and this hook-less track is one disappointment.

Don’t bother.



John Legend & Bloodpop – A Good Night 

John Legend & Bloodpop – A Good Night

After producing Friends with Justin Bieber, Bloodpop’s gone from strength to strength with a string of remixes. Now he’s joined John Legend for a fun track about love at first sight in the club. “I think I just met my wife,” admits Legend in the chorus, then later “I’m ready to meet your momma.” Whoa there John, I’ve only just sipped my first Woo Woo. If anything, A Good Night sounds like an ode to Legend’s wife Chrissy Teigen who, let’s face it, is probably more famous than he is by now.

Worth a listen.



Tove Styrke – On The Low

Tove Styrke – On The Low

“I don’t want to keep it on the low low low…,” sings Styrke in a hushed falsetto, almost whispering. On The Low is a quiet, precious little song, Styrke almost too scared to let loose her real feelings (“Just want you and I, with no space in between”). Screaming bursts eventually make their way into the chorus, fracturing all that fragile vulnerability, before returning to childlike, pulsing synths. Third album ‘Sway’ can’t come soon enough.

Worth a listen.



Friendly Fires – Love Like Waves

Friendly Fires – Love Like Waves

Friendly Fires haven’t released any new music since their second album ‘Pala’ way back in 2011. Love Like Waves is a tropical smash that picks up where that album left off: a rush of whirring synths, funk harmonies, steel drums and layers upon layers of rhythm that ensure this is their most danceable track yet. This is pure joy and deserves to be the song of the summer.

Add to playlist.



Ben Howard – A Boat To An Island On The Wall

Ben Howard – A Boat To An Island On The Wall

Does anyone really want to listen to seven minutes of dreary singing, lumbering rhythms and meandering self-indulgence? No.

Don’t bother.



Ross From Friends – March

Ross From Friends – March

Yes you’re probably expecting an avant garde concoction of strange synth sounds, but Ross From Friends is actually UK producer Felix Weatherall who’s at the heart of the lo-fi dance scene. March is taken from his new ‘Aphelion EP’, all clipped beats, ethereal synths and clever use of samples with a touch of humour. You can definitely see where he got the name from.

Worth a listen.



Ed Sheeran – Candle In The Wind


Ed Sheeran – Candle In The Wind

Yes. This actually exists.

Don’t bother.



Thursday, 5 April 2018

Hayley Kiyoko - Expectations

Hayley Kiyoko - Expectations

“I’m just curious, is it serious?” Hayley Kiyoko questioned on breakout hit Curious earlier this year. It’s a song about a girl masking her queer identity, something the accompanying video makes plain: a young woman at a house party with her male partner, while simultaneously flirting with Kiyoko. It’s fun and frothy and flirty, but we’ve come a long way since the days of Katy Perry dipping her toe into queer culture with I Kissed A Girl. For Kiyoko, this is serious.

‘Expectations’, her debut album, is a bold statement of pride and queer romance. She only wishes others would follow suit. “I only want a girl who ain’t afraid to love me,” she sings on What I Need alongside fellow queer singer Kehlani, “Not a metaphor of what we could be.” On Sleepover she pines for a friend who’s unaware of her feelings: “Sleeping here right next to me, but will you ever mess with me?” Later on He’ll Never Love You she pointedly questions “Girl, why can’t you just be honest – with yourself?”

Above all, though, Kiyoko’s aim is to normalise queer relationships in music. Most of the songs on ‘Expectations’ detail the sort of romantic struggles we all face, whatever your sexuality. On Wanna Be Missed she craves a lover who “can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t breathe without [her]”, while on Feelings she apologises to her crush for having such strong feelings. Her songs are all delivered through catchy electro-pop with a dark R&B edge – contemporary and chart-friendly, she flits between cute flirtations and a harder, more urgent sexual desire. The only difference with most other popstars is her use of female pronouns.

On a couple of tracks she really does get serious, though. Mercy / Gatekeeper deals with depression as Kiyoko draws on her experience of Post-Concussion Syndrome after suffering a fall and concussion on her 25th birthday, the song’s latter half switching tack into a dreamy finale of yearning for the light at the end of the tunnel. The sexy, atmospheric Under The Blue / Take Me In has a similar two-part structure, Sapphic imagery sung over its waves of ecstatic synths, watery effects and bubbling bass. Both tracks are reminiscent of Timberland’s production on ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’ – lengthy, two-part epic tracks that take pop seriously.

The album eventually ends on a downer – the moody Molecules and the more conventional Let It Be – but until then, ‘Expectations’ is a celebration of queer female love. Kiyoko’s fans have dubbed her ‘Lesbian Jesus’ and here she’s delivered her gay gospel. At the start of the year she declared it “#20GAYTEEN”. With the release of ‘Expectations’ that’s surely true – this album will be heard all year long.

4/5

Gizzle’s Choice:
* What I Need
* Under The Blue / Take Me In
* Curious

Listen: ‘Expectations’ is out now.




Monday, 2 April 2018

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild


The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Nintendo’s latest Zelda game is a bit like that famous shot in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, simultaneously moving forwards and backwards. It is ultimately oxymoronic: sprawling yet intimate, heroic yet quiet, maximalist yet minimalist, old yet new.

By looking back at the game that started it all in 1987, Nintendo were able to identify the essence of Zelda – in a word, adventure. From here they sprang forward with a game that is Zelda to the core, but with a sprinkling of modernisms from more recent games that Zelda has itself influenced over the years. The result is a richly detailed game that rinses every ounce of its adventure theme, but does so through incredibly polished, streamlined gameplay – for better and for worse.

The setting is typical Nintendo, putting a clever twist on the familiar. Taking place 100 years after a great calamity in which robots awakened to scar the land and kill many of its inhabitants, Breath of the Wild is essentially a post-apocalyptic game. Hero Link awakens with amnesia and must travel the world piecing together his memories to save the titular princess. Except this isn’t a world of scorched blackened earth, smoky skies and pervading dread. It’s a world of beauty and environmental storytelling, where flowers bloom over rolling verdant hills, wildlife rustles amongst the grass and trees, the sun bleeds vibrant warmth over tumbling stone ruins and everything glistens. It is, without doubt, the most visually stunning game ever released and an amazing artistic achievement – simply climb a hill, sit back and watch the world go by.

Yet it’s equally a world of melancholy and sparse simplicity. Much of that atmosphere derives from the minimalist soundtrack. For the most part it is, quite literally, the sound of the breath of the wild, silence broken only by fragments of piano chords and melody. It is the sound of a lone hero against a great oblivion, his mind empty of memory. Other orchestral touches add character to the overwhelming sadness with familiar melodies from previous games adding a light touch of nostalgia, all juxtaposed with a colourful world that demands to be saved.

It’s a world you explore freely with little direction. Quests are noted in your adventure log and protruding towers provide a focal point that unlocks each area of the map, but the screen is free from distracting icons and markers. There’s no obvious guide, forcing you to consider the lay of the land directly, pay attention to speeches from NPCs, and even listen to the soundtrack for guiding hints. It’s a game that makes you feel like an adventurer, that isn’t afraid to drop you in its centre and say, “off you go, explore”. And crucially, exploring the world is always incredibly enjoyable. Run off in any direction, climb any surface, complete quests in any order. This is your adventure, own it.

It makes for a very personal and liberating experience, but its one that does lack drama and urgency. The plot is told in small fragments as Link discovers his lost memories, but there’s very little to see. Where previous games in the series have offered intriguing twists and quirky characterisation, Breath of the Wild instead works in broad brushstrokes. It can leave you feeling lost and confused.

What’s gained is player agency. Story is not the priority here, instead you get out what you put in based on your own curiosity. It’s punctuated by big moments of grandeur, but for the most part it’s a game about small, intimate moments far too numerous to mention: moments of discovery, moments of beauty, moments of quiet contemplation. Stumbling across these yourself just makes them all the more memorable, meaningful and poignant. More than ever, you are the hero in your own adventure, not simply following the whims of a game designer.

Still, for old time fans Breath of the Wild does disappoint on some Zelda staples. There are only four main dungeons and while they’re each built around a clever mechanic, they remain small. That also means there’s only four bosses – each is frighteningly designed, but not the most memorable the series has seen.

Instead, most of the game’s puzzles and fighting takes place within the 120 shrines hidden across the land. Discovering these is an utter joy, with some hugely inventive puzzles that make clever use of Link’s powers as well as the unique capabilities of the Switch itself, all delivered in bite-sized pieces perfect for gaming on-the-go. Nevertheless, something is missing with the lack of uniquely intricate dungeons, these shrines eventually becoming visually repetitive.

Really, though, Breath of the Wild is a new kind of Zelda game that takes the idea of an open world game literally, its sheer scope and satisfaction out-weighing any narrative flaws. There’s a loose structure in place and gameplay is pinned down by smartly inter-linking systems (combat, cooking, weather, physics) within a vast land to explore. Only Nintendo would have the confidence to create such a carefully considered, intricate and detailed world and then pass power to the player; no game captures the whole notion of ‘adventure’ in such a thrilling, wonderful, yet quietly restrained way. In the game’s very opening, Link steps onto a precipice as the camera pulls out to offer a tantalising glimpse of the world, a delicious tease that sparks the imagination. Where will you go first? What might you encounter? And can you survive?

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild

Sunday, 1 April 2018

New Music Friday 30/03

Chvrches - Never Say Die

Chvrches - Never Say Die

The Glaswegian trio's next album is shaping up to be more of a polished version of their existing sound than any kind of reinvention. They've moved stateside, enlisted producer Greg Kurstin, and stretched their sound widescreen. With Never Say Die the result is one of their best tracks: the fizzing pulsing synths, its hypnotic crescendoes, that yearning "didn't you say that?" hook. It's heavy and bold and memorable and everything we could want from a Chvrches track.

Add to playlist.



Kylie - Raining Glitter

Kylie - Raining Glitter

Raining Glitter is about the most Kylie sounding name for a track as you can get. She clearly understands her target audience, that's for sure. Except this might just be one of the best tracks she's done since Love At First Sight. The melodies are tinged with nostalgia, the fingerpicked guitars are a more subtle implementation of her new country sound than Dancing, and the occasional "woop!"adds girlish glee. This is Kylie at her most carefree and fun and she's all the better for it.

Add to playlist.



MØ - Nostalgia

 MØ - Nostalgia

"I remember the first time I was in love," sings MØ at the start of Nostalgia, lyrics spilling out like a story over sparse beats. Though she's worked with dance producers in the past, this is the most club-friendly of MØ's solo tracks with its tropical tinged beat and Latin flavours, mixing those nostalgic lyrics with a cleverly contemporary sound. If Lean On was song of the summer in 2015, Nostalgia is destined to do the same this year.

Add to playlist.



Zak Abel - Love Song

Zak Abel - Love Song

Abel is still yet to release a true breakthrough single and this won't change things. The vocals sound like a bad John Newman impression, the production reminiscent of 'Strickland Banks' era Plan B. The result is dated, dull, and does little to showcase Abel's own sound or personality.

Don't bother.



James Bay - Us

James Bay - Us

The release of Wild Love revealed a new James Bay, one who's been brushing up on his electronic R&B. But it's clear that he doesn't want to upset fans of his previous music. Enter Us, a boring track seemingly ripped from his last album. It makes you wish he had the gall to rip up the past and throw himself wholeheartedly into the new sound.

Don't bother.



Sigrid - I Don't Want To Know

 Sigrid - I Don't Want To Know

This new track from the Norwegian singer proves that she has a soft side after all. After the fierce power of her previous releases, this is a mournful ballad in which her heart is broken. "When you had the choice you chose someone else,"she repeats with utter dejection, her voice cracking in the higher registers over gentle piano and guitar arpeggios softened with a wash of synths and strings. Is there anything she can't do?

Worth a listen.



Rich The Kid feat. Khalid - Too Gone

Rich The Kid feat. Khalid - Too Gone

Rapper Rich The Kid has partnered with plenty of high profile artists as the release of his debut album 'The World Is Yours' can attest to: Kendrick Lamar, Future, Chris Brown and Lil Wayne all feature. Too Gone features another rising star, Khalid, for a smooth and futuristic track about getting high - the hypnotic production follows suit.

Worth a listen.



Digital Farm Animals, Shaun Frank & Dragonette - Tokyo Nights

 Digital Farm Animals, Shaun Frank & Dragonette - Tokyo Nights

This is just a delicious piece of euphoric dance-pop, with talent from Britain and Canada teaming up to sing about Japan. It's like a burst of fizzing neon with, fittingly, a hint of M83's Midnight City.

Worth a listen.



Friday, 30 March 2018

Rae Morris @ Heaven

Rae Morris @ Heaven

Synth chords drone and the figure of Rae Morris appears on stage to sing opener Push Me To My Limits in a chirruping voice, moving birdlike within a cage of neon. Reborn follows and her arms unfold like the wings of a phoenix, her voice rising over the marching beats and pulsing electronics.

This is a very different Rae Morris to that of her debut album. Songs from 'Unguarded' still pepper the setlist, but with her new album 'Someone Out There' she's truly found her voice, her confidence. Her sense of fun.

She steps out from behind the piano and dances along to the frothy pop of Do It, the buoyant Atletico (The Only One), the energetic Dip My Toe. The techno menace of Rose Garden erupts into a full-on rave at the end. Her lyrics are fuelled by sexuality, her stage presence a vision of liberation. Her song Dancing With Character might be a tender portrayal of an old couple from her hometown, but it equally applies to her own balletic movement on-stage.

The serious side of Rae Morris does remain. She sits behind the piano for the delicate Morne Fortuné and returns at the end for a short rendition of Don't Go. There's a sense of gothic drama too - the stunning Wait For The Rain begins with a thunderstorm. She's an eccentric performer with a voice of guttural, ethereal beauty: bubbly pop with more than a hint of Björk, Bat for Lashes and Kate Bush.

But when the music stops, she remains that sweet, polite girl from Blackpool, sipping on tea, overwhelmed by the audience's adoration. "This is crazy," she exclaims as the crowd erupt in cheers; "I can't tell you how full my heart feels," she says by the gig's end.

As she closes with the anthemic Someone Out There, the hearts of the crowd are equally full. Rae Morris is a lovable persona on-stage. Whether addressing the audience, sat behind a piano, or dancing as she sings, she is never less than her authentic self. That carefree confidence is infectious.

4/5

Rae Morris @ Heaven

Rae Morris @ Heaven