Rags and Riches: A Wealth of Talent

Trail-blazing two-piece Rags and Riches are back with an explosive new single. Entitled ‘Edge of Time’, the track is another surefire success for Kentucky-based brothers Tanner and Peyton Whitt.

Just as we have come to expect from the punchy pop-rock duo, ‘Edge of Time’ is an anthemic, technically complex track, combining metallic synth sonics and pounding percussion with a healthy dose of the boys’ trademark lyrical optimism:

‘Rise, when the chances come,

Move, don’t be left behind,

Now is your time to shine’

A dizzying drumbeat recalls Alt-J’s smash hit ‘Breezeblocks’, whilst layers of filtered vocals and crunchy bass bring organised chaos to the calm of the song’s sturdy melodies.

Overall, ‘Edge of Time’ is a resounding hit; this band of brothers is most certainly going places. Catch Rags and Riches on their 2020 tour, and check out ‘End of Time’ on Spotify and YouTube.

This post was funded by the artist.

Maddi Fraser, Lauren Hall & Heather Youmans: a Supergroup with Soul

Today marks the release of a much-anticipated collaboration between three incredibly powerful female voices. The all-new video sees ‘The Voice’ alumni Maddi Fraser and Lauren Hall join forces with American Idol’s Heather Youmans for a stripped-back rendition of Shania Twain’s 1998 mega-anthem ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’.

Stylistically, this cover is pleasingly faithful to Haim’s execution of the same song back in 2017; a crisp bass marries with soft keys, percussive hits and unshakeable three-part harmonies, constructing an understated groove that oozes style from start to finish.

Maddi Fraser opens the song with commanding presence and a robust, raw vocal. Her delivery packs a weighty punch; a clear flair for performance shines through in the plosive power of her line ‘so you think you’re Brad Pitt?’

Heather Youmans follows; her spotlight verse shows off an impressive vocal dexterity. Her silky tone is a delight, and moments of light and shade reveal a skilful duality to her higher register.

Lauren Hall picks up the third verse in a voice brimming with soul and attitude. A clearly accomplished vocalist, her dulcet tones glide seemingly effortlessly through each line of this iconic bop.

Fraser, Hall and Youmans are equal forces to be reckoned with. Their collective performance demonstrates an inherent musicality and substantial vocal talent, all the while maintaining a delicious air of nonchalance. The power-trio delivers a sultry, sophisticated re-imagining of a nineties classic that, in actual fact, impresses me quite a lot.

This post was funded by the artist.

Selena Gomez: Feeling More Like Herself

Selena Gomez has not had it easy in recent years. With multiple health scares, cruel press coverage and a few all too well-publicised breakups, it’s no wonder the former Disney star needed a break. After half a decade away from the spotlight, she’s back with ‘Rare’, a musical renaissance which masterfully combines uptempo beats with raw emotional catharsis.

The album opens with title track ‘Rare’, a bongo-fuelled bop which radiates self-assurance through a buoyant bassline and breathy vocals. Sonic simplicity and self-confidence unite the twelve tracks that follow. Fifth track ‘Ring’ works well as a snappy sequel to Camila Cabello’s smash-hit ‘Havana’, whilst minor romp ‘Let Me Get Me’ is jam-packed with lyrical optimism: ‘me and this spiral are done’.

It’s equally nice to see Gomez let loose on tracks like ‘Fun’, a tongue-in-cheek tale of romantic dalliance set to a mischievous syncopated funk beat. Orchestral lead single ‘Lose You To Love Me’ lands in the middle of this glorious frivolity, its plucked strings and gentle keys bringing us back down to earth for three and a half meditative minutes of personal reflection.

In sum, ‘Rare’ is a delightful collection of high-tier pop tunes, fronted by a young woman who seems to have found solace through finding herself. It’s fun, it’s thoughtful and it’s Rare.

Justin’s New Single: Is ‘R&Bieber’ a Good Thing?

Last week marked the release of international megastar Justin Bieber’s first solo material in over four years. A curious ode to his supermodel wife, Hailey Baldwin, ‘Yummy’ is a sultry R&B track, complete with spacey keys and trap beats.

Unfortunately, this transformative new chapter in Bieber’s musical career feels slightly less than revolutionary. Accompaniment throughout the track is minimal; a bouncy bass provides a subtle, contemporary backdrop to Bieber’s velvety vocal, which glides through the song with heavy echo and octave doubling. The 25 year-old’s trademark breathy falsetto arrives in the bridge, a welcome addition to an otherwise painfully repetitive single.

Bieber’s lyrics are uninspired at best; the song reads as a hodgepodge of heavy-handed innuendo and corny promises of undying lust. The song’s chorus was surely written in a hurry:

‘Yeah, you got that yummy yum, that yummy yum, that yummy yummy’

Faithfully circling round the same three notes over and over, this onomatopoeic ‘yummy’ hook will get stuck in your head like some kind of nightmarish nursery rhyme.

This track feels like a backwards step for Bieber, and a wholly uncalculated risk in terms of creative output. As an inoffensive three and a half minutes of primary-coloured R&B, the track works. It’s undeniably oozing with style, but severely lacking in substance.

Harry Styles: ‘Fine Line’ is a Fine-Tuned Success

With a wide-legged stance and even wider-legged trousers, Harry Styles looks every bit a changed man on the cover of his latest release. The follow up to his eponymous solo debut, ‘Fine Line’, was released last Friday.

A competent and cohesive offering, the album boasts an experimental collection of soft pop-rock and contemporary funk. Opening with ‘Golden’, a heady tribute to Fleetwood Mac, ‘Fine Line’ plays as a faithful ode to hitmakers of the 60s and 70s. Weepy folk song ‘Cherry’ could convincingly belong on an early Simon and Garfunkel album, whilst ‘She’ brilliantly employs the narrative-driven psychedelic soft-rock of The Beatles circa ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

Styles treads new sonic ground on the album’s later tracks. With delicious choral harmonies and perky, ska-inspired rhythms, ‘Sunflower vol.6’ is a sparkling foray into the weird and the wonderful (goodness knows what became of volumes one to five). The transcendent strumming of sunny romp ‘Canyon Moon’ makes for a toe-tapping three minutes, whilst the forlorn echoes of title track ‘Fine Line’ will leave you hungry for more.

From beginning to end, ‘Fine Line’ is a real treat. Styles projects an assured sense of identity, with all ties to his teen-pop beginnings having been quite thoroughly severed. Fiercely flamboyant and delightfully nostalgic, he proves that risk-taking never really goes out of Style.

OMI: Oh My!

Despite not necessarily being etched on the forefront of your musical consciousness, the name ‘OMI’ is one you’ll want to keep in mind this year. Since achieving astronomical success in 2015 with his reggae fusion anthem ‘Cheerleader’, the 33 year-old has ardently refused to succumb to one-hit-wonder status. His latest single, ‘I Want You’, is out now.

A danceable pop tune, ‘I Want You’ is the fourth single from OMI’s upcoming, as yet untitled, album. The infectious track proudly celebrates the artist’s Jamaican heritage with snappy steel drums and dancehall-inspired rhythms. Stoic synth tracks enhance the sonic atmosphere, whilst an excitable drum track lends a compelling (albeit slightly untimely) summer feel to the release.

The song paints an uncomplicated portrait of primal desire and unrelenting lust. OMI’s lyrics are catchy in the best way:

‘I’ma let it rain

I’ma let it come down

You can ride the waves

Ain’t afraid to drown

I’ma give your body

What it wants’

The singer breathes life into even the simplest of melodies, flaunting his silky falsetto in a chorus jam-packed with impressive vocal runs.

All in all, ‘I Want You’ is a surefire Christmas party hit. In tune with the likes of Sean Paul and Shaggy, OMI is stirring up the popular music scene, diversifying the charts and, most importantly, bringing dancehall to the dance floor.

Niall Horan: Lonely This Christmas

Last Friday saw the release of ‘Put A Little Love On Me’, the latest single from ex-Directioner Niall Horan.

The song is a textbook breakup ballad; the 26 year-old crooner unpicks the aftermath of a failed relationship against a backdrop of Adele-esque piano chords and judiciously placed strings. Lightly decorated with sparse percussion, the track is satisfyingly simple.

‘Put A Little Love On Me’ bears little to no resemblance to the Norman Cooke-inspired groove of Horan’s previous single, ‘Nice To Meet Ya’. Indeed, it’s far easier to spot shades of past 1D hits (think ‘Night Changes’ and ‘Little Things’) in this song’s gentle melodic resolutions.

Whilst it’s certainly true that One Direction weren’t famed for their nuanced songwriting, Horan’s lyrics are pleasantly earnest:

‘When the lights come up and there’s no shadows dancin’

I look around as my heart is collapsin’

‘Cause you’re the only one I need

To put a little love on me’

With his sophomore solo album slated for release early in the new year, Horan will inevitably find himself competing for chart space with his former bandmates, each of whom have released new music in recent weeks. Who will 1D’s fractured fanbase choose as their champion?

Panic! at the Disco: A Song Worth Melting For

‘Into The Unknown’, the musical big-hitter from Disney’s ‘Frozen 2’ is an indisputably infectious power anthem. Even before the release of the animated film’s much anticipated release date, the impact of this song alone was enough to diagnose us all with a bad case of ‘Frozen’ fever.

Whilst Brendon Urie was perhaps not the most obvious choice to give this soprano showstopper its chart-friendly makeover, he’s worked magic on the track.

Channeling his inner snow queen in a flurry of epic glam rock, Panic! does justice to the original vision of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the formidable songwriting duo behind both ‘Frozen’ soundtracks. Their explosive arrangement employs punchy guitar riffs, swelling strings and the band’s trademark muted brass, all lavishly decorating Urie’s other-worldly vocals. A high-octane bridge is powerfully punctuated with bright orchestra hits, the perfect musical companion to the track’s growing lyrical tension:

‘Are you out there?

Do you know me?

Can you feel me?

Can you show me?’

With delicious minor chords and a total earworm of a chorus, ‘Into The Unknown’ is a surefire hit. Whether this rousing bop will fill the giant (snow) shoes of its highly addictive predecessor ‘Let It Go’ remains to be seen. Does it warm your frozen heart?

Oliver Northam: An Impressive Folk Tale

Oliver Northam is singer, songwriter and, above all, accomplished storyteller. Based in Melbourne, he’s been stirring things up in the folk-pop scene with the help of his band, ‘The Elsewheres’. His debut single, ‘Into His Arms’, was released earlier this year.

The song chronicles the demise of a doomed relationship; with every line, Northam paints a melancholy picture of regret and lost love:

‘Kicking stones against the garden fence
counting my mistakes as they fall
mother said ‘don’t take that girl for granted, else you lose her for good’’

With catchy scalic melodies and a foot-stomping beat, the track uses music to cleverly juxtapose its admittedly bleak theming.

‘Into His Arms’ is distinctive in its smart use of instrumental forces. Vocally, Northam’s husky baritone recalls the likes of Marcus Mumford, oozing passion with every word. The young Aussie’s band lends a punchy nine-piece ensemble to the track; lush strings sprinkle depth and colour over rousing guitar, whilst a brief break boasts a delicious arrangement of Salvation Army-style brass.

With charming and earnest poeticism, Oliver Northam has succeeded in penning a track that is both sonically and lyrically profound. His unique take on composition eschews the banjo-strumming bonhomie of traditional folk-pop, instead bringing raw emotion to the fore. As an up and coming artist, he’s well worth making a song and dance about.

This post was funded by the artist.

KiTTN: The Cat’s Out of the Bag

KiTTN is one of the most exciting new names in contemporary hip hop. Originally heralding from Chicago, but now based in New York, she’s a self-made artist who’s conjuring up a musical storm with a combination of sharp-tongued rap and infectious drum loops. Her new single, ‘Turn It Up’, is available to download now.

Growing up with a passion for poetry, KiTTN picked up songwriting just two years ago. ‘Turn It Up’, a contemporary ode to self-belief, sees her innate strengths as a wordsmith put to good use. Illustrating the complex duality of her own pursuit of happiness, as well as her refusal to back down in the face of adversity, KiTTN’s lyrics succeed, first and foremost, in their universal significance:

‘I been waitin’ all day to get these words off of my chest,

Sometimes I feel I struggle just to say I did my best’

The song is personal and anecdotal, yet thoroughly relatable. KiTTN’s rhymes are slick; the singularity of her vocal tone communicates both an unwavering defiance and effortless confidence.

Opening with a sparkling soundscape of minor broken chords, ‘Turn It Up’ is a fun, danceable composition. Combining elements of old-school hip hop with spacey synths and a fierce breakbeat chorus, the track neatly treads a path between old and new influences.

‘Turn It Up’ is a musical testament to KiTTN’s raw talent for lyricism and authentic performance. With plans to release her debut EP early in the new year, the future is looking bright for this fast-talking feline.

This post was funded by the artist.