Music Monday – Volume Seventy Seven

1) Troye Sivan – Wild

Incredibly catchy synthpop track featuring eerie electro elements and crashing percussion.

2) Troye Sivan ft. Broods – Ease

Another brilliant and sincere track from Troye Sivan.

3) Lucy Rose – Till The End

Strong 90’s vibes on this incessantly catchy track. Mirroring All Saints’ ‘Pure Shores’ with distorted trip-hop styled percussion, pretty piano riffs and funky guitars, it’s an awesome & uplifting track.

4) Jason Reeves – Back With Me

Gorgeous acoustic ballad.

5) Crissi Cochrane – Pretty Words

Gorgeous acoustic ballad with lovely Sara Bareillies/Christina Perri-like vocals.

6) Amelia Lily – You Bring Me Joy

Was reminded how awesome this track is at the gym the other day. Awesome and underrated pop-rock track.

7) Adele – When We Were Young

Gorgeous emotive ballad which completely blows ‘Hello’ out of the water.

8) Take That – Will You Be There For Me?

Gorgeous and vulnerable ballad from Take That’s re-packaged ‘III’ album. It carries an R&B-like vibe and is beautiful from start to finish.

9) Take That – Bird In Your Hand

Stunning synthpop ballad with lush layered harmonies and a gorgeous vocal performance from Mark Owen.

10) Troye Sivan – Fools

Brilliant pop track which opens tentatively with gorgeous piano chords before evolving into a jittery R&B track.


Adele – 25 Album Review


It’s been a long time since an album has been as highly anticipated as Adele’s ’25’. Her comeback after a three year hiatus (excluding the release of James Bond theme ‘Skyfall’) has exceeded the expectations of all; lead single ‘Hello’ smashed Vevo records for the most views in one day and launched straight to the top of singles charts all around the world. In the UK, it became the biggest selling Number One in three years. It’s fair to say Adele has become something of a global superstar since the release of previous album ’21’ and with the release of ’25’, it seems that she will remain that way.

’25’ is a conventional Adele album; a collection of emotive ballads which mourn the loss of ex-lovers, a carefree life and old friends. It doesn’t attempt anything too audacious and isn’t particularly innovative but it remains loyal to Adele’s signature sound and for that, it should be commended.

For the large part, Adele sticks rigidly to the formula of ’21’. ‘Hello’ is arguably the most dramatic track on the album and was wisely chosen as the lead single. As the album’s opening track, it’s well-placed and reintroduces Adkins back into the homes of the public. Similarly, ‘Remedy’ co-written by familiar collaborator Ryan Tedder, is a pretty and melodic ballad featuring nothing more than an exquisite piano riff and Adele’s soulful vocals. It’s a reinforcement that sometimes leaving a song in its most raw, organic form delivers the best results. ‘Love in the Dark’, one of the album’s stand-out moments, is also left well alone and is comprised of nothing but piano chords, sweeping strings and Adele’s vocals aching with sincerity. The powerful chorus is lush with orchestration and it’s a concrete reminder of what Adele does best. ‘All I Ask’ follows the same formula utilising pretty piano riffs as Adele begs her lover to leave her with a lasting memory before they officially end their relationship. Co-written by Bruno Mars and his frequent collaborators, Mars’ influence is clear – it doesn’t require much imagination to picture his vocals on it but Adele inevitably glistens on the track.

‘When We Were Young’ is another of the album’s highlights, a track so profound, it completely blows ‘Hello’ out of the water. The chord progression of the chorus rather bizarrely mirrors Razorlight’s ‘America’ in places but it’s a substantial, soulful ballad glowing with sincerity. Sombre but captivating ballad ‘Million Years Ago’ is another of the album’s highlights, utilising nothing but Spanish-sounding acoustic guitars and Adele pining for a return to simpler times. ‘I Miss You’ is darker in tone and is an eerie soul ballad featuring a jazz organ, echoing broken acapella vocals, Phil Collins styled drumming and moody piano chords.

At times, the album does attempt to break out of the mould Adele has created for herself. The sassy ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’ refreshingly introduces funky acoustic guitar riffs into the fold and is relatively jovial compared to the rest of the album. Likewise, ‘Water Under the Bridge’ is a breezy pop track on which Greg Kurstin stamps his signature synthpop sound. It’s different to anything Adkins has ever released before, comprised of funky guitar riffs, reverberating vocals and crashing percussion but it remains loyal to her sound through its utilisation of rich gospel harmonies and unequivocal piano chords. It’s one of the best tracks of Adele’s career and is crying out for a single release. Gospel music is also the primary influence on ‘River Lea’, a soulful track featuring hand-clap percussion, rich layered vocals and jazzy organ chords. Closing track ‘Sweetest Devotion’ also attempts to lift spirits high and finishes the album on a more positive note. Weeping guitars, a piano riff and gentle guitar strums open the track before it evolves into an uplifting soul track. It’s clear the track has been written with loved ones in mind, most probably her son Angelo and it’s a fitting finale.

A safe but pleasing album which remains loyal to her much-loved sound.

  • Rating: 4/5.
  • Highlights: Hello, When We Were Young, Water Under The Bridge, Love in the Dark, A Million Years Ago, All I Ask.

’25’ is available now on XL Records.


Take That – III (2015 Edition) Album Review


Upon its original release in December last year, ‘III’ was a pivotal moment in Take That’s career. Now a three-piece following the shock departure of Jason Orange and Robbie Williams returning to his solo career, the band and general public were somewhat apprehensive of the band’s future. They needn’t have worried. ‘III’ flew straight into Number One, breaking the record for the most pre-ordered album in Amazon’s history and was later certified platinum. A sold out UK arena tour followed and Take That validated their persistent presence as one of the UK’s most successful bands.

Almost one year later, ‘III’ is still as bold and buoyant as it was upon release. ‘These Days’ remains a piece of pop perfection with its Nile Rodgers Chic-like guitar riffs, disco stomping percussion and tight harmonies. 2015 addition ‘Hey Boy’ follows the same formula, mirroring camp 80’s disco. Lyrically, it’s rather lazy in comparison to the rest of the album and Owen’s rap-like vocals are questionable but the track is incessantly funky,  glimmering with Greg Kurstin’s polished production. Kurstin also steers the ship on other golden pop moments on the album. ‘If You Want It’ is a sleek pop track featuring gorgeous shimmering synths, euphonious layers of harmony and a kick-ass beat whilst the poignant ‘Freeze’ mourns the departure of Jason Orange through a dramatic ’80’s synth-pop track.

‘Progress’ producer Stuart Price returns on the more electro moments. ‘Let in the Sun’, one of the album’s highlights, is reminiscent of material by the likes of Calvin Harris; an EDM influenced track featuring gorgeous moments of falsetto by Barlow, rousing lyrics and an energised chorus. Lead vocal duties are generously handed to Owen on ‘Lovelife’, an effervescent electro track with a Parisian-sounding melody, acoustic guitar strums and stomping percussion. ‘Into The Wild’ is a dramatic and powerful track on which Take That channel The Killers, featuring eerie electro sounds, tribal drums and Owen’s distinctive bass vocals. A bizarre union of ‘Shine’ and ‘Underground Machine’ is found on ‘I Like It’, a bouncy and mechanical track which features synthesised bass, funky guitar riffs, Bee-Gee-like falsetto harmonies and as many production effects as Price can possibly toss into the mix.

Price knows how to induce softer moments in the album too. ‘Portrait’ begins tentatively with Barlow’s falseto fluttering over gentle guitar strums and timorous synthesisers before before Donald and Owen join the fold in a catchy Barber-shop-styled ‘ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba’ chorus. The lush layers of harmony and giggling synthesisers are a lovely touch in Price’s production and it’s a gorgeous, uplifting track. Howard Donald lends his lead vocal to ‘Give You My Love’, a mellow pop track which is reminiscent of Barlow’s keyboard frolicking on 1993’s ‘Everything Changes’.

John Shanks, producer of the band’s ‘Beautiful World’ and ‘The Circus’ albums brings a more organic sound to the album. ‘Flaws’ is a raw, classic Barlow-ballad which sounds as if it could have been an outtake from Barlow’s ‘Since I Saw You Last’ solo album. It’s a welcome break from the intensity of the album and a lovely track. Original album finale ‘Get Ready For It’ is a euphoric pop-rock stadium anthem abundant with ‘woah’ hooks, crashing percussion and fierce guitar strums. Shanks is also responsible for producing the bonus tracks: invigorating anthem ‘Believe’, Beatles-esque ‘Amazing’ and the spectacular power ballad ‘Do It all For Love’.

Elsewhere, Take That allow lesser-known producers to experiment with their sound. In-demand but still largely unknown producers Mattman and Robin sprinkle their magic on conventional Take That ballad ‘Higher than Higher’, another of ‘III’s’ highlights. Precarious percussion, a mesh of broken vocals and jittery synthesisers open the track before it stabilizes into a steady marching beat. Barlow delivers perfect, tender vocals whilst Donald and Owen provide gorgeous harmonies which reverberate endlessly into the spaced-out, meticulously programmed R&B track. Their ‘higher, higher than higher’ harmonies in the track’s finale somewhat bizarrely emulate an African choir but is one of many lovely touches in its arrangement and production.

Profound power-ballad ‘Will You Be There for Me?’ is comprised of descending percussion, soft plucked acoustic guitars and lavish layers of harmony. Produced by unknown producers AFSHeeN and Josh Cumbee alongside German hitmaker Toby Gad, it’s a moody R&B styled ballad with a brilliant vocal performance by Barlow. It’s yet another change in sound for Take That but one which works perfectly and is without a doubt the best of the new tracks from the 2015 edition.

WTNSS, a duo consisting of Charlie Russell and Bradley Spence, lend their production expertise to final two tracks ‘Carry Me Home’ and ‘Bird in Your Hand’. Evidently Owen’s choice of producers (the duo worked on his 2013 ‘The Art of Doing Nothing’ solo album), they bring another dimension to the album. ‘Carry Me Home’ is a folk-styled pop track featuring tribal drums in the same vein as ‘Into The Wild’, metallic guitars and an epic chorus. Once again, harmonies are diligently layered to great effect and Owen’s distinctive falsetto vocals are particularly lovely. Final track ‘Bird in Your Hand’ is a delicate piano-synth ballad on which the band’s vocals reverberate infinitely. It’s a gorgeous song which mirrors hidden Progress track ‘Flowerbed’. The track is noteworthy for featuring the song-writing credit of the late Michael C. Corson, husband of a Thatter. His lyrics found their way to team Take That and elements were used in the final product.

‘III’ has maintained its ability to impress. Whilst the new tracks don’t necessarily contain the sturdiness required to be single-release material, they are a hugely enjoyable addition to the album.

A triumphant album featuring an eclectic amalgamation of material.

  • Rating: 5/5 [Both original album and 2015 updated version.]
  • Highlights: These Days, Let in the Sun, Portrait, Higher than Higher, Freeze, Flaws, Do it all for Love, Will You Be There For Me, Bird in Your Hand.

‘III (2015 Edition)’ is available now on Polydor Records.

[You can read my original review of ‘III’ here.]






Ben Haenow – Ben Haenow Album Review


If Simon Cowell was particularly apprehensive about Ben Haenow being declared the eleventh winner of the X Factor, he had every right to be. The alleged curse of male X Factor winner has been in full force since Series One winner Steve Brookstein’s refusal to be Cowell’s puppet and subsequent drop from Syco music. Since then, male winners have come and gone; Shayne Ward, Leon Jackson, Joe McElderry, Matt Cardle and James Arthur – all recipients of a fleeting moment of fame.

Still, it began promisingly for Ben Haenow. During his stint on the X Factor, the former white van driver was largely consistent, gaining the most votes in six out of the ten weeks. Début single was an enjoyable cover of OneRepublic’s ‘Something I Need’, a rousing pop-gospel anthem. It is largely this sound that Haenow has adopted for his début self-titled album but with varied results.

Lead single ‘Second Hand Heart’, a duet with US powerhouse singer Kelly Clarkson opens the album modestly. Whilst a pleasant pop track, it’s clear why Clarkson has been enlisted to lend her vocals to it. Without her sparkle, it’s unlikely the track would have charted at all (it reached a dispiriting #21 in the UK singles chart). ‘Slamming Doors’ and ‘Way Back When’ are mope-y ‘love is exhausting’ pop ballads whilst mediocre vocals let down saccharine piano ballad ‘Make it back to me’. ‘Start Again’ is an average arena pop-rock anthem featuring an easy sing-along chorus and it all gets overly-sentimental on ‘Brother’, a track about, well, you guessed it. It’s a generic pop-rock anthem but has a competent chorus.

There are some successes, however. ‘All Yours’ is Haenow’s Macy Gray moment, utilising R&B beats, a jazz organ and rich gospel choir vocals. Haenow’s vocals are sturdy and well-matched to the track.  ‘Lions’ is a charming Ben Howard-esque ballad featuring folk acoustic guitars and a melodic chorus whilst ‘Something I Need’ is still a surprisingly enjoyable and substantial cover which closes the album beautifully.

The album’s triumph is ‘Testify’, a buoyant and rousing pop track which mirrors the pop-gospel synthesis found on ‘Something I Need’. Co-written by Daniel Bedingfield, it’s tight in production, catchy and optimistic, featuring gospel music-like piano chords, fierce percussion and of course a gospel choir.

The main issue is the album lacks any variation or diversity. It’s consistent in genre but is painfully dull aside from its pop-gospel moments. It’s the generic and conventional X Factor winner album, plastered from start to finish with a drab form of pop-rock. At times even Haenow sounds bored; it’s evident he’d much rather have created the rock album he’d always wanted to make.

A bland and uninspiring album which, had it developed the pop-gospel theme further, could have been infinitely better.

  • Rating: 2/5.
  • Highlights: All Yours, Testify, Something I Need, Lions, Greatest Mistake (Deluxe Track).

Ben Haenow is available now on RCA/Syco records.



Ellie Goulding – Delirium Album Review


Since her launch onto the music scene five years ago, Ellie Goulding has become one of the UK’s most successful artists. Largely propelled by an appearance on ‘Later… with Jools Holland’ in addition to winning the BBC Sound of 2010 poll, début album ‘Lights’ was a huge success, spawning six singles. Second album ‘Halcyon’ fared even better whilst the spectacular ‘Love Me Like You Do’, taken from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack flew into Number One around the world earlier this year.

‘Delirium’ is far more of a pop effort than previous two albums. Whilst the eerie electro elements, reverberated vocals and scatty synths are still present, it’s far more upbeat in nature and is abundant with catchy pop hooks. An assortment of huge pop writers are present on the album, aiding Goulding in her venture into commercial Pop, including Ryan Tedder, Greg Kurstin, Max Martin, Carl Falk and Jim Eliot.

The pop-iest moments are the album’s forte. Greg Kurstin is enlisted as a writer on five tracks and each of these work beautifully. ‘Aftertaste’ is an exuberant track featuring shimmering synths, piano chords and funky guitar riffs. It’s still undoubtedly Goulding and her electro-pop but Kurstin’s production adds an extra dimension which transforms it into one of the album’s highlights. Similarly, ‘Don’t Panic’ is a pop/disco foot-stomper built around an oriental xylophone-like riff which is at times reminiscent of 80’s Madonna & Cyndi Lauper. ‘Something In The Way You Move’ is effortlessly catchy with funky bass riffs and melodic pop hooks whilst ‘Around U’ is somewhat bizarrely reminiscent of computer game music but is hugely enjoyable. It’s a breathy, synthpop track which could easily have been featured on début album ‘Lights’.

The album also uses elements of gospel-music on a selection of tracks. ‘Holding on For Life’ is a prime example, featuring a gospel choir and house piano riffs to create a unique but triumphant fusion of gospel-house. ‘We Can’t Move To This’ is built around scatty vocal clips, evolving into a nineties-house-like track with bizarre pitch-moderated vocals. Sultry power-ballad ‘Love Me Like You Do’ is slotted in nicely into the middle of the album and is still a prodigious piece of pop perfection.

‘Keep On Dancing’ is a more assertive track featuring a catchy whistling hook, descending hollow synths and dance-pop percussion whilst ‘Codes’ is a superior version of ‘On My Mind’, utilising jittery synths, meticulously programmed beats and a hugely addictive chorus.

The album does lose focus at times. Lead single ‘On My Mind’ is by far one of the worst tracks on the record. Goulding’s attempt to fuse electro-pop with R&B results in a confused track on which trap drums and rap-like vocals fall flat. Similarly, whilst undoubtedly catchy, the repetition present in ‘Don’t Need Nobody’ is more irritating than enjoyable.

Towards the end, whilst maintaining the pop and electro-pop elements, Goulding revisits the folktronica she bought to prominence on début album ‘Lights’. This is particularly the case on ‘Lost and Found’ and ‘Devotion’, two slightly intense moments featuring acoustic guitars and shimmering piano chords but feature impressive electro breaks. Second single, the dark and emotive ‘Army’ is also loyal to Goulding’s signature sound and is particularly reminiscent of material on ‘Hacylon’. It’s a gorgeous pop ballad and a stand-out moment on the album. The album closes with ‘Scream It Out’, an epic arena-anthem track with a euphoric chorus.

At sixteen tracks and almost an hour long, ‘Delirium’ is incredibly long. An album of this length is always an audacious feat but it holds its own and is largely enjoyable.

A bold, effervescent album which remains loyal to Goulding’s signature sound but exhibits the courage to place a pop spin on it.

  • Rating: 4/5.
  • Highlights: Aftertaste, Something in the Way You Move, Codes, Love Me Like You Do, Don’t Panic, Army.

‘Delirium’ is available now on Polydor records.


Music Monday – Volume Seventy Six

1) Grimes, Bleachers – Entropy

Impossibly catchy indie-pop track on which American indie-pop band Bleachers team up with Canadian singer-songwriter Grimes. Minimalistic instrumentation is coated with Grimes’ syrupy and melodic vocals.

2) One Direction – End of the Day

Euphoric arena anthem which remains loyal to the boyband’s signature sound. Awesome track.

3) One Direction – Love You Goodbye

One Direction ballads are always exceptional and this is no exception. Taken from the band’s final (at least for now) album ‘Made in the A.M.’, this is emotive and heartfelt with catchy ‘hey, hey, hey’s’ and gorgeous  weeping electric guitars. One of their best tracks.

4) One Direction – Long Way Down

Lovely, gentle acoustic-based track from ‘Made in the A.M.’ It’s one of the more reflective tracks and the Chorus is rather low-key but this is part of what makes it so endearing. In places it sounds rather like Lady Antebellum and these Country elements work beautifully.

5) One Direction – What a Feeling

One Direction channel Fleetwood Mac on this ’80’s synthpop-influenced pop track. It’s one of the stand-out moments from latest album ‘Made in the A.M’ with funky guitar riffs and gorgeous, rich layered harmonies.

6) Ben Haenow – All Yours

Brilliant euphoric pop from last year’s X Factor winner Ben Haenow.

7) Ben Haenow – Testify

Epic gospel-influenced track from Ben Haenow’s début album. The drum loop is fierce and the gospel choir adds an extra depth to the track. It’s the best track on the album and is crying out to be a single.

8) Ben Haenow – Greatest Mistake

One of the stronger tracks Ben Haenow’s début album. The Chorus is incredibly catchy and his raspy vocals sound fierce on it. Great track.

9) Justin Bieber – Company

Sultry and irresistibly catchy pop track with a funky bass line & elements of tropical house. Bieber at his best.

10) Justin Bieber – Been You

Bonus track on the deluxe version of Justin’s latest album ‘Purpose’. Incredibly catchy electropop-influenced track more than strong enough to have been included on the standard edition of the album.



Justin Bieber – Purpose Album Review


The past three years have been a somewhat turbulent time for Justin Bieber. The former teen star descended into a very public meltdown, his once wholesome image tarnished by an extensive inventory of legal issues involving reckless behaviour, drug usage, dangerous driving and other general brattish behaviour. It appeared that Bieber was on a mission to destroy his career and disappear from the music industry, never to be seen again. 2015, however, has been a year of incredible transformation. His triumphant musical comeback has been a surprise to many; singles ‘Where are U now’ and ‘What Do You Mean?’ have been warmly received by critics and fans alike. It appears J-Biebz has got his life back on track.

Bieber really comes into his own on ‘Purpose’, an exuberant affair abundant with euphoric dance-pop. The bubblegum pop has been replaced by material which is far more mature and substantial in nature. It’s still undoubtedly pop music but it contains far greater depth, borrowing influences from EDM, tropical house and R&B.

Much of the album is in the same vein as the impossibly catchy ‘What Do You Mean’, built around electro/pitch-moderated samples, slick beats and breathy synths. Latest single ‘Sorry’ is a prime example, utilising squeaky synths and samba-like percussion to create a buoyant R&B track. ‘Company’, one of the album’s highlights, is a buoyant tropical-house flavoured track with bouncy percussion, breezy keys and vivacious dance bass riffs. It’s low-key but effortlessly catchy and reinforces that sometimes in pop music, simplicity is pivotal.

Elsewhere, the album is softer, mimicking slow-jam nineties R&B. Album opener ‘Mark My Words’ is an understated but effective introduction. Featuring little more than broken fragments of Bieber’s vocals and tender piano chords, it doesn’t particularly lead anywhere but it’s pleasant enough. ‘I’ll Show You’ is built around jittery high-pitched vocal samples and trap-like beats, resulting in a dark but effective R&B track. Dainty acoustic guitar arpeggios are the main feature of ‘No Pressure’, a waltz-like R&B track featuring a rap from Big Sean whilst ‘No Sense’ follows the same formula but is a little heavier. On ‘No Sense’, Bieber’s vocals have never sounded cleaner and they ride the minimal instrumentation beautifully. The song is let down however by an excessively auto-tuned and dispensable segment from Travi$ Scott. ‘The Feeling’, a collaboration with American singer-songwriter Halsey is another of the strongest tracks on the album, comprised of tremulous percussion and a catchy, melodic hook.

At times the album does come close to regressing back to Bieber’s bubblegum pop. Whilst an enjoyable addition, soft and heartfelt piano ballad ‘Life is Worth Living’ is rather saccharine and carries a naivety reminiscent of his earlier material. Likewise, Ed Sheeran collaboration ‘Love Yourself’ is a welcome break from the intensity of the album but does feel rather feeble compared to the rest of the album. ‘Children’ is the most EDM-influenced track on the album (aside from ‘Where are U Now’) but is one of the album’s weakest moments. The corny and frankly rather creepy lyrical content detracts from Skrillex’s scatty production and is reminiscent of Bieber circa 2011.

There is one efficacious ballad on the album, however. Title track ‘Purpose’ is a gentle piano ballad which closes the album beautifully. Whilst it is almost tarnished by the bizarre addition of spoken clips of Bieber discussing his personal life, it thankfully holds its own.

‘Purpose’ is the first of Bieber’s releases to finally serve as a true reflection of himself and his own musical influences. It’s bold, buoyant and enchanting from start to finish.

  • Rating: 4/5
  • Album Highlights: I’ll Show You, What do you mean?, Company, Where are U now, No Pressure

‘Purpose’ is available now on Def Jam records.