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Music Monday Volume Seventy One

1) Birdy & Rhodes – Let It All Go

Gorgeous ballad by two highly talented artists from the UK. Utilising gentle piano tones, airy synths, crashing waves of percussion and rich layered harmonies, this is easily one of the most beautiful songs of recent years.

2) George Michael – I Can’t Make You Love Me

Perhaps one of the most covered songs in Pop history, this gorgeous and emotive ballad was originally bought to attention by Bonnie Raitt in 1992 who did a wonderful job. Since then, it has been covered by a multitude of artists from Boyz II Men to Adele. George Michael covered this during his incredible MTV Unplugged performance in 1997 to critical acclaim. It was later released as a b-side to his single ‘Older’. George’s interpretation captures a sincerity and anguish that others just seem to lack.

3) The Weeknd & Disclosure – Nocturnal

A rich fusion of The Weeknd’s dark R&B sound and slick falsetto vocals and Disclosure’s euphoric house sound. Awesome opener to Disclosure’s later album ‘Caracal’.

4) Jack Garratt – The love you’re given

Eeerie, jittery and sophisticated, this is a gorgeous down-tempo trip-hop track. Garrat’s falsetto vocals echo endlessly into the minimalistic production.

5) Ryan O’Shaughnessy – Fingertips

You may remember Ryan as a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent a few years ago. ‘Fingertips’ is his first single after a lengthy break. Whilst maintaining his signature acoustic sound, ‘Fingertips’ adds eerie sounds and programmed percussion to create a more polished track.

6) Sonny J – Can’t Stop Moving

Whilst never a huge hit for little-known DJ Sonny J, this song has been used in multiple commercials and TV programmes since. With sweeping sixties strings, gospel tinged keyboards and huge soulful vocals, it’s irresistibly catchy.

7) Earth Wind & Fire – September

Another track which is irresistibly catchy. ’70’s disco at its best.

8) John Waugh – Flight

John Waugh is a saxophonist who has played for a variety of acts and bands. He is perhaps best known for his saxophone solos in music by The 1975. ‘Flight’ is his début EP – a gorgeous and sophisticated collection of lovingly made Jazz tracks with modern twists. The title track is perhaps the strongest track featuring funky piano, bass and guitar riffs and a gorgeous saxophone solo.

9) Lawson – Mountains

Epic power ballad from Lawson’s latest EP. Screaming guitars, heavy percussion and Andy Brown’s emotive vocals all blend to create a powerful pop-rock track.

10) Janet Jackson – Shoulda Known Better

Despite its slight disjointed nature, ‘Shoulda Known Better’ is one of the best tracks Miss Jackson has put her name to in YEARS. A follow up to her 80’s smash ‘Rhythm Nature’, this is a powerful and catchy EDM track which cries out for world peace.

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Music Monday – Volume Seventy

1) One Direction – Infinity

This week, One Direction announced their fifth album ‘Made in the AM’ in addition to the release of this new track. An emotive pop-rock ballad featuring weeping guitars, reverberating vocals and syrupy sweet harmonies, the song features an epic climax.

2) Carly Rae Jepsen- Let’s Get Lost

Funky track in a similar vein to The 1975 featured on Jepsen’s new album ‘Emotion’. An effervescent affair featuring funky guitar riffs, clinking synthesisers, gorgeous layered harmonies and a rogue saxophone solo, it’s a piece of pop perfection.

3) Carly Rae Jepsen – All That

Jepsen continues her 80’s synthpop vibe on this gorgeous slushy ballad. Giggly synthesisers and whimpering bass lines lead the track whilst Carly’s seductive vocals trickle gently atop. The climax is rather powerful too.

4) Ryan Adams – I Wish You Would

Whilst Ryan Adams and Taylor Swift share a musical background which covers country music, the concept of indie singer-songwriter Adams covering Swift’s entire synthpop ‘1989’ album sounded like an awful idea on paper. Amazingly, however, it works beautifully. Adams turns this into a moody acoustic ballad with wailing guitars and his heavy vocals endlessly reverberating.

5) Ryan Adams – Bad Blood

Adams somehow produces a cover better than the original. This alternative rock interpretation works perfectly, rife with various guitars.

6) Dimitri Vegas, Like Mike & Ne-Yo – Higher Place

Moody club track built around gentle piano riffs and the gorgeous contrast between Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s bass, low registered vocals and Ne-Yo’s gorgeous higher-toned vocals.

7) Mariah Carey – Dreamlover

Catchy Pop-R&B track which enabled Carey to break into the pop market. It’s all very ’90’s with its fierce drum machine and glittery piano riffs but it’s impossibly catchy and a lovely feel-good track.

8) REM – Man on the Moon

One of alternative-rock band REM’s biggest hits, this track is lyrically a tribute to performer Andy Kaufman.

9) Mumford and Sons – Believe

Upon release, ‘Believe’ marked a musical departure for the band. Best known for their organic, acoustic instrumentation, ‘Believe’ enters a more electric and alternative territory. A gentle, eerie opening develops into a powerful and energetic stadium-rock anthem.

10) Duke Dumont – Ocean Drive

Duke Dumont demonstrates a different side to him as ‘Ocean Drive’ enters a more funky, electropop territory compared to the usual deep-house tracks he produces.


Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion Album Review


The sophomore album is always a challenging feat. Ask any artist and they will affirm that the second album is always the most testing. How do you follow up a successful début album, an introductory statement without recovering old ground or losing your audience altogether? Carly Rae Jepsen launched onto the music scene springier than a space hopper back in 2012 with huge guilty-pleasure ‘Call Me Maybe’ which remained in the charts (and our minds) for what felt like a lifetime. Whilst eventually a vexatious presence it was unarguably a slice of pop perfection and a triumphant launch onto the global music scene. Supporting album ‘Kiss’ was an enjoyable dance-pop album but one which failed to capture the enchantment ‘Call Me Maybe’ contained. Nevertheless, it was a commercial and critical success and one which secured Jepsen as the latest pop princess.

‘Emotion’ largely follows the same formula as ‘Kiss’; the focus is placed upon alluring hooks and uptempo dance-pop tracks which document escapades of puppy love. The primary difference however, is that Jepsen’s new material contains far greater substance. As is the latest trend, ‘Emotion’ draws heavily on 1980’s synthpop, Sia Furler’s writing credentials and a team of Swedish pop writers to formulate the perfect pop album. What ‘Emotion’ may lack in individuality, however, it makes up for in spirit and conviviality. Every track is meticulously programmed by some of pop music’s biggest producers (Greg Kurstin, Mattman and Robin and Shellback to name but a few) whilst Jepsen’s breathy and sultry vocals drift sedately atop. Every effect imaginable is tossed into the concoction – distortion, autotune, excessive reverb – but every ounce of effort is worthwhile; Jepsen has delivered an effervescent album abundant with catchy guitar riffs, breezy sound effects, and irresistible pop melodies.

Album opener ‘Run Away With Me’ is a model of things yet to come, plastered with detuned saxophone riffs, tight production, shuffling percussion, repetition and infectious melodies.  It’s a fitting introduction; another teeny-bopper but its taut production gives it far greater substantiality. Lead single ‘I Really Like You’ remains as charming as on first listen whilst funky ‘Emotion’ comes dangerously close to becoming a direct rip-off of Haim’s ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’.

As is the case on all contemporary pop albums, Sia Furler is enlisted as songwriter on two tracks. The first, ‘Boy Problems’ is a fizzy affair, carrying levels of buoyancy Nile Rodgers would be proud of as Jepsen boasts that she ‘broke up with my boyfriend today and I don’t really care’. It shamelessly enters teeny-bopper territory again and is rife with sneering teenage girl ‘nah nah nah nah nah’s’. ‘Making The Most of the Night’ is a slightly darker effort in a similar vein to Sia’s own material, built around a tribal-influenced rhythm. Both tracks form just a handful of the album’s high points.

The 1975-esque ‘Let’s Get Lost’ is another of the album’s highlights, utilising funky guitar riffs, clinking synthesisers, and a feral saxophone appearance. Breezy harmonies are gorgeously layered, evolving into an exceptionally melodious chorus. It’s more infectious than than anything Jepsen has produced prior to this album and is crying out for a single release.

Elsewhere, ‘Emotion’ attempts to strike forward with a little more ferocity and variation. ‘LA Hallucinations’ explores hip-hop in a similar fashion to Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ whilst ‘Warm Blood’ uses stomping percussion and fuzzy bass lines to great effect. Finale ‘When I Need You’, the most 1980’s influenced track by far with spaced percussion and shimmering bells could have easily been featured on the soundtrack to a classic ’80’s movie, following a similar suit to ‘I’ve Had The Time of My Life’.

In an album so sharply focussed on tight production and frolicking with various effects, the Mattman and Robin produced ‘Gimmie Love’ adopts a more simplistic touch through utilising Jepsen’s angelic vocals beautifully over minimalistic over reverberated percussion and metallic guitar riffs. Then there is sole conventional ballad ‘All That’ – a slow schmaltzy number rife with twinkling keys and giggling synthesisers, lavishly drizzled with Jepsen’s syrupy sweet vocals. The end of the middle eight hits a colossal climax which completes the track nicely.

Whilst Jepsen doesn’t necessarily demonstrate the greatest vocal range, this is greatly compensated for by the compelling melodies that stick in the mind long after the album’s final track. Every track is solid enough to be a single and this engenders a flawless album of pop gold.

‘Emotion’ is a glitzy album bursting with vibrancy; forty five minutes in which the listener is permitted to re-enter the comfort of a convivial, juvenile world free of the stresses of life. A perfect pop album.

Rating: 5/5.

‘Emotion’ is out now on Interscope/School Boy Records.

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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Nine

1) Seal – Every Time I’m With You

Seal returns with a gorgeous and triumphant ballad abundant with his signature raspy vocals, gentle guitar strums and sweeping strings. This is Seal’s first original track in five years; previous two albums were cover albums of Soul classics. ‘Every Time I’m With You’ is the lead single from Seal’s upcoming album ‘Seal 7’, released on 6th November.

2) Frances – Grow

Beautiful, emotive piano ballad by up and coming British indie artist Frances. Gorgeous song definitely worth a listen.

3) Frances – What Do You Mean (Radio 1 Live Lounge)

Frances was fortunate enough to be invited to perform in Radio 1’s Live Lounge following The Libertines’ cancellation. She performed a gorgeous piano cover of Justin Bieber’s huge Summer smash ‘What Do You Mean’. Beautiful.

4) Jamie Woon – Sharpness

Soft soul track featuring a punchy bass line, catchy percussion and gentle vocals.

5) Duran Duran – Pressure Off

Effortlessly catchy track from Duran Duran’s latest studio album. Aided by Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Mr Hudson and Janelle Monrae, ‘Pressure Off’ is a rousing pop track featuring funky guitar riffs, punchy percussion and a huge stadium-anthem chorus. Awesome track.

6) Duran Duran – You Kill Me With Silence

Dark, hip-hop influenced verses evolve into a soaring and infectious chorus on this emotive synthpop track. Produced by Mr Hudson, it builds up to an eerie and eclectic ending rife with giggling synthesisers, distorted sounds, wailing sounds and hip hop beats.

7) Death and The Stars – Sad Drive

Awesome ’80’s-esque driving rock ballad masterminded by Ben Mark (frequent Take That and Mark Owen co-writer).

8) Sam Smith & Disclosure – Hotline Bling (Radio 1 Live Lounge)

Incredible interpretation of Drake’s R&B jam. Sam Smith sprinkles his emotive vocals over Disclosure’s funky tropical house backing track full of punchy bass, steel-pan like keys and air crushing synths.

9) Nathan Sykes – Ordinary People (Live)

Ex member of The Wanted Nathan Sykes showcases his syrupy smooth, soulful vocals on this acoustic interpretation of John Legend’s beautiful ‘Ordinary People’. A fine, relaxing cover.

10) James Bay – Scars

James Bay once again reinforces why he is one of the biggest stars in the UK right now. Emotive and raw folk-rock track comprised of nothing but organic instruments. Gorgeous.

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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Seven

1) Take That – We Love to Entertain You

Electrifying and rousing stadium anthem that somehow managed to escape inclusion on an album. Whilst it did appear as a b-side to massive hit ‘Shine’ and was used in a German commercial, it was worthy of far more attention and credit. It’s a fitting tribute to fans; a sort of predecessor to ‘Hold Up A Light’, ‘Portrait’ and ‘I Like It’.

2) Beyonce – Love on Top

Funky and soulful R&B track; unbelievably catchy with an infectious melody and bouncy percussion. Highly influenced by 70’s disco tracks by Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five, Beyonce braves FOUR key changes and blasts her powerhouse vocal effortlessly. One of her best.

3) Taylor Swift – Wildest Dreams

Miss Swift proves once again she is currently the biggest female Popstar in the world. Clearly influenced by the moody and breathy production Lana Del Ray is famous for, the chorus is unmistakeably Swift and the melody isn’t far removed from her signature Country-sound. A lovely track full of emotion, crashing beats and 80’s-esque synthesisers. Irresistible.

4) The Japanese House – Clean

Elusive and enigmatic act Amber Bain (better known as The Japanese House) released another enchanting track earlier this week, once again produced by Matty and George from The 1975. Full of twinkling bells, fizzy synths, distorted brass instruments and unsteady percussion, it’s beautifully endearing and cinematic.

5) Tame Impala – Yes I’m Changing

Aesthetic, downbeat and dreamy, this is another lovely moment from Tame Impala’s latest album ‘Currents’. Evidently influenced by ’80’s synthpop, it has a great bassline and hazy vocals.

6) Oasis – Half the World Away

Lovely acoustic ballad written and sang by Noel. Whilst never released on a studio album or as a single, this became well known for being used as the theme tune to the BBC Sitcom ‘The Royle Family’. It has also since been featured on two Oasis compilation albums.

7) The Blue Nile – Everybody Else

Whilst not the most recognised of bands, Glaswegian adult-alternative band The Blue Nile have received much critical acclaim and have gained a cult following over the years. They purposely never chased fame and are notable for their perfectionist approach to releasing music, releasing only four albums in a thirty four year career.

‘Everybody Else’ is a beautifully simplistic  track featuring only a strumming guitar, computerised percussion, sweeping synthesisers and Paul Buchannan’s melancholic but sincere vocals. It is the penultimate track on their final album to date, 2004’s ‘High’.

8) Kylie Minogue, Garibay and Shaggy – Black and White

Miss Minogue is back on form with this sultry and sensual club banger, produced by Fernando Garibay and featuring a rap by legendary Shaggy. It is a return to Kylie’s club roots after previous album ‘Kiss Me Once’ was a more R&B-led affair and was only a moderate success commercially.

9) Lawson – Love Is You

Lovely acoustic-based ballad by Lawson, released as a free download on their website just days ago. Andy Brown’s voice is sincere as always and the chorus is very pretty.

10) Duran Duran – Ordinary World

One of Duran Duran’s biggest hits, ‘Ordinary World’ launched the band back into the charts after a period of declining popularity in the early 1990’s. Written about front-man Simon Le Bon’s late friend David Miles, this became a huge hit around the world in December 1992. Emotive, powerful and dramatic, it is one of Duran Duran’s best works.


The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness Album Review

“Go tell your friends about it”, Canadian artist Abel Tesfaye croons on track three of latest album ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’. Indeed, it’s an album which boasts amorality, self-absorption and an insensate panorama of life. It is not the first of Tesfaye’s works; this is his second album and fifth collection of songs following three mix tapes and début album ‘Kiss Land’. But whilst ‘Kiss Land’ was a moderate success, it is latest offering ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ that has captured the public’s attention. Largely propelled by huge single ‘Earned It’, certified platinum in the United Kingdom and best known for being featured in this years Fifty Shades of Grey movie, The Weeknd is fastly becoming the latest R&B sensation to hit the commercial music scene.

‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ adopts a nothing-to-hide approach, presenting themes such as no-strings-attached sex, drug usage, self destruction, the pursuit of fame and disloyal women amongst an eclectic amalgamation of thumping hip-hop beats, shiny brass instruments, syrupy-rich layered harmonies, funky bass lines and weeping guitars. It is a descent into melancholic psychedelia but one which thankfully avoids over-saturation through clever production and an assortment of genres.

Much of the album is an 80’s impelled anthology. ‘Real Life’ opens with irate synthesisers and crashing beats whilst ‘Losers’, a duet with Labrinth, utilises the piano in a similar fashion to Kanye West’s ‘Heartless’. Much of the album continues in the same way; eerie reverberations, clever production and Tesfaye’s angelic vocals smother symphonic scores. ‘As You Are’ borrows ’80’s gated pummelled percussion and clinking synthesisers with more reverberation than the dark side itself. It’s one of the album’s triumphant successes, however; a theatrical sound-scape in which Tesfaye vows to take his lover as they are, scars and all. ‘In The Night’ utilises a shuffle rhythm, growling bass and an irresistibly catchy melody.

Other moments slant heavily into hip-hop territory; ‘Often’ is comprised of a mesh of shrill sound-effects and Tesfaye’s salacious admission of doing it ‘often’. Lead single ‘The Hills’ is a song with instrumentation so precarious, it is a direct reflection of its lyrical content; a narrative about a plummeting sexual relationship. One of the more successful hip-hop tracks is ‘Tell Your Friends’ – a song so rife with hubris, Kanye West would be envious. It comes as no surprise, then, that Mr West himself is responsible for the production of this gentle R&B jam. Fluttering synthesisers and jazzy staccato piano chords make this track reminiscent of West’s ‘808’s and Heartbreak’ album. Whilst the album’s abundance of remarks such as ‘these b*****s’, these ‘n*****s’ and comments upon genitalia don’t come as a surprise, they are not the most fitting complement to Tesfaye’s innocent falsetto whispers. At times the contrast between the two becomes a little unnerving.

Thankfully, the sullen nature of the album is broken up by the odd injection of pop; the primary method Tesfaye has captured the public’s attention is through the selection of radio-friendly singles. Bleak waltz-ballad ‘Earned It’ known for its inclusion in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is still captivating with its dramatic orchestration and sacharine sweet vocals. It is still as fierce as it was upon release. Still, even the pop moments disguise darker undertones; latest single ‘I Can’t Feel My Face’ is an ode to Tesfaye’s love of sex and cocaine, cleverly obscured by its radio-friendly pop sound. Co-written by songwriting genius Max Martin (the mastermind behind hits by Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys and Katy Perry amongst countless others), Tesfaye does his best imitation of the King of Pop, drizzling his falsetto-ridden vocals over a funky bass line and tight percussion. It’s catchy, slick and pop music at its best. ‘Who’s gonna f*** you like me?” Tesfaye pines on saturnine acoustic guitar ballad ‘Shameless’. It’s another of the more pop-py moments on the album but one which works beautifully, complete with a warped guitar solo.

Tesfaye depends greatly on mainstream pop individuals on this album, enlisting Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Ray, Labrinth and Kanye West to name a few. ‘Dark Times’, a collaboration with Sheeran is a sulky waltz-like track in the same vein as ‘Earned It’ whilst the Lana Del Ray duet never quite reaches the heights it could. Nevertheless, the collaborations have resulted in an enthralling assortment of tracks.

It’s a dark, moody, seductive and powerful album, an innovative addition to the music industry.

Rating: 5/5.

‘Beauty Behind the Madness’ is out now on XO-Rebulic Records.

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Music Monday – Volume Sixty Six

1)Tamzin Archer – Sleeping Satellite

Moody 90’s pop track with lovely lyrics and an incredible vocal performance by Tamzin Archer.

2) Des’ree – You Gotta Be

Self empowering, sunny  pop-soul track bound to leave a smile on the listener’s face. Featuring a tinny keyboard sound and R&B percussion, it is SO 90’s but with a lovely message.

3) Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work

Stunning piano ballad by Kate Bush, written for the John Hughes movie ‘She’s Having a baby’. Featured in the film’s dramatic climax, it’s a fitting accompaniment to the emotional scenes but is just as beautiful as a stand-alone song.

4) Maxwell – This Woman’s Work

This may be the first time Music Monday has included two different versions of the same song in the same playlist but this had to be done. The original, as previously mentioned, is a beautiful piano ballad by the ever-elusive but incredibly talented Miss Kate Bush. Maxwell, known for his slick falsetto vocals gives this an R&B makeover complete with a twinkling harp, weeping guitars and R&B percussion. It’s a gorgeous interpretation of a lovely song.

5) Joe Jonas – Levels

Joe Jonas has certainly reinvented himself from the cheesy teen-rock he produced with his brothers and is fast becoming the latest pop-prince in the music world. The bar was set high by Jonas’ debut single ‘Jealous’, a huge pop hit which charted well around the world. ‘Levels’ is just as good, however; if not, better. Incredible falsetto vocals and funky production carry this catchy track.

6) The Weeknd – Shameless

Moody Ed Sheeran-esque ballad with gorgeous falsetto vocals by Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd. Obsessed with this right now.

7) The Weeknd – Tell Your Friends

Soul-infused R&B jam from The Weeknd’s latest album ‘Beauty Behind the Madness’. Produced by Kanye West, it’s much in the same vein as some of West’s early material.

8) Oh Atoms – Sugar Mouse

Pretty and gentle little folk ballad featured in cult favourite ‘Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’. Gorgeous harmonies too.

9) Robbie Williams – The Road to Mandalay

One of Mr Williams’ most underrated works and one of his best lyrically. Genius, poetic lyrics crooned over gentle guitar strums and a gorgeous French melody leading the chorus. Simple but beautiful.

10) Michael Ball – Love Changes Everything

A very personal choice by myself as this was played at a funeral I attended last week. Beautiful song composed by theatre guru Andrew Lloyd Webber for his musical ‘Aspects of Love’ and sang flawlessly by Michael Ball.