Music Reviews

New Releases Roundup – Fickle Friends, Mokita & Stand Atlantic, slowthai, Bleachers & Bruce Springsteen, Miley Cyrus & Dua Lipa and MARINA

Gemma Cockrell and Kiah Tooke

Gemma and Kiah have joined forces once again to give us their take on a selection of this week’s single releases.

Fickle Friends – Million (Gemma):

Brighton Indie-pop quartet Fickle Friends release the third taste of their forthcoming EP Weird Years: Season 1, titled Million. In September, the band announced their sophomore album Weird Years, which would be released in separate EPs due to the inability to tour. They will be released in instalments which are named as ‘seasons’ through taking inspiration from 90’s sitcoms.

The band summarise Million, explaining that “Sometimes when you meet someone, they can immediately become a part of you. The energy you share is electric. They open your mind and make you think differently. They are the medicine to cure your romantic cynicism. They’re one in a million.” These themes of meeting someone special mirror the themes of previously released single 92, which speaks of waiting your whole life to meet someone special.

The track is upbeat and synth-heavy, with a funky electronic-dance beat, contrasting entirely to the mellow ballad tones of 92, despite these similarities in lyrical themes and content. The band are impressively versatile in their ability to successfully and effectively execute both slow and upbeat tunes, even though they self-confessed that they try and avoid writing ‘slowies’. Million therefore sees them returning to what they gravitate towards writing, and what they are renowned for – a mirthful, high-energy sound which it is impossible not to dance-along to.

Mokita & Stand Atlantic – I’m Sorry (Gemma):

“The stuff I like writing and making the most is the same stuff that I enjoy listening to,” John-Luke Carter, also known as Mokita, explains. “Emotional, honest type lyrics.” Latest single I’m Sorry is a perfect example of this. It is a simplistic, stripped-back track, with an acoustic guitar instrumental and melancholy, mellow tones.

The track enlists the soft, dreamy vocals of pop-punk quartet Stand Atlantic’s Bonnie Fraser. They are a band who dabble notably infrequently in collaborations, so this track is a rarity for them, but their willingness to try something new is no shock to fans, due to the band’s experimentations with sound on their sophomore record Pink Elephant.

The track is soft, slow-paced, and emotion-heavy. Fraser’s vocals complement Mokita’s perfectly – the combination of male and female harmonies effectively adds to the high-emotional factor of the track. Despite it not being the most experimental release, the track is easy on the ear, and a very relaxed and pleasant listen.

slowthai – nhs (Gemma):

slowthai is renowned for being a controversial and dividing figure. He has never been shy of expressing his views on important issues, which triggered his rise to popularity, most remarkably on his debut album Nothing Great About Britain. Listeners gravitated to his gritty, rough instrumentals and raw, brutally honest and politically charged lyrics, focused on topics such a Brexit and the Prime Minister of the time, Theresa May.

Latest single nhs came with the announcement of his sophomore album TYRON. slowthai explained that the track was written “as a reminder to always appreciate what you have whilst you have it. Be happy and make do with what you have. Things could always be better but things could also be worse. Thank you for everything”.

The song is highly relevant to the experience and climate of 2020, and in classic slowthai manner, it communicates a highly relatable and important societal message

The track is much more understated and mellow in comparison to what fans are used to from the rapper. It features a piano-based instrumental, and a slow-paced, introspective and thoughtful flow which lacks the typical roughness and aggression that slowthai is renowned for. The track is a shoutout to the UK’s NHS for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is also a desperate plea for more empathy and understanding in society. The song is highly relevant to the experience and climate of 2020, and in classic slowthai manner, it communicates a highly relatable and important societal message. 

Bleachers & Bruce Springsteen – chinatown (Gemma):

Jack Antonoff, renowned for his acclaimed production work for names such as Taylor Swift and Lana Del Ray, has revisited his solo project Bleachers for the first time since 2018, for new single chinatown. Rock legend Bruce Springsteen’s appearance on the track bridges the generational gap of the two musicians who both hail from New Jersey. Driven by these New-Jersey roots and inspirations, the track details a tale of falling in love and running away with a girl that he meets in Chinatown.

Antonoff describes the track as expressing “that pull back to the place I am from, mixed with terror of falling in love again”. The chance to collaborate with Springsteen meant a lot to him, evident when he explains “It’s the honor of a lifetime to be joined by him. He is the artist who showed me that the sound of the place I am from has value and that there is a spirit here that needs to be taken all over the world”.

The guitar-based track is simultaneously laid-back, relaxed, but also restless, perfectly capturing the feelings of youth and falling in love. The husky rough-edged vocal tones of Springsteen bring the track to life, with nostalgic tones and a timeless quality and a universal appeal. The collaboration is a special one, between two artists who evidently have much in common and who have mutual respect and admiration for each other, due to their shared New-Jersey roots.

Miley Cyrus & Dua Lipa – Prisoner (Kiah):

American superstar Miley Cyrus has paired up with Dua Lipa for their new song Prisoner, marking the second single released for Cyrus’ album Plastic Hearts. Mixing bubble-gum pop with elements of a more alternative sound has been the recent trend with Cyrus’ releases and Prisoner is no exception.

Prisoner uses the same rhythm as Olivia Newton-John’s song Physical, released back in 1981. This song was also used by Dua Lipa on her 2020 song Physical, later released on her album Future Nostalgia. However, Cyrus’ and the original Olivia Newton-John have less in common as the lyrics of Prisoner detail the experience of being in a manipulative relationship, whilst the original is more suggestive.

Prisoner is also partly reminiscent of 80’s dance pop in more ways as it is driven by synthesisers and an upbeat tempo; this is more explicitly implied in the music video for the song, with both Cyrus and Dua Lipa being dressed in outfits fitting of 80’s grunge culture.

The pair were rumoured to be collaborating after Dua Lipa was spotted in New York City, where the music video for Prisoner was filmed. Cyrus, in her interview with Apple Music commented ‘What I love about “Prisoner,” I mean, I think it’s also coming at a perfect time for everybody”. The song does come at a perfectly apt time as the confined feeling the lyrics describe can be applied to the lockdown restrictions that are ongoing globally.

MARINA – Man’s World (Kiah):

Electropop star MARINA has returned with a new song, Man’s World, which is believed to be the lead single for her upcoming fifth album. Produced by an all-female production team enlisted by MARINA, the track comments specifically on history’s treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community.

Combining ethereal vocals and a piano-driven beat, Man’s World has a dreamlike quality that doesn’t break that far away from the rest of MARINA’s discography

The track references several ways that historically women were discriminated against. For example, ‘Burnt me at the stake, you thought I was a witch’ references the Salem witch trails which took place in the 1690s. Although these events took place over three centuries ago, MARINA commented in an interview for Vogue that ‘Those kinds of patterns are still present in society’, when people who are deemed abnormal or different are singled out by society. The song also makes reference to the Sultan of Brunei who proposed a penal code that assigned the LGBTQ+ community the death penalty in Brunei, which further demonstrates the inequality still present in today’s society.

Combining ethereal vocals and a piano-driven beat, Man’s World has a dreamlike quality that doesn’t break that far away from the rest of MARINA’s discography. Using elements of dream-pop has always been associated with MARINA due to her airy and soft vocals, similar to Lana Del Ray or FKA twigs. The song’s strong political message and rhythm is similar to her song Savages from her 2015 album Froot, making Man’s World tie perfectly in with her previous releases but highlighting different issues.

Gemma Cockrell and Kiah Tooke

Featured image courtesy of Nina via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @mileycyrus and @ficklefriends via No changes made to these images.

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