Music Reviews

New Releases Roundup- John the Ghost, Hayley Williams, Pale Waves, slowthai and guardin

Gemma Cockrell and Kiah Tooke

In the buildup to Christmas, Gemma and Kiah give us their thoughts on the newest single releases from the past week.

John the Ghost – LIVE ONCE (Kiah):

A departure from his usual releases as lead singer of The Maine, John O’Callaghan has unveiled another single under his alias John the Ghost, LIVE ONCE. After launching his solo debut release, Sincerely, John the Ghost, back in 2016, O’Callaghan has produced two new singles during 2020 which have left fans wondering what lies in the future for John the Ghost.

Following in the trend of April’s release, Rolled Down Window, the new track LIVE ONCE explores themes of growth and finding contentment with life. This sentiment is mirrored in O’Callaghan’s personal life, as although COVID-19 prevented him from having a conventional wedding, October saw him marry his long-term girlfriend which he commemorated in a priceless Instagram photo.

Catchy and uplifting, LIVE ONCE features an upbeat blend of piano and guitar throughout the song, making it the perfect indie rock track to try and brighten up a dark December day. O’Callaghan is known for his talent in crafting beautiful and poetic lyrics and LIVE ONCE is no exception, detailing his journey of overcoming feelings of cynicism and hopelessness to finding the value of each moment.

Channelling O’Callaghan’s artistry, John the Ghost offers a sound that holds some familiarity with The Maine’s discography whilst also infusing a more indie rock feel that compliments O’Callaghan’s softer vocals. A breakaway from the gloom of 2020, LIVE ONCE provides some much-needed optimism for the winter months, making it the ideal December release.

Hayley Williams – Find Me Here (Kiah):

Paramore’s front-woman Hayley Williams has released a new acoustic EP entitled Petals For Armor: Self-Serenades, with Find Me Here being a previously unreleased acoustic track on the EP. Find Me Here is a short and sweet simple guitar song which finds Williams reflecting on the softer love lessons she has learnt over the years.

Petals For Armor: Self Serenades focuses on moments of Williams’ growth and discovery of learning to love herself and other people, featuring slower acoustic versions of Simmer and Why We Ever from her 2020 debut solo album, Petals For Armor. Find Me Here and both of the acoustic songs see Williams’ at her most vulnerable, accompanied just by a single acoustic guitar and her melodic natural vocals.

Find Me Here is a short and sweet simple guitar song which finds Williams reflecting on the softer love lessons she has learnt over the years

On the release of the EP, Williams detailed how spending lots of time at home with her guitar encouraged the development of the EP, and allowed her to play the music for herself rather than the live shows she would have been playing. On explaining what Find Me Here was about, Williams elaborated that it touched upon the ‘’feeling of surrendering your loved ones to their own, personal struggles’’ in order for them to properly overcome them.

Pale Waves – She’s My Religion (Kiah):

Manchester indie rock band Pale Waves return to release another single, She’s My Religion, for their second album Who Am I?. A short clip of the track was released earlier in 2020 on lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s Twitter, teasing the new material for their sophomore album which is due to be released in February 2021.

Similar to Change, the first single unveiled for Who Am I?, the sound of She’s My Religion incorporates elements that are reminiscent of 2000s alternative music, featuring dark layered guitars over compelling vocals. This sees a development from Pale Waves’ debut album which mainly touched upon lighter elements of indie rock, leaving fans excitedly anticipating what the rest of Who Am I? will sound like.

The lyrics of She’s My Religion celebrate the supposed undesirable traits of a partner and demonstrate loving someone despite their flaws. On Twitter, Baron-Gracie shared how she “wanted to write a song that used pronouns because for so many years I didn’t in my music, and now I realise how important that is, to normalise LGBTQ relationships in a world that needs it.”

Further experimenting with their sound, She’s My Religion builds upon Pale Waves’ framework for their next album, allowing them to expand their influences and build upon the groundwork set in My Mind Makes Noises.

slowthai – Thoughts (Gemma):

Despite the announcement of his sophomore album Tyron, which is set for release on 5th February 2021, Thoughts is a track which will not be appearing on the upcoming album. Released on the Northampton rappers 26th birthday, it is an intense stream of consciousness, made up entirely of one continuous free-flowing verse. Despite being somewhat repetitive, the beat does switch up towards the latter half of the track, helping to minimise the monotony that often accompanies rap songs which consist of one singular continuous verse and no chorus.

Thoughts is much more similar to slowthai’s former sound in comparison to his most recent single nhs. It sees him flow consistently over the grime instrumental for over two minutes, exploring lyrical topics of the rapper’s day-to-day life with a consistent and steady flow, and a graphic, rough vocal style. Lyrically the track is exquisite, packed with imagery and metaphorical comparisons. Even though it will not be included on the album, it is sure to increase the anticipation for the forthcoming release.

guardin – the cycle (Gemma):

the cycle was released as a single in anticipation of guardin’s forthcoming album so that’s it, huh?, set for release on the 31st December. Despite initial issues with uploading the song onto streaming services, the song is now available to stream on all platforms.

Much like the rest of guardin’s discography, the cycle is a very relaxing and easy-on-the-ear lo-fi hip-hop track, with a cloudy, slow-paced acoustic guitar instrumental and soft, gentle vocals

the cycle follows the release of previous singles hope again and kinda sorta, shaping the direction that the album will take. Despite this being a predictable direction, so that’s it, huh’ will be his first album since his 2017 debut album lacuna, so it makes sense to follow the direction that his vast collection of stand-alone singles have taken in recent years.

Much like the rest of guardin’s discography, the cycle is a very relaxing and easy-on-the-ear lo-fi hip-hop track, with a cloudy, slow-paced acoustic guitar instrumental and soft, gentle vocals. This is a sound which guardin has well and truly mastered during his time as an artist so far.

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 @thefifthjohn and @palewaves via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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