With the oncoming weeks, all the way up to Christmas day, being dominated by the television behemoth, The X Factor, it’s going to be more and more difficult to draw your musical attentions away from the endless parade of contestants. For now though, before it really sets up residence in our collective conscious, here are this week’s notable releases. This week’s Singles of the Week features singles from rising star and So So Gay favourite Josephine, Scottish band North Atlantic Oscillation, grime rapper Devlin, and US pop star, Justin Bieber.
‘Savage With Barometer’ by North Sea Oscillation (Rating: ****)
Reviewed by Elliot Robinson
‘Savage With Barometer’ is the second single to be released from Fog Electric, the second album from Scottish, post-progressive rock and electronica band, North Sea Oscillation.
The track starts rather worryingly with a lot of distorted sounds reminiscent of someone trying to tune in a radio, leading the listener to think they’re about to hear something highly experimental. Pleasingly, a drum breaks this white noise intro, with the song quickly unfolding into something rather epic sounding. The track as a whole has a rather majestic feel to it.
Those initial static like sounds are replicated throughout, thanks to the distorted electric guitar that accompanies the track for its duration. In addition to the distorted guitar, the song’s melody is made up of a lot of twinkling synths, set against a plodding rock beat. There are elements of early Goldfrapp here, the dreamy electronica of Air, as well as the soft rock leanings of Keane.
Lead vocalist, Sam Healy, sings the rather nonsensical lyrics with a near ghostly strain, which suits the almost other-worldly quality to ‘Savage With Barometer’. The drawn-out, flattened articulation of the words means that the words Healy sings don’t really register. Indeed, the lyrics are almost inconsequential to the song, as the rich, all encompassing music that the Scottish trio have created here is quite mesmerising. It’s something you could imagine being played in the background of a trendy bar, keeping the patrons soothed while they natter over cocktails. The rather aggressively toned song title belies the pleasantly hypnotising quality this track possesses.
‘What a Day’ by Josephine (Rating *****)
Reviewed by Jon B
It’s safe to say that we at So So Gay are very excited about up and coming new singer-songwriter, Josephine. So many things about Josephine make her incredibly unique; she is passionate about both the different aspects of her heritage, blending her West African roots with the varied influence of the Manchurian music scene to great affect.
‘What a Day’ is the lead single from Josephine’s highly anticipated début album, Portrait, due for release in October. The single is testament to the success of her blend of genres. From an opening guitar riff that pays homage to the clear influence of World Music, through to a thoroughly infectious beat that immediately reminds the listener of The Smiths, it will only fail to leave you tapping your toe if you lack any soul whatsoever. There are shades of so many things here (those familiar with some World Music artists may find yourself thinking of the likes of Miriam and Amadou) and what could be a messy clash of those styles actually works beautifully.
What is so striking about the track is the sense of energy, not only in the stirring instrumentation, but in the confident and powerful vocal delivery, which is appealingly soulful and husky. If it is possible for an artists to sound mature simply from the style of their vocals, Josephine achieves it, and this is refreshing in a music industry that consistently pushes its audience towards the latest teen star. That said, the lyrics themselves are fairly simple and fairly repetitive but this is in keeping with the style of song and its beats. Short lyrical phrases such as ‘What a day / What a life / What a shame / The games we play’ quickly stick in the head.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, the track also comes in at just under 3 minutes long, which demonstrates the skill of the song-writing. ‘What a day’ trades on a simple formula which is catchy through its repetition, but not too long to get boring. The multi-layered musical arrangements and a powerful vocal delivery serve to make it fresh, dinstinctive, and highly listenable. We at So So Gay are approaching the album with keen anticipation.
Download the single now from Amazon.
‘Watchtower (feat. Ed Sheeran)’ by Devlin (Rating: **)
Reviewed by Elliot Robinson
‘Watchtower’ is the first single to come from Devlin’s upcoming, second album, A Moving Picture, which is due out in October.
This latest single from London rapper, Devlin, incorporates the chorus line from the Bob Dylan song, later made famous by the great Jimi Hendrix, ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Many listeners will no doubt baulk at the mere suggestion of the use and rehashing of an iconic song, especially one made famous by two musical greats. However, being needlessly precious about music can lead to it being forgotten. If nothing else, Devlin’s appropriation of this classic should hopefully bring attention to the original, in a similar way that the US TV show Glee helps to do. Sure, not every listener will think or even care that the track isn’t wholly original, though some no doubt will.
‘Watchtower’ features the vocal talents of Ed Sheeran across the chorus, and, love him or hate him, he does a good job here. He certainly makes the track as a whole more enjoyable to listen to rather than the slightly grating rap skills of Devlin. Though this is often the thing with rap music, where the appealing part, the part that draws in the broader audience, is the melodic chorus, invariably sung by a featured artist. Rap aficionados will no doubt beg to differ.
Having said all this, the construction and styling of this single usually equates decent chart success, and there’s nothing really to suggest otherwise with ‘Watchtower’. Some may call it, perhaps unfairly, chav music – the type we can all expect to hear blasted out of some tinny phone speakers, while minding our own business, sat on public transport, or idly wandering around town.
The accompanying video is a plus point, seeing both artists portray law-breakers who are being pursued by the police. It’s a highly polished affair with great acting and production, the only negative being that the talking by the actors occasionally dominates and obscures the underlying song it is meant to be marketing.
‘As Long As You Love Me (featuring Big Sean)‘ by Justin Bieber (Rating: ****)
Reviewed by Ben Egan
Now, everyone knows the name but possibly for all the wrong reasons. Musically, Justin Bieber has never really pushed the buttons of the public, yet with the release of his latest album, Believe, he has made a vast improvement. Bieber is back with his third single off the album, ‘As Long As You Love Me’, featuring US rapper, Big Sean. Will Justin continue this upwards trend and turn more guys and girls into Beliebers?
The song continues with his more mature feel, especially in contrast to the extremely screechy ‘Baby’. Taking pinches of influence from Justin Timberlake and, possibly, the late Michael Jackson, it is clear that Bieber is steering his career in the right direction. ‘As Long As You Love Me’ has an R&B and soft dub-step feel to it, executed smoothly and slickly.
Bieber’s vocals have always been a tad ropey, but with age have come an increase in talent, with Justin hitting the falsetto notes with greater ease and skill. The song oozes sex appeal and is, in a way, deeply romantic. The song tells a story of how love can overcome any obstacle and, although to some, the lyrics could prove too corny for his age, ‘As Long As You Love Me’ has a real intimate and intensely beautiful feel to it… ‘We could be starving / we could be homeless / we could be broke / as long as you love me’.
The club-like feel, catchy chorus, and the guest appearance from rapper Big Sean, all help make this into a rather good song. Taking into account the epic, movie style video (featuring actor Michael Madsen) and the mature vocal performance, it is unlikely Bieber won’t have a top 10 hit with this near perfect tune.