Tracks of the Month – September

Hi everyone,

I know that it’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted a blog; I’ve really fallen off track with my blogging schedule this year in comparison to last, but there have been a lot of changes and a lot of things going on in my life so, while I would’ve liked to have kept on course and posted more this year, it’s just unfortunately not been possible.

However, I always round up my top tracks at the end/beginning of every month so I’m back to do that again today. These are the songs that I was totally obsessed with throughout September and, if I’m being honest, still am now! 🙂

 

Demi Lovato – Sorry, Not Sorry

If you’re an OG follower of my blog, then you’ll know that I’m kind of in love with Demi Lovato, and her newest offering ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ is no exception. The lead single from her recently released new album, ‘Tell Me You Love Me’, it’s a light-hearted, sassy pop/R’n’B track. Described by Lovato herself as a song for the “haters”, it’s about taking an unapologetic look at yourself and indulging in a little self-praise – which I think rarely happens these days.

Lovato’s powerhouse vocals are stellar as always; exuding confidence and sexiness, whilst always toeing the line between being self-assured and full on bragging. It’s an empowerment anthem, perfect for a break-up of any kind and, having cracked the top 10 in multiple countries, including the UK, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ has definitely sparked a fire among listeners – and rightfully so.

 

Jax Jones ft. Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don – Instruction

I can’t stress enough that this isn’t usually the type of song I go in for at all, so, again if you’re an OG follower of my blog and you’re staring at your screen open-mouthed, don’t worry – so am I. This reggaeton number from producer Jax Jones features vocals from both American singer-songwriter Demi Lovato, and emerging Brit rapper Stefflon Don.

Included on the deluxe edition of Lovato’s newest album ‘Tell Me You Love Me’, ‘Instruction’ opens with major samba vibes and a booming drum beat that carries throughout the song. Along with a sprinkling of synths, elements of hip-hop and a total boss attitude, it’s a whirlwind of colour, sexiness and Caribbean carnival vibes that definitely ensures its place as a summer/club banger.

 

Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do

What can I say about the newest offering from pop music golden-girl Taylor Swift? The lead single from her hotly anticipated new album ‘Reputation’, is undeniably a shade anthem exploding with cutting sass. ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ is darker than anything we’ve ever heard from Swift, and see’s the songstress shedding her former public personas and giving into the perception of herself as a ‘snake’.

This can be seen in both the brooding cynicism of the lyrics, as well as the darkly creepy – yet fairly fairytale-esque – opening. It does sounds slightly like something you’d hear in a Disney movie, but I think that’s also part of its charm. I’m aware that it has divided opinions across the internet and it’s either a love it or hate it scenario, but personally? I’m really enjoying this song and I can really relate. If ‘LWYMMD’ is anything to go by, I can’t wait for an absolutely savage album.

 

Gavin DeGraw – I Don’t Wanna Be

I’m not all that sure that I haven’t reviewed this song before, as it’s been a favourite of mine for years. If you read my ‘Top #5 Best TV Show Theme-Tunes Ever’, then you’ll know that this was the inspiration behind it, and was a complete re-discovery of a forgotten love. If you were a noughties teenager then you may also remember Gavin DeGraw’s ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ as the theme-tune to American drama series ‘One Tree Hill’, and being that I laughed (and cried!) along with the show throughout my teen years and into my early 20’s, I am very familiar with this track.

However, the album version has more of a pop-rock feel, with its funky guitar-led opening and explosive, epic-sounding chorus. This, coupled with the inspiring coming-of-age lyrics, works to create something that is entirely addictive. Every time I hear the chorus I can’t help but get major nostalgic vibes, but it also makes me feel confident and unapologetic; you don’t need to constantly justify who you are or where you’re going in life, you do what’s best for you in that moment. It’s one of the songs I find comfort in, like re-visiting an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, but all the same feels like you never really left.

If you fancy checking out my ‘Top #5 Best TV Show Theme-Tunes Ever’, featuring this very song, click here.

 

Rak-Su – I’m Feeling You

I don’t usually include X Factor contestants/auditions in these posts, but for these boys I had to make an exception. After failing to impress the judges with their, rather flat, rendition of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Senorita’, head honcho Simon Cowell asked if he could hear another song from hopefuls, Rak-Su. They chose to perform original track ‘I’m Feeling You’, and everyone was definitely feeling it.

The pop/R’n’B number combined rap verses with a smooth, soulful – not to mention insanely addictive – chorus. The infectious beat instantly makes you want to dance, or at the very least have a little groove in your seat (just ask Nicole Scherzinger.) After their less than stellar start, it was like the boys came alive – as did everyone around them. One thing’s for sure, if ‘I’m Feeling You’ doesn’t get released as an official single, the X Factor bosses have missed a trick there.

 

Grace Davies – Roots

Another X Factor hopeful that I couldn’t not mention is, the insanely talented, Grace Davies. The 20 year old singer-songwriter, who has been singing on the pub scene since her mid-teens, stunned the judges with her intensely emotional original song, ‘Roots’. The piano-led ballad is a defiant message to all the nay-sayers who tried to knock her confidence over the years.

Davies’s vocals are instantly distinctive and extremely powerful throughout, with slight Amy Winehouse/Duffy elements wrapped within a sound that is entirely her own. This, along with a sprinkling of high notes, ensures the whole song is executed flawlessly. Its delicately simple arrangement really allows the vocals and lyrics to shine; it’s not dressed up in fancy production, and it doesn’t need to be, its raw honesty packs a punch without gimmicks. It’s undeniable that ‘Roots’ is a beautiful song, and I’m crossing everything that it will be released as a single, because it’s too good to be forgotten.

 

Also…

I’ve also been listening to a lot of Ed Sheeran’s newest album ‘Divide’ lately. I had planned to review the album when it dropped but I had to push it back due to illness, and then I felt like I kind of ‘missed the boat.’ However, I will be posting a full album review to coincide with when Sheeran embarks on his 2018 tour. But for now, I’ve been totally obsessed with poignant love-song ‘Perfect’, the upbeat ‘Galway Girl’, heart-break ballad ‘Happier’, and total shade track, ‘New Man’.

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen, if you haven’t already. If you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Top #5 Best TV Show Theme-Tunes Ever

Hi everyone,

The subject of today’s blog post was actually inspired by beauty, fashion and lifestyle blogger and vlogger, ‘Meg Says’. If you’re not familiar with the YouTube community and you have no idea who Meg is, she’s a YouTuber with “a happy love for life.” She describes her channel as “a place where I can chat about anything I have to say about everything, from beauty to fashion and health to lifestyle.” Since starting her YouTube journey only two years ago, her channels, ‘Meg Says’ and ‘Meg Says Vlog’, have amassed 78 thousand and 7.9 thousand subscribers respectively – and you only have to watch a few of her videos to find out why. Her candid, yet quirky, content is both informative and – at times – amusing, and her honest and friendly personality welcomes viewers in; almost like you’re catching up with an old friend.

Anyway, I digress. I watched an old vlog of hers last week titled ‘A self-care day: Blogger mail & feeling really poorly’, during which she tells viewers that she has been watching American drama ‘One Tree Hill’, and shows a short clip of the theme-tune – her feet hilariously wiggling along to the song all the while. Now, I loved ‘One Tree Hill’ growing up; I laughed, I cried and I fully fell in love with the characters and their lives. So, when I saw the clip, while it instantly made me want to curl up and watch ‘OTH’, it also reminded me how much I loved the theme-song too. In a strange coincidence, a little while later that very same day, I was scrolling through my Facebook memories and found an old post from years ago sharing a link to the song and saying how ‘obsessed’ with it I was at the time – spooky!

I took to Twitter to express the sudden surge of nostalgia, and as I was writing ‘best theme-tune ever!’ it got me thinking about other iconic TV show theme-songs and questioning myself. I started thinking ‘what about this one?’ ‘What about that one?’ (Needless to say I amended my tweet!)

After so many iconic and instantly recognisable title songs popped into my head, I decided it’d be fun to do a #Top 5 list of the best TV show theme-tunes. All of my picks are quite old-school (they just don’t seem to make ‘em like they used to anymore!) and as soon as you hear them you can’t help but think of the show they’re attached to. You also can’t help but sing-along – I dare you to try not to!

I understand that different age groups will remember different things and so may have different opinions, these are just my picks of what really sticks in my head from when I was growing up as a nineties kid and noughties teen.

 

#1 One Tree Hill – ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ by Gavin Degraw

My first pick, and the inspiration for this blog post in general, is the opening theme to ‘One Tree Hill’. Written and performed by pop-rock singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, the somewhat stripped back version of ‘I Don’t Want To Be’ featured in the programme’s opening titles for the entirety of its nine season run, making it DeGraw’s biggest hit to date. As a result of hearing it on the show, I then went and found the full album version, and I absolutely love that too. The funky guitar-led verses, the epic-sounding chorus, and its inspiring coming-of-age lyrics, combine to make something undeniably addictive. Every time I hear the chorus I can’t help but smile and get major nostalgic vibes, but it also makes me think ‘I’ve got this.’ 🙂 .

 

#2 Friends – ‘I’ll Be There For You’ by The Rembrandts

Need I say anything, really? I’m sure everyone in the western world has heard of ‘Friends’ and its trademark theme-song. You can’t help but clap along to those bits – you know what I mean – and if it’s ever played out of context of a ‘Friends’ episode, on the radio or something, you can’t help but think of the sitcom. Originally less than a minute long and penned for the programme, a looped version made its way onto radio and was so popular that the song had to be extended and re-recorded as a pop track. Its upbeat and catchy nature is very much like the comedy show its self: light-hearted, jovial and fun. It’s as much a part of the show’s identity as the characters.

 

#3 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – ‘Yo Home To Bel-Air’ by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

Nowadays Will Smith is a well-known name in the film and music industry, but every 90’s kid must remember the show that spring-boarded his acting career, right? The loud outfits, the hilarious dance moves and the banter between street-wise Will and the other conservative characters? Of course I’m talking about The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. Being that this show first aired between 1990 and 1996 it saddens me to think that kids of the new generation might not know what The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is, or the shining gem that was its title music. The Hip-Hop song is upbeat with undeniably memorable lyrics and is overall, catchy as hell. My friend and I used to sing this to/at/with each other at random intervals when we lived together at uni, and it was hilarious. Even as recently as 2013, Will Smith appeared on The Graham Norton Show with his son Jaden (and some surprise guests) during which they performed the iconic song and some other hilarious moments from the programme. The fact that both the song and the show are over 20 years old, yet it still gets played on TV and in clubs with everybody rapping along, is testament to how much of a cult favourite The Fresh Prince really was.

 

#4 The OC – ‘California’ by Phantom Planet

Another noughties American teen drama with an instantly recognisable accompanying track.
Originally released in 2002 as part of Phantom Planet’s album ‘The Guest’, ‘California’ was then picked up to be the title song for ‘The O.C’ when it hit the air in 2003. Best known for this particular track thanks to the cult success of the programme, Phantom Planet then went on to crack the Top 10 in a number of countries – including the UK – with ‘California’. This song has major summer vibes for me, and is made for the stadium/festival environment. I can imagine the chorus inducing mass singalongs and filling every part of an arena.

 

#5 Kenan and Kel – ‘Aw, Here It Goes’ by Coolio

Let’s be honest, has there been a cooler theme-song to grace Nickelodeon since ‘Kenan and Kel’? It’s just not the same nowadays. I mean c’mon, it’s performed by none other than the voice of 90’s track ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, Coolio. Similar to The Fresh Prince of Bell Air, it has that Hip-Hop vibe that you can’t help but have a little groove to thanks to the infectious instrumental and rap vocals, and the lyrics even manage to incorporate Kel Kimble’s famous phrase ‘awwww, here it goes!’ Definitely one a 90’s kid would remember 🙂 .

 

As always, thank you for reading! What are your favourite TV show theme-tunes? Are there any that you think I should’ve included? I’d love to see what other people’s choices would be, so feel free to compile your own list and send me the link, or let me know in a comment!

I’d also like to shout-out to Meg for having great taste in TV and, inadvertently, inspiring this blog post! Thanks Meg 🙂 .

If you’d like to check out Meg’s YouTube channels and keep up to date with her, you can do so on:

YouTube (Main)  /  YouTube (Vlogs)  /  Meg Says Blog  /  Twitter  /  Instagram

 

Also, if you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, why not come and join me on:

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Tracks of the Month – July/August

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well and that you made the most of the UK sunshine while it lasted. It even managed to stay dry and sunny on Bank Holiday Monday – that never happens! 😮

I know my blogging schedule has been a bit up the wall lately, and all I can say to that is that I’ve had a really busy and stressful summer. But, I’m back today to bring you my ‘Tracks of the Month’ for both July and August. Honestly, the phrase ‘Late-to-the-party’ seems to be a bit of a recurring theme throughout this month’s selections, but I thought I’d share them with you anyway 🙂 . Let’s go.

 

Niall Horan – This Town

The first solo single from ex One Direction-er Niall Horan, ‘Little Town’ is a stripped back acoustic ballad with a folk-pop vibe. This cutesy, yet sentimental love-song also comprises a very simple, soft arrangement; making it all the more poignant as it allows the romantic lyrics to be the main focus. This, coupled with the beautiful guitar-led melody, works to create something delicately impactful.

 

The Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay – Something Just like this

If you’re a fan of either of these bands, or you’ve just generally been keeping up to date with the current pop charts, you’ll know that this song was actually released way back in February. So, I hear you ask, why have I waited until now to feature it in a ‘Tracks I’m Loving’? Honestly, it was a bit of a slow burner for me; I’m not the biggest Coldplay fan so it never really struck me as something I must listen to. However, I kept hearing it in passing and eventually the chorus got stuck in my head and I decided I had to listen to it properly. Taken from the Chainsmokers debut album ‘Memories…Do Not Open’, ‘Something Just Like This’ is upbeat, totally infectious and an all-round absolute banger. As is their signature style, it’s a whirlwind of electro-pop brilliance, topped off with vocals from Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin. I’m glad I gave it a proper chance.

 

The Subways – Rock & Roll Queen

I only recently discovered this 2005 release after it featured on BBC Three’s dramatization of the death of Sophie Lancaster, ‘Murdered For Being Different’. However, seeing as it has also been included on multiple TV pieces – including noughties cult favourite ‘The OC’, as well as the trailer for 2008 Guy Ritchie Movie ‘RocknRolla’ – I can’t fathom how I’d never heard it before. ‘Rock & Roll Queen’ is a dark and gritty indie track drenched in old-school punk rock vibes, with Billy Lunn’s unique vocals giving it a distinctive edge. Boasting a great rhythm that you can’t help but groove to and an insanely addictive chorus, I can imagine it’s a massive crowd pleaser at gigs and festivals.

If you want to check out my review of ‘Murdered For Being Different’, click here.

 

Placebo – Running Up That Hill

A total re-discovery for me, after it was also featured on ‘Murdered For Being Different’, is Placebo’s eerily haunting cover of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’. Set to the sound of Brain Molko’s undeniably distinctive vocals, this version of the song has more of a brooding, atmospheric, almost filmic quality. I feel that it worked really well in ‘Murdered For Being Different’ due to where and how it was used; as I said in my original article about the programme: ‘The film closes with a selection of images of Maltby and Lancaster together, set to the tune of Placebo’s version of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ – the lyrics making it even more poignant.’ It stayed with me long after the film had finished.

 

Linkin Park – Numb

This is another definite throwback to my teenage Emo days. Taken from Linkin Park’s 2003 full-length release ‘Meteora’, ‘Numb’ is arguably one of the rock band’s most popular, iconic songs. The instantly recognisable synth-led opening, closely followed by the crashing mix of drums and guitars, has a somewhat nostalgic feel: like re-visiting an old friend. Tragically, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington took his own life in July, and I listened to this track a lot in the wake of his death; it’s without doubt my favourite song from the band. Bennington’s vocals are flawlessly smooth and powerfully gritty at times, and their angsty lyrics – bursting with emotion – hit even harder now. As I said in my previous blog post: ‘It’s music that gave so many people, so many ‘outsiders’, something to relate to in one way or another; voicing things that perhaps we as listeners, couldn’t. It brought the ‘outsiders’ in; helping people through their personal tribulations by sharing their own.’

If you’d like to see my previous tribute to Chester Bennington, click here.

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen, if you somehow haven’t heard them already. If you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Murdered For Being Different: The Death of Sophie Lancaster.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the horrific attack that led to her death, BBC Three have released a harrowing one-off film portraying the events that ended in Sophie Lancaster’s brutal murder.

Nico Mirallegro as Robert Maltby, and Abigail Lawrie as Sophie Lancaster

I want to write something different today. Something that matters. Something that means something. I sat down to watch the BBC Three dramatization of Sophie Lancaster’s death, Murdered For Being Different, and I knew I wasn’t in for an easy watch by any means, but I don’t think I could have ever really prepared myself for how the hour-long film made me feel.

‘Murdered For Being Different’ tells the true story of the vicious, hate-motivated attack on 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby, which stemmed from the way they were dressed; they were Goths. After striking up a conversation with a group of strangers at a local petrol station, the friendly young couple – who had met two years previously – went with them to Stubbylee Park in Bacup, Lancashire, where Maltby was singled out in the completely unprovoked attack.

Image from BBC Three’s ‘Murdered For Being Different’

After Maltby and Lancaster spoke with the group and shared their cigarettes among them, five (then) teenage boys launched themselves at Maltby, kicking, punching and stamping on him until he was unconscious. Lancaster, who knelt by his side and cradled his head in her arms – assumedly trying to protect him from any further blows – was then also kicked and stamped upon repeatedly. Their injuries were so severe that both Maltby and Lancaster were left in comas. Maltby awoke a week later with little memory of what took place but, tragically, Lancaster never regained consciousness.

Having followed the story of Sophie Lancaster since my mid-teens (which I will talk more about later), when I saw ‘Murdered For Being Different’ online I was instantly intrigued. However, as I watched the brutally powerful re-telling, the gut-wrenching fact that these events actually happened hit home all over again. Told from the point of view of survivor Robert Maltby – played by Nico Mirallegro (Hollyoaks, My Mad Fat Diary) – factual drama ‘Murdered For Being Different’, interestingly also looks behind the attack and into the lives of Robert Maltby and Sophie Lancaster – played by Abigail Lawrie (The Casual Vacancy) – as a couple.

As the drama starts, a black screen is illuminated with the words ‘this is a true story’ in capitals. Five words made all the more menacing when you know what is to come. The twinkling, fairytale-esque, instrumental of ‘Pure Imagination’ quickly follows: beautiful yet chilling. The audience is then shown snippets of the events to come, ending with the frantic 999 phone-call and sound of sirens.

The film then takes audiences back two years before the attack, depicting the beginning of Maltby and Lancaster’s relationship. From their first meeting at a gig – set to the sound of The Subways’ ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Queen’ – to their first kiss; made all the more tender thanks to the piano version of the Pixies’ track ‘Where Is My Mind’. In another heart-warming scene, viewers see keen artist Maltby painting wings on Lancaster’s back, telling her ‘you’re an angel, you need wings.’ We also see him return home in the early hours of the morning, having travelled to buy Lancaster the final Harry Potter book and walking home in the rain. As the story unfolds it becomes increasingly apparent that their relationship was extremely affectionate and gentle; they were really in love. It shows that at their core they were just people, normal people who wanted to express their individuality in how they dressed.

However, the film also highlighted a darker side of their lives, regularly receiving abuse for their Gothic look: being called names, chased and threatened. The pair chose to rise above it, with Lancaster saying that “hiding means the idiots win.” This attitude is shown excellently at the end of the film as – after saying goodbye to an unresponsive Lawrie – Mirallegro is seen lacing up his boots, re-applying eye-liner to his heavily bruised face, re-adorning himself in his Gothic accessories, and nodding at his reflection before leaving the hospital to walk through Bacup market; refusing to hide himself and who he is.

The story is told in an extremely effective way throughout, using a series of flashbacks and cutaway’s, so upcoming events are hinted at and half-seen before being played in full towards the end. This technique also works to build tension and create a stark, unflinching contrast between the gentle, almost dream-like beginning of their relationship, to the gritty, graphic reconstruction of the disturbing attack that changed Maltby’s life and took Lancaster’s – making it an incredibly hard watch.

At the end of the heart-breaking drama, the sentences received by those involved are flashed up on-screen next to the faces of the respective actors who played them; three of the five young men have since been released from prison, while the other two are currently serving life sentences. Also shown is a frightening statistic: an astonishing 70,000 hate crime incidents were reported only last year in the UK. The highest it’s ever been. The film closes with a selection of images of Maltby and Lancaster together, set to the tune of Placebo’s eerily haunting version of Kate Bush classic ‘Running Up That Hill’ – the lyrics making it even more poignant.

I remember when I first read about this in ‘Kerrang!’ magazine when it happened back in 2007. I was 16. I didn’t know Sophie Lancaster or Robert Maltby but it’s impossible not to be moved by this story. It immediately resonated with me back then because I was also seen as ‘different’. I wore black eye-shadow, listened to heavy rock music, had a Jack Skellington bag shaped like a coffin, and changed my hair colour every few weeks; from red to blue, to black to pink. Everyone thought I was a little bit weird, and I got some light-hearted jibes thrown my way – but I was lucky, there was no malice in it. I was never into anything dodgy or dangerous, I wasn’t a Satanist, I just liked the Goth aesthetic; wearing black and being a bit different. Most of the other girls I knew were all about having perfectly brushed hair, re-applying make-up in classes, chasing the ‘cool’ boys…that wasn’t me. I was always championing individuality, and even scrawled ‘don’t be afraid to be yourself’ across one of my old school bags – which was met with questionable looks and raised eyebrows.

When this story broke, I felt sick reading the reports; I couldn’t believe that something so senseless and brutal had happened. How could someone do that to someone else? To punch, kick and stamp on someone’s head until they’re unconscious – and for what? After Sophie passed away, her mother Sylvia – who received an OBE in 2014 – set up a charity in her daughter’s name. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation works to spread awareness of alternative subcultures in society and the distressing effects of hate-crime, all the while keeping her memory alive. The charity – which stands for ‘Stamp Out Prejudice Hate and Intolerance Everywhere’ – teaches at primary, secondary and university level, as well as offering training courses, and working with the police and justice system with the view to prevent further crimes of this nature.

‘Murdered For Being Different’ is a powerful telling of a harrowing story; the film’s contrasting dual focus, first of Maltby and Lancaster’s relationship and then the horrific attack, making it all the more hard-hitting. It’s upsetting at times, but executed extremely well by the writers, director and actors. The emotion, from poignancy to brutality and everything in between, really came across – almost as though it reached out and grabbed you. It’s something that will stay with you after the credits have long finished rolling.

 

Weirdo? Mosher? Freak?

Human being.

 

 

Links:

  • If you haven’t already, you can still catch ‘Murdered For Being Different’ on BBC Iplayer, click here to watch it.
  • Along with his involvement in ‘Murdered For Being Different’, Robert Maltby has also spoken out about the attack, his recovery and his views – for the first and only time in ten years – in an interview with The Guardian. The article also highlights that Maltby went on to finish his illustration degree and now wants to move forward with his life as an artist. Click here to take a look at his portfolio, and click here to read the article.
  • While researching for this piece, I found a series of interviews on BBC Three’s YouTube channel in relation to the film, which included Tracy Maltby, Sylvia Lancaster and Robert Maltby, which I found really interesting. I also came across an interview with Sally Lindsay – who plays Tracy Maltby – and Slyvia Lancaster on ‘Lorraine’, where they talk about the film, Sophie’s memory and the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
  • The Foundation’s official website also offers merchandise, to further spread the message that prejudice, hate and intolerance is not okay, with the proceeds going on to support the cause and the work that they do. The staff can also be found selling merchandise at festivals around the UK, including ‘Bloodstock’ which has a stage named after Sophie herself.
  • There are many annual fund-raising events that take place in support of S.O.P.H.I.E. You can keep up to date with any upcoming functions via social media:

Facebook / Instagram.

 

Tracks of the Month – June

Hi everyone,

I’m a little late with posting June’s ‘Tracks of the Month’, and that is simply because I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to upload it. So, I thought I’d kick off this year’s ‘Jammin’ In July’ with a look back at the previous month and some of the songs that have (and still continue to) dominate my stereo.

 

Talia Mar – The Voices Are Me

Posted in honour of ‘Mental Health Awareness Month’ back in May, ‘The Voices Are Me’ is an extremely poignant piano-led track, born out of singer-songwriter Talia Mar’s desire to speak out about mental health through her YouTube channel. However, as she says in the video, she couldn’t find the right words to say so she wrote the song instead and, in my opinion, couldn’t have said it better. As someone who suffers/has suffered from anxiety, I can really relate to this track on a personal level; I feel as though some of the phrases were written straight out of my head, making it really moving to listen to. Personally, I feel that it perfectly describes how anxiety can make you feel, and I encourage everyone to really listen to the lyrics and take it in. Mar’s vocals are impeccable as always, and the contrasting quiet/loud dynamic of the verses and the chorus are a perfect fit for the vibe of the song. It also shows off her range brilliantly, the flawless quality of both the higher and lower notes creating an undeniably beautiful effect.

This song touches me so much that I can’t help but tear up (cry like a baby!) every time I hear it, and I can only commend and profusely thank Talia Mar for releasing this online. I hope that it helps people, whether that be finding comfort in dealing with your own issues or helping a friend or relative understand what someone else in their life is going through. It’s a beautiful song.

 

Tom Cochran – Life is a highway

You can thank The Summer Set’s Brian Dales for this one. If you follow him on Instagram you’ll know that he posts a daily Instagram story of himself miming along to the chorus line of this classic rock song in various settings. After a week or so of waking up and seeing said Instagram stories first thing in the morning, it’s really hard not to have it stuck in your head all day! But, with its upbeat, feel-good, summery vibe I’m not complaining.

 

Anne-Marie ft. Ed Sheeran – Ciao adios

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, is there anything that Ed Sheeran can’t make sound infinitely better? It appears not, as he comes together with R’n’B/Pop singer-songwriter Anne-Marie for this acoustic version of her song, ‘Ciao Adios’. Filmed on tour, in the dressing room before a show, the stripped-back vibe allows both the vocals and lyrics to shine even more; highlighting the pitch-perfect harmonies and Anne-Marie’s ability to switch between her lower and higher register with ease. The little looks and laughs between the pair throughout the video present an endearing quality and works to draw listeners in – and the addition of the tongue-in-cheek ‘you mug’, never fails to make me smile. 🙂

 

Charlie Puth – Attention

The lead single from Charlie Puth’s upcoming second album ‘Voice Notes’, ‘Attention’ is an addictive R’n’B/Pop song that, I imagine, a lot of people can relate to. The elements of funk in the arrangement work to create something that you can really groove to, and the lyrics are dripping with sassy vibes. Puth’s vocals are stellar as always; contrasting his main, deeper vocal line with a higher chorus and falsetto accents throughout, giving the track more depth. Full of charisma, it’s a song that you can’t help but be charmed by – and let’s face it, I’m sure everyone’s got at least one ex-whatever that they’d like to sing this to.

 

Bruno Mars – 24k Magic

I know I’m super late to the party with this one but…better late than never right? I mean come on who can’t sing-along to that chorus? The lead single from Mars’s album of the same name, 24K Magic is drenched in a funk/disco vibe set to Mars’s smooth R’n’B vocals. It’s a feel good track that doesn’t take its self too seriously, and the infectious beat also makes it impossible to sit still while listening to it – I dare you to try. C’mon everyone…put your pinky rings up the moon! 🙂

 

As always, thank you for reading! I hope I inspired you to give these songs a listen. In case you didn’t know, I’ll be posting twice a week this month as part of my ‘Jammin’ In July’ series, so if you like what I do here and want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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One To Watch: Ruelle

Never heard of American singer-songwriter Ruelle? Well, if you watch TV, chances are she’s been right under your nose this whole time.

ruelle

Meet Ruelle, an electronic-pop artist based in Country music capital, Nashville Tennessee. If you’re sitting there thinking ‘I’ve never heard of her’, think again, because – if you watch a lot of film and TV – you’ve probably heard her music without even realising it.

Having released two band-led indie/pop albums under her real name Maggie Eckford, a change came when she began writing music for TV/Film. Noting a very different sound to her previous offerings, she chose to unleash this different musical direction under new moniker, Ruelle. This project sees her take on a darker, orchestral, electronic sound, comprising of swelling dark undertones and melodic, catchy choruses.

It’s this dramatic aesthetic that has seen her music featured on multiple popular television shows including: ‘Revenge’, ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and Netflix original series ‘Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments’. Her track ‘Take It All’ also featured in the season seven trailer for ‘The Walking Dead’.

At its core, Ruelle’s music is a very beat-driven, electronic sound drenched in a shadowy, haunting vibe. This, coupled with the epic, explosive choruses, works to create a sense of urgency and anticipation throughout. This edgy feel is then lifted by Ruelle’s distinctively light, yet strong, vocals – giving it an almost ethereal quality.

 Tracks such as ‘Invincible’, ‘Live Like Legends’, and – the epic-sounding theme to the Shadowhunters series – ‘This Is The Hunt’, are quietly menacing with boldly explosive choruses. Contrastingly, the dreamy, romantic sounds of ‘Storm’, ‘War of Hearts’ and, airy piano-led ballad, ‘I Get To Love You’, show more of a delicate side to Ruelle’s sound whilst still retaining that intensely dynamic feel.

Similarly, alongside the obvious cinematic quality, ‘Monsters’ also incorporates a bouncy electronic riff, keeping that almost eerie vibe whilst also creating something upbeat that you can really groove to. Whatever the sentiment, one thing that’s ever present is the trademark moodiness and addictive, charming melodies which ensure the songs leave an impression. It all adds up to something incredibly unique, and makes you want to hear more.

Having taken a break from performing over the last few years to concentrate on writing – after signing with record label ‘Razor and Tie’ – Eckford looks set to take the music world by storm as a performer with this brooding, cinematic sound. After bringing together all of her material written and recorded specifically for TV and film in the form of two EPs – 2015’s ‘Up In Flames’ and 2016’s ‘Madness’ – Ruelle is now currently working on her first full-length album. One thing’s for sure: she’s undoubtedly one to keep your eye on.

 

Final verdict:

Simply put, I really like Ruelle’s music. If you didn’t know, I also featured ‘Invincible’ in my February ‘Tracks I’m Loving’ – and it was really difficult deciding which song to include! I love the dramatic, epic-sounding vibe of her songs and the sense of urgency and anticipation they create; it’s not surprising that her work has been featured in multiple television shows and films, as it lends its self really well to cinematics. I’m definitely looking forward to the full album being released; I’m intrigued to explore her sound more, and to see if all the songs are as addictive as the ones I’ve already heard.

 

Favourite tracks:

Invincible
Storm
Monsters

(click to hear each track)

 

If you like what you hear and want to keep up to date with whatever Ruelle has coming up, be sure to follow her on:

Facebook   /   Twitter   / Instagram  /  YouTube

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Laurrhie Brouns – Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light (Introducing & EP Review)

Ex The Voice of Holland contestant Laurrhie Brouns shows that this is her time to rise.

©Ilse Wolf

Meet upcoming talent Laurrhie Brouns; if you watch the Holland edition of popular TV talent show ‘The Voice’, chances are that name may already be familiar. However, if like me you’re based in the UK – or any other country for that matter – and haven’t even heard Laurrhie’s name before…Well, that’s all about to change.

©Ilse Wolf

The Haitian/Dutch singer-songwriter released her EP, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’, at the tail-end of 2016, having written it herself as well as acting as co-producer and executive producer of the project. Describing her sound as ‘Eurokpop’, Brouns says, “this is a completely new genre that I created myself.” Fusing together elements from all of her influences, including K-Pop, Pop, R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop, she has created something rather distinctive. Brouns also taught herself to read and write Korean in order to successfully incorporate the K into the K-pop aspect of her sound, which can be heard in snippets throughout the EP; something she describes as “forming a musical bridge between the East and West.”

 

 

As soon as you hit play, it’s apparent that ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ has a futuristic, electronic vibe with K-pop accents, drenched in soul. Add in some beat-driven, addictive choruses and an overall uplifting quality, and you’ll get a feel for where this EP is going.

Opening number ‘Taboo’ kicks things off with a lively and fiercely bold feel; Brouns exudes confidence and is extremely unapologetic – and with vocals like these she has every right to be. Switching between her soulful lower register and her chills-inducing higher register effortlessly, it showcases her range brilliantly and sets the tone for the record.

This assertive attitude can also be heard in second track ‘Collective Upgrade’, during which listeners get their first taste of two languages coming together and how those short accents work within the arrangement. Laurrhie’s powerhouse pipes also come out in full force during the chorus – showing the dynamics of her vocals even more so.

‘Rise’ marries a sense of fiery determination with a soulful chorus and inspiring lyrics, while ‘True North’ slows things down a little and plays up the soul. EP closer ‘Astral Plane’ is the mellowest of the bunch, with things getting progressively softer as the record goes on. The piano-led arrangement, coupled with Laurrhie’s vocals, creates a dreamy sound that brings the EP to an end perfectly.

Overall, ‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ brings together elements of multiple different genres and blends the sounds together seamlessly – languages and all. The soulful, R&B vocals really compliment the instrumentals whilst having the power to stand out, everything coming together to create something unique with bags of positivity.

Brouns has said that through her original brand of soulful European K-Pop she hopes to “comfort, uplift and inspire”, adding “it is my intention that when you listen to my music it will lift you up…soothe you, bring you joy…move your heart and stir your soul in every way, and activate the evolution of you.”

©YoSoyVideo

As well as the EP, Brouns also has some high-profile performance experience under her belt, including multiple performances at the Amsterdam Arena – in front of 50,000 people, no less – and participating in a club tour across the Netherlands, which saw her share the stage with soulful R&B powerhouse Emeli Sande and Bob Marley’s band The Wailers. In 2012, she also went on to become a contestant on The Voice Of Holland; her powerful rendition of David Guetta’s dance track ‘Without You’ impressing the judges so much that she had her pick of the bunch. During her time in the competition, Brouns’ sensational performances saw her become a favourite among viewers and dubbed ‘the one to watch.’

Alongside this, she has also ventured into other creative avenues; swapping music for the big screen in – Dutch film-maker Lodewicjk Crijns’ 2012 project – ‘Alleen Maar Nette Mensen’ (‘Only Decent People’), in which she played the character of Shandra. Brouns was also accepted into the National Ballett Academy, where she danced in ‘Die Zauberflote’ (The Magic Flute.)

So, what’s next for Laurrhie Brouns? Recently billed by – UK Blog Awards 2017 nominee – Liquid Entertainment Online as their ‘Verge of Stardom’ artist, her talent has been compared to the likes of household names Adele, Beyoncé, and Alicia Keys, but with a unique twist. All of this begs the question: how is she not a mainstream artist, gaining regular radio-play and a well-deserved spot amongst the big names in the industry? I could see her sitting quite comfortably alongside the likes of Emeli Sande – an influence you can hear in her vocals. One thing’s for sure though, I can predict only great things for this amazingly talented lady.

 

Favourite tracks:

Taboo
Rise

 

If you’re curious to hear more of Laurrhie’s distinctive sound, you can keep up to date a number of different ways:

Facebook    Twitter    YouTube    Instagram

As well as through her official Website.

‘Ascension: Golden Seeds Of Light’ is available now from online downloading and streaming services.

 

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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