Maggie Rogers – Heard It In A Past Life (Review)

After finding long-awaited fame from a viral video of Pharrell Williams listening to her debut track “Alaska”, Maggie Rogers dropped her debut album on Friday. “Heard It In A Past Life” features 5 tracks that have already been released as either promo’s or on her debut EP “Now That The Light is Fading.” With 7 tracks not heard of before, I’m ready to get my ears into this glorious album. I’ve been a fan of Maggie’s electronica music for a few years now and she honestly gets better and better.

Putting her folk vibes slightly to bed, it’s Greg Kurstin’s production skills that has really brought Maggie’s pop elements out more. “Give A Little” was released as the 3rd single for the album. Described on a handwritten note, Maggie re-introduced herself in a more ethereal-pop way. It was this song that made fans realise that she was going for a bigger production and not the sitting round a camp-fire kind of songs. She has the voice to pretty much do any type of music that she wants too. Inspired by more political views, the national school walk out in the US affected Maggie in a way that it made her become empathetic and wanting to make a change. Gelled with rhythmical but memorable vocals, it’s a proud song to have in your song collection and a beautiful message is shone throughout. 

A heartache song to Maggie’s past self. Everything changed “Overnight” for her, she had to find her feet on the ground there and then. Everything had to be figured out and put together with the snap of her fingers. People don’t realise how hard that is until you go through it yourself. “Things get strange, but I’m alright, I’m still here” is the perfect lyric to imply that things really did surprise her in the way that it all suddenly happened. There’s nothing that can really prepare you for the fame and fortune lifestyle, but Maggie did it with grace. As a songwriter, the perfect way to tell a story is to simply write a song. 

A song that deals with the simplicity of shrugging knowledge off by dancing with your friends after dark until the early hours. “The Knife of insight tore its way in meA brash collision without sympathy” insights that sudden facts entered Maggie’s mind. In other words, when Maggie got the recognition she truly deserved, everything started to make sense. People that aren’t your true friends will come back into her life to jump on the band wagon, making her think “wait a minute, you haven’t been here for years? I don’t need you in my life.” The Knife’s story needs to happen to everyone once in their life time. Simply let off some steam with a dance.

The worldwide phenomenon “Alaska” blew everyone away from the first listen. With over 90 million streams and counting, the folk-dance (that is now a thing thanks to Maggie) is an astonishing mixture of breathtaking vocals, layered percussion that’s not too much and homemade ‘samples.’ The samples include a talking sample coming from a hand drum, a rhythmical pat on her jeans, a snap of the fingers and a morning dove. Imaginative and clever, the balance of the story is mirrored straight through to the end. We hear Maggie’s love for hiking in natural habitats and dancing. Two completely different things that make Maggie. Alaska, I feel is an introductory song to the girl behind the track. It’s filled with anxiety during the verses but the chorus calms down that momentum with “and now, breath deep, I’m inhaling.” This implies that it’s time to chill and live right here, right now. Alaska is free and liberated for Maggie, it’s a place where she found her ‘new’ self.

“Light On” identifies the feeling of Maggie’s transformation from a private to a public figure. It seems that the album is fitted around her self change and how fast things happened. Leaving a light on implies that she’s so grateful for her fans showing her the light in what she feels can be darkness. Covered in the pop elements that the album is featuring quite a lot, Light On is fresh and filled with energy. The first song written for the album was actually track number 6: “Past Life.” Stripped back to the bones, the track is bare but feels so alive too. Recorded in one take, the end of side A is a perfect send off to her past self, just like a butterfly flying out of its previous lives cocoon.

Getting D’Angelo/Thundercat vibes from “Say It.” Inspired by a crush that Maggie had at the end of graduation, she wrote the track with two of her friends from college. I’ve noticed with her songs that she always sings the actual song title, with that it really cements the basic pop structure. Gaining a bit of grit, the emotions are poured through Maggie’s vocals and the hip-hop grooves that blanket over them with warmth.

A previous track of Maggie’s is “On + Off”, a story about a back and forth relationship but being together is comforting, even though sometimes letting go is the easier option. A humble track that I feel that we can all relate to in some way or another. 

Drowning in a stream of thoughts, Maggie created Fallingwater” due to rapid change. We’ve hit this subject quite a few times now so you’d think we’d get bored with the topic already. There’s just something about how she can take one subject and explain it in so many different ways. Elements of vulnerability are portrayed through the gospel inspired track. It’s a cry for help through a hard transition, but bursting at the seams are acceptance. Like finishing a chapter in a book, time to finish the page and move on. Taking us more towards a synth-pop based tune, Retrograde” is simply about a breakdown. Defining retrograde is moving backwards. Maggie dusted herself off and didn’t look back. She moved forward and let go. 

“Burning” is a dance track purely about love. Maggie loves what she does and you can tell that 100%, but in this song, there’s something different. We hear her becoming this role model and it really shows us how far she’s come. From being that shy girl who loves nature, she’s become confident with herself and knows she’s capable. As for the instrumentation, I feel it gets a bit repetitive and doesn’t move anywhere. She’s explaining that she’s a flame of love, so surely the mix should be slightly warmer and energised? Personal preference I guess. To conclude a wonderful album is “Back in My Body”, a track that’s able to do the things you love, but to do them in your own, unique way. As Maggie has found her feet in the fame and fortune world, she’s most likely being controlled by management. You could say this is a rebellion to say “no actually I’m going to do things my way, or it’s the highway for you.” It’s a sense of coming home and feeling comfortable with yourself. A perfect finish to a really well crafted album. 

Favourite Tracks: Give A Little, Overnight, The Knife, Alaska, Past Life, Say It, Retrograde, Burning

Score: 8/10

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Rachaayluu – Angel (Review)

Latest single from Rachaayluu, who is currently studying vocals at BIMM in London, is the graceful, “Angel”. Based in London while studying but originally from the West Midlands, the track sounds influenced by that personal experiences of trying to be this type of “angel” to someone special in your life (a partner or even a friend) and they just not accepting who you really are. Saying that, I feel the track was intended to be more off “I’m the angel on your shoulder helping you, why won’t you realise I’m here?” vibe. Dropped only a few hours ago, this anticipated track is already making followers go crazy and creating well deserved fans for Rachael. 

Creating a dark pop atmosphere, the song begins with angelic vocal harmonies soaked in a layer of reverb. As the main lyrics come in, rhythmical vocals is how we remember the simple but effective lyrics. Before we know it, we’ve reached the first chorus. The lyric “i could be your angel darling, see me in the moonlight falling” is simply about a falling angel. “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” would be the perfect pick up line to associate with this track. The heavenly motion of the track makes you fall head over heels. The instrumentation is set on a type of loop that fits the repetitive message perfectly. Written and recorded by Rachael herself, the track was then mixed and mastered by Zac Viney. 

FFO: Charli XCX, Karin Park, SEYD

Score: 3.5/5

“Angel” is available on all platforms.

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Tiger Bay – Sesh. Love. Sun. Style

A music project created by Brad Hunter, Tiger Bay, as he had so many new musical ideas that he didn’t feel were being fulfilled in his path at the time. Part of the Cardiff’s music scene, you could say his latest release “Sesh. Love. Sun. Style” is a concept EP, each song showcases each element. I wrote this E.P shortly after splitting with my old band “Nuclear Lullaby” in 2018. I wanted something fresh and exciting for me. I have always been inspired by Britpop bands and so most of the influence behind this release has been the likes of Blur and Oasis with a hint of Radiohead. My favourite band of all time is Biffy Clyro mainly because no album has a defining genre. One minute its heavy, then its soft, then its folky so you never know where you are heading. The name of the album was created by describing each of the tracks in one word e.g. Track one= Sesh, Track two= Love etc…So you end up with Sesh. Love. Sun. Style.”

First, we have a track that’s explicit and represents an argument Brad had with his girlfriend. The song actually does sound like an Oasis type of structure but with the elements of Biffy Clyro’s “I don’t care” attitude… well, I suppose both bands had/have attitude problems. I really love the intro into the track, it’s like a noisy wave of the noughties nostalgia again. For a self recorded EP, the mix on this track is spot on to showcases the opinionated nature of “I Love It.”

An ode to love, “Partner in Crime” is weak at the knees in love with the meaning of love. A song that would be perfect for a wedding dance, it’s filled with all the aspects of easy listening, acoustic and a pure message of love. It’s warming and somewhat cheesy, but as The Beatles said All You Need is Love. The fragility and rawness of the track makes it feel that we’re there with Brad recording the track. It’s human and a wonderful message as there really isn’t enough love in the world right now.

Written in the sun in California, “Rum & Coke” is a feel good, coming of age track. It seems that the subject is revolved around finding yourself in a time you really needed to do so. The lyric “I landed face down” implicates the emotion of failing but the continuity of the track proves that Brad just got back up and dusted himself off to try again. The last track, “So Edgy” has that 90’s alternative rock style to it which is definitely making a come back right now. This has to be the stand out track of the whole EP, probably because it’s the track you can relate to the most. Brad implied “Cardiff is full of hipsters, but not the real ones, the fake ones who claim to be hipster and arty/edgy but never support the live music scene or give a f*** about art at all, so that song is a sort of mick-take regarding Cardiff’s epidemic”. This could also link with people being on their phones at gigs even though they bought a ticket to see the artist, but that’s just the world we live in right now. People don’t seem to want to share experiences anymore with humans, only their devices. 

A lush EP of some great songs. I’d definitely be interested to hear the songs polished off in a studio, but the raw, self-produced sound compliments the emotion of it all.

Favourite Tracks: I Love It, Rum & Coke, So Edgy

Score: 7.5/10

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The Creature Appeal – You Shouldn’t, But I Know You Probably Will (Review)

Local indie band, The Creature Appeal, from Birmingham released their debut EP in October 2018 which has already had quite a lot of streams on Spotify as well as their debut single having over 6,000 streams alone. They’ve been played on BBC Introducing a fair few times too. Implying that they hope to release new tunes quite soon, I’m interested to see where the band lead too. Indie bands are prominent at the moment which I’ve already exclaimed in a previous review post. 

“Nine” begins with a vibrant melody on guitar that soothes our ears for the EP ahead. The song may be situated within an indie genre as the vocals seem very Liam Fray (The Courteeners) & Van McCann (Catfish & the Bottlemen) but the production of this track feels a bit too bright and in your face to be an indie rock track. It feels a bit more pop-punk orientated. Reaching just after the half way mark, it takes us into a half time groove that really fits the song nicely. Indicating this breakdown means that something big is going to happen, in this songs case; the last chorus (pioneering part of almost every song structure). A full, full of wit track.

A far heavier approach to their songwriting, the riff sounds like a tone that Queens of the Stone Age would play. “Where Will I Find You Tonight?” is a track that symbolises the band’s effort to not just stick a few songs together to make an EP. “We took inspiration from things we had in our everyday lives: heartache, bus rides and nights out. We tried to make these themes consistent throughout the EP to tell a short story about a failing relationship as we wanted the project to be more than just a collection of tracks”. This song is a lot different to the first track and a stand-out one in their discography. Including a fun sample of “You Heard What I Said”, the song keeps you entertained all the time.

“I Need to Know” has a lovely production and the instruments blend together to create a warm, secure environment for the insecurity of the track. Saying that, it feels that the vocals don’t dynamically shift and it feels a bit repetitive after a while. I really like how the bass is doing anything that it wants, it’s free but still melodic. Only thing missing is a memorable hook-line that you will never want to get out your head. “Circular Sunglasses” is a hip, down with the kids kind of track. A tune that fans will be screaming out to the play when you’re playing live. The 4 piece band say they draw influences from the late Viola Beach, Kings of Leon & Arctic Monkeys to list a few. They’re currently unsigned and are currently gigging promoting their latest release. As a whole, the EP is original and filled with versatility. You get to hear the boys rock out a bit, then chill us out with some easy listening melodies. 

Favourite Tracks: Nine, Where Will I Find You Tonight, Circular Sunglasses

Score: 7/10

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Introducing: Killing Faith

Featuring the partnership of Faith Davies & Max Killing, the duo have released two tracks over the past week. Studying at Kidderminster College is probably one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s a college where you literally have the free rein to make the music that you choose to make, plus the lecturers there are all masters of their own craft. From Phi Yaan Zek (read my live review of his here), Andy Edwards (Robert Plant, Frost*) & Steve Lawson (solo bass player), they strive to help the students in any way shape all form.

The first track that Killing Faith released was only two days ago, called “The Boy Who Lost His Mind”. Before listening to it, I saw the artwork and simply thought “wait, is this going to be metal?” It was a nice surprise to find this subtle indie track hiding behind the nun’s cross. Faith’s loose vocals aren’t perfect, but the craft and some what simplicity of her vocal phrasing compliments the song perfectly. Reminds me of the Amsterdam band Pip Blom who are plummeting the music scene good and proper at the moment. Instrumentally, the playing is inexact but yet again, the imperfection of the track makes you like it more and more. Only thing I could say to improve on is to work on the mix, as sometimes the instruments feel a bit lost. Got to give it to Faith for playing literally everything on this track except bass – multi talented or what?

Now it’s Max’s turn to play everything except for Alto Sax. “Expensive Habits” is a bit obvious of what it’s about. We get stuck in nasty habits and end up spending our money on things we don’t need *cough* alcohol to name one *cough*. This track has a more jazz inspired feel to it, but it is still situated within the indie genre. Both tracks have a laid-back approach. Faith’s track has a kind of nature that’s similar to Catherine Tate’s “Am I Bothered?” or Alanis Morisette’s “You broke my heart, now I’m going to stomp on yours!” Whereas Max’s track is a lot more chilled and sounds influenced by the kind of music Superfood writes. It just works, there’s nothing really else to say apart from it’s music that you’d listen to for chilling out. Short but sweet and full of wit, I’m excited to hear future releases from the duo. Maybe even some gigs? Be interested to see them play all the instruments… looping could work perhaps.

Big shout out to Kidderminster College Music for the freedom that you let the students have with creating songs that are definitely personal to them. 

Score: 3/5

Restless Youth – My Medicine (Review)

The third studio release from Theo, known as Restless Youth, is the personal track “My Medicine”. From Glastonbury in the UK, Theo began to write songs at the young age of 13 after being inspired by the history of reggae and artists such as the Marley family. Theo describes his songs as “protest music”, I think this is because of his personal interaction with the music. He goes deep into his emotions, and My Medicine just confirms that.

“Music is medicinal to me, and profoundly important to my personal wellbeing. I often write protest songs about contemporary issues and politics – but in all honesty most of the time that I’m playing/writing music I’m processing my emotions and giving my mind a rest. I think it’s crucial that everyone finds an outlet like that; most of us have no problem taking some paracetamol and getting an early night if we feel rough physically, so why shouldn’t we assign time to care for our mental health? Whatever your medicine is, use it, it’s not a waste of time.” 

Beginning with a reverse type of effect, this version of My Medicine features a full band arrangement, whereas live Restless Youth usually plays it solo with a loop pedal. I’m very intrigued to hear how he can make this song work acoustically, as the percussion and bass gel the song in such a warming way. As for Theo’s vocals, he has a folk-pop orientated vocal range, which ironically makes the song feel slightly more folk-pop then reggae. It’s diverse and a completely original approach to reggae. With a memorable hook line and identifiably cheesy lyrics, Restless Youth’s My Medicine is a drug in which you become addicted too. 

Score: 3/5

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Muse – Simulation Theory (Review)

One of the most famous trios of all time, Muse released their highly anticipated 8th studio album 2 months ago today. With hitting number 1 in the UK album charts, the album takes Muse towards their electronic influence. With a lot of fans dissing Muse for not sticking to their pioneering stadium rock tunes, this album takes us through an aesthetic, colourful science fiction journey. Cooperating a huge sound for a trio, Dominic Howard (drums), Chris Wolstenholme (bass) and Matt Bellamy (lead vocals/guitar), you can hear influence from Jeff Buckley in Matt’s vocals, which sore us through a nostalgic sound that is “Simulation Theory”.

With the protagonist realising he is in some kind of simulation, he eventually ‘awakens’ and attempts to escape from this false reality. If you’re asking me, “Algorithm” would be perfect for a Black Mirror episode (if you know, you know). Vocals don’t arise until the 1.36 minute mark, by then, we are ready in anticipation for Matt’s warming vocals. The song doesn’t feature many lyrics, in this case, Matt really does stretch out each word to be longer then it actually should be. As for the instrumentation sounding quite game like, the imagery implies that this would be a perfect song to play if there ever was a war between, not necessarily robots, but technology as a whole. It’s a strong opener for Simulation Theory, and has a different approach for Muse (mainly the production), but it still is them down to the tee.

One of the biggest tracks on the album hears the return of similar guitar effects to the Origin of Symmetry era. As for the subject of the track, “The Dark Side” deals with mental illnesses; paranoia and depression. Mental health is probably at it’s most powerful in the world right now, so releasing a track from one of the world’s biggest bands implies that yes, even the most famous people in the world struggle too. The Dark Side deals with a perfect balance of the alternative rock and electronica that Muse desired for. This compliments and details the instruments perfectly… basically, you can hear everything spot on in the mix and the blend of it all works amazingly. 

“Pressure” was released in September as a single. Matt Bellamy explained that this is a heavier song for Muse and talks about the pressure that their fans build to keep playing in their previous styles. Pressure takes us into a sort of “Prince attempting to play with EDM beats over a heavy guitar” kind of sound. As for the orchestral parts, it feels like the band just said “oh, we should have some orchestral arrangements as we haven’t had that yet on the album!”, so in other words; forced. The music video has elements to the Back to the Future franchise, but technically it’s better as Terry Crews is in it… random.

terry crews pca GIF by E!The overall arrangement of the track is definitely more pop orientated and mainstream for my liking, but that’s a personal preference.

Using a vocoder effect on the microphone (similar to The 2nd Law’s ‘Madness’ ) instantly makes this song sound unusual. It sounds like Matt Bellamy is trying to be like Justin Timberlake, aka sleazy and smooth. It just doesn’t work that well in my eyes. “Propaganda” is about manipulation of the truth and lying. It’s a dig at governments and leaders who showcase “fake news”. Well, NOW we know who Matt is aiming this at. It’s the production that draws me into this track more than anything else. Produced by Timbaland, Rich Costey, Angel Lopez, Federico Vindver & Muse themselves, the production is in your face and can’t be ignored. Perfect for Muse.

Beginning with a rhythmical guitar part sounding badly out of tune, it initiates a feeling low kind of mood, or that something bad is going to happen and this is exactly what “Break It to Me” is about. “Break it to” usually means to reveal information that someone doesn’t really want to hear. In Matt’s case, he’s wanting someone to give him bad news, probably to make him stronger as a person. Lyrics Don’t dress it up but don’t beat around the bush, And don’t cover it up but don’t push it underground deals with Matt trying to find out the truth from his partner, friend, anyone (that part’s never really identified). This track has a subtle eastern music influence on it, with the choruses having a memorable indian esque hook line, just a shame that it’s drowned in autotune. The track reminds me of Korn with a pop arrangement – an experimental tune that will definitely grow on you.

The next track takes us more into this era, sadly. It’s modern and fits perfectly in the mainstream charts right now. That’s sad to me because it’s not necessarily “real.” Mainstream music is usually overproduced and doesn’t sound ‘human’. Ironic really, Muse were just looking for a song that was simply “Something Human”… bad joke, i apologise. It’s a shame as the concept of the song deals with going home and seeing loved ones after a long time of touring. The production just implies that when he gets home, machinery will still be everywhere, just like it is when they’re on tour. It’s a tricky one as I think this is what Matt intended to have the production like. There’s no escape from technology, it is simply everywhere we go. Longing for Something Human means connecting with someone else, not your mobile phone. This song is heartbreaking as in a way, we are all trapped by technology. Black Mirror really did warn us…

“Thought Contagion” features vocals influenced by a theremin melody that Matt created. The track describes that in today’s age, ideas that may well be incorrect, will still have a big power over what you do. Basically, leaders of the government have these bad ideas and they have great power over you, but what can you really do about it? I guess write a song in Matt’s case. The sleazy bass line takes us from the beginning, straight to the end. It’s the glue that holds all the pieces together. Towards the end of the track, Matt plays a synth-like guitar solo which you can just hear would blow a whole stadium away. Even though, it’s primarily electronic, Muse definitely made this rock, leading back to their old alternative rock approach to their music. I’m sure some of the old fans like this song, as it really is another stand out, stadium track. 

Beginning with a vocal phrase that reminds me of something that Dua Lipa or Ariana Grande would have in their songs, it definitely wasn’t something that I was expecting from a Muse track. I don’t know how to react.Get Up and Fight” is simply put as a pop ballad. It’s cheesy and is something that you probably would hear in the Eurovision song contest. It’s a protest song to an extent, as it’s about reaching goals and telling people to simply get up and fight for what they believe in. It’s a bit too trashy for my liking and not something that I’d listen to again. The backing vocals from Tove Lo makes it somewhat more cope able. 

It seems that Matt Bellamy has a preferred vocal phrasing that he does. That has it’s pros and cons, cons being that it gets repetitive and pros being that he can simply be identified. I’d love to hear him sing a bit more out of his comfort zone because we’ve been hearing near enough the same vocals all the way through the album. “Blockades” is another example. Saying all that, as you get older, your voice matures, this could be the exact reason why Matt’s voice is usually situated in his preferred vocal phrasing. The flying arpeggios in Blockades are assertive and can’t be missed. This is the Muse that I love. Floating in synthesisers and 8 bit goodness, Blockades is FFO: New Order, OMD, Yes.

Starting with an effect that reminds me of The 2nd Law’s production on Madness (again), “Dig Down” is about hope and being optimistic. The message portrayed is strong and was lacking slightly in the album. The instrumentation isn’t that exciting and isn’t memorable. With elements of a gospel/blues arrangement, it’s still pop orientated. It really feels with this album that Muse changed the way they thought and decided to create more mainstream music, maybe to please more people OR they simply had a different approach to their music that they were hearing. 

The last track on the standard edition is “The Void”. Matt exclaims in this track that the power is in our hands and no one else’s. Not in the government’s power, it’s in OUR power to change, to become a better world. It’s great that Matt has these views and stands up for what he believes in, but it’s never really indicated what exactly he is fighting for or what we need to change to become a better world. With an element of Stranger Things (even the artwork for the album was designed by Stranger Things artist Kyle Lambert), Muse have transported us back to the 1980’s with some good songs. The message that they are signalling is that we keep moving forward as a world. In that case, why are they making it sound like the 80’s again? It’s a revival, a comfort as such, to a time when things were simpler and we will get there again.

Favourite Tracks: Algorithm, The Dark Side, Propaganda, Break it to Me, Thought Contagion, Blockades

Score: 7/10