#Review: Oliver Tree – Ugly Is Beautiful

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Muzik Speaks Loves Atlantic Records - SmallerOliver Tree is one of those artists it’s hard to define. Whilst there are some who insist that he is nothing more than an internet meme, his artistry is undeniable and there’s something instantly captivating about him. Having released a heap of singles since signing to Atlantic Records in 2017, it’s only now, in 2020, we’re seeing the release of his debut album, Ugly Is Beautiful. Here’s what we have to say about it…

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Ugly Is Beautiful is the first full-length release from Oliver Tree, who announced his early retirement in March 2020 – only to return in May with the announcement of his debut record, after a hacker held Oliver hostage in exchange for 1 million Instagram likes (which he logged in under 24 hours).

Having already been delayed twice (once due to Covid-19 and once due to the George Floyd and anti-racism protests), this highly-anticipated debut album proves to be worth the wait. Whilst his appearance, to some, is outlandish, this internet personality, musician and filmmaker has made a genre-defying record if ever there was one. Right from the off, Oliver Tree makes his way through a wide variety of genres, from alternative indie rock to hip hop and pop punk to electronic with a great sense of conviction that is nothing short of highly infectious.

One thing that is incredibly impressive about Tree, throughout the album, is his ability to ensure the listener doesn’t take any one moment too seriously or equally to pass it off as a joke either, using lyrical whit to guide the way. One such track is ‘Joke’s On You!’ where Tree makes his feelings known in the line, “Well yes in fact, my dignity’s intact, while I listen to ‘em laugh,” – here he is obviously making light of the fact that people often see him as a joke yet he’s made something of himself and maintained his dignity in doing so.

There is definitely a sense of nostalgia about Ugly Is Beautiful.

One of my favourite tracks has to be the distortion-heavy, electronic-laiden ‘1993’ (featuring Little Ricky ZR3), which was an instant favourite for me as it sort of epitomises much of the album. He uses tasteful electronic elements alongside intentional distortion giving it a real grungy, edgy feel – like much of the record. ‘Again & Again’ is another track that uses those gritty, distorted vocal effects but it equally has a certain radio-like quality to it, due to its indie-rock vibes.

There is definitely a sense of nostalgia throughout Ugly Is Beautiful too with tracks like ‘Jerk’ reminiscing of a down-tempo Nirvana song, ‘Bury Me Alive’ with its quick-fire delivery, like that of a Beastie Boys track or the David Bowie-esque qualities of ‘Miracle Man’.

However, the only time Tree feels truly familiar is on his previously-released singles, ‘Let Me Down’‘Alien Boy’ and ‘Hurt’, whilst the rest of the record feels new, exciting and refreshingly undefinable. This is a vision that is truly unique and entirely his – this is less an act and more of a glimour into the world of Tree, through his eyes.

Although Tree insists this is his “magnum opus” and that he is to retire from music and focus on film-making and producing instead, his label (Atlantic Records) say, “Ugly Is Beautiful is only the beginning. Stay tuned for more from Oliver Tree.” So I guess we will just have to wait and see! Either way, it would be a real shame if this were to be all we hear from him again.

Rating
4


‘Ugly Is Beautiful’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/ugly-is-beautiful/1514394064


Ugly Is Beautiful on Spotify

Hurt (Official Music Video)

Let Me Down (Official Music Video)

Bury Me Alive (Official Unofficial Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of Oliver Tree’s debut album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#Review: The Chicks – Gaslighter

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Dixie Chicks are a well known country pop band comprised of singer Natalie Maines and multi-instrumentalist sisters Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Strayer. The group initially formed in 1989 , in Dallas, Texas and have, to date, released 7 studio albums. Now, 2020 sees the band release their eighth record and their first album in 14 years, Gaslighter. It is also the first record to be released under the new name, The Chicks, following the George Floyd protests. Here’s what we have to say about it…

The Chicks - Gaslighter.jpg

The album launches with title track, ‘Gaslighter’, a no holds barred anthem about the breakdown of Maines’ relationship and ultimate divorce. In fact, this particular topic provides a lot of material for the album – it was originally slated to be a simple record of covers in order to fulfill their contract with Sony, but following her divorce, she was inspired to start songwriting again.

‘Tights On My Boat’ is another one of those tell-all tracks detailing an affair her ex-husband had, with a lover, on the couple’s boat, on which she discovered a tell-tale pair of tights. The track (along with a couple of others) is written with pop songwriter and artist, Julia Michaels. Additionally, the trio collaborated heavily with Taylor Swift‘s 1989 producer, Jack Antonoff, seeing him take production credits for the record and some songwriting credits too.

This album certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to personal or political songwriting. ‘March March’ takes a look at issues of gun control, climate change and underfunded education and puts them through a contemporary bluegrass lens. Whilst ‘Set Me Free’ is all about Maines looking to be released from her marriage.

It’s an exciting pop take on a country record that is likely to reignite fans’ passions for the band and pick up a whole host of new ones along the way too.

Possibly some of the best tracks on the album come in the form of ‘Sleep At Night’, a banjo-led candid look at her ex-husband’s affair; ‘Texas Man’ with its upbeat rhythm combined with rousing lyrics and the captivating vocal riffs of ‘Young Man’.

Possibly my favourite track on the record has to be ‘Julianna Calm Down’ – it builds beautifully throughout with a really catchy, contemporary pop edge to it. Whilst ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ has some wonderful vocal harmonies and a sense of honesty about reflecting on how Maines met her ex-husband.

The Chicks may have changed their name and their new music may well have a certain degree of poppiness that die-hard country fans could cringe at, but this is exactly the evolution you would expect from the band’s last album back in 2006, to where they are today. It’s an exciting pop take on a country record that is likely to reignite fans’ passions for the band and pick up a whole host of new ones along the way too.

Rating
4


‘Gaslighter’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/gaslighter/1499733036


Gaslighter on Spotify

Gaslighter (Official Video)

Sleep At Night (Official Video)

March March (Official Lyric Video)

Julianna Calm Down (Official Lyric Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of the band’s eighth studio album? Are you as much of a fan as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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#FeelGoodFriday: Jonas Blue & MAX – ‘Naked (Club Mix)’

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Since its release a couple weeks ago, the anthemic ‘Naked’ has amassed over 13 million global audio and video streams, but now the hit-maker Jonas Blue and exciting young talent MAX are releasing the club mix of their collaboration, which sees Jonas create a mix true to his roots.

This particular track is a high-octane display of the pop hitmaker’s specialist production talents. Armed with pumping kick drums and euphoric piano keys, the club mix adds a fresh dimension to the already, highly-infectious original, making it the perfect track for this week’s #FeelGoodFriday.

No music video has been released for the club mix but the original music video can be seen below, featuring the pair performing amongst neon and silhouetted ladies.

What are your thoughts of the club mix of this pair’s new single, ‘Naked’? Do you have a #FeelGoodFriday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘Naked (Club Mix)’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/naked-club-mix-single/1520494645


#WildCardWednesday: The Pussycat Dolls – ‘React’

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The Pussycat Dolls are back, making a return with their sassy new single, ‘React’.

Having taken a 9 year break, the girl group are back (minus Melody Thornton) announcing a new world tour and album in the pipeline. The quintet (made up of Nicole Scherzinger, Carmit Bachar, Ashley RobertsJessica Sutta and Kimberly Wyatt) made a triumphant return on the UK’s X Factor: Celebrity, performing a string of their hits before leading into their brand new song, ‘React. The group’s performance attracted over 400 complaints to ITV due to their raunchy outfits and sexual dance moves – well done girls! Keep up the good work.

The song talks about a relationship where the one person is trying to get a reaction out of the other and topped by a catchy chorus and sexy rhythm.

The video is just as you’d expect, packed with sexy outfits and sexual dance moves, featuring the group performing in scenes of both fire and water, making for a great viewing – it’s not the most interesting video in terms of concept but they sure know what their audience wants to see!

Turn it up loud and check out the girls’ return to form! I can’t wait for the album.

What are your thoughts of this girl band’s first reunion single? Got a #WildCardWednesday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘React’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/react/1494489816?i=1494489827


#TunefulTuesday: Simple Creatures – ‘One Little Lie’

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Simple Creatures are an American pop rock duo made up of Mark Hoppus (blink-182, +44) and Alex Gaskarth (All Time Low).

To date, the pair have released a couple of EPs – both in 2019 – and had a string of singles but possibly their most catchy song is this track, ‘One Little Lie’. This is such a great crossover between pop and pop punk with it’s rockier verses and synthpop style choruses that you can’t help but just want to listen to it over and over again.

Lyrically it is diverse too and resonates with quite a few people, I’m sure – I know it means a lot to me and provides an anthem for my own recent struggles, so I’m sure it does for others too.

The video for the song is pretty fun too, packed with facts and lies, leaving the viewer to decipher between fact and fiction as the pair become increasingly surrounded by objects referenced in some of the lyrics.

Turn this track up loud, put it on repeat and enjoy the video!

What are your thoughts of this duo’s catchy track and fun video? Do you have a #TunefulTuesday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘One Little Lie’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/one-little-lie/1475817979?i=1475817985


#MellowMonday: Justin Bieber – ‘Intentions (Acoustic)’

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It’s #MellowMonday and today is all about the acoustic version of Justin Bieber‘s latest single, ‘Intentions’.

The original version features Quavo but for this stripped-back version, Bieber has chosen to go at it alone. This particular rendition shows off his dynamic and impeccably talented vocals perfectly, and is a nice nod to his origins of being more acoustic based.

The almost rap-like flows of some of the vocal melodies make for a really interesting experience on an acoustic track but they work really well.

The overall chill vibes of this track are ideal for a relaxed Monday and although no music video exists for this version, your mind can’t help but wander to summer days and dream of lying on a beach or enjoying a BBQ with friends.

We’re addicted!

What are your thoughts of this acoustic version of Bieber’s latest single? Do you have a #MellowMonday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘Intentions (Acoustic)’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/intentions-acoustic-single/1503395021


#FeelGoodFriday: KOOLKID – ‘Feelings’

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Scottish singer-songwriter, KOOLKID, has just released his captivating new single, ‘Feelings’, written by KOOLKID himself, alongside Lewis Gardiner (ex-drummer of Scottish band, Prides).

The single is a soaring, modern pop ballad which flaunts KOOLKID’s emotion-drenched vocals with engrossing, forward-thinking production.

“Falling in love with someone who is already in a relationship is never a good thing. ‘Feelings’ is an upbeat pop anthem that is sure to make you reminisce being in this situation,” says KOOLKID. “You know you have certain feelings, but you only want to feel them with that one person, but you can’t. I feel like we can all relate to being in this situation at one point in our lives. I have and that is why I wrote this song.”

The singer hails from Glasgow in Scotland, where he was surrounded by live music from a young age. Since the age of 15, he has been building his musical identity with constant songwriting efforts, as well as cutting his teeth with live performances up and down the UK.

An accomplished songwriter, KOOLKID has penned tracks for some prominent pop acts, including K-Pop icons BTS. The Scotsman co-wrote ‘Mikrokosmos’ from the group’s chart-topping EP, Map of the Soul: Persona. The relationship between KOOLKID and BTS looks set to continue with future releases in the pipeline!

This latest single sees one of the UK’s most exciting, up-and-coming young artists continue to leave his mark in the contemporary music market.

What are your thoughts of this singer-songwriter? Got a #MellowMonday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘Feelings’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/feelings-single/1493801876


#FeelGoodFriday: Midnight Skies – ‘Falling Apart’

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When Matt emailed me to say we had some Pop-Punk to review, I was on it like skaters on a freshly waxed library fire escape. Anyone who knows me, knows I love Pop-Punk and I’ve ruined a fair few Spotify algorithms whilst DJing in the passenger seat, to prove the point (sorry Allen!). Here’s what we had to make of ‘Falling Apart’ from Pop-Punkers Midnight Skies

‘Falling Apart’ is the third single from Seattle’s Midnight Skies. The trio only formed in the summer of 2018 but have been steadily releasing content and building a decent following in that time. As always, the Pop-Punk scene is awash with bands claiming “energetic live shows”, “fun-loving” and “always up for a party” but at the end of the day, good tracks in this genre need three things and this review is broken down across such things:

Thing #1It needs to be “short and sweet” – and unfortunately ‘Falling Apart’ is a full 4 minutes long. Now it would be wrong to judge purely on the length of a song but it doesn’t feel like the track uses the time well. This single could have easily ended prior to its middle 8 and no one would have noticed, but the change of pace here is welcome and worth the wait. The song then classically falls back into its chorus, as it should, but rather than ending here, there is a 30-second outro that dampens the energy of the song by drawing it out for too long. It feels like the band are trying to crowbar in all the features we enjoy in a good Pop-Punk song, some of which really work, others not so much.

Thing #2It’s gotta be catchy! All great Pop-Punk anthems have great hooks and this is no exception. The chorus has a great melodic and lyrical hook which I haven’t stopped humming around the house since my first listen. Its initial repetitiveness, followed by the falling melody with the title lyrics bring memories back to classics from Hit The Lights and Forever The Sickest Kids, leaning slightly more towards the pop than punk element of the genre. This also comes through in the production of the track, which contains many effects across the track, especially on the vocals. Personally, I have never been a big fan of this, but I know some will love it!

Finally Thing #3Does it get the party started? Absolutely! It’s definitely a track that will at least get your head nodding, but stick it on at a party and I think it would get people dancing. Mostly this is down to the driving rhythm and the use of the double snare hits on the drums that give the track a lot of pace. This only relents within that middle 8 section which slows the pace down and adds some nice dynamics to the track.

Overall, this is a good track but it struggles to stand out in an already dominated field. However, if you saw these guys live and heard this track, you would remember it and hearing it again would send you back to a good night out. It feels like a blank canvas ready for you to attach your own good times and every time you put it on, I hope it would cast you back to a good night out with friends.

For Fans Of:
Forever The Sickest Kids, All Time Low, The Summer Set

3

What are your thoughts of this Pop-Punk band? Do you have a #FeelGoodFriday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via our social media.

Rob Manhire
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‘Falling Apart’ is out on We Are Triumphant and can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/falling-apart/1485448144?i=1485448820


#FeelGoodFriday: Kesha – ‘Raising Hell’ featuring Big Freedia

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It’s been a couple of years now since Kesha released her rather open, honest and clearly very healing 2017 album, Rainbow.

Now, 2019 sees the pop songstress release a downright catchy-as-hell new single, ‘Raising Hell’ (featuring Big Freedia), which also comes alongside the announcement of her next record, High Road.

This latest song sees Kesha return to a more fun-filled pop sound but with a fresh feel and something seriously uplifting about it! The brass-led breakdowns are funky and will get a crowd moving, whilst gospel-like moments really raise the spirit of the track. It’s definitely the kind of track you can keep on repeat.

It also arrives with a music video directed by Luke Gilford, where Kesha assumes the role of a big-haired, ’80s-style televangelist, preaching her own unique message and making the congregation speak in tongues…that is before things take a very dark turn! Well worth a watch (below)!

Her new album, High Road, comes out 10th January 2020, and is set to feature the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Brian Wilson, Dan Reynolds (of Imagine Dragons) and Nate Ruess (of fun.) – personally, I can’t wait!!!

What are your thoughts of this pop songstress’ new track? Are you as much of a fan as us? Do you have a #FeelGoodFriday track to recommend us? Please leave your thoughts or song suggestions in a comment or via social media.

Matt – Muzik Speaks
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‘Raising Hell’ can be downloaded off iTunes now – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/raising-hell-feat-big-freedia/1484385866?i=1484385869


#Review: The Rocket Summer – Sweet Shivers 🐝

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The Rocket Summer is the solo project from singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Bryce Avary. Since self-releasing his first EP in 2000, at the age of 17, Avary has gone on to release a total of 7 EPs, 7 full-length albums and a live album too! Now, 2019 sees the release of his seventh studio album, Sweet Shivers. Here’s our thoughts on it…

The Rocket Summer - Sweet Shivers.jpg

From the offset, it’s clear that Sweet Shivers is a much more experimental album than his previous efforts, thought it’s still distinctly The Rocket Summer.

We’re instantly thrown in at the deep end with opening track, ‘Morning Light’, a much darker introductory track than some of his previous efforts – there’s a twinge of a more mainstream Nine Inch Nails vibe to it!

We’re then led nicely into ‘Shatter Us’– whilst I’m not keen on the trumpet-like synth effect, the vocal melodies in the chorus and the plonky piano are incredible, especially paired with the very personal lyrics.

‘Blankets’ is possibly one of my favourite tracks on the album – the full-on verses are juxtaposed by the beautifully whispered chorus, making it powerful and captivating. Melodically it is a stunning track and has something a bit Biffy Clyro about it.

We’re then treated to ‘Gardens’ – like an experimental pop track where Avary has clearly played around with production – Jamiroquai inspirations seem to come through in places. ‘Peace Signs’ has a lovely yet simple, descending guitar melody that loops throughout and a strong vocal melody to the chorus. And in the spirit of looping, ‘5 4 3 2 1 Z’ has a looping piano melody, combined with brass sounds and an understated vocal melody. Maybe the most commercial-sounding track on the record, though it completely changes pace two-thirds of the way through before coming back to the original chorus.

‘Wannalife’ then seems to act as an interlude between the first and second half of the record. A nice little acoustic number about his life’s desires.

Overall though, this is a well-written, if slightly more experimental album, that could divide the fans.

As a long-time lover of The Rocket Summer, it pains me to say that ‘Sweet Shivers’ is very much an album of two halves – the first half being a lot stronger than the second. The second half has a lot of melodies that kind of blend into one.

Additionally, throughout the record, there are some rather quirky synth sound choices that I’m not convinced work, at times sounding a little cheap and underwhelming.

‘Slomo’ and ‘Keep Going’ are both pretty forgettable, while ‘Together In TX’ has an edgy breakdown, which stopped me from skipping the track. ‘Apartment 413’ has a dark melody and this is lyrically reflected in the tone too.

It’s the final two tracks that are saving graces for the latter part of the record. ‘World’s Greatest’ has some great deep vocal melodies and heavy bass synths with an amazing breakdown that continually builds back up to the end of the track. Whilst ‘m & m’ is possibly the strongest track in the second half, bringing the album to a strong close – there are intense vocal melodies and a fast-paced drum beat, plus funky guitar riffs and a Busted-esque synth at the end. A great track to end on!

Overall though, this is a well-written, if slightly more experimental album, that could divide the fans. That said, there are plenty of moments to enjoy, so fans will still find parts they love. I’m certainly still a lover of The Rocket Summer and appreciate his artistic license to be experimental, but I hope his next record might return a little more to his roots.

Rating


‘Sweet Shivers’ is out now and can be downloaded from iTunes – https://music.apple.com/gb/album/sweet-shivers/1473282206


Sweet Shivers on Spotify

Morning Light [Official Music Video]

Shatter Us (Official Music Video)

Blankets (Official Music Video)

Peace Signs (Official Music Video)


We hope you’ve enjoyed our review! What do you think of The Rocket Summer’s latest album? Do you share the same opinions as us? What would you rate it out of 5? Please leave your thoughts in a comment or via our social media.


Enjoyed this? Check out some of our other reviews here:

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Matt – Muzik Speaks
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