MENRVA and ISLAND BANKS, “Play It Cool”
UK/Irish duo Menrva are back following up “Locked In Your Love” with another fun deep house track, “Play It Cool”, featuring British singer of Caribbean heritage Island Banks. The punchy drum sound and quirky rhythm recall something we might hear from Aussie sensation Fisher. Island Banks’ engaging vocal reminds me a lot of Craig David, and some harmonies continue to add even more flavourful twists to the song. Despite the comparisons, Menrva have a left-of-centre original winner with “Play It Cool”, which will have no trouble at all coaxing even the most reluctant dancers out onto the club floor.
FOUR NIGHTS, “Let’s Stay Up”
Four Nights is the recording name for Ireland’s Tommy Buckley, and he has a refreshing, earnest pop sound for 2021. He writes direct, easy-to-digest songs without sugar-coating his ideas or compromising his storytelling ability. “Let’s Stay Up” is his latest song that appears on his new EP Bed. You can hear him confidently sing about what might be an otherwise awkward time for some when getting to know someone a bit better and pulling what hopefully might be a romantic all-nighter. “Let’s Stay Up” is a gracious tribute to those times which will become memorable even if they don’t turn out to be special. I enjoy Tommy’s commitment to his pop style and encourage you not only to check out “Let’s Stay Up” but also the Bed EP, which also features my favourite song of his to date, “Want You Always”, which recently reached #8 on my personal chart.
LEE JAMES and GOLD 88, “Secrets”
While there are a lot of dance music songs that are now much shorter than they used to be in today’s busy music market, a song that’s under three minutes will still get significant notice if it’s tightly packed with all kinds of musical goodness. And the less-is-more theory suits “Secrets” by Ireland’s Lee James and English/Irish producers Gold 88 just fine. Lee is a popular DJ in Ireland, still in his teens, and he’s got great symmetry with duo Gold 88, who also recently released one of my new favourites called “Give Me That” with Charlie Lane and Kate Wild. “Secrets” is as crisp and tidy that a house track could be in 2:23 but it’s elongated to 3:07 for clubs, and has a well-kept secret of its own with a sparkling vocal from an uncredited female singer.
FOUR NIGHTS, “Not This Time”
After previously being part of a rock band, late last year Tommy Buckley branched out on his own with three singles under the guise of Four Nights. One of those songs, “Want You Always” is resplendent in 80’s pop sensibility and currently resides at #11 on my personal chart. “Not This Time” is a heartfelt piano ballad with a strong build up that never goes over the top. Tommy’s story is easily identifiable to anyone who listens and is carried by a vocal whose appeal relies on its authenticity. The music of Four Nights isn’t flashy and doesn’t look to the latest trends to attract listeners. “Not This Time” is an example of solid pop with interesting songwriting that’s produced to accentuate Tommy’s strengths, and cuts through the dross in much of today’s pop on its own merits.
BLÁNID, “Fool’s Gold”
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to be in a Zoom meeting, part of which was a demo listening session. One of the highlights of that was hearing London-based Irish singer/songwriter Blánid for the first time with her recent single “Fool’s Gold”. After receiving some notoriety for scaling back the 2000’s europop hit “Dragostea Din Tei” as the acoustic “Numa Numa” last year, she has further invested in her soaring voice and superb storytelling skills in “Fool’s Gold”. If you enjoy Hozier or Sinéad O’Connor, “Fool’s Gold” is tailor-made for you. It has a deliberate pace that would otherwise be difficult to contain if not for the beautiful control and phrasing in Blánid’s voice. While it’s not for everyone, “Fool’s Gold” will find favour with folk/pop fans, and I think alternative and college radio stations would love it.
FOUR NIGHTS, “Grow So Cold”
Back in November, I wrote about the debut release by Dublin, Ireland’s Four Nights (aka Tommy Buckley) called “Want You Always”, which brought together a flair for 80’s-flavoured pop melody with a vulnerable vocal and relatable lyrics. While that catchy song has yet to run its course with me, Four Nights’ latest one called “Grow So Cold” arrived yesterday. Like with “Want You Always”, Tommy definitely has a firm way with a melody and song structure. “Grow So Cold” flows beautifully with straight up pop/rock at its core, as its story about a relationship on the wane unfolds. A steadfast vocal and hooky syncopated bass line, which is uncharacteristic for a song like this, help make “Grow So Cold” memorable and worthy of your attention.
DEAN ROBERT, “Gone”
“Gone” is the third single release from Berlin-based Irish singer/songwriter Dean Robert, former member of the Irish rock/R&B group IKONICS. It’s different and more introspective than previous Tipsy Records pop bops “Get Up” and “Morning”, with a slinky rhythm that will leave you wanting more. The lyrics unfold a story that some of us have faced – the relationship that could have been. “Gone” muses the regret behind not doing more to make it happen, but the bubbly melody gives “Gone” a real lift, and you can see Dean perform the song in the video above. I’ll pitch this one to fans of Years & Years and Troye Sivan.
MICKY MODELLE & FRIDAY NIGHT POSSE and SIMONE DENNY, “You’re A Superstar”
Here’s a text book example of how to bring a much-loved dance hit back to life. Two superstar producers from across the pond, Ireland’s Micky Modelle and England’s Friday Night Posse, have combined their major forces to reboot Canadian trio Love, Inc.’s “You’re A Superstar”, and what better way than with the voice of the original, the amazing Simone Denny? While “You’re A Superstar” was a radio hit in Canada and a dance club hit in the US, it was a Top 10 pop hit in the UK and throughout Europe in 1998. Veterans who began their careers around this time, and worked together on the “Clubland” compilations, Micky and Friday Night Posse (Harry Hard – who himself had a #1 record in the UK producing DJ Casper’s “Cha Cha Slide”) inject “You’re A Superstar” Mach 2 with 90’s techno vibes and pulsating synths along with contemporary bells and whistles to make it sizzle once again. It also is accompanied in its EP by a variety of remixes to check out. Sounding cheerier than ever, “You’re A Superstar” aims to help you celebrate the good times that you deserve.
FOUR NIGHTS, “Want You Always”
Although he has recorded as a part of the rock trio Tanjier, which has had solid local success in his native Dublin, Four Nights (aka Tommy Buckley) has branched out on his own with the 80’s pop flair of “Want You Always”. Self-described as influenced by alt.pop groups like The1975 and LANY, it’s one of two new Four Nights singles (the other being “Nothing To Say”) that have just been released. “Want You Always” immediately grabs you with that ever-so-familiar drum beat, which pervaded 80’s hits like Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” and in particular “She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals. But that’s where similarities end – “Want You Always” draws you in with Tommy’s earnest vocal which unfolds the story of being wounded by the end of a relationship that may have finished prematurely, at least through the eyes of the songwriter. The additional instrumentation comes together nicely, making “Want You Always” a warm, easy listen and a promising start for Four Nights.
DEAN ROBERT, “Morning”
“Morning” is the latest bop by Germany-based Irish singer/songwriter Dean Robert that’s guaranteed to make you dance while a deeper story unfolds. The singer ponders what it would be like to give up one-night stands and wake up with the same person next to him in the morning. Its “I know better but don’t really know what to do” approach leaves the listener to help solve the dilemma with him. It doesn’t make the song any less danceable, and like its energetic predecessor “Get Up”, there’s a lot about Dean’s music that would sound smashing on the radio. “Morning” is amiable, smart pop that’s fun in its own right.