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Pop Music

As the trends in music evolve, as does the definition of pop music. Pop started as an abbreviation for popular; since the mid-20th-century, it has become the go-to term to define the music currently holding the most favour with the public. The evolving nature of pop makes it hard to pinpoint the pioneers; some say it all started when performers needed a catchy and memorable song in the Victorian area, while others say that pop began with the original crooners in the 30s.

The introduction of the pop music charts in 1952 allowed a cultural shift to form around music. It was at this point in history that teenagers became a massive target for the media. Before this new social reconstruction, there had been no in-between for children and adults. Just as it is now in the TikTok age, where teenagers can make an unknown artist go viral in minutes, teenagers effectively ran the music industry in the 50s too!

After Elvis Presley reigned supreme in the late 50s and early 60s, the Beatles dominated the charts for eight years until they disbanded in 1970. Throughout the 80s, synthpop took the pop limelight until the Boy Band era was born in the 90s. The selling power of East 17, Take That, Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync gave Bob and Chris Herbert the idea to manufacture the world’s ultimate girl group; with the Spice Girls, they discernibly succeeded. After the Spice Girls topped the charts, more manufactured pop acts, such as Britney and Mariah Carey, started to surface. Manufacturing is still a massive part of the pop industry, but more and more pop artists are becoming brave enough to break the mould (think Billie Eilish, St. Vincent and Lorde).

Even though the pop charts are more diverse than ever, with Ed Sheeran sitting next to the Weeknd and Dua Lipa next to Tom Grennan, there are still common factors in their pop tracks. Today, most songs that fall into the pop category follow the extensively tried and tested pop formula. Generally speaking, pop tracks are 3 – 5 minutes in duration, use just one key, contains melodically lyrical soundbites that include the title, have a repeating chorus and keep to 4/4 time signatures. Repetition is quite literally key.

Unless it is a ballad or a stripped back acoustic number, pop tracks usually unfold to danceable tempos and rhythms to complement the lyrical hooks. Elements from every genre can be pulled into pop, the main ones being rock, RnB, hip hop, country, Latin and dance. Indie pop was a force to be reckoned with at the start of the millennium, but two decades in, it has lost its foothold to hip hop and RnB, which have become pop genres in of themselves.

Negate your way through the chaos with Midamerican Elevator’s jangle pop compass, Turn Left

With jangle pop guitar melodies reaching the epitome of effervescence under the dreamy vocal honey which tastes just as sweet as the harmonies that ensured Debbie Harry’s name would never be lost to history, the latest single, Turn Left, from the Chicago Indie Rock outfit, Midamerican Elevator is a resonant revelation.

By lyrically tracking how hard it can be to keep pace with the tumultuousness of modernity and how easy it can be to go around in circles, Turn Left speaks volumes to anyone who knows how it feels to be consumed by the franticness of society that leaves so many of us without a compass.

Between the killer chord progressions which elucidate that Midamerican Elevator will never be pedestrian at best and their capacity to fuse soul with style, they’re ones to watch out for. We’re stoked they’re back on the airwaves following the successful launch of their 2022 debut LP, Moon Ruler.

Turn Left will give indie rock fans a sense of direction on November 17th; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Jeff Jepson has released his haunting hymnal gem, The Good-Night Song

The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Jeff Jepson is set to garner a fresh wave of impassioned reverence with his Christmas-tinged EP, Sparkle. If this is your first acquaintance with the artist who rose to fame in Liverpool and has recently replanted his musical roots in the Isle of Man, the standout single, The Good-Night Song, is the perfect introduction to the master of poignant melody.

Whether it was the finiteness in the lyricism or the way the acoustic guitar’s euphonic rings intensified the affecting sting within the captivating vocal delivery in the arrangement which visualises the sparseness of winter branches, I couldn’t help but shed a tear as Jepson’s evocatively honeyed timbres quivered in the frost of the hymnal gem which will haunt you long past the outro.

The Sparkle EP illuminated the airwaves on November 10th; kindle your affinity with the 4-track release via Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Connor Fyfe has released the stickiest earworm of the year with his new wave indie track, Cars

After becoming the youngest act to sell out Kings Tut in Glasgow and perform at TRNSMT, the 17-year-old Connor Fyfe is already in the habit of making history with his songwriting chops that are as sharp as they are sticky-sweet. His latest single, Cars, gives plenty of clues to how his ascent has been an unfaltering upward trajectory since leaving school in May.

With a bigger-than-Blossoms synth-drenched sound that borrows from the new wave synth pop genre while ticking all the right indie rock boxes, the momentum within Cars is momentous, but the adolescent prodigy knew just when to inject a sense of fragility and vulnerability into his vocal lines to ensure it’s a track that sucker punches the emotional and rhythmic pulses simultaneously.

Co-written with the legendary Ross McNae of Twin Atlantic, Cars pulsates with commercial appeal; each intricately clever chord progression embeds the earworm even deeper while the soulful synergy between the impassioned vocal lines and synthy indie rock synthesis ensures it will deliver endless euphoria.

With the promise that there are plenty more tracks in the pipeline, don’t be surprised if Connor Fyfe is one of the biggest Scottish artists since Lewis Capaldi.

Cars will officially be released on November 17th; stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Jake Speikers captured a daydream of longing with his 80s-swathed new wave single, Nostalgic.

With music fans clinging to nostalgia like there’s no tomorrow, the Minnesota singer-songwriter Jake Speikers has shown them the future of 80s-integrated pop with his choral dream of a new wave single, Nostalgic.

With Phil Collin-esque drum fills punctuating the dreamy atmosphere of the release which finds the middle ground between The Midnight and Cigarettes After Sex, the nostalgic pop wheel wasn’t reinvented, but it was creatively reimagined in this impassioned earworm that captures a daydream of longing in panoramic picture that you’ll want to expose yourself to time after time.

If you can’t get enough of the DIY pop artist’s achingly sweet sonic signature, you won’t have long to wait for the release of his debut, which traverses his experiences of coming out, heartache and coming of age. We’re already invested.

Nostalgic will hit the airwaves on November 17; stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Hanley showed us the future of the pop ballad with ‘So Much for Being Real’

After the success of the 2022 EP, ALIVE, the up-and-coming artist Hanley has shown us the future of pop ballads with the celestial timbres within their latest piano pop score, So Much for Being Real. Through the sequence of crescendos which punctuate the plaintive piano keys beneath the pure yearning within the vocals, you’ll feel your soul stir as much as the instrumental arrangement which emanates the kind of radiant enlightenment which only comes via acceptance and emotional intelligence.

Promises becoming little more than empty platitudes is one of the greatest betrayals we will ever experience in life, there’s little solace to be found in the bitterness of naivety after being swept up in an idea of perpetuity, but Hanley’s latest composition which was delivered with superlatively spacey compassion hits the mark of solace with perfect precision.

So Much for Being Real was officially released on October 27; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Drift into a higher dimension with the latest interstellar single from Rae Larz, ORACLE

Back in February, Rae Larz invited us to a tea party with a cosmic difference via her single, Tea in the Stratosphere, going by her latest release, ORACLE, she’s still reigning interstellar supreme.

After a sequence of moody stabbing synth lines, the Brooklyn-based artist’s demurely magnetic vocal lines start drawing you into the gravity of the release by transitioning between the high vocal harmonies and sermonic spoken word utterances which command with sublime conviction.

ORACLE may be more niche than your average synth pop release, but the singer, songwriter, and producer never compromises with her deep emotional expression and visualises soundscapes that are infinitely more enriching for the heart, body, soul and rhythmic pulses. Freedom emanates through every progression within ORACLE; unshackle yourselves, especially if you’re a fan of Black Honey, She Draws the Gun and Warpaint.

If you can’t get enough of Rae Larz after hearing ORACLE, you won’t have long to wait before her vibration-raising EP hits the airwaves.

ORACLE dropped on November 3rd; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Gain the permission to live autonomously free with The Close’s 90s pop-rock single, Living It Right

With a nostalgically 90s pop-rock edge which cuts as deep as the hits from Jewel, Sheryl Crow, and Alanis Morrisette, The Close came close to perfect with the standout single, Living It Right, from their debut album, Orbit.

The debut LP pushed the introspective genre-bending outfit’s monthly listeners up to impressive heights. Now, over 36k listeners are repetitively tuning into their intricately airy melodies which transcend expectation and effortlessly share effervescent transcendence.

You’ll be torn between attempting to match the flawlessly magnetic timbres in the vocal delivery as they verse the virtues of living autonomously free and leaning into the mellifluous interplay of the ethereal synergy within the instrumental arrangements and harmonies.

Aside from the very obvious superlative song crafting which sets The Close apart, the outfit also finds distinction by employing each member as a lyricist, musician and lead vocalist, resulting in a dynamic discography, which dabbles in everything from Americana to contemporary folk to country. A commercial pop sensibility is one of the few constants within their euphonically unshackling collection of lyrically intimate releases.

Living It Right was officially released on October 27; stream it on Spotify with the rest of the Orbit LP.

Review by Amelia Vandergast  

Synthpop’s silver-tongued evocateur, Cavono, exhibited his cultivated authenticity in his soul-draped single, Smooth Talking

The silver-tongued soul crooner Cavono has revolutionised the synthpop landscape with his deep, bass-y and baritone vocal lines in his latest single, Smooth Taking, which does exactly what it says on the tin.

By transcending the synthpop trend and staying unapologetically true to his urbane expression style, he delivered yet another elegant and cultivated track that will swallow you whole as you experience the smooth nostalgia-tinged melodies against the ardent backbeat, which exemplifies the singer-songwriter’s impassioned air that you’ll want to share time after time.

Before releasing his official debut single, ZELUS, in 2022, the Illinois-born, Fort Worth, Texas-based artist struggled to find a genre he resonated with, compelling him to craft his own delectably debonair sonic signature. By taking fragments from his favourite artists, including Dean Martin and DNCE, and carving out his own melodic niche, he became one of the most promising artists in 2023.

Smooth Talking is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

aimée became the queen of quiescence with her superlatively stripped single, Poison

Irish singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer aimée is no stranger to euphonic etherealism; with her latest single, Poison, she reached the pinnacle of dreamy, decadent-with-soul art-pop. Like a sonic intravenous shot of intoxication, the single unravels through complex time signatures the choral consolation of her glassy vocal lines and a sense of quiescence which allows the track to deliver all-consuming catharsis.

After receiving plaudits from BBC Introducing, YEO Magazine, and airplay from Northern Ireland’s biggest radio station, aimée has been making major strides with her beguilingly pure sound that remains untarnished by the serious accolades. There’s a real sense that there’s no room for ego in her explorations of the beauty of life and the ache of heartbreak.

Following a string of sold-out shows at some of the most iconic venues in Dublin and Belfast, the songstress has relocated to London to work alongside some of the country’s top producers on her forthcoming singles and form her six-piece band, which is set to take her live performances to the next level.

Stream Poison on SoundCloud now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Emilie Thorsby drenched her latest single ‘Ocean’ in a sea of artful tranquillity

Emilie Thorsby

Capturing the calmingly vast natural beauty of the ocean which allows us to feel part of something bigger than ourselves within a soundscape couldn’t have been an easy feat, but the Danish singer-songwriter, Emilie Thorsby, resoundingly succeeded in her artfully alternative single, Ocean.

Through saturated almost shoegaze-y guitars, an electronica arrangement that breaks down cultural barriers as fluidly as the ocean moves without constraint, and vocal lines that resound with a sense of serenity and spirituality, Emilie Thorsby lived up to the hype that her countless accolades signify.

After releasing six singles, Emilie Thorsby has been recognised by EGW Magazine, several of her singles have gone into rotation on US radio stations, including NBC, and she was also nominated as the female artist of the year in 2022. We can’t wait to see the strides she makes in 2024.

Ocean will be available to stream on Spotify from November 11; stream the scintillating single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast