The Listening Booth: April Playlist

Music

In this new feature on the blog, The Listening Booth, I plan to share a monthly playlist of what’s caught my ear – be that new music or rediscovering old favourites, as well as gig reviews and generally music related topics.

This month I’ve been really excited by how much great music there is out there, if you just look hard enough.

Enjoy listening! x

 

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Re-evaluating the blog…and other ramblings

Music

black-and-white-music-headphones-life

If you know me you’ll know how passionate I am about music. I completed a music production degree at university and music is a huge part of my life. It always has been.

It’s been there through every significant, as well as everyday, moments of my life. Through my love of music I met Mr. S, after doing work experience at the music company he worked at, and some of my dearest friends.

I can tell you what song reminds me of starting little school (Gabrielle’s ‘Dreams’), the band that defined my teenage years (Lifehouse) and the one that evokes memories of a hot August bank holiday, driving to Brighton, the air salty and fresh on a first date with my now husband (Modest Mouse ‘Float On’).

Music is a powerful force and I just cannot imagine life without it. As the poet Victor Hugo said,

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent

I don’t wish this post to come across as pretentious in any way and I swear I will get to the point…now! So, I feel a little like I’ve been drifting a bit with this blogging lark. Initially, as it still is, it was a platform for self-expression and somewhere I could write freely about life, fashion, beauty, my pregnancy and now Aria’s toddler years. But, as you’ll agree, life gets in the way and I’m all for spontaneity but I feel like my blog needs a little more structure. And so, my point being that I want to introduce some regular features, one called ‘The Listening Booth’ being one of them, that are more ‘me’ rather than just ‘me’ the ‘Mummy’

If you read my blog already, this may or may not be something you’re interested in subject wise, but I want to start writing a little more about my passions, music being a big one! So I thought a monthly feature where I share what I’m listening to at the moment, artists old and new, would be a great addition.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and reading about toddler recipes and potty training as much as the next Mum (well, not all day every day but you get my point!), but I’m also still my own person and think a little more self-expression can only be a good thing.

So, if you’re still reading to the end (after all my rambling!) I hope you’ll come back and read more!

Thanks for reading,

Em xx

 

 

 

 

 

Top 20 tracks of 2013

Music

I don’t know whether I’m just getting older but I feel like it’s been a strange year for music. There still seems to be a craze for folky pop and British singers adopting an American twang…naming no names.

I’ve always loved music by real artists who write about real experiences, and while they don’t perhaps always get played on Radio 1 that’s the reason I love them even more.

With that in mind, as we approach the end of another year (where has this year gone?!), I wanted to share twenty of my favourite tracks of 2013 with you.

1. Rachael Yamagata – Even If I Don’t

Ever since the release of her first EP in 2003, Rachael Yamagata has held a special place in my heart. Her heartfelt lyrics and gravelly vocals stand out more than many female artists at the moment, plus she has a great sense of humour (see her Twitter feed!)

This track from her second to last release, Chesapeake is probably one of the ‘poppiest’ on the album but I love the piano accompaniment and arrangement of the whole song. The video is cute too!

2. Sky Ferreira – Everything is Embarassing

You may remember Sky Ferreira from the electro-pop sounding ‘One’ in 2010, but ‘Everything is Embarassing’ is pure pop perfection.

Back with a mature look and sound, this year Sky really stood out with this track. The 80s beat and summer vibes made it one of my track of the year. Expect big things in 2014.

3. MS MR – Hurricane

MS MR’s vocals and sound have been compared to Florence and The Machine but I actually think they’re less pop and more Indie.

‘Hurricane’ oozes cool and it’s one of those tracks that sticks in your head, in a good way.

4. Duke Dumont feat. A*M*E – Need U (100%)

As soon as I heard this track I loved it. It’s so catchy and has such a great beat you can’t help but move to it, which is why I think the video is so great too as it represents exactly how it makes you feel!

I also think this is a track that will definitely stand the test of time, and be played year after year during Summer months.

5. Lana Del Rey – Ride

Ah, Lana Del Rey –  the singer I can’t get enough of. Everything she does makes you take notice. Her videos aren’t just videos, they’re mini films, and I for one can’t wait for a new album in 2014.

‘Ride’, released as part of the ‘Paradise’ edition of her debut album, is Lana at her best – hauntingly beautiful vocals, lyrics that tell a story and music that projects an old Hollywood vibe. She can do no wrong in my eyes.

6. Sia – Kill and Run

Although Sia is an artist that tends to shy away from the spotlight nowadays, preferring to lend her songwriting skills to other artists such as Beyonce, this track showcases Sia’s vocals beautifully.

Although not officially released as a single, this was one of the stand out tracks for me on The Great Gatsby film soundtrack. Its majestic and swooping strings fit the film perfectly, and the vibe is reminiscent of Sia’s early work such as ‘Breathe.’

If Sia is an artist you haven’t heard of before, I can’t recommend checking out her albums enough. She is an amazing and talented individual.

7. Daughter – Still

‘Still’ is such a hauntingly beautiful and sad song, I dare you to listen without feeling emotional! Although it starts slow, once the beat kicks in this track is irresistible. A firm favourite of mine from this year.

8. Camera Obscura – Do It Again

From their fifth studio album, ‘Desire Lines’ released in June, ‘Do It Again’ is such a feel good song.

Synthy-pop mixed with vocals that don’t try to hard but are full of beautiful melody, make this a welcome return from the band.

9. The Killers – Shot At The Night

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since the release of The Killers’ debut album, ‘Hot Fuss,’ but with the release this year of their greatest hits album came a new track showcasing Brandon’s vocals at their best.

‘Shot At The Night’ is another catchy track from the band proving they’ve still got what it takes to stand out from other bands at the moment, not least because they’ve honed and developed their own sound over the last 10 years – no banjo, country-esque offerings from this band!

10. Alice Russell – I Loved You

After seeing Alice Russell live at the Union Chapel a few years ago, I can confirm she is one of the UK’s most talented female vocalists. I’m amazed she doesn’t get more recognition, but unfortunately not all artists have a massive PR push behind them.

‘I Loved You’ is from Alice’s latest album ‘To Dust’ and definitely one of the stand out tracks on the album. I love soul music and this track has a real old school vibe to it, with Alice’s vocals sounding effortlessly soulful over a catchy beat and gospel-esque backing vocals.

11. Sam Smith – Lay Me Down

Sam Smith has to be one of my stand out artists of the year,  and to hear he’ll be awarded the Critic’s Choice award at 2014’s Brit Awards is great news.

Although Sam has released a few tracks this year, ‘Lay Me Down’ has to be my favourite. It feels like we’ve been lacking a talented male vocalist in the UK for a while now, and Sam couldn’t have come along soon enough to inject some raw, soulful talent into the UK music scene.

12. Foxes – Beauty Queen

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may remember my post from last year regarding ‘Ones to watch’ in 2013. Louisa Rose Allen aka Foxes was one of those artists I featured and she’s certainly gained more recognition this year.

With the release of several singles including ‘Echo’ and featuring on Zedd’s track ‘Clarity’, this is one lady making a name for herself.

‘Beauty Queen’ has to be one of the best tracks Foxes has released so far and the video, although not an official one, cleverly pieces together clips that represent the song perfectly.

13. Janelle Monae – Q.U.E.E.N. feat. Erykah Badu

This year saw the return of the fantastic Janelle Monae. Still rocking her trademark monochrome look, ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ featuring Erykah Badu is as catchy as ‘Tightrope’ was with extra sass.

14. John Legend – Made To Love

Another of my favourite artists released a new album towards the end of this year, John Legend. The first single, ‘Made To Love’ was a welcome return of John’s raw vocals and perfect musical arrangement.

15. Drake – Hold On, We’re Going Home

Although I loved Drake’s collaboration with Rihanna, ‘Take Care’ I haven’t been a huge fan of his other music. When I first heard ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home,’ I didn’t even know who it was and was actually quite surprised it was Drake.

I love the vibe of this track, from the strong beat intro that pulls you in to the synth and smooth vocals, it’s just so catchy.

16. Birdy – Wings

I’ve been a fan of Birdy since her cover of ‘Skinny Love’, and when she released her second album of original tracks this year I couldn’t wait to hear it.

The first single to be taken from the album, ‘Wings’ is Birdy at her best. Hauntingly beautiful vocals, swooping strings and beautiful piano arrangement. This is one track you don’t get fed up of hearing.

17. John Newman – Losing Sleep

I wasn’t really a fan of John Newman, even though he’d been tipped for big things. That was until I heard ‘Losing Sleep.’

Like Sam Smith, John has an amazing vocal talent that the UK has long been waiting for. Although this song is quite “pop”, it’s catchy as hell and has a cool edge that makes it stand out – even when played on commercial radio.

18. Lady Gaga feat. R. Kelly – Do What U Want

The world’s craziest pop star was back to her best this year with the release of a new album, and in particular this slice of pop perfection featuring R.Kelly.

19. Jessie Ware – Imagine It Was Us

Another artist from my ‘Ones to watch’ post last year, Jessie Ware has had an amazing year since the release of her debut album ‘Devotion.’

‘Imagine It Was Us’ has a real disco feel which accompanied by Jessie’s subtly soulful vocals make it one of her best tracks to date.

20. Beyoncé – Blow (Preview)

I couldn’t write this post without a mention to Queen B. After breaking records with the release of her visual album out of the blue earlier this month, Beyonce is in a league of her own.

Although there’s no official single release from her latest self-titled album, I thought I’d pick one of my favourite tracks ‘Blow’ to share with you. Above is a 30 second clip of the video which, similarly to Jessie Ware’s track ‘Imagine It Was Us’ has a real disco vibe which is also represented in the video.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about twenty of my favourite tracks from this year. Are any of yours listed above? If not. let me know which have been your favourite tracks this year and who you’re tipping to be big in 2014.

Thanks for reading, Stay Chic!

Jessie Ware

90’s Nostalgia

Fashion, Music

Growing up in the 90’s I remember the trends of that era well – good and bad! Whether you’re a fan or not it’s impossible to avoid the 90’s comeback at the moment. With the return of crop tops, tartan grunge and gold jewellery.

However, it’s not just the fashion world that’s embracing this, with artists like Disclosure causing us to reminisce the days of Garage and Jessie Ware‘s Lisa Stansfield-esque vocals taking us back.

There are aspects of this comeback I love – such as black maxis and lace as well as chunky gold jewellery. Below I’ve put together a 90’s inspired look and I’d love to know your favourite 90’s style items.

90's Nostalgia

                                                                            90’s Nostalgia by emlsmith featuring hoop earrings

Sleeveless top
$16 – newlook.com

Aso
asos.com

Allsaint
allsaints.com

Topshop
$13 – topshop.com

Hoop earrings
maxandchloe.com

Thanks for reading – stay chic!

Ones to watch in 2013

Fashion, Music

As we’re approaching the end of the year it’s appropriate to think about the New Year and what’s to come. Particularly who and what might make it big in 2013.

As music and fashion are both big passions of mine I thought I would mix the two in this post, and write about who I think will be big in 2013, as well as considering their style in my Top 3 picks.

3. Lianne La Havas

After seeing Lianne on Jools Holland one night I couldn’t wait to hear more. She initially reminded me of Corinne Bailey Rae, but I hate to make comparisons and it was clear she was a unique talent. Seeing her perform live at Scala early this year was an amazing experience, and her album ‘Is Your Love Big Enough’ is definitely one of my favourites this year and has just been named as iTunes album of 2012.

Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas

In terms of her style I guess you could say it’s slightly androgynous, with quirky vintage elements such as floral shirts and bombers, and beautiful necklaces. This is a trend that the high street have picked up on in recent months, and I for one love adding something different to an otherwise pretty standard outfit.

Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas

2. Foxes

I came across Foxes by chance on the music downloads website RCRD LBL when I heard her track White Coats. After that I was hooked by her enchanting vocals and the interesting musical arrangement on the tracks on her two EPs, and couldn’t wait to hear more.

Foxes

Foxes

As well as being an exciting vocal talent, Foxes singer; Louisa Rose Allen, also has a fab vintage style. As the lover of a heavy fringe, the doe eyed singer hits the spot for me and her combination of tomboy-ishness and femininity is the perfect balance.

Foxes

Foxes

1. Jessie Ware

Pop soulstress Jessie Ware had to be my number one. I was first introduced to her after she supported Lianne La Havas at Scala earlier this year, and just loved her vocals and style. I think what really made me warm to her is that she reminds me of the type of music I listened to growing up, and she has a real 90s soul feel to her music with the modern twist of using great samples to make it fresh.

Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware

Jessie’s style compliments her music perfectly and I think she’s really hit on a trend that’s big at the moment – which seems to be the refresh of 90s style. Her signature style is high waisted trousers or skirts combined with cropped tops and big jewellery, with her hair mostly in a high bun – something I saw a lot of her fans imitating at her gig at Concorde 2 in Brighton last month.

Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware

After already having a fantastic 2012 which included being nominated for the Mercury prize, Jessie is surely destined for even bigger things in 2013.

Rihanna: Fashion Icon | pt2 Style & Musical Transition

Fashion, Music

In part 1 of my Rihanna post in November I focused on the TV program Styled to Rock.

In part 2 I wanted to look back at how Rihanna’s style has evolved since the release of her first single Pon de Replay, and what has made her the style icon she is today.

Looking back to 2005, when the singer released her first single, it’s clear to see her look was more pop princess than vocal vixen. Her music and image at that time are a stark contrast to today, and I really think her style evolution mirrors her music.

Back then it was all about a squeaky clean pop image, as many record companies love to mould their stars into, however as the years have passed Rihanna has really come into her own and you feel she has a huge input and influence on her style and music today more than ever.

Rihanna in 2005

Rihanna in 2005

I think we started to see a darker, more sensual side to her music and style on the release of her Rated R album, and she really started embracing more adventurous and unique fashion. Particularly with her Hard video, which included a gorgeous spiky couture outfit with Rihanna sporting a new cropped hair cut. The songs on this album such as Russian Roulette showed a tougher, darker side also, reinforcing the fact this was a woman who was having more say in her look and music.

Rated R Album Cover

Rated R Album Cover

Hard Video

Hard Video

One thing’s for sure, Rihanna is certainly capable of taking on a new persona on every album she produces.

After Rated R came Loud, which showcased more dance style tracks and long flowing red locks. With Talk That Talk we’re back to a cropped hairstyle and filthier song lyrics than ever.

I would say her current style reflects a coming of a age woman, with the release of her current recent album Unapologetic. One who was able to pull off a questionable tights/shorts combo at this year’s Hackney Weekend, and at the same time look stunning in a white Alexander Wang cut away dress on the final of The X Factor.

Rihanna at Hackney Weekend

Rihanna at Hackney Weekend

Rihanna in Alexander Wang at The X Factor final

Rihanna in Alexander Wang at The X Factor final

For someone like Rihanna, who has managed to produce an album a year without fail for the past 7 years and change her style gradually on every one, what can be next? As the singer approaches her mid-20’s we’re already seeing a more mature Rihanna, but one who’s still able to have fun and hire her own private jet full of Champagne! I for one can’t wait to see what’s to come in the next 7 years.