Saturday Flashback: Precious – Say It Again

“I’m down for getting a mob together”

Tim: Currently being fairly successfully on British radio is Frances’s song Say It Again; it’s by and large quite good, with one exception. Have a quick listen to that chorus line, 34 seconds in, and then play this, the mid-table British entry for Eurovision 1999.

Tim: And what a TOP pop song that is – verses don’t have much to them and are arguably a tad forgettable, but that key change is prime example of a feature/benefit mix.

Adam: Who doesn’t love a good key change? This song is so ridiculously nineties and I’m loving it. The horn stabs. The vinyl scratches. The insane use of wind machines in the music video.

Tim: Right? But on top of all that, though, is that chorus line, “Say it again, say yeeaahh”. It’s a true all time classic, and yet Frances has SHAMELESSLY STOLEN IT, and I think that’s just rude.

Adam: It doesn’t matter because Precious wins. Her song is much better in my opinion. I’m down for getting a mob together and starting a riot though – I keep my pitchfork sharpened for these kinds of situations.

Tim: Damn, if only you’d been around when we wrote about Calum Scott.

Lisa Ajax – Love Me Wicked

“I’m starting to regret suggesting that Fridays be Tropical Fridays”

Tim: Friday’s here, so grab yourself a pineapple for today’s TROPICAL TUNE.

Tim: Hmm. To be honest I’m starting to regret suggesting that Fridays be Tropical Fridays, because let’s face it there is basically nothing notable about this and there are better tracks we can feature. However, four weeks ago Tom said it’d only last a month and I am entirely determined to prove him wrong, so let’s do our best with what we’ve got. And it’s, okay, I guess?

Adam: I’d say you’ve timed it perfectly because the weather’s been pretty tropical lately.

Tim: Oh that’s certainly true – it’s just the one a week thing might have been pushing it, as there’s really not a lot to say here. The melody’s decent enough, the tropicalness is all there as it should be, and she’s got a decent singing voice.

Adam: Another jittery chorus here to haunt you Tim! I’m not a big fan of it this time round. I think the fade effect on Lisa’s vocal does a bit of a disservice to her voice. The beat has enough of a bounce without artificially introducing more. One time is fine but it’s a bit overkill to do it over and over again.

Tim: I suppose it’ll fit fine on a “flight to Hawaii” playlist, but in future can we have less of a “this’ll do” attitude please.

Adam: It does a good job of transporting me to another place. That place is a dark club with sticky floors, sweaty dancers, and Malibu & pineapple juice/Sambuca shots.

Tim: Eurgh. Given they were probably going for summery beach resort, that’s probably not a compliment.

Adam: I guess it could be in Hawaii. Maybe it’s the song or maybe it’s just this heat!

Laila Samuels – Last Day Of Our Lives

“That video makes it incredibly difficult for me to like this song.”

Tim: Still just me, which may be for the best – we all know how Tom in particular feels about kids choirs in songs, and its no safe bet that anyone else would like them either. Basically, if you’ve got a thing about them, you’ll want to switch off at about the 3:20 mark.

Tim: And I’m left wondering what on Earth Laila is doing there? Positioning herself as some sort of second coming, surrounding herself with people who love her as a miracle worker and then viciously eject people who disagree with them. Good thing we don’t do politics on this site, or I could draw all sorts of comparisons that might lose me some friends.

To be honest, that video makes it incredibly difficult for me to like this song. Sometimes gentle and brooding is a good thing, and sometimes it’s just dull. Sometimes kids choirs can be inspirational, and sometimes they can be mediocre. On both those counts, this song seems to be on the borderline, and that video just pushes her right into negative territory. Sorry, Laila – be a bit less self-infatuated next time, and I might be on your side, but right now: nope.

Autoheart – Oxford Blood

“Very gloomy, but two things save it.”

Tim: All me today – well, me and our reader Drake (probably not that one) who sends us this, on the basis that we’ve reviewed their track Moscow a few years ago and liked it and we might like this one. Fair assumption. It’s the second track off their upcoming second album, so have a listen.

Tim: And it took me a couple of listens, but I think I’m on board with this one as well. Very gloomy vocally, most notably in the verses – almost overly so – but two things save it. First, that melody in the chorus, which I absolutely love, though I dearly wish I could think where I recognise it from. Second: the synth line that starts during the middle eight and then keeps running throughout the closing chorus. For those two reasons, I am IN.

Galavant feat. Clara Mae – Parachute

I really don’t think I could dance to that at all.

Tim: Readers, Tom is currently off swanning around in the arctic circle, because that’s the sort of thing he does; in the meantime, temporary recruit Adam is here to fill in. Say hello Adam!

Adam: Hello Adam!

Okay, now I’ve got that seriously bad dad joke out of the way–

Tim: I’d be disappointed if you hadn’t made it, to be honest.

Adam: –we can actually get to know each other.

My name’s Adam, I’m 27 years old and I’m a serial underachiever. Basically I’m no Tom Scott, so go easy on me.

My only exposure to Europop has been (drunkenly) watching Eurovision. I do like to call myself a musician though so maybe I can bring something to the table.

Tim: Adam, you won’t know this, but we featured Galavant just a couple of weeks ago; They’re a pair of Swedish producers who’ve now roped in the similarly Swedish Clara Mae, who presumably has a surname but it seems we’re not destined to know it,

Adam: I’ve done my research!!! I listened to Make Me Feel and I definitely think this has more on offer.

Never heard of Clara Mae before.

Tim: Me neither, as it happens, and I can’t find out much about her, sorry.

Adam: Nowadays you can’t complain when an artist tries to make things a little more dynamic.

Tim: Oh, he wasn’t – that styles’s almost a cliché now – but to be honest I’ve come round to in a lot. Here, in contrast, they’re just on/off/on/off, and I really don’t think that works at all. It’s just way too staccato, and I really don’t think I could dance to that at all.

Adam: I’ve seen you dance. What did we say? “It’s like having a seizure in time to the music”.

Tim: Yes, but it just stops too much. A shame, because the rest of it’s good – she’s got a perfectly decent vocal, the melody’s fine – just that chorus production.

Adam: Nooo! I think the chorus is it’s redeeming factor. There’s no real hook but at least the chorus has some movement to it.

Tim: First track, first disagreement. I think we’ll got on just fine.

Bastille – Good Grief

Tom: Our reader, Alan, sends in the first single from Bastille’s new album. The video is very NSFW thanks to a surprising amount of artistic toplessness.

Tom: Brilliant video. Love the video. Love everything about the video.

Tim: It’s a fun video, certainly – not sure I quite get the overarching narrative, mind, but okay.

Tom: The song is… well, it’s Bastille.

Tim: Not just that, it’s good Bastille.

Tom: I can sing the chorus after one listen, so that’s a mark in its favour, and I’ll probably like it when it turns up on the radio — inevitably, repeatedly on the radio. But for some reason, as you can tell by that last, long, run-on sentence, there’s something cynical set up in my head.

I can’t work out why it hasn’t won me over. Is it just that I don’t like it, and the video distracted me?

Tim: I don’t know, because I do really like it. I listened again to be less distracted by the video, and I’ve heard it on the radio, and I’ve liked it whenever I’ve heard. Give it another go, why don’t you.

Tom: I will, but it’ll be while I’m gone. Our reader may have noticed some changes around here: partly that that’s because the site design was five years old, and partly because while I’m off for three weeks without an internet connection, someone is taking over for me. Tim, I’ll leave it with you.

Tim: I’ll try not to damage anything.

Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Cartoon Heroes

“It’s a shame we didn’t use this video to be more prepared.”

Tim: Why? Oh, no particular reason, except that Apple Music suggested a Hits of 2000 playlist to me this week and this was at the top, and I thought we could do a retrospective, and see how the various heroes are doing these days. (Quick note: in case you’ve still not got round to seeing them but want to, this will have spoilers for both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman.)

Tom: Can you believe that I’ve never seen that video? Because I’ve never seen that video. That is a brilliant video.

Tim: You really haven’t? Well, yes it is brilliant, and in fact the first thing we need to do is note how weirdly prescient that video intro is – less than a decade later, humanity was indeed attacked by a giant octopus, and we did have to resort to somewhat unusual means to survive. Admittedly we needed Mega Shark to save us in the end, as Aqua were on hiatus at the time, but in hindsight it’s a shame we didn’t use this video to be more prepared.

Tom: It looks like they predicted the steampunk craze by about five or ten years, too. And yes, Aqua’s shtick was a bit ridiculous, but let’s not forget just how good this is as a pop song. I don’t think there’s anything actually wrong with this song. At all. This still stands up today.

Tim: As for the heroes mentioned in the song, well, Spider-Man’s in very good health, ably working with Iron Man to hold his own against the likes of Captain America and Ant-Man. Assuming the one running at the speed of light is The Flash, he’s doing alright as well, though slightly hidden away right now. Superman, on the other hand is ever so slightly dead, but hopefully that’ll change soon – we’ll check back in another sixteen years.

Mike Posner – In The Arms Of A Stranger (Brian Kierulf Remix)

“Almost all of the goodness.”

Tim: You’ll remember Mike Posner – he was the one who last summer took a pill in Ibiza, and before that thought that we thought we were cooler than him. You’ll also remember that last Friday it emerged that putting a tropical beat on a piano based track doesn’t always improve matters. On the other hand, since it’s Friday, let’s hear how it can.

Tom: That intro sounds ever so slightly like the Macarena.

Tim: The original, found here, is an actually pretty good track, and happily, almost all of the goodness – melody, vocals (front and back) – makes its way through to here.

Tom: It also loses the ridiculous “bum, bum, bum” introductions from the original, because, look, if you’re doing vocals like that, maybe use a syllable that isn’t “bum”? I realise it doesn’t have the same meaning in US English, but it’s the equivalent of having a choir sing “ass, ass, ass”.

But anyway, well, all the good stuff makes it through.

Tim: Not only that, but unlike yesterday the stuff that’s been added to the remix serves to make the song even better, as I see it anyway. A good beat for you to chomp on a pineapple to, some gentle marimba stylings and all in all, a nice mental image on lying on a beach, shaded by some gently wavering palm fronds, in the arms of the aforementioned stranger.

Tom: That’s a very specific mental image, Tim.

Tim: But isn’t it a nice one?

CHVRCHES – Bury It (Keys N Krates Remix)

“Eurgh.”

Tom: Our reader, going by the name “RedBassett”, sends in this remix. He describes it as “a very clean blend of the original music and the additions”.

Tim: Eurgh.

Tom: I describe it as “bloody awful”.

Tim: Yeah. I didn’t have a hugely negative reaction at first, but then I realised I hadn’t actually heard the original; I did, and then realised that every single redeeming feature came from that.

Tom: Sorry to our reader, but sometimes I have to call ’em like I hear ’em, and in this case what I hear is (not one of the better) CHVRCHES songs being mangled by what seems like an incompetent automatic remix generator. I handed up doing something I haven’t done to a song in a while: skipping forward a couple of minutes to see if it got any better. It didn’t.

Tim: No – if anything, it’s worse, with those additions at the end just being really rather dull. Bleh.

STEELE – Deep Water

“I expected there to be some sort of earthshattering kaboom.”

Tim: You may remember STEELE from her previous single Follow, or at the very least the description that came with it, including amongst other wonders “a musical maze that’s full of emotion and passion”. That metaphor clearly worked for her, because here we have “a dark maze of large soundscapes and dreamy melodies”.

Tom: I’m not sure “maze” is a good metaphor for songs. After all, surely you don’t want to get stuck listening to it forever?

Tim: Well…

Tim: So here’s the thing: STEELE (capitals apparently obligatory) goes on to say that “at first it strikes you as this mystical song and you’re not quite sure where it will take you, but once the beat comes in it brings a smile to my face and makes me wanna dance”. The first half of that, absolutely – mystical, not a clue what’s happening.

Tom: And it’s a really successful introduction and first verse: it builds wonderfully, the production is interesting and novel in a good way.

Tim: Right. But then, smiling and dancing? Really, really not (and not just because I had to wait until the song’s halfway point before the beat came in).

Tom: Agreed. Perhaps I’ve just listened to too much EDM likely, but there was no moment where this actually kicked in. It was a slow, steady, constant build, and while that can work if it’s what the audience is expecting (for all I know, her fans might be expecting just that), I expected, at some point, there to be some sort of earthshattering kaboom. Or at least a drop.

Tim: Isn’t it weird? I picked that moment because there is a slight increase in energy there, but to be honest I felt like I had to check I was listening to the right track a couple of times. This is just, well, a tad depressing really, and very much doesn’t fit with the line “the energy and vibe that builds throughout is so uplifting and enchanting”. Is it just me that doesn’t get this?

Tom: It’s not just you. The end of it is just plain unpleasant.

Tim: Good – in that case I think we can confirm this is the most misguided PR piece we’ve ever received.