Julian Perretta – Karma

“I’m not hugely in the mood for a coconut.”

Tim: Tom, I was in two minds today. On one side, it would be nice to keep Tropical Fridays going until the end of September, as a decent cut off point, and there are still numerous tracks being released. On the other, I think we gave it a nice farewell last week, and it’s utterly pissing it down outside as I write this so I’m not hugely in the mood for a coconut.

Tom: Euphemism.

Tim: Fair. But what to do?

Tim: Essentially, let the music choose, or rather the lyrics.

Tom: It’s difficult not to start adding the word “chameleon” in there, you know.

Tim: Also fair, but actually not that. Really, once I heard the line “even though you’re such a bitch I need you now”, I was hooked, and then realising the song was in fact being sung to a vaguely religious concept to request that it punishes his ex-girlfriend just dragged me in.

Tom: What the hell’s happened with those vocals, though? There’s some really weird processing on them. That’s not autotune: it’s some weird vocal effect.

Tim: Hmm, perhaps – but then vocal distortions of all sorts have become very much in vogue recently. Admittedly they’re normally consigned to a few syllables in the background, but I guess it’s only a matter of time before it’s everywhere.

The later revelations that he’d already had a conversation with anger and isn’t on speaking terms with jealousy got me figuring the song was too peculiar to let pass by. Not sure we’ve ever had something like this before; to be honest, I’m not sure I should be taking it as seriously as I am doing, because let’s face it it’s just a bit of nonsense standing in front of a fairly decent tropical beat. Inspired nonsense, though.

Tom: You say that, but I think I can tell you exactly what’s inspired it. It’s the canonical pineapple track: Kygo’s Stole the Show. That “karma, karma” is just “darling, darling”. The structure’s the same. The synth pads are the same. “Anger told me that I couldn’t get no sleep” is the same two-tone end-of-verse melody as “our debut was a masterpiece”.

Tim: Hmmmmmmmm…yes, you could be right, and maybe that’s a reason I like it.

Tom: It’s basically the same track. Not close enough to be sued over, perhaps not close enough to be deliberate, but certainly similar.

Tim: Well, I wouldn’t say “basically the same” – I didn’t hear it until you pointed it out – but I’ll give you similar.

Dragonette feat. Dada – Sweet Poison

“An absolutely brilliant vocal, perfectly delivered.”

Tim: Press play, enjoy.

Tom: One extra comma would make that sentence so different.

Tim: Oh, Tom.

Tim: Since the last time they combined forces, I’ve actually been able to find out who this Dada guy is – he also goes by the name Matt Schwartz, mostly working behind the scenes as a writer and producer, with songs ranging from Wamdue Project’s King Of My Castle to, erm, Joe and Jake’s You’re Not Alone.

Tom: That is an eclectic mix of pop songs, and a mix that spans decades. Well done to him.

Tim: Occasionally it seems he jumps to the front, such as here, where the combination is very, very pleasant. I could list the reasons – particularly for me, the “two wrongs don’t make a rii-ihgt” in the pre-chorus and, of chorus, that glorious “feeeeel” vocal – but really I’d rather just keep listening to this.

Tom: It is an absolutely brilliant vocal, perfectly delivered. Crucially, it’s one that not every singer could do: frequently we find tracks like this where the vocalist could be switched out with no great effect on the music. Here? Not so much.

Tim: One of my favourite tracks of the past few months, I’d say, so I’m just sticking it on repeat.

Tom: I wouldn’t go that far: it’s certainly pleasant, and a cut above what we normally have here, but it’s not going on repeat for me. And that’s down to the melody and the composition: it’s beautifully produced, but I just don’t like the song. Not even the greatest vocalist can help with that.

Silja Sol – Dyrene

“A much better instrumental/synth backing than the vocal itself.”

Tim: The video won’t make any sense at all until I tell you that ‘dyrene’ is Swedish for ‘animals’, and if I’m honest it won’t exactly make much sense even when you do know that. Try the song, though.

Tom: I enjoyed that! I don’t know why I enjoyed that, though.

Tim: I’d posit a theory: it’s a rare example of a song with a standard vocal-focused pop structure, but, for me at least, a much better instrumental/synth backing than the vocal itself.

Tom: Yes — you’re absolutely right. Why does that chorus synth sound so good? By all rights, something that distinctive should just annoy me, but it doesn’t: it’s great.

Tim: It is, so don’t get me wrong, the vocal is still perfectly on point and I can’t complain about it (though I’ve no idea what it means so can’t comment on the tone of it). That backing under the chorus and coming after it, though, is just beautiful. Maybe it is helped by the vocal on top–

Tom: Maybe that’s it: it’s distinctive enough to be noticed, but the vocal stops it being repetitive.

Tim: –but it’s good enough that I don’t care about the simple chorus line being repeated four times after the middle eight. I think it’s WONDERFUL.

OneRepublic – Kids (Alex Ross Remix)

“Speed it up by 20%, stick some piano dance beats underneath.”

Tim: The original of this is pretty good, as you’d expect, but is basically just standard OneRepublic fare. This, though, shows what can happen if you speed it up by 20% and stick some piano dance beats underneath. In short: BANGER.

Tom: I do like it when a song’s been sped up just enough that it’s almost impossible that it could actually be sung that clearly by a human. That’s not a complaint, I just like the effect.

Tim: Is it ‘better’ than the original? Not objectively, no, but then it’s not worse either – it’s different, for a different setting. You’ve already got the original for your standard listening, doing whatever you do while that’s going on; you’ll now have this for jumping around and waving your hands in the air.

Tom: And I really did want to do that. I mean, I didn’t, it’s 10pm as I write this and I’m really jetlagged, but on a different night, yep, I’d be doing that.

Tim: On the other hand, I heard the original on the radio in the background and thought “oh, it’s alright” but then I heard this remix and thought “YES PLEASE”, so maybe it is better. For me, at least.

Tom: And for me.

Katéa – California Baby

“There’s the old mantra of ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’…”

Tim: There’s the old mantra of “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”, which is all well and good – no-one likes to be kept waiting for a song to get going, as we found out yesterday. On the other hand, sometimes it gets taken to an extreme, and then you feel a tad let down afterwards. For example.

Tom: Oh, that starts well!

Tim: Indeed – a massive start, indicating the song will also be huge throughout. Except, no, suddenly it’s as though the song starts as Wile E. Coyote running at top speed just as he passes the cliff edge, and then screeches to a halt and thinks “hang on, I can’t keep this up” and drops miles and miles and miles until it can drop no further.

Tom: That’s true, but I reckon it works: and it sounds a bit like OneRepublic. This is really, really good. I actually enjoyed that first verse.

Tim: Oh, it’s certainly not unenjoyable – it starts up again soon enough, that backing under the first verse is perfectly decent, and when the chorus comes back it’s just as good as it was the first time. To be honest, this would be a perfectly good enough song if it didn’t have that first chorus, and in my mind better as it wouldn’t suffer from the missed expectation. So start it 19 seconds in, I’ve no problems at all. Easy.

Tom: I’ll be starting it at the beginning, repeatedly. This is one of my favourite songs of the last few weeks, Tim — it’s good.

Saturday Flashback: Haley Reinhart – Free

“What a chorus.”

Tom: You’ll have heard everything in this song before, Tim, in a hundred other songs that sound like it. But what a chorus.

Tim: That is a chorus. And yes, that’s is all familiar.

Tom: You’ve even seen the diner in the video before, because pretty much everyone who needs a generic diner set in the Los Angeles area goes there.

And yes, this is from 2012; it sounds like a mash up of every other female-led Christina Perri-alike with a good voice that came along that year. Although there do appear to be Christmas bells in the final chorus, which is an interesting choice.

Tim: Well, only three months to go. That reminds me, must start hunting around for some Christmas flashbacks – suggestions always welcome (though I’ve already got a stormer lined up for Christmas Eve).

Tom: Already? Blimey. Anyway: like I said, what a chorus.

Perttu feat. Alexandra – Waves

“Just something nice to have on in the background to relax to.”

Tim: It’s Friday, Tom, so guess what?

Tom: Flares are back in fashion?

Tim: Erm, wasn’t where I was immediately going, though if you want we can do that. But mainly: LET’S GET TROPICAL!

Tim: Summer’s drawing to a close, and the dance tunes are on the way out; that is, thankfully, no reason for pineapple juice to disappear, always hanging around ready to be sprayed on to any pop song that wants it, such as this, from a pair of Finns.

Tom: Pineapple juice mist? That just sounds unpleasant and sticky. Which is also what I’m starting to think about a lot of these tropical-house tracks. Kygo has a lot to answer for.

Tim: Maybe, but I like this: nice vocal, with a pleasing gentle instrumental. The slight chanting vibe in the chorus, encouraging us to sway side to side in time with that up and down chorus line. Nothing too exciting, just something nice to have on in the background to relax to.

Tom: I guess I can deal with that. It’s not spectacular, but it’s not terrible either.

Tim: Other thing to like: the video, coming as it does with an almost certainly coincidental sunset vibe serving as a pleasing metaphor for the genre, for the time being at least. Like any setting sun, it’ll surely rise again; maybe in March, or maybe not for another few years when Kygo’s wallet runs dry. Or maybe even next Friday, I’ll keep you posted.

Madden – Alive

“I don’t really see what I’d put either side of this to fit in.”

Tim: Madden is Swedish, here’s his second single; starts out as a nice gentle ballad and then goes…elsewhere.

Tim: And although it sounds clear listening back a second time, despite that build I entirely failed to see that breakdown coming, and had a massive “whoa, what the HUH” moment.

Tom: I was more surprised by the very start of that build: just that simple synth surprised me. The breakdown was predictable, but not any worse for it.

Tim: Right – after a second or two, once I’d calmed down, I realised I really liked it. All of it, in fact, and yet in very different ways. I can’t help thinking this might slightly hurt the track – it wouldn’t fit well on a ballad playlist, and it wouldn’t fit particularly well on a dance music playlist.

Tom: Yep. This isn’t danceable, and it isn’t calming. BUT: you could say that about a lot of Aviici tracks.

Tim: Very true. I would, I suppose, play it if I wanted to hear this track in particular – and I can see that happening – but I don’t really see what I’d put either side of this to fit in. Still, who wants playlists? I’ve heard this five times while writing this, and I’m not really getting tired of it. PLAY IT AGAIN.

Ellie Goulding – Still Falling For You

“I’m glad I kept going, but still…”

Tim: After mentioning Ellie yesterday I realised I wasn’t sure what she was up to right now; turns out she’s done the song for the new Bridget Jones film. (Very mild spoilers in the video, so you might want to stick it in a background tab if you’re planning on seeing it.)

Tom: Ellie Goulding: Reliable Female-Targeted Movie Soundtrack Song Singer.

Tim: And boy, is this a slow, slow build.

Tom: And repetitive: all those “your heart got me” lines really took a while. I’m glad I kept going, but still…

Tim: First verse and part of the chorus, I would have switched off with most other artists; it’s certainly unusual that just fingers clicking every second or so in the second verse will keep me listening. Then that build up through the second chorus, yes, yes, it’s happening! Except then middle eight does that two-step breakdown, and this is the fourth time we’ve had that but I still find it no less disconcerting.

Tom: It sounded a little more natural to me, but still not really good: so either I’m getting used to it, or music producers are starting to work out how to make that more tolerable.

Tim: Finally, though, three quarters of the way through the song, we’ve at last reached the point where we should have been two minutes ago. And it’s totally worth it.

Tom: It is. But it should have started there.

Cappa – Next Ex

“A song actually charmed me! Something must be wrong.”

Tim: I love that we get reader suggestions, Tom, because they’re so much more likely to containing decent stuff than the PR emails we’re barraged with. Take this, that Luca sent in (along with a welcome back message for you, incidentally).

Tom: How nice!

Tom: Promising introduction, that.

Tim: Promising tune all round, really. He says he hopes we’ll “go easy on her whispering voice”, but to be honest there’s no reason for worry, because I love that voice. It’s reminiscent of such excellent talent as Ellie Goulding, who I’ve always liked, and in fact the instrumentation underneath isn’t a million miles away from what we might expect there in some of her milder tracks.

Tom: I wasn’t sure about that big silent bit into the first chorus — but then the line “you could be my next ex boyfriend” actually made me grin, and I wasn’t expecting that. A song actually charmed me! Something must be wrong, Tim, I must be out of practice. The rest of the song ain’t so memorable, but just managing to make me smile puts it above a lot. Better than a lot of Ellie Goulding tracks.

Tim: Hmm. You know, now that we’ve made that comparison I can’t really unhear it, but I don’t mind, because I really like this. Cheers Luca.