Saturday Flashback: CRO – Traum

“Be careful of falling electrical equipment”

Tim: Sent in anonymously and described as “fun and upbeat”, this here is from a German producer who blends rap and pop and calls it Raop, not sure why. It’s from 2014, is his biggest hit yet, and the title translates as Dream (he’s made an English version if you’d rather, but that takes away the fun a bit).

Tom: Full marks for putting (most of) the English lyrics on the German music video as optional subtitles. More like that, please.*

*Side note: it is completely outside what we normally cover here, but “Immigrants: We Get The Job Done” from the Hamilton mixtape is bloody excellent and does exactly the same: turn on the subtitles and all the Spanish lyrics are translated for you. Codeswitching while rhyming’s a heck of a skill.

Tim: Fun story there in the video – not quite sure what the moral of it is, though I’m fairly sure it’s one of either “don’t go on TV dating shows” or “be careful of falling electrical equipment”.

Tom: I mean, those are both good morals.

Tim: The lyrics come with a disappointingly standard narrative, in contrast – he doesn’t want to be alone, only has eyes for her, dreams about her, ready and waiting. Tad creepy, but there you go.

Tom: Can you still get away with a love song like that in the 2010s? Unless you’re Ed Sheeran, of course.

Tim: The sound is unusual but not unpleasant, and to be honest I’m quite happy with a track that provides that for a weekend. Thank you, reader, for sending that in.

HRVY feat. Redfoo – Holiday

“Are those lyrics, or just a Markov chain trained on Thomas Cook brochures?”

Tim: Is 1.2m followers on Instagram a lot? Like, massive?

Tom: I mean, sure. It’s a million. That’s a big number.

Tim: Yeah, but in terms of Instagram celebrity. I ask because apparently it’s enough to get this guy a record deal. Question before you press play: do you think it’ll be any good?

Tom: I get the feeling that’s a rhetorical question.

Tim: Your insight serves you well.

Tom: I dislike him and his floppy undercut hair immediately, and I’m aware how hypocritical that statement is.

Tim: Good, as I was considering pointing it out. Now, it’s almost impressive, really, quite how rubbish this is.

Tom: Are those lyrics, or just a Markov chain trained on Thomas Cook brochures? What happened to the bass? What’s with the bizarre colorised flash effects?

Tim: To all of those questions, I can only answer: I just don’t know. Thing is, it’s not even enjoyably awful, like INJU5TICE (there’s a blast from the past for you) – there’s no way of sitting back and laughing at how terrible it is. It’s just utterly bland – pointless lyrics, no energy in the music, nothing to stand out at all.

Tom: He hits the notes competently. That’s the only compliment I can muster.

Tim: Even Redfoo’s appearance just sort of happens, without bringing anything to the table whatsoever.

Tom: “When I walk the street / all the girls drive by and they go beep beep”. He does bring something to the table, and unfortunately it’s terrible. It’s not even parody-terrible, it’s just terrible.

Tim: I think we may have a total low for the music 2017, right now. And not in a good way.

Tom: By the way, Tim, we wrote that INJU5TICE review seven years ago.

Tim: Yet when I read the lyrics “I need some loving, I’m a long long way from home” the tune immediately came back to me. That’s the sign of a good bad song. This isn’t even that.

The Script – Rain

“Modern enough to slot perfectly well into any standard current generic new pop playlist”

Tim: On Radio 1 the other day Danny said they had to change their sound up a bit for their new album because it’s “difficult for regular bands to get played” which (a) is a bloody odd way of vaguely attacking inauthentic music and (b) sounded utterly moronic two minutes later when they played Arctic Monkeys. BUT ANYWAY, here’s their NEW SOUND.

Tom: …does anyone remember what their old sound was?

Tom: All joking aside, that is a fantastic introduction. That’s one of the most promising piano-and-vocal introductions I’ve heard in a while. Shame about the weird electronic samples, but I can let that slide.

Tim: Yes – but then they’re really the only things that single it out as being different from said old style, aren’t they? I’m struggling to hear any real difference. Though that’s not necessarily a complaint, mind.

Tom: It’s got a catchy oh-oh-oh chorus, and normally I’d slate that sort of thing as being lazy, but… well, it’s really catchy.

Tim: It is. And actually despite my earlier disagreement it is modern enough to slot perfectly well into any standard current generic new pop playlist, so I guess if generic new pop is what they’re going for: good work lads.

Tom: That about sums it up, doesn’t it? “Good work”. It’s not a banger, but it’s certainly not a disaster either. This is a decent track.

Saturday Flashback: American Authors – Best Day Of My Life

“I think I got it when the bells chimed in.”

Tom: I was briefly hopeful this was a Modern Romance cover. It’s not, is it?

Tim: No, but THAT’s a song I’d like to thank you for introducing me to.

Tom: Introducing you to?! Mate, the Baha Men inexplicably covered this in Shrek. Black Lace covered it, unnecessarily. I am baffled that you’ve never heard this before. Anyway. Yes. Sorry. You had the actual flashback we’re doing.

Tim: Yes, and there’s a story to it: for some reason, everyone was a bit miserable today at work (Thursday, as I write this). I, on the other hand, was not, possibly because I heard this blasting out of Jamie’s Italian as I walked past on my way in.

Tom: That sounds a lot like a Fall Out Boy track (with a bit of this one in too). I was about to go off on a riff about that, but it turns out the two songs were released about a month apart, so it’s just two similar bands making similar decisions.

Tim: I’d say that’s fair, although you’re certainly not wrong about that first one, the vocal style’s incredibly similar. But the thing is, I was all set to write a sentence here about having to be in the right mood, because otherwise that twigging banjo might get you in precisely the wrong way, but otherwise it’s chirpy, and generally lovely.

Tom: It is, although I’m so used to this sound being all Angry And Emotional that it took me a while to adjust to that. I think I got it when the bells chimed in.

Tim: Right, and that’s all fine, but then I realised I’d never seen the video for it before, and wow does that take priority. We’ve had folks dressed as animals multiple times previously, but never had a metaphor from the lyrics put literally in the video, or at least not that I can remember. Here, it makes it thoroughly entertaining, and it’s a fantastic idea, because now every time I hear that line, I’ll think back to this video. I’ll remember exactly how much fun it is, and then how much I like the song. It’s genius.

Kesha – Praying

“The vocals are brilliant, the emotion’s clear, and the music backs all that up.”

Tim: Yesterday was a bit dark, so shall we have some (punctuation-less) Kesha fun to cheer us up, with her first proper song since Timber?

Tom: Given all the news about her over the last couple of days, I suspect this might not be what you’re expecting…

Tim: Yeah, it really isn’t. According to a rather moving piece she’s written about it, this has come from emotions when she was struggling with severe depression, but it’s about “that moment when the sun starts peeking through the darkest storm clouds, creating the most beautiful rainbow.”

Tom: She’s gone full Lady Gaga in the video, then. Religious imagery, minute-long spoken prologue. It’s even filmed at the beautiful Salvation Mountain. Less sure about that mock-Devangari font, but let’s set that aside.

Tim: Takes a looooong time to get going, but I guess that’s somewhat the point – moving through the song, we discover a way through, a way of surviving, a way to be happy. And wow, that really works for me.

Tom: Really?

Tim: Well, as a piece of artwork, which it kind of is. A song on a playlist, oh hell no – but in terms of the song it is, the journey it represents, it’s just marvellous.

Tom: The vocals are brilliant, the emotion’s clear, and the music backs all that up. If this is a permanent new direction, then I reckon her fans will, unusually, be more than willing to change direction with her.

Saturday Flashback: State of Drama – Fighter

“They’re good instrumental breaks.”

Tim: Tuesday’s track got me thinking about this lot, and wondering what they’d been up to since their 2014 Melodifestivalen performance. Sadly, the answer is not much, but I did find this from April 2015, with a peculiar sort-of-key-change-but-not-technically, and this, from October 2013.

Tim: I’m glad I found it, because I think that’s just marvellous.

Tom: There are some lovely parts in this: the 2000s-retro-eurodance synths mid-chorus, and the transition back into the verse were both excellent.

Tim: Weren’t they? It should be noted that the “fighter/fire” rhyming is both slightly iffy and tediously obvious at the same time, quite an achievement, and the chorus really could do with a few more lyrics, but otherwise this is just great. It doesn’t even feel too long, which as a four minute song means it’s doing something very well indeed in my book. I think it’s because a lot of that time is taken up with instrumental breaks – and they’re good instrumental breaks.

Tom: Yep, the bit before the middle eight is, I think, just half a chorus without the lyrics. When it’s this energetic, and this well written and produced, you can get away with it.

Tim: This is a Great Song, and it’d be even better if there was an extra lyric or two in the chorus.

The Main Level feat. Blvck O – Bombadilla

“A lot less mindless garbage spewing than I’d expected.”

Tim: We’ve written about these guys a few times before, mostly pointing how they’re following the exact standard boyband career progression. Right now, for a hot and sunny summer: a tropical flavoured song with a guest artist to fit the mood.

Tim: And…yeah, it’s perfectly decent.

Tom: The intro vaguely reminded me of a lot of mid-90s pop, so I was vaguely hoping that, rather than your standard rap middle eight, “feat. Blvck O” might be a new Bubbler Ranx (now running his own music production company, it seems). Not quite, but closer than anyone else has managed in a while.

Tim: That’s true, yes – there was a lot less mindless garbage spewing than I’d expected.

Tom: Got to admit, though, the farting car engine got more of a reaction from me (a smile) than the actual chorus synths (nothing at all). This is at least a competent boyband track — and, arguably, it’s doing a good job of updating that mid-90s pop sound.

Tim: Until I heard this song I had no idea whatsoever what a bombadilla life might be, and to be honest I still don’t—hell, even Google Translate doesn’t recognise it and that has all the words in the world—but assuming it’s what the context makes it out to be, a girl living one sounds fairly fun and I can understand why they’d want to sing a song about her (though quite why he’s off with her sister is anyone’s guess).

Tom: Maybe she got sick of all his ludicrous dancing in fields?

Tim: Now you mention it, that would make perfect sense. I like this song a lot – there may not be that much original in it, but it takes the enthusiasm from the bombadillaness and keeps it up, and now I want to be living a bombadilla life as well. Where can I do this please, does anybody know?

Be The Bear – Erupt

“It keeps telegraphing changes that just don’t happen.”

Tom: The title of this post seems like a bizarre motivational slogan. Be the bear! Erupt! Ahem. Anyway.

Tim: Slight warning: it took me quite a while to be sure I wasn’t watching a John Lewis Christmas advert. But then it became obvious.

Tom: You know, I’ve never actually seen a John Lewis Christmas advert.

Tim: What?

Tom: But I know what you mean, here, at least.

Tim: Her actual name’s Christina and she’s off Gothenberg, but never mind that because that first chorus really is unusual, and a tad “oop, you broke the song”.

Tom: It surprised me, but I don’t think it full-on broke the song: either that, or I’m getting more used to changes of chorus like that.

Tim: I don’t say that because “aaagh, it’s different, blegh” (although that doesn’t help), but largely because of that build that comes up right at the very end. What with most pop now bringing along two full choruses, a vocal and an instrumental, it really did seem as though we were leading into a second half. As it is, straight back to second verse brings us way out. I get what it’s trying to do – sound unusual, stick out – I just don’t think it works quite as well as it ought to.

Tom: It’s almost like the “body language” of the song is a little off: it keeps telegraphing changes in momentum and instrumentation that just don’t happen. I wonder how much of that’s due to me expecting “normal” pop music — like a John Lewis Christmas advert — and how much is just because it is, genuinely, a bit off.

Tim: Quite possibly a bit of both. BUT, having said all that: everything after that is lovely. The build works throughout when the next chorus goes in the the rest of it, and the strings that gradually appear sound all sorts of lovely. So start me at 1:23, I’m laughing.

Future Duper feat. Emilie Adams – Didn’t Feel A Thing

“This time next week I could hear it again and have no memory of it whatsoever. “

Tim: So I reckon I know exactly how this review is going to go, but I’ll put it forth anyway.

Tom: Here’s what I said the last time we talked about Future Duper: “I think it’ll take a few listens — or, rather, a few tracks like this — before I can actually get the hang of this. Right now, it sounds like a rather more experimental genre than it should.”

Tom: So is this a more mainstream track, or have I got used to them?

Tim: Oh no, it’s a lot more mainstream, don’t worry about that. And you see I think it’s an entirely adequate dance-pop tune. The melody is fine, decent vocals, and while the lyrics are a little off (made more so, curiously, by the decision to include the repetition in the lyric video) I’m happy to forgive that because it’s got a decent enough donk on it that I will jump around to it with no real problem.

Tom: Hold up. A donk is a very specific sound. This does not have a donk on it.

Tim: Interesting you say that, because I’ve always though of a donk as just something that makes a song more exciting – most recently, I discussed the 2005 Doctor Who theme tune getting a donk added on for Christmas 2007 onwards. Let’s leave the precise terminology aside, then, and say: I am happy with it. You, meanwhile, will likely agree that it’s adequate, but also point out that it is largely forgettable, and that this time next week I could hear it again and have no memory of it whatsoever.

Tom: I’m starting to think this might not be the job for me, Tim.

Tim: Roughly right?

Tom: Yep. Same pieces, just in a slightly different order. Which is true of most pop music, to be fair; I just wonder if I’m burned out somehow? I’m sure there are wonderful things around somewhere — I’m just not hearing them.

Saturday Flashback: Jonas Lundqvist – Pengar på fickan

“I guess I’m unimpressed and ambivalent.”

Tim: This got sent in by our reader Gavi, who thinks that “the Tim will love it”, and I couldn’t possibly ignore that.

Tom: And the Tom, as always, will be generally unimpressed and ambivalent, as the Tom is with 99% of music.

Tim: The perfect man to write a music blog, then.

Tim: Hmm, although actually…well, I suppose it’s alright.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to see young Wallace Shaun smoking in the back of a car as part of a modern music video, so there’s that. But apart from that? I guess I’m unimpressed and ambivalent.

Tim: It’s about a guy who has all the belongings he needs but no-one to share it with, and now I know that I’m trying my hardest not to feel slightly offended, however close to home that may cut.

Tom: I don’t know, that sounds pretty good. I means you don’t have to share your stuff.

Tim: Fair point, I guess. And it’s a decent enough track – energy, production, vocals, can’t really fault them – but love it? Not quite that far.

Tom: Also, I’m fairly sure he’s singing “I’m a duffer” repeatedly.