Softengine – Yellow House

Tim: These lot here did Finland’s track for Eurovision this year, and now they’re out with this follow up.

Tom: Hmm. Now, I found that to be one of the forgettable tracks of Eurovision this year — harsh, I know — but I’m basing that on the fact that I can’t remember it at all.

Tim: Have a listen, why don’t you, and also please see if you have any idea what it’s about.

Tim: Because I really don’t.

Tom: Nope. Not a clue. I suspect it might have been put together by a Markov chain.

Tim: Oof, Europop mixed with advanced mathematical systems. YOU’RE WELCOME, readers. Musically, I like the song a lot – the intro and post-chorus melody is great, the backing under the second verse is good, decent vocals, though I’d happily tone down that middle eight a bit.

Tom: Aye, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it all just sort of washes over me. Can I remember the hook after it’s finished? Not in the slightest, other than knowing it sounded, y’know, not bad.

Tim: Annoyingly, I can’t much disagree with that. I LIKE IT, though. Except for the lyrics, because…yeah, no idea.

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Ariana Grande feat. Zedd – Break Free

Tom: I reckon the credits on this should be the other way round.

Tim: I agree.

Tom: Not to talk down Ariana Grande, of course, although I still think she should have changed her name to Ariana Venti when she turned 20.

Tim: A missed trick if ever there was one.

Tom: She has a heck of a voice. Not many people can pull off casually dropping a whistle register into their singing. But this could be any vocalist: the power of this track comes overwhelmingly from Zedd’s backing.

Tim: It really does (and that’s a lot of power in there), but I guess it’s just a question of who composed the tune really, and who they felt took priority. I’m with you, though.

Tom: And what a final chorus: that’s everything a pop song should be, with some pleasingly 90s and 00s tones in there.

I find the bit after that final chorus very odd, though. There should never be anything after a final chorus. And yet, it just turns into Generic Beats — and given the video, that’s in at least two senses of the word — for a few seconds. Bizarre.

Tim: Hmm. I assumed that was just the bit that’s stuck on the end to mix out with, which yes, I suppose is weird in the video. Nice video, though, even it wasn’t quite enough to make me soil myself.

Tom: I skipped over that text intro, which means this really confused me until I worked it out. I thought you regularly soiled yourself at music videos.

Tim: No. No, no.

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Mikky Ekko – Smile

Tom: An anonymous reader sends this in, but says absolutely nothing about it. I reckon it might win the award for “most depressing chorus lyrics”.

Tom: Everything about the music here says ‘hopeful’ and ‘uplifting’, and then… then there’s the lyrics.

Tim: Yes, those lyrics…

Tom: “Smile, the worst is yet to come.” “Tell me I’m special when you spit at me.” “I want to be lonely.” These aren’t good lyrics. They don’t even make sense. Not that making sense has ever been a requirement for pop lyrics, but these seem to actively not make sense.

Tim: They are weird, and I’ve spent a good five minutes reading them and trying to figure out, but I can’t really reconcile them with the music at all. But who cares? That middle eight, just for starters, is wonderful, whatever the lyrics are.

Tom: Yep. It’s all a bit of a shame, because the music’s lovely: anthemic, singalong, and uplifting. Provided you listen to an instrumental version.

Tim: Oh yes, that would be nice, if possible.

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Saturday Flashback: Donkeyboy – Crazy Something Normal

Tom: “Donkeyboy never disappoint”, writes an anonymous reader.

Tom: To be fair, beyond the fact that Joe McElderry covered one of their songs, I don’t know anything about Donkeyboy, so disappointing me’d be difficult.

Tim: I pretty much can confirm what our reader says – their releases are considerably more killer than filler, and this just serves to further demonstrate that.

Tom: The song’s catchy, I suppose, and the video is… well, the video is certainly a thing.

Tim: Yeah – Attack of the Giant Unstoppable Spraypaints isn’t a film I thought I’d be watching today. The music, though, I think is great, and very enjoyable.

Tom: I can’t pick out anything objectively bad about this song; I’d even say it’s a single rather than an album track. But equally, I can’t see it reaching the top of the charts — it’s one for folks who like this sort of gently calming, uplifting, pop.

Tim: Hello!

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Marlene – Indian Summer

Tim: An Indian Summer, a period of above-normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost, according to the Great God Wikipedia.

Tom: Or for a more friendly definition: lazy, warm, late autumn days.

Tim: So that’s something you can bear in mind when you’re listening to this isn’t it.

Tom: So, a lady who’s presumably been through some hard times, but is fairly confident it’s going to get better, albeit only briefly it would seem.

Tim: Before the long, cold descent into winter. Sorry, apparently I’m just tearing apart metaphors lately.

Tom: But never mind, it’s apparently worth celebrating anyway. And why not? Let’s take all we can get, throwing ambition to the wind, and giving as many ey-ahs as we possibly can.

Tim: And that is a lot of ey-ahs.

Tom: This is, really, a lovely track, one to sit back and relax to and gently enjoy. And with all that’s going on, I find that entirely enjoyable. Decent voice, yep, nice backing vocals, yep, great backing, also yep. No complaints at all from me. Great track.

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Tim Schou – Supernova

Tim: Here’s a quick one for you from a Danish guy with an excellent stage name, and who is formerly of A Friend in London, with whom he represented Denmark at Eurovision in 2011. They split six months ago, now he’s out with this song and a slightly less silly haircut.

Tom: I remember them! They had a good song, and he had a decent voice. And a silly haircut.

Tim: Well he does at least still have the decent voice.

Tom: “Burning like supernovas” isn’t really a good metaphor, first because it’s ‘supernovae’, and secondly because they burn bright and fast and then collapse into tiny, relatively cold balls of nothingness. Just saying. Anyway, the song.

Tim: Not a lot happens in it at all, really, but I think it works well to demonstrate a nice range and a decent vocal ability – there’s plenty of powerful notes in there, and a decent melody backing it up.

Tom: There is, but once you realise that the piano is mostly just hitting two notes back and forth like a six-year-old, it does start to get a bit grating.

Tim: Right, it’s about as basic a piano ballad as you can get without reverting to Mary Had A Little Lamb, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. Especially when he’s chosen that name to go by.

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Laleh – Tusen Bitar

Tim: There’s a Swedish film out; it’s called Tusen Bitar, much like this song from its soundtrack.

Tim: It’s a cover of a song from a few years back, but is substantially more cheerful, and I like that a lot.

Tom: Agreed: without that cheerful tone, this song could easily turn into a dirge.

Tim: The title means Thousand Pieces, and as for the rest of the lyrics I’m having a little trouble parsing what Google’s spitting out, but never mind – basically, it’s a fun track to listen to which has been given a rather happy makeover. So who’s complaining?

Tom: Well, me, but only slightly. There’s a lot of potential for a Big Rousing Outro here, and I don’t think it ever quite reaches the potential it’s got.

Tim: It’s lovely, especially with those strings all over the place. Reminiscent of Call Me Maybe at the start, actually, though that’s probably not what she’s going for. Oh well.

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Emma Olivia – My Shoes

Tim: Emma Olivia, a Swedish 14 year old who’s got a song out.

Tom: And it’s called “My Shoes”.

Tim: Good reading skills.

Tom: I’m against this on principle.

Tim: Ah.

Tim: Pleasantly, this isn’t a song about the depth of love and the tragedy and pain of heartbreak that always sounds utterly ridiculous when coming out of, say, 16 year old Zara Larsson. Instead, we just have “I really really really like you,” which, even if it does leave something to be desired in the variety area, does at least save the melodrama for post-adolescence.

Tom: Nope. Can’t listen without cringing.

Tim: Really? Because I can’t listen without smiling.

Tom: That chanting, the “really really really” like you lyrics… no.

Tim: Oh. Although, for the other lines in the chorus – is shoe-writing a thing? Because, well, okay.

Tom: I wouldn’t know, I’m not 14 years old. I suspect I’m getting Too Damn Old for songs like this.

Tim: You say that, but I reckon that despite the lyrics, it doesn’t sound that much like a kid singing – certainly a lot less so than Junior Eurovision’s Julia Kedhammar – and that’s a good thing. Yes, the voice could do with developing a bit, particularly with the long note just after two minutes in, but otherwise: sounds great.

Tom: I think my reaction’s basically summed up as a slightly shuddering “gaaah” — with one exception. That middle eight deserves to be in a much better song. In fact, I’m fairly sure it already is, I just can’t remember where.

Tim: Oh. OHHH. OH GOD, yes it does remind me of something. Agh, oh I don’t know. I still think it’s great.

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Ida LaFontaine – Anthem

Tim: You may remember YOLO, or quite possibly you’ve attempted to purge it from your memory. Either way, Ida’s back with this, with a surprisingly self-defeatist chorus line.

Tim: Now, I know where she’s coming from – very often, there’s not anything on the radio I want to here. I do sometimes want to put my anthem on. But no offence, Ida: this here’s not particularly anthemic.

Tom: The intro and first verse really put me off this: that kind of stripped-down attitude shouty-pop doesn’t really do much for me. As for the chorus: well, I guess the most I can say is that at least it’s not the verse.

Tim: It’s a good track, sure, with nice production, a good example of the female almost-shouting vocal that’s so in fashion, and well-meaning and identifiable lyrics. But you need to get on to that lyricist, because halfway through this, if I’m paying attention to it, I’m gonna be switching it off.

Tom: True. It’s basically saying “listen to some other song”.

Tim: Nice lyric video, though, even if it doesn’t realise how much gravitas one should pay to the word ANTHEM.

Tom: If the best I can say about the song is “I liked the typography”, then I’m not exactly giving it a high rating.

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Saturday Flashback: Thirty Seconds to Mars – Kings and Queens

Tim: We demonstrated on Wednesday that sometimes you get choruses that are so good any other fault can be entirely forgiven. Here’s another.

Tom: Bird noises and sound effects. That’s a good start. Mind you, once that intro actually kicks in…

Tim: Once that happens, then yes, the verses are a bit dull. Yes, it’s almost six minutes long with a sillily long middle way-more-than-eight, which the civilised world has no need for. Yes, the lyrics are overinflated self-important guff. But then there’s that chorus line, so powerful, so outstanding, so memorable that you just don’t care about all that.

Tom: Yep. That’s how you do good anthemic stadium-pop-rock. Add some strings and big percussion, and start wailing on your guitars. Not an insult, that — it’s damn good.

Tim: It’s just a great, great track.

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    Tim Jeffries was born in the UK a good few years ago now, and regularly dreams of a Busted reunion.

    Along with good music, things he appreciates include the use of correct grammar, well-made banana daiquiris and shampoo for men that smells nice (which he still hasn't found). His favourite colour is what Dulux call 25YY 49/757, and his favourite member of the Felidae family is the snow leopard.

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    Tom Scott is a techie with extremely questionable taste in music. In his spare time, he has too many plans and a worrying tendency to make them happen.

    His greatest achievement was getting five gold runs on Blockbusters, which he still harps on about to this day.

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