Isle Of You – 50 + 1

Tim: Dodgy pun in the act name, yes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that’ll pan out across the inevitable future “you suck”-style tracks, but to start out with they give us this chirpy number, so let’s go with it.

Tom: Well, that’s pleasantly chirpy. I really… I didn’t expect to like that as much as I did.

Tim: Normally, a ukulele is something that would put me right off a track, and the phenomenally ridiculous ions metaphor might in some situations have me chucking my iMac out of the window. Right now and with this track, though: it all fits together, absolutely fine.

Tom: How on earth did they manage to make this sound endearing rather than cringeworthy? I wouldn’t have thought it was possible!

Tim: I mean, I’ve got no idea what a ‘Taylor Swift crush’ is – my best guess is ‘I like you right now but as soon as you’re a dick I’ll write a not remotely subtle song about it’ – so I don’t know how that’s meant to be romantic.

There’s also a hefty element of self-aggrandisation going on – I’d sure as hell love to see 106 reasons why I should date either one of the two singers. And all in all, this song is more or less a textbook definition of jaunty.

Tom: You say that, but there’s a couple of jess-jaunty notes in there, on that lovely “know I’m a good catch”. I think that’s a good summary of the whole song: it balances the twee with just enough strange things to make it palatable.

Tim: And right now, I like that. I don’t know why, because objectively it hits all my wrong buttons, but I like it a lot.

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Maria & Erica – I Love You Baby

Tim: So here’s one that got entered for Melodifestivalen this year but was rejected; you’ll hear why.

Tom: It’s not because of the crushingly unoriginal title, then?

Tim: Nope, not that. It’s by the lead singers of two Swedish dansbands that we’ve covered previously – Drifters and Titanix respectively. Those two links, incidentally, are to wonderful tracks that entirely deserve a revisit; hear this first though.

Tom: Oh bloody hell, even the crowd can’t be bothered with that! Why would you put them in the audience like that? Why?

Tim: Oh, it’s a marvellous audience reaction. I think the fairly prominent old woman in the pale blue dress is my absolute favourite, particularly when she starts admiring the scenery at 1:45…

Tom: I think my favourite moment is at about 0:47 and 1:25, when two different parts of the crowd are clearly clapping at different times or in completely different tempos, each missing different beats slightly. Or at 1:37 when the camera just loses focus and wanders off for a bit. Sorry, you were saying?

Tim: …that’s a delightful track.

Tom: Ugh. The thing is, you’re right. It’s a textbook meaningless schlager track, and if you take it out of that bizarre audience situation, it ticks all the right boxes.

Tim: I started smiling from that very first note, because I immediately knew exactly what to expect, and I wasn’t remotely disappointed. Well, slightly disappointed – the way the key change came quite early on got my hopes up for a second one – but that aside I’m not sure I could complain about this even if I wanted to. So of course it got rejected, but damn I’m glad it finally saw the light of day.

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Skyler – I Just Wanna Dance

Tim: Way back in February, we reviewed a track that you reacted to with “What the bloody hell is that?” Now, her PR team want to know if we’d like to have a look at this, by another act on their roster.

Tom: Optimistic, aren’t they?

Tim: You could say that, yeah…

Tom: What the bloody hell was that?

Tim: Yep. What I particularly like about that is how after listening all the way through I’m now immune to autotune – I don’t think I’ve ever before heard a track that was audibly doctored on every single note. Quite impressive, really. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot else about it that is impressive – it’s largely generic for all the wrong reasons.

Tom: It took me a while to work out what was wrong with the video: it looks like a parody of a music video that you’d see in a sitcom. No-one seems to know what they’re doing. The style’s a bit off. It’s like a cargo-cult version of a music video. Which, to be honest, is not a bad description for the song either.

Tim: No melody that I want to be singing along to later, or at least not willingly anyway – that’s quite the irritating earworm they’ve got going there. I think, in the end, I’m going to say: thanks, but I might stick with Ulrika for now.

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Saturday Flashback: Spice Girls feat. England United – (How Does It Feel to Be) On Top of the World

Tim: “The trouble with all football songs is that, ultimately, they’re not Three Lions,” says you. Well.

Tom: What have I done to annoy you lately, Tim?

Tim: Haha, oh come now; think of it as an education more than anything else. Because, as far as England goes, the 1998 World Cup was basically Vindaloo and the Three Lions re-release, so this got entirely overlooked despite being the official team song.

Tom: And because whoever’s singing that first verse looks like the creepy male version of Kate Micucci. As for those morphing effects in the video: it was seven years after Michael Jackson’s Black and White, and that’s all they could come up with?

Tim: Which, yeah, kind of sums it all up. If we’re frank, the main reason this got overlooked was because it’s a bloody shambles. Quite why it’s credited to Spice Girls feat. England United despite ‘England United’ being itself a supergroup formed of Ocean Colour Scene, Space and Echo & The Bunnymen, I have no idea.

Tom: I wonder if they couldn’t get the rights to the names? Not all those band members are present and accounted for. They knew which name would bring in the money, though.

Tim: True, and it does at least maintain the ridiculosity present in the song itself – seriously, what’s going on? There’s a good key change, I’ll grant them that much, but it strikes me as though someone stabbed a pen at random into the top 40 four times and thought, “Right, let’s put them together and hope it works.” It really doesn’t.

Tom: The first thing I thought was “it sounds like someone tried to rip off the Lightning Seeds”. Which, lest we forget, were the band for Three Lions.

Tim: Yeah – weirdly, it seems to be the Spice Girls’ vocals that do that, despite sounding horribly weedy and backing vocalish, despite them being ostensibly the main act and actually leading the chorus, and everything else just…splurges around. I don’t know who thought this would be a good idea, but I do hope they got fired for it.

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DJ Kenno – Will Grigg’s On Fire

Tim: “The trouble with all football songs is that, ultimately, they’re not Three Lions,” says you. Well.

Tom: Nope. Grimaced and gave up as soon as the vocals started.

Tim: Thought you’d like it. Quick run down: a Wigan fan realised that the name Will Grigg, a player who this season has scored 29 goals for Wigan and is Northern Irish, has a name that fits quite nicely into Gala’s “Freed From Desire”, and uploaded a (since deleted) video of him chanting that to YouTube. That got noticed, a lot, and quickly became the standard chant among the crowds in Wigan and Northern Ireland.

Tom: And it’s a really good, one-chorus football chant. Brilliant. It doesn’t need verses written around it, though, does it?

Tim: Well how else will you pass round the message that he’s on the plane to France? Anyway, now dance group Blonde have released it as a single, not under their usual name for obvious reasons, and is giving the money to a charity set up in honour of a Wigan kid who suffered from something called Non-Ketotic Hyperglycaemia, so isn’t that nice? Clearly something to rival Three Lions, I think you’ll agree.

Tom: It’s not bloody Three Lions.

Posted in Mainstream | 1 Response

Alan Walker – Sing Me To Sleep

Tim: So Faded ended up being a lot bigger than any track from an act called Alan Walker had any right to be. Sticking with the same vocalist, here’s the follow-up.

Tim: And…is it too harsh to call it basically the same song?

Tom: A bit harsh, certainly. Why do you say that?

Tim: The same synths, the same gentle vocal going into a suddenly calm first half of a chorus and the second half of that with the volume control going all over the place.

Tom: And I really dislike that “dip the synth for the drum hit” effect, by the way. Almost hurts to listen to, no matter whether it’s a deliberate choice or just overcompression.

Tim: See, I think that’s the main similarity – it’s just such a distinctive one that it’s hard to focus on anything else. Because yes, there are differences, of course there are, but I can’t help feeling that six months down the line I’ll have trouble hearing one of the tracks and confidently identifying it. On the other hand, if your debut was a big hit you’d be an idiot to mess with the formula for your immediate follow-up release, and it is a tactic that got Avicii two number one albums, several awards and an amazing LA apartment, so why not?

Tom: Worked for Kygo, too. Although this does seem different enough to me — I absolutely love the quiet pre-chorus, although the rest of it sort of slides past me without really making an impact. Why isn’t that “sing me to sleep” melody the main line? It’s the best part of the song.

Tim: Either way, it’s just as enjoyable the second time round, so I’m all for this as long as we have a bit of variety sometime soon please.

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Ace of Base – All That She Wants (Mowlo Remix)

Tim: A couple of months back I posited that tropical house was reaching the end of its life as Kygo moved elsewhere; Ace of Base had other ideas, though, so crack open a can of Lilt and help yourself to a play button.

Tom: Well, at least they haven’t just nicked Kygo’s synth patch. Close, but not quite.

Tim: Twelve moths back the short-lived A*Base covered it; we remarked it was roughly what it would sound like if Ace of Base were recording it now, and you said you might be happier if it got done as an official remix. So, how is it for you?

Tom: Disappointing.

Tim: Oh.

Tom: There’s something about the mix that just doesn’t seem right: all the elements seem to conflict with each other rather than actually making a good track. The vocals were interesting, shifting keys and moods, and the backing just doesn’t follow that. It’s discordant.

Tim: Hmm. See, I don’t really find that – for me, it’s basically a fully decent enough remix of (controversial statement ahead) a song that I always felt was a bit overrated. It had a lot of vocal-less moments and nowhere near enough of an instrumental to liven them up; this fixes both of those issues, binning off 16 seconds of dead air and beefing everything else up. Still not overly enamoured with it as a track, but I’d say it’s a solid improvement on the original.

Tom: I agree that the original wasn’t one of their best — but this isn’t an improvement for me.

Posted in Mainstream | Tagged | 1 Response

Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?

Tim: Strong narrative here in this video from Shura, and equally as strong music to go with it. Have a listen, see if you agree.

Tim: Heartwarming, isn’t it? (I ask, despite knowing exactly what answer you’ll give to that question.)

Tom: Well YOU GUESSED WRONG because it actually worked for me.

Tim: Really? Oh, I’m so glad.

Tom: Maybe I was tired. I was expecting the plot to be a cliché “the nerdy two hook up”, and then I was hoping it to be “you’re just fine as you are, don’t pine over people”, so when it actually took a different and interesting direction: yes. I liked that.

Tim: The song is, according to the blurb, about “having a massive crush on someone, so it made sense to go back where to school, where it all began,” and “thinking you’re in love but then realising that’s maybe just because you feel you should be (and ending up with someone totally unexpected),” and that all works out fine for me.

Tom: It reminds me rather a lot of Miike Snow’s Ghenghis Khan: retro-styled video, unexpected gay romance, that same synth-led, 80s style with very little low-end percussion. I suspect it is, again, a video that’s convinced me the song’s much better than it is, but I can’t really complain about that.

Tim: Music on top is, as I said earlier, equally strong – lovely bit of electropop, pretty sounds, nice lyrics – so all in all, a great product. Album’s out July 8th, nice one.

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ENCA – DREQ

Tom: “I don’t quite know what I expected from Albanian pop music,” writes our reader, Sam, “but this defied any expectations I might have had.”

Tim: Hmm. My main memory of Albanian pop is being at Eurovision 2013 and suddenly remembering that Albania was where Voldemort went into hiding, but I’ll keep an open mind.

Tom: Sam adds what I can only describe as a cleavage warning.

Tim: Hmm.

Tom: Maybe there’s some context here I’m missing, but… I can’t say there’s much about this that I like. The melody and backing is by-the-numbers, but they’re pretty terrible numbers. The autotune is applied with a trowel.

Tim: Yeah – it’s not quite Death Eater territory, but it’s sure as hell not really something I want to here again. All your criticisms stand up – I find it just unpleasant.

Tom: And while it’s possible to pull off a video like this with either irony or enthusiasm, this seems to dither between the two and end up with neither.

Tim: I think they’re going for genuine; just, not enthusiastically enough for it to work properly.

Tom: That said, seven million views. Clearly it works for someone.

Tim: Especially impressive given that Albania has a population of less than 3 million.

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Saturday Flashback: Gregorian – Heaven

Tim: Okay so let’s discuss these guys. If you recall, they performed Masters of Chant when competing to represent Germany at Eurovision this year, which was an original song; that’s not their normal schtick, though.

Tom: That is astonishing.

Tim: Admittedly they don’t normally draft in female singers, but their collection of covers is really quite impressive – ten albums so far, each with a dozen or so tracks reinterpreted to (mostly) fit the restrictions for true Gregorian chants.

Tom: Not even close, Tim. Not even close.

Tim: Well, that’s what they claim, and to be honest the rules seem so far outside my musical knowledge that I’m happy to stay neutral on the topic.

Sometimes, the covers are just a bit meh, such as Boulevard of Broken Dreams; sometimes they sound entirely ludicrous, such as their version of Clocks, where their seeming attempt to rave it up almost gives Scooter tribute band Moped a run for their money. Every now and again, though, they hit pure gold, such as with this, or My Heart Will Go On, and you wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if in fact they’d recorded the original.

Tom: So here’s the question: who buys this? Who buys ten albums of this? I recognise there’s a market for cover versions, but how many people listen to pop music and think “it’s good, but what I really want is for it to be sung by people impersonating monks”.

Tim: Well I thought that, and my initial thought was “people who stream music” – no payment, just a fun half checking out weird stuff. But they’ve been going 15 years, so I’ve really no idea. On the other hand, when it works, it works:
take this, with its combination of old instruments such as violins, tinkly chimes and, erm, electric guitars. With its weird but quite brilliant and utterly triumphant pitch jump upwards at 3:10.

Tom: And with that odd choice to drop to the lower harmony for the last note of a line sometimes. That’s the opposite of how it normally works, chaps.

Tim: With the aforementioned female that makes it almost as much a cover of DJ Sammy as of Bryan Adams. The entire act is ridiculous and wonderful, and has just about sneaked past Nica & Joe (who, incidentally, also competed to represent Germany with an original song) as my favourite classical reinterpretation group, so well done to them.

Tom: I suppose it’s cheap enough to produce: all they have to do is sell a few albums and they’re in the money.

Tim: Then I guess that’s all you need, along with a confidence that your fans won’t realise you’re not playing by the rules. Or will, but will leap to your defence in the style of YouTube commenter martharoyce, who says that “another of my favourite musicians are called ‘Faun’ but they are not woodland creatures.” So that’s told YOU.

Posted in Saturday Flashback | Tagged | 2 Responses
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    Tim Jeffries was born in the UK a good few years ago now, and was overjoyed by the news 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.

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