Tom: Yep, he’s just “ZAYN” now. Which is fair, ‘cos I don’t think there’s a more famous Zayn out there.

Tim: Though apparently he’s not quite confident enough not to shout his name, and the track, and probably many other things.

Tom: Well, that’s about as modern a track as you can get.

Tim: And indeed pretty much along the lines of what everybody assumed he’d come out with.

Tom: Downbeat production that sounds like Bieber’s latest album, with either a little bit of autotune or a bit of a vocal filter. Occasional bit of swearing so it’s edgy. All one amorphous mass of noise. I was all ready to end it there, to pan it for for being too quiet and too uninspired, and then that chorus happened.

Tim: Yes, that’s one to mention. It’s odd – he left One Direction because he said he didn’t like the music they were making, and yet that’s a chorus that’s not hard to imagine coming from a modern One Direction album. But sorry, you were saying.

Tom: It’s almost like they got the spirit of Phil Collins and his big gated drums in, and just said “right, make it sound big again”. Actually, given that video, it’s a bit like they got the spirit of Phil Collins’ video editor in, and gave him some more modern technology.

It’s not a big singalong chorus, but I’m also sure it’s not meant to be. This is the future. Tomorrow, let’s talk about History.

Tim: AHH, I see what you did there. Nice.

Posted in Mainstream | Tagged | 1 Response

Saturday Flashback: Hera Björk – Someday

Tim: Almost time to start going through this year’s Eurovision rejects, but first let’s take a trip back to 2009. Hera herself may be Icelandic, but why not at least try for Denmark anyway?

Tom: This is the same Hera that you were so enthusiastic about. A lot to live up to.

Tom: That takes a long time — perhaps too long — to kick in, but it’s worth it when it does.

Tim: A number of wonderful things here – the way the backing singers appear with a level of gravitas that might be appropriate if the curtain wasn’t entirely transparent but as it is is entirely undeserved.

Tom: I actually burst out laughing at that. It’s like they’re stepping out of the back of a shop from the 1980s.

Tim: The catherine wheel that kicks off at the key change that gets out of control, keeps accelerating until it can’t give any more and just splurges out; and then the rest of it – the so, so ’00s dance beat that jumps in for the chorus —

Tom: I was quite surprised this was as late as 2009: if it wasn’t for the widescreen shot, I’d have placed this somewhere around ten years earlier.

Tim: — the aforementioned key change, and of course Hera herself. Oh, what a wonderful woman.


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Fallulah – Perfect Tense

Tim: Nice song, lovely lyric video. Interested?

Tom: It’d be terrible for our format if I said no.

Tim: Fair point. Here it is.

Tim: I say lovely lyric video, and it’s certainly one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen, but, damn, the way that there are five spoken “oh”s and only four pictured really, really irritates me. And it gets annoyingly repetitive towards the end. But still, interesting.

Tom: Ha! I’m not the only one that spotted that.

Tim: And nice music as well.

Tom: I’m now going to ruin it for you.

Tim: Oh, do you have to?

Tom: There’s a bizarre “uh” sample just before the third beat in the bar, almost all the way through the song. And now I’ve pointed it out to you, it’s all you’ll hear. “We mess UHH all the time. Tonight we’ll UHH it right.”

Tim: OH GOD YOU’RE RIGHT. It’s as if someone with a kazoo was hiding out in the corner of the recording studio. OH I HATE YOU YOU KNOB. But anyway, it’s not a track that’ll go down in history as one of the greats, but listening to it in comparison to yesterday’s fairly awful number, and even with that repeated noise, it sounds absolutely divine.

Tom: See, this is where we disagree. This has some good parts: that timpani hits are great. But honestly? I prefer the lipstick, and the lack of groaning samples.

Tim: Ugh.

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LEA – Mitt Läppstift

Tim: I’ll be honest upfront: there are so, so many things wrong with this; we’ll discuss them all in a bit, but to start with be aware we’ve a sizeable number of f-bombs (Swedish, but it’s not exactly the most challenging translation), right from the off.

Tom: Oh, there’s a linguistics paper on code-switching and loan words to be had, there. That’s amazing.

Tim: The initial tone and lyric got me wanting to switch it off after less than ten seconds. The lyrics talk about ‘Netflix and chill’ and while I’m never normally one to get offended by bad language, the sheer intensity of it gets me thinking “alright love, calm down”.

Tom: I generally dislike songs that’ll date this badly — and let’s face it, parts of these lyrics have been pulled straight out of Tumblr about six months ago and are already placing this song somewhere in the middle of 2015.

But here’s the thing: I enjoyed the whole song.

Tim: Whuh?

Tom: I’ve previously said there aren’t enough songs in the genre of “this isn’t love, but you’re good in bed and that’ll do”. And come on, for that chorus, “you fuck up my lipstick, but not my mascara” is a bloody brilliant bit of lyric writing in any language. The video backs that up: this is not about pining for anyone, and I’m all in favour of that.

Tim: The video gets that point across, yes, but I still just find it plain unpleasant. And yet, and yet – that chorus almost makes up for it. Only almost, mind, because it would need to be a Queen Of My Heart-level chorus to make up for it fully, but it’s still a really nice chorus.

Tom: I’ll assume that’s in quality rather than style, because a sudden gear-shift into Westlife ballad would be odd here.

Tim: Well, obviously – though she can clearly sing when she wants to, so hopefully a slightly more pleasant follow-up isn’t too far off; as it is, though, for me it’s a terrible song, almost redeemed.

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Pet Shop Boys – Inner Sanctum

Tom: Drop everything there’s a new Pet Shop Boys single and it’s a BANGER.

Tom: Seriously, I wasn’t expecting that. They’ve had some good tracks on recent albums, but they’ve all been a lot calmer than this. This sounds like one of the really good remixes that ends up being relegated to a “digital-only presale” because it’s not what you expect from them.

Tim: Hmm – it says something that it isn’t billed as the first single – that’s coming shortly, apparently. But I think here we’re back to the composers issue, because this is a piece of music more than anything else. Yes, it’s a piece of music that at times is very, very close to a track by either Sash or Faithless (can’t quite place it now; it’s one of those two), and it’s a piece of music that doesn’t need quite such a lengthy intro, but still there’s so much more there than your standard term of ‘pop song’ can possibly encapsulate.

Tom: Yes, it builds a bit slowly, yes, I think I’d prefer it if it kicked into that final-chorus mode a lot earlier and went even BIGGER for the end, but it’ll do nicely. I’m marking this down as “floor-filler” and looking forward to the album.

Tim: And the Royal Albert Hall, because if the new stuff’s half as good as this then that £35 each will be a BARGAIN.

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Janikke – Seven Emotions

Tim: Jannike, a Finn who brings us this, a fairly upbeat ballad. For those that aren’t aware, as I wasn’t until I looked them up: the ‘seven emotions’ are nothing to do with Brad Pitt but are anger, fear, disgust, contempt, joy, sadness and surprise; with that knowledge, enjoy.

Tim: Now, wanting to see that makes for a song with a message that, to be honest, I’m not sure I can ever remember hearing before: not liking that a relationship’s all good, and wanting to bring out the negativities just to test it. “I know it’s crazy but it’s true” – perhaps, yes, but I suppose there’s a decent case to be made, which she’s going for.

Tom: I’m all for unconventional messages in songs, as long as they vaguely make sense. And I guess this does.

Tim: I think so. It’s got to be said, as well, that she’s doing a decent job of making that case – vocals are all on point, and there’s some wonderful instrumentation going on in the background: piano, drums, cello, guitar, it’s all there, and sounding absolutely lovely.

Tom: The composition here’s pretty damn good, too. It almost seems to be taking some cues from the country-music Standard Songbook, wonderfully backed up by some unexpected strings and a proper band rather than just synths.

Tim: So, the emotions this brings out in me? A bit of surprise, small amount of sadness, maybe, but mostly a whole lot of joy. WINNING.

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Alex Newell – This Ain’t Over

Tom: Our reader, Lily, sends this in, with just enough enthusiasm that I suspect they’re actually from Alex Newell’s record label. Still, expect a “90s vibe” here.

Tom: 90s, certainly, but with enough of tropical-house sound to place it firmly in the “inspired by Kygo a couple of months too late” group of early 2016 releases.

Tim: Oh yes – there’s instrumentation in the back that’s very much a “ooh, yes, let’s have some of that please”.

Tom: Can’t fault the vocal performance: that’s a heck of a voice right there. Is that autotune I hear in the middle eight, at about 2:33? I’m not sure, but there’s still a lot of power behind it even so.

Tim: Not sure – I’ve never been great at picking it up, though, but you’re right, it does sound good.

Tom: But I’m not sure the rest of the track backs it up: those synths in the background are all over the place, and the melody’s just, well, okay. It’s a good album track, it’s a good middle-of-the-set track to keep folks on the dance floor, but I don’t see it being a floorfiller.

Tim: See, much as I dislike (for the most part) being just plain negative about a song, I can’t agree with you on even that second item – for me, this is a golden opportunity to head to the bar to get a drink.

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Saturday Flashback: Westlife – What About Now

Tim: Last week Nicky off Westlife was announced as being the one to compete for Ireland in Eurovision, and since you like to steer clear of Eurovision tracks, this’ll do because to be honest I’m surprised we’ve not covered it before.

Tim: It’s a cover of a song by American band Daughtry; the original is here but before you click that be aware that (a) it’s a charity video and really rather depressing and (b) it sounds EXACTLY THE SAME. There is literally not a semiquaver’s difference in them – instruments, even the vocals are fairly similar. Fairly sure you could set them playing at the same time, with one in the left ear and one in the right, and you wouldn’t think anything of it at all – I won’t test that, mind, because it’s a right faff for a predetermined conclusion, but if anyone’s bored, that’s a Sunday afternoon project for you.

Tom: I can see why they chose it, though: it’s an astonishingly good chorus. I mean, it’s not as good a track as this other What About Now, but it’ll do.

Tim: So, it’s an unnecessary cover, especially since it was released only a couple of months after the original got to number 11 over here, but on the other hand: it’s a really, really good track anyway, worthy of a cover; it has a lovely video, thanks to the wonders of Iceland; and it was Westlife who performed it at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize concert in honour of Barack Obama, so there you go.

Tom: And to be fair: it’s a belter, albeit with slow verses. Inspired choice to come back from the middle eight in a minor key and then slam it back into top gear with the final chorus, though.

Tim: Well done them, then.

Tim: UPDATE: One of our readers, Wouter, has been in touch, having put the two tracks together, and yes – they really are the same, save for a “uhhhh” from Westlife after the first chorus and a bit of extra guitar twiddling in the final chorus from Daughtry. You can hear excerpts here: Daughtry’s in the left channel, Westlife’s in the right.

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Sandra Lyng – Night After Night

Tim: Nice country number? Track came out last year, but now we have a video, hooray!

Tim: Well, country that fairly swiftly veers into full on pumping dance territory, just as you thought farmhouse music had backed away a little bit. And it’s GOOD, isn’t it?

Tom: It is! Backed up with a video that took an obvious but nevertheless welcome twist. It is, however, the “good” of about two years ago — and that pre-chorus with its “blah blah blah” just doesn’t work for me.

Tim: See I like – it’s the first indication you get that things are about to ramp up, and gets me nice and excited. It’s always nice when I can get fully on board with both aspects of a mixed-genre track (though admittedly it’s not as if the country bits are ever particularly gentle and mild), and here I am very much Zane Lowe-style ON BOARD. Great dance track, MORE LIKE IT PLEASE.

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Miike Snow – Genghis Khan

Tom: Yesterday, a video that looked convincingly like the 1980s. Today, we’re off — just as convincingly — to the 1960s.

Tim: So, the bit around 1:33 when he hit the wall suddenly made me think of Kylo Ren, and now I really really want to see an alternate ending of The Force Awakens.

Tom: A good song, to me, is one that I find myself singing the chorus after I’ve listened to it — and not being annoyed by it, but going back and playing it again. By that measure, this succeeds perfectly.

Tim: I played it again, but mostly so I could concentrate on the song without being engrossed in the video.

Tom: I think it’s a bit too repetitive — is there even a verse in there? If there is, I can’t remember it — but it’s a good song, paired with a really lovely video. Once again, it’s a video that convinces me the song’s better than it is, but I’m still reasonably happy with this.

Tim: Yeah, and weirdly, the video bears no relation to the song at all, really – sure, there’s an element of being unsure in there, but that’s as far as it goes. I really like the video; sadly, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the song.

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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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