Medina – Når Intet Er Godt Nok

Tim: Or, if you’d prefer a translation from the Danish, ‘When Nothing Is Good Enough’. Because, you see, when nothing is good enough, you just have to write a song about it.

Tom: Yes, and I think a band called Fairground Attraction did, in 1988. You’ll recognise the chorus.

Tim: It’s been a while since we’ve had a song that’s so closely trod the line between BALLAD and BANGER, but here we’ve got a considerable helping of dark emotion in the vocal line and drums, and heavy instruments behind it making me want to get up and jump around a bit. Which is nice, as I like a bit of depth in my songs.

Tom: Half way between ballad and banger is a good description, really, but I feel like it falls into a bit of an awkward middle ground. It’s not quite danceable enough, and not quite ballad-y enough: it’s designed for radio play, not club play, and… that’s okay, I gu — WHOA OKAY I JUST REACHED THE KEY CHANGE. I did not expect that.

Tim: What’s also nice is the length: I believe I’ve mentioned before how three and a half minutes is a very good length for a song, and here it actually seems quite a bit shorter – when the key change comes along I find myself thinking “oh, is it almost over already?” And that works very well as far as the song goes, in fact, because it has me already reaching for the restart button way before the end, just in preparation.

Tom: It didn’t do that for me: to my mind, it’s one of those background songs that doesn’t get remembered. It’s competent, I can’t fault it technically, but it’s just not memorable.

Tim: Oh, probably not, no, but it’s still a lovely track, well executed.

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Nadia Gattas – Someone Like You

Tim: I first heard this on Monday morning, thought it was a bit “standard dance track, move on”, but then I had it going round in my head for the whole morning, and most of the afternoon.

Tom: And I suspect the same thing will happen to me. That’s almost mid-90s synth-fake-steel-drums on the acking, isn’t it?

Tim: The only thing that shunted it out was hearing Shirley Clamp, prompted by the Band Aid announcement (and speaking of which, I do hope Pitbull’s going to be doing Dizzy Rascal’s job this time round).

Tom: I thought he was the natural pick too! It’ll probably be Ed Sheeran doing a questionable accent, although I reckon Dizzee is still big enough to be invited back.

Tim: Possibly, but not as fun. As for this track, I haven’t changed my view – it is quite the standard dance track, for a DJ to put in the middle of his set and hopefully not cause too many people to go and get a drink, but it’s a standard dance track with a couple of very good hooks in there and so I really rather like it.

Tom: Right – for once, we’re in agreement. It’s a middle-of-the-set track: it’s never going to be a floor-filler, but it’ll be a floor-keeper.

Tim: It might, in fact, get quite a few people up on their feet if they’ve finished the drink and the choice is dancing or back to the bar. By the end of it, you’re humming along, or louder, because suddenly you know that hook – its only been there two and a half minutes, but it’s in your head and you want to dance to it. Basically – standard dance track, but good at doing what it should be doing, in getting people dancing.

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Tim: For no readily apparent reason, Zane Lowe and others at Radio 1 decided to take the film Drive, get rid of all the music from it, and put new tracks on instead.

Tom: If I remember rightly, Drive has an astonishing soundtrack — the idea of “remixing” the film isn’t as strange as it might seem.

Tim: A number of acts got involved, such as Bastille, Eric Prydz, The 1975 and CHVRCHES, who did this.

Tom: All I can hear from that intro is the phrase “Ed, really?” repeated over and over again.

Tim: I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen either version of the film so I’ve no idea how well this worked with it, but it’s a good track to listen to, coming with all the usual CHVRCHES benefits like Lauren’s pleasant Scottish vocals and a warm and tuneful electronic underscoring. It does take a while to get going, as it wasn’t until the chorus I really felt YES, this is a good CHVRCHES track.

Tom: It’s exactly what you’d expect from them, and I mean that in a good way.

Tim: As on Friday, there’s a somewhat unintelligible backing vocal, here after the chorus, but again it works, and combines with everything else to give a very listenable track.

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Saturday Flashback: Panetoz – Dansa Pausa

Tim: This here, a track I was going to write about when it got released two and a half years back but which got buried in a background tab until it was way too late, and eventually found its way into my Future Flashbacks pile. Let’s have it now, because it’s really quite fun.

Tim: Panetoz are a five-piece band from Sweden, originating variously from Gambia, Ethiopia, Angola, Congo and Finland, so that’s fun, isn’t it?

Tom: Mm. It’s certainly trying to be fun, but it seems a bit more like the kind of enforced ‘fun’ that follows after a teacher tries to start a singalong on a school coach trip.

Tim: This track, a very enjoyable party number, got to number one in Sweden, deservedly so – it’s almost what you’d get if Pitbull actually made listenable music, and almost makes me resent him even more, for not doing so.

Tom: Whoa, whoa, really? Pitbull makes extremely listenable music, if you just remove Pitbull. And I’m astonished this made it to number 1 – it just doesn’t seem, well, good enough.

Tim: I said this topped the charts in Sweden – elsewhere in the world, an English version entitled (perhaps unsurprisingly) Dance Pause got to number 53 when it was released in Belgium; I don’t really know what the thinking there might have been, but there you go.

This isn’t, incidentally, the only time they almost appeared here – they got to the final of this year’s Melodifestivalen with Efter Solsken, which almost made the cut as a Saturday Reject. But then it didn’t. Oh well.

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Imagine Dragons – I Bet My Life

Tim: Creators of surprisingly listenable rock music Imagine Dragons are back with the lead single from their second album; here it is:

Tom: That’s a great intro.

Tim: And that’s a GREAT track, I think. It’s a far cry from their first releases, almost to the extent that it’s hard to call it rock any more (or at least that’s the case if you read the YouTube comments left by their real fans).

Tom: You forgot to put scare-quotes around “real” and “fans” there.

Tim: I don’t quite know what the noises are in the background – in the opening they sounded like some weird backing vocals, but looking at the artwork, the noises sound later more like crows squawking, which is weird.

Tom: See, I heard someone using one of those high-speed Formula 1 tyre-changing things. Probably shows how our brains work, that.

Tim: The rhythm’s nice – the verses have the same measured sound that I really liked in The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball (with apologies if it’s still too early to link to that), and the choruses have exactly the right level of shoutiness not to be too annoying.

Tom: Agreed: that chorus startled me in the best way. Fantastic.

Tim: All in all, I like it a lot, and while (given the variety of tracks on Night Visions) I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions about it from one track, I’m looking forward to the new album, out in February.

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First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Tim: Title track from their third album, seeing them keep up the strong country pop vibe – have a listen if you don’t believe me. Or if you do. In fact, just have a listen.

Tim: I don’t know why, but I’m having trouble coming up with much to write at the moment, about this or any track.

Tom: That’s because, for this track at least, it’s exceptionally dull. The voice is good, but it’s droning; the guitar goes nowhere; it is all — and I’m using the technical term here — “meh”.

Tim: You reckon? Because I think this is definitely worth a feature and the one I’ve been most enamoured by of the multitude I’ve listened to this evening. Except for the Frozen soundtrack. I could probably write for HOURS on that.

Tom: Well, you know why that is? Stay Gold is basically a low-key version of Let It Go.

Tim: What?

Tom: Go on, sing the first line along with this, it’s basically the same. And the lyric “top of the mountain we wanted to stand?” It’s Let It Go.

Tim: Errrmmmmm………

Tom: Okay, that might be a stretch.

Tim: Let’s move on from Frozen. Because this is pretty good as well, in the usual First Aid Kit manner. Emotive vocal, nice country instrumentation and not in an irritating manner. In fact, to be honest, I think I’ll just recommend the album in general – it’s all of this calibre, and definitely worth thirty eight minutes of your time. Give it a go, why don’t you.

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Rikke Lie – Paperboat

Tim: We’ve had a couple of rackety tracks recently; let’s calm down. Let’s calm down a lot.

Tom: Gosh, that was weird when she started singing on the track, but didn’t in the video.

Tim: We all know I’m really not much of one at all for a droopy ballad, but this I like. Partly because it’s not too droopy, I suppose – despite talking about wounds that never heal and tears that never dry, there’s that description of ‘us’ as two lost souls, which is almost poetic.

Tom: Yep, it’s rare for me to like something like this too: but it’s damn good. It reminds me of a lot of different songs, and I think you could argue that it’s a bit by-the-numbers — but as we’ve said many times before, there’s no shame in that if those numbers are good enough.

Tim: Let’s look at those lyrics: “we’re just two lost souls, sailing on a paper boat, don’t know where to go, trying to get home”. Written down, they’re somewhat neutral, and can go either way. In the first chorus, for example, with damp piano and lower strings, they’re sung as a bad thing – stuck in a relationship, both wanting out, going nowhere. Come that penultimate chorus, though, back from the middle eight with the strings rising up underneath, it’s turned round and is almost triumphant – we’re there for each other, there’s no-one else, and, as is sung elsewhere “don’t you leave me to drown”. Isn’t that wonderful?

Tom: It’s a full-on lighters-in-the-air moment, that. And let’s talk about that music: it manages to reach a crescendo, and then die back down to a quiet final chorus, despite not actually changing all that much. No big electric guitar coming in, no sudden percussion boom: it’s achieved with subtlety rather than the standard throw-everything-at-it cheap emotional shots.

Tim: It’s a beautiful track, and it’s suddenly struck me a shame that more songs aren’t like this. Although maybe if they were I wouldn’t be quite so struck by this one, so actually, I’ll just take it as it is. Very much, as it is.

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Julia Vero – How Does It Feel?

Tim: Disturbing images in the choruses of this video, here, but otherwise you’ll be fine.

Tom: I didn’t know what I expected from that warning, but it certainly wasn’t… that.

Tim: I struggle with this track. Personally, I don’t much like it, because it’s aggressive, a bit unpleasant, and not hugely enjoyable for me.

Tom: Huh. It is aggressive, it is a bit unpleasant, but for once those don’t become unpleasant for me. It’s rather good.

Tim: However, tonally, musically, lyrically, it’s brilliant: the lyrics with their “you wanted me gone, I’m gone, just bloody live with it” message fit perfectly with the loud noise and the haunting (almost taunting) chanting in the background. The occasional stops put that in as well, as if to give the slight implication that actually there’s a bit of doubt, but no she really means it.

Tom: Right! The style is right, the music’s good…

Tim: The chorus is big, bold, and almost surprising in, well, almost its audacity of volume and tone. So the song is great. But I don’t like it.

Tom: Speak for yourself, I’m in favour of it. Although possibly not that creepy face.

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Ace Wilder – Riot

Tim: Busy Doin’ Nothing was one of the summer’s biggest hits in Sweden following its near victory in Melodifestivalen; this here is, she presumably hopes, just as successful a follow-up.

Tom: I still keep thinking “Ace Wilder” is a guy, but I think that’s probably because I keep confusing her with Ace Rimmer.

Tim: We’ve had a tricky relationship with Ace here; she was responsible for one of last year’s best tracks and one of its worst.

Tom: No link there?

Tim: No link. This year’s previous left me largely uninterested. This: not half bad, actually. It’s a total racket, of course, but then that pretty much goes with the RIOT territory and I reckon it pretty much hangs together.

Tom: That’s true: and it’s a difficult path that Icona Pop have forged. It’s easy to copy their style; it’s hard to make it sound good. This makes a pretty credible effort.

Tim: The verses are iffy – starting out they’re fine, because there’s nothing really to compare them to, but then the chorus hits, then HORNS*, and when we return for the second verse we’re left wondering where everything went and what on earth “my mind bending gravity is nature’s worst” is meant to mean.

Tom: I mean, we’ve heard worse lyrics, but not for a while.

Tim: Slightly similar with the middle eight, but those bits aside I really rather like this. Higher end of the scale, then, and if I wasn’t entirely exhausted right now I might be persuaded to possibly even kick over a bin or something.

Tom: I can get behind that. By which I mean, I’ll cheer you on as you kick over a bin.

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Saturday Flashback: Lis Sørensen – Brænt

Tim: Every day, round about five o’clock, Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ comes on the music system at work, and every day, round about five o’clock, I expect to hear Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, because of that identical opening guitar strum, and somehow I never learn. Except it’s not Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn, because that’s a cover of an American rock band’s song.

Tom: What. What?! I… wow. I had no idea.

Tim: Except even that’s a bit weird, because there’s also this: probably the only song in existence where a cover version was released before the original.

Tim: Let’s have a timeline, because this could get confusing:
1993, the song is written and recorded as a demo by Scott Cutler, Anne Preven, and Phil Thornalley; they didn’t think much of it at the time, but the recording lingered.
Later in 1993, Lis Sørensen met Thornalley, who played her the song, and thought she might have a crack at it. She translated it (ish – Brænt actually means Burnt, but the gist remains the same), kept it musically largely the same, released it, and became the first artist to make money off it.
1995, the band Ednaswap (formed of Cutler, Preven and a few others) finally got a recording deal, and released the song in English, reworked to be a bit rockier. By all standard counts – original authors, singers, lyrics – this became the original, two years on from its foreign language cover.
1997, Natalie Imbruglia recorded it, became the only act to have much chart success with it (according to Wikipedia, it’s ‘considered an “All Time Pop Hit”‘, though there’s no mention of by whom), and if you ask most people, basically became the owner of the song.

Tom: Blimey. Thanks for the lesson. I still think Natalie Imbruglia’s version is the best, but then, I suppose I would.

Tim: Well, quite. And there you go. Chronologically, we’ve a cover, then the original, and then a cover that basically became the original. Along the way, there came a vast number of other versions, in a variety of other languages and genres – without exhausting the list, we’ve a Brazilian girlband’s O amor é ilusão, a Slovenian band’s On, an American punk rock version, an Uzbek soloist’s Sogʻindim ishon, and, perhaps inevitably, the Almighty Records take on it. And people say covers are boring…

Tom: You’re forgetting the very best version: David Armand.

Tim: Oh. Oh, that has made my afternoon.

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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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