Boy With Strings – Play Pretend

Tom: Occasionally, we’ll get a track suggestion in from someone who’s blatantly trying to “astroturf” — to create a fake grassroots movement, and to promote a track while pretending they’re not involved.

Not this time: in the box asking for their thoughts on the track, Saara writes “well, I wrote the lyrics and my friend who sings it is fabulous. So I am a bit biased but I think it is awesome”.

Now, to manage your expectations: “cold and cool, with looped violins” is the shtick. This is quiet, downtempo stuff here, so Saara may well have misjudged who to send this to.

Tom: Because all I can think is, that’s one hell of an introduction. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that FULL-ON PERCUSSION ain’t the aim here, but it gave me the feeling of experiencing the beginning of a track without the end.

Tim: I spent the first two and half minutes of song worried that I’d not be able to describe it as anything other than ‘remarkably dull’, because my word I couldn’t really have been interested if I’d put every bit of energy I had into it. The pause where you think something’s about to drop, and then absolutely nothing doe? That’s just cruel. Two minutes twenty-six, though, and it picks up, slightly.

Tom: There are some lovely moments in here: the multitracked “make-up” and “shake-up” in the first verse are wonderful, and the last minute or so is gorgeous. But our ears are trained for CLUB BANGERS and DROPS, Tim; I’m left wanting a kick-in that never actually arrives.

Tim: Right – the later part with the deep vocals and heavier strings is alright, and typing whilst listening to that part I’m currently finding quite enjoyable. The first part, though, I just found tedious.

Tom: But that said: my word, this is some gorgeously produced, ethereal indie-pop here. If that’s what you’re looking for, you could do a lot worse.

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Carina Dahl – It Gets Better

Tim: The title might give you the impression that this is a somewhat chirpy song. That is appropriate, because it really is.

Tim: This song is lovely, in particular the bouncy strings that are especially noticeable in the middle eight, and of course the chorus lyrics that are so in your face that they almost (but only almost) feel a tad forced.

Tom: Adding a percussion hit on every syllable is, indeed, forcing it a bit – but it does work. I’m less sure about that “better, better, better” repeat — I don’t think it’s quite as catchy as the producers seem to insist it is.

Tim: Perhaps not as catchy, but I still like it. The one thing that disappoints me, which you might be able to guess, is that there’s no key change back from the middle eight, because as far as I’m concerned it would be a delightful cherry on top of an already good cake, but a cake with a distinctly cherry-sized hole in it.

Tom: Good point: it’s positively begging for one there.

Tim: ​Few notes on the video: quite a waste of wine there, you’re really going to ruin those trainers and that’s one hell of a lot of chilli peppers. But mostly, just imagine that with a key change: “Feels like WAKING UP!” God, that’d be good.

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Frida Sundemo – Drawn To You

Tim: ‘Lit Up By Neon’, the title of Frida’s on-its-way EP, perhaps explaining the sudden rush of tracks. This here, the second in a month, is a little more upbeat than the previous, so that’s nice.

Tom: Hmm. It might be more upbeat on the whole — that synth-vocal certainly is — but those verses do drag it down a bit.

Tim: Yes – the voice is still her trademark somewhat ethereal voice, that’s hard to really put a mood on (certainly hard to describe as upbeat), but we’ve got here that underlying vocal line that’d be hard to spell so I won’t try, and that brings with it a certain ‘ooh, this is fun and invigorating’ sensation.

Tom: Right! But when the synth line is also the chorus, it doesn’t quite hold together as an actual track for me. It’s nearly there, but it just needs something else to kick it into being a Really Good Song.

Tim: Well, for me that comes with the lovely ‘I’m running at the speed of light in the middle of the night’ melody which appears every now and again and is also excellent. Two favourite parts, then, and for me that’s plenty enough to qualify this as a good track.

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Em – Taking Back My Heart

Tim: Here is some generic but very good Eurodance. Sound good?

Tom: Always.

Tim: I’ll be honest: that takes me back to the glory days of Cascada and the like.

Tom: In style, possibly, but my word, is that melody ever a dirge. I know there’s a bit of trend for darker Eurodance around, but I’m not sold on it.

Tim: Em (apparently the six syllables of Emelie Appelgren are five too many) is Swedish, and seems to want to fill the void of female vocal-led dance pop that inexplicably seems to be around right now. If this debut’s anything to go by, there’s quite a bit of promise there, and while it’s no Can’t Get Over, neither was La La La (Never Give It Up) (yeah, exactly).

Tom: That’s true: it’s the songwriting I’ve got issues with here, not any other part of it. And by the time of that final chorus, I think my ears were starting to get used to the dark.

Tim: I have high hopes, so let’s keep playing this and hope that it all keeps coming, shall we?

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Saturday Reject: Martin Stenmarck – När änglarna går hem

Tim: Andra Chansen rolls around, and, as far as I’m concerned, went fairly well – my favourite four ended up all in the top five, and the two that went through were both decent enough. Disappointed this didn’t get through, though.

Tim: I’ll be honest: the staging adds a lot to this.

Tom: Agreed: that barrage of lights during that glorious first chorus really does add something.

Tim: It is, undeniably, a slow builder – that first verse is really quite dull, and I found it hard not to be distracted that that idiotic hat. But come the chorus, all was immediately forgiven, or at least forgotten.

Tom: There is a bit of Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called in that build — “no April rain, no flowers bloom, no wedding Saturday,” etc. But I’m willing to believe that’s coincidence given how different, and how big, the rest of the song is.

Tim: Not only did it pick up musically, the light show that was going on him, simple as it was, did so much to say LOOK AT THIS AND PAY ATTENTION. And after that, it was just a question of keeping the attention, which was easy enough with this song – you’ve not only got the background chanting, but also him shouting the decent tune at the top of his voice and then, once we might have got bored of that, the old “break glass in case of emergency” tactic: spread your legs as far as possible.

Tom: There’s more than one way that could be taken.

Tim: And all good ways. Job’s a good’un, let’s have the votes please.

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First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining

Tim: Remember this Swedish duo from back in 2012?

Tom: For once, yes I do! I think that’s mostly due to the name though.

Tim: Good, because it’s new album time, and therefore new track time.

Tim: The sound’s not changed much, which after yesterday’s ridiculousness almost comes as something of a relief.

Tom: Speak for yourself, I could take a whole album of that.

Tim: Oh, so could I, but after forty minutes of that one track on repeat it struck me as time for a change. This is grown up country-pop, and done very well at that.

Tom: Yes, yes it is. She’s got exactly the right voice for that — pitch-perfect cry break included — backed by the right instrumentation and production.

Tim: Mind you, for a song that’s ostensibly named after the good things in life, it’s not exactly a chirpy number, is it? It’s nice, and very good, but it’s hardly a party number, except– ooh! except for that time in every party when all the alcohol’s run out, a few people have started sneaking out in the garden for a spliff and everyone’s just lazing around and a bit weary. That part of a party, it’s great for.

Tom: Well, that’s rather specific. I think it’ll be damn good in a few other situations too, although I can’t quite suggest what they’ll be.

Tim: Oh, I’m sure you’re right, but until the specific moments come to you, should that happen to be anybody’s favourite part of a party, the single’s out now, and the album’ll be with us in a couple of months. SORTED.

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The United – Come On! Come On! Happy With Smile

Tim: Yes. That’s right. This here is what you get when a European boyband decide to try their hands at J-Pop. I’d say “Interested?” but of course you are.

Tom: The word “problematic” is bubbling up from somewhere, but let’s see where they’re going with it.

Tim: Oh, and be warned that this is a pretty awful lyric video.

Tom: Hahahaha. That’s incredible. That pre-chorus. That glorious key change. I can’t stop smiling.

Tim: So there we go. It’s utterly ridiculous, as far as a European market is concerned – brilliant, but still utterly ridiculous. Stick it over with the rest of the genre, though, and it sounds about right, and to be honest makes me wonder why I haven’t delved around there previously. It’s fun. No, it’s a lot of fun.

Tom: Damn right: don’t forget there’s a big crossover between Eurobeat and J-pop. This is mashing the two together really rather well.

Tim: It’s an experiment, sure, but as far as I’m concerned it pays dividends. Well done to all concerned. Though, seriously – that title?

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Orion feat. Niklas von Arnold – Follow The Lights

Tim: You know what we don’t have enough of, Tom? TV game show theme tunes.

Tom: Hey, let’s not forget the Casualty garage remix that got to number 1. Actually, yes, let’s forget it.

Tim: Yes, let’s. This instead would make a good one.

Tim: Well, bad bits first: it goes on longer than it really should, the chorus doesn’t quite hit the heights it should and to be honest it pales into insignificance in comparison to some of his other work.

Tom: That’s quite harsh. I can’t disagree with anything you say, though: that chorus is far more downbeat that it really should be.

Tim: I don’t mean it to be harsh – his other work really has been very good indeed. However, I’m not sure why, but within thirty seconds of this starting I was put in mind of the Treasure Hunt music and from then on I couldn’t stop thinking of it as a theme tune. The bouncy strings underneath work both to build tension and to give a ‘you can do it’ boost, parts of it are quiet enough to work as a bed to talk over and as for the lyrics, well, “Follow The Lights” is a perfectly good framework on which to build a contest.

Tom: You’ve basically just demoted this to stock music. Again, quite harsh, but not entirely unjustified.

Tim: Yeah – this really wasn’t intended to come across so harshly, but it just fits. So I say let’s make it.

Tom: If you want something that sounds like Treasure Hunt, though, try Muse’s MK Ultra.

Tim: Oh. Oh wow, that really is quite impressive.

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André Zuniga – Off The Ground

Tim: Last Friday I brought you a hefty dance track that you were happy with; have another.

Tim: Well there we go, I trust that was also satisfying?

Tom: The first minute, exactly the first minute, is dedicated to such a strong build-up that I was convinced it couldn’t possibly live up to its promises. And then it did.

Tim: And then it did indeed. It’s the second release from André, who came to people’s attention on Idol 2011 and brought out a summery dance debut last June, and his first foray into proper club banger tracks, and to be honest it’s a very good foray.

Tom: Not quite danceable enough in the verses if it wants to be a Club Banger, but a quick remix for the clubs will sort that out.

Tim: Decent enough vocals, beat that’s not too quiet during the verses and has a nice build up to the chorus, after which it ALL GOES OFF. A well-produced song to dance to, even if the lyric video is a bit ’12-year-old meets Windows Movie Maker’.

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Emerentia – Silver Bullet

Tim: Wasting Water was one of the best tracks we featured last year, and Emerentia’s finally out with a follow-up.

Tim: And as far as I’m concerned, that makes her very much two for two. An ENORMOUS track, with, well, basically everything.

Tom: Agreed.

Tim: We get the verses out of the way pretty quickly, leaving us with a nice lengthy pre-chorus that is in some respects better that the actual chorus, or at least just as good but in a different way – we start out with an anticipatory melody and progressive drumbeat before going ALL IN and a bit shouty for the main part.

Tom: I’m not sure about that “yo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ou” part, but that’s a minor quibble in what is otherwise a top-notch track.

Tim: When it comes back from the middle eight as the piano gets doused? That’s wonderful, it really is.

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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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