Stockholm Noir feat. Ofelia – Boy Like A Girl

“It’d be doing this a massive disservice to call it anything like formulaic.”

Tim: So here’s fun: according to the e-mail, it’s “a song for every individual who feels that they don’t fit in within the norms in society,” and the video “captures how society can judge individuals based on structures that some of us don’t feel comfortable with, and not respect everyone’s right to live their own life, in their own way”.

Tom: That’s an incredibly clunky sentence, but I think I get what they mean.

Tim: Regardless of whether or not you think that’s sanctimonious guff, the song does at least deserve a few minutes before any out of hand dismissal.

Tim: The main reason I say that is that there are some very distinct areas in that song; technically they’re along the same verse/chorus 1/chorus 2 that is the standard nowadays, but it’d be doing this a massive disservice to call it anything like formulaic.

Tom: There are some parts of this track — generally the quiet, instrumental parts — where it doesn’t work at all for me. But as you said, it’s worth sticking through it, because bloody hell the rest of it’s good.

Tim: Throughout a lot of it, it’s a difficult listen – you might want something more upbeat, or want it to hurry up a bit – but it’s also somewhat hypnotic, and despite the five minute length, with nothing new happening in the final minute, I don’t want to switch it off.

Tom: I think one of the reasons is that I just haven’t heard this sort of synth arrangement for a while: it’s a bit 90s-trance, and I thoroughly enjoy that.

Tim: They say, finishing up, that “Stockholm Noir will continue spreading the darkness to the world, and recruit all the dark souls out there that feel they don’t fit in the scene,” and I think I feel the same way after reading that as I do after hearing the song: slightly downbeat, but still wanting more.

Zedd, Liam Payne – Get Low

“Gellow! Gellow! Hanson-yehwes-lestgo!”

Tim: Hey, remember six weeks or so ago when no-one in the world could believe quite how useless Liam’s solo debut was? Well here’s a speedy follow-up.

Tom: “Gellow! Gellow! Hanson-yehwes-lestgo!” I wouldn’t normally pick on someone for their diction in a song, but it’s like he’s deliberately slurring.

Tim: I mean it’s still not remotely brilliant, and I think what we have here is very much what we had with Niall: first single is entirely shit, so the second single can only really go up. There are definitively good things about it, though: the music is good, although most of that probably comes from Zedd so, erm, hmm.

Tom: Right! Liam could be replaced by any generic session vocalist here. Which isn’t bad in itself, there are plenty of vocalists who make their mark in other ways, but… well, he hasn’t.

Tim: It doesn’t have any lyrics like “I used to be in 1D, now I’m free”, though that might just be because by the end of the song it feels like ninety per cent of all the words ever spoken have been “get low”.

Tom: Or, indeed, “gellow”.

Tim: Peculiarly, there is one scenario that no-one seems to have at all considered (except possibly Louis – great interview, that): that not all members of the group should pursue solo careers. I don’t quite know where the expectation came from, unless it’s just that “people will listen to them, so just get on and make them, alright?” But now we’re here, and everyone’s going to compare them, and some will inevitably come off worse. And Liam: well, you’re not in first place right now.

Tom: Harsh, but not unfair.

Saturday Flashback: State of Drama – Fighter

“They’re good instrumental breaks.”

Tim: Tuesday’s track got me thinking about this lot, and wondering what they’d been up to since their 2014 Melodifestivalen performance. Sadly, the answer is not much, but I did find this from April 2015, with a peculiar sort-of-key-change-but-not-technically, and this, from October 2013.

Tim: I’m glad I found it, because I think that’s just marvellous.

Tom: There are some lovely parts in this: the 2000s-retro-eurodance synths mid-chorus, and the transition back into the verse were both excellent.

Tim: Weren’t they? It should be noted that the “fighter/fire” rhyming is both slightly iffy and tediously obvious at the same time, quite an achievement, and the chorus really could do with a few more lyrics, but otherwise this is just great. It doesn’t even feel too long, which as a four minute song means it’s doing something very well indeed in my book. I think it’s because a lot of that time is taken up with instrumental breaks – and they’re good instrumental breaks.

Tom: Yep, the bit before the middle eight is, I think, just half a chorus without the lyrics. When it’s this energetic, and this well written and produced, you can get away with it.

Tim: This is a Great Song, and it’d be even better if there was an extra lyric or two in the chorus.

The Main Level feat. Blvck O – Bombadilla

“A lot less mindless garbage spewing than I’d expected.”

Tim: We’ve written about these guys a few times before, mostly pointing how they’re following the exact standard boyband career progression. Right now, for a hot and sunny summer: a tropical flavoured song with a guest artist to fit the mood.

Tim: And…yeah, it’s perfectly decent.

Tom: The intro vaguely reminded me of a lot of mid-90s pop, so I was vaguely hoping that, rather than your standard rap middle eight, “feat. Blvck O” might be a new Bubbler Ranx (now running his own music production company, it seems). Not quite, but closer than anyone else has managed in a while.

Tim: That’s true, yes – there was a lot less mindless garbage spewing than I’d expected.

Tom: Got to admit, though, the farting car engine got more of a reaction from me (a smile) than the actual chorus synths (nothing at all). This is at least a competent boyband track — and, arguably, it’s doing a good job of updating that mid-90s pop sound.

Tim: Until I heard this song I had no idea whatsoever what a bombadilla life might be, and to be honest I still don’t—hell, even Google Translate doesn’t recognise it and that has all the words in the world—but assuming it’s what the context makes it out to be, a girl living one sounds fairly fun and I can understand why they’d want to sing a song about her (though quite why he’s off with her sister is anyone’s guess).

Tom: Maybe she got sick of all his ludicrous dancing in fields?

Tim: Now you mention it, that would make perfect sense. I like this song a lot – there may not be that much original in it, but it takes the enthusiasm from the bombadillaness and keeps it up, and now I want to be living a bombadilla life as well. Where can I do this please, does anybody know?

Be The Bear – Erupt

“It keeps telegraphing changes that just don’t happen.”

Tom: The title of this post seems like a bizarre motivational slogan. Be the bear! Erupt! Ahem. Anyway.

Tim: Slight warning: it took me quite a while to be sure I wasn’t watching a John Lewis Christmas advert. But then it became obvious.

Tom: You know, I’ve never actually seen a John Lewis Christmas advert.

Tim: What?

Tom: But I know what you mean, here, at least.

Tim: Her actual name’s Christina and she’s off Gothenberg, but never mind that because that first chorus really is unusual, and a tad “oop, you broke the song”.

Tom: It surprised me, but I don’t think it full-on broke the song: either that, or I’m getting more used to changes of chorus like that.

Tim: I don’t say that because “aaagh, it’s different, blegh” (although that doesn’t help), but largely because of that build that comes up right at the very end. What with most pop now bringing along two full choruses, a vocal and an instrumental, it really did seem as though we were leading into a second half. As it is, straight back to second verse brings us way out. I get what it’s trying to do – sound unusual, stick out – I just don’t think it works quite as well as it ought to.

Tom: It’s almost like the “body language” of the song is a little off: it keeps telegraphing changes in momentum and instrumentation that just don’t happen. I wonder how much of that’s due to me expecting “normal” pop music — like a John Lewis Christmas advert — and how much is just because it is, genuinely, a bit off.

Tim: Quite possibly a bit of both. BUT, having said all that: everything after that is lovely. The build works throughout when the next chorus goes in the the rest of it, and the strings that gradually appear sound all sorts of lovely. So start me at 1:23, I’m laughing.

Miley Cyrus – Malibu (Alan Walker Remix)

“…that is not Alan Walker’s trademark style.”

Tom: We described the original as Mostly An Album Track. And despite hearing a lot more through airplay, I stand by that: it’s catchier than I thought it was, but the instrumentation’s dull. Can Alan Walker’s trademark style save it?

Tom: …that is not Alan Walker’s trademark style.

Tim: Hmmm, no.

Tom: I mean, it sounds a bit like him, sure, but the usual staccato synths are mostly gone, replaced by something a bit more generic. It sounds like something you’d find on a discount “fitness workout” compilation CD, rather than something from one of the most popular current DJs.

Tim: Actually, I was all set to agree with you until that post-chorus cropped up, but then I changed my mind. Yes, for the first minute I was ready to dismiss it as exactly you said – generic, and something that might pop up on an Almighty CD a few months from now – but that post-chorus brings something else with it. It’s still not your standard Alan Walker sound, but I’d not go so far as generic.

Tom: Even the ending, which does admittedly start to go Full Alan Walker, is a bit disappointing. I reckon he should have led with that, and then gone bigger from there. As it is, it’s just not enough.

Tim: And with that I do agree.

State of Sound – Love Me Like That

Tim: I saw the act name and got all excited, because I momentarily thought they were State of Drama, a band responsible for an excellent Melodifestivalen track. They’re not them, though, which I realised just after the first note here.

Tim: It might not have been the music I was hoping for, but it’s perfectly listenable. At least, I though it was until 41 seconds into that video, at which point the chorus came along and brought with it the first proper use of that whiny uhhh-uhhh-uhh-uhhh synth sound (can’t think of any decent way to write it, but you’ll know the one I mean). And god, is it overused here.

Tom: Fake sax, I think? At least the strident part is. And weirdly, it didn’t bother me at all until the ending — at which point, I noticed it, and it’s now ruined the entire track for me: it went from my default of “meh” to a flat-out “no”. All because of that one synth.

Tim: When it crops up in the first verse, it’s not so bad, with it being new, brief and in the background. After the chorus hits, though, and it jumps to the foreground, it feels like it never stops – it’s more noticeable in the next verse, and every time it comes back I want to switch the track off entirely. A shame, as the rest is okay. But that noise is just that – noise, and not good noise.

Future Duper feat. Emilie Adams – Didn’t Feel A Thing

“This time next week I could hear it again and have no memory of it whatsoever. “

Tim: So I reckon I know exactly how this review is going to go, but I’ll put it forth anyway.

Tom: Here’s what I said the last time we talked about Future Duper: “I think it’ll take a few listens — or, rather, a few tracks like this — before I can actually get the hang of this. Right now, it sounds like a rather more experimental genre than it should.”

Tom: So is this a more mainstream track, or have I got used to them?

Tim: Oh no, it’s a lot more mainstream, don’t worry about that. And you see I think it’s an entirely adequate dance-pop tune. The melody is fine, decent vocals, and while the lyrics are a little off (made more so, curiously, by the decision to include the repetition in the lyric video) I’m happy to forgive that because it’s got a decent enough donk on it that I will jump around to it with no real problem.

Tom: Hold up. A donk is a very specific sound. This does not have a donk on it.

Tim: Interesting you say that, because I’ve always though of a donk as just something that makes a song more exciting – most recently, I discussed the 2005 Doctor Who theme tune getting a donk added on for Christmas 2007 onwards. Let’s leave the precise terminology aside, then, and say: I am happy with it. You, meanwhile, will likely agree that it’s adequate, but also point out that it is largely forgettable, and that this time next week I could hear it again and have no memory of it whatsoever.

Tom: I’m starting to think this might not be the job for me, Tim.

Tim: Roughly right?

Tom: Yep. Same pieces, just in a slightly different order. Which is true of most pop music, to be fair; I just wonder if I’m burned out somehow? I’m sure there are wonderful things around somewhere — I’m just not hearing them.

Saturday Flashback: Jonas Lundqvist – Pengar på fickan

“I guess I’m unimpressed and ambivalent.”

Tim: This got sent in by our reader Gavi, who thinks that “the Tim will love it”, and I couldn’t possibly ignore that.

Tom: And the Tom, as always, will be generally unimpressed and ambivalent, as the Tom is with 99% of music.

Tim: The perfect man to write a music blog, then.

Tim: Hmm, although actually…well, I suppose it’s alright.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to see young Wallace Shaun smoking in the back of a car as part of a modern music video, so there’s that. But apart from that? I guess I’m unimpressed and ambivalent.

Tim: It’s about a guy who has all the belongings he needs but no-one to share it with, and now I know that I’m trying my hardest not to feel slightly offended, however close to home that may cut.

Tom: I don’t know, that sounds pretty good. I means you don’t have to share your stuff.

Tim: Fair point, I guess. And it’s a decent enough track – energy, production, vocals, can’t really fault them – but love it? Not quite that far.

Tom: Also, I’m fairly sure he’s singing “I’m a duffer” repeatedly.

ROOM8 feat. The Sound Of Arrows – Just You & I

“I am somewhat FUMING”

Tim: Okay first off I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly call out The Sound Of Arrows’s social media strategy as being an utter fiasco, because this came out four weeks ago yet it hasn’t been mentioned ONCE on any of their online channels and to be honest I am somewhat FUMING to have only discovered it now, but anyway here it is.

Tom: Background, in case our reader doesn’t remember: Tim loves The Sound of Arrows, I’m somewhat ambivalent.

Tim: ROOM8 are a blend of Sweden and America, and describe themselves, via the frequently reliable Popjustice, as a pair that “combines elements of modern pop and RnB” which to be honest would put me right off if that was actually what this song was, but let’s face it it’s basically just a plain old Sound Of Arrows track, and actually a fairly good one at that.

I know I’ve always had more of a thing for them than you have, but surely you can appreciate the quality we have here?

Tom: So I was all set to say ‘yep, sure, it’s okay I guess’, and then I realised I was tapping my foot. I’ll admit that’s a really good chorus melody. It’s not a ‘download it immediately’, but sure, it’s good.

Tim: It’s a lovely sound, gorgeous vocals, and I could listen to it many times over and over again. It’s great.