PAIR – Northern Lights

“High hopes”

Tim: I’ve more or less given up on The Sound of Arrows – Stefan’s said they’re working on some new stuff, but that was when I saw them a year ago and nothing seems forthcoming (except the soundtrack for a recent Swedish TV version of The Neverending Story, which was pretty nice). Therefore, I need a new source for pleasant dreamy pop, and so I clicked on this, from a new Swedish duo, with high hopes…

Tim: …and didn’t really have them met.

Tom: Really? Because this sounds like the sort of thing you’d love.

Tim: The problem is, it wasn’t until that chorus hit at 1:27 that I was actually drawn in and engaged by it.

Tom: I’m surprised by that. Because the part where the introduction kicked in woke me up. Granted, the first verse isn’t quite as exciting, but I literally sat up and listened.

Tim: Listened, yes, but not excitedly. Thing is, it’s a lovely chorus, and one of my favourites of recent times. But then all too suddenly (but largely predictably) it drops down way too low for the second verse. Sure, it’s back up for the second chorus, and up again after the dip for the middle eight, but I just want something heftier. Perfect genre, too light.

Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

“An unpleasant remake of Uptown Funk.”

Tom: Nearly two years ago, we had one of the biggest misses we’ve ever written: you didn’t like Uptown Funk, and I said “maybe I’ll like it after a few more listens”. It was then one of the biggest tracks of the year, and I still love it.

Tim: Hmm – maybe, although you did say “maybe after a couple more listens”, and I still think it’s massively overrated. I think we get a pass there.

Tom: So I’m really wary of saying this, because I’m aware of just how wrong I could be: but I don’t like this. Or at least, I don’t like this on first listen.

Tim: And I really really don’t, straight out of the gate, because AARGH that first vocal is just horrible, and 22 seconds of that is often 21½ more than I’ll happily take. Oh, the things I do for this site…

Tom: It’s like Uptown Funk, only not as good. The kitsch, the production, the not-quite-retro styling. Even the video feels just Uptown Funk, only not as good.

Tim: Yeah, I can’t disagree with any of that; given my aforementioned continued lack of love for the earlier track, I’ve really not got much time for this at all. Even the title is weird, and to be honest I don’t want to listen to it again to pick out any specifics – I’m happy with “it’s an unpleasant remake of Uptown Funk”.

Tom: But here’s the thing: I did hit replay on it. And by the end of that second listen, maybe there was a little bit of my brain that was going “huh, was I wrong about this”?

Tim: And a big bit of my brain just answered that question “No, no I was absolutely not.” I did relisten to it, as a service to our reader, and still nope.

Tom: I don’t think I’m wrong about this. I’d still bet on this not being an Uptown Funk, or anything close to it. Full marks for getting a jetski in the Bellagio fountains, though.

Tim: I will grudgingly accept that that is a worthy accomplishment.

Saturday Flashback: The Beautiful South – Don’t Marry Her

“Definitely not a love song.”

Tom: In the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about couple of songs with unconventional messages. This is definitely not a love song. And it’s definitely the explicit version.

Tom: As a kid, this was — if I remember rightly, and I may not remember rightly — the first time I was aware that songs could have explicit versions and radio edit versions. Not just quietly muting swear words, but actually rerecording lyrics.

Tim: And yet, in that video, she’s mouthing “have me” – you can’t quite stretch to recording another few seconds? But yes, and you’re not alone – I think it took my parents by surprise, when the only version they’d heard was on the radio, and the first time we listened to the album was sitting down for dinner on a Sunday evening.

Tom: This was proper, commercial-era Beautiful South: they were playing huge venues, they were all over Radio 2, and even made it onto a couple of Now albums. And you know what else? They have a lot of unconventional messages in that commercial era. It doesn’t matter what size you are. Don’t wait for them, they’re a jerk. It’s okay to grow old together.

Tim: And, FUN FACT: as a piece of GCSE English coursework I analysed the lyrics of Song For Anyone as a poem. Think I got fairly good marks for it, as well.

Tom: I’ll bet not many British people could name Paul Heaton. But most will know his music, and — perhaps with recognition, perhaps with nostalgia — he’ll have made most of them smile.

Galantis & Hook N Sling – Love On Me

“This song is just so…fun.”

Tim: TOM! I’m so happy, because guess what genre the best released song of last Friday ventures into?

Tom: Rather brilliantly, this has the full lyrics in the description of the YouTube video. They’re four lines long.

Tim: Yes, it’s not the most lyrically complex track around; doesn’t mean it’s not brilliant, though. Galantis have had a few tracks out since Peanut Butter Jelly, but none of them have got me in quite the same way that this does. Hook N Sling is a producer based in L.A.; I don’t know what he brings to the table, but regardless, this song is just so…fun.

Tom: I think this might be because it sounds like a lot of other fun songs. Nothing specific that I can pick out: it’s just like someone handed a CD of fun pop songs to an AI, gave it some steel drums, and went with whatever came out. Actually, in a few years someone will probably be able to do that.

Tim: And it may well sound better than a good number of the songs we hear. Ah, the future. But in the present, I can’t think of a better way to describe this than fun, really – I hear it, I want to dance. As I write this, it’s getting on for eleven p.m. and I have to be awake at half six, but I don’t care. The song’s been on repeat for fifteen minutes, and I don’t want to stop playing it. It’s got a great chorus, and an even better post-chorus.

Tom: That euphoric build out of the middle eight stands out to me: it’s straight out of the textbook. But then if it didn’t work, it wouldn’t be in the textbook.

Tim: That quick drum rhythm under “we’ll be singing”? YES WE WILL, AND DANCING.

Tom: Maybe you shouldn’t do these reviews so late at night.

Tim: No, best time, because I get emotional. For example, those steel drum tones almost brought tears of joy to my eyes. Man, imagine if I could drag this ludicrous idea out until Christmas.

Robbie Williams – Party Like A Russian

“The Apprentice starts tonight, and Robbie’s put this out to celebrate.”

Tim: Hooray! New season of The Apprentice starts tonight, and Robbie’s put this out as the first single from his next album to celebrate that.

Tom: Can I just say the “The Heavy Entertainment Show” is a great title for an album?

Tim: You can, and I’ll agree with you.

Tim: I say celebrate, the timing of this Prokofiev-sampling track is probably coincidental, but it’s a nice coincidence anyway. So, he’s followed in the footsteps of Georgia and Ukraine at Eurovision by choosing to have a go at Vladimir Putin – here we’re apparently getting slightly toned down lyrics, after the studio told him to back off a bit in case, I don’t know, maybe he’d end up on the FSB’s hit list. But what a great track to launch an album off, no?

Tom: See, I’m wary about this. The last time he brought out a ‘weird’ single like this, I said it was going to be a disaster, another Rudebox. But years later, Bodies is one of my favourite Robbie tracks.

Tim: I can understand the wariness – for starters, I would question the use of that sample. For me, that quickly took the focus away from the rest of the song when I recognised it and started humming it the first time I heard the song. Second time and beyond, though, I focus on the rest and it is great.

Tom: Yep. By the final chorus I’d started to hear it as a backing track rather than a sample — although I’m still annoyed that it never actually resolves. I’ve just finished reading Once Upon A Time In Russia, so this feels like a bit of a simplistic critique (Russian / discussion / concussion? Really?) but it’s still catchy.

Tim: Yeah – the rhythm, and simplistic rhymes, in those verses turns it into the sort of thing people might want to memorise as a party trick (and yes it’s a thing, next time you see me I’ll do the Wannabe rap at you); the chanting in the middle eight is something that can’t go wrong; and last but not remotely least, what a suit in that video.

Tom: It is a great suit.

Tim: All very good indeed.

MY – White Water

“Exactly as loud and raucous as it should be.”

Tim: Proposition: we make this week all about last Friday, because damn there was a lot of good stuff. Take this, from the Swedish singer who’s just finished supporting McFly on their Anthology tour (which was fairly good, but THEY DIDN’T PLAY STARGIRL).

Tim: She’s styled herself as MY, and there seems to be absolutely no bio information about her on any of her social medias, so there’s no chance of anyone Googling her ever; she confessed though that she grew up listening to Abba and then discovered Nirvana, which kinds of explains the style of the track.

Tom: Really? I’m not sure I hear much Nirvana in there. Although to be fair, you can basically say that Nirvana has influenced anyone who’s ever picked up an electric guitar since the early 90s, so never mind. The track.

Tim: And what a track it is – I did think it got stupidly loud and raucous the first time I heard it, but then I realised I had it playing in two tabs at once which let’s face it rarely gives an optimal audio experience. On its own, that is exactly as loud and raucous as it should be, and excellently, the verses don’t seem too quiet in comparison, which is quiet an achievement when you consider that actually they are quite quiet.

Tom: For me, it suffers from the problem that I can’t remember it, can’t sing along with it. It might be a grower: but for us, where we’re looking at one track a day and mostly done on first impressions, that’s not great. I guess it’s… competent?

Tim: Fair enough. I see her as an excellent popstar in the making, with other tracks coming which will surely be equally very good.

Niall Horan – This Town

“It’s just so, so melty.”

Tom: So you said, yesterday, that this was disappointing. Let’s talk about that. I haven’t actually heard it, so I don’t know why…

Tom: …never mind, now I know.

Tim: It’s just so, so melty.

Tom: We don’t need a second Ed Sheeran. To be honest, I’d argue we don’t even really need one Ed Sheeran.

Tim: You’re saying Ed Sheeran? I’d lower this down to Tom Odell at points. It’s almost as bad as Little Things, One Direction’s worst track by a country mile.

Tom: I can’t remember any of it. I’ve listened through it now, and I can’t remember a word. Was there a chorus? Was there anything? I’ve no idea. It’s background music. Great voice, great guitar, just… why pick this one to start your solo career with?

Tim: Because he’s Niall – annoyingly, this is exactly the sort of track I’d think of if you’d said to me two weeks ago, “what sort of track would Niall release”. Zayn’s gone R’n’B, he’s done this, so I’ll predict now that Liam and Harry will both take the standard pop/rock (with Liam probably a bit rockier), and Louis…maybe a bit dancey, if he doesn’t go the TV presenting way?

Busted – On What You’re On

“Daft Punk”

Tim: There were a number of Big Releases last Friday (by which I mean music, before you jump in with something rude), some of which (HI NIALL) were a tad disappointing. Others, though: not so much.

Tom: This does not sound like Busted. It does, however, sound good.

Tim: I got all worried a few months back, when Busted said their new stuff wouldn’t be like their old stuff, and it’d be a bit more serious. Turns out that is all true, but all that my worries were unfounded, because this is at least five times better than what I was worried it might be. (I had, incidentally, completely forgotten about their comeback single.)

Tom: That’s a difficult sentence to parse, Tim, but yes, I agree.

Tim: It’s a curiously funked up number, which to be honest I’d be surprised if anyone was expecting, but it works well. I don’t know if I’d have enjoyed it as much if it was, say, on the next Daft Punk album (yes, a surprising comparison but still appropriate), but as a new Busted track? I’m game.

Tom: I actually thought ‘this sounds like something off Random Access Memories’. Which might be a bit of a backhanded compliment, but even so. Well done them for trying something new and pretty much pulling it off. Even that sax solo.

Julian Perretta – Karma

“I’m not hugely in the mood for a coconut.”

Tim: Tom, I was in two minds today. On one side, it would be nice to keep Tropical Fridays going until the end of September, as a decent cut off point, and there are still numerous tracks being released. On the other, I think we gave it a nice farewell last week, and it’s utterly pissing it down outside as I write this so I’m not hugely in the mood for a coconut.

Tom: Euphemism.

Tim: Fair. But what to do?

Tim: Essentially, let the music choose, or rather the lyrics.

Tom: It’s difficult not to start adding the word “chameleon” in there, you know.

Tim: Also fair, but actually not that. Really, once I heard the line “even though you’re such a bitch I need you now”, I was hooked, and then realising the song was in fact being sung to a vaguely religious concept to request that it punishes his ex-girlfriend just dragged me in.

Tom: What the hell’s happened with those vocals, though? There’s some really weird processing on them. That’s not autotune: it’s some weird vocal effect.

Tim: Hmm, perhaps – but then vocal distortions of all sorts have become very much in vogue recently. Admittedly they’re normally consigned to a few syllables in the background, but I guess it’s only a matter of time before it’s everywhere.

The later revelations that he’d already had a conversation with anger and isn’t on speaking terms with jealousy got me figuring the song was too peculiar to let pass by. Not sure we’ve ever had something like this before; to be honest, I’m not sure I should be taking it as seriously as I am doing, because let’s face it it’s just a bit of nonsense standing in front of a fairly decent tropical beat. Inspired nonsense, though.

Tom: You say that, but I think I can tell you exactly what’s inspired it. It’s the canonical pineapple track: Kygo’s Stole the Show. That “karma, karma” is just “darling, darling”. The structure’s the same. The synth pads are the same. “Anger told me that I couldn’t get no sleep” is the same two-tone end-of-verse melody as “our debut was a masterpiece”.

Tim: Hmmmmmmmm…yes, you could be right, and maybe that’s a reason I like it.

Tom: It’s basically the same track. Not close enough to be sued over, perhaps not close enough to be deliberate, but certainly similar.

Tim: Well, I wouldn’t say “basically the same” – I didn’t hear it until you pointed it out – but I’ll give you similar.