Saturday Reject: Erlend Bratland – Thunderstruck

Tim: So, you know how about three quarters of this year’s Eurovision’s entries are competent but dull ballads, including Norway’s?

Tom: Yep. It’s going to be a tough Eurovision.

Tim: Well, this came second for them, and it kind of starts out the same way.

Tim: I say kind of, because there’s always a hint of something a bit bigger underneath, and then for the pre-chorus, it’s confirmed.

Tom: It’s a long build, but it certainly pays off in the end. Not sure if the composition is quite up to the production, though.

Tim: That enormous voice of his is put to proper use, and then we hit the chorus proper and OH THE LIGHTS and THE BEATS and THE NOISE and THE JOY and then it never lets up until the end with THE SPARKING and THE GLORIOUS GLORY.

Tom: And the full orchestra! Don’t forget the full orchestra.

Tim: Stylistically it’s basically a dance mix of Norway 2010, and it’s just as fantastic, so WHY MUST ALL THE SONGS BE BALLADS???????

Tom: Because Conchita won last year, I’m guessing. Here’s to 2016.

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Kastrup – Thieves

Tim: We got sent this, from a new-ish Swedish duo made up of Timmie Strindberg (excellent first name) and Puppe Westberg (pretty good first name); it’s a little out of the ordinary, and I’m fairly sure you’ll find it interesting.

Tom: That’s one of the most promising introductions you’ve written for a while.

Tom: Huh. I’m not sure what to think of that. It’s different, certainly.

Tim: I like that a lot, if only because there’s not a lot else like it stylistically around at the moment – the closest I can think of is perhaps when The Killers worked with M83 – and it turns out I’m a big fan of indie rock as long as it’s got decent synth lines underneath it.

Tom: Agreed. I’ll put a vote in for the final chorus, but before that…

Tim: Having said all that: if I’m honest, there’s a lot more that could be done with this style – yes, the chorus at the end is very very excellent, and it builds up nicely throughout the song, but I’d love something a bit more memorable. I’ll describe this, then, as an incredibly promising start, because it’s got a very, very solid foundation to it. Just, maybe let’s have a bit more of the bits on top.

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WDSTCK – So Free

Tim: CHALLENGE for you: listen to the first second of this and don’t start singing one particular pop song from 1999.

Tom: Well, that’s this song ruined for me.

Tim: I’ll be honest, that’s the main reason I chose it, along with the fact that the beginning of each chorus line reminds me of Madonna’s Music, the video of which I’ve just discovered has Ali G co-starring.

Tom: I really dislike that track, mainly because I remember seeing her perform it at Live 8, and she dragged that bloody “bourgeoisie and the rebel” line — perhaps one of the worst lyrics of that decade, and that’s saying something — out for about four minutes on its own. She can stuff that. Anyway.

Tim: Anyway indeed – back to this, shall we? Enough of similarities; how is it on its own? I’d say: fairly decent. Not overwhelming good, but certainly a very nice and fairly energetic backing track, and for that it’ll do me nicely.

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Years & Years – Shine

Tim: Hoping to demonstrate they won’t be one-hit wonders, the BBC’s Sound of 2015 are following up King with this, a lovely number.

Tom: It’s not a Take That cover. That’s a shame.

Tim: Verses: very pleasant, though admittedly not the the most exciting we’ve heard. Everything else about this, though: bloody marvellous.

Tom: So here’s an odd thing: I absent-mindedly only had one headphone in when I started listening to this, and I wasn’t impressed. Then I put the other one in, and blimey: the stereo effect in the verses suddenly really stuck out, in a way that few tracks do these days. An odd thing to notice, I know, but it’s a sign of it not being massively wall-compressed, and that there’s someone with decent creativity mastering it.

Tim: Huh – I’ve not listened to it with headphones, but that’s good to know. Also good is that chorus, as when I hit I was suddenly thinking, “oh, this is VERY good isn’t it yes it is”, because it is. That middle eight as well? Lovely, both the vocal part and the instrumental bit. Then, coming at the end, it goes properly all in and there’s really nothing I can complain about at all.

Tom: Yep, it’s pretty good, this. Not sure it’s be on my regular playlist, but that’s just personal taste rather than any particular complaint — for once, I can absolutely see why you like this one, and I agree that it’s a good track even if it’s not for me.

Tim: Basically, I’m now even happier than I was that I’ll be seeing them live in about ten days time, while you lot’ll all be watching a slightly dull Eurovision.

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Petra Marklund – Det Som Händer i Göteborg (Stannar i Göteborg)

Tim: Petra, you may recall, is what September restyled herself as a few years back when she wanted to go all dull and ballady.

Tom: I didn’t actually recall that, which says something about how successful that restyling was.

Tim: Well, we never actually featured any of the stuff on here because, well, dull and ballady. Now, though we’re back to be a bit more dancey, with “What Happens in Gothenburg (Stays in Gothenburg)”.

Tom: Fairly sure that’s Las Vegas, but okay, let’s hear it.

Tim: And there you go. It is, if you will, a toned-down September track for the 2015-era; much as Can’t Get Over was incredibly enjoyable back in 2008 (and as much as I may still listen to it now occasionally), such is the fickleness of the music industry that it really wouldn’t cut it much now, but this very much does and it sounds pretty good for it.

Tom: Really? It doesn’t do much for me — what do you like about it?

Tim: Decently rowdy chorus, a lovely pre-chorus and verses that do a great job of getting from the former to the latter.

Tom: Ah, then we differ in opinion on the chorus — what you hear as “rowdy” I hear as noise. I suspect that’s personal taste rather than anything to do with the production itself, though.

Tim: Quite probably. When you add in the perfectly serviceable ooh-oohs in the middle eight, I like this – it’s the first from her second album as Petra Marklund, and I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of that.

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Dolly Style – Cherry Gum

Tim: Reviewing Hello Hi, we wondered if this lot had a future after Melodifestivalen; well, Polly didn’t as she immediately quit, but Molly and Holly are still going strong, with another (as yet unnamed) member taking Polly’s place.

Tom: Probably still called Polly: I suspect whoever put the group together designed it so the actual singers were interchangeable.

Tim: Cynic.

Tim: And…and I have no idea what to make of that.

Tom: I do: it’s bad. It’s rare for me to flat-out say a track like this is bad, but it’s somehow managed to turn their Euro-J-Pop thing into a morass of plodding dullness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely possible to do Eurodance tracks like this and make it decent — Almighty Records proves that the style works, and the old 90s releases from Dancemania show the tracks can be decent even if they’re not remixes. But this…

Tim: Not a fan, then. But still, “You will hear me when I come, when I pop my cherry gum, I will never stop pop.” What does all that mean please?

Tom: It’s either cheap innuendo or just half-assed lyrics. Or both.

Tim: I’d have a punt on that last, I think. Musically, it’s pretty much as previously, though to a slightly lesser extent – the verses could just about be contained within a standard song, but that chorus is – well, about cherry gum popping. Is this what it’ll be from now on? Part silliness, part cheap innuendo? Well, that’ll clearly never last.

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Saturday Reject: Tor & Bettan – All Over The World

Tim: Quick warning for you, Tom: you may want to have some Xanax on hand for after the middle eight. Every normal person, though, will FIND. THIS. GLORIOUS.

Tom: Good heavens, that’s a powerful introduction.

Tim: It got to the Gold Final of Norway’s contest this year, and oh, it’s just one of the feel-goodest songs we’ve heard in a long, long time.

Tom: So obviously I’m going to disagree here. Sure, an attempt at a feel-good song in a long, long time. But it’s like a teacher trying to be cool, or a Christian rock band trying to get a group of bored schoolchildren interested in Jesus. Yes, they’re hitting what should theoretically be the right notes, but the result just hits a wall of cynicism, along with a vague wondering whether Norway have accidentally dug out an entry from thirty years ago.

Tim: Mate, you’re just messed up. For the first couple of minutes I was wondering why the lighting and staging were so calm for a song of this nature, as right from the first chorus it’s very much a THIS IS AWESOME number. Come the final section, though, WOW, didn’t they just hit that out of the park and into orbit around the moon. And that camera shot facing out to the audience? Just now, that’s overtaken the Måns Zelmerlöw shot as my favourite of the year, purely for what it’s hiding.

Tom: Yep, I absolutely can’t fault the staging and technical direction on it: it’s just a shame about everything else.

Tim: ‘Shame’? Bloody hell. You may hate the number of kids there (and wonder how they were planning on doing that at Eurovision with its age limit of 16 and performer limit of six), but damn, you surely can’t deny that’s a bloody wonderful way to close this track.

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Infernal – Love Is All (Summer 2015 Edition)

Tim: ‘From Paris to Berlin’ hitmakers Infernal have ditched their Paw & Lina title and are now heading off on tour around Denmark; to celebrate that, a few tracks a getting beefed up a bit. Like this 2010 one – here’s the original for comparison.

Tim: So, synth line is out and piano’s in, and also added is a big donk underneath and a massive breakdown in the middle.

Tom: That basically sums up the last five years of music, right there.

Tim: An improvement? Eehhhh…not so much as far as I’m concerned, unfortunately, as it just sounds a bit harsh on my ears.

Tom: I never did understand why “Paris to Berlin” was such a hit, and I’d put this in the same ballpark — at least it’s trying to do something different, but that breakdown in the middle just isn’t pleasant to listen to.

Tim: Yes, the original might sound ever so slightly dated but surely not enough that it warrants a redo already. I don’t know, it’s still pretty good, but I think I’ll stick with the original for now.

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Darin – Ta Mig Tillbaka

Tim: Alternatively, Take Me Back, so you’ll no doubt be expecting a fairly calm ballad from this, with a decent amount of general yearning.

Tom: That’s a shipping forecast right there.

Tim: And what do you know, that’s exactly what you’ve got. Pleasant track, this, though I’ve no idea what the video’s about, aside from possibly just trying to show that everything was better in Paris and forests and the days of yore, which may or may not be true, depending on what your view of plague and bloody revolution is.

Tom: And that’s just when they ran out of croissants last week.

Tim: Hardly a soundtrack to bloody revolution, though, so I might be interpreting that a bit wrong. In any case, very listenable ballad, and one which becomes very much more listenable when it comes back for the final couple of choruses.

Tom: I’m less convinced: only those last couple of choruses stand out for me. There’s enough going on in them. Otherwise, I just seemed to tune out a bit. Why not start with that, then turn it up a touch more for the final choruses?*

* Chorii?

Tim: Yes, it could perhaps have done with that extra substance throughout, but I’ll take it.

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The Main Level – My Girl

Tim: Boyband pop and Batman in the video; I’m not sure there’s anything else you need, really.

Tim: Although you probably don’t need as much of it as there is. Let’s be frank: this really needn’t be a four minute song.

Tom: It sounds like someone’s taken the middle eight from “I Love You, Always Forever” and spun it out into a whole chorus — and then put some verses around it. ‘Cos that chorus is lovely, but you’re right: the rest is a bit Generic Boy Band.

Tim: It’s decent enough, though with admittedly somewhat uninspired lyrics, but I really don’t find it interesting enough to hold my self – by the end of the second chorus I was expecting it to be wrapping up soon, and then I realised there was a full minute and a half to go. My feeling at that point kind of said it all – less of an “oh, no” or an “oh, yay!” and more of an “oh, alright then”.

It’s basically fine, and I’m not really sure there’s a better word to describe it.

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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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