mind.in.a.box – Synchronize

Tom: Michelle sends this in, describing it as “cyberpunk synthpop”–

Tim: Oooh, that’s new.

Tom: Well, more like “from the mid-90s”, but clearly it’s new to you.

Tim: Oh.

Tom: Anyway, Michelle adds a warning that the vocoder they use is a bit cheesy.

Tim: That…that really is quite the vocoder.

Tom: Okay, minor video gripe here first: can we stop it with the digital displays that just show slowly moving zeros and ones? I know they’re going for a 90s cyberpunk theme, but we’ve moved so far past that.

Tim: Unless, keeping with a cyberpunk theme, it’s an encoded message. But I don’t remotely care enough to type everything out to find out.

Tom: And how on earth you’re meant to solder something with that much flashing light going on, I’ve got no idea. ANYWAY. The music. I basically sent this to you because that’s a really good chorus.

Tim: It’s a fantastic chorus, it really really is, though almost to the detriment of the rest of it – I already found the synthed vocal line irritating (if it’s turned up so far you can’t make out the words, just don’t bother), but having heard the chorus I have another reason for wanting the fairly dull verse to get out of way.

Tom: Yes, the vocoder’s turned up way too high, yes, the choruses aren’t all that inspiring, but that’s the kind of synthpop chorus that I rather like, and it’s rather nice that the genre’s still producing things like that even if it’s extremely unlikely they’re going to make it to the mainstream.

Tim: It is. It’s reminiscent of some of the later tracks on the dance compilation CDs I went through a phase of buying about a decade ago, in a great, great way.

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Jedward – Make Your Own Luck

Tim: I’ll say it straight up: new Jedward is utter garbage.

Tom: Yes, but they have apparently been cast in Sharknado 3.

Tim: First thought: “what?” Immediate second thought: “nope, wait, of course they have.”

Tim: You see? Garbage.

Tom: Now I’ve said before: I might not like everything they do, but I’ve got a sneaking respect for anyone with that sort of seemingly-boundless enthusiasm. But you’re right: this is terrible.

Let’s tackle one thing first: I didn’t think you could mess up the pronunciation of “luck”, but they are basically saying “make your own, look” here every single time.

Tim: Oh, God, somehow that had passed me by. How…just, yeah, how?

Tom: There isn’t really a melody. The vocals are compressed almost to the point of inaudibility. It runs out of steam after about half a minute and yet it just keeps on going.

Tim: It seems like they might be going for a just-out-of-*NSync Justin Timberlake vibe. It really, really, really doesn’t work, though.

Tom: And the video is: well, I guess they’re trying to be artsy. It doesn’t work. None of this works. It’s not even failing in an endearing fashion. It’s just… bad.

Tim: Not even a Perez Hilton cameo can save it. My main thought about it, though: how can one of them do weights and yet still have NO MUSCLES AT ALL?

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Rok feat. Yohanna – Find A Better Man

Tim: Remember Yohanna? Iceland, 2009?

Tom: Um. Actually, no I didn’t, but I stand by my earlier comments: too slow, too ballad-y.

Tim: Ah. Well, let’s plough ahead with this anyway, with her here providing extra vocals for new Icelandic pairing Rok.

Tim: And she’s basically the perfect choice for a pair of two experienced guys hoping to launch themselves as a new act with a song like this. With no baggage carried over from previous work as guitar-pop singer or Eurovision songwriter, it’s a perfect example of this genre – very gentle, very calm, until it needs to develop and make an impact towards the end of the song, which it then does perfectly.

Tom: It’s still too slow and too ballad-y. Each time I think it’s going to kick itself up a notch, it just… doesn’t. The last chorus should be so much bigger than it is: instead, it’s pretty much the same as the first, only with a few extra notes over the top of it.

Tim: I’m actually going to say here pretty much what I said last time we mentioned Yohanna – I’m very glad that not all songs are like this, because if they were then (a) it’d be a very dull musical landscape and (b) it wouldn’t be nearly as great when a prime example comes along, as it has done here.

Tom: And I suppose I can agree with you on that: if this is the sort of song you’re looking for, then yes, it does the job nicely. It’s just this is never the kind of song I’m looking for.

Tim: Well I occasionally am, and this is now one I look forward to hearing when I get in after a long day and just want to scream.

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Lila – The Day You’ll Find Me

Tim: Lila’s new around these parts; have a listen to her debut.

Tim: And that’s very impressive, agreed?

Tom: It is, although there’s something strange about that voice. Strong autotune? Nordic vowels? I can’t place it, although I swear I can hear some digital fixing on those wavering runs of notes.

Tim: Good, and now I want you to know that Lila’s twelve. TWELVE.

Tom: What. Well, that might explain the voice.

Tim: Last year she put a cover video online, big important people heard it, and now we have our youngest popstar since the sun off the Teletubbies had a cameo on their single. But blimey, does she not sound it, because that’s a very mature voice, and fortunately carries with it a very mature-sounding song (possibly made more so by the fact that the chorus is a tad reminiscent of Someone Like You).

Tom: It’s a Big 80s Power Ballad voice, and if she’s starting this well there’s a promising career ahead of her.

Tim: I like this a lot – great production, lovely melody, just a big ballad in all the right ways, and that return from the middle eight is just glorious. More of this if you’d be so kind, and can we hold the inevitable breakdown off for as long as possible, please.

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Saturday Flashback: Delia feat. Kaira – Pe Aripi De Vant

Tom: We’re off to Romania last year for today’s Flashback, Tim, and we’re going there on “the Wings of Wind”.

Tom: I’m basically sending this to you for the chorus: it’s the kind of Big Pop Ballad number that seems to be a bit out of fashion these days, and it’s nice to know that something like this can still get into eight-figure view counts on YouTube.

Tim: It is, though you say it’s out of fashion but I can see Rihanna or Sia plonking this on the internet out of nowhere and it being massive. It’s a great track, Delia’s got a wonderful voice (though not as wonderful as the other Delia), and obviously I could happily leave the Kaira bit behind, but by and large these are wonderful wings.

Tom: Although to be fair, I’m not sure about that title.

Tim: What?

Tom: I had “the wings of wind” after last night’s curry. HIYOOOO.

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Blue – King of the World

Tom: Yep. New album, new label, new single. And a very different style from what you might expect.

Tom: For a start, there’s that double bass. I think this is intended to say “We’ve Grown Up Now” in big letters.

Tim: And in fairness, it says it very well. You’d have a hard time selling this to a young audience, certainly.

Tom: Okay, let’s get something out of the way: Duncan James is constantly trying to steal every shot he’s in. He looks either like he’s mugging for the camera, or just doing the whole thing ironically.

Tim: Not untrue.

Tom: There’s a bit of a weird vibe throughout the video, but I think that’s mostly editorial decision rather than anything to do with the band. And as for the music: well, am I being too harsh if I say it’s straight onto the Radio 2 B-playlist?

Tim: Erm…

Tom: I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good track. There are plenty of tracks that don’t make it there. It’s pleasant. It’ll make the album sell for Mother’s Day. But I don’t think it’ll be lighting up the pop charts any time soon.

Tim: There, you’re definitely right. A shame, though really it’s hard to imagine Radio 1 playlisting them at all, whatever they come out with, so at least they’ve got one audience in mind.

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Avicii – The Nights

Tim: FARMHOUSE!

Tom: Well, that is certainly a farmhouse track. In fact, I think I might go so far to say as being a bit of a lazy farmhouse track. I know his fans slated him for moving from more traditional EDM to this, but… well, I can’t help feeling that it might be time to move on a bit further.

Tim: Yeah, though the genre splurge has just about started to work for me now, so let’s not get too radical. In the video here, we see young Tim being thoroughly irresponsible and enjoying himself.

Tom: Yes. Despite my feeling a bit bored by the formula, clearly it’s a formula that works for him.

Tim: It does, and my main thought watching this is: what a smug bastard, with his good looks and lovely hair and all that money and talent and now just enjoying himself, making excellent dance music and rubbing his success in our faces. Ugh. Sickening, really, isn’t it?

Tom: It’s a heck of a bragging video, isn’t it? All the highlights of what you can get with enormous amounts of cash. Yes. Well done there.

Tim: I get to watch that and go and get on the tube back to my job after being on holiday and YAY how great that’ll be… Again, what a smug bastard.

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OMI – Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)

Tim: Everyone was busy yesterday morning getting excited about Spider-Man meeting up with the Avengers, so the most actually important news of the day kind of missed out: AUSTRALIA will be competing in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Tom: Is that… is that really the most important news? Really?

Tim: Yes, really. “They like it, could be good for a laugh, 60th contest so let’s do something fun, why not?” presumably went the logic. BUT WILL THEY WIN? After all, if they do, presumably all of Europe will have to get on a plane for twenty odd hours (but God, what a flight that would be).

Tom: Nope: they actually have a full FAQ about it. If they win, they’ll be invited back, and it’ll be hosted somewhere in Europe.

Tim: Speculation time, therefore. Obviously they’ve got Sia, and the various Minogues, and The Veronicas, all with varying degrees of international success; but what’s at number one right now?

Tim: Ah. Not exactly Rise Like A Phoenix, is it?

Tom: It starts well, I’ll give it that.

Tim: I mean…it’s…you know, I’m trying to find something positive to say about this, I really am, but it’s not coming easily. It has a rhythm, certainly, and a very (very) short instrumental melody, but God does it wear thin by the end.

Tom: Yep. I mean, I love the brass section — there’s not enough of that in modern pop — but the rest is just too damn long.

Tim: I suppose cut down to three minutes it might be okay, but come on, Australia. You’ll need to do better than that, you really will. You wouldn’t even get to the final with that, and flying all those thousand miles and crashing out immediately would just be tragic.

Tom: To be fair, they’re getting a pass to the final.

Tim: Sort out what you want to be popular, please.

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Calvin Goldspink – Superman

Tom: Calvin Goldspink‽

Tim: Erm, yes…

Tom: Calvin. Goldspink. That is a spectacular name. I mean, if that’s the name he was born with, that’s spectacular in itself, but if he chose “Calvin Goldspink” as a stage name, that’s a very large ego cheque that his talent is going to have to cash.

Tim: Oh, I see. No, genuine, I think. On with an actual intro: S Club Juniors, you may remember, disbanded about a decade ago; now, one of their number is trying to carve out a solo career.

Tom: Oh wow, it just gets better.

Tim: If this debut’s anything to go by he might not make such a bad job of it.

Tom: …and all my cynicism just melted away. That’s a fantastic track.

Tim: It took me until the chorus to get this, but then that really is quite the chorus, isn’t it? Powerful, energetic, and to be honest yelling out Superman is a fairly surefire way to get people’s attention.

Tom: Yeah, I was about to go all Black Lace on it, but I really can’t bring myself to. This is a really good track: really listenable pop-indie with an absolutely brilliant final chorus.

Tim: Away from the vocal, we’ve got hefty instrumentation – he said recently that he “didn’t want to go down that pop route solidly but I wanted to make it commercial enough that you can play it on the radio,” and I think he’s cut that balance just about right. Good stuff, really.

Tom: Tracks like this, where I’m surprised in the best way? This is why I like writing this stuff.

Tim: Good, I’m glad. And just in case any Big Reunion people are watching, “there was no way on God’s green earth that I would go on there and dance and sing S Club Junior songs,” which to be honest is probably for the best.

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Say Lou Lou – Nothing But A Heartbeat

Tim: Sweden’s most notable twins are back —

Tom: I’m racking my brains to find a counterexample for that, but I can’t think of one.

Tim: — and the last time we covered them you reported being bored throughout. See if this is any better.

Tom: It’s… yes, it’s better.

Tim: Because I think it’s a lovely track – beautiful sounding vocals, wonderfully dreamy instrumentation and enough variation throughout to keep it very interesting. I have a lot of time for this – how about you?

Tom: It’s good. I’m not sure it’s as good as it could be — that string section is kept remarkably quiet throughout, and that last chorus could stand being elevated one or two notches higher. But yes: it’s not boring me, and while that’s a low bar to clear, they’ve definitely cleared 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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