Aleksander With – Better

Tim: Yesterday we were all happy and lovely, and today, I’d like to take away all that happiness and put it through a shredder while you listen to this.

Tim: Aleksander’s off Norwegian Idol from bloody ages ago, and after five years off he’s throwing his hat back in the ring, and I don’t think he’s chosen a bad song to decorate it with.

Tom: I’m not sure that’s actually a working metaphor, but okay.

Tim: Sure, it’s dark and gloomy on first listen, and you have to listen fairly hard to realise what it’s about, because I first misheard it as “we could be doing much better” which let’s face it is only a couple of steps away from Love The Way You Lie, but ANYWAY IN POSITIVITY NEWS that’s not remotely what the song’s about.

Tom: I was going to say! “It’s darkest before the dawn”, which is the lyric that stuck out for me, seems rather optimistic.

Tim: It is in fact a track to say just hold on, keep going, push forward, stick with it, eventually you’ll be fine. And it works, sort of – I get why the music is so downbeat, in a sense of wanting to start down low and then push up for the chorus, but I still kind of wish it didn’t.

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Molly Petterson Hammar – Something Right

Tim: There seem to be a lot of “we’re young and great and awesome” tracks around at the moment; in case you’ve not had enough, here’s another one.

Tim: And I would posit that that’s pretty good, mostly because it is.

Tom: Yep. With your introduction, I was all set up to dislike that — but that’s an excellent chorus.

Tim: What are we meant to call that style that it has? I feel there should be a name, because it’s here and with Jess Glynne and Charlie Puth and with all sorts of other tracks, and it’s not exactly funk but it seems a not too distant relation.

Tom: It’s not “neo-soul”, but it’s certainly got a little bit of DNA from there — albeit mixed with a lot of pop and R&B as well.

Tim: Yeah, I guess that sums it up. Whatever we’ll end up calling it, though, I’m enjoying its presence (even if it probably does owe its resurgence to Blurred Lines) – it seems to add a chirpiness to everything, and even though this song here doesn’t need it on top of everything else, it provides it in spades and this song just works. Also there’s that woman with the hat in the video, who’s just fantastic and I’d quite like to throw her a surprise birthday party.

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Saturday Flashback: Racey – Kitty

Tim: Since you mentioned “Hey Mickey” last week, I’m assuming this is another one you can file under “songs you didn’t know were covers”.

Tom: Oh! I had no idea.

Tim: And that there is the answer to “why did she choose ‘pretty’ and ‘pity’ to rhyme with Mickey?” which is a question no one has ever actually though to ask. Race were a mildly successful band (two hits), and this was on their debut 1979 album and left to rot as an album track; somehow, two years later Toni Basil heard it and decided she wanted to have a go at it. Fiddled with the lyrics (because eurgh, lesbians), upped the noise level a bit, and presto! One massive hit single.

Tom: And that’s understandable: perhaps I’m just used to Toni Basil’s version, but this is just a bit boring when it’s stripped down. It’s outstayed its welcome at two minutes — which could be true of the cover, too, if it wasn’t for the extra energy that’s chucked into it.

Tim: Fair point – I was going to mention that four minutes was overplaying it and they should have chopped it down like Mickey did, think that couldn’t last longer than three minutes or so.

Lyrics weren’t a perfect transition, of course: admittedly no-one really cares about the words beyond that chorus, but the gender switch gave the lines “So come on and give it to me, anyway you can, anyway you want to do it, I’ll take it like a man” an entirely different meaning. Still, a bit of fun no less. EDUCATION for you, there, hope you found it useful.

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Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly

Tim: TAKE TWO: I scribbled something about this while you were away a few weeks back, but not much about the music, and (a) I’ve heard it a lot more and particularly (b) I’d like to know your thoughts on it please.

Tom: Given that I started tapping my feet along with it even before the drop: yes. This is good. It’s a song that can get away with an airhorn sample and four-on-the-floor claps, for crying out loud, that’s rare.

Tim: WHAT A TUNE. Galantis, previously best known for their track Runaway that you hear in the opening of this video, but hopefully soon to be known as “those guys behind that brilliant peanut butter jelly one”. I suspect it may be something of a grower, but that’s fine because recently it has been getting ALL THE PLAYS and now I flipping love it.

Tom: Not for me: this worked on the very first listen.

Tim: The video helps, of course, what with the immense amount of sheer joy that is present, but damn if it isn’t one of the most enjoyable songs of the summer. Repetitive? Oh hell yes. But brilliant and wonderful? Oh, even more so. AIRHORNS, dammit, and it just never lets up, even for a second. You dance to this, and you dance and dance and just keep dancing, and sing to the lyrics that mean absolutely nothing whatsoever.

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Watermät, Becky Hill & TAI – All My Love

Tim: It is SUMMER, Tom. SUMMER.

Tom: I’ll avoid the cliché British complaining.

Tim: Watermät is a French DJ, Becky Hill was a semi-finalist on The Voice UK (first contestant to score a number 1, as it happens) —

Tom: Wait, anyone scored a Number 1 after being on The Voice?

Tim: Well, a semi-finalist did – no winners have made it yet. TAI, meanwhile is an English/German DJ; nice bit of variety for you, so what do you think of the emergent product?

Tom: It ticks all the boxes required of a track like this, but I can’t say there’s much beyond that.

Tim: I was quite surprised, given the intro, how far back that initial summery/beachy vibe was pushed – this starts out as something unusual, straight out to beach clubbers, then ditches that entirely becoming becoming a fairly standard house track.

Tom: And only 2:40 for the radio edit, which is about all I think I could take of it before wanting it to get crossfaded into something else. You’re right: it’s fairly standard.

Tim: Not necessarily a bad thing, as it’s a very good standard house track, but I can’t help thinking that if it hadn’t had that initial intro I wouldn’t have bothered sticking with it. Quite glad I did stick with it, though, but I wouldn’t have minded more of that intro style.

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Loreen – I’m In It With You

Tim: And another her off winning Eurovision, of course, but without a different sound.

Tom: Still can’t believe she hasn’t covered “Jolene”, really.

Tim: Truly disgraceful.

Tim: And that there is lovely Loreen fare, I hope you’ll agree?

Tom: Yes! For once, I’m right with you: when even the first verse — albeit only the second bit of it — makes me pay attention, I’m probably going to like the song. This is exactly what you’d expect from her, and it’s good.

Tim: Perfect vocals, nice melody below it and then a hefty but not overpowering bass. Verses with her trademarks breathiness all over them, a pre-chorus that sets the tone nicely and then a chorus that can confidently be described as soaring. It’s not another Euphoria, but then what would be? What it is is a great all-round track, clearly from her who sang Euphoria. And for that, it’s great.

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Emmelie de Forest – Hopscotch

Tim: Her off winning Eurovision, with another somewhat different sound for you.

Tim: Right, first off, how rubbish do you have to be only to get to the third square at hopscotch?

Tom: I realised, I was starting to reply to this, that I can’t actually remember how to play hopscotch any more. It’s been a while.

Tim: Oh, I suppose you are quite old. For anyone that does know, though: why is she going “square one, square two, square three” when it should of course be “square one, squares two and three”? Still rhymes, still has the melody, removes the idea that you’re utterly incompetent at children’s playground games. If I were Emmelie, I would really, really make that change, because the knowledge of that, combined with how she apparently lives her life like she’s on a hopscotch, just tells us that she’s basically rubbish at life.

Rubbish at music, though, not so much.

Tom: Wait, really? This is pretty awful.

Tim: You think?

Tom: The melody’s just dire, and the lyrics don’t make any sort of sense. Now, I’ll grant that the very final chorus, with everything going and two separate counterpoint melodies, is pretty damn good: but everything up to there is just… well, a bit childish, which I suppose is the point. What do you like about it?

Tim: Well, it’s just a fairly decent track, enjoyable enough – the verses make some sort of sense about moving forward even if you’re not sure where you’re going (though again a bit flawed – I’m currently watching my way through The Walking Dead, and BLIMEY can a lack of planning get you into a mess). It’ll do. As a new sound, it’ll do. Just, maybe think deeper about the lyrics next time, yeah?

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Krista Siegfrids – Better On My Own

Tim: You’ll remember Krista, Tom, she’s the one that haunts your nightmares. But boy, has she developed.

Tom: This is what happens when you rush into a marriage, Tim. Anyway, why do you say “developed”?

Tim: Because sound-wise, that could come off the next Taylor Swift album.

Tom: You’re right. In fact, I’d be willing to say that someone, at some point along the process, said “make this sound like Taylor Swift”.

Tim: It’d very much be an album track, mind, because there’s not enough of Swiftian glory about it.

Tom: And the lyrics aren’t anywhere near as good: “it sucks to be me”? Really?

Tim: The verses are adequate, the chorus is catchy while it’s playing but forgettable once it’s over, and the music beneath it is competently produced. Yes, that all sounds negative, or positive in the same way that a drop in the sink is a tidal wave, but let’s not miss the bigger picture: it’s a modern sound, with a lot of potential, so Krista let’s keep going please.

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Saturday Flashback: QT – Hey QT

Tom: “It’s bloody awful,” says Daniel, our reader, “but there is something about it that makes me keep coming back for more.” That sounds like it’s right up our alley.

Tim: Huh. Didn’t realise the cast of Worms had made a foray into the world of music; I bloody wish they hadn’t, mind.

Tom: Daniel’s not wrong. And I can’t really complain about something that’s taking its inspiration from “Hey Mickey“; admittedly the vocals are artifically high-pitched this time, but it’s basically the same song updated by… wow. 33 years. Really? Huh. Okay.

Tim: What? No it’s not. It’s not remotely the same song. I do hope Toni Basil isn’t reading this, because you’ve just done her an *incredible* disservice. Aside from the titles sounding similar they are vastly different. That, a girl singing to a bloke she really fancies. Other, a song (barely deserving of that description) that is an astounding pile of trash created solely to sell some wanky “all natural” drink.

Tom: Wait, hold on, this is an advert? Blimey, my corporate-bullshit detector’s completely failed to fire. I assumed the drink was just invented for the video, not an actual thing. I wonder why I didn’t… hmm. There’s something weird going on here.

Wikipedia cites the drink “semi-fictional“, and says the singer’s a “performance artist”. Fader calls her the “@Horse_Ebooks of music”.

Tim: Hahaha, I’d forgotten about that. Sorry, carry on.

Tom: I honestly can’t tell if this is a confusing stunt for an energy drink, an artist satirising commerce, or some bizarre mix of the two. And that’s saying something: normally I utterly despise any sort of product placement or advert-culture mashup, but this is mostly just bewildering.

Uncharacteristically for me, I’m going to assume good faith. For whatever reason, I’m reading this as an artist coming up with an interesting concept and following through with it, even going so far as making a real drink to go with her fake persona. If it turns out to be all corporate-backed, I won’t be surprised, mind. Musically, though it stays for one chorus longer than it needs to be–

Tim: Three choruses, two verses and one middle eight longer. Actually, does it go by that structure? I assume so, but I don’t want to listen again to it to check.

Tom: –and yes, I imagine those vocals will start to grate over time — but on that first listen, reading it as a pop song rather than an advert, I have to admit that there’s a lot of this I like.

Tim: Oh, do shit off, please. This musical thing, if it can even be called that, is completely atrocious and entirely awful.

Tom: The production, while stripped-down, is good, and is it catchy.

Tim: Oh my GOD, and there was me thinking I was the one taken in by musical adverts.

Tom: I found myself tapping my feet, and that’s rare before I get to know a song.

Tim: You know, I have lost every shred of respect I once had for you, even the teensy tiniest ones that might be tucked away in a corner. Every single one.

Tom: No, no, hang on. That’s rubbish, and you know it.

Tim: Well, there was possibly a touch of hyperbole, but do go on.

Tom: You’ve literally sent advertising jingles to me before, Tim. Not even vaguely hidden ones. Actual soundtracks to adverts off the telly, with “Advert” in the title of the video, and then you had a conversation with a hypothetical in-your-head version of me where you defended EXACTLY THIS SORT OF THING.

I believe I countered with Spacey, the Incoherent Badly-Informed Anti-Capitalist Protester Hand Puppet, but then that was nearly four years ago and we’ve moved on since.

Tim: Two things: first, I will give you Shakeaway, which is probably the closest situation we’ve had to this one – it got sent in, I didn’t realise it was an advert; I’ll also point out that (a) you gave me exactly this kind of response that I’m giving you now and (b) that was a vaguely enjoyable track to listen to.

Second, Yeo Valley wasn’t pretending, and my love for that is based on the music, which (give it its due) is great – it’s a lovely boyband track, fantastic key change, good looking guys, shiny tractors and above all HAPPY FRIESIANS. Sure, it’s an advert for a product, but CAPITALISM ALERT pretty much every track that’s recorded is going for sales, that one just crossed the line between medium and product.

Tom: So don’t go saying you’ve lost “all respect for me”, matey, just because I’ve either parsed an incompetent marketing scheme as an actual pop song, or been impressed by a performance artist who’s over-committed to her work.

Don’t you dare call me on crossing that line, not without recanting every bloody time you’ve suggested that the line doesn’t exist.

Tim: An incompetent marketing scheme (or what was potentially a genuine marketing scheme) that is SHEER BLOODY AWFUL. Remember when I said I didn’t want to listen to it again? I genuinely meant that, because my main problem here isn’t to do with the bit that it’s an advert, it’s that it’s a truly terrible track.

Throw these at me all you like, I’ll bat them back. Again, difference – Joe McElderry’s one wasn’t paid for by Coke, it was (however weirdly) decided upon by Joe/his management as a song to release. Sure, they probably made money from it, but that was a genuine “let’s record this because I want to sing it” track.

Tom: And here’s my point: that’s what this might be. In fact, I’m reading it as something stranger: there’s a plausible scenario where this is an artist creating a weird, all-in-one performance art and product design thing, and in that case, it’s working.

Tim: Hmm, still a bloody awful piece of music, though.

Perhaps we’ve gone on enough; I’ll go eat my yogurt (and fried chicken as well, I’m surprised you forgot about that), and you stick with
your energy elixir, and I suppose I can at least wish you well with all the “upward shine, vertical connectivity and personal growth” it brings you.

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CHVRCHES – Never Ending Circles

Tim: In case you’d forgotten that these guys were Scottish, here’s their new single to remind you.

Tom: Bagpipes? Are there bagpipes?

Tim: Ah. I, er, I feel I may have got your hopes up just a little too high.

Tim: Ain’t it good? Standard fare from them, really, but it’s nice to see that they still have it for their upcoming second album. Though now I write that, it really is just that: standard.

Tom: On a second album, that’s fair: you’d expect a refined, tweaked, but ultimately similar sound. If they’d decided to change it up massively, it’d be interesting to see how the fans would react.

Tim: True, and I’m definitely not asking for massively – it’s just that I’m listening to that, but I might as well be listening to Recover or The Mother We Share or any of their others. That’s not a bad thing, particularly, as they’re good tracks, but maybe I’d like something a bit different from a new album? I don’t know, it’s good, and I’ll take it, but I’d like a bit of variation maybe in the future please THANKS.

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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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