TRXD feat. Emilie Adams – Our City

“It’s a decent enough style, but I haven’t seen anyone yet turn it into a song that immediately makes me want to hit replay.”

Tim: Middle of winter, subzero temperatures all over the shop, but why should that stop three Norwegians going tropical?

Tom: Steel drums in the intro. Bold late-2015 style, there.

Tim: Brave indeed. I think your enjoyment of this will be massively determined by your liking, or otherwise, of those noise that we’ve focussed on these past couple of days but still don’t have a name for. I’m on board with them, and very much on board with this song.

Tom: I guess what we’ve learned is that… I’m not. It’s a decent enough style, but I haven’t seen anyone yet turn it into a song that immediately makes me want to hit replay.

Tim: There is an enormous amount of vocal fiddling, and indeed fiddling all over the pace, I doubt there’s a single note there that is actually as it would sound on a instrument – but I really like it. It’s slightly Galantis-y, and right now I can’t get enough of it.

Tom: But the trouble is: it’s not Galantis. For me, all the ingredients are there — it’s just that no-one’s found the right recipe yet.

TooManyLeftHands – Cold Heart

“You’re OK with that?”

Tim: Again, not entirely sure if there’s any justification for the name, but anyway: Monday we had a return to piano dance, yesterday we had current squeals and stuff, so today, shall we have a blend and see if this Danish pair can pull it off?

Tim: Yes, yes it seems they can. So much so, in fact, that I think this might be my favourite track of the three – the two bits all work well together, without any jarring switching from the one in the verse to the second for the chorus.

Tom: You are kidding me, right?

Tim: Ermmm, no?

Tom: That’s one of the worst transitions-into-chorus I’ve ever heard. I realise that, yes, it stays in 4/4 time all through, but I had to double-check that by counting along. After a pink-noise-build like that, they’re going to eschew the idea of a drop entirely and just… flow into it? And you’re OK with that?

Tim: Yes, but (and I’m fully prepared for a ‘how can you possibly compare the two” response to this) there’s no real difference between this and Hey Brother. Genre switch up, from one to another both working very well. Sure, the chorus could have a extra level of drumbeat or something, but I’ve no problem with the genre shift.

I also like it most because it’s the most exciting of the bunch – it starts off with a gentle line, but gets to levels that are at least acceptable for a first verse, though it should perhaps have been kicked up a notch for verse two. We’ve a decent chorus, then in due course a brief middle eight and a decent repeat to close.

Tom: And I agree with all of that: it’s just ruined for me by that bizarre transition. Pernickety, I know, and perhaps it’s just because it’s new, but that’s the way it is.

Tim: Hm, shame. But I do still have one last question: how is it still a thing to mess up the music so people don’t rip YouTube videos?

Tom: Because people still rip YouTube videos.

Temmpo feat. Cal – I Know

“I have decided that I am currently mostly on board.”

Tim: Temmpo (not sure why the two ‘m’s) is Australian, Cal is an alter ego of the Norwegian singer Frida Amundsen, who’s been going a while and apparently wants a different name for any feat. stuff, which is fine by me.

Tom: Oh, that’s a clever transition effect in the video. I know it’s probably just an out-of-the-box plugin effect I haven’t seen yet, and it’ll date very quickly, but it’s still a clever effect. Er, anyway, yes, the music.

Tim: Yes, and it’s not half bad, is it? Unlike yesterday, it is entirely typical for the 2016/17 season, with its verse, vocal chorus and instrumental chorus, along with all the current synth patches, and it sounds perfectly decent for it.

Tom: Mmm. I’m just not yet convinced by either instrumental choruses or this year’s choice of synth patches.

Tim: Well actually, regarding those, I have decided that I am currently mostly on board with them. They’ve taken a while for the sound to get me, but by and large I think I’m there. And with a tune like this, it’s hard to argue against them, really. Much as they frequently seem fairly discordant and tuneless, here they work well to form a melody and I like that, so I’d like to thank the pair of them for introducing me to that possibility. I’m on board.

Tom: It’s just a shame the song’s only OK.

Milkywhale – Rhubarb Girl

“A lot more could be happening during the verses.”

Tim: Remember how a months or so ago I reminisced about piano dance music? Well, this Icelandic duo (comprised of Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir and Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson, and yes I did copy and paste that) seem to have similar thoughts.

Tom: Well, those are some bizarre lyrics. Red trousers and a robot forest. And “into the darkness”, a lot of times. And yes, at least something resembling piano pop underneath it.

Tim: It’s been brought up to date as necessary, (though it wouldn’t sound out of place in 2012), but there’s more to it than just the style, of course. Vocals are all good, and it’s a lively enough number, or at least it is when the chorus comes in.

Tom: Takes its time getting there, though, doesn’t it? Admittedly that makes the chorus a bit of a relief, but I’m not sure “bit of a relief” is in any way praise.

Tim: I agree – I can’t help feeling that a lot more could, and indeed should, be happening during the verses. Keep his vocal for the chorus, but I’m not sure the song would remotely suffer if the drums and piano were brought out to the verses as well, to spruce things up a bit. When it’s going, though, it goes well. I’d just like it to go a bit more often.

Saturday Flashback: Crystal Fighters – All Night

“Trigger warning for ukuleles.”

Tim: Tom’s off sick at the moment, sadly, but never fear, I’m still here! YAY! So, here’s this, and there’s an interesting story behind this band: they were formed when singer Laure found the basics of a Basque-style opera while she was clearing out her recently deceased grandfather’s attic in Spain, and she and four mates decided to finish it. They did so, toured it a few years back, then kept going. Anyway, here’s their latest from last summer, with a trigger warning for ukuleles.

Tim: OOF, that’s chirpy, and unusually for me I don’t hate the fact that the ukulele is there to force the chirpiness, because it just works so well. I hear this, and I want to party. Party all night, and then we might as well party all day as well. Grab the maracas, do some form of drumming, whack the inevitable piñata, probably some beer pong going on somewhere as well. This here is a song all about having FUN, whatever the instrument, and I LOVE it.

Steve Aoki & Louis Tomlinson – Just Hold On

“There’s certainly some good parts in there”

Tim: Following the breakup hiatus, Niall was first out of the gates with an awful dirge; can Louis do any better with this collaboration?

Tim: Yes, yes he really can.

Tom: Takes its time, though, doesn’t it?

Tim: It does, yes, with a slightly disappointing start — in particular, the vocal part of the first chorus sounds distinctly underwhelming — but the rest of it is absolutely fine. They were probably going for more than ‘absolutely fine’ though, now I think about it, but actually it does go further – that vocal at the opening of the middle eight is a particular highlight.

Tom: There’s certainly some good parts in there, but I’m not convinced by it as a whole: I don’t think the hook’s good enough to justify all the faffing around it takes to get there. In fact, I can’t remember a bit of the hook. And if your highlights are particular vocal lines…

Tim: Well anyway, of course this is better than This Town.

Tom: Damning with faint praise, there?

Tim: Not at all – better than a lot of tracks, really.

Tom: Anyway, I’ll just leave this here.

Tim: HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!

Olly Murs – Years & Years

“Tense.”

Tim: In which Olly does a piano ballad, which you might think would be a recipe for disaster.

Tom: That first verse is tense. That’s the only word I can think of. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that from a pop song before.

Tim: That’s actually a good word – somehow it isn’t a disaster, even slightly. Even before the drums kick in, it’s very good indeed. It strikes exactly the right balance between emotion and mopiness, displaying all the authentic feels (is that still a word?) —

Tom: No.

Tim: Good. — with plenty of heft in the notes to balance that out. And when the drums kick in – well that’s all the more true, and this turns out to be a much, much better track than on paper it has any right to be.

Tom: You’re absolutely right. On those opening piano notes, I was thinking “this needs to be a banger”, because otherwise it was going to go on far too long. It gets close to that — but each time, the drums crash in and rescue it at exactly the right moment. Damn that’s a good track.

Tim: Top work, to everyone involved.

Ricky Martin feat. Wendy – Vente Pa’ Ca

“How does Ricky Martin just not age?”

Tom: There’s been a dearth of good music lately. I was looking through recent releases, idly clicked on this, and then spent four minutes about to click away… but then sticking around. It’s… not… bad?

Tim: How does Ricky Martin just not age? I mean I know that shot’s probably been Photoshopped to heck, but he’s like Puerto Rica’s answer to Magnus Carlsson.

Tom: Sure, it doesn’t need to be four minutes. Sure, it’s middle-of-the-road and not a particularly great song. But what’s interesting to me is how it’s mixed together what you’d expect from Ricky Martin, and what you expect from a modern pop track.

Tim: That’s true – the intro got me thinking “yep, it’s Ricky Martin”, and then the vocals sections hit and it’s usual modern pop. Fairly bland modern pop, unfortunately, but still.

Tom: Most of the melody and the instrumentation could have come out of the early 2000s. But the song structure is modern: a pre-chorus vocal line, and a chorus that’s just an instrumental synth.

And hey, at least it doesn’t repeat to fade.

Tim: No – good ending, I’ll certainly give it that.

Christopher – Free Fall

“Too glitchy, too much faffing about”

Tim: Tom, I might as well be honest with you and our reader: there does seem to be something of a dearth of fully enjoyable music around at the moment, or at least enjoyable music where the artist has been kind enough to put on YouTube.

Tom: January is always a rough period, or so it seems, but this really does seem to be worse than usual.

Tim: With those expectations set, here’s a track that’s mostly alright.

Tom: Oh, great, deliberate digital glitching in a music video. As for the music…

Tim: Well, there’s quite a lot of good stuff in there, with a good melody and very good vocals.

Tom: Yes, I can’t fault those vocals. It’s just a shame they haven’t been put to something that’s a bit more memorable.

Tim: Yes, and there’s also quite a bit that stylistically I’m really not keen on – most of what follows the middle eight, for starters. But despite being largely built on that style, I like this song.

Tom: I dislike it for the same reason I dislike the music video: it’s too glitchy, too much faffing about, and not enough actual melody or… well, anything.

Tim: Cut it off at the end of the middle eight (which really does have some great vocal work in it) and I’d be very happy with this. As it is: it’ll keep me going.

Bryan Lanning – Idaho

Tim: Bryan’s American, and he’s come out with this, to see if we can get 2017 off to a good start.

Tim: And while I’m not sure if I’m particularly a fan of that video, I do know that I absolutely love that song.

Tom: Wait, really? …why?

Tim: The first time I heard it, the chorus came out of nowhere, and was so much better than the maudlin guitar pop it could so easily have been. Instead, it turns into a synth-backed raving banger, and oh, what a great move that is.

Tom: Huh, that’s interesting. For me, the chorus was underwhelming, and just seemed to melt into everything else.

Tim: It’s one of the most enjoyable choruses I’ve heard in a while, both the vocal and instrumental halves, and is one that really gets me sitting up and paying attention.

Tom: Okay, so we like entirely different things about this track. For me, the introduction’s promising, the verses aren’t all that bad, and then it loses its way at the chorus. Full marks for doing a song about somewhere that isn’t New York, but I just can’t get behind it.

Tim: Perhaps I wouldn’t mind chopping about fifty per cent off the middle eight, but I’ve got no real quibbles with this at all – it’s a lovely track.