Smith & Thell – Hotel Walls

“It’s Mumford and Sister!”

Tim: Tom, and indeed our reader: if you’re feeling nihilistic then good news! This song is bloody brilliant. If not, well, maybe come back tomorrow.

Tom: It’s Mumford and Sister! I have no idea if that’s a compliment or insult. Also, I just realised that a) I made that exact same joke last time we talked about them and b) despite talking about several of their songs with you here, I have absolutely no memory of them whatsoever.

I don’t know if that’s my memory at fault, or if the songs just aren’t all that memorable in general.

Tim: I won’t lie: the first thing that attracted me to this, beyond that it’s Smith & Thell, was the video thumbnail. That looks lovely, as does the rest of this lyric video. But, oh, is there so much more to this as a song. In their words, it’s “a metaphor for life: you check in, you check out”.

They also say that, “while we’re here we should celebrate life rather than fearing the inevitable death”, but to be honest I don’t get that at all from the song – it’s “life is here, let’s cope with it”.

Tom: I’m generally in favour of lyrics with unconventional but realistic messages, and this certainly qualifies.

Tim: But you know what? That’s fine. It’s also brilliant to listen to – production, melody, everything is just right.

Tom: Yep, looking back at what we’ve said about them over the years, they’re clearly finding a voice that works for them and sounds great. They’re in the sort of place where one big breaththrough hit will make them massive. This won’t be it, but the next one might be.

Tim: It’s bloody brilliant.

Saturday Flashback: Tooji – Stay

“You’d think I’d remember something that unfortunate.”

Tim: I heard this recently, Norway’s 2012 Eurovision entry, and remembered I quite enjoyed it.

Tom: I have no memory of it at all!

Tim: Let’s revisit it, shall we?

Tom: You’d think I’d remember something that unfortunate. They’ve nicked the synths from Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction, the chorus from every late-90s Eurovision entrant, and the verse from… actually, I can’t remember the verse any more, and that’s probably for the best.

Tim: First of all, some context: in the category of ‘songs that qualified’, it couldn’t have done much (well, any) worse – it was tenth out of ten qualifiers from its semi-final, and in the final it was the single song that prevented us, with Engelbert Humperdinck (Engelbert Humperdinck, ffs), coming last, with 7 points to our 12.

Tom: The single saving grace is the chorus, but it’s very much a Traditional Chorus and those just don’t play well any more. As for why even Engelbert beat it…

Tim: Multiple reasons, probably: the vocals were weak, he looks like he’s just grabbed his clothes out of the dirty laundry basket, and the peculiar mix of genres meant that pretty much everybody would have at least one part they disliked. So, really: why on Earth was it chosen? And to that, I’ve no answer. Well, except that weirdly, I quite like it.

Mørland, MIIA – How To Lose Something Good

“A proper singalong chorus, big production underneath it all.”

Tim: The song provides instructions on how to lose something good, as you’d expect the title; allow me to give you instructions on how to improve things instead: press play.

Tom: Clever.

Tim: Oh, thank you very much.

Tim: As is frequently pleasing, it starts good and just keeps getting better. A proper singalong chorus, big production underneath it all.

Tom: That’s true, although I was mostly singing “Love Me Like You Do” instead. (Similar cadence, similar vocal quality, and and even similar syllables. I know, and I’m sorry.)

Tim: Hmm, maybe – although think about it, that’s a strong compliment. Once it’s warmed up and the first chorus has hit, everything throughout the song is just wonderful, and I’ve no desire at all to switch it off. Sounds like damning with faint praise, that, but it really isn’t: this is a very good song.

Tom: I do agree: but it took a while to hear the track for itself, rather than the song that my brain was autocompleting in its place.

Pink feat. Cash Cash – Can We Pretend

“It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.”

Tom: It’s been out for a long while on the album, but this is now heading to US radio airplay as a single (yes, that’s still a thing), so it seems like a good time to cover this. Because despite Pink being very much regular pop, Cash Cash are full-on electronic dance music. And this is very much in our wheelhouse.

Tim: Ooh, it very much is and all. Nice lyric video, too.

Tom: That’s a sound that hasn’t been pushed to US radio in a while. It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.

Tim: Yeah. In fact, it’s kind of like M83 & The Killers, and Avicii & Chris Martin – dance sound, non-dance singer. Works just as well here as it did there.

Tom: And if you’re thinking “this sounds a bit like Sigala”, well, they did a remix. Weirdly, it sounds less like them.

Tim: Hmm, it does. I love what they’ve done to that chorus, though; hate what they’ve put in the post-chorus.

Theoz – Atmosfär

“No, I didn’t expect to be getting on a Russ Abbot tangent today, but here we are.”

Tim: Theoz is Swedish and, I’m sorry to have to tell you, just 15 years old. But here you go, enjoy it anyway.

Tom: Does he love a party with a happy atmosfär?

Tim: That’s…good lord, that’s an obscure and weird reference. But sure, maybe?

Tom: Huh. Actually, I guess he does. Different meaning of the lyrics now I’ve translated them: it’s about “entering your atmosphere” rather than just being a party song, but he went with vaguely the same cadence on the chorus and that’s close enough for me.

Tim: First off: this track’s great. It’s really got me going after an irritating couple of days, with its energy, pacing, genre, melody and more.

Tom: Pity about the whistling, really. I can see why you’d find it catchy, but it’s just irritating me about the same as Russ Abbot’s track did. No, I didn’t expect to be getting on a Russ Abbot tangent today, but here we are.

Tim: Here we are indeed, it seems. But this song, OH, that melody. Specifically, the part that starts with the ‘Du vänder dig’ through to ‘en hasting black’. It reminds me so much of another song, but I can’t place it, and even more annoyingly I’m fairly sure it’s a Swedish one so I’ve absolutely no idea what lyrics to search for. Don’t suppose you’ve any idea, do you?

Tom: Try this.

Tim: No. No, not that.

Lindiwe Mkhize, Lebo M. – Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama

“It’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection'”

Tim: By all accounts, the new version of The Lion King, out on Friday, is exceedingly similar to the original, frequently having scenes that are shot for shot redos.

Tom: Only with basically expressionless CG faces instead of animation.

Tim: Ah, but photorealism, see. Main question for us: will this vary from the original? Well, only one of the vocalists has changed, and the length is [checks music library] yep, identical. But let’s have a listen anyway.

Tom: I mean, the rest of the tracks are basically Celebrity Lion King Karaoke (and John Oliver, sad to say, is not a patch on Rowan Atkinson), so I guess this could have been worse. But like all covers that are so close to the original: why bother?

Tim: Well, you’ve maybe got to, if you’re redoing the film? But it’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection’: aside from Lindiwe’s vocal being audibly different from Carmen Twillie’s in the original, it is, I’m fairly sure, identical. But you know what? I don’t care. It’s an amazing song, and that moment when Rafiki holds up baby Simba will never fail to give me goosebumps.

Tom: For me, it’s the cut to the title card at the end: it’s the first time I can remember being awed by cinema.

Tim: Who cares if it’s the same? I’ll be at the cinema at 10:00 on Friday morning, so I’m out in time for work, and I’m very excited about it.

Neon – Willst du mit mir gehen?

“They even have synchronised dance moves and an “oh-woah-oh-oh” going into the final chorus.”

Tim: Neon are two German gents, Andi and Tom, and this is their new song. And if you can tell me you don’t have a grin on your face by the end of the first line of the chorus, Tom, I’ll refuse to believe you.

Tom: What baffles me is how, a good decade or two into the 21st century, artists can still release tracks like that with an apparently-straight face. That’s not meant as a slight, I’m genuinely happy that it’s still a thing. It’s just so out-of-touch with modern sensibilities, so unfathomably positive and unchallenging, that I find it almost hard to believe.

Tim: This is what I love about this YouTube channel – even if I can’t find any ‘respectable’ music that gets me enough to write about it, this can reliably provide a track or two that’ll get me going. And here, OH, what a perfect example of German schlager. An intro that indicates something special might be coming along, a first verse that tides you over nicely, and then a chorus that is dance pop, camp as you come.

Tom: They even have synchronised dance moves and an “oh-woah-oh-oh” going into the final chorus.

Tim: Joyous, isn’t it? And really, who doesn’t love camp dance pop? Well, a lot of people, I guess, but none of them are sensible. We know what’s what, Tom.

Saturday Flashback: Dario G – Cry

“All the positives, really.”

Tim: I said on Wednesday that his new one, Hola, came somewhat of the blue; a little more digging revealed that’s not quite true, actually, as he also brought this out back last September.

Tim: It is, if anything, even more textbook Dario G than Hola was, with the whispering and those operatic vocals, and you know what? I ABSOLUTELY ADORE IT. Yes, it’s 99% plain and simple nostalgia, but damn it’s a good sound.

Tom: I mean, it’s not Sunchyme, and I’d argue that it’s not even quite as good as Hola. But when it gets half way through and you start hearing what’s basically the same extended long-build that was used twenty years ago? Sure, it’ll do.

Tim: It’s nice and pleasant and summery and relaxing and joyful and beachy and wonderful and, well, all the positives, really. Given all that, you may be asking if there’s an album on the way.

Tom: I wasn’t, but sure, for the purposes of this I will.

Tim: Good, because I got in touch and asked him: apparently he’s “toying with the idea”, so that’s nice. In the meantime, you’ve also got Savour The Miracle Of Life from February to enjoy as well.

Frans feat. Yoel905 – Do It Like You Mean It

“A brief trip to 1990s Belgium, because that’s as good a time and place as any to revisit.”

Tim: You remember Frans, who was exceptionally boring at Eurovision for Sweden three years ago, and then did a bit more boring stuff? Well, he came back earlier this year with a new track, which we didn’t feature because, duh, it was really boring. But NOW…it’s different!

Tom: …no, it’s not?

Tim: What? Of course it is – it’s summery, and there’s excitement in the air, along with a brief trip to 1990s Belgium, because that’s as good a time and place as any to revisit, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Tom: Blimey, that’s an obscure reference I’d never have spotted. What an odd choice.

Tim: Unusual, isn’t it, but it does work, brining a lot of life into it. You disagree?

Tom: I can’t understand why you think this is so much more interesting, though: it still feels like the rest of Frans’s songs to me, albeit with a slightly better sample in the background. It’s a poor song when I think the middle eight’s the best bit.

Tim: Perhaps, but then there is that sample in the background, which elevates the song significantly. I won’t get my hopes up about the new and interesting sound, mind, as there’s every chance it’s a one off and a few months from now we may well being falling asleep by the second verse again, but it’s nice that we’ve got this to appreciate until then. Hell, I’ll even accept his featured artist, who laudably has taken efficiency over creativity by just using his Twitter handle as his stage name. Why not?

Sigrid – Mine Right Now

“Very typical Sigrid: a bit shouty, still a good melody, somewhat memorable after the song’s stoped playing.

Tim: This song’s been around as this video a few months now, but the main video came out more recently and that was what got my attention – largely because it’s complete and total garbage, with an irritating narrative about shoots going wrong, planes being delayed, the director pretending to be her, and most annoyingly of all, more interruptions that we’d see even in the dark days of the late noughties.

Tom: That shtick has been done successfully once and once only.

Tim: Here’s the original lyric video.

Tim: Pretty nice chorus, that, by which I mean it’s very typical Sigrid: a bit shouty, still a good melody, somewhat memorable after the song’s stoped playing. The verses are a little less exciting, but worth sticking with because that chorus will come around after not too long.

Tom: And a chorus backing that sounds like it could have been a jingle that BBC Sport used in the 90s. Yes, that’s an obscure and useless reference, but go on, tune your ears to the backing of that chorus and tell me that it doesn’t sound like you’re about to watch a special live broadcast of international athletics.

Tim: Hmmm…maybe? I don’t know, I think it sounds more like a damn good piece of pop personally.

Tom: You’re right, though, it’s a good chorus.

Tim: Actually: having said that about weak verses, I’ve made that excuse a lot of times in the past, so I’m not entirely sure it should be an automatic pass; here it’ll do, though. It’ll do nicely.