Niall Horan – Nice To Meet Ya

“Solid Middle Of The Road Adult Man Serious Artist Who Attracts Women”

Tom: We’re about a month late to this one — enough to flag it up, not quite enough to make it a Flashback, particularly as it’s the lead single off the still-upcoming second album.

Tim: Good, let’s do it. Care to provide an intro?

Tom: Ladies and gentlemen (but, from the marketing, mostly ladies): please welcome Olly Murs Junior. Or possibly Jeremy Renner Junior, depending on whether you go by sound or look. This is someone whose publicist is emphasising: Solid Middle Of The Road Adult Man Serious Artist Who Attracts Women.

Tom: First of all, full marks to the video director for keeping that eyeline in at 2:48.

Tim: Good video throughout, really.

Tom: But aside from that: who’s this song aimed at? The old teenage 1D fans, moving to a sound that’s more mature? Their mums? The people that downloaded the Jeremy Renner app? Or — and I suspect this is a well-paying demographic — people looking for soundtracks to expensive commercials?

Tim: My guess is the first one (and, sure, the last one) – artists have varied their sounds throughout their career way back to the dawn of time, it’s up to the fans to keep up with it, and ideally the radio stations to keep playing it, which, yep, seems to be happening.

Tom: I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it. It is, literally, easy listening. It also just seems an odd choice, given that he’s in his mid-twenties and not his mid-forties.

Stefan – I Feel Nothing

“I don’t like it, but I get why you do.”

Tim: Tom, I sort of want to apologise in advance here, because I’ve a feeling your reaction will be roughly along the lines of “I don’t like it, but I get why you do.”

Tom: “I feel nothing” is how I react to a lot of the music that’s here, so that’d be better than nothing.

Tim: Have a listen anyway.

Tom: I don’t like it, but I get why you do.

Tim: Absolutely beautiful, I’d say. Heartfelt emotional vocal, a delightful backing that starts quiet but gradually builds up to something marvellous at the end: as a ballad, this is entirely wonderful. Your thoughts?

Tom: You called it: I get there’s a lot to like in theory here, but I… well, yeah, I feel nothing.

Saturday Flashback: Da Buzz – Let Me Love You Tonight

“Obscure Swedish 2002 eurodance!”

Tom: Obscure Swedish 2002 eurodance!

Tim: Hooray!

Tom: No, really, that’s all I’ve got, I just stumbled across it and it’s been stuck in my head for a couple of days now.

Tim: Nothing wrong with that, it’s a pretty good track. And incidentally, I’ve just looked at their Wikipedia page, and found the most outstanding sentence: “In June 2011, one of the Karlstad transit buses was named after the group.” And what greater an honour can there be than that?

Sigrid – Home To You

“There’s a harp.”

Tom: There I was, thinking there was no interesting music to send you: and then I realise we’ve missed Sigrid’s new track. A quick warning: it’s not what you’d expect. There’s a harp.

Tim: Hmm, gosh.

Tom: Once you adjust to the fact that Sigrid — not exactly known for writing love songs — has done a full, proper ballad: well, this is good, isn’t it? There are very few vocalists who have a recognisable vocal quality that lifts them up above session singers. This is both surprisingly traditional and still recognisably Sigrid.

Tim: Can’t disagree with a word of that. I prefer her usual stuff – certainly can’t say I’d like an album of this – but yeah, it’s good ballad.

Tom: Now, I reckon a couple of lines of that beautiful, soaring chorus do owe at least a tip of the hat to the chorus of Lionel Richie’s Hello, but that’s by the by. I still hit ‘play’ a second time.

Tim: Blimey, high praise from you there. And yeah, deserved.

Lance & Litton – Sunshine

Tim: Swedish dance duo whose first release we completely missed; here’s their second.

Tom: This is really weird to say, but I’ve never had such an intense dislike for the verses of a song in a long time.

Tim: Wait, seriously?

Tom: It wasn’t my usual “meh” reaction: I just actively disliked it and I cannot, for the life of me, explain why. Which is a shame, because the post-chorus is joyful, and even the chorus perked me up a bit.

Tim: I really don’t get that, about the verses. Sure, they have a ‘this’ll do’ quality to them, but for me the only really negative is the one rather disappointing ‘oh’ moment, at a fairly important point: the first time the vocal chorus hit. I wanted something a bit speedier, and wasn’t prepared for the longer vocal notes. HOWEVER, the rest of it goes solidly between ‘this’ll do’ (aforementioned verses) and ‘OH YES THIS WILL VERY MUCH DO’ (post-chorus breakdown, where I immediately started clapping my hands in time to the beat).

Tom: Yep, I can see why you were disappointed there: it’s an odd choice to go into what’s basically half-time for the chorus. But I think it does work.

Tim: There are other highlights: for starters, I was delighted by the presence of a middle eight, as by now I’ve been trained not to expect one. Also, for the second chorus and with repeated listenings, that initial let down doesn’t give me any problems – once you’re expecting it, you’re right, it works, and it’s great. WHAT A TUNE.

Tom: WHAT A CHORUS.

Georgia – Never Let You Go

“Oh, what a chorus. Or rather, what an underlying melody, because isn’t it just lovely?”

Tim: Georgia’s the one who brought us About Work The Dancefloor, which at the time you said you liked except for the vocoding.

Tom: And the grammar.

Tim: Well, here’s the next one, with a complete of any vocal interference.

Tim: Oh, what a chorus. Or rather, what an underlying melody, because isn’t it just lovely?

Tom: You mean that one synth line that sounds like a response to her vocals? Really? It’s the one thing in here that gets on my nerves. The rest is…

Tim: The rest of it is pretty much standard CHVRCHES-lite but without the Scottish accent.

Tom: A little unfairly phrased perhaps, but not untrue. It’s a decent enough track.

Tim: But that single undulating line lifts the song to a whole new level, because it’s beautiful, and I entirely love it.

Bastille, Alessia Cara – Another Place

“Brilliant chorus. Shame about the rest of it, really.”

Tom: Bastille and Marshmallo’s Happier is still getting regular airplay, more than a year after release. So it makes sense to do it all over again with someone else.

Tim: Sure, why not.

Tom: Brilliant chorus. Shame about the rest of it, really.

Tim: Yeah – it’s telling that every time I think “oh, this is actually pretty, I’ll ignore what Tom’s just said”, it turns out that it’s just because the chorus has started up.

Tom: I think the difference this time is that, while Alessia Cara has a great voice, that’s all she can bring: she doesn’t have an entire sound and style that can be mashed in with the recognisable vocals. Happier worked before it was, unexpectedly, a good mashup of two sounds, but this: sadly, it’s not enough of an Anthem, and it’s not enough of a Ballad.

Tim: Can’t disagree with any of that, really. Shame.

Alex Järvi – Dina Skor

“I actually did find myself waving my arms in the air.”

Tim: Alex here, singing about Your Shoes, or, rather, the fact that no-one can fill them. How sweet.

Tom: Good heavens, who picked those brass synth pads? They sound like a MIDI keyboard from the 90s. They could afford a choir, but they couldn’t afford an actual trumpet?

Tim: Oh, hush. We’ve almost two songs in one, here – the standard and fairly unremarkable verses, which fortunately make up a comparatively small amount of time, and then OH that GLORIOUS brassy chorus.

Tom: It is a wonderful, schlagery chorus, isn’t it? Full-on, hands-waving-back-and-forth, entirely predictable chord progressions. Not a complaint, that.

Tim: Oh, no – and during the middle of the final three choruses I actually did find myself waving my arms in the air. It’s a jubilant sound, which is somewhat bizarre given the lyrics: basic narrative is that she left him because he was a dick; he’s now saying that he’s getting off with new girls left right and centre, but none of them are quite as good so can she come back. TRIUMPHANT BRASS!

Tom: Amazing. I wonder if there’s anyone in the world that would work on?

Tim: I’ve been trying to think, to make a snarky comment, but nope, I’ve got nothing. To be honest, though, I don’t care that the sound doesn’t fit, because it’s bloody wonderful to listen to, and really just over all too quickly.

Tom: Just… maybe they should hire an actual brass section.

Saturday Flashback: Unicorn Kid – Feel So Real

Tom: I’ve been driving around the US, which means that — as long as I’m in a city — I’ve been listening to Pride Radio, which appears to play nothing but DANCE BANGERS. And adverts for PrEP.

Tim: Not a single word of that paragraph surprises me.

Tom: Anyway, I don’t know why I’ve never heard this before, because it sounds like someone crossed Galantis and Daft Punk.

Tom: See what I mean? Those early synths, that energetic vocal: all Galantis. But then you’ve got that breakdown before the second chorus, arpeggiators and interesting chord progressions, and those synths in the middle eight: that sounds like Daft Punk to me.

Tim: That’s an entirely accurate dissection, there, of what’s a pretty great track. Although, admittedly, not as good as that Jenna Drey number you linked to.

Tom: There’s Unicorn Kid’s own style on top of it, of course. And it’s such a good style! Or at least, it was until I clicked on the next recommended track and got a chorus of chanting children. Never mind.

Tim: Ah, yeah, I see why you wouldn’t like it. I think it’s pretty good, though. 

SKAAR – Five Times

“Loud and thrashy and intense”

Tim: YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID, Tom. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID.

Tom: I mean, yes, I do, but I’m fairly sure you don’t.

Tim: Maybe not, but SKAAR reckons she does.

Tom: And I’m fairly sure she doesn’t either.

Tim: Oh, well that shows her. Apparently this is an anthem to “all the women out there that think men should own up to their own shit”, and having just watched an episode of The Apprentice where one guy said “yeah, one second darling” to his female team-mate and got no pushback about it whatsoever, I’m all for that.

Tom: Well, that’s one of the worst paragraphs we’ve had here for a while. Pity about the music, though.

Tim: You think? Because I think this is a message that is massively boosted when it comes with such an enormous backing to it, loud and thrashy and intense, that means there can be absolutely no misunderstanding about it. Helpfully, it’s one I love as well.

Tom: I just wish I actually liked the song! “Loud and thrashy and intense” isn’t something I actually want to listen to.

Tim: Oh. Well, for me: strong message, strong music, love it.