Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

“Where have I heard these Big Piano Chords in the verse before?”

Tom: In a world increasingly dominated by vertical video and square video, music video directors continue to use EXTREME WIDESCREEN. And I have a question for you, Tim: where have I heard these Big Piano Chords in the verse before?

Tom: I mean, good power ballad, weakened a bit by that “drown, drown, drown” bit and the middle eight, but with a properly intense chorus and a voice that is still clearly Avril Lavigne despite being surrounded by a lot of instrumentation and production.

Tim: It is, and there’s also a nice vocal variation between the trademark shouty vocals and the softer parts required in the early parts of the verses and the pre-chorus, rather than just an adjustment of volume, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Tom: But I’d swear I’ve heard that effect in the verse before. You know, where it sounds like someone’s pushing most of the keys on a grand piano at the same time, just to emphasise that this is still a big moment despite being the slow bit of the song. Any ideas?

Tim: Hmm…Let It Go? I mean, upping the backing for the second verse, or even the second part of the first verse, is hardly novel. What is novel, mind, is using a typeface in a lyric video with an apostrophe that horrific.

Christine and the Queens – 5 Dollars

“It’s great. But I also find it deeply unsatisfying.”

Tim: Song’s been around a while, but for some reason it’s only now started getting radio play. For those that don’t know her work, as I didn’t: the titular Christine is French and actually called Natalie, and she has in the past described her music as ‘freak pop’. Try to enjoy, then.

Tom: Aaagh. I liked the composition, the production, the instrumentation, I like all the individual bits of that from the introduction onwards. It’s great. But I also find it deeply unsatisfying, like I’m waiting for a Big Chorus that’ll never arrive.

Tim: I’ll be honest, it took me a while to get it – it’s weirdly structured, the voice is somewhat disconcerting, and there’s not much to make me want to go back to it. On the other hand, I’ve now heard it played a few times on Radio 1, and it turns out I actually do quite like it.

Tom: This may well be a grower. I just wish it’d do that within the song.

Tim: There’s nothing I can really point to and say “yep, that’s a good bit”, but somehow it kinds of gets me, triggers something that makes me think “ah, this is nice”. And that’s certainly good enough for me.

Hedband & Thorisson – One Night

Tim: An Icelandic duo and an Icelandic soloist, teaming for a rather lovely dancey track.

Tom: Well, that was a promising introduction, pointing the way to a good chorus with… well, with a saxophone. I’m not sure about that saxophone.

Tim: And there I think lovely is the right word – it sounds good, it’s got a great melody and vocals, fun message we can all relate to, and the saxophone coming occasionally adds a somewhat novelty part.

Tom: Novelty! That’s the right term. I’m not sure that’s a compliment for a… hm. Dance track, I guess, technically?

Tim: Except: it doesn’t really make me want to dance – in fact, it’s not even really got my head going side to side. And that’s a real shame, because with it being so nice and pleasant, I really want to like it. And I kind of do, but it’s basically entirely failing to do what it should do. So I mostly don’t. Hmm.

Little Jinder – Pinnochio

“Yes, she is singing what you think she’s singing.“

Tim: Little Jinder, a Swede who until today I’d never heard of, which now strikes me as really quite a shame. Lyrics are Swedish – summary: he lied, she broke up with him, now misses him, wishes he didn’t lie so much – except for part of the chorus, where yes, she is singing what you think she’s singing.

Tim: Bit of a weird line to suddenly jump into English for, but never mind.

Tom: You could have convinced me that it was just an unfortunate-sounding Swedish expression, but sure. I guess that (and the “ride or die” in the next line) are, like “bon appetit” or “schadenfreude”, just not the same in Swedish.

Tim: You can probably guess where I’m sitting with regards to this, with its Frida Sundemo and stoned CHVRCHES vibe, and you’d be absolutely right.

Tom: Yep, this is a pretty good track. And, lyrics aside, that’s a heck of a chorus.

Tim: I can, of course, identify flaws: it’s a repetitive chorus (although useful if you want to learn to count in Swedish), and that one English line does stick out annoyingly. On the other hand, the rest of it is so good that I really don’t care. This is lovely, and now I’m off to explore her back catalogue NO NOT LIKE THAT.

Tom: Well, that’s a new euphemism for me.

Saturday Flashback: BWO – Temple of Love

“A song that would get me right down on the dance floor, not even slightly caring what people think of me.”

Tim: So, for some reason I thought this had been very successful internationally, but then I checked the figures and apparently no – BWO have only had two charting hits over here, both of which peaked, rather nicely, at 69.

Tom: Nice.

Tim: This track wasn’t one of them, but it came a close second to Carola’s fabulous Evighet in Melodifestivalen 2006, and it is what the kids today call a PROPER BANGER.

Tom: I was going to say “tell me it’s a bit stronger than the Enyaesque track last week”, but it’s BWO, so it will be.

Tim: Right from the off we are heavy in on the dance beats, with a good vocal, colourful lights all over the place, dancing around everywhere, all reinforcing the idea that this is a song to be danced to, very physically. Hell, the title alone sounds really quite rude, and although I’m normally all in for that sort of thing this is meant to be a family show.

Tom: This is exactly what I expected, including the fact that it peaks far too early.

Tim: Right – thing is, it could easily have finished at the 2:37 mark. We’ve already had a middle eight and a final chorus, and if all you’re following it with is an instrumental second middle eight and another final chorus, is it necessary? Perhaps not musically, but performance-wise, given that we haven’t yet lit the flares by the walkway he uses at the end of it, yes, it is entirely necessary. This is, all in, a song that would get me right down on the dance floor, not even slightly caring what people think of me, and that’s really all I look for in a dance tune.

Tom: I mean, yes, I would dance to this, although it’s not something I’d put on a playlist.

Tim: Incidentally, on keyboards you may notice a certain Alexander Bard, perhaps better known as a member of the band Army of Lovers, but who has more recently ditched music and gone from synths to syntheism, a movement about how atheists can still feel as good as proper religious people do, or something. I dunno, he’s written a book about it.

Tom: If it doesn’t have a walkway with flares on it, I’m not interested.

Robin Bengtsson – I Wanna Fall In Love Again

“It’s the sort of Sheeran-esque guitar faffing that I can’t stand. But then, there’s that chorus.”

Tim: F-bombs ahead on the latest track from him off Eurovision 2017; that song was dire, but I think you’ll find this one worth your time.

Tom: Listening to the intro of that, I had absolutely no idea why you thought I might like it. It’s the sort of Sheeran-esque guitar faffing that I can’t stand. But then, there’s that chorus.

Tim: I kind of want to split this in two, really, because the bits that are good (with the brass, the drumbeats, claps, extra vocals) are very good; the bits that aren’t good (just him over a lightly strummed guitar) are very not good. It’s not the first song that’s come along like this, obviously, but there aren’t many I can recall where there’s quite such an extreme difference between the two, and it’s frustrating.

Tom: There’s clearly a market for it, but I just can’t see why. And I’m not sure how I feel about that brass sample in the chorus, either.

Tim: I hear it on a playlist or whatever, not paying much attention, and think “ooh, this sounds good”; then I look it up, and, well, it’s like this. SHAME ON YOU ROBIN.

Feuerherz – Wenn du nicht Stopp sagst

“Remember these guys?” “No!”

Tim: Remember these guys?

Tom: No!

Tim: We featured a multi-lingual Christmas track of theirs last year, decscribing it roughly as a Basshunter backing with crap JLS vocals.

Tom: Harsh but fair. I mean, I don’t know, I don’t remember a thing about it, I’m just assuming we were harsh but fair.

Tim: This one: they’ve not got the dull harmonies.

Tim: Title is “If you don’t stay stop”; lyrical message is, fortunately, not one of impending sexual assault, but instead “if you don’t tell me you don’t want me to love you, I’ll be so desperate I’ll basically be drooling at your feet”. (I paraphrase somewhat.)

Tom: It took me several attempts to parse that sentence before I worked it out, but yes, okay, I see what you mean. It’s a terrible message for a song.

Tim: A bit icky, but also slightly nice, as it does give her a get-out option. But now to segue into the music, and I’m not sure whether to go with “and speaking of nice” or “and speaking of being thankful for a get-out option”.

Tom: I mean, it’s a schlager pop song. It’s exactly what I was expecting. There are literally no surprises in here.

Tim: It’s okay. It’s…largely unremarkable. The music’s good, and the singing’s competent, and I don’t think I’d actively skip it. Though, to be honest, “not bad enough for me to gather the energy to yell out ‘Hey Siri, skip this'” isn’t exactly a compliment.

Tom: How about “it would sit nicely on that all-cheesy-dance-pop radio station I discovered in the Netherlands”? No, that’s not much better.

Tim: Erm, try this: I would probably choose a playlist that had this track, on the basis that it would likely contain lots of other music like this.

Damn, I’m really not selling this, am I?

Tom: I will give this one good point, Tim: the choreographer has worked out that, with four of them, they can each do the same movement on different beats of the same bar. It’s the closest thing to innovation this track has.

Sigala, Ella Eyre, Meghan Trainor feat. French Montana – Just Got Paid

Tom: I remember talking, last week, about a track that sounded like Sigala. Let’s see if Sigala still sounds like Sigala.

Tim: The second time he’s teamed up with Ella Eyre, following last year’s brilliant Came Here For Love, and stylistically…

Tim: …it’s very very similar, and I have no problems with that whatsoever.

Tom: Yep. Although that is, rhythmically, a very odd, offbeat introduction and first verse. Go on, listen to it a couple of times, and then try and sing it exactly in time.

Tim: Hmm..huh, yeah, that is tricky. Both he and Galantis seem happy to share this particular sound, and, as I’ve said so many times before whenever it’s cropped up: I love that sound. Admittedly, this isn’t quite as great as previously: Ella’s vocal grates a little when there’s very little melody to actually sing in her parts of it, and as ever I’d happily take a version without any rapping.

Tom: “When you hear the haan” might be the worst rap middle eight lyric I’ve heard in a long, long time.

Tim: Stylewise, though: it’s still great.

Tom: Not the greatest message in the history of music, but there’s plenty of precedent for it.

Tim: Debut album’s about next Friday, though since 12 of the 16 songs on it having been already released as singles it’s more like an official playlist. Nonetheless, given all this I’m looking forward to the other four.

Sandro Cavazza – Here

“It’d be absolutely perfect for the closing emotional scene montage of a CW teen drama.”

Tim: Sandro has his back to the camera in this shot, which is a sad waste of a rather quite lovely face, but we can look at his last video for that – you may remember it, it got a little bit raunchy at points. This is veering away from the banjo and whistling entirely, in favour of something a little less chirpy.

Tom: I am simultaneously pleased and disappointed, which I didn’t think was possible.

Tim: Well, just wait until you hear the song.

Tom: I was about to say “that’s a slow dirge”, and then the first line of the chorus kicked in, and I liked it, and that confused me.

Tim: I’m similar, and it’s interesting because I’m not sure I’ve had this particular reaction to any other song: it’s both really quite a bit boring and simultaneously absolutely lovely to listen to, and I’m not sure what I think of that. It’s a nice melody, presented well, and those drum builds are all well and good – but they also make me think he thinks it’s significantly more interesting and varied that it actually is.

Tom: There are so many good parts in here, it’s a shame they don’t seem to make a coherent whole.

Tim: So it’s kind of nice as a backing track to something (it’d be absolutely perfect for the closing emotional scene montage of a CW teen drama), I’m not sure I’d choose to listen to it. Though I might Shazam it.

Tom: Harsh but fair.

August, Kuur, Paperwings, Wolfhowl – One Last Time

“Hold it…hold it…hold it…THERE”

Tim: Whole lot of nonsensical act names there, but August is the main one – he’s a dance guy off Norway with a fairly decent track record, even though we’ve never actually featured him before. Let’s change that, so here’s his latest.

Tom: Well, that’s an intro that sounds like Snow Patrol. Fortunately, it didn’t stick that way.

Tim: Not sure why, but I seem to always like the effect that’s there with the group chanting with not much instrumentation.

Tom: It took me a while to work out what you mean — I think the term is “stacked vocals”.

Tim: Yeah, sounds about right. The first time I remember thinking YES with it was when Selena Gomez did it on It Ain’t Me, but it typically indicates a ‘hold it…hold it…hold it…THERE’ section, replacing your standard build to the chorus, and here I really think it works well.

Tom: And it’s a long build into that chorus, too; it pays off.

Tim: It has the added benefit of being followed up by what is indeed a pretty good instrumental chorus, and all in all I’d say these go nicely to make a pretty good tune. Right?

Tom: Right.