Saturday Flashback: Spray – Anthem (For The Modern Artist)

“What does the name ‘Ricardo Autobahn’ mean to you?”

Tom: Tim, what does the name ‘Ricardo Autobahn’ mean to you?

Tim: Oooh, rings a bell, but I can’t place the reason. Elaborate, please do.

Tom: A quick recap through through his CV for our reader: part of The Cuban Boys. Rikki and Daz. A Eurovision entry. The Golden Age of Video. And, most recently, that spectacularly good Pet Shop Boys parody that does TV theme tunes.

Tim: HOW ON EARTH had I not seen that? Blimey, thank you for the intro.

Tom: Lesser known for reasons that I don’t understand: he’s also one half of synthpop band Spray, who I only just discovered. This is from 2013, recently rereleased, and it’s the first track in a long while where I was singing along with the chorus before the end of my first listen.

Tim: Bloody hell, that’s good. Admittedly I was unable to stop myself chanting ‘David Bowie LPs‘ a lot during the pre-chorus, but aside from that: hell yes I enjoyed that.

Tom: Yep, a music researcher could probably trace the DNA of this track back to a dozen ancestors, but I feel like that’d be taking the fun out of it. As for their newer stuff: how this has under 400 YouTube views baffles me.

Frida Sundemo – Islands

“It starts on a chorus, which is a risky move at the best of times.”

Tim: The second best album of last year, Flashbacks & Futures, got released the day before my sister’s wedding, and if I’m honest it wasn’t entirely sure which I was more excited about. I won’t say which has given me more lasting enjoyment, but I will say that nine months on, one of the better tracks from it has suddenly been given a lyric video.

Tim: Now, I’ll get the obvious criticism out of the way first, to acknowledge it: there’s not much of a journey here.

Tom: I was going with “discount Chvrches”, but sure, that’s also valid criticism.

Tim: It starts on a chorus, which is a risky move at the best of times, dips to a first verse with a quiet first half and loud second half. Then the chorus, second verse, next chorus and middle eight stay at roughly the same volume. Yes, that is a slight flaw.

Tom: I disagree that starting on a chorus is overly risky: “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” has been good advice for pop musicians for a long, long time. And hey, at least I can remember the chorus after one listen this time.

Tim: HOWEVER, I am more than willing to forgive it that because OH, the last section of that song. Volume and energy wise it might not change much, but melodically and sonically it’s just so lovely. The decent, but by this point slightly repetitive, drumbeat makes way for that fabulous synth line, and it’s just great to listen to. By the end, it’s so so worth it.

Tom: And as ever with Frida’s tracks, I’m just not as enthusiastic: again, there’s nothing wrong (and, yes, it’s a good chorus), but there’s nothing that gets me excited here.

Tim: They could have turned up the colour in that video, though.

CHVRCHES – Miracle

“Talk about saving the best for last.”

Tim: I know the album Love Is Dead has been out a couple of months now, but we’ve yet to cover this, the final single released from it, and I just can’t let that stand. Because boy, talk about saving the best for last.

Tim: I’ll be honest, with no hyperbole: there isn’t a single note in here that I would change. It helps that it’s a genre I love, obviously, but this song is just outstanding. The progression from verse, to pre-chorus, to chorus, to post-chorus is absolutely spot on, and oh my days what a post-chorus that is. The middle eight is exactly what it should be, and the closing section, with it’s combination of sung chorus and phenomenal post-chorus, is absolutely perfect.

Tom: So I’m going to take a different tack here, and talk about the video. Because, after you’ve watched it, go back and set it to double speed — and watch it in real-time. The footage was slowed down about 50% for that, and I have no idea how on earth the singer kept her composure, and her timing, with everything going on around her.

Tim: Huh. Oh, that really is quite a thing, with her presumably singing at double speed while it was being filmed.

Tom: This was filmed in a few long takes, and it’s directorial genius.

Tim: Directorial, and indeed musical. So, then, some advice for you – no, actually, an instruction: if you’ve not listened to Love Is Dead, do it now. Bin off whatever you’re doing, take 49 minutes (though tbh more likely 98), and enjoy the best album released so far this year. It is quite simply stunning, and you’ll thank me afterwards.

Shady Moves – Top Of The World

“It’s actually pretty good.”

Tom: Let me guess: this isn’t an England United cover?

Tim: Got sent this a couple of days back, by a Swedish DJ and producer who’s known to friends and family as Johnny Bergström and to the rest of us as, erm, Shady Moves. Here’s his first original release, after a good few years of doing rather decent remixes.

Tim: And despite having a stage name that sounds like he’s Jay off The Inbetweeners getting into DJing purely to seem cool and impress the girls, it’s actually pretty good.

Tom: Harsh, but not unfair. The pre-chorus reminds me a lot of late-90s and early-2000s guitar-pop — and then it goes into a modern instrumental chorus as well. You’re right: for a debut release from someone who’s not a big star, this is better than it has any right to be.

Tim: The vocal (it’s not specified whose) is entirely acceptable, the piano is present and playing the correct notes, and getting suitably loud at the right points, and most importantly of all it’s got those swooshy noises at the right intervals to indicate when we’re meant to get excited.

It may sound here like I’m being a bit glib, but actually, yes, that’s exactly what I’m being.

Tom: This is a rare moment: when I like a song more than you! Admittedly, even at three minutes, it outstays its welcome a bit — but it’s not actually doing anything wrong. This is a solid “plays over the golden buzzer slow-mo on Britain’s Got Talent” track.

Tim: Nonetheless, it’s still very listenable and danceable, even if it is completely by the numbers. They’re good numbers, after all.

Cheat Codes, Little Mix – Only You

Interesting tradition we have here, isn’t it?

Tom: I’ve become quite disconnected from the charts lately: I know there has to be some measure of which tracks are Most Popular Right Now, but since the music industry isn’t about sales any more it all seems a bit arbitrary.

Tim: Perhaps, although as a measure of which of tracks are Most Popular Right Now, it’s better than it’s ever been – right now, it goes by what people are actually listening to. Sure, it turns it slightly into a self-fulfilling prophecy if playlists get based on it, but other than that it’s hard to argue against it.

Tom: Recently the official UK chart started counting not only Spotify streams, but YouTube views. Which means a brand new music video appearing really can act as a ‘single launch’ these days. So, up this week eleven places to 29, it’s…

Tom: …a song that, for once, I heard on the radio and thought “that’s really good, what is it?”

Kygo’s influence — or at least, the influence of the style that he codified — is pretty clear here. But it’s well-composed and well-produced too, with vocals just as good as you’d expect.

Tim: Yep – can’t deny any of that. This is a pretty good Little Mix tropical pop song.

Tom: Also, note how well the pre-chorus flows into the chorus: well enough that I’d say it’s difficult to separate them.

Tim: Hmm – interesting you say that, because while you’re right, I do find a sudden jump between the verse and the pre-chorus, which I really wouldn’t normally expect.

Tom: Unfortunately, as soon as you hear that vocal sample in the instrumental chorus as saying “t-it-ty”, the whole thing falls apart. But until then, it’s a great track.

Tim: Interesting tradition we have here, isn’t it? Actively bringing up ways which might spoil the song for each other. But yes, until you said that, it’s a great track.

Sigrid – Schedules

“Brash, rude and a rather messy video”

Tim: Brash, rude and a rather messy video: nope, it’s not a presidential news story from 18 months ago, it’s Sigrid’s latest track.

Tim: How often does it happen, Tom? Two people meet each other, but the timing’s not quite right. You’ve just found someone new, or been through a messy breakup, or given birth, or who knows? Sigrid doesn’t care, though, because when she and her new squeeze hit it off, they really hit it off.

Tom: I was expecting this to be a gripe about two people who are trying to have some sort of relationship, but their diaries mean they have to schedule everything a minimum of three weeks in advance. Maybe that’s just a London problem.

Tim: Like I said, it’s brash and it’s rude but it gets the point across, which plenty of nice wo-oahs going on to accompany it.

Tom: There are lot of things that should grate in here — the samples, the repetition, the whoops, and that middle eight. But somehow it doesn’t.

Tim: I don’t really know if I like this or not – I think I do, and I guess I’ve happily listened to it several times already, so that probably counts for something. Call it six out of ten.

Saturday Flashback: Alex Ross feat. Dakota, T-Pain – Dreams

“Oh, it’s that Dreams!”

Tim: Funny how coincidences happen: yesterday we discussed Jonas Blue kickstarting the tropical-covers-of-classic-pop trend, and yesterday afternoon I heard this for the first time in bloody ages.

Tom: Oh, it’s that Dreams! I thought it was going to be a Fleetwood Mac cover. Or a Cranberries cover.

Tim: In fact, probably the first time since it was a first released last March, actually, since who the hell jumps on a bandwagon six months after everyone else has stopped, launches a summer track in the middle of flipping March and then expects it to get played? Well, Alex Ross, apparently.

And credit where it’s due it’s not a terrible rendition of the song, at least given the questionable target it’s aiming for.

Tom: Interesting choice adding T-Pain in there, too; this didn’t need his middle eight, but I’ve got admit it actually improves what was originally a fairly dull song to cover. You’re right: this hits the target.

Tim: We may not approve of that target (nor, indeed, may anyone else in their right mind), but since FastCar came along it’s right there and ready to be hit. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, if I were to remove my ‘tropical covers are unnecessary and frequently awful’ blinkers, I might even approve of it as a remix.

Tom: I think I’m with you there. I think I might actually like this?

Tim: Because it does sound nice and summery; it’s a listenable enough version of the track; it’s entirely inoffensive; and occasionally if it comes on in the background you’ll think “huh, this is quite nice”. At least, that’s what I did yesterday.

Jonas Blue feat. Jack & Jack – Rise

“I have one minor but niggling issue with this.”

Tim: Jonas was, arguably, responsible for 2016’s trend of covering old songs in tropical fashion with his release of Fast Car; those days are long behind him, though.

Tom: Oh, finally.

Tim: Well, unless you count the pan pipe synths in the intro. And verses. And other tropical tropes all over the place, and actually you know what? Ignore what I said.

Tom: Aaaagh those horn-stabby-synths in the post-chorus are almost painful to listen to.

Tim: Oh, really? I actually quite like that. In fact, by and large I really like this track: good chorus, uplifting-ish message, general nice fun party track for a sing-along if necessary.

Tom: You’re right that there are some lovely parts in here, but there are also parts that sound like a kid stabbing away at their first synthesiser. I just can’t get behind this.

Tim: Oh, shame. But I do have one minor but niggling issue with this, and it’s the same as I did with Little Mix’s Wings with its “if they give you shhhh” line: writers, why are you deliberately leaving a gap in your lyrics? I get the idea – you want to be a family friendly pop act, and you certainly don’t want the F-word floating around for little brother to hear when big sister’s playing the album version – but something about it just sticks out a bit. And it’s the only thing spoiling the song for me.

Klergy – Awaken

“Like music that’s designed to go over the dramatic ending of a television episode.”

Tim: Annoyingly, I can find out absolutely nothing about this group (or perhaps even just singer); nonetheless, I’m very keen on this.

Tom: …why?

Tim: Well, it starts out quiet, grows into what can be described as a ‘haunting melody’, before culminating in what is a very powerful chorus. It reminds me quite a bit of The Cardigans’s Erase/Rewind, melodically and, now the comparison’s drawn, somewhat stylistically as well, but then that’s a great song to be taking cues from, and there’s more than enough originality here to stop me thinking “now hang on a minute…”.

Tom: This seems more like music that’s designed to go over the dramatic ending of a television episode. I mean, sure, it’s a song, but I’m not even sure it qualifies as pop music.

Tim: Hmm, maybe. It’s not, admittedly, a song I’d listen to over and over again like I would yesterday’s track, but it’s still a lovely piece of of music, which is just what I need sometimes.

2 Blyga Läppar – Du är så jävla fin

“If the song doesn’t get a massive grin on your face, I may have to reconsider our friendship.”

Tim: Swedish band here with a song called ‘You’re So Damn Fine’, and oh, this song really is. The video you might find a bit irritating, Tom, but if the song doesn’t get a massive grin on your face, I may have to reconsider our friendship.

Tom: Actually, the most irritating thing about the video is that clearly someone doesn’t know how to properly colour-grade the drone footage.

Tim: Yeah, yeah I see that.

Tom: Also: I nearly shouted “Are you ready, Steve?” over that drum intro, and then started humming Walking On Sunshine when the guitar kicked in. Fortunately, the rest of the song made up for all that.

Tim: Now, it takes a hell of a lot for a song to have a key change and yet that still not even be in my top 5 things, but I think this song manages it, because OH there are just so many good bits here. The trumpet fanfares!

Tom: There’s clearly some ska influence here. I am very okay with horn sections coming back.

Tim: The woo-oo-oohs! The fact that it ends on what is clearly an instrumental ‘YEAH’! The lyric at the end of the first verse which states that “I’ll be your Volvo if you’ll be my Jaguar”! And most importantly of all: the sense of FUN.

Tom: Yep, that really shines through.

Tim: I’ve said it many times before but a song can become so much more enjoyable if it’s apparent that actually, the people involved were have a good time making it. And here: oh, boy. Admittedly the fact that they were filming in a villa in Marbella probably helped, but still. There’s a sense of joy woven throughout this song, and it can’t help but be infectious.

And, yes, there’s that key change. God, I love this.

Tom: I want to go and film something in Marbella now.

Tim: Sure – just take me with you, will you?