Isak Danielson – I Don’t Need Your Love

“Compared to last time’s mellow melancholy this is quite the change”

Tim: I’m aware you’re not that great at remembering our past features, Tom, but I’d hope you remember Isak from when we featured him less than a month back.

Tom: Yes, absolutely, I 100% remember him, I definitely did not just click that link and find I had zero recollection of anything in it.

Tim: On the other hand, the style here is entirely different so it hardly matters either way.

Tim: Compared to last time’s mellow melancholy this is quite the change – defiant, powerful and upbeat, getting going with a fair amount of oomph right off bat, and it’s not long before the chorus comes along and carries it up more.

Tom: It is a bit ‘Strong Enough’, though, isn’t it? I suppose if you’re using ‘I am whatever enough’ in a chorus, there are only so many ways you can arrange it.

You’re not wrong, though, it is a cracking chorus.

Tim: There’s a lot of good stuff in here, really – the various backing vocals all work nicely, the drop out of the instrumentation on the way back in from the middle eight is an old trick but a good one.

Tom: I was going to point that out: some of the clichés still work.

Tim: And those are some great long notes he’s hitting at the end there. All in all, not a bad piece of work.

Tom: Maybe I’ll remember it this time. Or maybe I’ll just remember Cher.

DJ Fresh – Drive

“Decent enough dance track hitting many of the right notes, and giving a shout out to Belgium.”

Tom: We are in a bit of a dearth of good new music, but DJ Fresh is — usually — at least “half-decent”.

Tim: True, and true. This time?

Tim: Belgium?!

Tom: Takes a while to get there, doesn’t it? There’s a lot of promise in that verse, but it doesn’t seem to quite convert into a good chorus, or into anything that’d make that build worth it.

Tim: Well, there’s always the sense that yes, this could be a bit more so, but it does at least have a memorable melody to it – or it’s just been repeated so often in three and a half minutes that I’ve no option but to remember it.

Tom: I was about to click away about a minute in, but there was something about those processed vocals at the end of the first part of chorus that got me to stick around.

Tim: I think it sounds okay: decent enough dance track hitting many of the right notes, and giving a shout out to Belgium. Why wouldn’t you?

Tom: My opinion on DJ Fresh continues: it’s at least half-decent. And in a February with this little good music, I’ll take that.

The 1975 – Me & You Together Song

“Right now, we’ve pretty much a complete and total lack of boybands.”

Tim: So I know this song’s been out a few weeks now, but, well, I want to chat. Press play.

Tim: See, right now, we’ve pretty much a complete and total lack of boybands. That’s not definitively a bad thing, but none of the various hiatuses seem to be coming to an end, Westlife are touring this summer but giving no indication of any new music happening, the new 5SOS track is rubbish and, well, I like a good boyband track, you know? And The 1975, until now, have entirely not fitted the mould.

Tom: I kept seeing this in my recommendations on YouTube, and yet I don’t watch it, because it’s the 1975. I know what they sound like. And this… is not what I expected.

Tim: You look them up on Wikipedia, they’re ‘pop rock’ or ‘alternative rock’; they’re front and centre on Radio 1’s playlist; they do their own instruments and everything. This, though – well, I woke up the other morning and I thought “why are Radio 1 playing a new Busted track?” Because let’s face it, that’s what this is.

Tom: Hmm. There’s certainly a bit of that, but it’s not all the way there. The vocal mix here is so muddy: I have to assume that’s deliberate, because no competent pop producer would ever put out something like this, where it sounds a bit like he’s singing into a cardboard box. It’s like if Busted took some downers and weren’t quite as catchy.

Tim: I don’t know if they’d be happy or not with the comparison, but melodically, vocally, stylistically, this has Busted written all over it. And given that actual Busted haven’t given us anything since last year’s reunion album Half Way There, I’ll absolutely take this.

Saturday Reject: Pinguini Tattici Nucleari – Ringo Starr

“I did not expect to like that so much.”

Tim: Tactical Nuclear Penguin was the name of a beer made by BrewDog, that in 2009 briefly held the record for the world’s strongest beer. In 2010, this Italian band got together and thought ‘yep, that sounds like a good name for a band’, and now ten years later here they are, coming third in Sanremo 2020.

Tom: With a song named after a Beatle. They’re strong on the pop culture references, then?

Tim: Oh, we’re just getting started. Here’s the music video; unembeddable performance is here.

Tom: I did not expect to like that so much. And full marks to RAI for providing an orchestra to play along with them.

Tim: Nice, isn’t it? You’ll be pleased (and probably not surprised) to know that they have never really taken themselves too seriously; the lyrics here have references to The Lion King, Toto’s Africa, Batman & Robin and the Italian version of The Chase. As for the message, the singer’s basically going on about how crap he is compared to everyone else; main chorus line translates to “in a world of John and Pauls, I am Ringo Starr”, which seems a bit harsh, though now I think about it I’m not sure who comes off worst.

Tom: I mean, only one of those have asked people to stop sending them fan mail.

Tim: Peace and love, Tom, peace and love, all around really as this is a fairly enjoyable track.

Tom: There are several elements here I recognise: there’s the “whoa-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh” millennial whoop straight out of Good Time, and I swear I know that opening guitar riff from somewhere, too. That single line from the chorus is repeated far too much, but I’ve got to admit it is a good line.

Tim: My biggest fault with it is that it gets a bit closer to shouting than singing on occasion, but that’s not entirely a bad thing. All in all, a worthy third place.

Eirik Lyng & Stina Talling – En Gang Til

“It has no business whatsoever being quite as upbeat and happy as it is, really.”

Tim: He’s Norwegian, as is she and the song; lyrics are basically “the relationship was shit, but now it’s over I’m just bored, shall we get back together?”

Tom: A lovely upbeat message, then.

Tim: And with that message, it has no business whatsoever being quite as upbeat and happy as it is, really.

Tom: Mmf. It’s okay, I guess, but I can’t remember a single bit of it once it’s finished. It just sort of flowed in the background, never really raising any problems, but never standing out either.

Tim: I’m not complaining, mind, as I’ll typically take a happy sounding song over a mopey one, and in any case I’m saving my complaints for that ridiculous gap in the video and the even more ridiculous choice of hairstyle he’s gone with.

Tom: That is a ridiculous gap in the video. I feel it’d be hypocritical for me to talk about his hair.

Tim: Since neither of those are actually present in the song itself, though, I’m fairly happy with it. Nice one.

Alex Järvi – Förlåt

“I know this opening chorus line, Tom. Where do I know this chorus line from, Tom?”

Tim: I know this opening chorus line, Tom. Where do I know this chorus line from, Tom?

Tim: Actually, it’s probably from a lot of places, because ‘one note repeated many times in quick succession’ isn’t exactly a rarity, but whatever.

Tom: See, I had an answer there, but then you went and made things complicated.

Tim: This song’s an interesting one – it starts out not doing much, but then 37 seconds in we’re suddenly ooh, building up to something, and then the something happens, and it’s not actually all that much, but are we still building up, because it feels like there might be something, and then does that count, maybe, not really sure, and then oh no we’re back with the verse and not much happened but it was enjoyable enough.

Tom: Yep, that was an underwhelming chorus.

Tim: And actually, I think that sums up the whole song for me: not much happened but it was enjoyable enough.

Tom: Full marks in the middle eight for dropping in two English words, one of which was an f-bomb, though. I checked the lyrics, and yes, that’s the only English in the song.

Matilda – Forever

“It feels a bit like it’s floating in time somewhere between 1985 and 2005.”

Tim: We have featured Matilda precisely once before, and it was three and a bit years ago, so I won’t hold it against you if you’ve forgotten. She’s from Norway, and here’s her latest.

Tim: Quite nice, that, isn’t it?

Tom: The word that comes to mind is “lovely”. It feels a bit like it’s floating in time somewhere between 1985 and 2005.

Tim: Calm, gentle, synthy music; lyrics that are entirely lovely and wonderful and, not gonna lie, I can imagine getting me quite emotional if I were a few sheets to the wind; and a video that puts all that together very nicely.

Tom: I also want to give credit to the video director and camera op, for what is basically “two people hanging around in Santa Monica” that looks spectacular. There’s a few shots around 2:48 that are somehow exposed for both the sunset and the people simultaneously, which requires a very delicate touch and very expensive equipment: and yet it still “feels” almost like a home movie from the past.

Tim: This is a story of two people that have found each other and are feeling just wonderful, and I love that. Will it last? Who knows. Right now, everything’s perfect. Just perfect.

Ronan Keating feat. Emeli Sandé – One Of A Kind

“Aiming straight at the Radio 2 playlist.”

Tom: It’s not a comeback: he’s never really been away. And just to set your expectations: it’s a ballad with a backing choir, aiming straight at the Radio 2 playlist.

Tim: That is exactly what I am expecting from a Ronan Keating feat. Emeli Sandé track. Bring it.

Tom: And I think it’s lovely.

Tim: Me too.

Tom: I did not expect to be charmed by this, because if I try to be objective there’s not much to say for it. I don’t think there’s a single risk taken anywhere in production, and this could have come out at any point in the last thirty years, albeit with different vocalists.

Tim: For me it’s the choir that does it – whenever it comes out I get an “ooh, that’s nice” feeling, the same sort of thing I get from a well placed key change.

Tom: But there’s something about that melody, performed with those voices. It’s a really good match of artist and track. And the lyrics aren’t a common theme, either: the canonical sentimental song about two people growing old together is Prettiest Eyes, and while this isn’t Prettiest Eyes, it’s not bad either.

Tim: It’s not. It’s very satisfying, in fact.

DJ Ötzi – Der hellste Stern (Böhmischer Traum)

“Care to start the week with something utterly bizarre?”

Tim: Care to start the week with something utterly bizarre?

Tom: New Ötzi and it’s “utterly bizarre”. This is going to be good.

Tom: …is that a Christmas song? It sounds a bit like a Christmas song.

Tim: No, just a standard “you’re brilliant” one, although…well. See, I had a number of thoughts while watching this. I started out with a “this doesn’t sound like DJ Ötzi, why doesn’t it sound like DJ Ötzi”, then moved on to giggling like an idiot when those kids appeared, and then just ended up staring at my screen, utterly baffled by what I’d just watched.

Tom: I think what we have here is an Ötzi album track. This isn’t out of character for him — it’s just out of character for the version of him that makes it to the English-speaking world.

Tim: Hmm, could be. It just seems so…odd, though. Like I said, it’s a very standard “you’re brilliant” type song – title translates to The Brightest Star (Bohemian Dream), sample lyrics are “When I dream at night I always dream of you, you are the brightest star”, yet both the sound and the video play like he’s doing something big and special with it.

Tom: Which implies that the video should be a bit more than holding a really awkward party in a tiny cabin.

Tim: Hmm, maybe so. But no, just plain weird.

Saturday Reject: Edgars Kreilis – Tridymite

“Someone on the internet has to pay attention to the song that came seventh in Latvia’s national selection.”

Tim: Tom, IT IS TIME.

Tom: Time you got a watch?

Tim: Bought one yesterday. No, Eurovision is three months away, many countries have their search to find their entries well underway, and, well, someone on the internet has to pay attention to the song that came seventh in Latvia’s national selection.

Tim: Now, my geological knowledge is patchy at best, but according to Wikipedia tridymite is a crystal that is notable for typically occurring as three crystals linked together (hence the tri- in the name) and there being quite a lot of it on Mars; arguably, therefore, the song is about him liking the girl either because she’s into threesomes or because she’s an astronaut.

Tom: “Arguably” is doing a lot of work in that sentence, but sure.

Tim: Either way, I’d imagine a lot of that would go over the head of a primarily Latvian-speaking audience, so we’re left to judge the music really, and it’s…varied. That’s absolutely not a bad thing in a normal song, though – but the way it switches so often between dark brooding synth stuff and upbeat dance pop could, I guess, have also put a lot of people off voting for it.

Tom: Yep: this isn’t a particularly bad song (those backing vocals, in particular, are quite nice, and those arpeggios in the final chorus work so well), but I can see why it came seventh.

Tim: It’s a shame, because I really like the song as it is – guess it’s just not a song for Eurovision, though.