Saturday Flashback: Skagarack – Open Your Eyes

“I was about to say ‘that’s completely outside what we usually cover’ but, no, after a moment’s thought, this is entirely what we usually cover.”

Tim: Here’s a fun one for you: ’80s Danish glam rock?

Tom: I was about to say “that’s completely outside what we usually cover” but, no, after a moment’s thought, this is entirely what we usually cover.

Tim: Bit of fun, isn’t it? I had completely and entirely never heard of this band until a Danish person at work played this track the other day (and by all accounts neither had most English-speaking people, given that their only Wikipedia entry is Danish), but, oh, it’s fun.

Tom: It sounds like… I’ll be honest, it sounds like any other generic 80s glam rock track to me. Except for the first half of the middle eight, that basically gives every instrument a tiny little solo before going into the big electric-guitar number.

Tim: Basically: entirely typical of the genre. Guitar, drums, vocal style, all exactly as they should be. Chorus, absolutely as we’re expecting. A lovely, lovely song, with, if you’re in agreement, a whole discography on your streaming platform of choice.

Tom: Really? I mean, heaven knows I’ve gone down some weird musical rabbit holes before, but I can’t see why this has had quite such an effect on you.

Tim: Me neither, kind of. Basically, for some reason it puts me in mind of Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, even though it doesn’t actually sound like it, and that’s a track I really like (largely because it puts me in mind of a really really nice ad campaign from a few years back, sue me). So I like this. It’s great.

Tom: I am entirely ambivalent.

Pegboard Nerds feat. NERVO – Crying Shame

“Pegboard Nerds! I’ve heard of them!”

Tom: Pegboard Nerds! I’ve heard of them! Back in 2014, when one of their sorta-chiptune-sorta-dubstep tracks was featured on this video. 2014 was before drones became mainstream, and that video — and its soundtrack — absolutely blew me away.

Tim: Fabulous! I had not heard of them, but part of me wanted to feature this based purely on the artwork; some more of me wanted to because of their name (Danish/Norwegian, if you weren’t aware, and NERVO are Australian); then I heard the verse and then the chorus, and by the time we got to the post-chorus there was no option whatsoever.

Tom: See! Sorta-chiptune, sorta-dubstep. I mean, they’ve moved on, and I’m sure there’s a different and more formal genre title for it, but yes, this is definitely their style.

Tim: So, I’m not going to excitedly yell ‘HAPPY HARDCORE’ because it isn’t, but that build certainly promises something special and I’m fairly sure it delivers.

Tom: It’s probably the closest you can reasonably get to happy hardcore in this century.

This song starts out fairly sensible, admittedly, but turns to slight ridiculousness after not too short a time. As ever, back to normal, ish, for the second verse, then we build up throughout the second chorus, a middle eight which brings us a euphoric section out of absolutely nowhere, and from then on we’ve a triumphant mess of everything, and it sounds glorious. Am I wrong?

Tom: You’re not wrong.

Mika – Tomorrow

“Listen to that intro!”

Tim: As promised a few days back, one of the highlights of his largely pretty good new album, and indeed the newest single from it.

Tom: Listen to that intro! There’s some New Order in that, crossed with… well, in my head, a 1999 bit of pop-rock so obscure that our post about it is the third result on Google when you search for it.

Tim: Hmm – the problem with having done nearly 3,000 posts (blimey) here is that I’ve completely forgotten most of them, including that one, even though it’s a pretty nice one. This is also nice: sonically good, lyrically it’s fun, and as far as the narrative goes: hell yeah, I’m on board. We broke up for a reason, we shouldn’t be doing this, but sod it let’s have fun right now.

Tom: I think that swearing in the chorus is the wrong choice here, and it took me a while to work out why. It’s the same reason that “why’d you put a smiley in your message then” grates for me. This sounds like a great pop song from the past that I’ve never heard, and somehow the profanity and tech-reference both place it Here And Now And Dealing With Today’s Problems.

Tim: Hmm, kind of maybe see where you’re coming from, but I don’t have the same issue. To be honest, with all the crap that’s going down here, there and everywhere right now, I like the fun, and combined with everything else in the song: yep, I’ll take it.

Highasakite – Can I Be Forgiven

“Don’t be put off if you’re not keen on the first minute or so – you might end up having a change of heart.”

Tim: This song here goes on a bit of a journey, so don’t be put off if you’re not keen on the first minute or so – you might end up having a change of heart.

Tom: You’re not wrong about that journey. However, I did like what is basically the two-minute long introduction.

Tim: Part of the reason I stuck that warning at the top was that I wasn’t entirely keen on the first part of the track – skipped away from it to another tab and got distracted, and then became entirely surprised when it became a really good dance track. Too little too late? Maybe.

Tom: I can see why you’d think that: I was disappointed at 0:57, when I was expecting that big dramatic change and just got a few extra instruments. But honestly, I still enjoyed it all: I’m not sure what genre something like this fits into other than “builder”, but I’ll take it.

Tim: Though I would say that it is nice to have a little bit of the sound we were promised when Robyn came back last summer, gave us Missing U, but then went away without giving us an album. So for that I’ll take it, but I’d happily do without the first two minutes or so.

Black Eyed Peas & Anitta – eXplosion

“Why, why why why.”

Tom: To get the obvious question out of the way: yes, they’re still going. Albeit without Fergie.

Tim: Sure, of course they are, why not.

Tom: Which leaves the obvious second question: is this one of their greats? Is everyone going to be singing it? Years later, will people still get hyped up when they hear it? Is this a “Where Is The Love”, an “I Gotta Feeling”, a “Let’s Get It Started”? Or is this going to be… well, one of the others?

Tom: Oh no.

Tim: Or, as I thought a mere forty seconds in, and then even more so another twenty seconds later: holy shit.

Tom: It’s a four-minute track, and it overstays its welcome by minute one. Why is will.i.am suddenly putting on an accent? Why is, uh, that other guy’s rap so embarrassingly bad? Why is there a badly green-screened Rio in it?

Tim: And why, why why why, have they sampled Tombo really really slowly and without the melody?

Tom: In short: what on earth were they thinking?

Nova Miller – Do It To Myself

“Big swear words and big letters ahoy.”

Tim: Few good things came out last Friday: Mika’s new album, with the highlight being a track with the hook ‘who gives a shit about tomorrow’, which we’ll get to in due course; Saara Aalto gave us the year’s first wintry song, which is nice but can probably wait a few weeks, don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; and then this.

Now, you known how sometimes when lyric videos are made for songs with rude words they put a pointless asterisk over the naughty bit? Yeah, Nova’s not done that. Big swear words and big letters ahoy.

Tim: And here we are again with a weird and unexpected sample and rewording, though I’ve a feeling it works significantly better here than it did with Blue (Da Ba Dee) or Informer.

Tom: Blimey, that’s certainly very close to California Dreamin’ — I wonder if it’s close enough that they’ve paid royalties? If not, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Tim: No, it’s a proper sample, with royalties and everything.

Tom: It is, at least, far enough away from the original that I don’t find immediately find myself singing the original over the top. After the song finishes, though? All I can remember is California Dreamin’, and that’s probably not a good thing.

Tim: Believe it or not, her favourite part is apparently that samply bit (who’d have thought it?) because it “takes you all the way to summer and back”, which is fair enough really. All in all this is quite a nice track, albeit one that should probably have landed three months ago. I’m enjoying it, anyway, despite looking out of my window at rain that just. won’t. stop.

Saturday Flashback: Daddy Yankee & Snow – Con Calma

“I’m willing to bet most of Britain hasn’t heard it.”

Tom: I’m not sending this to you because I think it’s a good track. Despite it being staggeringly popular in the Spanish-speaking world — over 1.4 billion views on YouTube — it only peaked at 66 in the UK charts. I’m willing to bet most of Britain hasn’t heard it.

Tim: Well, the title doesn’t ring a bell for me, so…

Tom: Or at least, most of Britain hasn’t heard this version.

Tim: Oh. That’s…I don’t…just…um.

Tom: Daddy Yankee, you’ll know from Despacito. And Snow? Well, it turns out he was the guy who did Informer. They just went back to him with new lyrics and asked if he wanted to be on the track. I suspect he’ll be very happy with the result.

Tim: Yeah, I can imagine – half an hour in front of the microphone, a whole lot of money coming in later.

Tom: Oh, and it turns out that neither of your stars can’t be bothered to do a music video, you can just replace them with a) a giant ugly CGI head and b) someone who looks vaguely like a younger version of them, and everyone’ll be fine with it. Sure.

CHVRCHES – Death Stranding

“It’s a weird one, this.”

Tim: So, Death Stranding is a game coming out for PS4 in a month or so, and despite it having been announced over three years ago and having released multiple trailers, no-one really knows much about it. One thing that was made apparent a few days ago, though, is that CHVRCHES have done a song for the soundtrack. This one, to be precise.

Tom: Ah, soundtracks, the perfect place to throw that track that wasn’t quite good enough for the latest album.

Tim: It’s a weird one, this. Admittedly, the number of great video game songs can probably be counted one the fingers of one hand, so this was always going to be a tricky one, but it doesn’t really make much even so. Take the lyrics: the relationship’s falling apart, but hey, let’s have something of it while it still exists. What’s that got to do with anything in a game which, if the trailers are anything to go by, looks to be a first person RPG et it a world after some big weird event has happened?

Tom: I mean, you could ask that of most soundtrack songs: frequently it is just a marketing tie-in.

Tim: Musically it’s, well, it’s alright, though it doesn’t seem all that well put together: it’s the words again, or rather the vocals. Everything underneath it, see, is lovely – as music on its own, it would in fact make a great instrumental soundtrack, easily able to hold its own amongst some of the best. But with the vocals layered on top, almost at times seeming like an afterthought, it just leaves me feeling a bit cold. And that really frustrates me.

Tom: Huh: when we disagree on a track, it’s usually the other way round, and I’m normally the one being left cold. But this time, no: the opening verse grabbed my attention, and it kept going throughout the… huh. Five minutes. This is a five-minute track, and I wasn’t bored during it. Even with the lengthy instrumental in the middle.

If I haad to nitpick, then I’d say I’m not sure about those hard-gated cymbals, but that is just CHVRCHES’ style. I even hoped for a Big Final Chorus, and got one. This works for me. I guess I shouldn’t be so cynical about soundtracks.

Boy In Space – Drown

‘YOU HAVE LITERALLY KILLED ME WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME YOU EVIL HARPY’

Tim: Boy In Space is is the rather silly stage name of Robin Lundbäck, the R of short-lived boyband JTR who’s become a solo singer after spending a few years mostly writing. This song, meanwhile, is one of the best heartbreak songs I’ve heard in ages.

Tom: Hmm. Why’s that?

Tim: First verse: quiet and composed tonally, measured, not too much melodrama, though obviously we need overblown lyrics about ripping the heart. First chorus: up the stakes a bit, show her actually ‘hun, I’m not in a good place right now, you’ve really hurt me’. Second verse: down a bit again, still measured and composed, but again with the somewhat over the top piercing skin vibe. Second chorus: properly up the emotion, bring up the backing, ‘HANG ON LADY I AM IN PAIN HERE’. Middle eight, wait, take a bit of a breath, before coming back for an explosive final chorus when we are shouting ‘YOU HAVE LITERALLY KILLED ME WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME YOU EVIL HARPY’.

That’s exactly I want from a heartbreak song, I think.

Tom: Hmm. Whereas it just leaves me a bit cold: yes, I agree that most of the component parts are good, or at least competent, he’s followed that recipe you’ve laid down perfectly. But on the whole it just leaves me a bit cold. Maybe I’m just not the right target for a song like this?

When my main thoughts, after the track finishes, are “why did they leave so much background hiss on this” and “why I can hear the piano keys being pressed so damn loudly”… I guess it’s not for me.

Rasmus Seebach – Lovesong

“So, best things first: that chorus melody is absolutely lovely.”

Tim: Rasmus has been off for quite a while…

Tom: Has he been in the shadows? Sorry, wrong Rasmus. Carry on.

Tim: — as he’s had a baby to look after.

Tom: Oh. Well now I sound like a dick.

Tim: I won’t disagree. Anyway, now he’s got his priorities sorted and is back bringing us music. This song, well, I’m in two minds about. Have a listen.

Tim: So, best things first: that chorus melody is absolutely lovely. The opening line in English, the rest of it moving on, and also the various oh-oh-oh-ohs in the post-chorus (and intro), it’s just divine.

Tom: Yep, I was surprised by both the melody and the switch into English. And you’re right: “lovely” is the correct description for it.

Tim: The rest: hmm. It’s nice, it’s fine, and…okay, here’s the problem, and it is absolutely not Rasmus’s fault. The lyrics, you see, are entirely lovely – we’ve lines that translate to things like “I know we’re created for each other” and “You’re the only one in the world”, and Rasmus has said about this that “Without love, life is not worth much”. BUT, with them being in Danish – i.e. with me not being able to understand them – they wash over me, and I’m left thinking that part’s a bit dull. It isn’t, it should be lovely, it should be inspiring tears of delight in me when I’ve had one too many rum & cokes, and it’s entirely on me that it isn’t.

Tom: I’m not quite as convinced — well, I’m convinced that it’d inspire tipsy tears of delight in you, of course, I’m just not convinced about the verses themselves. They are very stripped-down and basic, perhaps a bit too much.

Tim: Perhaps, though sadly we never know, as you can properly do one if you think I’m going to learn a whole language just for one song. Unless – well, Rasmus did an English version of another song of his, Natteravn, so if you’re reading this Rasmus, could you do that here please? THANKS.