Foxes – Love Not Loving You

“There are some very interesting instrumental choices in this”

Tim: I’m not going to lie to you, Tom – there are some very interesting instrumental choices in this upcoming song.

Tom: You’re not wrong there, but oddly I think it might… work?

Tim: You think? Because, is that just the sound of girders being whacked together? Or maybe something smaller – “Hey mate, synthesiser’s gone wrong, I was gonna call a plumber to get get some copper pipes, any other suggestions?” It’s utterly bizarre.

Tom: The actual melody instruments seem to have some odd cameos in there too: there’s what sounds like a brief appearance from an upright bar room piano at about 1:33, which is back and distorted in the middle eight. Against the odds, I find it charming, but there is so much going on that it feels overloaded — coming out of the middle eight into that cleaner pre-chorus felt like a breath of fresh air.

Tim: Yeah, you’re not wrong – there’s so much in there that it does become almost distracting after a while, and I really just want to hear her sing.

Tom: It’s a surprising choice given the stripped-down, bare production that’s in fashion right now. But when I normally turn away at overproduced wall-of-sound stuff… for some reason, I liked this.

Tim: The rest of the song’s okay – no Body Talk, as YouTube keeps reminding me with its tedious autoplay function, but perfectly good as far as Foxes goes – except now I’m hearing that particular noise it’s just such a distraction. Why? WHY? WHYYYYYYY?????

Tom: Maybe it’s a Bob Blackman reference.

Tim: Ermm, yeah. Maybe.

Jan&Jascha – Europa

“I haven’t clicked on it yet, and the title and thumbnail already irritate me.”

Tim: A “cross-border friendship anthem” now from a new German duo here, and I genuinely don’t know if you’ll find this annoying, or enjoyable – I’m in the latter camp, though I’m fairly sure having the video up gives it a very firm shove that way.

Tom: I’ll tell you this much, I haven’t clicked on it yet, and the title and thumbnail already irritate me.

Tim: Ah, fabulous.

Tom: I think you have to be in the right mood for this song, Tim. I… am not. Fairly sure that there’s a brand-name drop of WhatsApp in there; if I heard that right, then the quiet “ugh” I muttered under my breath was worth it.

Tim: I’m sorry to tell you that in that case yes, it was worth it.

Tom: Have you tried this without the video?

Tim: I have, yes, and sadly it’s nowhere near as enjoyable. I just found it a tad dull, really (chorus aside which perks it up a bit), and while I appreciate a London Eye shoutout as much as the next guy, it really is just standard folk pop. With the video, though – aww. Just a bit of fun, isn’t it?

Tom: It’s a novelty song, simple as that. And those have to be really good for me to like them.

Tim: Yeah, but there’s nice enthusiasm about being part of somewhere that “means much more than just different nationalities and languages”, as they say, and how “despite all cultural differences and idiosyncrasies, we share a strong community spirit, especially in times of greatest challenges.” Isn’t that just a wonderful sentiment? Naïve, perhaps, but still wonderful.

Basshunter – Angels Ain’t Listening

“And he’s finally updated his sound!”

Tim: New Basshunter!

Tim: And he’s finally updated his sound! He’s been putting out one track a year for the past couple of years, and previously they’ve both been standard typical Basshunter, not really any different from a decade ago. This, though, quite a bit darker, and yet it works. There’s no big dance breakdown, no upbeat BRING OUT THE LASERS moments, and instead we’ve got 80s-esque synths and melancholy vocals.

Tom: It turns out that we are several years late to this party, but this genre — 80s synths, boots-and-cats percussion, and modern production — is apparently “retrowave”. That’s a term that I’ll use confidently in future, as if I’ve always known about it.

Tim: Oh my GOD, you’ve only just heard that? I totally found out about it in, like, 2016 or something, and I’ve just never mentioned it here because I didn’t want to make you feel inadequate. Mind you, even though this isn’t remotely what I expected to hear from this today, I quite like it.

Tom: Yep. One of the reasons his music was successful, even back when he was writing in Swedish about chatbots, is that he could write really good hooks. This has both a great melody in the chorus and a good countermelody.

Tim: Certainly does. With the sound, though, I’m not entirely sure whether I’d like it if it wasn’t from an artist I’d never heard of before and wasn’t therefore predisposed to like it (though I’ll happily say I’m not a fan of the new Galantis track), but from Basshunter, I’ll absolutely take it.

Saturday Flashback: Undercover – Baker Street

“Would you like an unnecessary 90s piano-dance cover version?”

Tom: Would you like an unnecessary 90s piano-dance cover version?

Tim: Umm…not really?

Tom: Well, tough, you’re getting one.

Tom: There are two reasons I send this to you: first, just as a weird cultural artifact. Baker Street’s been covered a lot of times, but this one managed to reach the top 10 all over Europe despite being… well, let’s be honest, a bit anemic.

Tim: Yeah – even describing it as ‘piano-dance’ is, well, technically correct, but it’s not exactly GET ON THE DANCEFLOOR stuff, is it?

Tom: It’s a reasonable middle-of-the-road piano-dance track, but it’s not exactly a barnstormer. This is what Undercover did: all their singles were perfectly acceptable cover versions.

Tim: Hmm, fair enough, I guess. 

Tom: But the second reason I’m sending this is: I never realised that Baker Street, despite being written in the seventies, follows modern pop conventions. You’ve got a verse, a vocal pre-chorus, and then an instrumental hook as the actual chorus. Non-standard for the time, sure, but now… well, who knows, perhaps Alan Walker will sample Baker Street soon. We’re about due.

Tim: Yeah. Yeah, that could be fun. 

Ellie Goulding – Power

“Title’s a tad misleading, I felt more power than that last time I accidentally zapped myself with my electric fly swatter.”

Tom: I was about to write this off, and then the chorus hit.

Tim: Title’s a tad misleading, I felt more power than that last time I accidentally zapped myself with my electric fly swatter. Nice sound, though, and yeah, the chorus improves it a lot.

Tom: Ha, you’re not wrong there: when the second verse came along, and everything fell apart again. I mean, it’s not a staggering chorus, it’s doing that thing where most of the line’s just on the same note, but it at least stands out a bit.

Tim: You know, I often feel that “damning with faint praise” is an overused phrase, but here you’ve very definitely earned that, congratulations.

Tom: Thanks, I’ll take it. So here’s my question: does this dark-and-brooding Tesco-Value-Billie-Eilish count as Good Pop these days? Are my tastes old-fashioned? Or is this just a bit duff in the verses?

Tim: Well, Good Pop is obviously subjective, but as for Modern Pop – certainly one variety, yeah.

Miriam Bryant – Passa Dig

“that’s been put together by someone who knows how to produce a chorus.”

Tim: Starts out as a quiet and potentially dreary piano ballad; come the chorus, well…

Tom: Well, that’s been put together by someone who knows how to produce a chorus.

Tim: So that’s a decent song: I was plenty impressed when the chorus happened, the instrumental underneath all sounds great, and although that ending doesn’t really scream 2020, the sound of it is great. There’s one big flaw in it for me, though, which is that it feels way, way too long.

It isn’t, really, but I looked at the clock when the instrumental began and was very surprised I wasn’t yet three minutes in.

Tom: Yep. I was all geared up for that to be headed to the final chorus, only to find that the track’s only half way through.

Tim: Two reasons, as far as I can tell: one is that it’s got almost a full minute of instrumental fade-out; wouldn’t normally be a problem, particularly when it sounds as good as it genuinely does.

Tom: Yep: even if that pair of yelping synth notes start to grate after a while. Repeat to fade is a brave choice in 2020, but honestly, I think it does work here.

Tim: But then there’s the second problem. The main notes are all two beats long, and it just feels dragged out, almost literally at the end, as if someone had fed it into Logic and just stretched it out to half speed. It’s annoying, particularly because I could probably easily live with either one of those two: finish it after that last chorus, fine. Stick in an extra drum beat on the second and fourth notes, fine. But together? Agh, just can’t quite get it.

Arvingarna – Säg Att Du Är Min

“I have one complaint about this, and yes, just one.”

Tim: Schlager with different instruments, you say? Why, it must be dansband time.

Tom: I was about to say “well, that’s very 90s Eurovision”, and then I looked up the band and it turns out they represented Sweden in 1993. (It sounds a bit like a Christmas song, and landed solidly in the middle of the table.)

Tim: I have one complaint about this, and yes, just one: it should be properly illegal – not just frowned on, but actually illegal – to end a middle eight on part of the chorus sung, then repeated at a higher pitch, and not for that to be followed by a key change.

Tom: Ha! You’re not wrong.

Tim: Aside from that, though, I’ve got nothing – this is absolutely textbook dansband, hands in the air and all sorts.

Tom: I almost feel like this should be graded on a completely different scale to Proper Pop Music, because they’re aiming for something so different. But yes, this is Good Dansband.

Tim: Title translates to Say You’ll Be Mine, and if I was the target of the song I would not deliberate for a second. I’m theirs.

Tom: Crikey.

Lisa McHugh – You’re Gonna Get Back Up

“This is a perfect example of what I say every time: it’s basically schlager with different instruments.”

Tom: Irish singer raised in Scotland, singing a mostly-American music genre, pop-country. And it sounds…

Tom: Tell me you didn’t perk up a bit at that chorus.

Tim: I’m afraid I can’t do that, because I did indeed perk up a bit at that chorus.

Tom: I’d like to officially declare “pop-country” within our remit, Tim. I used to issue a disclaimer every time I sent you at track like this, but now? This is a perfect example of what I say every time: it’s basically schlager with different instruments. Everything here: the song structure, the three-minute length, the switch to the harmony line in the last chorus.

Tim: I can’t even slightly disagree with any of what you’ve just said: I would put this out there as a really good Corrs track, with hints of Shania, and that’s all good by me.

Tom: I don’t think it’s going to light up the charts or anything, but it’s nice enough.

Christopher – Leap of Faith

“Agh, this is so frustrating.”

Tim: I’ll be honest with you, Tom – not long after I pressed play on this I got bored and picked up my phone, and didn’t realise until the end of it that I’d missed a pretty good track. Don’t do that.

Tom: I tried. I genuinely tried. And then halfway through the final chorus, I absent-mindedly opened a new tab and looked up something that had crossed my mind.

Tim: Agh, this is so frustrating. See, I’m sure this is a good track, with individual parts that all work fine: the chorus has a lovely melody to it, verses flow along well enough, it doesn’t really do anything wrong, and every moment I’m listening I’m thinking “yeah, I like this”.

Tom: There’s some really good vocal work, too, like that falsetto in the last line of the chorus. (How much of that is live performance, and how much is digital trickery? These days, I guess it doesn’t matter.)

Tim: Sure, maybe it could do with something bigger when it comes back after the middle eight, because the lyrics really deserve it, but overall it’s fine. Except, I seem fundamentally unable to pay attention to it. I press play, I listen for a bit, and then I go back to Twitter. I stop myself, go back to the music, think “yes, this is definitely good”, and thirty seconds later I’ve opened up a new tab and am browsing some other website.

Tom: It’s not just you. For once, we’re in complete agreement: it’s a good song. It just doesn’t hold the attention, which to me is inexplicable.

Tim: And that really, really annoys me – because I like this! I really do! But I just can’t get myself to actually pay attention to it.

Saturday Flashback: Timo Martin – Met Stip Op Nummer 1

“I was driving through the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago…”

Tom: I was driving through the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago, and discovered a radio station that appears to play entirely homegrown Dutch pop music. It sounds exactly like you’d hope.

Tom: Wailing electric guitars. Synth-brass stabs. Lyrics that are, almost entirely, “you’re the woman for me”. Here’s a challenge for you, Tim: guess the year this was released.

Tim: See, this is tricky here, because I’m well aware you want me to say early ’80s or something, because surely no-one would record a song sounding like this right now, but to be honest, given the many years we’ve been doing this site (and particularly with this being around about Eurovision selection season), and given the thousands of songs we’ve listened to, you could say anything from 1950 to 2019 and I’d be “yep, okay”. But go on, tell me.

Tom: Part of me knew you were going to deconstruct that. To be fair, I’d have done exactly the same. Anyway, 2017, and it turns out that there’s a lot of Dutch tracks like this. Have a listen to that radio station for a while.

Tim: Sure, I’ll give it a go.