Madden & Chris Holsten – All About You

“A bit like a clucking chicken”

Tim: I heard Madden’s excellent track Alive recently, and thought to myself “hmm, I wonder if Madden’s done anything else recently” and then it turns out he has. To be more precise, this, which as it happens came out just a couple of weeks back. (Oh, and the HD version of the video is at 50fps, so if you find that as distracting as I do, you might want to switch down.)

Tim: I swear, I’ll never get used to it. But the song? Well, it didn’t start promisingly, because in late 2017 that is, let’s be honest, a fairly generic voice/synth style. With competition like this, you’ve got to be very special to pull that off well, and, again let’s be honest, most of this isn’t.

Tom: And that chorus is very much a “yeah, I see what you were going for there”. A little Random Access Memories, a little… well, a little of a lot of things.

Tim: HOWEVER (and it is a however that deserves the capital letters), when the instrumental breakdown comes along (well, if we’re counting distorted vocal samples as an instrument), it picks up quite a bit, and the rest of the song from that point on is very enjoyable.

Tom: Takes a long time to get there, though, doesn’t it? More than half the song. It’s basically a song where the middle eight is better than everything else, and that’s not a good thing.

Tim: Yes – it would be vastly improved if that middle eight was brought out to be a standard post-chorus. As it is…hmm.

Tom: Also, counterpoint: those vocal samples sound a bit like a clucking chicken.

Tim: OH MY GOD they do and now every part of it is problematic. Thanks, thanks a lot.

Italoconnection – Horizon

“This isn’t about Big Drops, and that’s fine”

Tim: This pairing (Italian, believe it or not) did a rather good Hurts remix a few years back, so I was a bit intrigued when I saw an original track come along; there’s a fairly dull minute of intro so let’s jump straight in.

Tim: A lot going on there, and it reminds me of my disappointment that Italo disco never really made it to the UK – admittedly I’d not been born at the time, but it’d be nice if I had knowledge of some classic stuff to get into.

Tom: That’s a very specific disappointment, but yes, I get what you mean. I find myself complaining that there isn’t much of anything in the lower frequencies here — all treble, no bass — but at least it’s clearly a stylistic decision, not just “yeah, we can do without”.

Tim: As it is, I’ve got this, which’ll do nicely – there’s no big moment, no drop where everything explodes, but it is pretty good throughout.

Tom: “Pretty good throughout”. Not a ringing endorsement, but it does feel about right. This isn’t about Big Drops, and that’s fine.

We’ve layers of instrumentation, building up and down as the song progresses, making a very listenable (and danceable) track. Has anyone got a Best Of playlist?

Iris Gold – All I Really Know

“Powerful, punchy, aggressive, brassy”

Tim: Iris is off Denmark, bringing us this:

Tim: So I’ll be honest, and say that the first verse did more or less nothing for me; I let it play, though (mostly because I’m very tired right now and couldn’t be bothered to stop it).

Tom: Now I’m surprised you thought that: the first verse (or, at least, the spy-movie-soundtrack instrumentation below it) properly intrigued me. And then it led into a good chorus, too.

Tim: I was actually delighted by that chorus, which makes the slightly abrasive verses entirely worth sticking through. Powerful, punchy, aggressive, brassy, and just all round rather good.

Tom: I’m sure I know that chord progression, and that whole backing line, from somewhere in the 90s, but I can’t place it now.

Tim: I like it. Still not sure about the overall style, but with a chorus this good, I’m more than happy to look past that.

Dannii Minogue – Galaxy

“There’s really not a huge amount that’s of interest on here.

Tom: “My first music video for 10 years!” starts the YouTube description enthusiastically, just under the bit where it says something close to “25,000 views”. Harsh.

Tom: I haven’t heard piano synths like that in a while. They’re good, if a bit retro — well, heck, all the production is a bit retro.

Tim: Yeah – most artists might like to update their sounds slightly, to keep vaguely in line with modern trends. Not Dannii, though.

Tom: Nothing wrong with that, mind, it’s just that — with the exception of the piano bit — the rest of the melody lines just aren’t up to much.

Tim: Can’t deny that, sadly – there’s really not a huge amount that’s of interest on here.

Tom: She’s hitting the notes just fine, they’re just not particularly nice notes to listen to.

Tim: Oh, that’s very harsh. It’s not offensive – I just don’t think I’d choose to listen to it.

MØ – When I Was Young

“This has quite the post-chorus, so listen out for that.”

Tim: New one off MØ, and it’s winter outside, and winter in the video, so let’s naturally set out getting a teensy bit tropical. And this has quite the post-chorus, so listen out for that.

Tim: And that’s a song.

Tom: A ringing endorsement, there. It starts out like almost it’s trying to be a Bond theme, decides not to for the chorus, and then goes somewhere else that’s both interesting and — to me, at least — a bit disappointing.

Tim: I like it, I think – or at least, having listened to it a few times now to write this I’m at least on board with it. That post-chorus did take me a bit by surprise, which I think was what prompted the repeated listens – it’s a while since we’ve a prominent brass line in a dance track, or at least one that I can think of, and it certainly works as a USP for this.

Tom: It’s… well, it’s not bad, I suppose? It’s not that I actively dislike it, I just can’t find anything to particularly like. Like you said, it has a USP at least.

Tim: Definitely more than the video, anyway, which is probably trying to have some sort of narrative but which really comes across as just a tad weird. But it’s mostly okay.

Saturday Flashback: Maroon 5 – One More Night

“Pity the poor live drummers, though. “

Tim: We’ve remarked previously that Rihanna’s Umbrella doesn’t have its own unique backing, but does in fact share it with (the much much better) Symphonies by Dan Black and, indeed, anyone else who’s ever used Apple’s “Vintage Funk Kit 03“.

Tim: And I don’t quite know how it took me so long to recognise that, given that it’s their third most successful song ever.

Tom: The thing is, neither did I. Maybe it’s the change in tempo, or maybe there’s a change in emphasis. Pity the poor live drummers who’ll have to just repeat that Apple drum loop over and over again, though.

Tim: Funny old world, pop music, isn’t it?

Wankelmut & Björn Dixgård – I Keep Calling

“Wankelmut. Dixgård.”

Tom: Wankelmut. Dixgård. I think it’s the diacritic that makes that.

Tim: Well, yes – I could barely type the names of the artists involved here without giggling, but please, try to maintain some sense of adulthood as we hear the track I described yesterday as ‘a song that’s probably better’.

Tim: And it is. I mean obviously it is, yesterday’s was technically awful, but this is enjoyable. Wankelmut’s proper name is Jacob, and he’s a dance producer off Germany, while Mr Dixgård is from Sweden, frontman of a rock band call Mando Diao.

And the vocals are good – it’s the second track we’ve had this week consisting of a dance beat with a throaty guy singing on top of it, and both times it works pretty well, to the extent that I’m almost surprised it hasn’t been done more often.

Tom: This reminds me, in a weird way, of Culture Beat’s Mr Vain. I mean, we’re a generation later so you’ve got completely different instruments and the now-required instrumental-sample chorus in place of the rap bit, but I think you can trace the influences: shouty vocals, repetitive lyrics, entirely danceable.

Tim: As far as the narrative of the song goes, well, it really doesn’t reflect well at all on Björn. At best he comes across as desperate, but more realistically he’s getting on for some kind of predator and that’s really not a good look right now. On the other hand, at least he’s not singing about roofies being great, so, y’know, let’s move on.

Tom: There are a lot of songs that haven’t aged well.

Tim: Musically it’s sound.

Tom: Well, yes, it is. Oh, sorry, yes, never mind, know what you mean.

Tim: Decent beat, decent melody, and the aforementioned strong vocals – so the main thing to take away from this: can we have more of this type, please?

Ill Blue feat. Glowie – Tribalist

“Dodgy synths, upsetting autotune and not a huge amount of melody to speak of.”

Tim: Dodgy synths, upsetting autotune and not a huge amount of melody to speak of.

Tom: You’re not selling this.

Tim: No, because by all rights I should hate this track, which is off a British duo and an Icelandic singer.

Tim: And here’s the thing: I really don’t like it, at all.

Tom: Okay, well done, you sold that well. I was expecting you to try and redeem it, which would be a difficult job.

Tim: Admittedly I don’t hate it, but every moment I’m sitting listening to it I’m thinking “I don’t really like this, why am I listening to it?” Except, I never actually get round to switching it off. When a suggested link pops up in the corner to take me to a song that’s probably better, I click on it, stick that new tab in the background, and switch back to get this going again.

Tom: Why?!

Tim: I really know – despite that awful synth, and the dullness of a lot of it, and the uninventive lyrics, I don’t switch it off. And I have no idea why.

Kygo feat. The Night Game – Kids in Love

“One heck of a post-chorus.”

Tim: A week or so Kygo quietly stuck a new album online, eight tracks each featuring a somewhat well known artist, much as Avicii did a couple of months back (though curiously enough, his Just Jesso feature which you described as “letting a toddler play with the volume control” didn’t make the cut). Here’s the title track, which also happens to be one of the best, as I see it.

Tom: Oh, that is good. That’s sounds a bit like… maybe like The Who? That’s not a comparison I expected to make.

Tim: It’s not remotely standard Kygo stuff – for that, you could do worse than check out the also very good Stranger Things, with OneRepublic – but it does have some very good piano dance work, with one heck of a post-chorus.

Tom: Objectively, there’s very little going on here: everything’s a bit repetitive. But compare it to yesterday’s mess: this here is an example of how to make a Big Track. Even that post-chorus stands out, like you said.

Tim: Not sure I’ve heard one before that is in itself a build and subsequent drop, but it sure enough works here. The vocal line is nice and emphatic, giving it everything the lyrics and backing music demand, and when those secondary vocals come along at the end that’s just a nice layer of icing on top of the already very tasty cake. Nice that he’s back on form.

Liam Payne – Bedroom Floor

“Do I want to hear it again? Obviously, no.”

Tom: A vague pineapple scent wafts in.

Tim: Oh. Oh, there are some interesting words there. And vocal effects. And a half-arsed attitude to the tropical genre. And that haircut, mate, you’re not Manchester in the 90s.

Tom: I made a list of all the lyrics that annoyed me in the first verse. The “Baby / lately” rhyme. “Real real nice real nice things”, which is just stuttering so it vaguely fits the rhythm that’s needed. “Real real real real real”, which is just lazy. The words “iPhone, iPhone rings”, followed by what actually sounds like him imitating an iPhone.

Tim: Yeah, it was the iPhone one that really got me. Just, eurgh.

Tom: I mean, there’s the autotune too, but by this point I was ready to give up the song as a bad job, but that pre-chorus was just a little bit promising. Then I heard the chorus, and its seemingly-endless repetition, and basically gave up. If you’re going to repeat just one chorus line, make sure you’ve got more than one note in it.

Tim: Oh no that’s not fair – it goes at least one note up at the end of the last line each time, let’s give him that.

Tom: My two signs of a good pop song: first, do I want to hear it again? Here, obviously, no. But second, can I sing the chorus after one listen? And here, yes I can. So while I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s good… I suspect it might do well anyway.