DAVID44 – Truth

“Nope. Sorry.”

Tim: Another capitalised Scandinavian, and this time we’ve got some numbers thrown in as well for good measure. This is a song I’ve been back and forth about featuring for a week or so now, largely because I’m fairly sure you probably won’t like it. Here it is anyway, though.

Tom: You’re right! Well, not quite. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that I find it difficult to have any strong opinion about chilled house like this.

Tim: Right, because it does slot in nicely to the chilled house genre that we’ve debated before, and while I’m not expecting to make you a convert any time soon, I do still want to share it. I’m prepared for a “don’t be ridiculous” here, but it’s not so far removed from the recent Calvin Harris/Sam Smith track Promises – vulnerable male vocal over an understated backing – and for me it works. Any chance for you?

Tom: Nope. Sorry. It’s… well, it’s music.

LÉON – Falling

“Finding out this was a four-minute track did not help my reaction.”

Tim: We’ve never featured LÉON (apparently the capitals are necessary) before, though she’s been going a while.

Tom: If you’re going to have a name that’s all in capitals like that, then in my head it’s going to be SHOUTED every TIME. Anyway, who’s LÉON?

Tim: She’s off Sweden, and her latest is this.

Tim: Want to break up, get back together, need to break up again, rinse and repeat until you get a fairly listenable track from it – a process that’s worked for many other acts, and I’m fairly sure it mostly works here as well, no?

Tom: I mean, it does, but that’s a load-bearing “mostly” in that sentence.

Tim: Well, yeah. Sure, we’ve competent vocals and a strong backing, but it doesn’t half sound a little bit slow, to the extent that even by the three minute mark I was thinking “blimey, are we not done yet?”.

Tom: That kicked in at two minutes thirty for me. Finding out this was a four-minute track did not help my reaction.

Tim: Aside from that, it’s fine: nice to listen to, wouldn’t complain about hearing it. Though I think that there is a textbook example of ‘damning with faint praise’, isn’t it?

Tom: Welcome to the club, Tim.

Penthox – Call Upon

“There’s always something that doesn’t seem right, isn’t there?”

Tim: He’s from Sweden, he’s young-ish (Soundcloud bio says 18, but the account’s been there since 2013, so who knows), and he makes stuff like this, his latest.

Tim: And I like that.

Tom: Huh. I wasn’t expecting to for some reason — it’s probably just my standard unimpressed-by-default — but I perked up at just the intro and verse.

Tim: Admittedly, I don’t really have much to say beyond that, but as a dance track, it pushes all the right buttons. Sometimes – hell, frequently — that’s all I need. A track I like, and can ‘wooooo’ along to when the time comes for it.

Tom: The trouble is, Tim: I don’t like those ‘wooooo’s. The rest isn’t bad at all, particularly that pre-chorus, but… agh, there’s always something that doesn’t seem right, isn’t there?

Tim: Sadly, it seems so.

Galantis – Emoji

“This is a good track apart from the lyrics and the video.”

Tim: Not entirely sure how you’ll feel about this video, Tom (although that might be a lie, because I’m almost certain I know how you’ll feel), but bear in mind it’s only 2 minutes and 48 seconds long.

Tom: This is a good track apart from the lyrics and the video.

Tim: Part of me wants to brush my hands together, smile, turn and walk away and just let you loose on this one with the knowledge that my work here is done, really, but the other part of me wants to argue passionately in favour of this. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of sending a disturbingly anthropomorphised heart to guilt trip your other half into not giving up on you while you’re away, and to grow large and bright when you’re getting ready to see her again? It’s just SO CUTE.

Tom: Mm. I’m not going to rise to the bait, except to say that: songs with references like this date incredibly quickly, and if you have to deliberately mis-emphasise a word to fit the rhyme scheme, perhaps you should just write the song about something else.

Tim: Oh. Can’t deny I’m a tad disappointed, but you’re not wrong.

Saturday Flashback: Polina Gagarina – A Million Voices

“She’s acting well enough to actually make it look like she believes it.”

Tim: So, you know how, on occasion, if you’re out for an evening in a club or wherever, you hear a song that you’ve never heard before, or might have forgotten, and feel it to be absolutely amazing, and then get remarkably obsessed with it over the next few days?

Tom: I remember, many years ago, having that happen for Special D’s Come With Me. 2004, there.

Tim: Ah, what a track that was, and indeed still is. For me, the most recent example is this, which I played a good few dozen times last weekend, after a FABULOUS night out.

Tom: Well, not only is she belting that out with a lot of power, but she’s acting well enough to actually make it look like she believes it. Or, perhaps, she actually does believe it.

Tim: Hmm, she’d be in quite the minority of her compatriots if she did, given the number of rainbow flags flying that evening, but sure, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt – Europe certainly did, with it actually beating Måns’s winner in the televote.

Tom: Side note: does someone fix a light at 2:09 or something, or is that a miscue? I’m fairly sure the backing singers aren’t meant to suddenly be spotlit like that.

Tim: Huh, yes, that is weird. Musically, mind, we could talk about clichés all day long – that ‘hold off on the main drums until she mentions them in the inspirational lyrics’ is as textbook as they come, and absolutely brilliant – but all in all this is a terrific track (with brilliant staging, dodgy lights aside) and as far as a room full of drunk gays in a club in London was concerned, seemingly the best song to have been performed in the world ever. Until the next one came along, anyway.

RaeLynn – Tailgate

“Modern pop-country is basically just schlager with different instrumentation.”

Tom: This is not Europop, Tim. This is as far from Europop as you can get. It’s pop-country. But I’m driving through the US at the moment, and I tuned to a country station, and found that I was smiling at this chorus. The song’s a few months old, but the video is new:

Tim: Oh, that really is a good chorus. Got me swaying and everything.

Tom: And this is why I mention it: I maintain that modern pop-country is basically just schlager with different instrumentation. Here’s why: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, chorus, done in just over three minutes. Catchy chorus that you can sing by the end of the first listen. Entirely predictable chord progression.

Tim: Yep – like with the first couple of tracks this week, totally formula, totally well done.

Tom: All it’s missing is a key change.

Alex Weit – By Your Side

“Wow, that starts well.”

Tim: New Swede (well, not new, he’s 20, but new at music anyway).

Tom: “New Swede” is also a good name for a band.

Tim: And this is “a story of two people that really fancy each other, but one of them is scared of love. So they cancel their first date and, instead, they both stay home, fantasising about what could have been if things would have played out differently.” Enjoy.

Tom: Wow, that starts well. That’s such a good intro. I realise I’m talking about three seconds of mostly synth effects there, but still.

Tim: And that is a song with a lot of promise, that’s builds and builds and then just…plateaus. Verses, first two choruses, middle eight, all decent and regular, but then towards the end you’ve just got a repeat of the chorus (admittedly not unheard of, but also not particularly inspiring), and a segue into what’s basically in a TV chat show theme tune.

Tom: Huh. You’re right. A lot of good ingredients, but not quite mixed together right.

Tim: And that’s harsh, but…it’s also true, and I really wish it wasn’t.

Tom: It’s a really, really good TV chat show theme tune though.

Klara & Jag – Poetic

“I did not expect ‘Mr Hemingway’ to be a reference in a pop song, let alone a Swedish one.”

Tim: We’ve all been there – sitting in a bar where a guy breaks away from his mates and comes over to you, spouting some deep nonsense and thinking it makes him sound clever and romantic but actually he just sound like a bit of a knob. Alright, maybe not all of us, but that’s who Kara & Jag are singing about.

Tom: I did not expect “Mr Hemingway” to be a reference in a pop song, let alone a Swedish one. But, sure, that works.

Tim: Very first things first: in my mind, this song has a great introduction. That single guitar line, with just that liiiittle bit of extra something underneath, was somehow enough to get me hooked, and then when that extra high part and brief vocal bit came in, we’re suddenly not far off yesterday, in the sense that this is just a great pop song. It’s structured perfectly, the melody and energy are all there, and it leaves absolutely nothing wanting.

Tom: I know we’ve established over the years that I’m significantly less easily impressed than you: but calling two songs in a row flawless? Come on. They’re good, they’re competent… but I “nothing wrong” doesn’t necessarily imply “everything right”. It’s okay! It’s reasonable! It’s pleasant! It’s just not spectacular.

Tim: Fair, I guess. The thing is, the formula we have can help you get a long way, but it all comes down to the variables – melody, backing, vocals and so on. And right here I think it has all those necessary parts sounding good together, and for me at least that all makes for one very good track.

Ina Wroldsen x Alok – Favela

“I’ve been struggling to work out exactly what it is about this song I like.”

Tim: A Swedish singer and writer and a Brazilian producer coming together to make a song where Ina can “shout about the incredible women of Brazil”, and it’s time to get TROPICAL. For context, ‘favela’ roughly translates as ‘slum’.

Tom: I am not convinced this is tropical, Tim.

Tim: Well, okay, let’s go with just summery. Thing is, ever since I first heard this a few days ago, I’ve been struggling to work out exactly what it is about this song I like beyond the fact that it’s just a good pop song. And then it struck me: it’s just that is really is a great pop song, in the most literal definition of it.

Tom: Wait, really? I’ll grant you the middle eight and chorus are decent, but…

Tim: Fair, your taste may vary with the sound, but structurally it’s pure textbook. A first verse with room to grow, check. A strong chorus to give us an idea of where everything’s going, tick. Post-chorus with a lovely melody, yep. Second verse with extra percussion underneath, present. Middle eight that gives us enough (but not too much) variety, there. Final chorus with a whole bit of extra everything, and I’ve run out of synonyms, but that doesn’t matter because all that’s left is a closing vocal all on its own to make it nice and meaningful. The song doesn’t put a single foot out of line anywhere, and in my view it’s excellent for it.

Tom: It’s just a pity that — lyrically, if not quite stylistically — it’s basically Clean Bandit’s Rockabye.

Tim: Oh. Oh yes, there is that.

Saturday Flashback: G.R.L. – Ugly Heart

“Good Pop Choruses! And a good middle eight! And good verses!”

Tim: It’s not European (well, one of them’s British), and it’s definitely not Europop, but I heard it for the first time in ages a week or so ago and I’ve listened multiple times a day ever since, so here you go.

Tim: At least I’m fairly sure it was this I heard, and not the Little Mix cover version, but either way it’s a brilliant track.

Tom: Good Pop Choruses! This is what we’ve been talking about this week! And a good middle eight! And good verses! My two rules hold true: I can sing the chorus by the end of the first listen, and I want to hear it again right afterwards. This right here? This is a good pop chorus.

Tim: Technically the band is still going, sort of – the disbanded in June 2015, reformed in August 2016 and have since put out a whole two tracks. They’re touring next year, though, so that’ll be interesting to see what they can cobble together. Anyway, until then we have this. What a song.