Jill Johnson – Is It Hard Being A Man

“A strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.“

Tim: Starting in 1996, the queen of country schlager…

Tom: Wait, I remember saying that modern pop-country was just schlager with a mandolin! And now you’re telling me there’s actually a mixed genre of them?

Tim: Pretty much, yeah – and Jill is the absolute master. She used to release albums on a roughly annual basis, but nothing’s been seen since the end of 2016. Well, until now.

Tim: Pretty good return, no? Nice crash in for the chorus, with a strong “look, dickhead, appreciate what you’ve got and quit moaning” message.

Tom: It is, with the caveat that the part immediately before that crash-in gives me a brief, frustrating flash of either Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, or the Hollies’ ‘Air That I Breathe’. I know that’s a really specific complaint to have, but it’s some odd combination of the melody and vocal style, the particular chord progression those songs share, and the percussion. Listen to the “no” at 0:48, the “choose” at 1:35.

Tim: Hmm…

Tom: Anyway, yes, once I got over that and we got back to the chorus: it’s not bad! And schlager, even down-tempo schlager like this, is always fun.

Tim: Favourite part for me: those twiddly counter melody guitar bits right at the end, which just about stops it getting boring by repeating too much. It’s in danger of it, as I don’t think anyone would really complain if it stopped just before they came in, but it’s saved. And it stays a decent track. It’s good.

Gammal – Blommor Där Du Står

“I wish you’d warned me that this is a quiet ballad”

Tim: I’ve commented before how I like a good male/female duet, and today we have the holy grail: a narrative where they’re actually singing to each other as separate parts, rather than just singing similar lyrics back and forth. How exciting!

Tom: Have you heard of musicals? I think you’d like them.

Tim: Huh, no. I’ll look them up.

Tim: She’s upset with him for breaking with up her how he did, he’s sorry for being a dick but maintains it had to happen.

Tom: Well, that’s certainly a relatable set of lyrics for a lot of folks, but I can’t help feeling there’s a reason that it’s not a common theme. No kiss-and-make-up?

Tim: I’m afraid not, no, though I guess we can’t have everything.

Tom: I wish you’d warned me that this is a quiet ballad, because then I’d have set my expectations differently. Once I got used to it: for some reason I found it oddly relaxing. I think it’s something to do with those vocal harmonies: there’s some really nice work there.

Tim: Both vocals, oddly, remind me of those from Of Monsters and Men, which is lovely (particularly since Little Talk, still a PROPER TUNE, also had a narrative duet vibe). The rest isn’t particularly similar, obviously, what with it being a whole lot quieter and more gentle, but that mood works perfectly well here. I’ll take it.

The Attic – Radiate

“I’m not sure I like the actual song, but I do very much like that synth line.“

Tim: You know those times when silly internet jokes piles over into real life, and things go wrong, or just weird?

Tom: I try desperately not to.

Tim: Oh, yeah, guess you’ve got history. But I’m talking smaller, like the time I met a new work colleague called Ron and I could barely keep a straight face because of Ron, or this dance music duo who’ve recently got back together, who I can’t take seriously because of the (sadly now deleted) second best tweet of all time.

(The greatest tweet of all time has, fortunately, not been deleted.)

Tim: BOOM and it’s there right from the off, with ENERGY and STUFF and it calms down soon but it doesn’t matter because you’re already in the zone.

Tom: Ha. You say that: the first thing I wrote was “that starts well, doesn’t it? Pity about the first verse”. But, yes, you’re right, there’s a lot of promise.

Tim: Right? And you know it won’t be long before everything gets going again, and sure enough it does come along soon enough, with all those lovely synth noise and drum beats.

Tom: I’m not sure I like the actual song, but I do very much like that synth line.

Tim: Sounds tinkly, sounds upbeat, with radiating and sunny and neverending JOY and PASSION and all that’s just great really. Isn’t it?

Tom: It is! I wish the main vocal melody line had SIMILAR ENTHUSIASM, but I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Tim: Good.

Pet Shop Boys – Give Stupidity A Chance

“It would have been PERFECT for Eurovision, can you IMAGINE.”

Tim: SATIRE.

Tom: I mean, satire traditionally has some subtext or subtlety to it. This feels more like a rant.

Tim: Perhaps, but a fun rant nonetheless, and also just under three minutes long which means it would have been PERFECT for Eurovision, can you IMAGINE.

Tom: Ha! Oh, if only. It’d never get past the BBC or the Eurovision rules, and it’d almost certainly die on the scoreboard, but I would have loved to see it.

Tim: Oh, well, never mind. Start out with Brexit, move through to Trump, it’s basically 2016 summed up in a pretty piece of music, because the melody of that one single line is just great.

Tom: It’s a bit of fluff, all simple and insipid melodies that… oh. Huh. I guess that’s the point. Clever.

Tim: It’s a shame, really – the lyrics mean this song will seem dated fairly quickly (hopefully, at least), but the tune, of the chorus and indeed throughout, is absolutely brilliant, and deserves to hang around a lot longer. OH WELL. There’ll be a few more tracks coming out over the next few days, with an EP of them all on Friday, and hopefully they’ll all be as fun (except for today’s, where Neil gets all old Man Yells At Cloud about social media). Super!

Tom: No, “Super” was the last album.

Tim: CORRECT.

Rein – Electric

“Most of this is just a load of noise”

Tim: “Hej, is that Patrik? Yeah, so I don’t know if you know it but there was a song came out a while ago called Electric and we wondered if your client Rein would fancy covering it for us, we’re really into electric right now. We’d pay for a fancy video for it and everything, and no-one’ll really know we’re involved. Sound good? Cool, I’ll send the deets over now.”

Tim: So. Much like the original, most of this is just a load of noise and, let’s face it, garbage.

Tom: Most of it, sure, but that is a very, very good synth line under that verse. The vocals might grate a bit, but that at least kept me from switching off.

Tim: If you can bear to stay with it for a minute or so, turns out it has a pretty good chorus. And if you keep listening for another minute or so, it would seem to have really good version of that chorus.

Tom: It’s an odd one, isn’t it? I don’t know what genre this counts as, other than “sounds like it’d turn up on a Japanese rhythm game soundtrack”.

Tim: And the weird thing is that the way it’s done, and the style of the chorus, mean I could genuinely see this being entered to Eurovision by some eastern European country thinking “sod it, this sounds good”. Wouldn’t get past the semi-final, mind, but I could absolutely see it happening.

Galantis feat. OneRepublic – Bones

“It’s good! Like, really really good!”

Tim: It’s almost sad when a new release from your previous favourite brings a sense of trepidation rather than excitement; this got released last Friday.

Tom: I remember when you used to send every Galantis track with enthusiasm. Don’t get me wrong, I think Satisfied is a great track — it grew on me despite those initial reservations — but yeah, they’ve been suffering from regression to the mean recently.

Tim: It’s good! Like, really really good!

Tom: That’s because that millennial-whoop chorus is straight from Owl City’s Good Time!

Tim: Oh, yes, so it is. That maybe plays a part in it, then.

Tom: As ever, I don’t think it’s deliberate, but it’s all I can think about while I’m listening.

Tim: I’m guessing it’s just Ryan from OneRepublic and the rest is all Galantis, and those drumbeats and massive brass melody all work together so well, along with all the twiddling samples in the backing.

Tom: It goes on for one chorus too long, but, sure, it’ll… it’ll do, I guess.

Tim: I don’t know if it’s just relief, but I’m fairly sure this is their best work since Love On Me, and I’m so happy about that, I really am.

Saturday Flashback: Busted – Reunion

“I love Busted.”

Tim: Yesterday was, I discovered as I woke up, New Busted Album Day, and I subsequently discovered that they’ve had three singles out in the past three months that have completely passed me by.

Tom: That’s… not a great sign. I had no idea either.

Tim: We’ll deal with the most interesting track on the album in due course, as I’m hoping it’ll get a proper video, but in the meantime this is from December.

Tim: So here we have it, finally a sequel to What I Go To School For, and what is almost certainly the first ever song sung by someone who’s gutted he’s in a relationship because otherwise he could cop off with his old school teacher. And you know what? I love that.

Tom: I mean, if you look at the lyrics, this isn’t technically a sequel. And after all, it’s been more than 16 years since What I Go To School For, not just ten.

Tim: See, I thought that as well, and so on only hearing the song I thought it’d just be a fun theory – but James’s exercise book near the start of that video specifically mentions Miss Mackensie. We know he’s singing to someone he had a crush on at school, we know that it’s the same school that Miss Mackensie taught at, we know that the sort of teacher who bends down to show him more isn’t going to miss an opportunity like a reunion, so what other possibility is there?

Tom: That the video producer thought “ha, that’ll be a fun reference, no-one’ll overthink it”. But, yes, sure, I’m willing to play along with that if you are.

Tim: Good. Because I love Busted, and I am so glad they’ve gone back to their old style rather than the serious electro funk style they experimented with on their last album.

Tom: Are they approaching their seventh yet? Just wondering.

Tim: Not yet, but they’ve still got time. They know what people want, and they’re happy to provide it.

Tom: Yep: this is nostalgia, plain and simple, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tim: So join us next time, when we’ll be discussing the song that is the Avengers: Endgame of the Busted Musical Universe.

VAX feat. Elise – What I Want

“DJ Sammy’s there to ease me into it.”

Tim: All Swedes here, with what is very, very much not my preferred type of music, and yet I found myself liking it the moment I pressed play. And then I realised it sounded a bit familiar.

Tim: So, that chorus: tell me I’m wrong.

Tom: I mean, it’s close. Not legally-actionable close, I’ll bet, and I’d be willing to put it down to just having a couple of composers, 35 years apart, playing with scales and coming up with something similar.

Tim: You’re right – probably just enough variation there not to get sued, but it actually gives enough of a positive spin on it that I actually quite enjoy the rest of the song. If it didn’t have that chorus, well, hard to know: the production, vocal skills and original bits of melody are all pretty good, so it’s case of whether the genre is okay, or whether DJ Sammy’s just there to ease me into it.

Tom: You know what helps? Pop music is getting shorter. There’s not enough material for even three minutes in here, and given the longer I listen the more I really want to hear the chorus of Heaven resolve, that’s probably for the best.

Tim: Either way, I like it.

Wincent Weiss – Hier mit dir

“I’d imagined it being a bit better.”

Tim: Off Germany, and it’s a couple of months old but it’s only just appeared on Apple Music’s German Pop playlist, so here it is. Title means ‘Here with you’, which is apparently the best place to be. Isn’t that nice?

Tom: There is no point in my life where I’ve ever wanted to see photos and videos of some stranger when they were a baby. Or just footage of them eating, which is what I saw when I briefly flicked back to the video. That is a terrible video.

Tim: Won’t disagree with you there.

Tom: Normally at this point I’d add “and it’s made me despise the track”, but honestly I’m having trouble mustering any feelings about this track whatsoever.

Tim: Okay here’s the thing. I first heard this in the shower, so only got the bare bones of it, and it sounded really, really good. The melody, the structure, it was all there. Then I played it again afterwards, and, well. Still pretty good, but I’d imagined it being a bit better. So, the way I see it: chop off that Lighthouse Family intro, add a bigger drumbeat after the first chorus and maybe throw in a key change at 2:54, and you’ve got yourself a strong mid-90s Eurovision contender there.

Tom: That’s harsh but not entirely unfair.

Tim: Obviously that’s not what they were going for, but it’s certainly something I’d like to hear in a remix.

Weezer – Stand By Me

“It’s possible to do covers in an interesting way!”

Tom: I know, I know, we’re meant to talk about europop here. This isn’t European, and it’s not really pop. But I want to talk about Weezer’s Teal Album, because it might be the laziest cover album I’ve ever heard.

Tim: Having heard a couple of songs from that, I’m not minded to disagree.

Tom: I can absolutely see why Weezer released a covers album. Their version of Africa has been getting a ridiculous amount of airplay (despite, in my opinion, not even being the best Africa cover of 2018), and their actual tracks… well, they haven’t. They’ve still got a fanbase that’ll buy it, and the press will cover it: why not do a cover album?

Tim: Fair.

Tom: But take a listen to the tracks. They sound like an imitation of the originals, like a tribute band. Mr Blue Sky even has the same spoken introduction. You might as well listen to the originals, because there’s nothing new here.

Tim: So…

Tom: The exception is this.

Tom: Because Stand By Me is a standard. It’s one of the most covered songs in the world. And because the original is so simply produced, it doesn’t take much for a band to put their own stamp on it: even if it’s just replacing the strings with a distorted electric guitar and maybe going to the harmony line a couple of times.

Tim: True. Still doesn’t make this a particularly interesting cover, though.

Tom: It’s possible to do covers well! It’s possible to do covers in an interesting way! The Teal Album is, sadly, neither of those. I’ll bet it’ll sell, though.