Saturday Flashback: I Monster – Daydream in Blue

“It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA.”

Tim: For no reason at all other than I heard it the other day for the first time in years and was reminded how brilliant it is, this underappreciated 2003 number. 

Tom: I… huh. Underappreciated is right, because I can’t work out if I’ve ever heard this exact version, or whether I just know that melody from… where did it come from?

Tim: It’s got an interesting history to it, purely in terms of its musical DNA. Technically it’s a cover of the 1969 song Daydream by the Belgian band Wallace Collection, though it shares much more in common with the 1970 cover of it by the German group Günter Kallmann Choir. The genre in the verse is very different, but the underlying instruments are the same, and I’ve a feeling the chorus is a direct sample. All that’s kind of null and void, though, given that a fair amount of the melody originally came from multiple pieces by, erm, Tchaikovsky.

Tom: This is why I’m in favour of shorter copyright terms. I would love to see what could happen if this amount of creativity was just allowed, without fear of lawsuits or licensing agreements.

Tim: Yeah. Music’s good, isn’t it.

Fickle Friends – Pretty Great

“You know that synthpop style where it’s been inspired heavily by the 80s, but made with modern tech and dropping unexpected F-bombs?”

Tom: Indie-pop from Brighton here: the sort that sells cassettes and logo-printed bum bags on their merch store. Basically, you know that synthpop style where it’s been inspired heavily by the 80s, but made with modern tech and dropping unexpected F-bombs?

Tim: Ah, yes, that style.

Tom: I can’t tell whether the music is catchy, or whether it just sounds like a lot of things I’ve heard before. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: it’s just that after listening to it a couple of times, I found I wasn’t actually humming the chorus afterwards. Instead, I was humming something that sounded like the chorus, with a completely different rhythm, and I cannot place it.

Tim: Yeah, I was like that as well – parts of it the melody, and partly the instrumentation in the middle eight reminds distinctively of a Sound of Arrows track (speaking of whom, HURRY UP PLEASE WE’RE WAITING). Like you said, though, that’s no bad thing – it’s entirely listenable.

Tom: Shame about the video, which feels like someone watched a couple of episodes from third season of Black Mirror while really drunk.

Tim: Yeah – that reads to me as distinctly standard.

Static & Ben El, Pitbull – Further Up (Na, Na, Na, Na, Na)

“It’s been a long while since we’ve had one of our traditional “Pitbull, what the hell” moments, isn’t it?”

Tom: Do you remember Con Calma? Take a track from the 90s with a catchy chorus, remove anything controversial, change the lyrics, throw out a catchy single that’ll get airplay.

Tim: I did not remember it; I am more than a little irritated you chose to remind me of it.

Tom: Well, this Israeli pop duo have looked at that formula and thought: we can do that. And let’s get Pitbull to join in, too.

Tim: Oh no. Do we have to?

Tom: It’s been a long while since we’ve had one of our traditional “Pitbull, what the hell” moments, isn’t it?

Tim: And yet simultaneously not long enough. 

Tom: Everything about this is awful, except for the samples. The bragging about money. Rhyming “my friend Haim” and “count me in”. Literally telling the crowd to “put your hands up high and wave them from side to side”, which may be the greatest cliché in pop music.

Tim: Yeah, I’m normally okay to defend clichés – they’re clichés for a reason, they sound good – butI have literally no desire to even start defending this.

Tom: And all the actual melodies they’ve added are also… pretty bad. It’s a testament to how good that original, catchy, two-note melody is: it’s the only thing that carries this track.

Tim: Though let’s face it, it barely does that. 

Elisa Lindström – Ditt Hjärta i Min Hand

“Is it a cymbal crash you can hear in the background, or the sound of sparklers shooting off? Who knows.”

Tom: It’s always good when I can translate a title in my head.

Tim: Every year, thousands of songs get submitted for Melodifestivalen, and every year the vast majority of them get rejected. Most of them never see the light of day, and those that do get released are never spoken of as having been rejected, obviously. However, this is a lovely schlagery pop track, coming in at precisely three minutes, with a perfect “let’s get the Catherine wheels spinning” moment. Draw your own conclusion.

Tom: That could have been a Melodifestivalen track at any point in the last thirty years.

Tim: It certainly could, and wouldn’t it have been nice to see on stage? Probably start out with her in a nice white dress, a guitarist and a drummer in the background, nothing until the crash for the first chorus, BOOM the lights come up and we’ve some dancers jumping around and giving us the oh-woah-ohs that they’ve lifted from This Is Me.

Tom: That’s where I’ve heard them before! (I mean, it’s a Millennial Whoop, but you’re right, that’s basically This Is Me.)

Tim: Then, of course, that GLORIOUS key change, fireworks everywhere, probably risking burning down the stadium but never mind, because just LOOK.

Tom: Is it a cymbal crash you can hear in the background, or the sound of sparklers shooting off? Who knows. I almost physically facepalmed at that key change. Yes: I can absolutely see this on stage.

Tim: Mind you, it’d then crash out in fifth place, and we’d all be disappointed again, so maybe it’s for the best. No, who am I kidding, it’d have been BRILLIANT.

Galantis feat. Charli XCX – We Are Born To Play

“Having Mario shout ‘here we go’ before the drop is ghastly.”

Tom: This is an advert, Tim, and you know how I feel about giving adverts additional promotion, or even listening to them deliberately. But I get the feeling that if I don’t send this to you, you’re going to send this to me, and I don’t think I can deal with the amount of enthusiasm you’d start this with.

Tim: CORRECT! 

Tom: So yes. Galantis got asked to build a track around the Mario soundtrack, for the upcoming Super Nintendo Worlds that’ll be built at the Universal theme parks over the next decade.

Tom: Let’s get the awful things out of the way first: “power up and go” is an awful lyric, and having Mario shout “here we go” before the drop is ghastly.

Tim: Ghastly? Or brilliant? I think brilliant. You see, I’m going to heavily subvert expectation here, and slightly seriously discuss this thing (I know, sorry), because the way that sounds kind of depends how you look at this: it’s clearly not just written as a promo track, because way too much effort has gone into it, but it’s clearly not a proper dance track, even a ‘stick on the album as a bonus track’ one. And so for the hybrid that this is, I think putting Mario in there works, however ghastly you may find it. 

Tom: Mind you, Galantis don’t appear to have just cashed the cheque on this and churned out a minimal-effort track: they’ve reinterpreted pretty much everything into their style. It’s not actually that bad.

Tim: True, and the first two minutes of this is straight up dance tune: you could take that and the last ten seconds, add some extra stuff in the middle and have a perfectly decent track, if a tad novelty-ish with all the power-up and coin sound effects. That thirty seconds of Mario theme sample, though, changes it, hugely. As a promo it’s now great. Dance track? Yeah, we’re done.

Tom: But obviously: Super Nintendo World will be nothing like this. It’s a Universal Studios park, so it will be a series of rides that bounce you around a bit in front of a 3D screen while you’re occasionally sprayed with water. If they manage anything greater than that, I will be shocked and amazed.

Tim: What, you mean there won’t be actual boxes suspended in the air that you can punch to get coins? DAMMIT, TOM.

Tom: The thing I’m most impressed by here? The video production team. That is movie-quality green-screen work.

Tim: Yep. That’s almost as good as the Mario sample.

Saturday Flashback: Jon Secada – If You Go

“The sort of thing that’d get someone’s attention as they’re scanning through an FM radio dial.”

Tom: Peak 1994 “Latin-influenced adult contemporary American pop” here. As in, this was designed for the CD collections of soccer moms across the United States.

Tim: Hmm, okay.


 

Tom: Good enough, really, isn’t it?

Tim: Yep, and certainly very 1994 pop – I’m filing that alphabetically right ahead of Lighthouse Family and M People. 

Tom: Catchy chorus, the sort of thing that’d get someone’s attention as they’re scanning through an FM radio dial. Key change, of course, to push it past four minutes. I never heard this before last week, and somehow it still makes me feel a bit nostalgic.

Tim: Well, it’s the sound – entirely typical. Good, mind, but typical.

Tom: Also, well done to the director at the end, who just told the extras “bounce up and down on your seats a bit, it’ll look like the bus is moving, honest”.

Although the best performance of this track was, of course, that time a stage lift didn’t work and Jon Secada had to sing while clambering out of a hole at the ’94 World Cup opening ceremonies in Chicago. It starts at 6’35” in.

Tim: And the absolutely perfect thing is that the camera cuts to him right has he sings “I’m almost there”. Beautiful stuff. 

Tom: Turns out he dislocated his shoulder, so, uh, sorry Jon. 

Melissa Naschenweng – Schutzengerl

“I just think that it would be difficult to put a euphoric key change in a song about death.”

Tim: Presenting a rather lovely song that is completely and utterly ruined by the video. Title translates to ‘Guardian Angel’.

Tim: First verse: mm, yeah, it’s okay. First chorus: oh, this is absolutely beautiful and wonderful and heartwarming and everything.

Tom: I actually broke out into a smile at that first chorus. And I know it’s because it’s schlager, it’s perfectly valid to call it uninspired and by-the-numbers, but– I still smiled. For a moment. And then I realised what was going on in the video, and that it’s actually about a father dying in a car crash, it’s basically a “don’t text and drive” PSA, and ‘Guardian Angel’ in the title is not intended as a metaphor.

Tim: Yeah, quite the change of beat when you realise that, isn’t it?

Tom: It is odd, though. You could swap the lyrics of this out with a sappy love song and it would work perfectly. I wonder how often that’s true in this genre, and in others? Because that first chorus could be a proper hands-in-the-air moment.

Tim: Second verse: not much interesting happening, jump to another tab. Second chorus: OOH, it’s gone quiet, we’re getting one hell of a key change here. Except, no. We have a car crash instead, and…well, I actually meant that about it happening literally in the video, but it also works perfectly well to describe the song.

Tom: I know where you’re going, Tim, and I just think that it would be difficult to put a euphoric key change in a song about death.

Tim: True, AND YET, that sudden pause shows the potential for what could be. And sure, it’d be a key change that’s a good couple of decades out of fashion, and way off beat with the lyrics, but I don’t care, I want it, you’ve shown me it, and at each one of the drum builds that come throughout the rest of the song, I want that key change. YOU’VE STOLEN MY KEY CHANGE, DAMMIT.

I said ‘ruined by the video’, though: the studio version doesn’t have that pause, and as such doesn’t bring out anywhere near as much frustration. So maybe the video wouldn’t, if it did’t have that exact drama in that exact place. Silly people.

Lvndscape x John Adams – I’m Like A Bird

“The PR bumf for this describes it as having a ‘sparkling drop’.”

Tom: Nelly Furtado’s original is twenty years old now. And I didn’t know what to expect from this: Spinnin’ Records are a dance label, after all, and the PR bumf for this describes it as having a ‘sparkling drop’.

Tim: Hmm. In that case I’ll press play and not read ahead, for fear of spoilers.

Tom: Well, that’s lovely, isn’t it?

Tim: Oh, it really is, yes. Not remotely what I expected, but yeah.

Tom: There’s a lot to be uncertain about, mind. I’m not sure about the fast vibrato on those vocals: it almost feels like the vocal line’s been sped up a lot. And the sooner we can get over this trend of artificially adding vinyl pops and scratches over tracks, the better: it was a cliché when Mike Flowers did it in 1995. Yes, that’s an obscure reference for you.

Tim: Honestly, Tom, I’ve learnt to expect nothing less.

Tom: And losing the “And baby all I need” lyrics is certainly a bold choice. I think it works after a while, but the absence is striking.

Tim: Yeah – certainly makes singing, or even humming, along a tad unsettling.

Tom: But still: this is a calm, fun cover that manages to have some dance-production elements in it. It nicely treads that line between novelty and familiarity. It’s the doldrums of January: I’ll take what I can get.

Oh Wonder – Happy

“This will probably sound a bit familiar.”

Tom: This will probably sound a bit familiar.

Tom: I had to pause this, after the first chorus, just to check that I wasn’t accidentally listening to Clean Bandit — or maybe a band that included one of their members. I didn’t realise how much that staccato string-synth-pad style was associated with just one band in my head now. (Or maybe these are real strings. I doubt it, though.)

Tim: Ah – see, it does sound a bit familiar, but I got more of a Chainsmokers vibe from it.

Tom: Unfortunately, I don’t really like Clean Bandit, so this was basically doomed from the start for me.

Tim: Oh. On the other hand, I quite like the Chainsmokers, so it’s fine for me.

Saturday Flashback: Texas Lightning – No No Never

“You’re singing along even though you’ve never heard it before.”

Tom: There’s not much to write about in early January, is there? Bieber’s latest sounds like a parody, a mumbling baby-talk mess. I can’t even think of an appropriate Saturday Flashback. But you know what? Yesterday we talked about Euro-not-quite-country: this time we’re talking going FULL GERMAN FAUXMERICAN BLUEGRASS. Eurovision. 2006. Fourteen years ago.

Tom: They’d finished in last place the year before. This managed 14th.

Tim: And yep, that feels entirely an appropriate place for this to end up. It is nice, though – the sort of song where somehow you’re singing along to the first line of the first chorus, even though you’ve never ever heard it before.

Tom: At least the guy with the double bass seemed like he was having fun.

Tim: Oh, I think they all do, really – and quite right too.