Saturday Flashback: AnnaGrace – You Make Me Feel

It doesn’t make me want to play laser tag.

Tim: Do you remember Castles in the Sky? Of course you do – it was the early 2000s, as far as I’m concerned a Golden Age of music in Britain, with Eurodance colonising the charts every summer, and that song epitomised it.

Tom: Oh, that takes me back. Specifically, it takes me back to the upper floor of the Nottingham laser tag centre, defending the red base from anyone who tried to make it up the stairs.

Tim: Fast forward a few years, though, and utter tripe has largely taken over.

Tom: I quite like Disturbia, thank you very much.

Tim: Seriously? Huh. Anyway, regardless of the popularity shift, Ian van Dahl are still going, albeit with a different name, and they bring out this, get no airplay because it’s not cool any more, and fail to chart anywhere except their native Belgium.

Tom: Ah, Hard2Beat Records. They know their target market, and they aren’t afraid to pitch to them.

Tim: That failure to chart is a great shame, really, because this is good.

Tom: Now that’s where you’re wrong. It’s competent. It’s not good.

Tim: Well, I’ll accept that it is fairly generic, and does very little to challenge the ‘all dance music sounds the same’ bull that my parents like to put out there every now and again, although it does at least stay away from the snare drum buildup cliche* (by replacing it with a synth buildup instead).

* Related fact: Ayla’s album Nirwana is quite possibly my favourite dance album of ever, vying for the top spot along with Dario G’s Sunmachine, Rank 1’s Symsonic and Darude’s Before the Storm. Three years ago I spent almost six months on eBay, Amazon and the like trying to track down a (reasonably priced) copy before becoming very, very grateful to kevayreski72 for wanting to get rid of his.

Tom: That synth buildup may be the only original thing in the song.

Tim: You know what? I don’t care about originality – I like it, and it reminds me of a better time. Although it isn’t as good as Castles in the Sky.

Tom: Well, of course it isn’t. For a start, it doesn’t make me want to play laser tag.

Eric Saade – Still Loving It

A surprisingly decent mix of several genres.

Tim: Last seen getting soaking wet and with a notable absence of raccoons, he’s fixed one of those problems…

Tom: …please say it’s the raccoons.

Tim: …by drying himself off – sorry Tom – and putting the first single off his next album up on YouTube.

Tim: Unfortunately, but not too surprisingly, it isn’t as good as Manboy.

Tom: He’s gone all plodding and emotional, hasn’t he? So much for having enough enthusiasm that you have to shower on stage.

Tim: If we’re honest, it could probably do with losing about thirty seconds somewhere along the line, and the first few seconds sound a bit like Day & Night. On a more positive note, if you don’t do some sort of involuntary dance-type movement after the bridge there may be something wrong with you, which makes it a winner in my view.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you there, and then I went and subconsciously nodded my head along after the beat. That technically counts.

Tim: Musically it’s a surprisingly decent mix of several genres; lyrically it seems slightly weird and almost pointless – you’re annoying me but keep doing it – but never mind that, because I still like the chorus and the closing bit very much indeed.

Tom: It’s a proper lighters-in-the-air moment at the end, isn’t it? It’s no Manboy, but it’ll do.

The Vaccines – Post Break-Up Sex

Like Pulp, but a bit crap.

Tom: I think “like Pulp, but a bit crap” basically sums this up. Or alternatively “the London Pulp”, which basically says the same thing.

Tim: I don’t know, I don’t mind it – the music I can take or leave, but part of me likes the the lyrics, which are basically ‘yeah, we had sex, now sod off,’ even though I’d often just hate them. Somehow the barefacedness of it seems to work – maybe with the music – and doesn’t just make the singer seem like a misogynistic twat.

Tom: The Vaccines won third place in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 competition, which really doesn’t make me hold out music hope for the British music scene this year. And the single’s competent, I suppose, but it’s just whiny 90s Britpop – and without Jarvis Cocker at the helm, is it really worth bringing that back?

Tim: Depends if it’s better than what else is around. And looking at a couple of the songs we’ve reviewed previously, I would say yes. Although it would be nice if there were other options around that they could choose instead. Oh, wait. There are.

Tom: And all of them from Scandinavia.

Tim: Problem?

NEO – Underground

I watched it all the way through almost without blinking.

Tim: No, don’t worry – it’s not Ne-Yo, it’s NEO, an all-round better musician, although sadly not very lucky when it comes to exiting nightclubs.

Tom: I really hope this video explains that joke.

Tom: I have no idea what that video was about, but I watched it all the way through almost without blinking. That was brilliant.

Tim: Wasn’t it just? The music as well is very good, and in my view better than the sort of stuff that was on his first album – darker (much), but somehow better, even though I’d normally prefer the Mika-esque style. There’s a level of emotion and feeling to it that just didn’t seem to exist before, and the music’s very much better for it. The high-pitched voice isn’t used as a novelty this time round, but more as something that just belongs and doesn’t seem out of place.

Tom: Through the first minute, I was waiting for the chorus. I was thinking “this is a hell of a build, this had better be a blinder of a chorus.” And it was. By the final repeat, it’s almost an Andreas Johnson blinder of a chorus. And you’re right, the falsetto doesn’t seem out of place.

Tim: All round, it just seems a lot more mature than his last album – as though he’s now decided what he wants to do with his music, as opposed to thinking along the lines of ‘this is what Swedish musicians do, I’d better do that.’ I think he’s made the right decision – he certainly looks the part, as part of me was expecting him to grow fangs at 2:57. Very glad he didn’t, though.

Tom: That’s a director’s error, sadly – it’s shot like a transformation sequence, where it’s actually some kind of timeline switch. The background needs to be in focus and twitching, not him. Never mind – as I said before, it’s still blindingly good.

Tim: And lastly, what with him being NEO and all if you didn’t think ‘He is The One’ at 2:43, there’s something wrong with you.

Saturday Flashback: Shanadoo – My Samurai

There’s no innuendo here at all.

Tom: So, we have a group of attractive female singers in revealing outfits; a Eurobeat-style backing; simple key changes and occasional English lyrics. Textbook J-pop, right?

Tim: That starts off in a similar fashion to Almighty’s version of Never Ending Story and keeps going very well. I like it, verses aside. Well done Tom.

Tom: Well, you see, I showed you that song so I could show you this. Advance warning: this is definitely not suitable for kids, or for anyone who’s likely to have nightmares about being attacked by monsters made of erogenous zones.

Tim: Umm… Well, it still has a good start to it, I suppose. And the bits that detracted from the last track have gone. Um. That’s probably not what you were wanting me to comment on, is it? To be honest, though, I really can’t think of words to describe what I think of the video.

Tom: So what the hell happened? Well, first things first: E-Rotic aren’t really a group, they’re a “project”. That’s fairly common for Eurodance acts – the vocalists are disposable; what really counts is the producer.

In this case, the producer is a man called David Brandes, who’d came up with the idea of a group whose songs were all based around sex. (I’d say ‘innuendo’, but there’s no innuendo here at all.)

Tim: No. No there isn’t. And I’m guessing you’ve got a whole load more lined up to show me, haven’t you?

Tom: E-Rotic’s other tracks include the prequel to this one, “Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex”, as well as “Help Me Dr. Dick”, “In The Heat Of The Night”, and “Test My Best”. The latter includes some… interesting noises from the vocalist.

Tim: There me be something wrong with me, but I actually really like these. Musically, at least, although not so much lyrically.

Tom: Musically, they’re very good. E-Rotic – with a variety of singers – lasted from 1995 until 2003, releasing a half-dozen studio albums and a compilation called “Greatest Tits”. With them finished, David Brandes gets their existing songs rewritten in Japanese, with no sex in them at all, puts together a girl group and presto – a romantic song about fighting for love follows, which promptly gets into the German top 20.

Shanadoo are still going, as well. As for E-Rotic? …well, not so much.

Tim: I can cope with that. Yeah, I can cope.

The Ark – Breaking Up With God

They’re pretty much asking for a lightning bolt to strike them down.

Tim: Here, we have a former Eurovision act splitting up and pretty much asking for a lightning bolt to strike them down.

Tom: I do like The Ark (mainly for that one performance) and I’m a bit disappointed they’re splitting. All good things, though. What’s the track like?

Tim: This, Mr Collins, is what a goodbye song should be like – fun, exciting, a great aa-ooooh hook before we’ve even got started and with all sorts of strange lyrics.

Tom: That ‘aa-ooooh’ got me going straight away. No idea why, but it fits very well with this track. And that ramping return from the bridge is brilliant.

Tim: And those lyrics are remarkably odd – or at least the ones that are vaguely intelligible. We have Sword of Damocles references, which then turns into the shape of a cross, we have dancing the night away as a means to reach another life, we have a black and white world haunted by God, and then at the end he finds his own heaven in life.

Tom: It is a bit odd, isn’t it? This track – and other songs like Religious by Gravitonas – would never get major label airplay in the US; ClearChannel and the other media conglomerates would be too afraid of offending the Bible Belt.

Tim: Well, it’s not just the Bible Belt they’ll be offending – don’t forget the main man Himself. To be honest I do wonder about the wisdom of releasing this right before they split up to move in different directions, because surely sticking two fingers up at the Lord is not the best way to begin a new career.