ILY – You Give Me

“Crack open the pineapple juice and bring on the timpani.”

Tim: Still the middle of February and bloody miserable outside, but that doesn’t mean we can’t crack open the pineapple juice and bring on the timpani.

Tom: I mean, apart from the fact it’s 2018 and we should have left this behind a couple of years ago, but yeah, okay, let’s GET TROPICAL.

Tim: Here is one artist who’s done just that, with a song that’s enjoyable but intensely irritating. Let me know when you realise it.

Tim: Right then, ILY, the song is called You Give Me Life. You know that, you sing it, the words are there. So WHY, dear GOD WHY, is there so, so much of “you g’mm me”? In general, I have no issue with twisted vocal samples – they’re in fashion, and when they’re done well they sound good.

Tom: It is entirely possible to do a chopped-up vocal chorus that sounds great — Rita Ora’s Anywhere, for example, even if it leaves her a bit lost during live performances.

Tim: Except, well, Kygo was recently described on here as letting a toddler loose on the volume control, and not only does that sound like what’s happened here, but you’ve actually thought “thanks toddler, that’ll do” and then thrown it liberally around the song without realising that it sounds awful.

Tom: And it’s a strange choice to make, because it’s not as if there are multiple words being combined here. Is it someone stretching “gimme” out too much? Combining two takes? I’ve no idea.

Tim: AARGH it’s so infuriating, because the rest of it is good!

Tom: Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. It’s okay.

Tim: It’s just that one bit, used so so often, completely kills it. For me, anyway. Grrr.

Allertz – Brave

“Tom, I think this video might annoy you.”

Tim: Now, Tom, I think this video might annoy you – it’s basically a three minute compilation of a ‘Kids Are Great’ inspirational tumblr blog (though there’s also a great one of a kid completely stacking it off his bike and ending up in a bush, not sure how that made it in but I burst out laughing).

Tom: And it’s time to put this in a BACKGROUND TAB.

Tim: Anyway, have a listen.

Tom: I’ll be honest, the line “daddy told me to be perfect” put me off from the very first line, and it went downhill from there.

Tim: Now, I’m not sure if I like that just because of the video, because however much of a dick who laughs at videos of kids falling off bikes I may come across as, I do actually have a soft and fluffy heart inside, and so I actually like the video, and was rather engrossed in it throughout my first listen.

Tom: Whereas my heart remains as rock-solid as ever, and it just seems a bit… ugh, the word that comes to mind is “facile”, and I know damn well how pretentious that sounds. It’s not bubblegum or candyfloss pop, because that at least knows what it’s trying to achieve — this is just… slightly sweetened air. Like someone’s sprayed too much air freshener around to cover up something.

Wow, that sounded harsh.

Tim: Yes, yes it really did. And even without the video, I like the message, the sound, the tune and of course the fantastic way it ends with a lion’s roar (yep, that’s in the studio version). A nice track.

Tom: “Nice.” Yeah, I guess that sums it up.

Nova Miller – Turn Up The Fire

“It just strikes me as a Good Pop Song.”

Tim: So here’s a song I’ve had open in a background tab for a good few days now, which I really like but haven’t got round to sending because I don’t really know what to write about it; have a listen anyway.

Tom: That’s not the greatest sales pitch you’ve ever sent me, but sure, let’s try it.

Tim: Thing is, I’m not sure exactly why I like it, other than that it just strikes me as a Good Pop Song.

Tom: It has all the hallmarks of that, yes, but I’m not convinced that there’s any part of it that stands out especially. It sounds… maybe a bit like stock music? Really good stock music, don’t get me wrong, but stock music.

Tim: It’s loud and hefty, a sound that very much fits in with a lot of stuff on the radio right now, but there’s no real part of it where I can say “YES, this is what I like about it”.

Tom: Then I think the problem’s with the composition: there’s just not enough in there to make it memorable.

Tim: Well that’s true enough – even after several listens, I’m not sure I could really sing along to much of it. I think, in the end, it’s just modern pop that sounds like it’s made really, really well. And I guess that’s all I need to like a track.

Vargas & Lagola – Roads

Tim: Back with their own track after last month’s brief pairing with Avicii, and it got me on board right away.

Tom: Agreed! That’s one of the best openings to a track that I’ve heard in a while. Except…

Tim: Except…then it was a full two minutes before it really did anything remotely different, and so I started getting actually quite bored. The annoying thing is, what’s there is actually quite good – it’s a good strong verse, and hell, it’s a better chorus than a lot of the tracks we feature.

Tom: And I think that’s partly because it’s a really familiar melody — not actually taken from anywhere, but filled with a lot of easy-to-recognise progressions of notes.

Tim: But together, there’s just no real variation – a minute and a half in, I’m thinking ‘blimey, are they really stringing this out for four minutes?’ Of course, stringing becomes an entirely appropriate verb soon after, and it’s nice to have that – but then at the end of that middle eight, there’s a drop down and then quick build up to…right back where it was. And that’s just not how a song should work, guys. Summary: what’s there is great, but I just want a lot of it gone.

SuRie – Storm

“Last night Britain voted, and right here is our entry for Eurovision 2018.”

Tim: So, last night Britain voted, and right here is our entry for Eurovision 2018. It’s…

Tim: …a good track!

Tom: And not a Eurovision winner! I mean, it’d probably make it through the semi-finals if we had to go through them, but this isn’t going to win anything.

Tim: Well, positive bits first: it’s danceable, she’s got a great voice, and I could, honestly, if this was put out by a major label, see it being at least B-listed on Radio 1.

Tom: Really? I’ll agree with the voice, but the song is… I mean, it’s something a low-level Kontor-esque company would put out if they couldn’t hire a really good songwriter. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing right either.

Tim: I think you’re being way too harsh on it, there – the way I see it, it’s a female-fronted Avicii track (quite literally, in the case of the first line, which just sounds weird) Except, that’s kind of the problem. It’s…well, generic is the wrong word, because that has negative connotations, but it’s nothing really that hasn’t been heard before. At Eurovision, that’s a hell of a risk, because people so often want to hear something new and interesting.

Tom: It needs to stand out from the crowd while also being an exceptionally good song. This, sadly, has neither of those qualities.

Tim: I really don’t want to finish on a negative, because there’s a lot to like about this. As a regular track, I can’t really fault it, and I’d love to be proved wrong about what we’re saying. Absolutely love to be. So…here’s hoping?

Tom: All I’m saying is, I’m not betting on it.

CHVRCHES – Get Out

“I am very much hopeful for this.”

Tim: Scotland’s finest purveyors of pop music are BACK, presumably with an upcoming third album, and here’s the track to lead the campaign.

Tom: It took me a while to get into them, but yes: I am very much hopeful for this.

Tim: OOF, what a track that is. It’s a fairly simple hook for the chorus, but boy is it infectious. Infectious, loud, and just great. I’ll admit I don’t really get the kaleidoscope metaphor, but the whole GET OUT GET OUT, GET GET GET OUT, GET GET GET OUT OF HERE doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity.

Tom: I’d normally dislike a chorus that repetitive — I’ve said before that if you’re going to build your entire chorus around one or two lines, then they’d better be absolutely perfect. These are.

Tim: And the song really, really sells it, right from the downbeat opening, all the way through to the slightly hopeful but still fairly definite middle eight.

Tom: I’ll admit to being a bit tired and emotional, in the literal sense, at the moment, so perhaps I’m more easily affected by songs like this, but: THIS IS VERY GOOD.

Tim: The music, as we have come to expect from the band, is right up there with the best, and I’ve listened to this four times in a row now and am perfectly happy to keep doing so.

Tom: And that video is a masterclass in telling multiple, ambiguous, possibly-connected stories: it’s just lovely.

Tim: Top stuff.

Anna Bergendahl – Vice

“There’s some proper cowboy-country guitar in the background”

Tim: Anna, perhaps still (sadly) best known for being the only Swede not to qualify for the Eurovision final (though God knows Frans would probably have given her a run for that); she’s had remarkably little activity since then, but now she’s here, with a slight change of genre.

Tom: Blimey, there’s some proper cowboy-country guitar in the background of that, isn’t there?

Tim: And despite wanting to jump in with “I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing” every time the chorus comes around, I like that quite a lot. It does sound a bit dated; I’m not sure how much of that is due to those tinkly synths under the chorus, or if it’s just a general something about it, but it does seem to have a slight Annie Lennox in the early 90s vibe about it.

Tom: I reckon that’s down to the instrumentation — there’s a lot of older styles of synth in there. It’s not a bad choice at all, but then I grew up with sounds like that. Were this a British record, I’d say it’s more aimed at Radio 2.

Tim: I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, but I am struggling to understand it: if you’re going to switch genres, why go for one thirty years old? Not a bad listen, but just a bit mystifying.

Kygo feat. OneRepublic – Stranger Things

“(a) a good Kygo track and (b) a good OneRepublic track”

Tim: Another one off his EP of duets, which quite pleasantly is (a) a good Kygo track and (b) a good OneRepublic track; hopefully you’ll agree.

Tim: Yes?

Tom: Qualified yes. Odd choice of title: I know that ‘Stranger Things’ comes from an idiom, but given the success of the show it seems a bit weird to use the same title. Or maybe they’re just hoping people will click on the video title in confusion while trying to find clips of the show on YouTube. As for the track…

Tim: Obviously it’s very much more Kygo than OneRepublic, particularly the chorus, but the verses aren’t far off standard OneRepublic fare, and I think the two complement each other very nicely.

Tom: It’s not quite as catchy or as upbeat as I’d expect, but given the title and collaborators that makes sense. Not one for the playlist, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

Tim: It’s nice to hear Kygo back doing music that sounds like him, and while this song might not quite be MASSIVE and BANGING and HUGE…I like it. It does what it sets out to, the talent’s all there and on display, and it works. Good stuff.

Strobe! feat. KIDDO – Feeling Good

“Change those synths a little and it’d be full 2015.”

Tim: Miserable Monday, middle of January, and so I’d like to share this, as Strobe! (a.k.a. two guys called Petter & Isak) and KIDDO have a way of dealing with sadness.

Tom: That’s a promising intro there. I didn’t expect it to be almost-tropical though. (Almost. Change those synths a little and it’d be full 2015.)

Tim: Admittedly, it’s not the song I thought it’d be when I saw the title and first pressed play – it’d probably struggle to get on a lot of daytime radio playlists – but it’s still a good listen. Production’s good, melody’s good, and so even if I can’t quite endorse the message I have a lot of time for it.

Tom: It’d sit nicely in the background of one of those chillout playlists you get on Spotify. I suspect that sounds more harsh than I intended.

Tim: I’d even go so far as to say it has some nice Galantis-y elements in there (and Galantis when they’re good), which as regular readers will know is a heck of a compliment. So me? Well, at the risk of sounding predictable: I’m feeling good.

ROTBLOND – Küssen

“YES. Or, rather, JA.”

Tim: Let’s have a weekend! More specifically, let’s have a weekend soundtracked by German dancepop!

Tom: YES. Or, rather, JA.

Tim: Küssen, if you can’t guess, translates as Kiss, and while I can’t find any of the lyrics online it’s probably a safe bet that it’s about getting off with each other. (Any German speakers reading this, please pass on any info about this, it’s been 15 years since my last German lesson.)

Tom: I’m pretty sure it’s actually about someone (presumably, the listener) getting off with them, rather than each other, but I’m sure you can interpret it how you want.

Tim: It’s a fairly decent dance track, really – yes, it could be brightened up by a key change (one at 2:41 would sound absolutely cheap and also absolutely fabulous) – but it’s got a beat, vocal skills, a decent melody and nothing hugely wrong with it. Not exactly the highest of compliments, but it’ll do for now.

Tom: “Nothing hugely wrong with it” basically sums up my thoughts too. It’s a decent mid-cheesy-playlist track, and that’s fine.

Tim: Oh, and speaking of key changes, while I know I said I wouldn’t harp on about the film, Hugh Jackman’s one in From Now On is truly excellent. Nope, I still haven’t stopped listening to that soundtrack.