Saturday Flashback: Skagarack – Open Your Eyes

“I was about to say ‘that’s completely outside what we usually cover’ but, no, after a moment’s thought, this is entirely what we usually cover.”

Tim: Here’s a fun one for you: ’80s Danish glam rock?

Tom: I was about to say “that’s completely outside what we usually cover” but, no, after a moment’s thought, this is entirely what we usually cover.

Tim: Bit of fun, isn’t it? I had completely and entirely never heard of this band until a Danish person at work played this track the other day (and by all accounts neither had most English-speaking people, given that their only Wikipedia entry is Danish), but, oh, it’s fun.

Tom: It sounds like… I’ll be honest, it sounds like any other generic 80s glam rock track to me. Except for the first half of the middle eight, that basically gives every instrument a tiny little solo before going into the big electric-guitar number.

Tim: Basically: entirely typical of the genre. Guitar, drums, vocal style, all exactly as they should be. Chorus, absolutely as we’re expecting. A lovely, lovely song, with, if you’re in agreement, a whole discography on your streaming platform of choice.

Tom: Really? I mean, heaven knows I’ve gone down some weird musical rabbit holes before, but I can’t see why this has had quite such an effect on you.

Tim: Me neither, kind of. Basically, for some reason it puts me in mind of Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, even though it doesn’t actually sound like it, and that’s a track I really like (largely because it puts me in mind of a really really nice ad campaign from a few years back, sue me). So I like this. It’s great.

Tom: I am entirely ambivalent.

Pegboard Nerds feat. NERVO – Crying Shame

“Pegboard Nerds! I’ve heard of them!”

Tom: Pegboard Nerds! I’ve heard of them! Back in 2014, when one of their sorta-chiptune-sorta-dubstep tracks was featured on this video. 2014 was before drones became mainstream, and that video — and its soundtrack — absolutely blew me away.

Tim: Fabulous! I had not heard of them, but part of me wanted to feature this based purely on the artwork; some more of me wanted to because of their name (Danish/Norwegian, if you weren’t aware, and NERVO are Australian); then I heard the verse and then the chorus, and by the time we got to the post-chorus there was no option whatsoever.

Tom: See! Sorta-chiptune, sorta-dubstep. I mean, they’ve moved on, and I’m sure there’s a different and more formal genre title for it, but yes, this is definitely their style.

Tim: So, I’m not going to excitedly yell ‘HAPPY HARDCORE’ because it isn’t, but that build certainly promises something special and I’m fairly sure it delivers.

Tom: It’s probably the closest you can reasonably get to happy hardcore in this century.

This song starts out fairly sensible, admittedly, but turns to slight ridiculousness after not too short a time. As ever, back to normal, ish, for the second verse, then we build up throughout the second chorus, a middle eight which brings us a euphoric section out of absolutely nowhere, and from then on we’ve a triumphant mess of everything, and it sounds glorious. Am I wrong?

Tom: You’re not wrong.

Highasakite – Can I Be Forgiven

“Don’t be put off if you’re not keen on the first minute or so – you might end up having a change of heart.”

Tim: This song here goes on a bit of a journey, so don’t be put off if you’re not keen on the first minute or so – you might end up having a change of heart.

Tom: You’re not wrong about that journey. However, I did like what is basically the two-minute long introduction.

Tim: Part of the reason I stuck that warning at the top was that I wasn’t entirely keen on the first part of the track – skipped away from it to another tab and got distracted, and then became entirely surprised when it became a really good dance track. Too little too late? Maybe.

Tom: I can see why you’d think that: I was disappointed at 0:57, when I was expecting that big dramatic change and just got a few extra instruments. But honestly, I still enjoyed it all: I’m not sure what genre something like this fits into other than “builder”, but I’ll take it.

Tim: Though I would say that it is nice to have a little bit of the sound we were promised when Robyn came back last summer, gave us Missing U, but then went away without giving us an album. So for that I’ll take it, but I’d happily do without the first two minutes or so.

Nova Miller – Do It To Myself

“Big swear words and big letters ahoy.”

Tim: Few good things came out last Friday: Mika’s new album, with the highlight being a track with the hook ‘who gives a shit about tomorrow’, which we’ll get to in due course; Saara Aalto gave us the year’s first wintry song, which is nice but can probably wait a few weeks, don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; and then this.

Now, you known how sometimes when lyric videos are made for songs with rude words they put a pointless asterisk over the naughty bit? Yeah, Nova’s not done that. Big swear words and big letters ahoy.

Tim: And here we are again with a weird and unexpected sample and rewording, though I’ve a feeling it works significantly better here than it did with Blue (Da Ba Dee) or Informer.

Tom: Blimey, that’s certainly very close to California Dreamin’ — I wonder if it’s close enough that they’ve paid royalties? If not, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Tim: No, it’s a proper sample, with royalties and everything.

Tom: It is, at least, far enough away from the original that I don’t find immediately find myself singing the original over the top. After the song finishes, though? All I can remember is California Dreamin’, and that’s probably not a good thing.

Tim: Believe it or not, her favourite part is apparently that samply bit (who’d have thought it?) because it “takes you all the way to summer and back”, which is fair enough really. All in all this is quite a nice track, albeit one that should probably have landed three months ago. I’m enjoying it, anyway, despite looking out of my window at rain that just. won’t. stop.

Saturday Flashback: Daddy Yankee & Snow – Con Calma

“I’m willing to bet most of Britain hasn’t heard it.”

Tom: I’m not sending this to you because I think it’s a good track. Despite it being staggeringly popular in the Spanish-speaking world — over 1.4 billion views on YouTube — it only peaked at 66 in the UK charts. I’m willing to bet most of Britain hasn’t heard it.

Tim: Well, the title doesn’t ring a bell for me, so…

Tom: Or at least, most of Britain hasn’t heard this version.

Tim: Oh. That’s…I don’t…just…um.

Tom: Daddy Yankee, you’ll know from Despacito. And Snow? Well, it turns out he was the guy who did Informer. They just went back to him with new lyrics and asked if he wanted to be on the track. I suspect he’ll be very happy with the result.

Tim: Yeah, I can imagine – half an hour in front of the microphone, a whole lot of money coming in later.

Tom: Oh, and it turns out that neither of your stars can’t be bothered to do a music video, you can just replace them with a) a giant ugly CGI head and b) someone who looks vaguely like a younger version of them, and everyone’ll be fine with it. Sure.

CHVRCHES – Death Stranding

“It’s a weird one, this.”

Tim: So, Death Stranding is a game coming out for PS4 in a month or so, and despite it having been announced over three years ago and having released multiple trailers, no-one really knows much about it. One thing that was made apparent a few days ago, though, is that CHVRCHES have done a song for the soundtrack. This one, to be precise.

Tom: Ah, soundtracks, the perfect place to throw that track that wasn’t quite good enough for the latest album.

Tim: It’s a weird one, this. Admittedly, the number of great video game songs can probably be counted one the fingers of one hand, so this was always going to be a tricky one, but it doesn’t really make much even so. Take the lyrics: the relationship’s falling apart, but hey, let’s have something of it while it still exists. What’s that got to do with anything in a game which, if the trailers are anything to go by, looks to be a first person RPG et it a world after some big weird event has happened?

Tom: I mean, you could ask that of most soundtrack songs: frequently it is just a marketing tie-in.

Tim: Musically it’s, well, it’s alright, though it doesn’t seem all that well put together: it’s the words again, or rather the vocals. Everything underneath it, see, is lovely – as music on its own, it would in fact make a great instrumental soundtrack, easily able to hold its own amongst some of the best. But with the vocals layered on top, almost at times seeming like an afterthought, it just leaves me feeling a bit cold. And that really frustrates me.

Tom: Huh: when we disagree on a track, it’s usually the other way round, and I’m normally the one being left cold. But this time, no: the opening verse grabbed my attention, and it kept going throughout the… huh. Five minutes. This is a five-minute track, and I wasn’t bored during it. Even with the lengthy instrumental in the middle.

If I haad to nitpick, then I’d say I’m not sure about those hard-gated cymbals, but that is just CHVRCHES’ style. I even hoped for a Big Final Chorus, and got one. This works for me. I guess I shouldn’t be so cynical about soundtracks.

Rasmus Seebach – Lovesong

“So, best things first: that chorus melody is absolutely lovely.”

Tim: Rasmus has been off for quite a while…

Tom: Has he been in the shadows? Sorry, wrong Rasmus. Carry on.

Tim: — as he’s had a baby to look after.

Tom: Oh. Well now I sound like a dick.

Tim: I won’t disagree. Anyway, now he’s got his priorities sorted and is back bringing us music. This song, well, I’m in two minds about. Have a listen.

Tim: So, best things first: that chorus melody is absolutely lovely. The opening line in English, the rest of it moving on, and also the various oh-oh-oh-ohs in the post-chorus (and intro), it’s just divine.

Tom: Yep, I was surprised by both the melody and the switch into English. And you’re right: “lovely” is the correct description for it.

Tim: The rest: hmm. It’s nice, it’s fine, and…okay, here’s the problem, and it is absolutely not Rasmus’s fault. The lyrics, you see, are entirely lovely – we’ve lines that translate to things like “I know we’re created for each other” and “You’re the only one in the world”, and Rasmus has said about this that “Without love, life is not worth much”. BUT, with them being in Danish – i.e. with me not being able to understand them – they wash over me, and I’m left thinking that part’s a bit dull. It isn’t, it should be lovely, it should be inspiring tears of delight in me when I’ve had one too many rum & cokes, and it’s entirely on me that it isn’t.

Tom: I’m not quite as convinced — well, I’m convinced that it’d inspire tipsy tears of delight in you, of course, I’m just not convinced about the verses themselves. They are very stripped-down and basic, perhaps a bit too much.

Tim: Perhaps, though sadly we never know, as you can properly do one if you think I’m going to learn a whole language just for one song. Unless – well, Rasmus did an English version of another song of his, Natteravn, so if you’re reading this Rasmus, could you do that here please? THANKS.

John Lundvik – One Night In Bangkok

“Huh. It’s a really good song. I just find the title inexplicable.”

Tim: So for those that don’t know, in the 1980s, Tim Rice teamed with Björn & Benny from ABBA to write a concept album called Chess, which then became a musical, and One Night In Bangkok was a pretty successful track from that.

This here, John’s first release since being robbed of victory in Tel Aviv, is a completely different song.

Tom: You’re kidding me. I mean, I think I’d be even more surprised if John Lundvik had decided to cover the original, it’s a weird song, but why on earth would you release a track with the same, offbeat name?!

Tom: Huh. It’s a really good song. I just find the title inexplicable: you could put any other town with the same cadence in there. Stockholm. Tokyo. London. You also wouldn’t have the tricky matter of trying to sing a word-final /k/, or any title confusion.

Tim: See, I was expected another of the standard upbeat power ballads we’ve come to expect from basically every other track he’s written or sung, so this really surprised me – so far over to the dance end of pop, I was almost expecting a proper dance breakdown after the chorus.

Tom: His voice also stands out: you couldn’t just replace him with any session singer here, this is clearly still a John Lundvik Track.

Tim: It’s nice to know he can do multiple genres, and indeed do them really well – this is a top notch song. Nice melody, great beat, emotion in his vocals selling the narrative, all working together brilliantly. Good stuff.

Tom: Just a very strange title.

Oscar Zia – Ingen Kan Göra Dig Hel

“Is it good enough?”

Tim: Expectation adjustment for you: I wanted to switch this off within a couple of seconds.

Tom: You really know how to sell a song.

Tim: Then I remembered that Oscar is responsible for one of my favourite ever Melodifestivalen performances, so I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, but then the verse wasn’t great, but I kept listening, and then the chorus came along. And it’s good. But what I really want to know is: is it good enough?

Tom: Wow, you’re right about the first few seconds. Those few seconds sound like someone’s trying to rip off Scooter’s style really badly, and those staccato synths are just obnoxious.

Tim: Because it is a really good chorus. If the whole song was in the style of that chorus, I’d love it. But the rest of it is instead, well, average at best, and downright irritating at some points, not least those squeaky vocal samples at the start and then return intermittently throughout.

Tom: And I’m sure I’ve heard that descending melody in the chorus before, too, in many different track. It’s not retro enough to be pleasantly nostalgic; it just sounds a bit like a kids’ song to me.

But I think my initial reaction of disappointment was wrong, because I did at least have some sort of actual reaction to the chorus. I didn’t just go ‘meh’, and that’s basically an endorsement by my standards.

Tim: The rest is okay, sure, though there’s not much I actively like. But then I keep coming back to the chorus, and wondering if it redeems it. And I don’t really know, and that kind of annoys me.

Hogland feat. Philip Strand – Cross My Heart

“Wow, this is Kygo in his heyday.”

Tim: You may remember Hogland: we featured him a couple of times in June and, in an an unusual turn of events, we both really liked his tracks.

Tim: See, I hear this track, and I think ‘wow, this is Kygo in his heyday’. It’s very much your regular tropical dance track: immediate vocal with a light backing that shortly builds up, strong pre-chorus with a big vocal, full on dance breakdown for the standard chorus, repeat as necessary.

Tom: There’s even a washing-machine-spinning-up euphoric build in there.

Tim: And, well, I say ‘regular tropical dance track’: structurally yes, but the melody, the production, the everything holds together really, really well, and lifts it well above regular. We’ve a great tune in general, and one I can hear multiple times and still think ‘yep, this is really good’.

Tom: I can’t disagree with that — it’s certainly above a lot of the generic tropical-dance stuff that comes out — but I’m not convinced that it’s got what it takes to be the sound of… well, I was going to say “sound of the summer”, but I guess “sound of the autumn”. Nothing wrong with it, sure, but I’m not convinced it’s that much of a banger.

Tim: I also remembered that at the beginning of last year we were reviewing a track by Sigrid and I said that “part of me is starting to wonder when she’ll be noticed over here”, and then a few months later she entirely was and she got a load of Radio 1 play and a few top 20 singles. Now, I’m not saying we have a massive amount of influence or anything, but well, maybe someone could take a look this way?