Italoconnection – Horizon

“This isn’t about Big Drops, and that’s fine”

Tim: This pairing (Italian, believe it or not) did a rather good Hurts remix a few years back, so I was a bit intrigued when I saw an original track come along; there’s a fairly dull minute of intro so let’s jump straight in.

Tim: A lot going on there, and it reminds me of my disappointment that Italo disco never really made it to the UK – admittedly I’d not been born at the time, but it’d be nice if I had knowledge of some classic stuff to get into.

Tom: That’s a very specific disappointment, but yes, I get what you mean. I find myself complaining that there isn’t much of anything in the lower frequencies here — all treble, no bass — but at least it’s clearly a stylistic decision, not just “yeah, we can do without”.

Tim: As it is, I’ve got this, which’ll do nicely – there’s no big moment, no drop where everything explodes, but it is pretty good throughout.

Tom: “Pretty good throughout”. Not a ringing endorsement, but it does feel about right. This isn’t about Big Drops, and that’s fine.

We’ve layers of instrumentation, building up and down as the song progresses, making a very listenable (and danceable) track. Has anyone got a Best Of playlist?

Iris Gold – All I Really Know

“Powerful, punchy, aggressive, brassy”

Tim: Iris is off Denmark, bringing us this:

Tim: So I’ll be honest, and say that the first verse did more or less nothing for me; I let it play, though (mostly because I’m very tired right now and couldn’t be bothered to stop it).

Tom: Now I’m surprised you thought that: the first verse (or, at least, the spy-movie-soundtrack instrumentation below it) properly intrigued me. And then it led into a good chorus, too.

Tim: I was actually delighted by that chorus, which makes the slightly abrasive verses entirely worth sticking through. Powerful, punchy, aggressive, brassy, and just all round rather good.

Tom: I’m sure I know that chord progression, and that whole backing line, from somewhere in the 90s, but I can’t place it now.

Tim: I like it. Still not sure about the overall style, but with a chorus this good, I’m more than happy to look past that.

MØ – When I Was Young

“This has quite the post-chorus, so listen out for that.”

Tim: New one off MØ, and it’s winter outside, and winter in the video, so let’s naturally set out getting a teensy bit tropical. And this has quite the post-chorus, so listen out for that.

Tim: And that’s a song.

Tom: A ringing endorsement, there. It starts out like almost it’s trying to be a Bond theme, decides not to for the chorus, and then goes somewhere else that’s both interesting and — to me, at least — a bit disappointing.

Tim: I like it, I think – or at least, having listened to it a few times now to write this I’m at least on board with it. That post-chorus did take me a bit by surprise, which I think was what prompted the repeated listens – it’s a while since we’ve a prominent brass line in a dance track, or at least one that I can think of, and it certainly works as a USP for this.

Tom: It’s… well, it’s not bad, I suppose? It’s not that I actively dislike it, I just can’t find anything to particularly like. Like you said, it has a USP at least.

Tim: Definitely more than the video, anyway, which is probably trying to have some sort of narrative but which really comes across as just a tad weird. But it’s mostly okay.

Wankelmut & Björn Dixgård – I Keep Calling

“Wankelmut. Dixgård.”

Tom: Wankelmut. Dixgård. I think it’s the diacritic that makes that.

Tim: Well, yes – I could barely type the names of the artists involved here without giggling, but please, try to maintain some sense of adulthood as we hear the track I described yesterday as ‘a song that’s probably better’.

Tim: And it is. I mean obviously it is, yesterday’s was technically awful, but this is enjoyable. Wankelmut’s proper name is Jacob, and he’s a dance producer off Germany, while Mr Dixgård is from Sweden, frontman of a rock band call Mando Diao.

And the vocals are good – it’s the second track we’ve had this week consisting of a dance beat with a throaty guy singing on top of it, and both times it works pretty well, to the extent that I’m almost surprised it hasn’t been done more often.

Tom: This reminds me, in a weird way, of Culture Beat’s Mr Vain. I mean, we’re a generation later so you’ve got completely different instruments and the now-required instrumental-sample chorus in place of the rap bit, but I think you can trace the influences: shouty vocals, repetitive lyrics, entirely danceable.

Tim: As far as the narrative of the song goes, well, it really doesn’t reflect well at all on Björn. At best he comes across as desperate, but more realistically he’s getting on for some kind of predator and that’s really not a good look right now. On the other hand, at least he’s not singing about roofies being great, so, y’know, let’s move on.

Tom: There are a lot of songs that haven’t aged well.

Tim: Musically it’s sound.

Tom: Well, yes, it is. Oh, sorry, yes, never mind, know what you mean.

Tim: Decent beat, decent melody, and the aforementioned strong vocals – so the main thing to take away from this: can we have more of this type, please?

Ill Blue feat. Glowie – Tribalist

“Dodgy synths, upsetting autotune and not a huge amount of melody to speak of.”

Tim: Dodgy synths, upsetting autotune and not a huge amount of melody to speak of.

Tom: You’re not selling this.

Tim: No, because by all rights I should hate this track, which is off a British duo and an Icelandic singer.

Tim: And here’s the thing: I really don’t like it, at all.

Tom: Okay, well done, you sold that well. I was expecting you to try and redeem it, which would be a difficult job.

Tim: Admittedly I don’t hate it, but every moment I’m sitting listening to it I’m thinking “I don’t really like this, why am I listening to it?” Except, I never actually get round to switching it off. When a suggested link pops up in the corner to take me to a song that’s probably better, I click on it, stick that new tab in the background, and switch back to get this going again.

Tom: Why?!

Tim: I really know – despite that awful synth, and the dullness of a lot of it, and the uninventive lyrics, I don’t switch it off. And I have no idea why.

Kygo feat. The Night Game – Kids in Love

“One heck of a post-chorus.”

Tim: A week or so Kygo quietly stuck a new album online, eight tracks each featuring a somewhat well known artist, much as Avicii did a couple of months back (though curiously enough, his Just Jesso feature which you described as “letting a toddler play with the volume control” didn’t make the cut). Here’s the title track, which also happens to be one of the best, as I see it.

Tom: Oh, that is good. That’s sounds a bit like… maybe like The Who? That’s not a comparison I expected to make.

Tim: It’s not remotely standard Kygo stuff – for that, you could do worse than check out the also very good Stranger Things, with OneRepublic – but it does have some very good piano dance work, with one heck of a post-chorus.

Tom: Objectively, there’s very little going on here: everything’s a bit repetitive. But compare it to yesterday’s mess: this here is an example of how to make a Big Track. Even that post-chorus stands out, like you said.

Tim: Not sure I’ve heard one before that is in itself a build and subsequent drop, but it sure enough works here. The vocal line is nice and emphatic, giving it everything the lyrics and backing music demand, and when those secondary vocals come along at the end that’s just a nice layer of icing on top of the already very tasty cake. Nice that he’s back on form.

Sanna Nielsen – Innen Du Lämnar Mig

“There’s a massive crane parked outside and Bjorn’s forgotten his lens stabiliser.”

Tim: Much as summer has been lovely, it seems futile to deny that winter has arrived whole-heartedly, so shall we have a deep and meaningful ballad to mark that? That’s a rhetorical question, because we shall.

Tom: “I know we booked this room to film in, but there’s a massive crane parked outside and Bjorn’s forgotten his lens stabiliser. Should we reschedule?” “Nah, just film it anyway.”

Anyway, that’s a pleasant enough ballad. What’s it about?

Tim: The title translates to ‘Before You Leave Me’, and the message is basically “I know you’re about to dump me so I’m kind of feeling I should say it first to maintain my dignity.” Thoroughly depressing, then, but at least it’s sung quite nicely so we can still pretty much enjoy the song anyway, right?

It’s a slow builder, but at least it does build; for some reason it reminded me of old Celine Dion tracks: both the slow build and, in a very specific musical reference, that final outro note.

Tim: Somehow, I find ballads like this more enjoyable if they’re in foreign, and I’m not entirely sure why – maybe because with calm music the words typically take priority, and so if I don’t understand them I don’t get distracted? Whatever the reason, though, this is very pleasant to hear. First of many, then?

Saturday Flashback: LOCASH – Ring On Every Finger

Tom: I’ve been driving through the midwest of America lately, and country music — or, rather, the mainstream country-pop that’s played by commercial radio stations — has been my soundtrack. It seemed right.

Tim: Makes sense, particularly as I now have a lovely image of you with aviator sunglasses and a sheriff’s stetson on your head.

Tom: No comment. But there’s something I’ve noticed, Tim, and I think it’s most obvious with this song. They’re singing “love bombs” not “F-bombs” in the chorus in the radio edit, by the way, that surprised me in this version.

Tom: This could be schlager.

Tim: Huh – yeah, you’re not wrong there. It’s certainly a heck of a lot more upbeat and interesting than that Sam Hunt track you brought to the table last week.

Tom: It’s three and a half minutes long. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, hammer the chorus home twice more, outro. All it’s missing is a key change — and, as far as I can tell, in country that’s replaced by a Southern accent, a guitar twang, and a wholesome message.

It was meant to be latin-pop. Then it turned into country. It doesn’t matter about the style: it could be any pop genre. The only thing that means this is being played on “KSKS Country” and not “100% NL” is that they’re using guitars and not synthesisers.

Tim: See, the thing that sticks out most in that paragraph is the bit about latin-pop – after all, we’ve seen any number of rock and guitar pop track redone as dance tracks. Hell, you could barely turn on a radio in the mid ’00s without hearing Cascada or DJ Sammy within half an hour. Never really imagined it with other genres. Though now I do, I guess we’ve also had Nica & Joe, and also Gregorian if that counts, and, yeah, many more.

Tom: I’m not saying all country-pop’s good, or that it’s even our genre. But sometimes, the Golden Rules of Pop shine through, and this is one of those times.

Tim: Yep. Good pop will always be that.

Maja Francis – Saved By The Summer

“Disgraceful behaviour.”

Tim: There’s a couple of lines here that remind me of Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human, but I promise it’s a lot more upbeat than that was.

Tim: Well, first off, since when was it acceptable to pull multiple petals off at once when you’re doing the loves me/loves me not thing? Disgraceful behaviour.

Tom: Any time you know the result you want, can see how many petals there are, and can calculate quickly. I’m more worried about when it’s become acceptable to apply a VHS filter to a vertical video.

Tim: Other than that, though, I’ve not really got any problems with this. Sure, there could be a bit more melody in the post-chorus (if indeed there can really be described to be any in the first place), but the actual sound of it is good enough that I really don’t care.

Tom: I am wondering why you described it as “upbeat”, at least until it got to the middle eight and final chorus. It takes a while to get there, but yeah, sure. It’s not an immediate replay, but it’s certainly not bad.

Tim: Though I do wish it was a little less Rag’n’Bone Man-y.

Post Precious – Timebomb

“Bold start there, and it plays out interestingly.”

Tim: As far as I can tell, this duo doesn’t actually have anything to do with the girlband who represented us at Eurovision.

Tom: Good heavens, that’s an obscure reference. Well done.

Tim: They’re instead two indie pop folk who’ve teamed up to bring us this joy. I don’t want to spoil it, but don’t have this too loud if you’re in a public place.

Tim: Bold start there, and it plays out interestingly.

Tom: I honestly can’t tell whether that’s “love, you’re fucked” or “love your foot” as the first line.

Tim: Rather than a standard build up to the chorus, it almost builds down throughout the verses before coming storming back in with a PROPER BANGER of a chorus, at least, sort of.

Tom: Oh, I’m glad you qualified that.

Tim: I’m about to criticise it, but I want to say first: overall, this is great. Love it. HOWEVER, I think it’s a lot better on first listen than it comes across later, or at least if you pay attention and study it after a couple of listens it somewhat loses it. First time, you’re blown away by that chorus, you don’t notice that it calms down quite considerably after that first note, and doesn’t *quite* ever make it back up there, which it doesn’t, upsetting.

Tom: Imagine if you weren’t blown away by that first chorus. I mean, I don’t have to, but you might want to.

Tim: Now, as I said, though, I still think it’s great, lovely, and listening to it in the background it’s fantastic, because it’s still big. Just, never quite hits that sweet spot that it did the first time.

Tom: Yep, despite my cynicism, this isn’t a bad track. It’s just a bit anemic for me; it never hit that sweet spot.