Astrid S – Emotion

“I’m sure that it’s good noise.”

Tim: NOISE.

Tim: Is it good noise? I’m not sure. I think it is.

Tom: I’m sure that it’s good noise. What I like is that these are chord progressions and melodies that you could hear in schlager, and drums that you could have heard in a Phil Collins track decades ago, but they’re applied to a really Intense Big Dark Modern Production.

Tim: It almost, in fact, reminds me of the dark days of dubstep five or six years ago, where we’d get a nice melodic verse and chorus before suddenly a HRRRRRRNNKK VWOMP VWOMP VWORP NEEEEEEEOOOOOWWW would come along and ruin everything. It’s not nearly as bad as that here, of course, not least because the only time it really happens so suddenly is after the first chorus – after that, I’m slightly prepared for it, and it has vocals layered on top which calms it down somewhat.

Tom: My only complaint — and let’s take a moment to appreciate how rare those words are here — is that because everything’s compressed so hard, the mroe subtle instrumentation gets swamped under the BIG NOISE. But overall, yeah, I really like this. It’s not BIG VWORP DUBSTEP, it’s something much better.

Tim: It’s also, obviously, nowhere near as harsh a sound, so, yeah, overall I think it’s good noise. Positive, at least.

Tom: I hit replay immediately after listening, and I sang along with the chorus. That’s everything I want in a pop song. This is great.

Anna Bergendahl – Rasie The Vibe

“You just know the singer will clap their hands above their head in every single live performance.”

Tim: Hello Tom and welcome back!

Tom: Thanks! I’m just about coping! Let’s talk about music!

Tim: You may (or may not, I’d completely forgotten) that Anna came back earlier this year with a slightly country-esque number with occasional synths; it didn’t chart anywhere but why let that spoil anything?

Tim: And THAT THERE is one of those songs where you just know the singer will clap their hands above their head in every single live performance to get the crowd going along as well.

Tom: I’m not sure, but I think all the drummer has to do, through all the verses, is stomp on the kick drum pedal every beat. Frankly, the crowd clapping along would perk it up a bit.

Tim: In fairness, though, it’s a perfectly decent song to clap along to, and one that does indeed raise the vibe of what might otherwise have been a dull gig. And for that, I’ll take it. Particularly that nice background vocal and drumbeat back from the middle eight. That’s very nice, that bit.

Tom: It is. But I’m not sure the middle eight being very nice is enough to make a barnstorming pop hit.

Saturday Flashback: Roland Kaiser and Maite Kelly – Warum hast du nicht nein gesagt

“Isn’t it nice that the German breakfast newsreaders released their own single?”

Tom: We’re covering this, Tim, simply because it autoplayed after that DJ Ötzi track you sent me, and my first thought on seeing the video was “isn’t it nice that the German breakfast newsreaders released their own single?”

Tim: Erm…

Tim: Ah, yes. Yeah, that is a weird video look, isn’t it? Nice song, mind, despite (or perhaps thanks to) it being entirely predictable – well, almost, as I reckon Ladbrokes would have given you evens on a key change.

Tom: Roland Kaiser, it turns out, has a long and storied history with writing and singing schlager (and it’s even longer in German). We’ve talked before about how Germany seems more than happy to have a large roster of older male schlager singers who’ve been entertaining for decades with uncomplicated, undemanding pop.

That’s not meant as an insult: sometimes this is exactly what you need to cheer you up.

Tim: It really really is. Just a lot of fun.

Tim Schou – Run Run Run Run Run

“Significantly less entertaining than the video that accompanies it.”

Tim: Top name, this lad, and here we have a song that’s significantly less entertaining than the video that accompanies it. But let’s have a gander anyway.

Tom: It was nice of Portugal. The Man to let him borrow their bassline, wasn’t it? Sadly that is pretty much the best part of the track. As for that video…

Tim: TIMMY TIME is without a doubt my single favourite moment of that video, but the cartoon Tim riding a flying rainbow horse is pretty good as well, I must say. An interesting tale is told, and while it’s not a situation I’ve ever found myself in I’m sure it can be fairly traumatic.

Tom: Mm. I’m not convinced: I’m always irritated by music videos that just tell the story of the song when there’s an opportunity to do more. The animation doesn’t help, nor does the blatant “Look, A Woman Disrobing But Not Too Far”.

Tim: As far as the song goes, it’s somewhat ear-wormy, and that underlying humming does get a bit much after a couple of listens, but it’s not unenjoyable.

Not a patch on that video, though.

Saturday Flashback: The Wanted – Chasing The Sun

“A song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.”

Tim: So here’s something I didn’t realise existed until a few days ago: a song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.

Tim: Isn’t that just very, very Example? Almost enough that, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were credited as ‘Example feat. The Wanted’.

Tom: Yep: there’s a clear distinction between songwriter and producer here. And speaking of production: this is the first pop song I’ve heard in a long, long while where there’s a clear difference in loudness between verse and chorus. It’s not just my imagination: I actually pulled it into a waveform editor to check. That chorus is genuinely louder, just like the Old Days.

Tim: It’s nice – combination of good boyband and a good DJ. Nothing much to say about it, really – I was just quite intrigued to discover that it existed.

Rhys feat. Felix Sandman – Starfish

“I got a sense that this was about to get special a second or so before it actually did.”

Tim: We’ve only featured one of Rhys’s tracks before, and also only one of Felix’s. Hers we liked; his not so much.

Tom: Liked is an understatement: Last Dance turned out to be one of my favourite tracks of last year.

Tim: Let’s try a combination, then.

Tom: Well, that takes its time to get going, doesn’t it?

Tim: Weirdly, I got a sense that this was about to get special a second or so before it actually did, so I listened back and realised there’s some brilliant production work going on.

The first verse is of the variety that could go either way – massively overblown vocal samples, deep r&b, even tropical, wherever. That pre-chorus makes it a bit clearer, but then it’s the 1 minute point, where there’s a very brief rising string bit, which suddenly drops into an absolutely lovely chorus – and just that tiny bit makes it sound so so good.

Tom: And that chorus, in turn, explains the verse: oh, that’s why it sounds like that. I do reckon that this track would have been better by briefly previewing the chorus at the start — I nearly tuned out — but perhaps it’s just a grower. It’s no Last Dance, but it’s certainly got a spark of the same genius.

Tim: We’ve no lengthy traditional build to get up hopes and expectation that might not be met, nor a really sudden shift, but just a tiny, almost imperceptible interlude, saying ‘hey, you’ll enjoy this’. And I really did. I’d say it’s great anyway, but that one smidgen of a note switched it up to brilliant.

Rebecca – The Show

“There are a lot of very good parts in here, and one really bad part.”

Tim: You’ll recall that Norway sent Alexander Rybak to Eurovision this year with a godawful track; you may or may not recall the bloody brilliant song that upsettingly came second. Here’s Rebecca’s follow up to that.

Tom: There are a lot of very good parts in here, and one really bad part.

Tim: It’s not as fantastic as Who We Are, but that’s because Who We Are was a Big Emotional Ballad and there’s a time and a place for that; this song belongs here and now, though, and it’s pretty good as that. It’s interesting, though – as so often the case, the best bits are the loud bits, once the song has warmed up, except, well. The second chorus picks things up, the middle eight carries them on, all sounding good.

We’ve a traditional brief dip, but then everything’s back in for the closing minute or so. And when I say everything, it pretty much is everything – multiple vocal layers, instruments, all turned up loud and vying for attention and kind of sounding a bit messy.

Tom: Really? You’re right about nearly all of that: the strings are brilliant, the steady build is great, but how does on earth can you support that weird mating-seal-noise synth that blares through everything?

Tim: Hmm, okay, I hear what you’re saying – but firstly that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because it’s there in total for about a minute and a bit, and secondly for a large part of that it’s somewhat overshadowed by everything else, in the same way that everything else is: messily. It’s an organised mess, sure – but I’m reminded of the horrific Battle Round in The Voice, where ostensibly two contestants perform a duet together but it basically descends into a shouting match within about a minute. It’s rhythmic enough, so nothing really sounds out of place – but it’s still a bit of a mess.

The Sound of Arrows – Perfect Circle

“This opening track is a blinder.”

Tim: I’m going to see these guys perform tonight and I’m VERY excited, not least because last Friday they dropped an EP of off-cuts, remixes and instrumentals out of nowhere.

Tom: Ah, the old “let’s get a bit more money from the fans” trick.

Tim: Huh, I’d not thought of it like that, because I’ve just assumed everybody streams music – certainly in Sweden, where three fifths of all households subscribe to a streaming service. They framed it as “here’s something we think you’ll like”, and the only link provided was to it on Spotify.

Tom: Huh. Yes, that’s fair. Although it still means they get more money, even if it’s indirectly.

Tim: Anyway, it’s a mixed bag, as you might expect, but this opening track is a blinder.

Tim: Now we all know these guys are my favourite band of all time; perhaps less well known is that Hurts are my second favourite band (with Busted a close third, @ me at your peril). It therefore absolutely delights me that this actually wouldn’t sound too out of place on a current Hurts album, vocal differences aside – and I don’t think I’m saying that just because that opening piano triplet is off a Hurts song, which I can’t place exactly right now.

Tom: The Sound of Arrows have often left me cold — I know, they’re your favourite — but I’ll admit that there are some really lovely parts in here. That pre-chorus, with its octave-leaping, and the first parts of that instrumental chorus. I can see why you like it.

Tim: Synth notes, piano notes giving way to large drumbeats for much of the instrumentation, and even a vaguely reverent vibe to it. It all fits together nicely, and sounds gosh darn wonderful.

The Ting Tings – Blacklight

“Today in ‘I remember them! Wait, they’re still going?'”

Tom: Today in “I remember them! Wait, they’re still going?”

Tom: I shouldn’t like this.

Tim: No. It’s bloody awful.

Tom: And, on a second and third listen, I almost certainly won’t. But I haven’t heard someone use those synths in a serious pop song in… well, probably since the Ting Tings brought their first album out, or maybe earlier.

Tim: Well, maybe, but…no. Just, no. There is one slightly redeeming part, which is that instrumental when the lyric video, if it can be called that, just plugs the album, and there’s some form of melody. But, regardless of the ingredients…really, no.

Tom: This feels like a 2000s track that’s somehow reappeared a decade later, and I think it’s…

Tim: Horrific, terrible, just plain noise?

Tom: …yeah, actually, you know what, I just tried to listen to it a second time and no, I don’t want to hear it again.

Correct.

Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

“Where have I heard these Big Piano Chords in the verse before?”

Tom: In a world increasingly dominated by vertical video and square video, music video directors continue to use EXTREME WIDESCREEN. And I have a question for you, Tim: where have I heard these Big Piano Chords in the verse before?

Tom: I mean, good power ballad, weakened a bit by that “drown, drown, drown” bit and the middle eight, but with a properly intense chorus and a voice that is still clearly Avril Lavigne despite being surrounded by a lot of instrumentation and production.

Tim: It is, and there’s also a nice vocal variation between the trademark shouty vocals and the softer parts required in the early parts of the verses and the pre-chorus, rather than just an adjustment of volume, which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Tom: But I’d swear I’ve heard that effect in the verse before. You know, where it sounds like someone’s pushing most of the keys on a grand piano at the same time, just to emphasise that this is still a big moment despite being the slow bit of the song. Any ideas?

Tim: Hmm…Let It Go? I mean, upping the backing for the second verse, or even the second part of the first verse, is hardly novel. What is novel, mind, is using a typeface in a lyric video with an apostrophe that horrific.