Saturday Flashback: Kim Petras – Everybody Dies

“Perhaps a melodramatic choice to send over for our last song, Tim. But I think it’s apt in more subtle ways as well.”

Tim: Well that’s certainly a title.

Tom: Perhaps a melodramatic choice to send over for our last song, Tim. But I think it’s apt in more subtle ways as well. Over the ten years we’ve been doing this, there are only a handful of times I’ve cared enough to download a full album. BWO’s Big Science was the first, ten years ago; and come to think of it, “Kings of Tomorrow” would also be a good song to end on.

Tim: True, actually – a great song from a great band.

Tom: We talked about Kim Petras’s music for the first time back in February; Turn Off The Light has become one of my most-played albums this year since then. Despite its novelty “spooky Hallowe’en” status, and that it’s borderline a concept album, I think it’s proper, really enjoyable pop, from someone with a great voice and a lot of talent.

Tim: I’ve not yet checked out the whole album, but as I said at the time I certainly enjoyed There WIll Be Blood. What’s this one, then?

Tom: The last track on the album: it’s the last dance before the lights come on and everyone goes home.

Tom: I think it sums up exactly the sort of music we were hoping to find when we set this site up, ten years ago. The sort of music you hear randomly on some European radio station. The sort of music that’s catchy and poppy and a bit frowned on by the Serious Music World. The sort of music that can be fun and meaningless if it wants to, and that’s fine, but can reach emotional depth too.

Tim: And very often, the sort of music people hear you playing and ask “what the hell is this?”, but then if you manage to persuade them to give it a go realise they might actually slightly enjoy it. 

Tom: Tim, it’s been a pleasure.

Tim: A pleasure, and an education. 

Emili Milou – Jag Har Hört

“Don’t worry, it’s chirpy!”

Tim: For our final new track, let’s have a rummage around the old inbox for a less well known artist, shall we? The title translates to ‘I’ve Heard’, and apparently it’s about a break-up that Emili went through a few years back. But don’t worry, it’s chirpy!

Tom: It is chirpy, isn’t it? Although having commented on Kylie’s subtle but strong stereo effects yesterday, I can’t help but comment that this is exactly the wrong way to do stereo: instruments shouldn’t seem like they’re flying around the listener’s head. (There’s been a terrible gimmick fad for “remixing” tracks using that sort of production on YouTube, and I’m not in favour.)

Tim: See, I first heard this sitting at my computer and didn’t notice that, but on second listen with noise isolating headphones, then…huh. I checked out a track from that article and, well, this isn’t quite as weird as having Ed Sheeran wander all around the tube carriage on my way to work, but you’re right that it is a little disconcerting.

Aside from that, though, well. I’m not saying that the break-up was necessarily a good thing (and I can’t find the lyrics online so sadly I can’t tell you Emili’s feelings on the matter), but if it led to this song’s existence I can only see it as a net positive, really, because oh, are there a lot of things in there that I really like.

Tom: For the last time, Tim: name ’em.

Tim: Oh, alright, since you ask. We’ve the gentle synthy backing in there, and the lovely soft vocal on top of it. The Out Of The Woods-style simplicity of the chorus, and the rhythm that it brings along with it. The sudden genre shift for the middle eight, which comes out of nowhere but manages not to sound horribly out of place. The charming backing vocals at the end, that stop the repetition getting boring because they just carry you along gently through to the end of the song, at which point you press the button to play it all over again. Because it’s properly lovely.

Tom: It is. I’d just prefer it in mono, I think.

Tim: And, well, it seems that’s it. Once more tomorrow for a brief look back?

Tom: I think I know exactly the right track for the occasion.

Kylie Minogue – Say Something

“Is there a bit of a CHVRCHES influence there?”

Tom: The late-80s revival style continues to be popular in our current nostalgia cycle, so let’s talk about a new track from someone who was there the first time around.

Tom: And is it me, or is there a bit of a CHVRCHES influence there?

Tim: Blimey, there’s very much a CHVRCHES influence there – if Kylie were singing with a slightly Scottish twang I’d immediately think it was from them. It’s interesting, really, how we talk about late-80s revival, because that is absolutely not a late-80s Kylie track, it’s a 2020 track – it’s not so much a revival as a gentle evolution of pop, having taken a slight 30 year pause to do things like Britpop and dubstep along the way.

Tom: An odd thing that I don’t think I’ve ever commented on here: this is a track with a lot of heavy stereo effects that, somehow, just work. Try removing just one headphone, and suddenly it’s much, much flatter, even missing out some parts entirely. There’s a real feat of engineering and production involved to create something this stereo-heavy BUT also not make the effect obvious and distracting.

Tim: Huh, yeah, you’re not wrong. Nicely done, Kylie. Top work.

Saturday Flashback: Stee Wee Bee – A Star (In The Name Of Our Love)

“Here’s a mystery for you.”

Tom: Here’s a mystery for you, Tim. You remember Ein Stern? Nik P, then DJ Ötzi, then brought back again last year?

Tim: Of course.

Tom: Well, the definitive version — the first Ötzi one — came out in 2007. The Wikipedia article for it lists a half-dozen translations. But this one isn’t there. And I can’t find any more information about it.

Tim: They got rid of the key change. That’s disappointing. But otherwise, gosh.

Tom: Who is Stee Wee Bee?

Tim: Was going to be my next question – it’s an entirely ridiculous name, whoever it is.

Tom: No idea. I suspect it’s the producer, not the vocalist, because the name turns up again on this cheesy but fun Neil Sedaka remix. But in theory they could be the same person: there’s no reason a vocalist can’t also produce. Or it could be a deliberate disguise for someone else.

Tim: Well, that “are you ready?” line about a minute sounds very much like early Basshunter, but it’s probably not him. Sadly.

Tom: Either way, this track sits in that sort of odd wasteland of tracks that turn up on Eurodance compilation CDs and Dance Nation’s annual Christmas release. And it’s competent, of course: but where it falls down is that the cadence required for “A Star” just doesn’t work in English. “Ein Stern”? Sure. Sounds fine. But you can’t put emphasis on ‘a’ without it sounding.. well, like this.

Tim: Yeah. ‘One Star’ could work and not mess up the message too much, but yeah, not ‘A Star’.

Jessica Bohlin – Från Norr Till Söder

“Fancy some nice country pop?”

Tim: Fancy some nice country pop?

Tom: Well, that’s pleasant enough, isn’t it?

Tim: Title translates to ‘From North To South’, lyrics are nowhere to be found online so sadly I can’t tell you about them. The music, though, I think is absolutely lovely – First Aid Kit is the group that leaps to mind as a comparison (and apparently one out of them had a baby last month, how lovely). It’s speedy, it’s got a lovely melody throughout, the vocal’s excellent, and the backing oohh-ooh-ooohs after the second chorus and at the end are delightful.

Tom: “Nice” isn’t a goal that pop often aims for, and certainly not one that gets rewarded all that often. They’ve managed it here, though.

Tim: All in, rather nice track.

The Mamas – Move (Hogland Remix)

“Bit of a banger, really.”

Tim: We didn’t feature the original of this, Sweden’s would-have-been Eurovision entry, largely because neither of us thought a great deal of it. A couple of weeks I heard it again, though, and it turns out I liked it a bit more on second listen. It also turns out I like it a LOT more when Hogland’s had a go at it.

Tim: Bit of a banger, really.

Tom: My brain stuttered a bit at “life, oh life“, but yes, that is a marked improvement on the original. Although I wonder how much of that is because it’s a better song, and how much of it is that it’s just… faster.

Tim: If I have any criticism, it’s that it’s almost too fast, as a large amount of the vocals seem immediately a bit off, with it being blindingly obvious that it’s a pre-recorded track sped up.

Tom: Yep. There’s not a lot of vibrato in there — and that vocal quality is of course, incredible — but the melisma in the middle eight doesn’t survive well.

Tim: It’s not so bad in the opening part of the verse, and the backing vocals and post-chorus oh-ohs are fine, but it’s the main chorus when they’re together that it falls down a bit. On the other hand, that is largely made up for by all the extra speed and extra vaguely tropical bits that are chucked on top, what with it now being a significantly more enjoyable track. Hooray for remixes!

Dario G feat. Leslie P George – You Make The Sunrise

“Lovely track, isn’t it?”

Tim: Dario G brought out Hola, his first new album in almost 20 years, a couple of weeks ago and yesterday I finally got round to listening to it. Pleasingly, it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in recent years – not necessarily because all the tracks are brilliant (though there are a lot of great tracks), but because of the way it’s put together, with a definite beginning, middle and end, rather than a standard “yep, here’s twelve tracks, chuck ’em on there”.

Tom: Right! As streaming increasingly moves towards singles and playlists, there’s not much room left for albums with a theme, let alone the old idea of concept albums. Which makes sense — recorded music has always adjusted to fit the medium it’s on — but I do feel it’s a bit of a shame. I like listening to An Album: and as you say, this is An Album.

Tim: We’ve an intro track, for example, with themes of the title track that we both enjoyed, which then gives way into this.

Tim: Lovely track, isn’t it? A lot of Dario G trademarks – those long backing vocal notes stand out particularly well, and the repetition of a fairly short melody with few lyrics that on some tracks would sound wrong, but here almost come across as almost earnest, just six words to get the message across.

Tom: It is, and I like the track overall. That one vocal line is just a bit too repetitive for me: it’s not like there’s a whole verse in there to run through. Which means I think there isn’t quite enough to sustain this length of track; it needs one, maybe two more layers.

(Side note: wouldn’t that sampled Dream Academy chant from Sunchyme go very nicely over the top of this? I know, almost every musical artist hates their old work being dragged up with the line “ooh, I liked that better”, but there’s the sun connection, and I do feel it needs… something.)

Tim: I don’t know – maybe it might be enhanced (few things in this world can’t be), but I definitely wouldn’t say it needs anything. But ACTUALLY I’m going to go off on a stupid Tim tangent here–

Tom: All right, brace yourselves, everyone.

Tim: –because I’ve just noticed that the ‘Sunrise’ in the title is written as one word, not the two that I’d assumed, which gives it an ever so slightly different meaning. My assumption was ‘You Make The Sun Rise’, a metaphor indicating that Leslie’s target inspires him, really improves his life and makes his day. Whereas ‘Sunrise’, one word, implies that the target is most likely Helios, Greek god of the sun who would pull the sun across the sky every day in a chariot. And it’s a long time since I’ve heard a great dance track that is also dedicated to an ancient god, and to be honest, I’m all for that.

Anyone up for a remix of Zero to Hero?

Lisa Børud – Me Without U

“It’s been a while since I’ve heard string-stab samples in an intro.”

Tim: Lisa debuted with a fairly decent entry in Norway’s Melodifestivalen Grand Prix this year; clearly of the belief that three minutes is too long for a pop song, here’s her even shorter follow-up.

Tom: Huh. It’s been a while since I’ve heard string-stab samples in an intro.

Tim: Not a bad song, that, is it? Good and fast, as I suppose it has to be to get itself finished in that short time without feeling like it’s missing something. And it really doesn’t.

Tom: Yeah, fair play there, there’s even time for the song to build.

Tim: Typically low key first verse, but then that speed means we get to the meat of the song that much faster, hitting the high energy of the chorus in barely thirty seconds – which is, of course, the all important point as far as the streaming payout goes. As for that meat, it’s really quite meaty indeed – lyrics are fine, volume doesn’t let up, melody and production underneath is great, and those violins in the middle eight are lovely to hear.

Tom: It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’ll do as a solid middle-of-the-playlist track.

Tim: All in, nice song.

Seeb x Julie Bergan – Don’t You Wanna Play?

“That was a delightful surprise, getting something novel after the second chorus.”

Tim: It’s a dance track that’s only 2:18 in length, it’s gonna be one of those frustrating ones that just has two verses, two choruses and nothing else, right?


Tom: Never mind that! What about the menacing cartoon face in the video? Julie Bergan, you have been absolutely insulted by whoever drew that cartoon, it looks like a villain from a 90s cartoon, just a disembodied head bouncing around and yelling threatening questions. It was bad enough that I actually tabbed away, just so I could give the song a fair treatment.

You’re right, though, it does at least go somewhere interesting.

Tim: That was a delightful surprise, getting something novel after the second chorus. Admittedly it was only a couple of extra vocal lines, but it’s better than nothing at all, right? I’m fairly certain that liking this track will hinge squarely on that post-chorus, because there’s a lot of squeaking and squealing there and it pretty much drowns out the rest of the song when you’re thinking back after it’s finished. I’m going in and saying I quite like it – it certainly doesn’t put me off at all, and it’s a nice standout feature.

Tom: Right! I think if you changed the timbre of that synth just a little, it’d be like nails on a chalkboard, but it just about gets away with it.

Tim: In any case, even if you don’t like it the song’s barely two minutes long, there’s hardly time to head off the dancefloor to get another drink even if you wanted to. Huh, ‘dancefloor’. I remember those. Vaguely.

Samir & Viktor – Vad Sa Du Att Du Hette

“This is the point, it turns out, where I switch over from ‘well, at least that’s endearingly enthusiastic’ to just being grumpy at them.”

Tim: Summer’s here, in theory, so let’s have a dance track from these lads, shall we? Title translates to “what did you say were called?”, to be sung bleary-eyed the morning after.

Tom: Classy.

Tim: As ever, potty language dotted throughout.

Tim: And there it is, an entirely typical Samir & Viktor track.

Tom: This is the point, it turns out, where I switch over from “well, at least that’s endearingly enthusiastic” to just being grumpy at them.

Tim: Will they ever get bored of their schtick, the old pretending-to-sing-but-it’s-basically-drunken-yelling stuck over a dance backing with a bit of brass? Probably not. Does it matter? Absolutely and entirely not.

Tom: The track sounds like a cheap rip-off of Basshunter. The video’s animation looks like an Ikea instruction sheet. The message of the song is LADS LADS LADS. They really are the knock-off cheap version of Jedward, aren’t they?

Tim: God knows I couldn’t listen to an album of the stuff, but getting a new shouty dance track once or twice a year is kind of a tradition, really, and I wouldn’t dream of wanting to stop it.