Galantis – Unless It Hurts

“This here is Galantis on the very top of their game, and I am ALL HERE FOR IT.”

Tim: Galantis have got a new album out today, hurrah! And even better, over the past few days, they’ve been putting out lyric videos for multiple tracks. First there was Steel, probably the closest they’ll ever get to releasing a heartfelt ballad; Wednesday gave us Stella, which is entirely okay; and yesterday we got this, probably the second closest they’ll ever get to releasing a heartfelt ballad.

Tom: Those are some Matt Bellamy-quality inbreaths on that first verse. But, uh, well, it doesn’t stay as “heartfelt ballad” for long, does it?

Tim: So, yeah, I say second closest, it’s not really close at all, save for the slightly soppy lyrics and piano-only first verse. (Steel, on the other hand, is thin piano line all the way through to the start of the post-chorus, and boy is it frustrating.) It gets going fairly quickly, though, with that drum build coming along soon enough leading to a good chorus (with a memorable lyric line!) and typically great post-chorus. This here is Galantis on the very top of their game, and I am ALL HERE FOR IT.

Tom: It is! I disagree with the message of the song, but–

Tim: BUT ALSO that might have sounded like a conclusion, but speaking of that lyric line, it’s struck me that it almost goes counter to what I was saying yesterday about dance tunes having meaningful lyrics.

Tom: I mean, they’re not that meaningful, are they? “If I had to hit a train to make you stay”? And like I was saying, I’m not convinced that insisting that love should hurt is really a good message to be sending.

Tim: Sure, this absolutely doesn’t need a press release talking about how it was inspired by a break-up after an ARGUMENT OF EMOTIONAL TORMENT but which should have been put back together but now it’s too late, but the lyrics do work to build up even more to the drop, to sing or shout along to before going nuts with your arms in the air. Or is that just me?

Tom: I think it’s just you.

COY – Promises

“It’s a proper dance banger.”

Tim: “This song is about love-bound promises that are easy to make but harder to keep,” but more importantly it’s a proper dance banger so no-one will really care about any of that.

Tim: I do wonder with dance track why songwriters come out with all the guff about how the songs are deep and meaningful to them, because when it’s a big soulful ballad or something then sure, that comes across, you can hear the artist singing it, imagine what they’re thinking, get even more from the song, that sort of thing.

Tom: Sometimes, it’s just the PR team insisting that there be some words to send with the press release: the songwriter might just take a look at what the PR team’s sent over, and go, “sure, yeah, I guess”.

Tim: A song like this, though, where you’ve taken your words and are wrapping them up in MASSIVE BEATS and BIG VOCAL WEIRD THINGS and PULSING RHYTHMS, and we might as well have H.P. Baxxter chatting about how Back In The UK is a song about how strongly he feels for this country, and what a great sense of joy he experiences every times he lands at Gatwick. I mean, sure, the lyrics are there: but who cares when you’ve got this level of backing?

Tom: I wasn’t convinced about your description of ‘dance banger’ until I listened back a second time: I was expecting it to go all-in at the start rather than saving it for the middle eight and final chorus. But once I adjusted those expectations: yeah, I agree with you. This doesn’t need the description.

Tomi Saario – Just A Little

“You know how when you hear a song described as ‘jaunty’, it can either be a compliment or a sign of something terrible to come? Well.”

Tim: You know how when you hear a song described as ‘jaunty’, it can either be a compliment or a sign of something terrible to come? Well.

Tom: “Something about your naked body when it’s shaking / tells me all I need to know” isn’t technically the worst lyric we’ve heard here, but it certainly made me grimace. I think it’s mostly that he used “it”, not “you”: that tips it over into creepy. I think the typewriter makes it worse.

Tim: Why a typewriter? No idea, but I can’t help the feeling that if this were happening eight years ago he’d be wearing a stupid fedora or something, and that we’re only a couple of songs away from the video being him busking. I don’t know, I’m probably being unfair (though I doubt it), so let’s move on to the song, and in this case I’m actually enjoying it.

Tom: I can see why: and that introduction showed a lot of promise. I just can’t get over those lyrics, the weird vocal samples in the verses, and the fact the entire track is just proclaiming how much sex he’s having.

Tim: Yes, it wouldn’t take much for it to push it over into ‘irritating’ territory, but as it is I like it. It’s catchy in a good way, the melody (or lack of it, in the chorus) is nice, everything in the background works as well (though I suspect that kazoo sound may prove divisive). For me, I’m just about in. Just about.

Tom: As, apparently, is he.

Saturday Flashback: Kim Petras – There Will Be Blood

“Well, that doesn’t sound like a novelty track, does it?”

Tom: We’ve never talked about Kim Petras before. In fact, I’d somehow missed her entirely until I heard one track on the radio in Luxembourg this week. Not on Radio Luxembourg, you understand, it was just on the radio while I was in Luxembourg.

Tim: Right, sure.

Tom: Anyway: Kim is German, has self-published her dance-pop music to great acclaim, and is now at the point where she’s doing Proper Tours. She also released a Hallowe’en-themed EP in October 2018, and while I’m not saying every track of the seventeen on there there is a banger, it’s got one of the highest hit rates of an album I’ve heard in a while. One of them’s got Elvira as a guest voice, for crying out loud. Novelty themed LPs just aren’t meant to be good, and yet, I reckon this one is. There are multiple tracks on there where I looked up from working and actually, properly, listened.

Anyway, here’s the big opening number.

Tim: Coo, blimey. Yeah, I see why.

Tom: And I’ve got not much to say other than: well, that doesn’t sound like a novelty track, does it?

Tim: No, but just because an album has a theme, there’s no reason for them all to be weird – hell, My Chemical Romance released an entire album about a fictional guy’s death, and I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to some of those tracks.

Tom: I know “four beats on the same note” is hardly an original idea for the first line of a chorus—

Tim: Well, neither’s doing it for every line of a chorus – but it works.

Tom: —but hey: there’s a reason it’s still getting radio play. Albeit in Luxembourg. I couldn’t tell you about the rest of the world.

KEiiNO – Colours

“It’s been quite the year for KEiiNO.”

Tim: It’s been quite the year for KEiiNO – storming to victory in Norway’s Eurovision selection programme, winning the televote (stupid juries) in Tel Aviv.

Tom: That’s still a frustrating result: Norway won the televote with a great song, Sweden won the jury vote with a great song. But the combined winner was… well, let’s go with “decided by committee”. But yes, KEiiNO mean that a lot more people now know the word “joik”.

Tim: And, most impressively of all, producing a version of Fairytale of New York that’s actually likeable. Today they’re out with a new one, and I’ll be honest: if you don’t like it, you’re a proper wrong’un.

Tim: Oh, ain’t it good? Part of me was worried, throughout the first verse and chorus, that we might get a sudden STOP in everything, so he can come in with his chanting joik, which, however much it is their USP, would break it up horrendously.

Fortunately for everyone, they know how to make a good piece of pop music, which this absolutely and totally gone and done.

Tom: Somehow, they’ve managed to perfectly straddle the line between “novelty act” and “serious pop act”, and just end up with “pop act with unique recognisable sound”. That is incredibly difficult.

Tim: It really is, because yes, he’s there, as a notable part of the backing track, so it’s recognisably them, and it also works really, really well as part of this track.

Tom: I’m sure I’ve heard bits of this melody in other songs (“show me where your heart is singing” feels rather similar to the opening of Feel This Moment), but that just means you’ve got a combination of familiarity and novelty. It’s good.

Tim: Sure, and I’m the same with the Christmas mix of Are You With Me with the verse backing and occasional jingle, but so what? That’s a perfectly good track to be reminded of, and like you said, familiarity and novelty. Everything about this, really, is perfectly good. Perfectly great, in fact.

Josef Sedraïa – Lillasyster

“You know what? I’m actually prepared to go out on a limb and say I like this.”

Tim: Normally, Tom, I’ve a vague idea whether or not you’ll like a song before I send it to you. This time, though, I don’t know whether you’ll love it, think it’s just too over the top, or have just a general ‘ehh’.

Tom: Statistically, it’s very likely to be the latter.

Tim: Have a listen.

Tom: First off, I’m uncomfortable with that video, which was apparently filmed in Mosul on the day it was officially liberated from ISIS? There’s clearly a lot of context that I’m not translating well in that article — or at least, I hope there is. I’m going to assume this wasn’t just some guy turning up to film a music video in Iraq.

Anyway, the music, which is now in a background tab for me.

Tim: For me, you can probably guess, I love it. The nice thing about it is that yes, there are bits that I’m not keen on – the pre-chorus, the first half of the middle eight – but in each case they are immediately followed by something much better that what came previously.

Tom: You know what? I’m actually prepared to go out on a limb and say I like this. I don’t love it — like you said, that talky bit in the middle eight is pretty awful, and I am baffled by what appears to be boogie-woogie piano briefly appearing in an early chorus. There are good bits.

Tim: That chorus, for example, is entirely lovely, and that bit at the end is…well, to be honest I’ve no idea what it is, it’s a complete musical smorgasbord, but it sounds delightful. Any good for you?

Tom: It’s… good. I’m actually willing to say it’s good.

Louis Tomlinson – Walls

“You know, just once I’d like an ex-boy-band member to go into, I don’t know, hardstyle or bubblegum pop.”

Tom: He’s gone for Serious Modern Adult Contemporary Pop. You know, just once I’d like an ex-boy-band member to go into, I don’t know, hardstyle or bubblegum pop.

Tim: Hmm, I’m trying to think of an example to use as a “well, actually” here, but I’m really not sure I can – it’s always the ‘we don’t like being manufactured pop, we want to be serious instead’ narrative.

Tom: That first verse and chorus: guitars that sound a bit like Oasis, key changes that sound a bit like the Killers.

Tim: Yep: very much SMACP. The video’s weird, though: from that initial DIRECTED BY bit I was expecting a big fancy narrative from it, maybe even Alan Walker style. Instead: nope, just a few different scenes, chopping and changing between them with no real rhyme or reason. 

Tom: There’s a lot of good stuff going on here, but: fundamentally, it’s just not that good a chorus, is it?

Tim: No – it’s fine, decent enough, and I can still remember it a couple of minutes after the song’s finished, but I’ve no immense desire to press play on it again.

Tom: The fans’ll go for it, Radio 2 might playlist it for a bit, but I don’t think we’ve got the sort of all-time hit that an ex-1Der would be hoping for.

Tim: GO WITH THE BUBBLEGUM POP, LOUIS. 

Meja – Todays & Tomorrows

“Meja’s been going as a soloist for twenty five years now, and here’s her latest.”

Tim: Meja’s been going as a soloist for twenty five years now, and here’s her latest, and I pressed play on it and immediately felt Christmassy.

Tom: …it’s January. Is that a good thing?

Tim: Have a listen, you tell me.

Tom: Huh. You’re not wrong, but I can’t place why. Those aah-aah-aahs in the background do sound familiar, but even with the clue of Christmas, I can’t quite place it.

Tim: At first I thought it was the 12/8 time signature (though that helps), but no, there’s another reason and part of me doesn’t want to point it out because if you haven’t noticed it and you enjoy the song then it might spoil it for you, so I’ll leave it.

Tom: I do enjoy this — it’s the first track we’ve covered in a while that’s felt like it’d inspire a phone-torches-in-the-air moment if it’s played at a gig.

Tim: Yes, I thought you’d like it. So…

Tom: But I’m not worried about it being ruined for me. Go on, what have I missed?

Tim: Well, those aah-aah-aahs you mentioned, and indeed a large part of the underlying guitar melody, seem very similar indeed, to my ears at least, to one particular track I’M SORRY.

Tom: Oh no.

Tim: But even with that, it’s a nice song, with a good style that works for her, straight out of the nineties. I do have an issue with the lyrics, though, which is that they’re basically meaningless: is she criticising the person she’s singing at, or complimenting them, or being romantic, or just providing something to think about? No idea. Sounds nice, though.

Christopher – Ghost

“Successful musician, lovely hair, but just keeps getting abandoned.”

Tim: Poor, poor Christopher – successful musician, lovely hair, but just keeps getting abandoned. No option other than to write a song about it, really.

Tom: It’s worked for generations of misunderstood youth before him.

Tim: Mind you, the lyric “I know I said I need my own space” implies that actually he dumped her and now he’s playing the dickish ex who’s had a rethink but won’t accept she’s moved on, which is very annoying as otherwise it a good song.

Tom: Yep, there’s definitely a stalker-reading to this song. I’m going to choose to ignore it, though, because the rest of it’s pleasant enough, isn’t it? It’s an odd rhythm in that chorus, which feels a bit like he’s emPHAsising THE wrong sylLABles sometimes — but it seems to work for the track.

Tim: Nice and strummy with a decent beat and some vocal samples here and there to make it sound modern, and really if the lyrics weren’t so annoying I could really like this song. UGH, DAMMIT.

Victor Leksell – Svag

“I was really hoping the title of this was ‘Swag’, but it actually translates as ‘Weak’. Ah well.”

Tim: Here’s a song for you that stylistically I’d typically consider far too damp to suggest, but have a listen because it just kind of…gets me.

Tom: I was really hoping the title of this was “Swag”, but it actually translates as “Weak”. Ah well.

Tom: Bold choice, there, just making the album art a black square. It “gets you”?

Tim: Not sure why, really, because there’s not a lot happening there, and when the drop into the first chorus entirely failed to materialise I was thoroughly disappointed.

Tom: Yep, same here. I can see why you described it as “far too damp”: the title fits it. And yet?

Tim: It just has a something about that I like, though, which has got me bouncing around a little bit on my sofa typing this, and ever so slightly humming along to it.

Tom: The thing is, you’re not wrong. There’s a lot to like here: it’s traditional, as slow guitar-pop goes, even down to switching to the harmony line for the final chorus.

Tim: It may be that it just reminds me of several other songs, because I’m fairly sure it does, or it may be that nice gentle back and forth guitar line it’s got going on, but whatever it is – I like it.