Alphabeat – I Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore

“OOH YES it’s like the Alphabet of a decade ago”

Tim: Tom, you said yesterday that everything seemed generic, and you couldn’t mind much to write about. Turns out the music gods paid attention, because: NEW ALPHABEAT!

Tom: Crikey, between that and Mika, it’s like my university years have come back.

Tim: First thirty seconds of that, I was “hmm, it’s okay for a second track, decent funky pop, I guess I can cope”, but then the CHORUS came along, and suddenly I’m “OOH YES it’s like the Alphabet of a decade ago”.

Tom: That chorus bassline reminds me a lot of Train from 2012, too. I’m not suggesting it’s a rip-off: it’s just another touchstone that puts this, well, as not being cool any more.

Tim: It’s fun, exciting pop, proving that either they truly don’t know what’s cool any more or that they just don’t care, because this ain’t mainstream music, with its gloomy synths and weird vocal samples and genericness. No. Instead, it’s happy, energetic, upbeat, joyous, celebratory, arms flailing in the air for that drum bit at the end, wonderful music.

Tom: I was going to specifically point out that drum fill! You’re right: it’s not the sort of thing we hear much these days.

Tim: I’ll be heading to Denmark to see them in November, and right now I’m more excited about that than ever.

ABREU – Sytyn

“The production on here is just great.”

Tim: Anna Abreu, who we’ve not featured for several years now, has rebranded, and re-genred: it’s time for a not-quite-too-late SUMMER BANGER. (Incidentally, the title doesn’t translate to ‘Satan’, as I was initially hoping, but instead to ‘Light Up’.)

Tom: That starts well, doesn’t it?

Tim: Bit of tropicality in there, a good amount of synthed up background vocals, and a hell of a lot of good dance beats. The production on here is just great.

Tom: The production is excellent throughout: whoever’s mixed this has spent a lot of time to bring out the best in those vocals in front of some quite complex instrumentation.

Tim: The bit that really made me think ‘yes, this is as it should be’ is the quick series of drums beats we hear halfway through and at the end of each verse (first at 0:13, then 0:23). It’s a small thing, and the song would still sound great if it wasn’t there – but it is, and it shows that a lot of thought has been put into this track, making it as good as it can be. And I think it succeeds.

Lena Philipsson – Du Ljuger

“Aaaagh, come on.”

Tim: The title translates to ‘You’re Lying’, and never before has a song given me so many moments of “aaaagh, come on”.

Tom: Music videos are vertical now. Right. Okay. That’s a thing. Pity they just put a phone on a cheap gimbal, and asked her to walk about a bit really, but never mind. ANYWAY. The music.

Tim: Now, don’t get me wrong: what is there in the song is really, really good. This does, in fact, have the potential to be one of my favourite songs of the year.

Tom: Really? I feel like “have the potential” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in there. You’re right that there are decent elements in the track…

Tim: BUT, there are so many bits that should be there, but aren’t. That moment at 1:02 that is crying out for a big dance breakdown. It kind of gets there after the second chorus, but it still doesn’t quite hit its full potential. And worst of all, that ending. Sure, an abrupt ending is okay, it’s happened before. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard one like this.

Tom: Yep. Everything about this feels a bit unfinished, in big and small ways.

Tim: You’re coming out of the middle eight, you have a quiet bit, BUT THEN YOU HAVE A LOUD CLOSING CHORUS. IT IS THE LAW OF POP MUSIC. DAMN YOU LENA, YOU BROKE THE LAW.

Saturday Flashback: Michelle – Es gibt dich

“A textbook example of a builder.”

Tim: I have no idea where I found this, but I was finally getting round to clearing up my 40+ Safari tabs when I re-found it, and I think it stands up.

Tom: This is the first time in a while that I’ve thought “wow, that’s a voice”. Those first lines, almost isolated, really show off her vocal quality.

Tim: It is, really, a textbook example of a builder. Middle eight aside, there isn’t a single component that isn’t a slightly increased version of what came before – hell, sometimes it increases midway through the verses.

Tom: It almost feels like the producers and engineers were having some fun with this one. I checked the waveform in an audio editor, and it literally increases in volume like someone’s steadily turning up a dial.

Tim: And when we come back from that middle eight, OH, I was absolutely not expecting it, but in hindsight it’s a perfect closing chorus. It’s a lovely song – nothing big or huge, but just really, really nice to listen to. And I like that in a song.

Julie Bergan – Crazy Enough

Tim: New one off Julie, and, well, I played it once and it was still in my head 45 minutes later, so that’s got to be a good sign, right?

Tom: Usually, yes, but that was also true of the Fast Food Rockers.

Tom: Well, that’s a heck of an introduction and first verse, isn’t it?

Tim: Starts out as a fairly simple ballad, chorus comes along and turns up the volume a bit, then hits properly and we are BANGING with an absolutely marvellous track.

Tom: Oddly, it’s the chorus that I find unconvincing: it’s unusual to say I like a verse more. I agree that it’s catchy, I’m just not sure I like it.

Tim: Production is great, her vocal is on point, melody is strong and memorable, and all in all I have next to no criticisms about this track whatsoever.

Tom: I’m not quite that enthusiastic, but, sure, it’s not bad.

Tim: I say next to no criticisms: there’s one part I’m not so keen on, which is the ending. If it’d been a quieter ballad throughout that’d work, but as it is, going from a big hefty number suddenly to a single vocal just seems too abrupt. Not sure how to fix it, mind – maybe stick a minor instrument underneath it, or maybe just cut it off entirely, go straight to zero for even more impact? I don’t know, but that aside, it’s absolutely marvellous.

Samir & Viktor – Kemi

“It is a great chorus, I’ll grant that.”

Tim: So, I don’t know why, but I seem to be predisposed to like anything by these guys – objectively awful as they may be, they have enough of a Jedward quality about them to be, well, endearing is the wrong word, but something like that.

Tom: Also, and it’s just a guess, but I suspect the fact they get their shirts off regularly might have something to do with it.

Tim: Anyway, here’s the new one, and you might be able to see where I’m going with that intro.

Tom: It’s like Jedward with less shouting.

Tim: See, from a different artist, there are a number of things I’d dislike here – the excessive autotune, with no attempt to hide it as though it’s still 2011; the lack of a melody throughout a large part of it; in some areas, it just verges into a genre I’m not keen on. And yet, that chorus is so good and happy and uplifting, combined with their textbook enthusiasm, that I can’t dislike it.

Tom: It is a great chorus, I’ll grant that. I’m just not sure it makes up for the rest of the song?

Tim: I’d clarify that a bit: if they hadn’t opened with that chorus, I might have switched off after twenty seconds, so putting that first was a great move. All in all, it’s a song I can’t really bring myself to dislike.

Topic x Vigiland x Christopher – Let Us Love

“Shall we see what today’s international cooperation brings us?”

Tim: A German producer, a Swedish musical duo, a Danish singer. Shall we see what today’s international cooperation brings us?

Tim: That’s a nice track, right?

Tom: “Nice” seems about right.

Tim: It does everything it needs to, has a nice tune, good vocals, decent beat to it, enjoyable while it’s playing, I wouldn’t stop dancing if it came on in a club, and I can even remember the chorus of it afterwards. So…why don’t I have anything to say about it?

Tom: Oh, Tim, welcome to how I feel about nearly all new pop music. It’s okay.

Tim: It’s nice, it’s good, it’s fine. It’s just…yeah, no problems.

Tove Lo feat. ALMA – Bad As The Boys

“Bringing out emotions in all the right ways, and using exactly the right type of music to do so.

Tim: Tove here singing about a summer experiment that didn’t go so great, with ALMA along as a token lesbian (genuinely – Tove says that “since I’m singing about a girl, I wanted another female artist on it who also likes girls; so I hit up ALMA”). Sweet, no?

Tim: And that right there is a really good pop song. It isn’t, of course, our usual preference of loud, exciting carefree stuff (for that, see tomorrow’s post), but it is a lovely melancholy number, bringing out emotions in all the right ways, and using exactly the right type of music to do so.

Tom: I had to reset my expectations, because I thought the chorus was a pre-chorus: given it’s Tove Lo, I was expecting something a bit louder. Once I’d figured out what the song was aiming for… sure. It’s not bad.

Tim: The verses are downbeat, the chorus melody and lyrics explain that and everything melds together nicely, telling a narrative really rather beautifully. Fair?

Tom: Fair, but I can’t help thinking that the last few seconds of vertical video, where it’s being sung as a proper ballad, might actually have been the seeds for a better track.

Feuerherz – Wer kann da denn schon nein sagen?

“Wet shirts! Beckoning at the camera! Dance sequences in the middle of an empty ampitheatre on top of a mining heap!”

Tim: We’ve featured Feuerherz (Fireheart, incidentally) a couple of times previously, with the general view being ‘entirely average boyband’, typically early 2010s One Direction, JLS, The Wanted, that sort of thing. Except, now we’re going back further than that. Mid 90s, say, with multiple moments here that made me smile and one that made me spit my drink out.

Tom: I genuinely don’t know what to say. It’s technically perfect — of course it is. It is just that, even for schlager, this is so incredibly cheesy that it’s difficult to take seriously.

Tim: We’ve mentioned it before, with other German pop, but there’s something nice about people doing this music entirely straight-faced, despite it being horrifically unfashionable these days. Dancing in sync, and what sort of choreographer thinks ‘what this really needs now is half of them doing slow forward rolls’?

Tom: Wet shirts! Beckoning at the camera! Dance sequences in the middle of an empty ampitheatre on top of a mining heap!

Tim: Key change, predictable now it’s happened but which did take me slightly by surprise. And hell, they’re even dressed like the Backstreet Boys.

Tom: The most startling part, of course, is that it’s actually catchy.

Tim: The title translates to “Who can say no?”, and, well, I certainly can’t.

Saturday Flashback: Oh Wonder – Slip Away

“This isn’t going to set the club on fire.”

Tim: Love Island finished last Monday, and as it happens I was pleasantly surprised by the result – after all, who would ever have predicted the nation’s favourite of Tommy and Molly-Mae would have been defeated?

Tom: Who indeed. [turns to camera, shrugs]

Tim: Anyway, the program’s generally fairly good for background music, bringing forth tracks that might otherwise have skipped me by, such as this from 2017. Expectations: this isn’t going to set the club on fire, unless it’s by everybody leaving the dance floor to go for a cigarette at the same time.

Tom: Thanks for the warning. Hopefully that’s because it wasn’t designed to.

Tim: Oh Wonder are a British band, who’ve never had a huge amount of chart success, and indeed haven’t produced any new music in almost two years. I’ve not a lot to say about this one, other than: it’s quite nice, isn’t it? To relax to, and stuff.

Tom: It’s great, but I’m not sure about relaxing: that build towards the end is really quite good at building up tension. I can see why it stuck with you, even if there’s not too much to say.