Lance & Litton – Sunshine

Tim: Swedish dance duo whose first release we completely missed; here’s their second.

Tom: This is really weird to say, but I’ve never had such an intense dislike for the verses of a song in a long time.

Tim: Wait, seriously?

Tom: It wasn’t my usual “meh” reaction: I just actively disliked it and I cannot, for the life of me, explain why. Which is a shame, because the post-chorus is joyful, and even the chorus perked me up a bit.

Tim: I really don’t get that, about the verses. Sure, they have a ‘this’ll do’ quality to them, but for me the only really negative is the one rather disappointing ‘oh’ moment, at a fairly important point: the first time the vocal chorus hit. I wanted something a bit speedier, and wasn’t prepared for the longer vocal notes. HOWEVER, the rest of it goes solidly between ‘this’ll do’ (aforementioned verses) and ‘OH YES THIS WILL VERY MUCH DO’ (post-chorus breakdown, where I immediately started clapping my hands in time to the beat).

Tom: Yep, I can see why you were disappointed there: it’s an odd choice to go into what’s basically half-time for the chorus. But I think it does work.

Tim: There are other highlights: for starters, I was delighted by the presence of a middle eight, as by now I’ve been trained not to expect one. Also, for the second chorus and with repeated listenings, that initial let down doesn’t give me any problems – once you’re expecting it, you’re right, it works, and it’s great. WHAT A TUNE.


Saturday Flashback: Unicorn Kid – Feel So Real

Tom: I’ve been driving around the US, which means that — as long as I’m in a city — I’ve been listening to Pride Radio, which appears to play nothing but DANCE BANGERS. And adverts for PrEP.

Tim: Not a single word of that paragraph surprises me.

Tom: Anyway, I don’t know why I’ve never heard this before, because it sounds like someone crossed Galantis and Daft Punk.

Tom: See what I mean? Those early synths, that energetic vocal: all Galantis. But then you’ve got that breakdown before the second chorus, arpeggiators and interesting chord progressions, and those synths in the middle eight: that sounds like Daft Punk to me.

Tim: That’s an entirely accurate dissection, there, of what’s a pretty great track. Although, admittedly, not as good as that Jenna Drey number you linked to.

Tom: There’s Unicorn Kid’s own style on top of it, of course. And it’s such a good style! Or at least, it was until I clicked on the next recommended track and got a chorus of chanting children. Never mind.

Tim: Ah, yeah, I see why you wouldn’t like it. I think it’s pretty good, though. 

Lisa Ajax – Känn En Doft Av Kärleken

“It’s really, really jarring, and it upsets me.”

Tim: RIGHT THEN so you’ll recall back in June we got Dolly Style doing a cover of How Far I’ll Go as part of a new We Love Disney album, except then for months we had nothing at all, despite me hunting for stuff at least once a week.

HOWEVER, last week the whole album arrived, yippee! We’ve a variety of styles: some straight up covers, some simple translations (Aladdin’s En Helt Ny Värld), English covers that have really played with the genre (Circle of Life), and some that might as well be brand new songs, because I’m willing to bet you’d forgotten the existence of Brother Bear altogether.

And then…and then there’s this.

Tim: So, I have no problem at all with about 90% of that. The early part of it takes the same genre we’re used to, and a translation’s always fun (though, weirdly, they’ve used different lyrics from the translation they used in the film). The bit where the chorus has a big hefty backing underneath it, very very much so.

Tom: Agreed: there are, as far as I’m concerned, two canonical versions of this: the film version, and Elton John’s version. This doesn’t hold a candle to either of them, of course, but I’ve got to admit that the voice works, and the production for most of it is good too. It’s a solid Disney Cover. I think you’ve got the same problem with it that I have, though.

Tim: Most likely. Because that dance breakdown – where on earth did that come from? I don’t mind it particularly, and certainly if it was in a whole other song I’d have no problems with it at all. Except it isn’t in a whole other song, it’s in the middle of one of the most memorable film songs ever, and it completely and totally doesn’t belong. It’s really, really jarring, and it upsets me.

Tom: And it’s a real shame! Because the rest of it is good. Not spectacular, but good.

Tim: I’ll finish on a positive, though: we’ve got something similar with Kamferdrops’s version of Let It Go. And this time, it works for me.

Tim: I’ve no idea why it works, as logically I should have the same problem – still a great song, still a largely unrelated breakdown. But I don’t.

Tom: I think I know why: Let It Go is meant to be a big, showstopper, belt-it-out number — but here it’s being sung relatively quietly and calmly. That chorus sounds wrong, it’s underwhelming — but it means that your brain’s more prepared for the dance bit.

Tim: Hmm, yeah, could be.

Tom: What we’ve learned here is that nothing’s going to break Andrew WK covering the Mickey Mouse March.

Tim: Erm…well, okay, whatever works for you. I’ll stick with Dolly Style, if you don’t mind.

Au/Ra x Alan Walker – Ghost


Tim: Not sure I’ll ever really understand the differences between &, ‘and’, x, a comma and any other way of indicating a pairing between artists, but never mind that. This is another one from that Death Stranding game that the recent CHVRCHES one came from (which, incidentally, I relistened to recently and realised I quite like). Let’s see how this one goes.

Tim: Oh.

Tom: Yep. I know that tap-tap-tap percussion style’s been popular for years, but ever since someone described it to me as “like someone failing to light a gas hob” it’s basically been ruined for me.

Tim: Well. I guess, the melody’s nice? And her vocal’s fine. And…and…and this really does nothing for me. Sure, maybe it’ll fit the mood (though I’m certainly not tempted by this to buy the game to find out), but without any context it’s just quiet, a bit dull, and not remotely what I was expecting when I saw those names together. Balls.

Tom: And that’s a shame! That’s always the problem for artists who want to make Something Different: it’s not what the fans were expecting.

Tim: Maybe I’ll like this one in a few weeks’ time as well? Hope so.

Tom: I doubt it.

Galantis & Dolly Parton feat. Mr. Probz – Faith

“The first thing that stuck out to me here was the structure, or rather the weirdness of it.”

Tim: Galantis, we know very well. Mr Probz, never heard of him before in my life, but sure, he could be a featured artist. And then…and then there’s Dolly Parton. Unusually for me, I haven’t listened to the track before writing this introduction, and have no idea what I’m in for. Fingers crossed it’s good.

Tim: Right: here’s something annoying, about doing this whole music review thing: first time I hear a track, I pay full attention to it, beat by beat, line by line. And that means that the first thing that stuck out to me here was the structure, or rather the weirdness of it.

Sure, the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, chorus – but the verse is just a few lines, and then the chorus is roughly one single line repeated over and over again for a full minute, each time with slightly different backing underneath it.

It’s like they’re saying “fine, we’ll play by the rules, but boy are we going to struggle against them”. And I have all those thoughts, and even go back to listen to it again to check that, without ever really paying attention to what the song sounds like as a whole. And that’s absolutely and entirely not what a song credited to bloody “Galantis & Dolly Parton” deserves.

Tom: If it’s any consolation, I generally just write a stream of consciousness while I’m listening, and then tidy it all up later. Anyway. The track.

Tim: SO. The main review: it’s weird! Keeping Dolly Parton away for a full fifty per cent of the song!

Tom: And using vocal effects that take her incredibly recognisable voice and it sound like it’s somehow being simulated by an offbrand Dolly-Parton sythesizer!

Tim: Giving the first verse solely to your feat. guy! The lack of any real underlying defining sound, careering between piano house, tropical, light drum & bass, euphoric! Hell, the fact that it’s happening at all! But it’s good! It’s a great listen, for some of these aforementioned reasons, and I like it.

Tom: It sounds like a mashup. It sounds like an old Madeon track. There are so many things going on here. I have issues with the structure: I think you could start this where Dolly Parton comes in, add an extra chorus on the end after that , and have a track that sounds more like Traditional Pop instead of a frankly disappointing ending. But then that’s not really what Galantis do, is it?

Tim: I was entirely unsure what to expect, but I’m glad of what it turned out to be.

Armin van Buuren feat. Ne-Yo – Unlove You

“Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.”

Tom: This is not an intro that you’d expect from Armin van Buuren. The rest of it…

Tom: Let’s get something out of the way: the lyrics here are not great. “How am I supposed to only / look at you as my homie” is one of several really rough examples.

Tim: Yeah – that whole second verse, really, with the shower line and the legs shaking bit as well.

Tom: It’s a shame, because everything else about that chorus is good: particularly those brass-like synth stabs in the background.

Tim: It really is – and far more than I was hoping for from a song with Ne-Yo in the artist credits.

Tom: Then we have a middle eight, and it ends! I know, that’s how music works these days, but I really do think this needed a Big Final Chorus. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Tim: Hmm, interesting you put it like that – that disappointing bit around the one minute mark strikes me as more middle eight-y, with its complete lack of resemblance to anything else. I’d say we’ve just a complete lack of standard structure, but you know what? That’s fine.

Julia Bergwall – Open Your Eyes

“New synthy dance slightly country-ish pop off Sweden.”

Tim: New synthy dance slightly country-ish pop off Sweden.

Tom: That is a lot of adjectives there.

Tim: From an artist we’ve not featured before but has nonetheless been going a fair while. Have a listen, see what you think.

Tom: Huh. There’s a lot of different parts to this track, and they’re all quite different.

Tim: A part of me was almost relieved by that, because so often we get tracks, particularly with the synthy chorus genre, with a perfectly decent opening verse and first chorus, but which then drop down into utterly unsatisfying post-choruses. Fortunately, that is entirely not the case here.

Tom: I think they’re all solid as individual parts. I’ve no idea how they work together at all, but… they do.

Tim: It is a fair old hodgepodge, with no particular dedication to one single genre – almost surprisingly, though, that works well enough throughout the whole song. A less competent producer might have sought to just chuck everything – light guitar, heavy synth, big drum beats – all in together for the closing section, sod how it came out sounding as long as it was suitably big and banging.

Tom: I mean, sometimes, that does work. Not usually, but I can see the temptation.

Tim: Fortunately, that’s not the case here at all, and in fact it sounds good throughout, no mean feat given these building blocks.

Saturday Flashback: Watermät – Bullit

Tom: I wouldn’t normally send over a deep house song, Tim, but I heard this track from 2014 for the first time, and it stood out to me.

Tim: Any particular reason?

Tom: Because every single individual part of it is irritating, and yet somehow, I like it.

Tom: Who seriously picks synth patches like that? Who decides that a distorted foghorn should try to become the sound of the summer? Who adds a tweeting-bird-car-alarm effect last heard when Dario G remixed Jeff Wayne? Who writes what is basically a two-note melody?

Tim: So, I get your point, and I don’t know how to answer any of your questions with anything other than “well, this guy”, but it was a big song. And it might only be two notes, but it’s a catchy melody nonetheless, and that I still remember five years down the line even though I’ve probably not heard it much since.

Tom: You do? Huh. I missed it somehow. Which rather takes the wind out of my big question — who gets it into the Top 20 in the UK, and to number 2 in Belgium?

Tim: Well, it’s as you said: somehow, you like it. And so did a lot of other people.

September feat. Birgitta Haukdal – Aðeins Nær Þér

“Here’s something pointlessly confusing for you.”

Tim: Here’s something pointlessly confusing for you: a Scandivinavian dance pop act called September that is entirely not the September who did Can’t Get Over and Cry For You and that lot.

Tom: That is a very, very odd choice of name. Did they not Google it?

Tim: This lot are Icelandic rather than Swedish, though, as you can probably guess from the song title, which in English means Only Near You.

Tim: Don’t know much about the context of that title, but hey – it’s primarily a tropical-sounding dance tune with occasional pop nods, so its probably not all that important.

Tom: And some decent string-section synths in there, too. But you’re right: standard tropical dance.

Tim: At least, it should be that. Because this would be so, so much improved if that Galantis-style post-chorus were allowed to take the lead more often. There’d be less of the slightly uninteresting verses, and many more dance beats that everyone can properly enjoy. Because damn, they’re good, and I’d love a whole song of that, although I’d allow the odd vocal here and there to keep the variety.

Tom: For most tracks that come through here, I’d agree with you: but here, I don’t, I think they’ve got the balance about right.

Tim: Basically, I want more of the good stuff and less of the boring stuff. Is that really too much to ask?

Valerie Broussard & Galantis – Roots

“Halfway between a dance-pop song and intro music for a slightly-too-earnest Saturday evening BBC light-entertainment show.”

Tim: For your delectation, a really quite lovely lyric video. And song, now I think about it.

Tim: And that right there is…entirely fine.

Tom: It’s halfway between a dance-pop song and intro music for a slightly-too-earnest Saturday evening BBC light-entertainment show.

Tim: There’s nothing to criticise about it: good melody, decent narrative in the lyrics, nice instrumental work underneath the vocals and a strong beat when we get to the dance post-chorus. It is, in fact, a perfectly serviceable dance tune, with some very good trademark Galantis brass in there. And that’s okay.

Tom: It is! I doubt it’s going to be the song of the summer, but there’s nothing wrong with it.

Tim: Well, yes, though having said that: it’s what I thought the first time I heard it. And then I played it again, and a few other times, as I do when I’m writing these, and now it’s really growing on me – that brass line, for example, with its short repeating notes, sounds lovely. I really like it. So here’s to a grower! It’s great.