Gareth Emery feat. Annabel – You’ll Be OK

“Cor, blimey – that has cheered me RIGHT UP.”

Tom: This takes a long time to get going, and I suspect it goes in a direction you won’t expect.

Tim: Cor, blimey – I’ve been feeling miserable recently, because obviously, but that has cheered me RIGHT UP. Yep, I did not expect that.

Tom: Full-on trance, to the point where his new album is called “THE LASERS”.

Tim: And without even hearing a single one of his other tracks, I’m already looking forward to it. Surprised you like it, though, what the chilled house style first half that’s more my sort of thing.

Tom: I don’t think I am particularly a big fan of the track — I think it’s a bit slow at points, and I’m not sure about that melody. Honestly, I don’t care. I just enjoyed the fact that someone is still putting out music like this, that it’s still getting attention, and that the title is “You’ll Be OK”.

Tim: Yes. Yes, we will. Probably.  

K-391, Alan Walker & Ahrix – End of Time

“Well, that’s lovely, isn’t it?”

Tim: Today, in ‘things that in hindsight are obvious but Tim never thought to realise’: producers who started out making tracks in their bedrooms at about the same time have a proper community rather than just having agents that contact each other for the occasional collaboration.

Tom: Huh. That’s pretty much how YouTube works, but I never thought to apply that to the music industry. All right. What’ve they put together?

Tim: This here’s a reworking of the track Nova that Ahrix made in 2013, slowed down a bit, given some vocals and brought a bit up to date, and the description below the video description is really quite lovely. Starts with a bit about how the three of them started, came together (apparently Nova was the track that brought them together), and ends up saying that with this, “we want to pay respect to all the music and producers that came before us, while also giving an opportunity for the next wave of bedroom producers out there who have yet to get a chance.”

Tom: Well, that’s lovely, isn’t it?

Tim: Isn’t it just? As for the song: entirely as we’d expect it to be, really, and in my view that isn’t remotely a criticism. The melody’s nice, lyrics pretty much get that message across.

Tom: And Alan Walker is using his signature “Hasn’t He Got Bored Of That Yet? Well We Wouldn’t Recognise Him Without It” synth for the chorus. I assume he’s had some other input too, though.

Tim: Well, there’s the video, which is as peculiar as is now to be expected from this crowd – though that is responsible for my one criticism: although there’s a deeper story there, there’s also a whole ‘we’re the three lone survivors at the end of world’ imagery, which might have been a little better timed given the whole ‘deadly virus sweeping the world’ thing that’s currently going on.

Tom: I didn’t make that connection, so hopefully they can get away with it.

Tim: Ah, probably. For now: great.

DJ Fresh – Drive

“Decent enough dance track hitting many of the right notes, and giving a shout out to Belgium.”

Tom: We are in a bit of a dearth of good new music, but DJ Fresh is — usually — at least “half-decent”.

Tim: True, and true. This time?

Tim: Belgium?!

Tom: Takes a while to get there, doesn’t it? There’s a lot of promise in that verse, but it doesn’t seem to quite convert into a good chorus, or into anything that’d make that build worth it.

Tim: Well, there’s always the sense that yes, this could be a bit more so, but it does at least have a memorable melody to it – or it’s just been repeated so often in three and a half minutes that I’ve no option but to remember it.

Tom: I was about to click away about a minute in, but there was something about those processed vocals at the end of the first part of chorus that got me to stick around.

Tim: I think it sounds okay: decent enough dance track hitting many of the right notes, and giving a shout out to Belgium. Why wouldn’t you?

Tom: My opinion on DJ Fresh continues: it’s at least half-decent. And in a February with this little good music, I’ll take that.

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.

Galantis feat. Charli XCX – We Are Born To Play

“Having Mario shout ‘here we go’ before the drop is ghastly.”

Tom: This is an advert, Tim, and you know how I feel about giving adverts additional promotion, or even listening to them deliberately. But I get the feeling that if I don’t send this to you, you’re going to send this to me, and I don’t think I can deal with the amount of enthusiasm you’d start this with.

Tim: CORRECT! 

Tom: So yes. Galantis got asked to build a track around the Mario soundtrack, for the upcoming Super Nintendo Worlds that’ll be built at the Universal theme parks over the next decade.

Tom: Let’s get the awful things out of the way first: “power up and go” is an awful lyric, and having Mario shout “here we go” before the drop is ghastly.

Tim: Ghastly? Or brilliant? I think brilliant. You see, I’m going to heavily subvert expectation here, and slightly seriously discuss this thing (I know, sorry), because the way that sounds kind of depends how you look at this: it’s clearly not just written as a promo track, because way too much effort has gone into it, but it’s clearly not a proper dance track, even a ‘stick on the album as a bonus track’ one. And so for the hybrid that this is, I think putting Mario in there works, however ghastly you may find it. 

Tom: Mind you, Galantis don’t appear to have just cashed the cheque on this and churned out a minimal-effort track: they’ve reinterpreted pretty much everything into their style. It’s not actually that bad.

Tim: True, and the first two minutes of this is straight up dance tune: you could take that and the last ten seconds, add some extra stuff in the middle and have a perfectly decent track, if a tad novelty-ish with all the power-up and coin sound effects. That thirty seconds of Mario theme sample, though, changes it, hugely. As a promo it’s now great. Dance track? Yeah, we’re done.

Tom: But obviously: Super Nintendo World will be nothing like this. It’s a Universal Studios park, so it will be a series of rides that bounce you around a bit in front of a 3D screen while you’re occasionally sprayed with water. If they manage anything greater than that, I will be shocked and amazed.

Tim: What, you mean there won’t be actual boxes suspended in the air that you can punch to get coins? DAMMIT, TOM.

Tom: The thing I’m most impressed by here? The video production team. That is movie-quality green-screen work.

Tim: Yep. That’s almost as good as the Mario sample.

Julie Bergen & Seeb – Kiss Somebody

“Wait, is that it?”

Tim: Julie’s good at pop, Seeb do good dance – a combination’s gotta be worth hearing, right?

Tim: Right. Brief, mind – seems to be quite a “in, get it done, out” vibe, which…

Tom: …let’s be honest, fits the lyrics entirely. Two minutes and 18 seconds, though, is brief in many contexts: but, hey, if you’re trying to bring in the Spotify streaming revenue, that’s the way songs are going right now.

Tim: Often I’d praise that, because no-one likes a tune that hangs around longer than it should, but here we’re onto the second verse in less than a minute, there’s no semblance of any middle eight and barely a nod to even a closing chorus, and it just leaves me feeling a bit ‘wait, is that it?’

Tom: I disagree there: I think that quiet “make out” works as a middle eight, even if it is technically part of the chorus lyrics: and there’s definitely a bigger final chorus in there. I think this song lasts just as long as it needs to: I think if it were longer, we’d both be muttering that the simplistic tune starts to grate. (It started to grate with me on the second time I played it.) But I did, at least, play it a second time.

Tim: Sure, there can be remixes, and I can always press play a second time, but this almost has a whiff of contractual obligation to it, kind of like one of them’s lost a bet. The weirdest thing is that we do get a few ‘will this do?’ tracks, but in every case it’s been the quality of the music rather than the quantity that’s suffered. Here, music’s as good as ever – there’s just very little of it.

Martin Garrix, Matisse & Sadko feat. Michel Zitron – Hold On

“That’s at least five years out of date.”

Tom: It’s January, and that means there is barely any new music. So as with yesterday, let’s go with an old reliable. Garrix, Dutch irritatingly-young world-class DJ. Matisse & Sadko, Russian producers. Michel Zitron, Swedish producer and singer. They’ve all been in the same circles for years, as far as I can tell.

That is a lot of people, with a lot of skills, all working on one track. Will it combine their best qualities, or will it be a confused, designed-by-committee mess?

Tim: I’ve a feeling I know where you’re going with this.

Tom: I remembered almost nothing about that after it finished, so I’m going with “designed by committee”.

Tim: Hmm, maybe. The standout thing for me is that it really, really doesn’t sound like a modern dance track – that’s at least five years out of date. The opening vocal made me think Avicii, the rest of it perhaps more Swedish House Mafia, and then there was that bit where it went slightly Tubulars Bells-y.

Tom: Actually, I did remember one thing: that ridiculous over-the-top build up to the drop, like it’s on a Clubland CD from the early 2000s. Not a complaint, really, just saying it’s the standout feature.

Tim: Yep, there’s that as well. And the datedness doesn’t bother me at all – I’m all for it.

Nause feat. Rebecca & Fiona – Can’t Erase

“PROPER BANGER.”

Tim: It’s been three years since we featured Rebecca & Fiona, and even longer than that since we featured Nause, but both are apparently still going strong, and seemingly wanting to get any thought of Christmas out of your mind with this PROPER BANGER.

Tom: A bold claim, Tim.

Tom: Huh, you’re right. That’s a really, really good dance track.

Tim: And why they didn’t leave leave in a drawer for a few months I’ve no idea, because (a) that’s a great dance track but (b) which sensible person wants to dance to this less than two weeks before Christmas?

Yes, parties happen, but the playlists are (or at least should be) entirely made up of Christmas songs or, especially come New Year’s Eve, tracks that each and every single person in the room knows. However good a dance track it is (and be in no doubt, I think this is brilliant), it shouldn’t be out now. Or am I wrong?

Tom: I think there is still a place for things like this: clubs don’t switch their playlists too much, other than occasional dance remixes of All I Want For Christmas. And in summer, the market for tracks like this is saturated. It stands out.

Tim: Hmm, yeah, I’d not thought of that. Fair point.

Tom: I like it. In an era of Spotify playlists and long-tail playback, I think this can still work.

Scooter – Which Light Switch Is Which?

“High pitched sample, shouty bloke yells some nonsensical stuff, RAVE.”

Tom: They’ve been going for 25 years. Or, rather, the shouty bloke has, the folks behind him have changed shift a few times. Which means, in that time, they’ve tried to change up their style a lot, and sometimes get away from the shtick they’re known for: high pitched sample, shouty bloke yells some nonsensical stuff, RAVE.

Tom: I can’t tell if this is genuinely going back to their old style because they like it; or knowingly putting out something the fans will like; or whether it’s self-parody. And I don’t think I care.

Tim: I’m not sure it’s any of those, really: I think it’s just H.P. Baxxter doing what he does well, doing it very very well. Don’t forget that we’ve both enjoyed the couple of Scooter tracks we’ve featured recently precisely because they’re right on their early ’00s game. It’s a great sound (well, great for the fans), and they clearly like making it.

Tom: This could sit on a Scooter album from decades ago. My teenage self would like it. And so do I.

Tim: Likewise.