Italoconnection – Horizon

“This isn’t about Big Drops, and that’s fine”

Tim: This pairing (Italian, believe it or not) did a rather good Hurts remix a few years back, so I was a bit intrigued when I saw an original track come along; there’s a fairly dull minute of intro so let’s jump straight in.

Tim: A lot going on there, and it reminds me of my disappointment that Italo disco never really made it to the UK – admittedly I’d not been born at the time, but it’d be nice if I had knowledge of some classic stuff to get into.

Tom: That’s a very specific disappointment, but yes, I get what you mean. I find myself complaining that there isn’t much of anything in the lower frequencies here — all treble, no bass — but at least it’s clearly a stylistic decision, not just “yeah, we can do without”.

Tim: As it is, I’ve got this, which’ll do nicely – there’s no big moment, no drop where everything explodes, but it is pretty good throughout.

Tom: “Pretty good throughout”. Not a ringing endorsement, but it does feel about right. This isn’t about Big Drops, and that’s fine.

We’ve layers of instrumentation, building up and down as the song progresses, making a very listenable (and danceable) track. Has anyone got a Best Of playlist?

Wankelmut & Björn Dixgård – I Keep Calling

“Wankelmut. Dixgård.”

Tom: Wankelmut. Dixgård. I think it’s the diacritic that makes that.

Tim: Well, yes – I could barely type the names of the artists involved here without giggling, but please, try to maintain some sense of adulthood as we hear the track I described yesterday as ‘a song that’s probably better’.

Tim: And it is. I mean obviously it is, yesterday’s was technically awful, but this is enjoyable. Wankelmut’s proper name is Jacob, and he’s a dance producer off Germany, while Mr Dixgård is from Sweden, frontman of a rock band call Mando Diao.

And the vocals are good – it’s the second track we’ve had this week consisting of a dance beat with a throaty guy singing on top of it, and both times it works pretty well, to the extent that I’m almost surprised it hasn’t been done more often.

Tom: This reminds me, in a weird way, of Culture Beat’s Mr Vain. I mean, we’re a generation later so you’ve got completely different instruments and the now-required instrumental-sample chorus in place of the rap bit, but I think you can trace the influences: shouty vocals, repetitive lyrics, entirely danceable.

Tim: As far as the narrative of the song goes, well, it really doesn’t reflect well at all on Björn. At best he comes across as desperate, but more realistically he’s getting on for some kind of predator and that’s really not a good look right now. On the other hand, at least he’s not singing about roofies being great, so, y’know, let’s move on.

Tom: There are a lot of songs that haven’t aged well.

Tim: Musically it’s sound.

Tom: Well, yes, it is. Oh, sorry, yes, never mind, know what you mean.

Tim: Decent beat, decent melody, and the aforementioned strong vocals – so the main thing to take away from this: can we have more of this type, please?

Kygo feat. The Night Game – Kids in Love

“One heck of a post-chorus.”

Tim: A week or so Kygo quietly stuck a new album online, eight tracks each featuring a somewhat well known artist, much as Avicii did a couple of months back (though curiously enough, his Just Jesso feature which you described as “letting a toddler play with the volume control” didn’t make the cut). Here’s the title track, which also happens to be one of the best, as I see it.

Tom: Oh, that is good. That’s sounds a bit like… maybe like The Who? That’s not a comparison I expected to make.

Tim: It’s not remotely standard Kygo stuff – for that, you could do worse than check out the also very good Stranger Things, with OneRepublic – but it does have some very good piano dance work, with one heck of a post-chorus.

Tom: Objectively, there’s very little going on here: everything’s a bit repetitive. But compare it to yesterday’s mess: this here is an example of how to make a Big Track. Even that post-chorus stands out, like you said.

Tim: Not sure I’ve heard one before that is in itself a build and subsequent drop, but it sure enough works here. The vocal line is nice and emphatic, giving it everything the lyrics and backing music demand, and when those secondary vocals come along at the end that’s just a nice layer of icing on top of the already very tasty cake. Nice that he’s back on form.

Alan Walker feat. Noah Cyrus with Digital Farm Animals – All Falls Down

“It’s not quite farmhouse, but it’s close.”

Tom: I’ve long said that there are two signs of a Good Pop Song: do I immediately want to replay it? And can I sing the chorus after one listen?

Tom: Yes to the first; not quite to the second, but given it’s the instrumental chorus that takes the lead here, maybe that’s not too bad.

Tim: And given that you’re judging a dance track by the merits of a pop song, I think that’s very good indeed. Mainly because it is very good indeed.

Tom: This sounds almost like an Avicii track: it’s not quite farmhouse, but it’s close. Lots of harmonies, familiar and friendly key progressions, and just generally pleasant to listen to. Apart from the vocal remixing in the middle eight, this doesn’t sound stereotypically Alan Walker — and maybe that’s a good thing.

Tim: Certainly a bit farmy, yes, and I’m definitely in agreement about the pleasant to listen to. I’m not sure about not stereotypical, though – it does sound like a slight evolution of his sound, which is good, but there’s a lot that’s still very much him even beyond the middle eight – the post-chorus, say, is certainly trademark Alan, and very good for it.

Tom: I think you could lose the first twenty seconds of this — as far as I can tell, “eff you” isn’t the radio edit, so it just sounds a bit strange — but the rest of it’s brilliant.

Tim: Hmm – I’d keep the first twenty seconds because I’ve no problem, though yes I’d swap the “eff you” for a “screw you” any day. So yes, that one word aside it’s brilliant. Anyone know when the album’s out?

Hook N Sling feat. Digital Farm Animals – All Around Me

“PARP.”

Tim: Just a quickie for you this Friday.

Tom: Blimey.

Tim: We’ve met Hook N Sling before – they were the ones who teamed up with Galantis to bring us the phenomenal Love On Me. You complained back then that the lyrics were only four lines long; this one comes with a lyric video, because they’re quite a bit more complex.

Tim: Or not, who knows, but either way I think they should be applauded for spreading ‘is’ out into four syllables. It’s probably the music that’s meant to get us going here, and it is so, so very close to getting me going the same way that Love On Me did.

Tom: Yes. I can understand that. Two minutes long! And it’s not a Del Amitri two minutes either, it’s like they couldn’t be bothered to write the rest of it. As for why you’re not going, well, yet, it might get you dancing, except…

Tim: Except it doesn’t, because the otherwise flawless chorus melody gets interrupted by that horrible cranking noise that keeps popping up.

Tom: PARP.

Tim: …and so I can’t jump around happily for ages to forget or at least forgive the ludicrous amounts of repetition. Come on lads, try harder please.

Tom: PARP.

MARC feat. Frederik Leopold – Can’t Live Without It

“Clearly a subscriber to the don’t bore us, get to the chorus school of songwriting.”

Tim: So, it’s been over a week since we both had unabashed positivity for a track.

Tom: Blimey, is it that long? Are we in a rut, or is music in a rut?

Tim: I don’t know, but either way I’ve a feeling this track, from a Swedish producer and a Danish vocalist, might change that.

Tom: Surprise! It didn’t.

Tim: What? Why? I mean, MARC is clearly a subscriber to the don’t bore us, get to the chorus school of songwriting, which I’ll never begrudge anyone, particularly when the chorus is this energetic and enthusiastic.

Tom: Is it? Maybe I’m just tired, but I honestly felt myself drifting away even during the chorus here. We get it, Frederik. You can’t live without it. What was it again?

Tim: For me, it doesn’t matter – it’s just so enthusiastic, all through. I was going to have a moan about a lack of middle eight or closing chorus, but then I paid a bit more attention to it and I think this might be the first track I’ve seen with a three-part chorus, which then gets chopped around in its convenient 128bpm 15-second sections towards the end.

Tom: Huh. I think you’re right, but it’s a shame because a middle eight might be exactly what this needs to liven it up.

Tim: Hmmm…maybe it would, but I really don’t think it needs it. What we’ve got instead is a mixture of novelty and laziness which…oh, sod it, I’ll forgive it, because this is damn good to listen to.

Kygo feat. Just Jesso – Stargazing

“That’s just letting a toddler play with the volume control!”

Tim: Tom, there’s a reason that yesterday we were reduced to featuring a bland track from an even blander movie: there doesn’t seem to be much music around worth writing about at the moment. Still, I’ve just found this from Kygo, and he’ll save us, surely.

Tim: Or, maybe not. That’s not what I want from a Kygo track. Is it, really, what anyone wants from a Kygo track?

Tom: That’s not chopping up vocals! That’s just letting a toddler play with the volume control! Blimey, the attacks and decays on that almost physically hurt. It’s like he’s trying to work out how much he can get away with before people go “no, mate, that’s just bollocks”.

Tim: I mean it maybe gets slightly going when the second chorus comes around, but COME ON this is not what got me going down to Sainsbury’s to buy a crateload of mangoes a while back.

Tom: I hope that was a metaphor.

Tim: It’s just SO SLOW: four minutes twenty, and all we’ve got is two verses and two choruses? Where’s the big final closing one? Where’s the inventive middle eight where you could have a bit of fun? Where, basically, is anything worth listening to?

Tom: Probably in the bits where the volume was down.

MD Electro feat. Maria Marcus – Postcard

“What’s with the timing?”

Tim: I’ve long since given up trying to work out why beach dance music still gets put out well after summer’s over, but I do still find it weird. Here’s one example.

Tom: This is good! I wasn’t expecting this to be good.

Tim: I mean, in MD Electro (off Germany)’s defence, it’s a perfectly decent beach dance number – say, second or third release from an ATB album quality – with a good melody, decent production, vocals that hold up nicely, but damn, what’s with the timing?

Tom: Or that “postcard” echo in the instrumental chorus. Or that “you got me like oo-ooh” lyric. But you’re right: this is a good summer dance track, but it’s mid-September. Were they just procrastinating?

Scooter & Jabroer – My Gabber

Tim: The other week Scooter released their nineteenth (NINETEENTH) studio album; here’s one of the first tracks from it, which comes with a couple of rude words (and Jebroer’s a Dutch producer, by the way).

Tom: Please tell me Scooter have actually gone gabber. Please.

Tom: Oh wow they actually have for the… chorus? One of the choruses? One of the… look, I don’t know what this is, I just know I haven’t heard distorted bass like that in a long while and it’s amazing.

Tim: Yeahhhh…thing is, it’s hard to judge Scooter’s songs by any normal standard, really, because most of them aren’t really comparable in any way at all – not because of quality, more just in the way they exist.

Tom: In the words of HP Baxxter: YES.

Tim: But we can compare them against each other – God knows there are enough. The best ones typically have a decent hook (either original, or standard covers, or theme tunes from a 1960s series of murder mystery films), maybe a guest vocal and plenty of shouting. Here, I think we’ve got all three, and while it loses its way for twenty seconds towards the end, it picks it up again, and finishes nicely. I’m in.

Tom: Let’s be honest: the hook’s really not all that great — and given that it’s an English translation of the original, it also feels a bit low-effort for a first album track. Have Scooter actually supplied anything other than some shouting here? I’m not sure.

Tim: Huh – see, I though it might be a cover but couldn’t see an original. You’re right, there – although the first track off the album was actually Bora! Bora! Bora!, which didn’t seem to be much more than trying for an updated version of the Maria (I Like It Loud) chant.

Tom: And to be fair, there’s a reason that the world never saw many gabber tracks in the Top 40. But I can’t fault them for still going, still trying, and still SHOUTING LOUDLY.

Tim: BELIEVE ME, I LIKE IT LOUD.

Galantis & ROZES – Girls on Boys

“Everything’s great about this apart from the chorus.”

Tom: “We been waiting to throw you this curve ball!”, write Galantis excitedly. “It’s a style of song-writing that’s been a part of Galantis from the start but we never really had the chance to show you.”

Tim: It normally gets me nervous when bands I like say that; on the other hand, they’ve not exactly been knocking it out of the park recently, so I’m open minded.

Tom: (A warning for flashing images in the video.)

Tom: Here’s a reversal of the usual status quo around here: I think everything’s great about this apart from the chorus.

Tim: While I think it’s time to realise that Galantis are not the dance music saviours I previously believed them to be 🙁

Tom: The intro, the verses, the build, the vocals, everything about this has so much promise — but then it leads into a bassless, repetitive instrumental chorus hook, complete with that irritating precussion that sounds like someone’s failing to light a gas hob.

Tim: Haha, yes, I hear the one you mean. I’m the same – sounds great, right up through the opening, verse, pre-chorus, but then it’s not really good at all.

Tom: I get that instrumental choruses are a thing these days, but this just doesn’t work for me.

Tim: I can’t help wondering what’s so ‘curve ball’ about it – it doesn’t sound particularly different from their other recent disappointments. OH GALANTIS, WHY MUST YOU ABANDON ME SO?