Pegboard Nerds feat. NERVO – Crying Shame

“Pegboard Nerds! I’ve heard of them!”

Tom: Pegboard Nerds! I’ve heard of them! Back in 2014, when one of their sorta-chiptune-sorta-dubstep tracks was featured on this video. 2014 was before drones became mainstream, and that video — and its soundtrack — absolutely blew me away.

Tim: Fabulous! I had not heard of them, but part of me wanted to feature this based purely on the artwork; some more of me wanted to because of their name (Danish/Norwegian, if you weren’t aware, and NERVO are Australian); then I heard the verse and then the chorus, and by the time we got to the post-chorus there was no option whatsoever.

Tom: See! Sorta-chiptune, sorta-dubstep. I mean, they’ve moved on, and I’m sure there’s a different and more formal genre title for it, but yes, this is definitely their style.

Tim: So, I’m not going to excitedly yell ‘HAPPY HARDCORE’ because it isn’t, but that build certainly promises something special and I’m fairly sure it delivers.

Tom: It’s probably the closest you can reasonably get to happy hardcore in this century.

This song starts out fairly sensible, admittedly, but turns to slight ridiculousness after not too short a time. As ever, back to normal, ish, for the second verse, then we build up throughout the second chorus, a middle eight which brings us a euphoric section out of absolutely nowhere, and from then on we’ve a triumphant mess of everything, and it sounds glorious. Am I wrong?

Tom: You’re not wrong.

The Lovers of Valdaro – Faster to Nowhere

“I’d say that fits very nicely into the ‘really nice!; category, no?”

Tim: We featured their debut last year and you described it as “really nice!”.

Tom: I also said that “I like it, but I’m never going to remember it”, which was entirely accurate. I have no memory of it, but it’s pleasant now I hear it again.

Tim: We didn’t feature their Melodifestivalen entry because it wasn’t particularly interesting; we are now featuring their third release.

Tim: And I’d say that fits very nicely into the “really nice!” category, no?

Tom: It does. It also fits into the “I like it, but I’m never going to remember it” category. Even after listening through once, I can’t actually remember it. (I thought I did, but I was actually remembering the disco version of BWO’s “Kings of Tomorrow”, which has a similar chorus.

Tim: It reminds me a lot of Bright Light Bright Light, who I still have a lot of love for, and that’s not just because of the near identical vocal sound. It’s got the same lovely style to the backing to it, along with a good downbeat lyrics mixed with a nice jaunty sound. This is, to be honest, exactly my sort of music, done really really well. FAB.

Donkeyboy – Think You Should

“New one off Norway’s finest purveyors of electropop.”

Tim: New one off Norway’s finest purveyors of electropop; have a listen, etc.

Tom: Well, that’s a great and promising verse hampered by an unmemorable chorus.

Tim: Now, I like a good lyric video as much as the next guy, but sometimes I’m worried I read too much into them.

Tom: Oh no. Not again.

Tim: For example, this here is entirely standard – words coming and going as they should do, no typos or anything, all should be fine. Except. Except. What’s happening with the silhouettes, please. Because there are four people who make up Donkeyboy – Cato (vocals and guitar), Kent (vocals & synth), Peter (guitar, acting vocals) and Thomas (drums) – and here we’ve also one non-credited vocalist, Linnea, who also featured on their biggest hit, Ambitions, and is presumably the full colour one who shows up briefly.

SO WHAT DOES THE FADING MEAN? We have at most four silhouettes there at any one time, and why do they come and go? What is happening? Who do they represent? What does it signify? What does it mean? WHAT DOES ANYTHING MEAN?

Tom: It means the animator played about with the ‘opacity’ tool a bit, Tim.

Tim: Decent track, though.

Alan Walker, K-391 and Sofia Carson feat. CORSAK – Different World

“Oh joy! Politics! Exactly what we need today!”

Tim: We’ll lay off Christmas for a bit, so I can bring you some NEWS: three years after Faded first came along, Alan’s finally getting on with releasing an album this Friday; it’s about half and half new music’s what we’ve already heard (and weirdly, it’s missing some of his better stuff), but here’s the title track. And hey, it’s got a political message!

Tom: Oh joy! Politics! Exactly what we need today!

Tim: The world’s gone to pot, we can rescue it if we hurry. I’d say that’s a big if, but hey, let’s go with the optimism because the alternative is just hoping that asteroid comes along fairly soon and, well, happiest time of the year and all that.

Tom: And “we’ve got time” isn’t a great message? “We’ve only just got enough time”, sure, but “we’ve got time” implies, screw it, throw another oil-soaked seagull on the barbie.

Er, anyway, let’s… let’s maybe just talk about the music.

Tim: More pop than dance this time, but that’s no big problem because it’s still a great track. There’s maybe less of your typical Alan sound, but apparently ten people (or, if you recall the gubbins about K-391, nine people and one innovative headset) were involved in putting this together, so it’s almost a wonder it holds together as well as it does.

Tom: This really is designed by committee, isn’t it? There’s no distinguishing feature to it: it feels a bit slow, a bit monotonous, a bit… dull. I actually thought it was over when it went into the middle eight, because I thought I’d been listening for a lot longer than two minutes.

When the best bit in your track is the middle eight, that’s not a good sign.

Tim: Strong (if tired and naive) lyrics, good melody throughout and production that is, to surprise, fully on point. I’m in.

Frida Sundemo – Islands

“It starts on a chorus, which is a risky move at the best of times.”

Tim: The second best album of last year, Flashbacks & Futures, got released the day before my sister’s wedding, and if I’m honest it wasn’t entirely sure which I was more excited about. I won’t say which has given me more lasting enjoyment, but I will say that nine months on, one of the better tracks from it has suddenly been given a lyric video.

Tim: Now, I’ll get the obvious criticism out of the way first, to acknowledge it: there’s not much of a journey here.

Tom: I was going with “discount Chvrches”, but sure, that’s also valid criticism.

Tim: It starts on a chorus, which is a risky move at the best of times, dips to a first verse with a quiet first half and loud second half. Then the chorus, second verse, next chorus and middle eight stay at roughly the same volume. Yes, that is a slight flaw.

Tom: I disagree that starting on a chorus is overly risky: “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” has been good advice for pop musicians for a long, long time. And hey, at least I can remember the chorus after one listen this time.

Tim: HOWEVER, I am more than willing to forgive it that because OH, the last section of that song. Volume and energy wise it might not change much, but melodically and sonically it’s just so lovely. The decent, but by this point slightly repetitive, drumbeat makes way for that fabulous synth line, and it’s just great to listen to. By the end, it’s so so worth it.

Tom: And as ever with Frida’s tracks, I’m just not as enthusiastic: again, there’s nothing wrong (and, yes, it’s a good chorus), but there’s nothing that gets me excited here.

Tim: They could have turned up the colour in that video, though.

CHVRCHES – Never Say Die

“THIS IS HOW TO DO IT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.”

Tim: If you were hoping for a break from the female-fronted electro pop theme that this week has seemingly developed, I’ve got bad news for you, because here’s the Queen of Scots herself to defend her throne.

Tim: Oh, and boy oh boy can she defend her throne.

Tom: THIS IS HOW TO DO IT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

Tim: Blimey, that’s a reaction.

Tom: Now the question is, am I saying that because I like CHVRCHES’s sound already, or because this is a good track on its own merits? I’d like to think it’s the second, because that synth that leads into the chorus comes out of nowhere, and it doesn’t sound like them, and yet I still went “oh, that’s good”.

Tim: I have very similar views to that: true, it doesn’t sound like their typical track, as it’s a lot bassier than previously, but damn is this good. Normally I hate a fade out ending, as should most sensible people, but I can forgive it slightly when it’s an instrumental fade out and the instrumental is this good. Also, like you, I fully accept that if this weren’t by CHVRCHES but instead by some other band, I might not have this much enthusiasm for it, or be as willing to forgive that, and that by extension I may technically be falling into the trap that the Norwegians fell into when they chose Alexander Rybak to represent them at Eurovision with an atrocious song.

Tom: I still think that’s going to win.

Tim: Ugh, please no. What I might think of the song if it weren’t by CHVRCHES is slightly irrelevant, mind, because this is by CHVRCHES, and I bloody love it, and NOTHING you say will stop me. So there.

Post Precious – Lose Myself

“I’m starting to think it’s time they turned it into a front project.”

Tim: Third track of this pairing, and I’ve realised I’ve never really actually explained it: basically the producer off the American electro duo MS MR, Max Hershenow, has teamed up with a singer called Alex Winston to form this as a ‘side project’; going by this, and their previous two, I’m starting to think it’s time they turned it into a front project.

Tom: We’ve certainly been talking a lot about female-fronted electropop lately.

Tim: Because it’s quite good, isn’t it? It is, like yesterday, an example of this genre done very well indeed – great vocals, excellent production.

Tom: Mm. I’m just not so sure about the composition: there’s really nothing that stands out there for me. We’ve heard a lot of tracks like this before, and they’re all starting to blur together for me. What stands out for you?

Tim: Notably brilliant: the fifth eighth of the chorus – the “who was I to think…” line, which has a melody that is absolutely lovely. That’s not to say the rest of the chorus is bad, because I don’t think any part of this is bad – in fact, it’s all rather lovely and wonderful. Sure, it’s slightly annoying that every time the “I lose” comes along I want to segue into “my eyes…“, but I can get past that (and even if I can’t that’s a good song to slide into).

Tom: I guess I’m looking for something a bit more. This isn’t a bad song by any means, it’s just unmemorable for me.

Tim: We’re three tracks in, with three successes, so I call that at least very promising, right?

Olivera – No More

“It’s a genre I love, and it’s nicely done.”

Tim: New one off Olivera, who is from Finland and has been going a couple of years now; have a listen, because I’ve a question.

Tom: I’ll be honest, I can’t remember much of it after listening, which isn’t a good sign.

Tim: So, that is a lovely track, for me – it’s a genre I love, and it’s nicely done. The only problem is: I’d swear I’ve heard it before, to the extent that I had to check we’d not previously featured it. Have I heard it? Or is it just that it’s such textbook example of the CHVRCHES/Foxes style that it sounds familiar because it uses all the, well, standard tropes?

Tom: It sounds like a CHVRCHES album track, but, like, not a specific one. I’ve never heard it before, certainly.

Tim: I don’t know, and that annoys me. Is it just standard good, or something really good that I’ve already heard many times?

George FitzGerald & Lil Silva – Roll Back

“The underlying line basically is the Stranger Things theme.”

Tim: George from London, Lil Silva from Bedford, and this is the second track to be released from his upcoming second album.

Tom: Wow, I thought Luton was the least cool town in Britain. I forgot about Bedford.

Tim: I heard it on the radio yesterday morning, and for some reason it struck me that it could be quite a good TV theme, say, a Netflix one where the opening title sequence is about as long as the rest of the show, and all dark and dreamy.

Tim: A few minutes later, I realised exactly the reason for me thinking that: the underlying line basically is the Stranger Things theme. It’s not quite note for note but similar enough that it wouldn’t remotely surprise me if he’d thought “hey, something like that’d make a good backing for a song”. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose – inspiration has to come from somewhere, after all – but that doesn’t stop it sounding just a bit weird when there’s nothing else happening.

Tom: Mind you, the Stranger Things theme is itself inspired by a huge number of works from the actual 1980s — so perhaps it’s safe to say that it’s repeating the same homage. You’re right, though, this is certainly an attempt at dark and cinematic: perhaps a bit too much. Slowly fading to a second of silence in a track is a brave move, and this more or less pulls it off.

Tim: Having said that, when there is other stuff, it’s quite beautiful. Dark, certainly, and rather haunting. The voice fits the tone of the music perfectly, and the video is…well, along the same lines really. It’s an absolutely lovely track, and despite the darkness I could happily listen to it a good number of times.

Tom: It’d also make a good advert for ASDA.

Post Precious – Timebomb

“Bold start there, and it plays out interestingly.”

Tim: As far as I can tell, this duo doesn’t actually have anything to do with the girlband who represented us at Eurovision.

Tom: Good heavens, that’s an obscure reference. Well done.

Tim: They’re instead two indie pop folk who’ve teamed up to bring us this joy. I don’t want to spoil it, but don’t have this too loud if you’re in a public place.

Tim: Bold start there, and it plays out interestingly.

Tom: I honestly can’t tell whether that’s “love, you’re fucked” or “love your foot” as the first line.

Tim: Rather than a standard build up to the chorus, it almost builds down throughout the verses before coming storming back in with a PROPER BANGER of a chorus, at least, sort of.

Tom: Oh, I’m glad you qualified that.

Tim: I’m about to criticise it, but I want to say first: overall, this is great. Love it. HOWEVER, I think it’s a lot better on first listen than it comes across later, or at least if you pay attention and study it after a couple of listens it somewhat loses it. First time, you’re blown away by that chorus, you don’t notice that it calms down quite considerably after that first note, and doesn’t *quite* ever make it back up there, which it doesn’t, upsetting.

Tom: Imagine if you weren’t blown away by that first chorus. I mean, I don’t have to, but you might want to.

Tim: Now, as I said, though, I still think it’s great, lovely, and listening to it in the background it’s fantastic, because it’s still big. Just, never quite hits that sweet spot that it did the first time.

Tom: Yep, despite my cynicism, this isn’t a bad track. It’s just a bit anemic for me; it never hit that sweet spot.