Urban Cone – Kings and Queens

Good grief. Has it been two years?

Tim: Right, party poppers down, people, because it’s serious analysis time. We started this blog (two years ago yesterday, as it happens) primarily because we love Swedish/Scandinavian/proper pop music, and all the clichés that go with it like key changes and other things that make sure they never get played on the radio in Britain.

Tom: Good grief, has it been two years? That’s a lot of key changes, Tim. And a lot of other changes: you’re living in London, dubstep’s a mainstream thing now, Engelbert Humperdinck’s briefly returned to our vocabulary.

Tim: A good few changes. But musically, our message has always roughly been: Sweden does great cheesy pop. Yet somehow we’ve never realised that Sweden also seems to do great synthpop and electropop. We’ve had Queen of Hearts, Johan Agebjörn, Wild At Heart and, most notably, The Sound of Arrows. And then there’s this latest export, Urban Cone.

Tom: Urban Cone sounds like a terrible extreme sport. Or a terrible ice cream shop. Or some kind of terrible ice cream-based extreme sport.

Tim: Are you kidding? I cannot think of an ice cream-based extreme sport that wouldn’t be totally brilliant. Returning again to my favourite film and your favourite Nightmare Fuel: amazing.

Tim: The verses: admittedly, not fantastic, and that single note in the background could get tedious on repeated listens. But that’s all made up for in the chorus, which is, let’s face it, just plain great.

Tom: No arguments there. The lull before that final chorus is just wonderful.

Tim: You might complain that the “we’ll be kings and queens” message is similar to the issue with Pet Shop Boys’s use of “winner”, and to an extent you’d be right, but that doesn’t stop it having a great message, lovely uplifting vibe to it and a great melody to the chorus.

Tom: I think it was just the specific word “winner” that I had issues with there – which probably says more about the associations in my head than it does about the song in general. Kings and queens? No such problems. It’s a cracking chorus.

Tim: It is. All in all, it’s another great synthpop track from a country that excels at the genre.

Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time

Truly appalling lyrics.

Tom: Brace yourself, Tim; some truly appalling lyrics are coming.

Tim: Woohoo!

Tim: Why would you plan to wake up at twilight? That’s just silly – you’d miss the whole day, and you’d have trouble getting to sleep when you actually go to bed. What a nonsense.

Tom: Our resident Radio Insider sent me this, and straight away I was skeptical. Two irritating-but-catchy artists team up: and by their powers combined, they’re… they’re even more irritating-but-catchy.

Tim: Catchy, definitely. Irritating, slightly, but the fact that the catchy bit is “it’s always a good time” almost forces you not to be too irritated by it.

Tom: I want an instrumental of this: that chorus sounds absolutely amazing, apart from the lyrics. That verse sounds great, apart from the lyrics. The middle eight is… well, even that’s pretty good, apart from the lyrics. I caught myself tapping my foot on the first listen through.

Tim: With you, mostly, but I’d happily keep the lyrics from the chorus – woah-oh-oh-oh onwards – because it’s a happy thought and does prevent the irritation from spreading.

Tom: It’s no Call Me Maybe, but… well, if it isn’t a summer hit, at least in the US, I’ll be very surprised.

Orion – In The End

That pretty much defines ‘uplifting electronica’.

Tim: I like this, mostly.

Tom: Good grief, that’s a cracking bit of instrumentation. That pretty much defines ‘uplifting electronica’. There’s just so much going on.

Tim: My dad’s told me he can’t stand Florence and the Machine, and previously I’ve always just nodded and said ‘yes dad’ in a rather patronising ‘you’re old and you’re not meant to like it’ way. Now, though, I’m on my way to understanding what he’s talking about, because my word does this voice here grate occasionally.

Tom: I don’t think it’s her voice – she’s the victim of a poor microphone and recording studio.

Tim: You think?

Tom: If I’m right, there’s a high-frequency sound, like air escaping from a balloon, that’s been recorded along with her. Either that or she’s had some kind of tracheotomy, but I think that’s unlikely.

Tim: A tad, yes, so fair enough. She’s a mostly anonymous singer (Orion’s the dance producer who came up with the excellent backing), and those long notes in the chorus that should be beautiful and soaring just make me want to turn it down a bit. Which a real shame, because the tune it’s over is fantastic. Can we get this rerecorded? Or at least a vocal-less version?

Tom: I think the term’s “instrumental”—

Tim: Which I was going for before I realised that technically there aren’t any actual instruments in there, so I thought it would sound a bit odd.

Tom: —but you’re right – it’d be just as good as an additional synth line. Aside from that, though: brilliant.

Saturday Flashback: Bright Light Bright Light – Disco Moment

Four-on-the-floor disco beat. This bodes well.

Tom: “This is my moment! This is my disco-o-o moment, with you!” …no?

Tim: No.

Tom: Shame.

Tim: Quick backstory: I’ve recently been listening to a lot of electropop, and then I found this, which is a great compilation if anyone’s looking to expand their knowledge. One of the tracks on there is this, from last summer. Enjoy.

Tom: Four-on-the-floor disco beat. This bodes well.

Tim: Video: no idea what’s going on, I really don’t, although I have learned that blue lipstick really doesn’t do much good for your teeth. Music: speaks for itself. The backing beats and melody and fantastic, the verses stand up well and as for that chorus, well, just listen to it, and I challenge you to tell me it’s not brilliant.

You can’t, can you?

Tom: I wouldn’t deign to try. The verses are a bit too quiet and monotonous for me, but then without them the chorus wouldn’t shine as brightly.

Tim: Indeed. And it is a very very bright chorus.

Little Boots – Headphones

A proper electropop dance track.

Tom: The lovely thing about certain artists is that you can tell it’s them just from how they sound.

Tim: Very true.

Tom: Little Boots has just such a sound, and my word, it’s a good one.

Tom: Okay, so the “la la la” chorus is a bit unimaginative, and the rest of the lyrics are a bit meaningless and ridiculous, but none of that really matters, because it’s a proper electropop dance track.

Tim: But if it’s a track about music in general, “la la la” is fairly appropriate if you’re going to have a recurrent theme.

Tom: A bit more poppy than her previous album, perhaps – but that’s by no means a bad thing.

Tim: I’d go so far as to say: it’s a good thing. Although I would say that at four minutes and with such a notable, recurring theme going on, it sounds a bit drawn out at the end. That’s my only criticism, though.

Nick Ellis and the Noise – Delorean

Back to the Future references are so original.

Tim: According to the website, these chaps “play new-wave synth-pop inspired by the 80’s and time travel”.

Tom: Which is why they’ve called it “Delorean”. Back to the Future references are so original.

Tim: In their defence, though, that song would indicate a correlation between said film and brilliant pop songs.

Tom: Incidentally, that’s the first time I’ve seen the video to “Year 3000”. Two comments: first, I can see why Charlie left, and second, they do the Busted Jump a lot, don’t they?

Tim: I miss it so much.

Tom: Anyway. What’s this track like?

Tim: Probably worth a listen.

Tim: So, you’re a musician influenced, as you claim, by time travel. You write a song called Delorean and sing about using it to go travel in aforementioned time. Do you do something decent with this time machine? Solve scientific queries, like go back and find out whether dinosaurs were hot or cold blooded? Attempt to solve religious debate by trying to get photographic evidence of the resurrection? Maybe even travel to the future, see what disasters may lie ahead and come back and warn everyone? Actually, no. You stop yourself doing something stupid that made your girlfriend dump you. You pathetic boring bastard.

Tom: You’re not thinking big enough there, Tim. Once you violate causality, then by necessity you’ve broken the second law of thermodynamics. At this point, you can reverse entropy, and can pretty much do anything. There’s a reason time travel doesn’t make sense when you stop to think about it.

Tim: Yes, but this guy claims to be properly influenced by it, so he should at least put some effort into having some decent ambitions before causing the universe as we know it to fall apart around us.

As it happens, though, I don’t much care about that, because this is a pretty good piece of electropop.

Tom: It does go on a bit, though, and the constant mentions of “Delorean” do get old very quickly.

Tim: Yeah, I’m not so keen on that, especially the time before the middle eight where it seems it’ll never end, but the main verse and chorus work great together, I think, and so overall I can cope with his lack of time travel imagination. Just.

Tom: Probably for the best, because you’d also have to complain about Cher and Aqua.

Tim: Oh, I could never do that.

Wild At Heart – Darling

So, this is all sorts of lovely.

Tim: So, this is all sorts of lovely.

Tom: Is it synth-pop time again, then?

Tim: Certainly is. Enjoy.

Tom: Add some sleigh bells, this could be a Christmas song.

Tim: What with the twinklyness and things at the start, the mystic vocal and gentle beats mushing up together, it may remind you of The Sound of Arrows, which hugely surprising, as they produced it. But ignoring that—well, actually, I almost can’t. It’s annoying, because their other stuff is brilliant, but whenever I hear this I think, ‘it’s not quite as good as Nova was.’

Tom: If you’re in the mood for some calm electronic pop, this’ll probably do the trick. Yes, there’s better out there, but this is pretty high up the list. I think you’re being too harsh.

Tim: I probably am, yes – it’s nice enough on its own, and objectively it’s great as dreamy synth-pop goes. It’s just…not as great as I know it can be.