Elina – Here With Me

“Here’s a song that doesn’t live up to its potential.”

Tim: So you’re not disappointed when what could happen doesn’t: here’s a song that doesn’t live up to its potential.

Tim: I mean listen to it. The vocal’s great, the backing’s nice, throughout the first verse I’m sitting wondering what’s going to happen in the chorus. The pre-chorus comes along, we get a little extra in the backing, and then her voice ramps up a bit..and then 30 seconds later I’m thinking ‘so, wait, that was the chorus?’. I don’t want to be thinking that.

Tom: I had exactly the same reaction. I did not realise we’d even reached the chorus. And there’s nothing wrong with having a quiet ballad, it’s just that — based on prior expectations — this sounds like it’s going to grow into something bigger.

Once you manage those expectations, sure, it’s a decent quiet song with a bad sound mix. Those clicks from the piano keys and the overly-stereo effect aren’t helping its case.

Tim: I want to be thinking that this is our next Rachel Platten, that it comes with a chorus that is enormous, that leaves me stunned and desperate for more. I don’t want this. I’m upset, dammit.

Beatrice Egli – Was geht ab

“I’m distracted enough by that corset that I’m finding it difficult to complain.”

Tim: So I have a friend at work who is absolutely convinced that She-Wolf by Shakira will go down in history as one of the most under-appreciated tracks of all time, and that twenty years from now it will be treated with as much reverence as classics like Imagine and Hallelujah.

Tom: He’s wrong.

Tim: I, and everybody else, think he’s off his nut, but he won’t listen to reason. Anyway, here, in an attempt to resolve your musical boredom, is seemingly what you get when a German schlager artist tries to do Latin pop.

Tom: I mean, the intro is very Cheap Thrills, but frankly I’m distracted enough by that corset that I’m finding it difficult to complain.

Tim: There’s not a huge amount of depth in the lyrics – it’s basically a case of “I’m feeling proper raunchy right now, so we’re going to have sex”, which fits the genre perfectly well enough.

Musically it gets off a great start – diving in with the chorus is a good choice here, and overall I think it keeps it up.

Tom: I’ll grant you, Tim, I’m not bored, but I think that’s mostly due to– yep, I just put it in a background tab and there’s really not much left here. It’s a solid middle-of-the-playlist dance-pop song.

Tim: I’m not sure Latin schlager works entirely as a sub-genre, but I’ll take it as a bit of fun.

Shirley Clamp – Självklart

“There’s not a lot to say about it, beyond: it’s lovely.”

Tom: BORED, Tim. I’ve been BORED of pop music lately. It’s all the same. And I realise this seems a bit like the start of Flash Gordon, but: what’ve got you for me this time?

Tim: Hmm, a fair amount of pressure you’ve laid on me there, but I’ve got this, from the queen of Christmas herself. A nice jolly track; song title translates as Obvious, and I’ve no idea about the rest of the words.

Tom: If there was a button marked HOT HAIL in front of me, I’d be pushing it. (That is not a compliment.) Most of the lines in the verse are just going between the same two notes, up and down. The chorus just seems to plod along. And for a singer with, as I recall, a pretty damn good voice, there’s really not much here that couldn’t be done by any session singer.

Tim: Off, blimey, that’s harsh. So harsh. I’ve been sitting here for quite some time now trying to think what to write about it, and now I’m not really sure what to write. If, indeed, to write anything. Because there’s not a lot to say about it, beyond: it’s lovely. Moves quickly, lightly, almost deftly if a song can be described like that, and sounds happy, playful and somewhat joyous.


Tim: Mate, you’re not in a great place right now, are you?

Magnus Carlsson – Slow Motion

“It just doesn’t seem right, you know?”

Tim: It’s a new one off Magnus Carlsson!

Tom: Brilliant!

Tim: And it’s in English.

Tom: That’s a pleasant surprise!

Tim: And really really doesn’t sound like his usual stuff…

Tom: Oh.

Tim: He’s got all modern, although it’s possibly a 2015 version of modern, but not to worry, because it is still sounding great. Fast (somewhat ironically, given the title), synthy, upbeat, energetic and…and dammit it upsets me there isn’t a key change there.

Tom: The song is a bit… well, Generic Modern Pop, isn’t it? There’s nothing actually wrong there, but that was a nice little niche he had carved out for himself. There’s a bit too much novelty here, and a bit more familiarity would come in handy.

Tim: Right? Take a key change, for example. It would sound lovely, and much as I do enjoy the track, and appreciate what Magnus is doing, I still feel that, in these turbulent times, we should have one constant in our lives to look to, and that one constant should be Magnus Carlsson putting out incredible schlager tracks. Sure, we’ve got old German men doing it, but Magnus…Magnus is the king of it.

Tom: Instead, we have a track that could have pretty much any vocalist and sound much the same.

Tim: Don’t get me wrong – if this was any other artist here, I may well love this. But from Magnus, it just doesn’t seem right, you know?

Bernhard Brink – Mit dem Herz durch die Wand

“Only in Germany.”

Tim: It’s a tale as old as time.

Tom: Beauty and the Beast?

Tim: Slightly different one – the relationship is forbidden, but the love is just too strong. Will it end in accidental mutual suicide this time? SPOILER: no, no it won’t.

Tom: Not Beauty and the Beast, then.

Tim: You know, if that last bit is the clue that makes you realise that, you really ought to rewatch the film…

Tom: GOOD NEWS: I could sort-of sing the chorus after one listen! BAD NEWS: I was singing it in a Vic Reeves Club Singer style.

Tim: What I so love about the German pop industry is that, unlike any other in the world that I’m aware of, it positively encourages throaty old men to abandon their roots and jump into dance music.

Tom: And schlager dance music as well! Where on earth is that still being seriously published?

Tim: Only in Germany. Take Bernhard – he’s been going over forty years, his debut release was a jaunty folk number, but now here he is at the age of 66 pumping out dance bangers like there’s no tomorrow and getting to number 14 in the charts with them. Accompanying him he’s got Matthias Reim, Alf, Nik P. (Austrian, but still), all of whom we’ve covered before, and so many others, and I absolutely adore that.

Tom: It is a bit of a shame about the video, because I honestly can’t tell whether that’s meant to be a father-daughter relationship or a May-September relationship and frankly that’s just a bit creepy. But yes, keeping careers alive with schlager is just lovely.

Tim: I also adore this track, because it’s everything I want it to be: a dance background that’s verging on euphoric, that vocal style that, whatever anyone outside Germany thinks, works so well, and then that key change at the end to emphasise just how strong the love is and how inseparable they are, sod the forbiddenness of it all.

Tom: Agree about the key change, still a bit creeped out by the vocals.

Tim: It’s just great: the track, and the fact that it’s encouraged to exist.

Birgir – Glorious

“Tubular bells! I think they actually used tubular bells there!”

Tim: Bit of pressure laid on the song from the title here; see what you think.

Tim: Let’s be honest, it’s never going to beat Andreas Johnson.

Tim: It’ll probably beat Cascada, though.

Tim: And the main word I would use there is ‘pleasant’.

Tom: Tubular bells! I think they actually used tubular bells there! That’s basically going all-in, these days.

Tim: Aren’t they lovely? It’s nice to hear, the unambiguity of the message is quite sweet, and the chord progression on the titular ‘glorious’ is pleasing to my ears at least – however many times it’s repeated I’m fine with it.

Tom: I’m… not, really. Sure, it gets into your head, and at least a repeated word is less irritating than a repeated line, but I’m not sold.

Tim: Really? Because as I see it, the post-chorus melody is good, the middle eight works well (again, whoever came up with those tubular bells in is a genius), and the big shouting towards the end just reinforces everything. The only extra thing I’d ask this for is a big climactic final note, rather than the sudden drop-off we get. Other than that: lovely.

HAMMENFORS – Thinking About

“Twee? Smug? Self-satisfied? Probably yes to all of those, but I don’t care.”

Tim: Appeared on Sweden’s single series of The X Factor in 2012; didn’t get anywhere with that so went into producing and writing. Now, dropping his first name of Johan, he’s out with a solo track. And boy, I hope you’re feeling chirpy.

Tom: A whistling introduction is a move that’s either extremely confident or extremely foolhardy. But it somehow seems to have paid off here? This is really quite charming.

Tim: And that reminds me a LOT of some good Mika tracks from a decade ago – the happy ones, that is, rather than the depressing but utterly fantastic Happy Endings. It’s most obvious in the “I can be, I can be, I can be” rising line, straight out of Grace Kelly.

Tom: Yes! Mika’s what this reminds me of: it’s got that almost aggressively chipper tone to it. A full album would be too much, but a song? Yes, this is lovely, and it’s right back to… [checks Google] … eleven years ago.

Eleven years, Tim.

Tim: Eleven indeed, blimey. There’s a reason Mika was so successful back then – it was a happier time, the country was good, everybody was cheerful, and look at me romanticising the past. This song fits right with that – thinking about all the good stuff: sunshine, friends, rooftops (really?), sex, moonlight, us, Paris, love. Mostly positive things, and a damn cheerful song to match.

Tom: A special shoutout to that rising sample in the background that could be synth or distorted vocal. I thought I’d get tired of it, but I didn’t, despite it being so…

Tim: Twee? Smug? Self-satisfied? Probably yes to all of those, but I don’t care. Because I’m thinking about sunshine, friends, love and I’m whistling and ALL HAPPY.

Brother Leo – Strangers On An Island

“A fearless free spirit with superpowers.”

Tim: Remember Ola?

Tom: Only the name, none of the music.

Tim: Fair, as that’s about the same as me. Not much of a problem, though, as he’s taken the past four years as a time to reinvent himself – “my inspiration came from a dream I used to have as a kid. In the dream I had a twin, a fearless free spirit with superpowers. His name was Leo.” Makes as much sense as anything else we deal with here, I guess. Anyway here’s the debut as Brother Leo, and it’s produced by, erm, Fatboy Slim. Really, it is.

Tim: And we’ve a lot of Fatboy Slim indicators (Slimdicators?) here.

Tom: Nice. You’re not wrong, though.

Tim: Most clearly the stuttering that’s straight out of Praise You. There’s that vocal bit that comes out of nowhere around the three minute mark, with the record slips following it. Obviously I don’t know the ins and outs of who brought what here, but to be honest I’m quite surprised there’s not double billing here, or even just a “feat”.

Tom: He’s slipped into the background plenty of times before: if you search out Cornership’s Brimful of Asha, you’ll find it’s very different to the Norman Cook remix that the radio always plays.

Tim: Do you know, I knew that, but I’d forgotten how weirdly different the original sounded. Regardless of who did what, though, it’s an interesting track, and one I’m really rather keen on.

Tom: Agreed: it’s got a decent chorus to it, and there’s nothing wrong here. All the Norman Cook in the world couldn’t fix a track with poor composition, after all.

Tim: It’s a decent reinvention, and I’ll be happy to hear more in due course.

Bad Geckos – This Time

“No spoilers for this song out of Norway; just press play.”

Tim: No spoilers for this song out of Norway; just press play.

Tom: I’d already written the words “I’ve heard that introduction before” (as a later part of Primadonna Girl by Marina and the Diamonds, incidentally) but then I heard the first line of the first verse and burst out laughing.

Tim: Fun, isn’t it? Question is, of course, whether or not this has anything about it to rely on beyond the immediate shock value of that line, and happily I’ll say yes.

Sure, it’s still the most memorable part of the song, but we’ve also got a really good dance tune underneath it, with a nicely banging post-chorus, and to cap it all off we’ve the message that, let’s face it, is a pretty easy to approve of. Nice.

Tom: I am all in favour of unconventional, sex-positive, honest messages in songs. Sure, I’m not going to actually add this to a playlist, but I’m glad it exists.

Isak Danielson – Always

“I can appreciate both the vision and the technical skills, and I never want to watch it again.”

Tim: Nice number here for you, with a rather annoying video; you might want to put two-thirds of it off screen.

Tim: You see? I mean, maybe they’ve done it that way to disguise an occasional cut that became necessary, but still, it’s horribly disorientating.

Tom: That’s an absolutely genius effect by the director, I can appreciate both the vision and the technical skills, and I never want to watch it again.

Tim: The song’s pretty nice, though – admittedly the lyrics of the second verse are horrible, and should really be enough to get Isak and his co-writers put in solitary, but the chorus is particularly nice to listen to.

Tom: Yes, they absolutely are. I was put in a grumpy mood by the line “watching an episode of Friends”, which tipped the whole thing so over the line into ‘twee falsetto guitar rubbish’.

Tim: It’s a bit twee, yes, and if was in a grumpy mood this review might be entirely different with me dismissing it immediately as smug garbage, but I’m not in a grumpy mood. I’m in a good mood, and one that has me, on the third listen, swaying a little bit on my sofa as I type this.

Tom: I will grant you that it is a very, very nice chorus.

Tim: So in summary: yes. Most of the time, probably.