Highasakite – Can I Be Forgiven

“Don’t be put off if you’re not keen on the first minute or so – you might end up having a change of heart.”

Tim: This song here goes on a bit of a journey, so don’t be put off if you’re not keen on the first minute or so – you might end up having a change of heart.

Tom: You’re not wrong about that journey. However, I did like what is basically the two-minute long introduction.

Tim: Part of the reason I stuck that warning at the top was that I wasn’t entirely keen on the first part of the track – skipped away from it to another tab and got distracted, and then became entirely surprised when it became a really good dance track. Too little too late? Maybe.

Tom: I can see why you’d think that: I was disappointed at 0:57, when I was expecting that big dramatic change and just got a few extra instruments. But honestly, I still enjoyed it all: I’m not sure what genre something like this fits into other than “builder”, but I’ll take it.

Tim: Though I would say that it is nice to have a little bit of the sound we were promised when Robyn came back last summer, gave us Missing U, but then went away without giving us an album. So for that I’ll take it, but I’d happily do without the first two minutes or so.

Nova Miller – Do It To Myself

“Big swear words and big letters ahoy.”

Tim: Few good things came out last Friday: Mika’s new album, with the highlight being a track with the hook ‘who gives a shit about tomorrow’, which we’ll get to in due course; Saara Aalto gave us the year’s first wintry song, which is nice but can probably wait a few weeks, don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; and then this.

Now, you known how sometimes when lyric videos are made for songs with rude words they put a pointless asterisk over the naughty bit? Yeah, Nova’s not done that. Big swear words and big letters ahoy.

Tim: And here we are again with a weird and unexpected sample and rewording, though I’ve a feeling it works significantly better here than it did with Blue (Da Ba Dee) or Informer.

Tom: Blimey, that’s certainly very close to California Dreamin’ — I wonder if it’s close enough that they’ve paid royalties? If not, that’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Tim: No, it’s a proper sample, with royalties and everything.

Tom: It is, at least, far enough away from the original that I don’t find immediately find myself singing the original over the top. After the song finishes, though? All I can remember is California Dreamin’, and that’s probably not a good thing.

Tim: Believe it or not, her favourite part is apparently that samply bit (who’d have thought it?) because it “takes you all the way to summer and back”, which is fair enough really. All in all this is quite a nice track, albeit one that should probably have landed three months ago. I’m enjoying it, anyway, despite looking out of my window at rain that just. won’t. stop.

Boy In Space – Drown

‘YOU HAVE LITERALLY KILLED ME WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME YOU EVIL HARPY’

Tim: Boy In Space is is the rather silly stage name of Robin Lundbäck, the R of short-lived boyband JTR who’s become a solo singer after spending a few years mostly writing. This song, meanwhile, is one of the best heartbreak songs I’ve heard in ages.

Tom: Hmm. Why’s that?

Tim: First verse: quiet and composed tonally, measured, not too much melodrama, though obviously we need overblown lyrics about ripping the heart. First chorus: up the stakes a bit, show her actually ‘hun, I’m not in a good place right now, you’ve really hurt me’. Second verse: down a bit again, still measured and composed, but again with the somewhat over the top piercing skin vibe. Second chorus: properly up the emotion, bring up the backing, ‘HANG ON LADY I AM IN PAIN HERE’. Middle eight, wait, take a bit of a breath, before coming back for an explosive final chorus when we are shouting ‘YOU HAVE LITERALLY KILLED ME WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME YOU EVIL HARPY’.

That’s exactly I want from a heartbreak song, I think.

Tom: Hmm. Whereas it just leaves me a bit cold: yes, I agree that most of the component parts are good, or at least competent, he’s followed that recipe you’ve laid down perfectly. But on the whole it just leaves me a bit cold. Maybe I’m just not the right target for a song like this?

When my main thoughts, after the track finishes, are “why did they leave so much background hiss on this” and “why I can hear the piano keys being pressed so damn loudly”… I guess it’s not for me.

Rasmus Seebach – Lovesong

“So, best things first: that chorus melody is absolutely lovely.”

Tim: Rasmus has been off for quite a while…

Tom: Has he been in the shadows? Sorry, wrong Rasmus. Carry on.

Tim: — as he’s had a baby to look after.

Tom: Oh. Well now I sound like a dick.

Tim: I won’t disagree. Anyway, now he’s got his priorities sorted and is back bringing us music. This song, well, I’m in two minds about. Have a listen.

Tim: So, best things first: that chorus melody is absolutely lovely. The opening line in English, the rest of it moving on, and also the various oh-oh-oh-ohs in the post-chorus (and intro), it’s just divine.

Tom: Yep, I was surprised by both the melody and the switch into English. And you’re right: “lovely” is the correct description for it.

Tim: The rest: hmm. It’s nice, it’s fine, and…okay, here’s the problem, and it is absolutely not Rasmus’s fault. The lyrics, you see, are entirely lovely – we’ve lines that translate to things like “I know we’re created for each other” and “You’re the only one in the world”, and Rasmus has said about this that “Without love, life is not worth much”. BUT, with them being in Danish – i.e. with me not being able to understand them – they wash over me, and I’m left thinking that part’s a bit dull. It isn’t, it should be lovely, it should be inspiring tears of delight in me when I’ve had one too many rum & cokes, and it’s entirely on me that it isn’t.

Tom: I’m not quite as convinced — well, I’m convinced that it’d inspire tipsy tears of delight in you, of course, I’m just not convinced about the verses themselves. They are very stripped-down and basic, perhaps a bit too much.

Tim: Perhaps, though sadly we never know, as you can properly do one if you think I’m going to learn a whole language just for one song. Unless – well, Rasmus did an English version of another song of his, Natteravn, so if you’re reading this Rasmus, could you do that here please? THANKS.

Basshunter – Home

“A perfect example of maintaining your existing sound while also adjusting it enough to keep it fresh.”

Tim: Yep, still out there, still hunting that elusive bass.

Tom: I sort-of assumed he’d have retired or gone into the production side of things by now. Instead, turns out he’s touring the UK. He can’t still be producing good stuff though, surely?

Tom: Well, what do you know? Six composers listed on the track, and unless he’s had a significant change of voice he’s got a session singer in, but sure: this somehow manages to provide a bit of early-2000s cheese and late-2010s dance at the same time. That’s impressive.

Tim: It is: that’s a really good 2019 dance track! What we’ve got here, I think, is a perfect example of maintaining your existing sound while also adjusting it enough to keep it fresh and sounding modern. Part of me was concerned it’d be the same as all his old stuff – after all, Northern Light came out several years after his heyday and sounded exactly the same. Seven years on, though, and something different is needed, and it’s here, and it’s one thing in particular: the effects on the vocal line. The echoing, the layering, the drop to nothing underneath it every now and again.

Tom: Yep. I can’t really fault this. Maybe it’s too schlagery, too bubblegum-Eurodance in melody to be mainstream? That’s not really a problem for me, though.

Tim: Not even slightly. And come the main part, though, the big dance melody: that’s all him, and he’s still here. Or, back here, whatever. Here, anyway, and just a little more modern sounding.

Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Cartoon Heroes

“And then the Spider-Man news happened.”

Tim: Most news right now is distinctly downbeat. Up until about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, in fact, I couldn’t really remember the last piece of news that made me absolutely, entirely, 100% unequivocally happy. And then the Spider-Man news happened, and I felt joy like I’d not felt in quite some time. So let’s listen to this great song, and watch the brilliant video, and be happy.

Tim: Love that video, I really do.

EEVA – Jimmy From The Gym

“I like that it’s entirely unashamed of what it is.”

Tim: Last time we featured a songwriter-turned-singer, I theorised it was because the song was such garbage that no-one else would sing it. I’ll confess I wondered the same thing here to start with, particularly since EEVA (or rather, Emelie Eriksson) says in promo: “It’s definitely a song that’ll divide opinion, but it’s not hate-able. It tiptoes near the line, I admit, but it doesn’t quite cross it.” That sounds like a challenge more than anything, so let’s have a listen.

Tom: I’m just assuming it’s a rewrite of “Jenny From The Block”.

Tim: Fortunately: nope.

Tim: Well, I don’t hate it, so that’s good.

Tom: I hate two very specific things about it: the specific lyrics “Jimmy from the gym” — their cadence just irritates me every time — and the weird, mocking “ha!” sample that follows them. Lose those, and I reckon I could actually like this song. After all, it’s only two and a half minutes long.

Tim: To be honest, I almost find it quite charming, though I’ll admit that may be because the video lightens the narrative a bit to the extent that I almost laughed when Devon came along. I like that it’s entirely unashamed of what it is: it knows it’s silly, there’s no real depth, but it’s up front with it, going straight into the chorus with the simple melody. We get the names, the descriptions, the all-in sense of fun, and I think it works.

Tom: I can’t disagree with any of that. I’m actually a bit disappointed that I find specific nitpicks with this song instead of a more general ‘not feeling it’. Let’s be honest, it’s basically Piña Colada Boy a few years later, and I can understand going for that sense of fun.

Tim: Yeah, I guess there are worse comparisons that could be made. I am missing one thing, though, which is the description of ‘you’, because I feel that’d provide necessary context: basically, is she saying that she’s happy with him even though he’s ugly as hell, or just that no-one yet has come close because he’s actually a proper Adonis? That second option is probably not what she’s going for, mind, but it would explain why she’s holding auditions.

jens – Awkward

“You know when comedians just add profanity in place of a punchline?”

Tom: Two songs in a row with an irritatingly high-pitched vocal sample at the start! And let me tell you, the first verse of this song may have the worst lyrics I’ve heard in ages. You know when comedians just add profanity in place of a punchline?

Tim: That is certainly a lot of profanities, and I’ve definitely never heard anyone try to rhyme ‘shit’ with ‘feet’ until now.

Tom: My reaction to this was pretty much the same as yesterday’s track: it’s got a great chorus. Good message, good production, catchy melody. It’s just a shame about everything around it. Is that chorus enough to redeem the whole track?

Tim: For me: no. It’s too similar to the rest of it. Yesterday’s was kind of a complete break, enabling it to be considered separately. Here, although we’ve a good melody, it’s still easily seen as part of the whole flawed mess.

Saturday Flashback: Subshine – Easy

“Well now, that’s a good chorus, isn’t it?”

Tim: This track was on Shortlist’s Top 50 Tracks of 2018; this video was posted in March; their PR sent us it a couple of days ago. Well done everyone. This Norwegian gent goes by the name of Ole Gunnar Gundersen, who previously fronted a ’00s band called Lorraine, and now he’s out with this, which “embraces his love of 80’s era synthesizers and his unique pop sensibilities”.

Tom: Well now, that’s a good chorus, isn’t it? The word that comes to mind is ‘soft’, but I mean that as a compliment. It’s just genuinely quite nice.

Tim: First forty seconds or so, I was enjoying it, but not particularly enthused – sure, it sounded okay, production was decent, vocal fine and all that, but there was nothing that special. Come the chorus though, or to be more precise, come that guitar, and oh, suddenly that missing component is right in there – which makes it entirely mystifying why they pretty much remove it for the second verse. Sure, it’s common to drop the level after the first chorus back to the original level for the second verse, but when you’ve added that little bit extra, the new 10% that makes the song just click, why remove it?

Tom: That’s fair, although I’m liking the melody of that chorus enough that I can stand it without. This is a really lovely track, and while I’m not going to race to put it on any playlists, I’m not going to object in the slightest if it turns up on one.

As for why they removed the guitar: no idea.

Tim: Admittedly the song isn’t bothered with usual structure – we pretty much go straight to a middle eight after the second verse, and I can’t remember the last time I heard a good old fashioned instrumental fade out – but still seems a very odd decision.

Birgir – Letting Go

“I… I just don’t hear it. I wish I did, though, it’d be a better track.”

Tim: Tricky one today, Tom, because there are two tracks I’d like to feature before we inevitably get on to next week’s stuff on Monday, and they’re similar in style. One is Done Fighting by NorthKid, who we’ve featured a few times before; the other is this one, and in the end it came down purely to one thing.

You see, yesterday’s chorus reminded me of a 6/10 song by Zayn & Taylor Swift; today’s intro, and indeed backing throughout the verses, reminds me of a 10/10 song, dating all the way back to 1997.

Tom: I have absolutely no idea which song you mean. I can’t hear any connections to older songs in here, which is weird because normally that bit of my brain works in overdrive.

Tim: What, seriously? You don’t hear that single, one note at a time line and immediately hear it as being near identical to this fabulous guitar riff?

Tom: Love Shine A Light? Really? No, I… I just don’t hear it. I wish I did, though, it’d be a better track.

Tim: To be honest, it almost gets a bit annoying with it never actually resolving into that beautiful drum crash that is surely one of the single best moments in pop history, but then the chorus comes along and it’s just so good. It is about as simple as you can possibly get with the lyrics, but that leaves plenty of room for the melody, the volume, the rhythm, and the trumpets. It has trumpets! I’m sitting down now but I just had to get up to get a drink and I was more or less jumping around the room to it.

Tom: Wow. We haven’t disagreed this much on a song in a long time. I actually said the words “wow, this is dull” out loud at one point. I think you’re hearing Katrina and letting it colour your perceptions too much. This just seems to plod for me. Although, yes, the brass section’s worth it.

Tim: The middle eight is…novel, but it’s a brief interlude and one that certainly doesn’t detract for the rest of the song. All in all, a fantastic chorus, and Katrina in the background is just a bonus.