Saturday Flashback: Kim Petras – Everybody Dies

“Perhaps a melodramatic choice to send over for our last song, Tim. But I think it’s apt in more subtle ways as well.”

Tim: Well that’s certainly a title.

Tom: Perhaps a melodramatic choice to send over for our last song, Tim. But I think it’s apt in more subtle ways as well. Over the ten years we’ve been doing this, there are only a handful of times I’ve cared enough to download a full album. BWO’s Big Science was the first, ten years ago; and come to think of it, “Kings of Tomorrow” would also be a good song to end on.

Tim: True, actually – a great song from a great band.

Tom: We talked about Kim Petras’s music for the first time back in February; Turn Off The Light has become one of my most-played albums this year since then. Despite its novelty “spooky Hallowe’en” status, and that it’s borderline a concept album, I think it’s proper, really enjoyable pop, from someone with a great voice and a lot of talent.

Tim: I’ve not yet checked out the whole album, but as I said at the time I certainly enjoyed There WIll Be Blood. What’s this one, then?

Tom: The last track on the album: it’s the last dance before the lights come on and everyone goes home.

Tom: I think it sums up exactly the sort of music we were hoping to find when we set this site up, ten years ago. The sort of music you hear randomly on some European radio station. The sort of music that’s catchy and poppy and a bit frowned on by the Serious Music World. The sort of music that can be fun and meaningless if it wants to, and that’s fine, but can reach emotional depth too.

Tim: And very often, the sort of music people hear you playing and ask “what the hell is this?”, but then if you manage to persuade them to give it a go realise they might actually slightly enjoy it. 

Tom: Tim, it’s been a pleasure.

Tim: A pleasure, and an education. 

Emili Milou – Jag Har Hört

“Don’t worry, it’s chirpy!”

Tim: For our final new track, let’s have a rummage around the old inbox for a less well known artist, shall we? The title translates to ‘I’ve Heard’, and apparently it’s about a break-up that Emili went through a few years back. But don’t worry, it’s chirpy!

Tom: It is chirpy, isn’t it? Although having commented on Kylie’s subtle but strong stereo effects yesterday, I can’t help but comment that this is exactly the wrong way to do stereo: instruments shouldn’t seem like they’re flying around the listener’s head. (There’s been a terrible gimmick fad for “remixing” tracks using that sort of production on YouTube, and I’m not in favour.)

Tim: See, I first heard this sitting at my computer and didn’t notice that, but on second listen with noise isolating headphones, then…huh. I checked out a track from that article and, well, this isn’t quite as weird as having Ed Sheeran wander all around the tube carriage on my way to work, but you’re right that it is a little disconcerting.

Aside from that, though, well. I’m not saying that the break-up was necessarily a good thing (and I can’t find the lyrics online so sadly I can’t tell you Emili’s feelings on the matter), but if it led to this song’s existence I can only see it as a net positive, really, because oh, are there a lot of things in there that I really like.

Tom: For the last time, Tim: name ’em.

Tim: Oh, alright, since you ask. We’ve the gentle synthy backing in there, and the lovely soft vocal on top of it. The Out Of The Woods-style simplicity of the chorus, and the rhythm that it brings along with it. The sudden genre shift for the middle eight, which comes out of nowhere but manages not to sound horribly out of place. The charming backing vocals at the end, that stop the repetition getting boring because they just carry you along gently through to the end of the song, at which point you press the button to play it all over again. Because it’s properly lovely.

Tom: It is. I’d just prefer it in mono, I think.

Tim: And, well, it seems that’s it. Once more tomorrow for a brief look back?

Tom: I think I know exactly the right track for the occasion.

DJ Herzbeat feat. Paulina Wagner – Es Ist Love

“Sorry, I am literally sitting here just repeating the word ‘geslided’ to myself out loud.”

Tim: Now, before you press play, be aware that there are a number of moments in the lyrics that will make you wince and let out an ‘oh, mate, just no’.

Tom: From our favourite ridiculous schlager channel? I’m shocked. There are certain traditions here that I’m going to miss when we finish writing this, Tim, but cringing at dodgy lyrics is not one of them.

Tim: Hmm, that’s fair. There are two things to know this time, though: everything is justified within the narrative of the lyrics (and they do tell a heartwarming tale), and all the awkwardness is stuck in the first verse, so the chorus and second verse are fine.

Tom: “Geliked” and “Geslided”. Geslided. Geslided. Sorry, I am literally sitting here just repeating the word “geslided” to myself out loud. Incredible.

Tim: She found him on Insta, you see, and checked out his feed, and went for the old DM slide, and he liked her photos right away, and, well, he’s got an inspiring bio that quotes Goethe so really what else is a girl meant to do but sing a really pretty good and banging dance tune about it?

Tom: Plenty more fish in the sea, love. That said, this is exactly the sort of song we set out to find when we started ten years ago: yes, it seems a bit by-the-numbers, but there’s clearly been work put into the composition and production. DJ Herzbeat knows what he’s doing.

Tim: It’s love, you see, Tom, IT’S LOVE. AND NOT JUST A DREAM. IT’S LOVE.

Tom: Heh. “Geslided.”

Sigrid Bernson – Sommaren i City

“Tom, we have an announcement to make.”

Tim: Tom, we have an announcement to make.

Tom: We do. Europlop is approaching ten years old. And after more than 3,000 posts — and more than 3,800 emails back and forth, during which we’ve never changed the subject line — that ten-year anniversary is also the time to bring this to a close. Ten years is an achievement, and I reckon it’s better to go out on a high, while we’ve got something to celebrate.

Tim: Indeed – I think we can say it’s been a fairly good decade musically, even if we did have to struggle to get through dubstep.

Tom: As the old showbiz saying goes, always leave ’em wanting more. So, with that said: one last week of new music?

Tim: Let’s do it. We have, broadly, both been in favour of Sigrid’s previous tracks; here’s her latest, a cover of a track from thirty years ago, and you can probably guess what the title translates to.

Tom: Well, that’s another track I can describe myself as being “broadly in favour of”.

Tim: Good, that, isn’t it? It’s basically a ‘remember that? That was great, any chance of it happening again?’ message, and it pretty much checks all my requirements for an upbeat pop song. Great vocal, yep, Tinkly background with lovely synth patterns, yep. Smooth and catchy melody, yep. Nothing that I want to get rid of, also yep.

Tom: And there’s enough eighties influence left from the original — in that middle eight in particular — that it’s still a competent cover.

Tim: Honestly, got nothing to complain about with this. Hooray!

The Mamas – Move (Hogland Remix)

“Bit of a banger, really.”

Tim: We didn’t feature the original of this, Sweden’s would-have-been Eurovision entry, largely because neither of us thought a great deal of it. A couple of weeks I heard it again, though, and it turns out I liked it a bit more on second listen. It also turns out I like it a LOT more when Hogland’s had a go at it.

Tim: Bit of a banger, really.

Tom: My brain stuttered a bit at “life, oh life“, but yes, that is a marked improvement on the original. Although I wonder how much of that is because it’s a better song, and how much of it is that it’s just… faster.

Tim: If I have any criticism, it’s that it’s almost too fast, as a large amount of the vocals seem immediately a bit off, with it being blindingly obvious that it’s a pre-recorded track sped up.

Tom: Yep. There’s not a lot of vibrato in there — and that vocal quality is of course, incredible — but the melisma in the middle eight doesn’t survive well.

Tim: It’s not so bad in the opening part of the verse, and the backing vocals and post-chorus oh-ohs are fine, but it’s the main chorus when they’re together that it falls down a bit. On the other hand, that is largely made up for by all the extra speed and extra vaguely tropical bits that are chucked on top, what with it now being a significantly more enjoyable track. Hooray for remixes!

Saturday Flashback: Eric Saade – Sting

“What an odd choice of brass samples!”

Tim: Couple of weeks back, Britain’s best club night did a virtual party over Zoom as it obviously couldn’t happen in person – about a hundred people connected, seven hours of a DJ playing music with frequent cuts to people dancing in their rooms with ridiculous outfits, flags, lights, all sorts. Whole lot of fun, with this being one song that was played that I was surprised to have no memory of whatsoever.

Tom: What an odd choice of brass samples! Flagged up in the performance video, just about audible from time to time, but never actually brought to the forefront. Even in the middle eight, they’re relying on a vocal sample and dance moves. It’s like they wanted to aim for Sunstroke Project but couldn’t bring themselves to commit.

Tim: Ah, a beautiful reference there. I’m not sure why we didn’t feature it in our Rejects that year either – perhaps 2015 was a very strong year, but in any case it’s here now, so finally we have justice. Because what a good song it is!

Tom: It is, but I can most likely destroy your enjoyment of it with one word.

Tim: Ooh, that’s a claim and a half.

Tom: Do name the good things first, though.

Tim: From the moment he starts singing there’s plenty of energy there, a lovely melody into and throughout the chorus (and who doesn’t love a good “screw you” in the lyrics?) with a nice brassy breakdown every now and again. Although, speaking of the lyrics, it’s never actually specified what the ‘it’ is that’s going to sting, nor who it’s going to sting. I’ve been looking at the lyrics for a while now and I really can’t work it out, which is slightly annoying, but, oh well. Music’s good enough for me. Wasn’t for him, mind, as of course Måns won instead, but at least he got straight to the final, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Anyway, what’s that word?

Tom: “Stink.”

Tim: Hmm…nice try, but no. Still fine with it. Sorry.

Dopha – The Game

“A really good way of putting a countermelody in without it being distracting.”

Tim: Fancy a sort of rock type ballad track? That’s a terrible introduction to it, but then ‘rock ballad’ doesn’t really describe it properly. I dunno, have a listen.

Tom: Huh. You’re right, that doesn’t easily fold into a genre.

Tim: Number of things in there I like, but I think my main one is the way the melody of the verse sort of floats around, gently moving from one note to another without too much of a leap between any two.

Tom: It’s a fine line between “relaxed” and “lazy”, but yes, it fits the style of that verse well.

Tim: That progresses into the chorus as well, mind, but doesn’t have quite the same gentleness to it, because obviously it needs to be a bit more energetic and forceful – which it really does, and that chorus is where a few other bits happen that I like. That includes my second favourite bit: the trumpety-sounding synth fanfare.

Tom: Yep. That arpeggiated synth line under the chorus is… well, the word that comes to mind is “clever”. That’s a really good way of putting a countermelody in without it being distracting. It’s an 80s-revival style we’re now familiar with, but used in a new and interesting way.

Tim: That’s then echoed by the dah-dah-dah-dahhhh vocal shortly, which sound entirely lovely working together. I love this track, I think it’s great.

Sval – (I Can’t Be Your) Medicine

“Let’s focus on the good bits, as there are a multitude of those.”

Tim: There are two things about this that will really annoy you, so I’ll warn you about them first: one, the effect in the video, which is even worse than a VHS filter, and two, the fact that the songwriters seem to think ‘medicine’ rhymes with ‘fine’ – which is doubly odd because one of them is the singer.

Tim: Do we blame the English language for being stupidly inconsistent? Hmm, maybe, though there’s definitely no excuse for the poor compression effect – and what I really don’t get about that is that this is just a lyric video, and there’s no reason whatsoever to have it there, as it’s not a reference to anything. So who decided it? And, more importantly, why? Is there a reason I’m missing?

Those two things aside, I really like this.

Tom: I have no issue with either of those things. At least the chromatic aberration and digital glitching is modern — heck, in thirty years’ time, that’ll be retro. And as for the rhyme, I’m not at all convinced that it’s intended to rhyme: I think it’s just a coincidence that the words happened to be spelled the same. I think it’s deliberately meant to break the rhyme scheme.

Does that help?

Tim: Hmmm…maybe – the annoying thing is that other lines in the chorus do end with a firm ‘I’ sound, so it’s not clear what there rhyme scheme is meant to be, but OH WELL let’s focus on the good bits, as there are a multitude of those. The gentle introduction of various instruments throughout the first verse works well, her voice is as lovely as ever, particularly when it’s heard in the almost a cappella bits of the chorus, and all in all it just…works, for me. I like it a lot.

Tom: Yep, agreed. It’s a lovely track, particularly that final chorus.

Tim: Just, agh, that rhyme.

Lisa Børud – Me Without U

“It’s been a while since I’ve heard string-stab samples in an intro.”

Tim: Lisa debuted with a fairly decent entry in Norway’s Melodifestivalen Grand Prix this year; clearly of the belief that three minutes is too long for a pop song, here’s her even shorter follow-up.

Tom: Huh. It’s been a while since I’ve heard string-stab samples in an intro.

Tim: Not a bad song, that, is it? Good and fast, as I suppose it has to be to get itself finished in that short time without feeling like it’s missing something. And it really doesn’t.

Tom: Yeah, fair play there, there’s even time for the song to build.

Tim: Typically low key first verse, but then that speed means we get to the meat of the song that much faster, hitting the high energy of the chorus in barely thirty seconds – which is, of course, the all important point as far as the streaming payout goes. As for that meat, it’s really quite meaty indeed – lyrics are fine, volume doesn’t let up, melody and production underneath is great, and those violins in the middle eight are lovely to hear.

Tom: It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’ll do as a solid middle-of-the-playlist track.

Tim: All in, nice song.

Saturday Flashback: Tone Damli – Hurts Sometimes

“Full marks to the staging team, they absolutely nailed that.”

Tim: I said on Thursday we hadn’t featured Tone for ages; that’s largely because she’s been fairly quiet recently. Having said that, though, she did have this one for Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix this year, which somehow I didn’t see. Take a listen, I’ll think you’ll like it.

Tim: And isn’t that just a wonderful reveal? For the first few seconds I’m thinking “that staging’s weird, but okay I guess” but then I forgot about it and paid attention to the song, and then the chorus starts and oh, that’s a cheap way of doing it but right there you’ve got two for the price of one on shivers moments.

Tom: I was half-expecting them to have built the circular window to split in two, so the steadicam shot could continue ‘through’ it — but that shouldn’t take away from it, full marks to the staging team, they absolutely nailed that.

Tim: Didn’t they just? And then there’s something similar later on, so STOP NOW if you’re reading ahead, you’ll see it when it comes.

And there it is! A key change which I entirely didn’t see coming (and if you’ve read this far before it’s happened and have thus had it spoiled you’ve only yourself to blame), and some sparks flying out as well. Again, hardly a novel concept, but still lovely to watch and hear. As for why it didn’t win…hard to say.

Tom: I think it’s that the verses are, frankly, a bit dull. Now, you might argue that they have to be in order for that build and chorus to work — but I think you’d have lost everyone on that second verse.

Tim: I don’t know, you say that, but the eventual winner was in a similar style, though with even more of a contrast in volume between verses and chorus. Arguably this isn’t a Eurovision winner in any case – but it’s a lovely track all the same.