Tone Damli – If I Can’t Have You

“Just the sort of stuff Tone does quite well, really.”

Tim: We haven’t featured Tone Damli in yeeeears, so let’s correct that. This is, some readers may be relieved to know in advance, absolutely and entirely unlike yesterday’s track.

Tim: Just the sort of stuff Tone does quite well, really – light pop with a nice tinge of country on the side.

Tom: Yep: although that bass-drum heavy percussion is not what I’d expect from a song like this. It almost seems overpowering: this is the sort of song where, if I notice the percussion, the rest of the song isn’t really doing its job.

Tim: To be honest, I’ve not a lot to say about it, beyond “aww, bit of something nice, isn’t it?”, and I’ve mainly thrown it over as a way of calming us all down after yesterday’s track. I think it works for that, no?

Samir & Viktor – Vad Sa Du Att Du Hette

“This is the point, it turns out, where I switch over from ‘well, at least that’s endearingly enthusiastic’ to just being grumpy at them.”

Tim: Summer’s here, in theory, so let’s have a dance track from these lads, shall we? Title translates to “what did you say were called?”, to be sung bleary-eyed the morning after.

Tom: Classy.

Tim: As ever, potty language dotted throughout.

Tim: And there it is, an entirely typical Samir & Viktor track.

Tom: This is the point, it turns out, where I switch over from “well, at least that’s endearingly enthusiastic” to just being grumpy at them.

Tim: Will they ever get bored of their schtick, the old pretending-to-sing-but-it’s-basically-drunken-yelling stuck over a dance backing with a bit of brass? Probably not. Does it matter? Absolutely and entirely not.

Tom: The track sounds like a cheap rip-off of Basshunter. The video’s animation looks like an Ikea instruction sheet. The message of the song is LADS LADS LADS. They really are the knock-off cheap version of Jedward, aren’t they?

Tim: God knows I couldn’t listen to an album of the stuff, but getting a new shouty dance track once or twice a year is kind of a tradition, really, and I wouldn’t dream of wanting to stop it.

Lesley Roy – Gold

“Seems to me to be having a slight identity crisis.”

Tim: You remember Lesley Roy, she did the single Eurovision entry this year that sounded like a decent pop song. Here’s her follow-up.

Tim: And I am fairly sure that the post-chorus here is exactly what was missing from last week’s Sigala track. It’s the exact same style, but higher pitched and therefore sounding chirpier. Thing is, though, I’m not quite sure how it fits this song, which seems to me to be having a slight identity crisis.

Tom: That implies it has any sort of identity at all. I couldn’t remember a damn thing about it once I’d finished listening, but that might well be because I drifted off into other tabs and other thoughts about three times during it. It’s what Coldplay sound like to people who don’t like Coldplay.

Why do you say identity crisis?

Tim: See, it’s structured like a regular pop song, obviously, and the verses and pre-chorus sound exactly like that as well, with nothing particularly dance-y about them, just a bit of low key stuff before the chorus comes along to cap it off. But then the chorus does come along, and suddenly we get a drum build underneath it, and the focus shifts towards that post-chorus, with a vague sense of “yeah, I know you were looking forward to this bit, but now I’d actually rather you paid attention to what’s coming along in a bit”.

Tom: Right! And if your attention’s being diverted that much…

Tim: And just to clarify, I don’t think either of the bits are bad, at all, as it’s a decent track – I just struggle to know what I’m meant to be paying attention to.

Tom: Whereas I’m having trouble paying attention to any of it. Which is a shame, really, because when I was actively listening I couldn’t really find anything to fault.

Alphabeat – Sometimes 2020

“I don’t think I’ve heard a track this good from them since that first album.”

Tim: Sometimes, an entirely decent album track from last October’s excellent Don’t Know What’s Cool Anymore. Now, updated for the summer, by dialling it up. Everything up.

Tom: That’s lovely! That piano sounds like it’s coming out of a solid piano-dance track, but instead it’s backed by some properly uplifting Alphabeat harmonies. I don’t think I’ve heard a track this good from them since that first album.

Tim: Blimey, that’s a hell of compliment, and while I’m not certain I’d agree it’s definite up there with the best. Thing is, I don’t know if it’s just the wooden backing on the artwork here, but right now I’m imagining them standing on a big stage leading a barn dance. The twanging from the guitar helps, I think – the original had a slight country vibe to it, just about coming in at the end, but here it’s right in from the opening verse.

Tom: The production is spot on, the melody’s lovely. You can sing the chorus after one listen, but it’s never been irritating. This is a really good song.

Tim: I’m writing this immediately after seeing yesterday’s garbage dumpster of a video, but OH MAN this has put me right up there in a fantastic mood. Talk about ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’, this knows exactly what it’s doing, and does it so so well.

Tom: Right! I actually went back to listen again, which is high praise from me, and was surprised by that opening chorus: I don’t know why. Of course you lead with it, obviously you lead with it. Give the public what they want.

Tim: SHINE A LIGHT. SHIIIIINE INSIDE. COME IN THROUGH MY WINDOW KEEP ME UP ALL NIGHT. That positivity’s right there from the off, and hangs around like a much needed…I dunno, something that we all need. This track, say. This track hangs around like this track. Nope, that doesn’t work, I don’t care, I’m too busy shouting along. SHINE A LIGHT etc.

Victor Crone – Yes, I Will Wait

“Remember when Avicii largely ditched the electronic dance stuff and went all drum ‘n’ brass?”

Tim: Remember when Avicii largely ditched the electronic dance stuff and went all drum ‘n’ brass? Here’s Victor to continue the good work.

Tom: It took me a few seconds to realise that you said drum ‘n’ brass, there. You’re right: it’s very Avicii. There’s just something in the instrumentation and vocal techniques he uses.

Tim: I don’t think there’s any one song in particular it reminds me of, but it’s certainly got me thinking back – and, indeed, it’s not dissimilar to his Melodifestivalen entry where you made a similar comparison.

Tom: It’s an odd choice to take a style that is so associated with one artist: but he’s managing to pull it off.

Tim: And isn’t it just a great song to have to trigger the memories? Drums, brass, good vocals, good melody, good everything. It’s fabulous.

Saturday Flashback: Euroband – Fullkomið Líf

“I just got to that high-pitched bit in the middle eight and it completely distracted me”

Tim: So, here’s a fun thing I discovered when coming up with suggestion for the new work Pride-themed playlist – was looking at This Is My Life, stone cold banger from Eurovision 2008, and turns out: there’s an Icelandic version as well! It was performed at their national selection, and…it’s different.

Tom: Solid “2000s daytime TV game show” vibes from that introduction, there. Actually, from the instrumentation through most of it. You’re right that it’s different, though.

Tim: Isn’t it just? It’s not just the instruments, and basically genre change, though – the lyrics are something very different. If you want to go back and hear the English version for yourself I won’t blame you, but the lyrics are, basically, I AM GAY LIVE WITH IT. Yes, there are other interpretations, but put it up at Eurovision with that backing, those outfits and the lines like “I spent my days in vain just waiting / for happiness to come my way” and “There’s no denying all the heartaches”, followed by “I opened my eyes, finally I realised” and then the massive THIS IS MY LIFE I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE A THING, and you might as well put out a parade of rainbow flags on stage.

Tom: I suspect, from the way you’re leading into this, that this isn’t quite– sorry, I just got to that high-pitched bit in the middle eight and it completely distracted me — the Icelandic one isn’t the same?

Tim: No – in fact, it’s almost entirely different: the title translates to Perfect Life, and the lyrics are not really alike at all. They’re singing to a person, chatting about how a perfect life will arrive once they’re here, and it’s really just a basic love song. And that makes me wonder what the plan was: was it originally written as a big gay anthem before being toned down for a domestic audience to vote for, or written like this and then beefed up for Europe? Either way, though, I know which version I’m sticking with.

Yello – Waba Duba

It’s really easy to say “well, this won’t be popular”.

Tom: They’re Swiss. They’re 75 and 68 years old. And you’ll know them from 1985’s Oh Yeah.

Tim: Tragically, or perhaps not, I’ve somehow gone this far throughout my life without encountering that one. Ah, well, let’s see what we’ve got now.  

Tom: It’s important to note: this isn’t a comeback or an attempt at a novelty single. This is just the same genre of electronic music that they’ve been doing for years.

Tim: Hmm – yeah, I can certainly see the link from Oh Yeah to this. In fact, listening to them one after the other they could almost be on the same album.

Tom: Thing is, sure, it’s really easy to say “well, this won’t be popular”. It almost certainly won’t. I almost clicked away after the first few seconds. But the exact same could have been said for “Oh Yeah”. Back then, it became popular because of its use in movies; now, all it’s take is one TikTok trend and this would be in the charts. It’s weird, but I don’t think it’s bad. I’m not adding it to my playlists. But I’m not ruling it out either.

Tim: Okay. Yeah, I see that, and I’d agree. These days, can’t really rule anything out.

KEiiNO – I Wanna Dance With Somebody

“The fact I played it several times is a very, very strong endorsement from me.”

Tom: The “2020 Global Pride Song”, apparently. It’s a choice that seems both genius and obvious in hindsight: pick a Eurovision darling, and get them to cover an absolute banger.

Tom: We’ve talked before about how KEiiNO are basically required to put some sort of joik in there, even when it doesn’t really fit. And… well, I don’t think it really fits here.

Tim: No. Although, it does fit better than when it’s awkwardly shoved in to replace a lyric line in the chorus – here, it just sounds like some weird instrument they’ve dug up to stick in the post-chorus.

Tom: It could’ve worked if it was more integrated as part of the song, perhaps telegraphed early on in the introduction — but Dance With Somebody is so well recognised that just changing the lyrics and timing in one place like this is going to feel wrong no matter what you do.

Tim: Ah, see with the timing I very much do agree with you – in fact, that’s one of the main reasons that, overall, I’m not keen on this, upsettingly. The other, though, is that the build through the verse and the chorus just, for me, doesn’t lead into enough. Along with the join, there should be another bit – not sure what, but the sole “somebody whooo” doesn’t really seem enough.

Tom: Now, I did play this multiple times, and I did get used to the change. And the fact I played it several times is a very, very strong endorsement from me: and it’s because absolutely everything else about this is so good. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, it’s impeccably produced, and somehow they’re able to get a wall-of-sound effect working through modern compression. It’s a really good track.

Tim: Hmm. I mean. I can’t disagree with any of the specifics you’ve got there – I think it’s missing, say, an extra two lines of instrumental. Give me that, I’m happy. Without it, sadly all I can manage is a gentle ehh.

Annie – American Cars

“There is something about that chorus, isn’t there?”

Tim: Annie, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a Norwegian who did electropop and synth pop from the early 90s and then just stopped about five years ago, and everyone got very disappointed and basically gave up hope. But NOW she’s back, with a whole album co-produced with Stefan off The Sound of Arrows announced for September and this as the lead single, HURRAH.

Tom: Right, so as usual: you’ll love it, and I’ll be put off my how slow and ethereal it is.

Tim: Perhaps, because, well, if you thought dreampop was dreamy before, brace yourself.

Tom: Huh. So here’s the thing: I was all set to really dislike that from the intro, because it is just the epitome of every retro “80s recreated with modern tech” track out there… but there is something about that chorus, isn’t there?

Tim: There is, yes – see, I had an interesting thought journey along that: started out with “ooh, yes, this is lovely and absolutely what I want right now”, and “oh this chorus is just DELIGHTFUL” then “wait, have they just stuck some vocals on the Stranger Things theme for the verse” and finally, at the two minute mark, “ah, nope, this is exactly the reason I pay £7.99 a month for a streaming service and quite a bit more on overpriced merch”.

Tom: Okay, stick with me here. That ‘Stranger Things’ reference, and the repetitive four-note rising ostinato: change the instruments up a bit, and it’s basically the theme tune to Wycliffe. Yes, I’m referencing an obscure mid-nineties ITV detective drama, yes, I know it’s not strictly relevant, but I think it’s interesting how the elements of a composition can be the same across very different genres. No? Fine, suit yourself.

Tim: Not a theme tune (or indeed a programme) that I’d ever heard of before, but you’re absolutely not wrong there, it is similar – to be honest, though, it’s difficult to pull off a fast up and down synth melody that doesn’t sound like it rips off Stranger Things (or indeed Wycliffe). But anyway, everything after that first two minutes is just pure Sound of Arrows, and (believe it or not) I actually quite like that! So WELL DONE and THANK YOU and WELCOME BACK. Oh, and also, speaking of overpriced merch it seems that every artist under the sun has face masks out right now, can we have Sound of Arrows ones as well please? THANKS.

Paul Rey – Mistakes

“The thing that impresses me most about it is how, whenever he’s singing, there’s really very little instrumentation going on underneath.”

Tim: Paul had a somewhat decent Melodifestivalen entry this year which got him through to the final; I don’t know why he didn’t go with this one, though, as it’s much better and he’d only need to chop a few seconds off.

Tim: The PR bumf for this comes with the line “I wanted to pay homage to the ‘ugly side’ of a relationship”, and so I was initially “oh, great because no-one’s done that before”, but I decided, against all my natural cynical instincts, to give it a good chance, and I’m glad I did.

Tom: I’m not convinced it’d work as a Eurovision track, but I’ll agree that it’s a better song. There are some lovely choices by both composer and producer in that chorus.

Tim: The thing that impresses me most about it is how, whenever he’s singing, there’s really very little instrumentation going on underneath – a light guitar in the verse, a drumbeat in the chorus – and so the vast majority of the song it carried solely by his vocal and the floaty underline bit (there’s probably a better name for it but you know what I mean), and both of those sound good, for individual reasons.

The voice, because it’s strong, emotive and powerful, and the floaty bit (yep, sticking with it) because it gives a lovely pleasant ambience to the song.

Tom: Right! And both singer and producer need confidence in those vocals in order to put them this clearly in the mix. I’m not sure it’s necessarily “stripped-down” instrumentation, which was the term I was going to use — it’s just produces so it backs up the vocals rather than competes with them.

Tim: So we’re given two things to focus on, both of which work well – and I think that’s a good recipe for a song.