Miss Li – Den wintertid nu kommer

“Very much more a winter song than a Christmas song”

Tim: Clocks have gone back, November’s almost here and it really is remarkably cold outside, so let’s have this. The title translates to, well, exactly what you can guess it does.

Tom: It is too early for Christmas songs, Tim, and this feels worryingly like a Christmas song. Albeit one with a bizarre theremin in the middle eight.

Tim: True, though I’d argue it’s very much more a winter song than a Christmas song – no sleigh bells, for starters. No lyrics I can provide either, I’m afraid, so I don’t know if this is actually about the changing seasons or some metaphor for falling out of love, or if she’s just a particularly obsessive Game of Thrones fan. I’ll go with the first, partly through Occam’s Razor but mostly just because the sound fits in with that very well – all misty and atmospheric and conjuring images of snow capped forests.

Tom: It’s a lovely song but — and this is where I get controversial — I don’t think it’s good pop. It sounds like a folk song, or even a nursery rhyme, done by a slightly experimental band.

Tim: I wouldn’t say that’s controversial at all — it’d certainly struggle for inclusion on most pop radio stations’ playlists, for starters. A haunting vocal, rolling across the hills, reassuring and chilling at the same time, aided of course by the instrumental – particularly that ‘bizarre theremin’. Experimental maybe, but also quite lovely.

Smith & Thell feat. Swedish Jam Factory – Forgive Me Friend

Tim: Smith & Thell are the singers as ever; as far as I can make out it’s Jam in the sense of music, not fruit, and they’re the ones dancing and playing the instruments (though not simultaneously, sadly).

Tim: Ain’t that lovely? Fast paced, knows where it’s going and what it’s doing, and is very efficient at it.

Tom: I mean, I was thinking it’s more like “Mumford and Sister”, but sure, yes, it gets the job done. I find it difficult to say anything specific about it, though: I feel like I’ve heard it before, even though I haven’t.

Tim: Lots of lovely moments in there – just to take one example (and I know it’s been done hundreds of times before), the ‘dum-dum-DUM-[beat]’ that happens just before each “cause you fill in…” sounds great. The heavy strumming’s great, the dancing’s impressive, the vocal’s strong, and overall it’s just got a massive amount of energy and life to it. And I love that.

CoCo and the Butterfields – Battlegrounds

“Fip Fok”

Tom: Butterfields?

Tim: From Kent, some buskers that decided to form a band in the genre of Fip Fok, which is apparently a blend of folk, hip hop and pop. Fairly sure no-one else in the entire world goes by that, but all the letters are there, I guess, so why not?

Tim: Now I liked this from the off, because the first two notes are the same as the first to from Little Talk, one of my favourite songs ever, and whatever you want to call the genre, the sound isn’t that far off – brass, similar vocal sound, and even some “hey!” shouts in the chorus.

Tom: I’m not sure I hear the hip-hop influence in there — but okay, sure, pop-folk, yes. It sounds a bit like Noah and the Whale, which is roughly the same genre.

While I can’t claim to be an expert on folk music, those sound like proper folk vocals as well — the timbres and styles match perfectly.

Tim: Though speaking of the vocals, I don’t know why male/female vocal pairings are so rare, because they can work so very very well.

Off the top of my head, successful matches include Matt & Melanie, Ben & Kelly, even Gary & Agnetha. From Europe, we’ve Tor & Bettan, Oda & Wulff, and of course Eurovision victors Ell & Nikki. They sound interesting, unusual, and generally really good, and to be honest, I wish we had more of them. Because then we’d have more of this.

Iben – God Morgen Alle Samme


Tim: Tom, you’ve probably read that title, and I reckon you’re feeling fairly confident you can translate that, and I also reckon you’re already predicting you won’t like it, because it’ll be too twee or something – stop me if I’m wrong.

Tom: No, you’ve pretty much nailed my reaction so far.

Tim: Just to top it all off, though, I’ll tell you it’s an Aplin-esque version of a nursery rhyme, recorded for a Norwegian meat advert. STICK WITH IT, TOM.

Tom: This is the Norwegian equivalent of a John Lewis ad, isn’t it?

Tim: Now, it would be very, very easy to dismiss that as basically awful, and that is indeed what I did for the first thirty seconds. Because until, ooh, probably about when she finishes singing for the second time, all we have is the vocals for a decent song and then the instrumental bits for a decent song except one after the other rather than together, which is stupid. On the other hand, for the final minute or so, it’s really quite lovely.

Tom: Really? It’s… it’s an advertising jingle. It’s beautifully sung, I’ll grant you, but I’m not sure it qualifies as much more.

Tim: The instrumental is at a high enough level that it becomes worth listening to on its own, and while her voice isn’t really enough to carry the song with nothing behind it, when everything comes together: well it’s just lovely.

Still entirely unnecessary, mind, and I’m struggling not to giggle at the record label’s claim that she’s about to become huge just because her voice is now associated with a load of processed meat – at least Gabrielle Aplin had a snowman. What’s Iben got? Sausages. Sausages and spam.

Smith & Thell – Statue

Tom: Oh! They’re the pair who made Joshua’s Song.

Tim: Ooh, he remembers. It is indeed, but it’s a standard track this time, for their next album.

Tom: And while I hear the similarities in style, I much prefer this.

Tim: First off, SPOILER WARNING because this review contains references to the plot Inside Out, so you might want to stop here if you’re planning to see that.

Tom: It’s not Pixar’s best, so don’t worry about it.

Tim: If you’re not, or you already have done, listen to all of this song – I don’t just mean that in the sense of appreciate every element (although do), but hear all the lyrics, and the wonderful telling of self-worth therein. We’re starting out wanting anaesthesia for the pain, but going through an emotional journey, realising that pain is necessary to appreciate the high points in life, much like the characters in Inside Out.

Tom: Yes! And I think they’ve done more in four minutes here than Pixar’s heavy-handed metaphors did. It’s a lovely job.

Tim: The timing of that is (presumably) entirely a coincidence, but it’s nice to have it.

And then of course there’s everything else. The guitariness, the folkiness, just the whole damn package. The beginning of the chorus, when the tempo drops and then speeds up again – it’s a great thing, though I wouldn’t mind it going a little bit further.

Tom: I was going to pick that out too: it’s the kind of thing that more “produced”, dance-y tracks never bother to do, so it works well here.

Tim: Also wouldn’t mind the final chorus being repeated, as with only one of three choruses being the happy one you’re running a risk of the message going wide of the mark; those two bits aside, I LOVE this track.

Caroline Røste – Now’s The Time

“Massive drumbeats and a gentle guitar.”

Tim: If we’re describing Emmelie de Forest and the like as putting out folk-pop, fancy some of its slightly rowdier sibling, folk-rock?

Tom: Yes please: that can be a pretty damn good genre when it’s done right.


Tim: Massive drumbeats and a gentle guitar, topped off with a nice soulful vocal that’s all about moving on and developing. Favourite part: the ooh-OOH parts in the chorus, which are great for randomly joining in with out of nowhere and scaring fellow commuters.

Tom: Well done there, Tim. How many funny looks did you get?

Tim: Not sure – was in the drivers seat on the DLR at the time, so looking round to see would have been irresponsible.

Tom: Now that said, the ooh-OOH parts just didn’t work for me: they just seemed repetitive and not particularly tuneful.

Tim: Gosh, what an, erm, interesting opinion. Because I think all of the song is really very enjoyable, the production’s basically flawless and the vocal line sits perfectly on top of it; I’d say this is probably one of the best songs of its genre you’ll find.

Tom: Huh. Now that’s where I disagree. There are some quite lovely parts, particularly that middle eight, but it just doesn’t pull together for me.

Tim: Whether the genre’s your particular cup of tea, or whether or not you’re in the mood for it, is obviously not for me to say, though I will say that if you don’t like this at all then you’re wrong. Because it’s great.

Tom: There’s some good folk-rock out there, but this isn’t it.


Lucy Spraggan – Lighthouse

“…ooh, quite good.”

Tom: She’s doing “acoustic folk hip-hop”. She’s that one who pulled out of the X-Factor. She’s NORTHERN. And she’s…

Tom: …ooh, quite good. I mean, I suspect it won’t light up the charts given her previous performances, but this is a really nice track.

Tim: Huh. I was all prepared to go “yawn, next please” with this, especially with that introduction (hip-hop? Seriously?), but as it happens it’s not bad.

Tom: But let’s not forget that the X Factor wasn’t her breakthrough: she’s been performing at festivals for a while, and put a first album out herself. She’s not someone with a good voice who’s suddenly shot into the limelight: she’s a competent singer-songwriter who’s been gigging for a while.

Tim: True, but does that make a difference in the long run? She’ll get quite a bit more publicity, I guess, but likely at the cost of “authenticity”. Silly word, that, but there are some people (generally bell-ends) who insist on it.

Tom: I suspect that, if she keeps going like this, she won’t be “that person off the X Factor” – she’ll be “that folk singer who did the X Factor once”.

Tim: I don’t care what she’s known as, I want to know what her fans are calling themselves, because if they’re not going with “Sprag bols” they’ve really missed a trick.

Soluna Samay – L.O.V.E. (If Women Ruled the World)

“Repetitive? Yes. But great? Also yes.”

Tim: Cast your mind back twelve months to Baku and you may remember Soluna representing Denmark with the rather pleasant Should’ve Known Better; if you don’t, then, well, to be honest it doesn’t make a difference one way or the other regarding this track, which is new.

Tim: Repetitive? Yes. But great? Also yes.

Tom: That’s because rhythms like that have been used in pop music for a very long time – this is new, but it’s drawing on a lot of old sources to make something very nice indeed.

Tim: Hmm. Maybe the world is running out of music. Or maybe people just know what works. Either way, it’s very good.

The video reminds me of the stock photo library trawl that was Tegan and Sara’s Closer, but here it doesn’t seem weird, it just seems brilliant – while I watch it, I can’t stop myself smiling.

Tom: That’s because it’s got some proper art direction to it.

Tim: YES to the trainers and the crappy sunglasses and the pineapple, LOVE the catapult and the milkshake and all the other things that are just there. Why are they there? So we can play with them later. Why should we play with them later? Well, why the hell not? IT’S FUN. Like the song, really.

Tom: It is that. I was about to write that it could have been written any time in the last thirty years, but you know what? I think I’m wrong. This is still a modern song in its production and style, it just uses very traditional… well, everything.

Tim: As for what the title’s about, I’m not entirely this sort of frivolity is what people like Emily Davison and Emmeline Pankhurst had in mind when campaigning for women’s rights, but it’s fun so WHO CARES? I DON’T, because I’m smiling.

Frank Turner – If Ever I Stray

When the full band kicks in it’s bloody glorious.

Tom: A bit of folk-punk for you here. Not our usual fare, but give it until at least the first chorus, because when the full band kicks in it’s bloody glorious.

Tim: Ooh, that’s good, that is.

Tom: I’m not sure how I’ve never heard of Frank Turner before now, because I found myself really loving this song.

Tim: I have: there was someone I used to canoe with called Emma Turner, but everyone called her Frank because she really liked his music. TRUE STORY.

Tom: And what a voice! It’s the kind of voice that makes me think he can’t keep singing like that: it sounds like he’s putting all his energy into every word, somehow keeping it at a level that shouldn’t be sustained.

I’m not sure why I like this – it’s completely different from what I normally listen to – but there’s something in the shouty earnestness of his voice that reminds me of old friends: the folks who listened to Flogging Molly, and Spunge, and all their compatriots across the many varied genres that fall under the umbrella of ‘punk’.

Tim: I used to be really into Dropkick Murphys; this takes me back a bit.

Tom: It takes me back as well. Perhaps we should go back there a bit more often.