I don’t know if that’s my memory at fault, or if the songs just aren’t all that memorable in general.
Tim: I won’t lie: the first thing that attracted me to this, beyond that it’s Smith & Thell, was the video thumbnail. That looks lovely, as does the rest of this lyric video. But, oh, is there so much more to this as a song. In their words, it’s “a metaphor for life: you check in, you check out”.
They also say that, “while we’re here we should celebrate life rather than fearing the inevitable death”, but to be honest I don’t get that at all from the song – it’s “life is here, let’s cope with it”.
Tom: I’m generally in favour of lyrics with unconventional but realistic messages, and this certainly qualifies.
Tim: But you know what? That’s fine. It’s also brilliant to listen to – production, melody, everything is just right.
Tom: Yep, looking back at what we’ve said about them over the years, they’re clearly finding a voice that works for them and sounds great. They’re in the sort of place where one big breaththrough hit will make them massive. This won’t be it, but the next one might be.
Tim: Scotland’s finest purveyors of pop music are BACK, presumably with an upcoming third album, and here’s the track to lead the campaign.
Tom: It took me a while to get into them, but yes: I am very much hopeful for this.
Tim: OOF, what a track that is. It’s a fairly simple hook for the chorus, but boy is it infectious. Infectious, loud, and just great. I’ll admit I don’t really get the kaleidoscope metaphor, but the whole GET OUT GET OUT, GET GET GET OUT, GET GET GET OUT OF HERE doesn’t leave much room for ambiguity.
Tom: I’d normally dislike a chorus that repetitive — I’ve said before that if you’re going to build your entire chorus around one or two lines, then they’d better be absolutely perfect. These are.
Tim: And the song really, really sells it, right from the downbeat opening, all the way through to the slightly hopeful but still fairly definite middle eight.
Tom: I’ll admit to being a bit tired and emotional, in the literal sense, at the moment, so perhaps I’m more easily affected by songs like this, but: THIS IS VERY GOOD.
Tim: The music, as we have come to expect from the band, is right up there with the best, and I’ve listened to this four times in a row now and am perfectly happy to keep doing so.
Tom: And that video is a masterclass in telling multiple, ambiguous, possibly-connected stories: it’s just lovely.
“Slightly shouty vocal on top of the simple piano line”
Tom: So I’ll be honest, Tim, I’m sending this to you despite not being sure what it is. I’m on the road right now with very little internet connection and time, but you asked for a Flashback — and this is a song that, apparently, I thought it was good enough to ask SoundHound to remember when it came on the radio in the car the other day.
Tim: Well, if we’re talking ‘sounds like’, I’m going with My Chemical Romance – specifically, the stellar Welcome To The Black Parade, with the slightly shouty vocal on top of the simple piano line, later replaced by an electric guitar. And for what it’s worth, back when it came out and I was in uni, I played that entire album many, many times over, so I think that’s no bad thing.
Tim: You might not remember the name, but you’ll probably remember his song Riptide from a few years back, as it went top 10 basically everywhere and has been a staple of chill out playlists ever since. Our reader, Henrik, sends this in as his latest, describing it as “a song that is just pure drama.”
Tom: That’s a bold statement, and I’m not sure it’s a good one. Is it pure drama?
Tim: He’s not wrong.
Tom: I’ll be honest, I misheard “put it in my coat” in the first verse as “put it in my cock” and I was very confused. Anyway.
Tim: Quite the builder there, but it’s odd, as it’s a build that I didn’t really notice until it had basically entirely built – more a sort of gradual growing through childhood than the teenage growth spurts most songs come with. That’s fine, but it did mean that I slightly faded out at the start, and got a sudden shock when I heard the big brass blast at the chorus.
Tom: Yep, that’s about what happened to me. This sort of jaunty brass-pop isn’t really my thing, but I can appreciate how well it’s put together, and that middle eight — when the backing singers come in — is admittedly pretty damn good.
Tim: Listening a second time, paying attention to it properly, I discover that actually it’s beautifully crafted, and a joy to listen to. And “pure drama” is an excellent way to describe it.
As far as the video goes: I’m sure it’s lovely, but I’m too distracted by the fact that he’s the spitting image of that guy off Game of Thrones and Iron Fist, and all I’m really wondering is why his hand never starts glowing yellow. But that’s just my problem.
Tim: All me today – well, me and our reader Drake (probably not that one) who sends us this, on the basis that we’ve reviewed their track Moscow a few years ago and liked it and we might like this one. Fair assumption. It’s the second track off their upcoming second album, so have a listen.
Tim: And it took me a couple of listens, but I think I’m on board with this one as well. Very gloomy vocally, most notably in the verses – almost overly so – but two things save it. First, that melody in the chorus, which I absolutely love, though I dearly wish I could think where I recognise it from. Second: the synth line that starts during the middle eight and then keeps running throughout the closing chorus. For those two reasons, I am IN.
Tim: Dodgy pun in the act name, yes, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that’ll pan out across the inevitable future “you suck”-style tracks, but to start out with they give us this chirpy number, so let’s go with it.
Tom: Well, that’s pleasantly chirpy. I really… I didn’t expect to like that as much as I did.
Tim: Normally, a ukulele is something that would put me right off a track, and the phenomenally ridiculous ions metaphor might in some situations have me chucking my iMac out of the window. Right now and with this track, though: it all fits together, absolutely fine.
Tom: How on earth did they manage to make this sound endearing rather than cringeworthy? I wouldn’t have thought it was possible!
Tim: I mean, I’ve got no idea what a ‘Taylor Swift crush’ is – my best guess is ‘I like you right now but as soon as you’re a dick I’ll write a not remotely subtle song about it’ – so I don’t know how that’s meant to be romantic.
There’s also a hefty element of self-aggrandisation going on – I’d sure as hell love to see 106 reasons why I should date either one of the two singers. And all in all, this song is more or less a textbook definition of jaunty.
Tom: You say that, but there’s a couple of jess-jaunty notes in there, on that lovely “know I’m a good catch”. I think that’s a good summary of the whole song: it balances the twee with just enough strange things to make it palatable.
Tim: And right now, I like that. I don’t know why, because objectively it hits all my wrong buttons, but I like it a lot.
Tim: Glorious Pop Middle Eights is an interesting theme for a playlist, but alas we are not privy to the whims and workings of the Apple Music people who served it up to me; nevertheless, this song was on there and I was reminded how flipping brilliant it is.
Tom: That… was there a middle eight in there? Because that doesn’t deserve to be on that playlist.
Tim: No, and to be honest, a lot of them don’t – certainly not when compared to some we’ve seen, but regardless of that: well, this is flipping brilliant, all of it.
Tom: You really think so? It left me cold: it’s a bog-standard indie-pop track, with not much to recommend it.
Tim: Oh, really? It’s just got so much to it – I think it’s almost the pitch of the lyrics more than anything. He’s got Donkeyboy style vocals going on, but with so much more joy to them.
Admittedly I had to look up the lyrics to work out what he was singing in the “part of her game” bit, but with the music, the lyrics when you work them out, and the Holly Valance in the video because why not, it’s just happy and great and joyous and everything. LOVE IT.
Tom: Side note: you know when TV shows do flashback episodes set in the ’80s, and it’s really easy to make everyone’s hair big so it looks suitably retro? Imagine how much trouble they’re going to have for flashbacks set in the ’10s. Good luck faking an undercut.
Tim: Also, he’s got a new album out in October, so look out for that why don’t you.
Tom: Technically, this single came out a while ago, but the album it’s from just got released — and it’s a damn sight better than the second single, so I reckon it counts.
Tim: Meh, semantics. Let’s hear it.
Tom: And not that I want to prejudice your opinion, but: a British version of the Killers?
Tom: Not as polished as the Killers, I’ll grant you, but they’ve not had half a dozen albums to polish it. There’s a lot of promise here, even if it’s not going to be the same euphoric response that came from early Killers tracks.
Tim: Hmm, potentially – someone once told me that the best thing about Mr Brightside was that every member of the member of the band played as though they were the frontman, and to be honest I’m getting a similar vibe here, at least after the break that comes at 2:14. If it was like that from the word go, I’d be right with that comparison.
Tom: “I know nothing ever really stared with a kiss” doesn’t exactly help the comparison, either, because let’s be honest, Mr Brightside was a much better track than this.
Tim: Let’s be honest, there are few tracks you couldn’t say that about.
Tom: And as for the video: well, again, we’ve got the same sort of thing going on. Essex isn’t exactly the same as Las Vegas, is it? When you sound so much like another band, you need something to set you apart: and I’m just not sure it’s here.
Tim: Oh come on, you can’t really knock them for that – there’s a budget to consider, and a small division of a big label won’t be handing out big cash to a new band. Whatever the video’s like, though, this has got me looking for that album, so I guess it’s done its job.
Tom: An indie musician this weekend, Tim, with one of the most interesting videos I’ve seen in a while.
Tim: Blimey, it really is.
Tom: Let’s talk about that video first. Because the first time I saw this, a year ago, I thought “oh, someone’s made a video out of GIFs”. Which, you know, was a good idea and fairly clever but didn’t seem all that much.
But look at those credits. Nearly all those GIFs were shot specially for this video. They’re the musician’s friends and collaborators. Some of them even had watermarks from completely fake GIF sites posted over them in order to make them look like they came from the web. That’s an incredible amount of effort to go to.
Tim: It really is, and it works very very well: it’s completely mesmerising, but not in a way that distracts from the sound, because it’s got thought put into it and it ties together well. You’ve got the mouth sounds on the first slow chorus, say, or the masterly punning on the re-entry from the middle eight.
Tom: And the music: well, I’m not sure quite what it is, but it very much works for me. The steady build to the distorted cry, the simple five-note chorus; they really stand out.
Tim: And for me, that MASSIVE build towards the end is fantastic, both visually and aurally.
Tom: Not quite sure about the ending — it seems to tail off rather than reaching a conclusion, and I reckon it’d be better going out on a high or on a proper fade, not somewhere in between. But that’s a minor quibble: this is enchanting, and I really like it.
Tim: For me that works fine – a final reminder of what the song is about, a quiet soulful close after that build a few seconds earlier. Sounds perfect, to be honest.