Autoheart – Moscow

“It’s just genuinely nice.”

Tim: Indie pop for you, now, from London, but don’t worry – it’s not the boring type or the loud type. Just, the nice type.

Tom: Bloody hell, I don’t they could be any more “London indie pop” if they tried.

Tim: You see? The nice type. The happy, chirpy upbeat sounds of, according to the band, “the daft optimism of being in love, when you just want to run away with that person, dream about being together forever, the house, the dog, and nothing else matters.”

Tom: Yep, I can’t sum that up any better. It’s just genuinely nice. I was pleasantly surprised when it came back for one more verse and chorus at the end: it’d have worked without, but it didn’t overstay its welcome by any means.

Tim: There’s a fair political message in it for anybody in Russia, with the two blokes kissing in front of the Kremlin at the end; you can pay attention to that if you want, or alternatively you can just take Moscow for one of many potential romantic places to head off to.

Tom: Given that Putin has essentially banned being “out and proud” in Russia, I’d say it’s a message worth paying attention to anywhere.

Tim: Well, that’s very true. Either way, there’s no denying the ‘drum your hand on the table’ element of the music, which I often find a good test for music of this ilk, so I decree this to be good. Very good, in fact.

Bastille – Laura Palmer

“Still bloody good.”

Tim: The follow-up to Pompeii, and one of the stronger tracks off their album.

Tom: And that’s saying something – having heard it properly for the first time recently, it’s a bloody strong album.

Tim: There’s a proper video here, but it features one of the most annoying “you can’t record this” cuts I’ve ever heard, so we won’t watch that; we’ll have this, from the EP the song was originally released on about a year ago.

Tim: It’s not quite as brilliant as Pompeii was, but it’s still bloody good, and it’s got most of the same elements to it – good verses with decent instrumentation, a big hook in the chorus, lead singer Dan’s recognisable voice. (HISTORY LESSON: the band is called Bastille because he was born on Bastille Day, 14th July.)

Tom: I could have phrased this question before, but: who had this voice before him? In the same way that Neil Tennant has the same voice as Al Stewart, I mean. If this had been released five years ago, whose voice would everyone have ‘recognised’ as ‘that indie singer’? He’s got a bit of Scouting for Girls about him, but I don’t think that’s the right answer.

Tim: Good question, and I think the answer you’re looking for is Matthew from The Wombats. But let’s not distract ourselves: really, the only reason this isn’t as good as Pompeii is the fact that that had two great hooks and this only has one; “not having a second hook” is not a crime I would level at any other band, so I think we can let this slip. Bastille are quickly becoming my favourite ‘authentic’ band, and songs like this are speeding that process along nicely.

Tom: Agreed.

Hadouken! – Levitate

“I want this played over very loud speakers.”

Tom: First things first: I read the first line of the lyric video as “heart in my mouth butt” and now I can’t get it out of my head.

Tim: Oh, why would you do that? And why would you mention it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEN23fZ6kRY

Tom: Anyway, Hadouken. Heavy, danceable, almost uncategorisable tracks with synths and guitars that sound a bit like it could – like their name – be straight out of a video game. This isn’t a massive change in direction for them – and I’m thankful for that, ‘cos it’s a damn good track.

Tim: Hmm. If I could be bothered, I’d be happy to draw a graph of how my enjoyment varied throughout the course of it. We go from ‘mild’ throughout the intro, to ‘very high’ for the first vocal section, down a bit for the next instrumental, way further down for the second instrumental bit, and fluctuating further, in both directions, throughout the rest of the song.

Tom: There’s more than a bit of Pendulum’s sound in here – not surprising, since they supported them on tour a couple of years ago. If nothing else, this is a melting pot of genres that just… works. I want this played over very loud speakers, and I want to be dancing like an idiot to it.

Tim: Yes. Loud speakers, dancing like an idiot, I could like this a lot.

Three Green Trees – Pyramid Schemes

“That’s how you do a low-budget indie music video!”

Tim: These guys have been back in touch offering up their new single, and since we liked their last one, River, so much it’s probably only polite to give this one a go as well.

Tom: That’s how you do a low-budget indie music video! It’s nice to see some creativity and style put into it, rather than just “let’s dance around on a stage / in the streets”.

Tim: Hmm. It’s good, I like it. Not as much as River, I’m afraid, but it’s certainly a good track. As before, it’s the big emotive chorus that stands out so much, although to be honest I’m not so keen on it, or the main verses. I don’t know if it’s that way the words just drag out a long time, or that there’s not much going on beneath them (in the verses).

Tom: I wonder if, given our general love of cheap pop tunes and key changes, whether we’re not really qualified to review this properly. Is it that the tune’s a bit maudlin, or is it that we don’t have the attention span?

Tim: Oh, please, are we really qualified to review anything? It is a slightly maudlin tune, but, for example, my whole feelings are switched around when we get to that “all the wonders of the world” bit, because however much of a depressing message that may convey it does provide a nice hook to get into. There’s not that much of it, but when it comes along it’s really rather pleasant.

Saturday Flashback: Aimee Mann – Nobody Does It Better

“Can I get away with calling that voice ‘sexy’?”

Tom: In 1997, David Arnold – who’s gone on to make the music for Skyfall, among others – produced “Shaken and Stirred”, a CD of James Bond covers. There are some gems in there: Jarvis Cocker breathing his way through All Time High and the Propellerheads’ astonishingly good nine-minute electronica reworking of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Tim: Both worth a listen.

Tom: But there’s one wonderful, standout track that I loved on first listen and which, I suspect, will never get old for me.

Tom: Do ignore the video – it’s fan-made – and concentrate on that astonishing voice. Can I get away with calling that voice “sexy”? I’ve never used that description in all the time we’ve been writing this. Perhaps “sultry” would be more accurate.

Tim: I think those words are entirely appropriate – feel free to use them.

Tom: Even the extended coda, the over-the-top sitar instrumentation, and all the other ridiculous things can’t turn me away from this song. I can see why others might dislike it, but my word, something in it just worked for me.

Tim: It’s not my favourite, but I can see why you’d like it. Besides, it’s always nice to discover new things, and since I’ve got nothing better to do this evening I think I might listen to the rest of that album.

Three Green Trees – River

“I’m a proper sucker for that ‘ah-ahh’ing over a good instrumental.

Tim: Bands occasionally write to us and say “love your site, can you feature our track” etc, and it’s about fifty-fifty as to whether they actually know anything about us at all. But Stéphane from this Swedish band got in touch and seems genuine, and to top it all it’s actually a track worth featuring.

Tom: I’m always astonished how little Swedish accent most Swedish bands have when they sing. Can you imagine someone British trying to sing in Swedish? We’d mangle every vowel there was to mangle.

Tim: Probably, yes, but then non-English-speaking folk have vastly more exposure to English than we do to other languages. And, as I found out, pretty much everybody in Sweden speaks English to a high level. Aaaanyway, to the song:

I think I’m a proper sucker for that “ah-ahh”ing over a good instrumental, because that’s one of the things that I really like about this, and it’s not the only song with that in it that I’ve liked.

Tom: Yep, that last chorus is beautiful.

Tim: I don’t quite know why – maybe it’s just that with the right notes it’s easy to get something that sounds emotive and tuneful, but I don’t care if it is that simple because it works for me. It’s not just that, obviously, because there’s a good deal more to it. Simple but very effective instrumental bits before/between the verses.

Tom: I did think it took a while to get going, but the payoff at the end’s worth it. It’s a pleasant indie tune with no great pretentions, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tim: Nice lyrics with it as well – let’s go and be alone together in a place of natural beauty, and who’d say no to that?

Tom: People with a sun allergy, technically, and pretty much anyone if you happen to be holding a hammer and a sack at the same time, but I get your point.

Tim: Well, with an attitude like that I’d add: anyone if you happen to be Tom Scott.

Tom: To be fair, me and the outdoors don’t exactly get along.

Tim: Finally, I’m not sure why, but even though it’s three and half minutes, it still seems a bit short. Don’t know what that means overall, but it does make it easy to listen to on repeat, and I like that in a track.

Tom: I was quite sad when it ended: I reckon that the middle eight’s a bit long, and I’d have been happy to hear an even BIGGER final chorus tacked on to the end.

Tim: And also I like their logo, with the whole fairly subtle shapes/letters thingy. Though I do think the middle one looks more like a Q than a G.

Tom: What do you mean, their… oh. Clever.

The Sound of Arrows – Conquest

…it’s beautiful.

Tim: This video contains BOOBIES, but it’s meant to be artistic so that’s alright.

Tom: That’s still enough to get it banned from YouTube. That’s what Vimeo’s for.

Tom: Is this featuring Jean Michel Jarre? Because that opening is straight out of Oxygene.

Tim: Not as far as I know, but anyway, it’s ESSAY TIME!

Tom: Oops. Sorry. I’ll settle down.

Tim: Now, I love these guys. Their album is one of the best I’ve heard in a long long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone even a week without listening to them. But to be honest, I’m a tad disappointed here, and that’s a shame. Partly because there are some vastly better tracks than this on the album (though it should go without saying that I still think it’s great), and secondly, and mostly, because that video really is…well, it’s a pile of pretentious wank, isn’t it? I mean, seriously, what’s going on?

Tom: I don’t know – but my first reaction isn’t to immediately dismiss it, which is strange for me. My first reaction is that this is a beautiful video. That’s the word that came to mind. Beautiful. The combination of music, colour, and absolutely gorgeous cinematography… it’s beautiful.

Tim: Oh, yes, it’s a lovely piece of work, I won’t deny that. It’s just… what is it?

The thing is, The Sound of Arrows are, without a doubt, one of the most, erm, sincere groups around. Is that the word I mean? Basically, they treat their music like art – the album is actually an album rather than a collection of songs, what with the way they go together and have an order they should be played in. The videos they make have something to them where you can tell that effort has been made into putting them together, so they go with the song in an almost cinematic manner.

Tom: And let’s not forget the music: this, with its proper synth line, has hit me a lot harder than anything they’ve brought out before. I didn’t just throw this away as glurgy, Owl City, bleep-bloop soft rubbish… it’s a fantastic track. I can’t think of what it reminds me of, other than Jean Michel Jarre.

Tim: It is indeed fantastic, as has been almost all of their output. And this is sort of nitpicking, really, because I wouldn’t analyse anyone else’s videos like this. I’m doing it BECAUSE I CARE.

Previously, we had Nova, with its message of huge devotion and adoration, and the video shows the two of them exploring this fantastic cave, always looking for what’s coming next and gazing brilliantly at what’s already happening. Then there was Magic, with the theme of how fantastic the world is, and the video showing kids exploring it, always finding new ways to have fun and enjoy themselves. Wonders was looking back at past times, with a video (which got put up after we discussed it) filled with clips shot and fiddled with to look dated compared with the filming of them singing. And then there’s this, which is…what? Am I missing something? Because I just don’t get it. And I hate that.

Tom: I think, for the first time, I do get it. Not in a meaningful sense, but some of the feelings and emotions they’re trying to get across. That’s a strange feeling for me.

Tim: I guess you’re right. I suppose I just want something a bit more obvious, really.

But regardless of all that, buy the album. Just, buy it. You owe it to yourself.

Sameblod – UR Road

That’s neither arctic nor Balearic. It’s possibly Celtic.

Tim: Remember Beatrice Eli last week who described her song as big and small and the same time and stuff and we thought it was a bit of a weird description until we heard it? Well, in a not-dissimilar vein, this band’s description of this track is “cool arctic indietronika in combination with the balearic sunshine”.

Tom: No, no. That’s too far. That’s just putting words together in no particular order.

Tim: Here, I’m less inclined to agree with the artist. For a start, “indietronika” is a pointlessly stupid word made up by people too lazy to type “elec” and I do hope it doesn’t catch on. As for the rest, well, there’s not much of a combination, is there?

Tom: “Cool arctic indietronika” means something that would get played on SomaFM. Yes, I kind of see where they’re going with that during the first verse, but as soon as the whistling kicks in? No. That’s neither arctic nor Balearic. It’s possibly Celtic.

Tim: Well, the whistly bits feel quite summery, but it’s the combination thing I have an issue with – that would imply parts that are one and parts that are another, and towards the end they come together a bit. This is just – not particularly heavy summer dance. Though I suppose that wouldn’t make for quite the right tone PR people try to make.

Tom: Some genre mashups are brilliant. This is not one of them.

Tim: Now I’ve finished the marketing whine, though, I can enjoy the music, which is a good variant of not particularly heavy summer dance.

Tom: Not nearly heavy enough for me: can you really dance to this? I mean, really? It’s a listenable-enough electronica piece – and fans of the genre will no doubt like it – but it sure as hell ain’t mainstream.

Tim: Well, it’s the sort of dance stuff that gets put on chillout mixes, for the early hours of the morning when you don’t want to go to bed but you do fancy lying on the beach after a night in the club. All in all, I think it’s a decent track lumbered with some crap PR e-mails.

Wild At Heart – Darling

So, this is all sorts of lovely.

Tim: So, this is all sorts of lovely.

Tom: Is it synth-pop time again, then?

Tim: Certainly is. Enjoy.

Tom: Add some sleigh bells, this could be a Christmas song.

Tim: What with the twinklyness and things at the start, the mystic vocal and gentle beats mushing up together, it may remind you of The Sound of Arrows, which hugely surprising, as they produced it. But ignoring that—well, actually, I almost can’t. It’s annoying, because their other stuff is brilliant, but whenever I hear this I think, ‘it’s not quite as good as Nova was.’

Tom: If you’re in the mood for some calm electronic pop, this’ll probably do the trick. Yes, there’s better out there, but this is pretty high up the list. I think you’re being too harsh.

Tim: I probably am, yes – it’s nice enough on its own, and objectively it’s great as dreamy synth-pop goes. It’s just…not as great as I know it can be.

Lotti & The Mizuna Greens – Complicated

Ooh, that’s all deep and emotional, isn’t it?

Tom: Avril Lavigne cover? No. Never mind, forget I asked.

Tim: I think I should. Quite what Mizuna Greens are, I have absolutely no idea (though according to Wikipedia, mizuna is a sort of spicy flavour, which would sort of indicate that these people identify with village open spaces that have had Japanese stir-fries spilt on them); regardless, we got sent this and it’s really rather pleasant.

Tom: Remind me never to ask you any etymology questions, Tim.

Tom: Ooh, that’s all deep and emotional, isn’t it?

Tim: Takes a while to build up, sure, but by a minute or so in it’s got something quite strong going.

Tom: It’s rare that a singer has the voice to match lyrics like this, but she definitely does.

Tim: The lyrics are, well, complicated – something about heartache, and nothing ever turning out right, so we should break up, but with all sorts of extra metaphors and stuff like business and haunting and fairytales and stuff.

Tom: Deep lyrical analysis, there.

Tim: What, you want Advanced Etymology and Basic Lyrical Interpretation in one post? I know I’m a very competent person, but I think that’s asking a bit much, even for me.

Tom: I think not using ‘stuff’ twice in the same sentence would be a good start.

Tim: Fair point. Anyway, this stuff’s basically a thoroughly depressing song, if you spend the effort working out what the lyrical stuff is. On the other hand, if you just listen to the musicy stuff you get something else going on. It’s a sort of Florence and the Machine type of stuff, with a voice that you know will get you down if you concentrate on it, so you kind of want to shut it out and listen to that lovely piano stuff going on in the background.

Tom: And there’s some gorgeous guitar-playing in there: the moody, Dire Straits kind of mournful, singing guitar that evokes memories of lost loves and rain pouring down on windows. I could listen to that for quite a while.

Tim: But if you do just concentrate on that, you miss out on her fantastic voice.

Tom: There’s a lot of pain in this song, and I mean that as a sincere compliment. I’m going to go and give someone a hug.