Tom: There I was, thinking there was no interesting music to send you: and then I realise we’ve missed Sigrid’s new track. A quick warning: it’s not what you’d expect. There’s a harp.
Tim: Hmm, gosh.
Tom: Once you adjust to the fact that Sigrid — not exactly known for writing love songs — has done a full, proper ballad: well, this is good, isn’t it? There are very few vocalists who have a recognisable vocal quality that lifts them up above session singers. This is both surprisingly traditional and still recognisably Sigrid.
Tim: Can’t disagree with a word of that. I prefer her usual stuff – certainly can’t say I’d like an album of this – but yeah, it’s good ballad.
Tom: Now, I reckon a couple of lines of that beautiful, soaring chorus do owe at least a tip of the hat to the chorus of Lionel Richie’s Hello, but that’s by the by. I still hit ‘play’ a second time.
Tim: Blimey, high praise from you there. And yeah, deserved.
“Brilliant chorus. Shame about the rest of it, really.”
Tom: Bastille and Marshmallo’s Happier is still getting regular airplay, more than a year after release. So it makes sense to do it all over again with someone else.
Tim: Sure, why not.
Tom: Brilliant chorus. Shame about the rest of it, really.
Tim: Yeah – it’s telling that every time I think “oh, this is actually pretty, I’ll ignore what Tom’s just said”, it turns out that it’s just because the chorus has started up.
Tom: I think the difference this time is that, while Alessia Cara has a great voice, that’s all she can bring: she doesn’t have an entire sound and style that can be mashed in with the recognisable vocals. Happier worked before it was, unexpectedly, a good mashup of two sounds, but this: sadly, it’s not enough of an Anthem, and it’s not enough of a Ballad.
Tim: Can’t disagree with any of that, really. Shame.
Tom: Parts of this sound like a Tiësto track, and parts of this sound like a Rita Ora track. And astonishingly, I think they both work together.
Tim: They do, as this is a good track.
Tom: I… I don’t think I could pick a Jonas Blue track out of a lineup, though.
Tim: Yeah, you remember – did that Fast Car cover that kickstarted 2016’s brief trend of tropical covers of old songs.
Tom: I’m sure he had some input.
Tom: There’s nothing that particularly stands out here for me, but somehow the whole seems greater than the sum of its parts. It’s catchy, I want to hear it again. And honestly, that’s the only reason I’m sending it over to you: I enjoyed it, and that’s that.
Tom: Most of Britain would know her as “Louise off Strictly” or “Jamie Redknapp’s ex-wife”, but here, those are descriptions that’d prompt lowered expectations. If I introduce her as that, you’ll assume I’m setting you up for another terrible celebrity ego/cash-in single.
Tim: Well, yes, but people who know her only as that are absolutely not the sort of people who we want reading this website. Let’s have a better introduction, please.
Tom: Okay: Louise, formerly of Eternal.
Tim: Thank you.
Tom: This is actually the third single off the new album. No, I had no idea either. It’s a mystery to me why that album will be released in January, in the doldrums after Christmas: surely it would have been better pitched as a perfect present for kids to buy their Strictly-watching mums? Or maybe I’m still stuck in the pre-streaming era of marketing.
Tim: Quite possibly, as times do change. But to the music: I was aware of the comeback, though I’d never actually got round to listening to the tracks. I’m now thinking that was a mistake, because this is really good!
Tom: I’m sure I’ve heard some of the various components of this before, although that’s more that it’s been inspired by the same gospel music that hundreds of other tracks have.
Tim: Probably. Pop is pop, genre is genre, inspirations are worldwide.
Tom: For some reason, though, this actually made me a little bit happier. Mark it down, Tim: I actually had some sort of an emotional reaction to a track that we’re talking about here. That’s basically a small miracle.
Tim: As promised a few days back, one of the highlights of his largely pretty good new album, and indeed the newest single from it.
Tom: Listen to that intro! There’s some New Order in that, crossed with… well, in my head, a 1999 bit of pop-rock so obscure that our post about it is the third result on Google when you search for it.
Tim: Hmm – the problem with having done nearly 3,000 posts (blimey) here is that I’ve completely forgotten most of them, including that one, even though it’s a pretty nice one. This is also nice: sonically good, lyrically it’s fun, and as far as the narrative goes: hell yeah, I’m on board. We broke up for a reason, we shouldn’t be doing this, but sod it let’s have fun right now.
Tom: I think that swearing in the chorus is the wrong choice here, and it took me a while to work out why. It’s the same reason that “why’d you put a smiley in your message then” grates for me. This sounds like a great pop song from the past that I’ve never heard, and somehow the profanity and tech-reference both place it Here And Now And Dealing With Today’s Problems.
Tim: Hmm, kind of maybe see where you’re coming from, but I don’t have the same issue. To be honest, with all the crap that’s going down here, there and everywhere right now, I like the fun, and combined with everything else in the song: yep, I’ll take it.
Tom: To get the obvious question out of the way: yes, they’re still going. Albeit without Fergie.
Tim: Sure, of course they are, why not.
Tom: Which leaves the obvious second question: is this one of their greats? Is everyone going to be singing it? Years later, will people still get hyped up when they hear it? Is this a “Where Is The Love”, an “I Gotta Feeling”, a “Let’s Get It Started”? Or is this going to be… well, one of the others?
Tom: Oh no.
Tim: Or, as I thought a mere forty seconds in, and then even more so another twenty seconds later: holy shit.
Tom: It’s a four-minute track, and it overstays its welcome by minute one. Why is will.i.am suddenly putting on an accent? Why is, uh, that other guy’s rap so embarrassingly bad? Why is there a badly green-screened Rio in it?
Tim: And why, why why why, have they sampled Tombo really really slowly and without the melody?
Tim: So, Death Stranding is a game coming out for PS4 in a month or so, and despite it having been announced over three years ago and having released multiple trailers, no-one really knows much about it. One thing that was made apparent a few days ago, though, is that CHVRCHES have done a song for the soundtrack. This one, to be precise.
Tom: Ah, soundtracks, the perfect place to throw that track that wasn’t quite good enough for the latest album.
Tim: It’s a weird one, this. Admittedly, the number of great video game songs can probably be counted one the fingers of one hand, so this was always going to be a tricky one, but it doesn’t really make much even so. Take the lyrics: the relationship’s falling apart, but hey, let’s have something of it while it still exists. What’s that got to do with anything in a game which, if the trailers are anything to go by, looks to be a first person RPG et it a world after some big weird event has happened?
Tom: I mean, you could ask that of most soundtrack songs: frequently it is just a marketing tie-in.
Tim: Musically it’s, well, it’s alright, though it doesn’t seem all that well put together: it’s the words again, or rather the vocals. Everything underneath it, see, is lovely – as music on its own, it would in fact make a great instrumental soundtrack, easily able to hold its own amongst some of the best. But with the vocals layered on top, almost at times seeming like an afterthought, it just leaves me feeling a bit cold. And that really frustrates me.
Tom: Huh: when we disagree on a track, it’s usually the other way round, and I’m normally the one being left cold. But this time, no: the opening verse grabbed my attention, and it kept going throughout the… huh. Five minutes. This is a five-minute track, and I wasn’t bored during it. Even with the lengthy instrumental in the middle.
If I haad to nitpick, then I’d say I’m not sure about those hard-gated cymbals, but that is just CHVRCHES’ style. I even hoped for a Big Final Chorus, and got one. This works for me. I guess I shouldn’t be so cynical about soundtracks.
Tom: Time for the most disappointing chorus we’ve heard in a while!
Tom: Now, maybe you’ll feel different if I’ve lowered your expectations, but after that cracking pre-chorus with its driving backing and careless profanity, I was hoping for a chorus that was… well, a lot more. I know, he’s going for the 70s-inspired funk sound, but it’s just such a letdown for me.
Tim: Yeah, yeah, I get what you mean. Having said that, I often feel that way with this genre of music – it seems to be a built-in feature that the choruses never quite satisfy me. This is, well, not too different from most.
Tom: It is catchy! It is good! It does exactly what it sets out to do! The middle eight guitar solo is genuinely really good! It’s just, unfortunately, the victim of a couple of poor decisions.
Tom: This is a traditional builder. I’m not saying it’s good, just give it a bit of time.
Tom: I’ve not actually got much to say about the track itself, though, other than to note how traditional the song structure is at a time when pop seems to have mostly left middle-eights behind.
Tim: Hmm, wouldn’t say that – dance music may certainly have done so, but standard pop music’s still got it. It’s a decent track, though, even if, yeah, I do need to give it a bit of time.
Tom: Here’s my question, though: the very first sound you hear in this track. The odd rising-note synth, the one that comes back during the choruses. Where have I heard that before? Who else uses it? Because it’s really frustrating me.
Tim: I’d love to be able to help you, but beyond an answer of ‘more or less anyone who’s done any sort of modern pop song since about 2016’ I can’t give you much, as I don’t specifically know it from anywhere.
“All it’s missing is a double-clap after every four bars.”
Tim: A pairing here that, in hindsight, is notable largely for the fact that it took long to happen – I saw this and thought “yes, of course they’re doing a song together”. BUT, the twenty trillion dollar question: is it any good?
Tom: Oh, listen to those synths! All it’s missing is a double-clap after every four bars. (I’m joking, but also, I did start adding them myself at one point.) You’re right, it’s good, although…
Tim: YES, even if I do want to sing FREAK OUT on top of the chorus.
Tim: It does, in fact, sound pretty much exactly what I’d expect a Pet Shop Boys feat. Years & Years song to sound like: nice electro beats, fairly gentle with nothing too heavy but an interesting backing nonetheless, and lyrics that are fairly interesting.
Tom: Along with a really innovating music video.
Tim: I like it – there’s a new album out in January, and this is a decent lead track.