Tegan & Sara – I’ll Be Back Someday

“Normally repeating one note annoys me, but it doesn’t here”

Tom: Whenever we talk about a Tegan & Sara track, we tend to conclude in roughly the same way: it’s good synthpop, it’s quite enjoyable, and then we can’t remember any of it afterwards.

Tim: Harsh, and I’m not entirely sure that’s as true for me as it might be for you, but okay. The new one, then?

Tom: And I guess it’s business as usual.

Tim: Well, maybe, yeah.

Tom: It’s a really good song with a chorus that seems to have been crushed into oblivion by overcompression. As for the chorus itself — well, while it was playing, I wrote “normally repeating one note annoys me, but it doesn’t here”. But I had to go back and listen again before I knew what that one note was.

Tim: Oh, you’re too cruel. Or just saddled with a poor memory – I like the melody, the notes (and yes, there’s more than one), the rhythm. It’s good, and it’s memorable.

Pink feat. Cash Cash – Can We Pretend

“It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.”

Tom: It’s been out for a long while on the album, but this is now heading to US radio airplay as a single (yes, that’s still a thing), so it seems like a good time to cover this. Because despite Pink being very much regular pop, Cash Cash are full-on electronic dance music. And this is very much in our wheelhouse.

Tim: Ooh, it very much is and all. Nice lyric video, too.

Tom: That’s a sound that hasn’t been pushed to US radio in a while. It’s full-on summer dance, just with a recognisable voice over the top.

Tim: Yeah. In fact, it’s kind of like M83 & The Killers, and Avicii & Chris Martin – dance sound, non-dance singer. Works just as well here as it did there.

Tom: And if you’re thinking “this sounds a bit like Sigala”, well, they did a remix. Weirdly, it sounds less like them.

Tim: Hmm, it does. I love what they’ve done to that chorus, though; hate what they’ve put in the post-chorus.

Lindiwe Mkhize, Lebo M. – Circle of Life/Nants’ Ingonyama

“It’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection'”

Tim: By all accounts, the new version of The Lion King, out on Friday, is exceedingly similar to the original, frequently having scenes that are shot for shot redos.

Tom: Only with basically expressionless CG faces instead of animation.

Tim: Ah, but photorealism, see. Main question for us: will this vary from the original? Well, only one of the vocalists has changed, and the length is [checks music library] yep, identical. But let’s have a listen anyway.

Tom: I mean, the rest of the tracks are basically Celebrity Lion King Karaoke (and John Oliver, sad to say, is not a patch on Rowan Atkinson), so I guess this could have been worse. But like all covers that are so close to the original: why bother?

Tim: Well, you’ve maybe got to, if you’re redoing the film? But it’s very much ‘let’s not mess with perfection’: aside from Lindiwe’s vocal being audibly different from Carmen Twillie’s in the original, it is, I’m fairly sure, identical. But you know what? I don’t care. It’s an amazing song, and that moment when Rafiki holds up baby Simba will never fail to give me goosebumps.

Tom: For me, it’s the cut to the title card at the end: it’s the first time I can remember being awed by cinema.

Tim: Who cares if it’s the same? I’ll be at the cinema at 10:00 on Friday morning, so I’m out in time for work, and I’m very excited about it.

Sigrid – Mine Right Now

“Very typical Sigrid: a bit shouty, still a good melody, somewhat memorable after the song’s stoped playing.

Tim: This song’s been around as this video a few months now, but the main video came out more recently and that was what got my attention – largely because it’s complete and total garbage, with an irritating narrative about shoots going wrong, planes being delayed, the director pretending to be her, and most annoyingly of all, more interruptions that we’d see even in the dark days of the late noughties.

Tom: That shtick has been done successfully once and once only.

Tim: Here’s the original lyric video.

Tim: Pretty nice chorus, that, by which I mean it’s very typical Sigrid: a bit shouty, still a good melody, somewhat memorable after the song’s stoped playing. The verses are a little less exciting, but worth sticking with because that chorus will come around after not too long.

Tom: And a chorus backing that sounds like it could have been a jingle that BBC Sport used in the 90s. Yes, that’s an obscure and useless reference, but go on, tune your ears to the backing of that chorus and tell me that it doesn’t sound like you’re about to watch a special live broadcast of international athletics.

Tim: Hmmm…maybe? I don’t know, I think it sounds more like a damn good piece of pop personally.

Tom: You’re right, though, it’s a good chorus.

Tim: Actually: having said that about weak verses, I’ve made that excuse a lot of times in the past, so I’m not entirely sure it should be an automatic pass; here it’ll do, though. It’ll do nicely.

Lana Del Rey – Doin’ Time

“I genuinely thought, ha, someone’s doing a really good Lana Del Rey impression and is using it on a completely inappropriate track.”

Tom: Have you ever had a moment, Tim, when you look at the world’s reaction to a track and think that something is terribly wrong?

Tim: Tom, we run a site largely dedicated to Europop, and are frequently fans of songs that end up at the bottom of the Eurovision table. Believe it or not, I have had many such moments.

Tom: Well, anyway. You know the old Gershwin classic “Summertime”? Jazz standard, probably the canonical version’s by Ella Fitzgerald, you know, the one that goes “summertime, and the living is easy”? It’d be a logical choice for Lana Del Rey to cover. It fits her style perfectly.

Tim: Correct. But she hasn’t?

Tom: She hasn’t. She’s covered Sublime’s 1997 highly-modified reggae cover.

Tim: That…is a lot better than I was worried it’d be, given how you sold it.

Tom: The world loves it. I’m driving through the US, it’s on the radio, the DJ’s describing it as the song of the summer. Positive review after positive review is cited in the Wikipedia article for it, and while some of that may be selective quoting due to the label’s PR team, those reviews were still written.

Tim: I wouldn’t disagree with so many of them – I think it’s alright. Doesn’t hugely push my buttons, but it’s a nice tropical vibe, which fits a current day summer style.

Tom: I thought it was a parody. I genuinely thought, ha, someone’s doing a really good Lana Del Rey impression and is using it on a completely inappropriate track. Even now, I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t just someone’s idea of a joke that got out of hand.

Saturday Flashback: I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME – Choke

“The chorus isn’t too bad, I’ll give you that.”

Tom: I know that “Utah-based indie band that sounds like early Britpop, doing a song that personifies Los Angeles and describes how the singer wants to choke the city to death” is well outside our wheelhouse, but given yesterday’s track, it seemed like a good time to talk about someone else who’s insisting on all caps.

Tim: Certainly is a heck of band name.

Tim: Oh. Oh, mate, why?

Tom: Mainly because — despite that introduction that places it outside our wheelhouse — that’s basically a schlager chorus, isn’t it?

Tim: Hmmm…yeah, actually, the chorus isn’t too bad, I’ll give you that.

Kygo & Whitney Houston – Higher Love

“Recognisable, clearly inspired by, but also new. I can live with that, I guess.”

Tim: Slightly interesting history to this track: originally recorded by English singer Steve Winwood in the 1980s; covered by Whitney and made exclusively available as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of her 1990 I’m Your Baby Tonight.

Tom: I know the original well. And I always hear the chorus lyrics as “bring me a pie, oh love”, which means it’s basically ruined for me. And now you too, I guess.

Tim: Oh, thanks for that. Now remixed by Kygo, allegedly at the request of the Houston family, and first performed at New York Pride on Saturday.

Tim: Now, before I heard this I saw a couple of people discussing it on Twitter; one of them complaining that Kygo got rid of the middle eight, and I was immediately primed to dislike it. However, having heard this now without hearing the original, it doesn’t seem to be missing anything: sure, there isn’t one, but there’s more than enough variation present in what we do have for me to find it an enjoyable enough listen.

Tom: It reminds me of his Take On Me remix: recognisable, clearly inspired by, but also new. I can live with that, I guess.

Tim: One thing’s odd, though: although it does have a very different sound from the original, which is pretty much pure brass, it’s not all that Kygo-y, what with there being little in the way of tropical instruments. All in, though, it’s nice: a good song, nicely redone and released to a new audience. I approve.

Tom: And I can still hear “bring me a pie”, so I approve too.

Tim: Excellent.

AJR – 100 Bad Days

“It’s an odd one.”

Tom: I’m driving round the US at the moment, Tim, which means that as I scan through the radio dial I have to play the game of “is this just an uplifting pop track, or have I tuned into a Christian radio station”. Harder game than you might think.

Anyway, I keep hearing this on regular, secular radio stations, and it’s an odd one. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to be doing that bubbling-up thing, where it was released a few months ago, but somehow it’s finding its way to playlists.

Tim: Hmm. There’s a lot to dismantle here, not least that video, which…I mean, I can’t even begin to imagine how the designer came up with that collection of bizarre ideas.

Tom: Leaving the interesting visuals aside, there is a lot to dislike here. I should hate those chorus lyrics and their two-tone playground chant style, and I should particularly hate the weird distorted acapella vocal that leads into the chorus. I don’t like them — but neither do I hate them either, which for something like this is saying something. Even that odd xylophone-and-shout middle eight can’t take away from the fact that this song just works for me.

Tim: You know, I’m the same – there are those occasional bits where I’m thinking “hang on, I don’t like this, I want to turn it off”, but I don’t, and then it soon gets better. I think it’s because the annoying bits are brief, but the good stuff stays around, and flows throughout it, so even with a bad bit you’re still reminded of the previous goodness.

Tom: I like the triumphant sound. Plus, the chorus and post-chorus are incredibly catchy: I was humming this after one listen. And in the end, “we’ll laugh about this one day” is a really, really good message.

Tim: True. Very true indeed.

Alle Farben & James Blunt – Walk Away (Martin Jensen Remix)

“It’s the remixed bit that makes it.”

Tim: Alle Farben, the stage name of a German producer called Frans. James Blunt, yes, that one.

Tom: See, overplayed cliché songs aside, James Blunt is a really good songwriter. This has quite a lot of potential.

Tim: Together, they made a song that’s a fairly decent dancey number, but it’s not particularly hefty, and it’s missing a little something. Martin has come along and provided that.


Tom: The start of this absolutely passed me by — to the point that I switched off completely and started absent-mindedly working on something else. And then that build started, and I realised that you’re right: this is a good combination.

Tim: Exactly: it’s the remixed bit that makes it. We’ve still got the emotion that James provides in his voice, and fairly regular undertones in the verses, but underneath the chorus and following we’ve now got a fabulous dance breakdown that sounds just brilliant. Yes, it vanishes disappointingly after just two goes, but it’s a decent length to start with, so I’ll forgive that this time.

Tom: The verse does suffer from the melody being mostly one note — the same note that’s being played in the background. It’s a style, I guess, although I can’t say it’s one I enjoy.

Tim: To be honest, much as his vocals work slightly okay here, I’m not sure the world needed a new James Blunt track. It did, though, need this track, and if James’s presence is the price we need to pay for that, then that’s fine by me.

Little Mix – Bounce Back

“You’ll be surprised by the sample.”

Tom: This hit the internet on Friday, and I guarantee that — if you haven’t heard it by now — you’ll be surprised by the sample.

Tim: Yep, that did indeed take me by surprise. DOesn’t sound entirely out of p[lace, mind, once I’m expecting it.

Tom: Unfortunately, that sample’s the only good bit of it, as far as I can tell.

Tim: Also true.

Tom: The lyrics sit in a weird uncanny valley between rap and actual singing. The producer’s choice to near-constantly move every sample around in the stereo space is just irritating. This was the lead single off the album? Granted, Tim, we’re not the target audience for this. Presumably the kids will love it.

Tim: Maybe? I don’t know.