Runaway Zoo – Lights R Out

“Synth/rock”

Tim: We featured this Finnish band a couple of times last year and were thoroughly impressed with their synth/rock blend; here’s their latest (with strong language at the start).

Tim: Now, the problem I have here is that if the first track you come across by a band is absolutely brilliant, it becomes near impossible to judge the next few tracks with any sort of objectivity, because you’re almost certainly going to be disappointed. Here, this is exactly the case.

Tom: Oh wow, I’m so relieved. I am incredibly relieved. This is the third song that you’ve sent me this week where I’ve just gone “meh”. I was starting to think I’m burned out. But here, at least, there actually some good things I like about it: basically everything from the middle eight onwards, when it actually starts to kick in at last.

Tim: Interesting, because I have a different view. Don’t get me wrong, I still like it, and there are a whole lot of good things in there – the vocal pre-chorus and the early middle eight, with his voice calm and the euphoric build in that background, is fantastic, and I wouldn’t change a moment of it. The verses are perfectly decent, no problems there, nor with the main chorus. But the post-chorus is upsettingly just a bit of a racket.

Tom: No, I’m good with having some distortion there. It’s properly applied, for once.

Tim: Huh – sems we have the opposite viewpoint then – you like it when it gets loud, whereas I’m slightly turned off at that point. It’s a great melody, I’ll grant you, but way too loud, and I think it spoils it a bit. And that’s a real shame, knowing how great they can be. Weird feeling, really – to like a track but be rather disappointed by it as well.

Imagine Dragons – Whatever It Takes

“It’s like Imagine Dragons vs The Weeknd.”

Tim: This got sent in by an anonymous listener, with no comment, so I’ll add my own: it’s not hugely Imagine Dragons-y.

Tom: No, it’s like Imagine Dragons vs The Weeknd. That verse is a bit like a more energetic of Starboy.

Tim: It’s more electro than anything I’ve heard previously, but fortunately they haven’t lost the ability to produce an absolutely phenomenal chorus – that’s just glorious. The backing in it is stylistically familiar in innumerable anthemic songs by similar bands, and there’s a reason for that: it works very, very well.

Tom: I’m surprised the vocalist didn’t do the thing where he switches to the harmony for one powerful note on the final chorus. Every other trick in the book’s there.

Tim: It may be getting a tad clichéd by now, but I don’t care, because it still brings out the desired feelings in me. The rest of the song: sure, it’s good. But that chorus is next level.

Birdflipper – Come On!

“A fun and definitely not gimmicky 360º video.”

Tim: New Swedish group, EP out now, and here’s one of their tracks, with a fun and definitely not gimmicky 360º video.

Tim: I’ll be honest: I don’t like that video.

Tom: Media world: stop trying to make 360º video happen. It’s not going to happen.

Tim: No. And here’s the deal: I like the let’s have fun and party vibe, but the 360º thing ruins it. I want to be able to watch everything happening – I don’t want to be swinging my phone around wildly worrying about what I’m missing out on, when I should be paying attention to the music as well.

BUT ANYWAY, I do like the song, sounding as it does like an early Avril Lavigne track (by which I mean the ones she did before she got replaced by a lookalike).

Tom: The trouble with bands like this is they’ll always get compared to either Avril Lavigne or Paramore, and it’s difficult for the sound to stand on its own. This is pretty good, although… look, it’s basically a Paramore album track at best, and I sort of hate myself for making that comparison.

Tim: It’s fun, it’s rocky – I’ve always got room for decent female-fronted rock – so all in all I’m very much in favour. The whole EP’s in a similar vein, so if you like this it’s definitely worth a bit of your time. CHECK IT OUT.

Paramore – Hard Times

“I guess the 90s are back in style properly now.”

Tim: Paramore, the primary purveyors of female-fronted mainstream rock. Right?

Tom: Great guitar work, catchy hooks, verging on the anthemic at times. Right.

Tim: Wrong. That’s new, and oh, I’m not sure it works all that well.

Tom: I guess the 90s are back in style properly now. And they’ve gone all… funk-ish, I guess? I do like it, it’s just not what I expected from Paramore. I think there’s a glockenspiel in there somewhere.

Tim: I would absolutely love to know the thought process behind this, because I have absolutely no idea what they were going for. A one-off experiment? A full directional shift? A bit of “hey, let’s freak people out”? The thing is, unless it was that last one, I’m not sure it works.

It’s alright as a track, I guess, and after a few listens it’s a bit catchy, but that middle eight for starters is just a bit bizarre really.

Tom: Ah, but that outro actually made me grin: it was unexpected, but also really good. Yes, it took me a listen or two to get it, but I really enjoyed this. It’s a rarity here, Tim, to find a song that I immediately like while you don’t.

Tim: I’m all for experimentation, I guess, so I won’t criticise this too harshly, but I do hope this is a singular experiment. Really, I do.

Gotthard – Stay With Me

“Something with some genuine instruments in it.”

Tim: No sniggering at the back please – this band are Swiss, coming up on twenty five years together, and here’s the first single from their celebratory anniversary album. A bit rackety, but have a listen.

Tom: Dear video director, whoever you are: I know the FX team probably complained that the moon couldn’t possibly be there with the shadows like that, but you said ‘do it anyway, no-one’ll notice’. I noticed.

Tim: Textbook error.

Tom: Anyway. The music. Yes. I actually muttered “finally” when that chorus kicked in, because it’s been so long since we’ve talked about a song in a genre like this — something with some genuine instruments in it. I didn’t realise I was missing it.

Tim: Now, there are a lot of very recognisable sounds there – the second line in the chorus in particular sounds familiar – but I don’t care, because of that chorus. It’s wonderful. Enormous, passionate, very strong vocal – it does so much for me.

Tom: I thought that ending was a bit questionable on the first listen — surely it’ll end on a big chorus? But no, even that works, I reckon.

Tim: It helps that the rest of the song is very good as well – while it’s not as good, it more than holds the song together until that chorus comes along again, and that’s all I need from it. It’s that good.

Green Day – Still Breathing

“It’s interesting, really…”

Tim: Someone wrote in last week suggesting we cover American Idiot, in honour of a certain someone; I didn’t go with it because I don’t particularly want to get nuked any time soon. It did prompt me to wonder what Green Day were up to, though; turns out they’re on their twelfth album, and the second single from it was released last week.

Tom: You start a video with ocean wave samples, I’m going to immediately think it’s the Pet Shop Boys’ version of “Go West”.

Tim: I’m afraid not. What we do have, though, can be basically be summed up as: standard Green Day. It’s interesting, really, when so many current acts decide to change their sound every couple of albums, that other bands are happy to put out the same sort of stuff, in Green Day’s case for thirty years now (yeah, me too).

Tom: And the thing is, this is still a really good track. Yesterday, I said that the Kings of Leon track was great for their fans, but maybe not for the wider world. To me, this is both: is that because Green Day go for more mainstream songs and styles? Or because I’m more used to how they sound?

Tim: Bit of both, I’d say, and it’s no bad thing – you know exactly what you’ll get if you ask Siri to play some Green Day, and any Greatest Hits albums with flow nicely. On the other hand, I’m not much less of a fan of new Busted than I was of old Busted, and part of me can’t help wondering what we might get if Green Day did venture out of their comfort zone. Either way, though: decent track.

Kings of Leon – Waste A Moment

“It’s certainly a strong Kings of Leon track.”

Tim: Our reader ‘lempano’ sends this in, saying simply that “it’s a GREAT rock anthem.” Strong word for a new song, but let’s have a listen.

Tim: Hmm…strong echoes of Many of Horror in that chorus, which has perhaps attained anthem status in the eyes of a few, and it’s certainly a strong lead single for a new album.

Tom: It seems very much like it’s One For The Fans: it’s certainly a strong Kings of Leon track, but I’m not convinced it’s a strong track in itself. The video’s trying a bit too hard as well, really.

Tim: You could be right. Anthem certainly might be pushing it – for starters, I’d say the post-chorus goes on too long and isn’t anywhere near interesting enough, coming as it does after that very strong chorus melody. But hey, it’s not as if I can criticise anyone for getting a bit too excited – let’s call it an anthem, why not.

Tom: Anthems are meant to be Big Singalong Numbers, in my book. This is not an anthem.

Tim: Oh, fine. Sorry, lempano.

STEELE – Follow

“I love how optimistic press releases are.”

Tim: It’s “finally time for STEELE’s new release”, apparently, so here it is combining “cinematic influences along with elements inspired by post-rock music.”

Tom: I love how optimistic press releases are.

Tim: And actually cinematic seems like a good word to describe that, because that’d be one hell of a track to go over the first part of a closing credits.

Tom: That’s true, but let’s not forget there are very few closing-credit songs that make it into the charts. It’s definitely possible, of course: but in most cases it’s the artist cashing in. (Hi there, Fall Out Boy.)

Tim: Further notes from the artist mention a “musical maze that’s full of emotion and passion” which is probably pushing it a bit far because what on earth is a musical maze?

Tom: One that’s confusing, difficult to find your way around, and half way through you realise that you acually just want to skip to the end and get out of there. That’s probably unduly harsh, but get your metaphors right, people.

Tim: Regardless, hell of a dramatic track, and while the voice may well grate with some people, I’m all for this. Now, what film can we fit it to?

Nina Söderquist – Kärlek

“That… that did not go where I expected it to.”

Tim: I won’t spoil this for you, or bore you with details of Nina’s considerable career so far. Instead, just press play, and listen until the thing happens before reading ahead. You’ll know what the thing is.

Tom: That… that did not go where I expected it to. An 80s heavy-rock guitar riff into… is that schlager?

Tim: So it’s schlager, Tom, but not as we know it. It just about manages to hide its true intentions right up until that building pre-chorus wanders on, giving way to a thumping chorus that knows exactly what it is and wants the whole world to know it. And boy, does the world know it by the end of the song, despite that four second freak out it will give listeners who know there’s a key change coming.

Tom: It’s an interesting choice, to be sure, even down to putting the cowbell in there. But then there’s the weird synth bit pre-chorus, and… I… I’m confused. I’m just confused. It’s… okay? I guess? I don’t know!

Tim: As for the lyrics, oh, something to do with love, because that’s what the title means, but do they really matter? Despite the rock leanings, this is one of the finest schlager tracks I’ve heard in a while (though I’m not sure it totally beats Nik P.’s track from last week), and if this is a genre that’s occurring right now, praise be to the musical overlords and I might even forgive them for Meghan Trainor.

The Darkness – Open Fire

“Fans are going to love this.”

Tom: I know, modern glam rock ain’t exactly up our usual street. But this is the Darkness. “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” was my university anthem. And there’s a new single, from their first new album.

Tom: So here’s the thing: the Darkness fans are going to love this. This is brilliant glam rock, and the riff sounds a little like the sounds coming from indie-darlings Public Service Broadcasting.

Tim: Maybe the fans will love it, yes, but it’s not really going to go much further, for the same reason their second album didn’t – for most people, it’s too ordinary.

Tom: It’s not going to hit the pop charts for the same reason: it’s not got the quirky, pop-sensibility of their first album. It sounds like rock.

Tim: Hmm, and not the same camp rock with the high pitched vocals that got them the attention in the first place. Harsh as this may sound, to non-rock fans it’s just generic rock music, with not much to distinguish it from the rest.

Tom: But if their plan was to consolidate their existing fans, show people that they’ve still got it, and make the music they want to make: they have absolutely nailed it.

Tim: That, I can’t deny.