Saturday Flashback: Aqua – Cartoon Heroes

“And then the Spider-Man news happened.”

Tim: Most news right now is distinctly downbeat. Up until about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon, in fact, I couldn’t really remember the last piece of news that made me absolutely, entirely, 100% unequivocally happy. And then the Spider-Man news happened, and I felt joy like I’d not felt in quite some time. So let’s listen to this great song, and watch the brilliant video, and be happy.

Tim: Love that video, I really do.

Saturday Flashback: Subshine – Easy

“Well now, that’s a good chorus, isn’t it?”

Tim: This track was on Shortlist’s Top 50 Tracks of 2018; this video was posted in March; their PR sent us it a couple of days ago. Well done everyone. This Norwegian gent goes by the name of Ole Gunnar Gundersen, who previously fronted a ’00s band called Lorraine, and now he’s out with this, which “embraces his love of 80’s era synthesizers and his unique pop sensibilities”.

Tom: Well now, that’s a good chorus, isn’t it? The word that comes to mind is ‘soft’, but I mean that as a compliment. It’s just genuinely quite nice.

Tim: First forty seconds or so, I was enjoying it, but not particularly enthused – sure, it sounded okay, production was decent, vocal fine and all that, but there was nothing that special. Come the chorus though, or to be more precise, come that guitar, and oh, suddenly that missing component is right in there – which makes it entirely mystifying why they pretty much remove it for the second verse. Sure, it’s common to drop the level after the first chorus back to the original level for the second verse, but when you’ve added that little bit extra, the new 10% that makes the song just click, why remove it?

Tom: That’s fair, although I’m liking the melody of that chorus enough that I can stand it without. This is a really lovely track, and while I’m not going to race to put it on any playlists, I’m not going to object in the slightest if it turns up on one.

As for why they removed the guitar: no idea.

Tim: Admittedly the song isn’t bothered with usual structure – we pretty much go straight to a middle eight after the second verse, and I can’t remember the last time I heard a good old fashioned instrumental fade out – but still seems a very odd decision.

Saturday Flashback: Frederikke Vedel – Jeg har hele tiden vidst det

“What on earth’s going on with the staging?”

Tim: Just having a rummage around my ‘songs we never had time to talk about when they were relevant’ pile, and here’s a reject from Denmark’s 2013 Eurovision selection. Next time I see you, Tom, I’ll give you one whole penny for every second you’re actually able to focus on the singer here; I’m fairly sure I’ll be at most 50p down.

Tom: I mean, it’s a strong outfit she’s wearing, but yes: what on earth’s going on with the staging?

Tim: So initially we’ve got the most intense stare I’ve seen outside of The Demon Headmaster–

Tom: Which is back, by the way.

Tim: –they they go away and start waving around and even when they’re out of focus I’m wondering what they’re up to and why on Earth he’s picked her up, and then he’s briefly doing some sort of breakdance thing for no reason just for a few seconds, because sure. Then we’re constructing a weird fabric prison for them all, which turns out at the end to be more of a protective layer to save her from her backing singers, lunging forward to grab a hold of her. What’s happening? And why? And does the set designer just not want us to listen to the song or something?

Tom: It’s not a bad song: she can clearly belt out the notes, although given that she was beaten by Only Teardrops, it’s fair to say that Denmark made the right choice.

Any other problems with the staging?

Tim: Well, could the guy not have had a quick shave before going on?

Saturday Flashback: Grace Carter – Heal Me

“Was this song big anywhere?”

Tim: Tom, help me: was this song, from the beginning of this year, big anywhere?

Tom: Not as far as I know. I don’t recognise it.

Tim: It’s just, it’s so familiar (and not in the sense of ‘this sounds like that’, but in the actual ‘I have definitely heard this song before’), but it’s not charted anywhere, she’s barely been played on the radio recently (5 times in that past month), and it doesn’t seem to have been in any TV shows or films. But damn, I know I’ve heard it before, maybe even a lot.

Tom: I mean, that verse melody is coincidentally similar to Bo Burnham’s Country Song, but I doubt it. Are you sure you’ve heard this, specifically?

Tim: And I absolutely know that, because it’s really, really good. The strings and piano right from the off give us a fantastic start, her vocal is perfect and oh, that chorus is just divine. The sheer power there, it’s truly glorious.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you, and then I realised that a few minutes later, I could still hum the chorus.

Tim: Why didn’t it do better, Tom? Why?

Tom: It did get a million views. That’s a lot better than many.

Tim: Yeah, I guess.

Saturday Flashback: Michelle – Es gibt dich

“A textbook example of a builder.”

Tim: I have no idea where I found this, but I was finally getting round to clearing up my 40+ Safari tabs when I re-found it, and I think it stands up.

Tom: This is the first time in a while that I’ve thought “wow, that’s a voice”. Those first lines, almost isolated, really show off her vocal quality.

Tim: It is, really, a textbook example of a builder. Middle eight aside, there isn’t a single component that isn’t a slightly increased version of what came before – hell, sometimes it increases midway through the verses.

Tom: It almost feels like the producers and engineers were having some fun with this one. I checked the waveform in an audio editor, and it literally increases in volume like someone’s steadily turning up a dial.

Tim: And when we come back from that middle eight, OH, I was absolutely not expecting it, but in hindsight it’s a perfect closing chorus. It’s a lovely song – nothing big or huge, but just really, really nice to listen to. And I like that in a song.

Saturday Flashback: NineOneOne – Can’t Stop Now

“It’s designed to impart a certain emotion and then get out of the way.”

Tim: So, I know basically nothing about this act at all – can’t find any social media, no individuals, no proper albums, nothing. Having said that, the name does crop up quite a bit with two specific composers of TV music, so my best guess is that they exist solely to provide library music that TV shows can use without paying much money for.

Tom: Given that it’s on an album called “indie synthpop 2”, yes, this is definitely Stock Music. However, a lot of respectable composers are now finding that’s a lucrative way of making music: just make it in bulk, send it out, and if you’re lucky, get it used in television or as filler on generic Spotify playlists.

Tim: Right, and conclusive evidence: I found this on an extended trail for a new TV show and, well, I like it.

Tim: Alright, that, isn’t it? It starts out with the bass line very similar to (perhaps even identical to, which is a bit odd) Bright Light Bright Light’s Disco Moment, but beyond that it grows and progresses until we end up with a lovely chorus, very much the MVP here.

Tom: I mean, it’s stock music. It’s designed to impart a certain emotion and then get out of the way.

Tim: Catchy, pleasant, and most importantly, perfectly sufficient for affordable TV music.

Saturday Flashback: Oh Wonder – Slip Away

“This isn’t going to set the club on fire.”

Tim: Love Island finished last Monday, and as it happens I was pleasantly surprised by the result – after all, who would ever have predicted the nation’s favourite of Tommy and Molly-Mae would have been defeated?

Tom: Who indeed. [turns to camera, shrugs]

Tim: Anyway, the program’s generally fairly good for background music, bringing forth tracks that might otherwise have skipped me by, such as this from 2017. Expectations: this isn’t going to set the club on fire, unless it’s by everybody leaving the dance floor to go for a cigarette at the same time.

Tom: Thanks for the warning. Hopefully that’s because it wasn’t designed to.

Tim: Oh Wonder are a British band, who’ve never had a huge amount of chart success, and indeed haven’t produced any new music in almost two years. I’ve not a lot to say about this one, other than: it’s quite nice, isn’t it? To relax to, and stuff.

Tom: It’s great, but I’m not sure about relaxing: that build towards the end is really quite good at building up tension. I can see why it stuck with you, even if there’s not too much to say.

Saturday Flashback: The Wallflowers – One Headlight

“Ever realise that you’ve missed a Big Song?”

Tom: Ever realise that you’ve missed a Big Song?

Tim: Erm, how so?

Tom: It’s alt-rock so it isn’t totally in our wheelhouse, but: this is is from 1996, has 100 million views on YouTube, was listed as one of Rolling Stone’s “greatest pop songs of all time”, still gets radio play in the US, and I’d swear I’d never heard it before yesterday.

Tim: Nope, me neither. Can’t say I regret that, though.

Tom: And despite the alt-rock genre that it’s classified in, and the dark lyrics, that’s a proper nineties pop-rock-song, isn’t it? It has all the markings of the time: growly Rob Thomas-esque voice, and it’s about one verse too long.

Tim: Annoyingly, there’s a part in there that reminds me of a similar song that I really enjoy, but I can’t quite place it.

Tom: At a time when the British charts were dominated by Britpop, this American band completely passed us all by.

Saturday Flashback: Tooji – Stay

“You’d think I’d remember something that unfortunate.”

Tim: I heard this recently, Norway’s 2012 Eurovision entry, and remembered I quite enjoyed it.

Tom: I have no memory of it at all!

Tim: Let’s revisit it, shall we?

Tom: You’d think I’d remember something that unfortunate. They’ve nicked the synths from Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction, the chorus from every late-90s Eurovision entrant, and the verse from… actually, I can’t remember the verse any more, and that’s probably for the best.

Tim: First of all, some context: in the category of ‘songs that qualified’, it couldn’t have done much (well, any) worse – it was tenth out of ten qualifiers from its semi-final, and in the final it was the single song that prevented us, with Engelbert Humperdinck (Engelbert Humperdinck, ffs), coming last, with 7 points to our 12.

Tom: The single saving grace is the chorus, but it’s very much a Traditional Chorus and those just don’t play well any more. As for why even Engelbert beat it…

Tim: Multiple reasons, probably: the vocals were weak, he looks like he’s just grabbed his clothes out of the dirty laundry basket, and the peculiar mix of genres meant that pretty much everybody would have at least one part they disliked. So, really: why on Earth was it chosen? And to that, I’ve no answer. Well, except that weirdly, I quite like it.

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.