Tim: I’m going to see these guys perform tonight and I’m VERY excited, not least because last Friday they dropped an EP of off-cuts, remixes and instrumentals out of nowhere.
Tom: Ah, the old “let’s get a bit more money from the fans” trick.
Tim: Huh, I’d not thought of it like that, because I’ve just assumed everybody streams music – certainly in Sweden, where three fifths of all households subscribe to a streaming service. They framed it as “here’s something we think you’ll like”, and the only link provided was to it on Spotify.
Tom: Huh. Yes, that’s fair. Although it still means they get more money, even if it’s indirectly.
Tim: Anyway, it’s a mixed bag, as you might expect, but this opening track is a blinder.
Tim: Now we all know these guys are my favourite band of all time; perhaps less well known is that Hurts are my second favourite band (with Busted a close third, @ me at your peril). It therefore absolutely delights me that this actually wouldn’t sound too out of place on a current Hurts album, vocal differences aside – and I don’t think I’m saying that just because that opening piano triplet is off a Hurts song, which I can’t place exactly right now.
Tom: The Sound of Arrows have often left me cold — I know, they’re your favourite — but I’ll admit that there are some really lovely parts in here. That pre-chorus, with its octave-leaping, and the first parts of that instrumental chorus. I can see why you like it.
Tim: Synth notes, piano notes giving way to large drumbeats for much of the instrumentation, and even a vaguely reverent vibe to it. It all fits together nicely, and sounds gosh darn wonderful.
Tim: Eight years, Tom, it has been EIGHT YEARS since we’ve had any solo music from Robyn.
Tom: Blimey, how time flies. I mean, that makes sense given what I remember doing around the time Call Your Girlfriend was out, but it doesn’t feel like it should be that long.
But now she’s back with THIS, and good lord I do hope it’s good because otherwise I might burst into tears.
Tom: That’s a pretty good chorus, isn’t it?
Tim: It’s no Call Your Girlfriend, but it is very good and serves as a nice reminder of why Robyn was, until she relinquished her throne to CHVRCHES, rightly seen as Queen of Synthpop. It has all your standard Robyn tropes – upbeat and heavy layered music, counterbalanced by somewhat morose lyrics – and it’s entirely listenable, multiple times with no sign of getting dull.
Tom: My main complaint is that the chorus feels like it’s building somewhere, but that’s never resolved. It’s like there’s a pre-chorus but no actual chorus. On a second listen, I figured out that’s the whole point.
Tim: There is, we’re promised, a full album coming out later in the year, and if the rest of it’s on a par with this, I’ll be very very happy indeed.
“There are some absolutely beautiful parts in here.”
Tim: This got sent in anonymously, and might need a bit of back story: ten years ago, Tegan & Sara released The Con, their first album to go big, and now want to celebrate that. As such, they’re putting it out again, but this time with other artists recording the tracks. Lengthy blog post here, example here:
Tim: It’s very, very different from the original, which was less than half the length and a completely different genre. This is…I want to say interesting, but I’m also aware that there’s an argument to be made for dull as well.
Tom: The two aren’t mutually exclusive. There are some absolutely beautiful parts in here: that steady build out of the middle eight into the final section is genuinely uplifting. It’s somewhat out of our remit, really; there’s an argument that this isn’t pop music at all.
Tim: It sounds like it would go on a typical CHVRCHES album, not as a song that would ever be released as a single, but as a nice closing track to round the album off with. For that, I quite like it (not least because it is the closing track on the album). Really don’t get the abrupt ending, though.
Tim: Okay first off I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly call out The Sound Of Arrows’s social media strategy as being an utter fiasco, because this came out four weeks ago yet it hasn’t been mentioned ONCE on any of their online channels and to be honest I am somewhat FUMING to have only discovered it now, but anyway here it is.
Tom: Background, in case our reader doesn’t remember: Tim loves The Sound of Arrows, I’m somewhat ambivalent.
Tim: ROOM8 are a blend of Sweden and America, and describe themselves, via the frequently reliable Popjustice, as a pair that “combines elements of modern pop and RnB” which to be honest would put me right off if that was actually what this song was, but let’s face it it’s basically just a plain old Sound Of Arrows track, and actually a fairly good one at that.
I know I’ve always had more of a thing for them than you have, but surely you can appreciate the quality we have here?
Tom: So I was all set to say ‘yep, sure, it’s okay I guess’, and then I realised I was tapping my foot. I’ll admit that’s a really good chorus melody. It’s not a ‘download it immediately’, but sure, it’s good.
Tim: It’s a lovely sound, gorgeous vocals, and I could listen to it many times over and over again. It’s great.
Tim: Now, I realise this is a terrible indication of how this song might otherwise be reviewed, but: maybe ignore the first thirty seconds of this, or possibly even the first 45.
Tom: Why do you say that? I really like that opening.
Tim: Really? Because how I see it is that a large part of this is lovely to listen to. That underlying bassline, though, is remarkably unpleasant, and it’s really such a massive shame.
Tom: How strange: it’s not often that we come across something that you find grating and I don’t. That bassline really works with me: it’s ominous yet promising.
Tim: See, I just straight out don’t like it. So much of this is just lovely to sit back and listen to – start at 2:35, it’s just gorgeous. It may be almost 5 minutes long, but if it were all like that, I wouldn’t even have a problem with that. But argh, that grating line is just horrible when there’s nothing on top of it. WHY.
Tom: I think it does outstay its welcome a bit — it could use trimming some of the fat — but I just don’t think there’s anything wrong. And particularly not with that bassline.
Tim: A Swedish dream-pop trio, this is the second release off their upcoming second album. I could copy and paste the PR guff, but basically: there are shit moments, but you’re awesome, so take a moment, then GO!
Tom: Which is basically what the song’s like, isn’t it?
Tim: And that starts out as a lovely M83-style sound, interrupted briefly by an unexpected electric guitar, don’t know where it came from but I won’t complain about it.
Tom: Yep, M83 is a good style point for it: lots of reverb, lots of ethereal vocals, and a strong boots-and-cats drum below it.
Tim: This is lovely stuff all in, really, although I’ve got to say I’m not entirely sure I feel the GO! vibe – it’s good to relax to, maybe take a lengthy shower to on repeat, but I can’t say I get a GO! I’ll take the “you’re awesome” bit, mind – always happy to have that thrown at me – so I’ll have this nicely.
“Music to brighten up an otherwise aurally dull room”
Tim: 100 Songs, a reliably excellent label, having previously brought us such wonders as Amazing and Wasting Water (which incidentally I remembered this morning and listened to it a full twelve times, because I’d forgotten how incredible it is), seem to have been a bit more successful than they originally predicted; here’s number 106.
Tom: Oh, that introduction is wonderful. The track isn’t the typical kind of thing I listen to, mind, but that introduction was fantastic. After that…
Tim: Well, if you don’t remember Dream Lake, they’re the Swedish act you described as “soft and fluffy” last July; it’s tempting, and not particularly inaccurate, to say that they’ve found a formula and are very happy with it. I have no trouble with that, though, because I’m very happy with it too.
Tom: Yep, and I stand by that description. It’s not going to stand out for me, but it’s not going to annoy me either.
Tim: I tell you what this is: it’s background music. Sure, you can sit and pay attention to it, but you may find your mind wandering (or at least I did; apologies to the members of Dream Lake if I’ve inadvertently insulted their work). Instead, it’s music to listen to while you’re on other stuff, browsing the Twitter or something, there to brighten up an otherwise aurally dull room, and to create a wonderful surprise moment at 2:49.
Tom: Which is basically what happened to me.
Tim: Also a disappointing moment at 3:42, but another happy moment when you press the play button again.