Robyn – Honey

“It’s not exactly great as a pop song, is it?”

Tim: So, according to a lengthy interview in The Guardian, August’s Missing U is something of an outlier on Robyn’s new album, out on the 26th, in the sense of it sounding a lot like her older stuff. Most of it is closer to this; see what you think.

Tim: And my reaction to that is distinctly: hmmm. It’s nice to listen to, it’s certainly very Robyn, but it’s not exactly great as a pop song, is it?

Tom: Remember when Calum Scott covered Dancing On My Own, and everyone who knew the original was just incredibly disappointed? That’s how I feel about this.

Tim: The problem for me really is the length of it, or at least related to that: it’s too drawn out, too drifting, too rambling to really get me going at all, to get me singing along to any chorus (is there even a proper chorus? I’ve listened to it three times and I’m struggling to identify one).

Tom: There is one! It’s just far too chilled-out. I assumed the monotone bit at about 2:20 was the middle eight, but no, we’re not even half way through. Never mind “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”, the advice is here is just “don’t bore us”.

Tim: It’s a shame – like I said, it’s nice to listen to, but it just doesn’t do it for me as a great pop song.

Sigala feat. Kylie Minogue – What You Waiting For

“You’ve got Kylie, you want to give her the best track you will ever make in your life.”

Tim: Sigala’s debut album was also released last Friday; given the number of singles he’s already released, it contained a grand total of four new tracks. This was one of them.

Tom: And the Kylie collaboration’s an album track? Blimey. Talk about setting expectations high.

Tim: It’s fair to say Sigala’s established himself as one of the top names in summery tropical dance music, and with his first name being Bruce it was only a matter of time until he landed a prolific Australian.

Tom: I didn’t quite facepalm at that line, Tim, but I did scrunch up one side of my face and lower my eyebrows in a kind of a “huh?” gesture.

Tim: You what?

Tom: I didn’t need to write that sentence out, but I’m hoping that anyone reading it would try and imitate that face. Anyway, yeah, this is… well, actually it’s really generic, isn’t it?

Tim: It does, though, seem a bit of a waste. You’ve got Kylie, you want to give her the best track you will ever make in your life – not this, which as Sigala tracks go is entirely average. It’s not bad by any means – but it certainly doesn’t deserve Kylie.

Tom: Album track.

Alan Walker feat. Sophia Somajo – Diamond Heart

“It’s safe to say the man now has one of the most recognisable styles there is.”

Tim: Whole lot of good new stuff came out last Friday (not least Cher’s ABBA covers album); there was also a collaboration between Olly Murs and Snoop Dogg, but we’ll put that to one side. Let’s start with this, and the video’s a conclusion to that World of Walker trilogy that made basically no sense. Does this video resolve any of it?

Tim: No, of course it doesn’t – though I’m going to see him in a couple of months, and if he doesn’t have any of the flying things on the merch stand I’ll be thoroughly disappointed. But the music – so, it’s good.

Tom: There’s a point, half way through that first verse, where that certain Alan Walker rhythm appears. I don’t possess the musical skill to say what it is, but it’s safe to say the man now has one of the most recognisable styles there is. The question is, I suppose, whether that’s sustainable into future albums, or whether people like the sound and not the artist.

Tim: Bit of both, probably, and I’d put money on it being either updated for the second album or fully changed for the third. But right now, Alan’s one of my favourite DJs around, and as far as I can remember he’s yet to put out a duff track. And yet…I’m not quite so satisfied with this. There’s nothing bad about it per se, but it’s not quite as great – compare it to there massive sounds of Darkside, The Spectre or Faded, and it doesn’t have the sense of majesty those did. Though I can tell you why, immediately: it’s the vocal.

Tom: What, the not-quite-Sia effect?

Tim: No – I’ve no problems with the quality or anything of it. It’s the fact that it stays there, and we never get a full instrumental breakdown. If we did, I’d realise immediately that the music behind this really is absolutely brilliant. Having said that, I don’t want to get rid of the vocal, because it too is fantastic.

Tom: That’s fair. I think the lack of majesty, as you put it, is also a bit due to the composition. Let’s be honest, the melody’s repetitive enough that it could be a playground rhyme.

Tim: Ooh, bit harsh. Basically, my problem is that there’s too much brilliant stuff here. And let’s face it, there are worse problems I could have – could be writing about that Olly Murs track, for starters.

Saturday Flashback: The Wanted – Chasing The Sun

“A song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.”

Tim: So here’s something I didn’t realise existed until a few days ago: a song by The Wanted written by Example. And boy, does it show.

Tim: Isn’t that just very, very Example? Almost enough that, to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were credited as ‘Example feat. The Wanted’.

Tom: Yep: there’s a clear distinction between songwriter and producer here. And speaking of production: this is the first pop song I’ve heard in a long, long while where there’s a clear difference in loudness between verse and chorus. It’s not just my imagination: I actually pulled it into a waveform editor to check. That chorus is genuinely louder, just like the Old Days.

Tim: It’s nice – combination of good boyband and a good DJ. Nothing much to say about it, really – I was just quite intrigued to discover that it existed.

Oscar Zia – Betong

“Not only is this song about pétanque, but they’re using the balls as percussion, too.”

Tim: Title translates as ‘Concrete’; upshot of the lyrics is that he’s carved into concrete that he hates her, but whenever she comes along he can’t resist her. Challenge: despite knowing all that, see if you can manage not to imagine everyone involved playing pétanque.

Tom: I clicked on this before reading your introduction, Tim, and all I could hear was that repetitive clonk. So for me, not only is this song about pétanque, but they’re using the balls as percussion, too. ANYWAY.

Tim: So this has all the hallmarks of starting off as a fairly dull and damp ballad…

Tom: And it stays that way!

Tim: What? No – then that chorus comes along, bangs everything up a bit, and suddenly it all sounds just delightful.

Tom: Really? What on earth makes you think that?

Tim: A melancholy voice becomes angry, a whole new load of instruments all arrive, and the contrast between the two sections is just great. Standard dip down and up again comes for the second verse, but it doesn’t here sound too dull like it so often does. Not sure exactly why, but for me at least it all just sounds good.

Tom: Except for…

Tim: Except for bloody pétanque.

Rhys feat. Felix Sandman – Starfish

“I got a sense that this was about to get special a second or so before it actually did.”

Tim: We’ve only featured one of Rhys’s tracks before, and also only one of Felix’s. Hers we liked; his not so much.

Tom: Liked is an understatement: Last Dance turned out to be one of my favourite tracks of last year.

Tim: Let’s try a combination, then.

Tom: Well, that takes its time to get going, doesn’t it?

Tim: Weirdly, I got a sense that this was about to get special a second or so before it actually did, so I listened back and realised there’s some brilliant production work going on.

The first verse is of the variety that could go either way – massively overblown vocal samples, deep r&b, even tropical, wherever. That pre-chorus makes it a bit clearer, but then it’s the 1 minute point, where there’s a very brief rising string bit, which suddenly drops into an absolutely lovely chorus – and just that tiny bit makes it sound so so good.

Tom: And that chorus, in turn, explains the verse: oh, that’s why it sounds like that. I do reckon that this track would have been better by briefly previewing the chorus at the start — I nearly tuned out — but perhaps it’s just a grower. It’s no Last Dance, but it’s certainly got a spark of the same genius.

Tim: We’ve no lengthy traditional build to get up hopes and expectation that might not be met, nor a really sudden shift, but just a tiny, almost imperceptible interlude, saying ‘hey, you’ll enjoy this’. And I really did. I’d say it’s great anyway, but that one smidgen of a note switched it up to brilliant.

Rebecca – The Show

“There are a lot of very good parts in here, and one really bad part.”

Tim: You’ll recall that Norway sent Alexander Rybak to Eurovision this year with a godawful track; you may or may not recall the bloody brilliant song that upsettingly came second. Here’s Rebecca’s follow up to that.

Tom: There are a lot of very good parts in here, and one really bad part.

Tim: It’s not as fantastic as Who We Are, but that’s because Who We Are was a Big Emotional Ballad and there’s a time and a place for that; this song belongs here and now, though, and it’s pretty good as that. It’s interesting, though – as so often the case, the best bits are the loud bits, once the song has warmed up, except, well. The second chorus picks things up, the middle eight carries them on, all sounding good.

We’ve a traditional brief dip, but then everything’s back in for the closing minute or so. And when I say everything, it pretty much is everything – multiple vocal layers, instruments, all turned up loud and vying for attention and kind of sounding a bit messy.

Tom: Really? You’re right about nearly all of that: the strings are brilliant, the steady build is great, but how does on earth can you support that weird mating-seal-noise synth that blares through everything?

Tim: Hmm, okay, I hear what you’re saying – but firstly that’s a bit of an exaggeration, because it’s there in total for about a minute and a bit, and secondly for a large part of that it’s somewhat overshadowed by everything else, in the same way that everything else is: messily. It’s an organised mess, sure – but I’m reminded of the horrific Battle Round in The Voice, where ostensibly two contestants perform a duet together but it basically descends into a shouting match within about a minute. It’s rhythmic enough, so nothing really sounds out of place – but it’s still a bit of a mess.

The Sound of Arrows – Perfect Circle

“This opening track is a blinder.”

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.

Jason Derulo & David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj & Willy William – Goodbye

“I genuinely want to punch you for sending me this, Tim.”

Tim: Reader: I’M SORRY. Tom: consider this revenge for that Ting Tings garbage last week.

Tom: I actually facepalmed when I saw the title of this.

Tom: That actually had promise, just a little bit of promise, right up until Derulo muttered his name to introduce the first verse.

Tim: Now, I’ve checked, and the original wasn’t written by Andrea, in any way, and so technically he can’t stop this. But surely – surely – there’s some sort of legal action that could have been brought against someone, by anybody, just to prevent this aural nightmare from ever seeing the light of day.

Tom: YOU STILL SENT IT TO ME, TIM. You could have stopped this, at least here.

Tim: Hmm, yeah, but then you might have heard it accidentally anyway and I wouldn’t have got to experience your reaction. Because, oh, jeez, what is going on. “One word in Espanõl and I come and you know.” “Girls in Spain do the mostest.” “Down for my fatty fatty.” “I pull up on him, let him put the pipe in.” “Then I’ve gotta dash like a hyphen.” That’s just the English – I’ve no idea what the Spanish/French lyrics are, and I have absolutely no intention of looking them up.

Tom: I just looked up the “culo” at the end, and it means “ass”. So, there’s that. Admittedly that’s not as bad as the middle eight. I genuinely want to punch you for sending me this, Tim.

Tim: TING. TINGS. This really is a disgrace, and everybody involved should (and I don’t think there’s any hyperbole here) be strung up and shot. Although, the worst thing about this – worse than all of those lyrics put together, even – is that actually, I quite like what they’ve done with the chorus. Heresy it may be, but there is room for a good reinterpretation of the song.

Tom: You’re not wrong; there’s possibilities in here, and it’s entirely possible to make a pop track out of something classical. It has been done, lots of times, and I’d want to see it if it happened.

Tim: This…this just really, really isn’t it.