MØ – When I Was Young

“This has quite the post-chorus, so listen out for that.”

Tim: New one off MØ, and it’s winter outside, and winter in the video, so let’s naturally set out getting a teensy bit tropical. And this has quite the post-chorus, so listen out for that.

Tim: And that’s a song.

Tom: A ringing endorsement, there. It starts out like almost it’s trying to be a Bond theme, decides not to for the chorus, and then goes somewhere else that’s both interesting and — to me, at least — a bit disappointing.

Tim: I like it, I think – or at least, having listened to it a few times now to write this I’m at least on board with it. That post-chorus did take me a bit by surprise, which I think was what prompted the repeated listens – it’s a while since we’ve a prominent brass line in a dance track, or at least one that I can think of, and it certainly works as a USP for this.

Tom: It’s… well, it’s not bad, I suppose? It’s not that I actively dislike it, I just can’t find anything to particularly like. Like you said, it has a USP at least.

Tim: Definitely more than the video, anyway, which is probably trying to have some sort of narrative but which really comes across as just a tad weird. But it’s mostly okay.

Saturday Flashback: Maroon 5 – One More Night

“Pity the poor live drummers, though. “

Tim: We’ve remarked previously that Rihanna’s Umbrella doesn’t have its own unique backing, but does in fact share it with (the much much better) Symphonies by Dan Black and, indeed, anyone else who’s ever used Apple’s “Vintage Funk Kit 03“.

Tim: And I don’t quite know how it took me so long to recognise that, given that it’s their third most successful song ever.

Tom: The thing is, neither did I. Maybe it’s the change in tempo, or maybe there’s a change in emphasis. Pity the poor live drummers who’ll have to just repeat that Apple drum loop over and over again, though.

Tim: Funny old world, pop music, isn’t it?

Wankelmut & Björn Dixgård – I Keep Calling

“Wankelmut. Dixgård.”

Tom: Wankelmut. Dixgård. I think it’s the diacritic that makes that.

Tim: Well, yes – I could barely type the names of the artists involved here without giggling, but please, try to maintain some sense of adulthood as we hear the track I described yesterday as ‘a song that’s probably better’.

Tim: And it is. I mean obviously it is, yesterday’s was technically awful, but this is enjoyable. Wankelmut’s proper name is Jacob, and he’s a dance producer off Germany, while Mr Dixgård is from Sweden, frontman of a rock band call Mando Diao.

And the vocals are good – it’s the second track we’ve had this week consisting of a dance beat with a throaty guy singing on top of it, and both times it works pretty well, to the extent that I’m almost surprised it hasn’t been done more often.

Tom: This reminds me, in a weird way, of Culture Beat’s Mr Vain. I mean, we’re a generation later so you’ve got completely different instruments and the now-required instrumental-sample chorus in place of the rap bit, but I think you can trace the influences: shouty vocals, repetitive lyrics, entirely danceable.

Tim: As far as the narrative of the song goes, well, it really doesn’t reflect well at all on Björn. At best he comes across as desperate, but more realistically he’s getting on for some kind of predator and that’s really not a good look right now. On the other hand, at least he’s not singing about roofies being great, so, y’know, let’s move on.

Tom: There are a lot of songs that haven’t aged well.

Tim: Musically it’s sound.

Tom: Well, yes, it is. Oh, sorry, yes, never mind, know what you mean.

Tim: Decent beat, decent melody, and the aforementioned strong vocals – so the main thing to take away from this: can we have more of this type, please?

Ill Blue feat. Glowie – Tribalist

“Dodgy synths, upsetting autotune and not a huge amount of melody to speak of.”

Tim: Dodgy synths, upsetting autotune and not a huge amount of melody to speak of.

Tom: You’re not selling this.

Tim: No, because by all rights I should hate this track, which is off a British duo and an Icelandic singer.

Tim: And here’s the thing: I really don’t like it, at all.

Tom: Okay, well done, you sold that well. I was expecting you to try and redeem it, which would be a difficult job.

Tim: Admittedly I don’t hate it, but every moment I’m sitting listening to it I’m thinking “I don’t really like this, why am I listening to it?” Except, I never actually get round to switching it off. When a suggested link pops up in the corner to take me to a song that’s probably better, I click on it, stick that new tab in the background, and switch back to get this going again.

Tom: Why?!

Tim: I really know – despite that awful synth, and the dullness of a lot of it, and the uninventive lyrics, I don’t switch it off. And I have no idea why.

Kygo feat. The Night Game – Kids in Love

“One heck of a post-chorus.”

Tim: A week or so Kygo quietly stuck a new album online, eight tracks each featuring a somewhat well known artist, much as Avicii did a couple of months back (though curiously enough, his Just Jesso feature which you described as “letting a toddler play with the volume control” didn’t make the cut). Here’s the title track, which also happens to be one of the best, as I see it.

Tom: Oh, that is good. That’s sounds a bit like… maybe like The Who? That’s not a comparison I expected to make.

Tim: It’s not remotely standard Kygo stuff – for that, you could do worse than check out the also very good Stranger Things, with OneRepublic – but it does have some very good piano dance work, with one heck of a post-chorus.

Tom: Objectively, there’s very little going on here: everything’s a bit repetitive. But compare it to yesterday’s mess: this here is an example of how to make a Big Track. Even that post-chorus stands out, like you said.

Tim: Not sure I’ve heard one before that is in itself a build and subsequent drop, but it sure enough works here. The vocal line is nice and emphatic, giving it everything the lyrics and backing music demand, and when those secondary vocals come along at the end that’s just a nice layer of icing on top of the already very tasty cake. Nice that he’s back on form.

Liam Payne – Bedroom Floor

“Do I want to hear it again? Obviously, no.”

Tom: A vague pineapple scent wafts in.

Tim: Oh. Oh, there are some interesting words there. And vocal effects. And a half-arsed attitude to the tropical genre. And that haircut, mate, you’re not Manchester in the 90s.

Tom: I made a list of all the lyrics that annoyed me in the first verse. The “Baby / lately” rhyme. “Real real nice real nice things”, which is just stuttering so it vaguely fits the rhythm that’s needed. “Real real real real real”, which is just lazy. The words “iPhone, iPhone rings”, followed by what actually sounds like him imitating an iPhone.

Tim: Yeah, it was the iPhone one that really got me. Just, eurgh.

Tom: I mean, there’s the autotune too, but by this point I was ready to give up the song as a bad job, but that pre-chorus was just a little bit promising. Then I heard the chorus, and its seemingly-endless repetition, and basically gave up. If you’re going to repeat just one chorus line, make sure you’ve got more than one note in it.

Tim: Oh no that’s not fair – it goes at least one note up at the end of the last line each time, let’s give him that.

Tom: My two signs of a good pop song: first, do I want to hear it again? Here, obviously, no. But second, can I sing the chorus after one listen? And here, yes I can. So while I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s good… I suspect it might do well anyway.

Sanna Nielsen – Innen Du Lämnar Mig

“There’s a massive crane parked outside and Bjorn’s forgotten his lens stabiliser.”

Tim: Much as summer has been lovely, it seems futile to deny that winter has arrived whole-heartedly, so shall we have a deep and meaningful ballad to mark that? That’s a rhetorical question, because we shall.

Tom: “I know we booked this room to film in, but there’s a massive crane parked outside and Bjorn’s forgotten his lens stabiliser. Should we reschedule?” “Nah, just film it anyway.”

Anyway, that’s a pleasant enough ballad. What’s it about?

Tim: The title translates to ‘Before You Leave Me’, and the message is basically “I know you’re about to dump me so I’m kind of feeling I should say it first to maintain my dignity.” Thoroughly depressing, then, but at least it’s sung quite nicely so we can still pretty much enjoy the song anyway, right?

Tom:
It’s a slow builder, but at least it does build; for some reason it reminded me of old Celine Dion tracks: both the slow build and, in a very specific musical reference, that final outro note.

Tim: Somehow, I find ballads like this more enjoyable if they’re in foreign, and I’m not entirely sure why – maybe because with calm music the words typically take priority, and so if I don’t understand them I don’t get distracted? Whatever the reason, though, this is very pleasant to hear. First of many, then?

Saturday Flashback: LOCASH – Ring On Every Finger

Tom: I’ve been driving through the midwest of America lately, and country music — or, rather, the mainstream country-pop that’s played by commercial radio stations — has been my soundtrack. It seemed right.

Tim: Makes sense, particularly as I now have a lovely image of you with aviator sunglasses and a sheriff’s stetson on your head.

Tom: No comment. But there’s something I’ve noticed, Tim, and I think it’s most obvious with this song. They’re singing “love bombs” not “F-bombs” in the chorus in the radio edit, by the way, that surprised me in this version.

Tom: This could be schlager.

Tim: Huh – yeah, you’re not wrong there. It’s certainly a heck of a lot more upbeat and interesting than that Sam Hunt track you brought to the table last week.

Tom: It’s three and a half minutes long. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, hammer the chorus home twice more, outro. All it’s missing is a key change — and, as far as I can tell, in country that’s replaced by a Southern accent, a guitar twang, and a wholesome message.

It was meant to be latin-pop. Then it turned into country. It doesn’t matter about the style: it could be any pop genre. The only thing that means this is being played on “KSKS Country” and not “100% NL” is that they’re using guitars and not synthesisers.

Tim: See, the thing that sticks out most in that paragraph is the bit about latin-pop – after all, we’ve seen any number of rock and guitar pop track redone as dance tracks. Hell, you could barely turn on a radio in the mid ’00s without hearing Cascada or DJ Sammy within half an hour. Never really imagined it with other genres. Though now I do, I guess we’ve also had Nica & Joe, and also Gregorian if that counts, and, yeah, many more.

Tom: I’m not saying all country-pop’s good, or that it’s even our genre. But sometimes, the Golden Rules of Pop shine through, and this is one of those times.

Tim: Yep. Good pop will always be that.

The Sound of Arrows – Don’t Worry

“A wonderful slow-builder, and possibly the best one of theirs that I’ve ever heard.”

Tom: From the title, I’ve got a prediction: you’ll love it, I’ll be indifferent. Tim, start your pitch.

Tim: Well, after SIX YEARS, this wonderful band’s second album finally arrived last Friday, and having had plenty of opportunity to listen to it I can declare it, you’ll be relieved but probably not surprised to hear, absolutely wonderful. From it’s glorious intro, through its superb second track Stay Free and beyond all the way to the Lion King stylings of the closing We Will Live Again, via delights like the Moby-esque Wicked Ways, it is a divine listen. Right now, though, we’ll chat about track 4, because that’s the one they’ve just put a video out for.

Tom: Oh. Huh. That… I like that.

Tim: Really? That actually surprises me, because curiously, it’s not one of the best on the album (at least in my view, anyway), and does have a few drawbacks.

Tom: Ah! Then I think this might be the track that’s designed to appeal to the mainstream — hence it’s the first single.

Tim: Well, the first single was actually Beautiful Life, but timing-wise we’ll go with this.

Tom: This is a wonderful slow-builder, and possibly the best one of theirs that I’ve ever heard. Yes, that includes all the previous attempts of yours to promote their tracks to me. Why isn’t it great for you?

Tim: It takes a while to get going, and while that underlying melody that kicks in halfway through is lovely to listen to, it gets repetitive not long after.

Tom: For me, it feels more like the sort of track that’d fit in nicely on Isles of Wonder. Which is a heck of compliment. Remember that? That was a good year.

Tim: When the single biggest political story was George Osborne getting booed. Simpler and better times. But let’s not get lost in nostalgia – let’s talk about the final chorus, which as with most tracks is where everything really shines, especially with those oooh-ooohs coming along. Having said that: I reiterate that the album as a whole is lovely, so just ignore this negativity, put your feet up for 45 minutes, sit back and just listen to it. You owe it to yourself, you really do.

Modiwo – Cosmic Bus

“Transylvanian Pop Hero’s Take the Cosmic Bus to Success”

Tim: I haven’t even heard the track yet but I feel we need to feature it, almost entirely because of the subject line of the PR e-mail: Transylvanian Pop Hero’s Take the Cosmic Bus to Success.

Tom: [sic], I assume?

Tim: Oh yes, and if anything that just adds to the anticipation. Let’s press play and see if this is worth it.

Tim: And now I am so relieved, because that’s just brilliant, for so many reasons.

Tom: …which would be?

Tim: The style of the video! The bus that opens into a stage! The saxophone that comes from nowhere at all that made me do a double take! The inspiring but not stupidly so lyrics! Even – the idea of a cosmic bus itself. Pausing at space traffic lights! Two moons in a shoot-out! There is just so much to love here, and it’s totally wonderful.

Tom: Okay, so here’s the thing: I listened to this just as an audio track first, without the video. And I’ve got to be honest with you: it’s not a great song. And amidst all those exclamation marks, you haven’t actually said anything about the song either. Apart from that saxophone, and, well, fair enough, but the rest isn’t all that great?

Tim: Maybe not great, but it does have something I like in it – partly the uplifting tone, partly, like I said, the positivity in the lyrics. You’re not into it?

Tom: It’s a middle-of-the-pack Eurovision selection track. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, it’s just that without the video’s.. erm, charm? Yeah, let’s go with charm. Without that, it’s only okay.

Tim: Perhaps. So as long as we have videos: can we have more from Transylvania please?