Saturday Reject: Nikki Kavanagh – Falling

I know this isn’t perfect, but dammit, I like it

Tim: For the second time in recent years, Ireland’s public chose novelty over talent; their jury made a somewhat better call, but sadly were just overruled.

Tom: Bloody Jedward.

Tim: Now, I know this isn’t perfect – there’s not much movement from the singer, it’s not particularly adventurous, and the key change is as clichéd as they come. But dammit, I like this. I like the calm backing music and the fact that all the emotion needs to come from her, because it does, and it works. And yes, it’s a textbook key change, but here that’s no bad thing at all.

Tom: I don’t think it would have won – although with that key change, I think it could have got bloody close. It’d get them through the semis, definitely, and I think they’d have got close to the top.

Tim: With a little bit more instrumentation this might just have made it; as it is, Ireland will be represented by what most of the world refer to as ‘those two dickheads with the stupid hair’. Well, their loss, I suppose.

Tom: In more ways than one.

Anine Stang – Dominoes

Is your head ready to be rocked from side to side?

Tim: Is your head ready to be rocked from side to side?

Tom: Not really. My neck’s been giving me a bit of trouble lately.

Tim: Oh. Well, tough.

Tim: I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve been hearing (and rejecting) a lot of mediocre stuff recently, but I flipping love this. It’s properly vibrant, which is a good thing when it comes to music.

Tom: When it kicks in, it’s bloody amazing.

Tim: Isn’t it? The verses start quiet before building up to each chorus, which is always a nice touch.

Tom: That’s a proper anticipatory build there, and normally it’d be cheesy – but the production here makes it work.

Tim: Indeed, and the choruses themselves check all the boxes: energy, volume, catchiness, singalongability*.

* You can complain, but I challenge you to to think of a better word.

Tom: I can see a Swedish club dancing to this. Long double-bridge, though, but that just makes it sound better when it finally comes back.

Tim: Regarding that, though, is it just me or does the re-entry from the bridge seem a bit off? It feels to me like they’ve chopped out two beats, and I find that mildly disconcerting.

Tom: Really? I don’t think two more beats of drum fill would help anything. Ever.

Aqua – How R U Doin?

It’s certainly not the Aqua we know.

Tim: Two years ago, they released a comeback track that didn’t really lead to anything. This morning, they unveiled their new single, which is out worldwide on Monday, and it’s here.

Tom: Oh dear.

Tim: My thoughts after the first few notes? OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE THEY DONE IT’S AWFUL. Later on? More sort of ‘ehh’. It’s…well, it’s certainly not the Aqua we know, which I suppose is understandable as times have changed. They’ve changed their sound, because they need to fit in with modern music. That’s understandable. But there’s a flaw in their logic: they’re Aqua.

Tom: I always liked Aqua, and there was a bit more variety to their sound than most people think (remember ‘Turn Back Time‘)?

Tim: Actually, I’d completely forgotten that one, and I’m not alone. For the vast majority of people, Aqua will always be the group that made several great but very much not mainstream tracks, and they will never be mainstream.

Tom: Ooh, now I disagree there. Barbie Girl and Cartoon Heroes were definitely mainstream – a weird kind of mainstream, to be sure, but still definitely in the public consciousness.

Tim: Alright, replace ‘not mainstream’ with ‘novelty’ – definitely not what big self-respecting dance clubs play. My point is, whatever it sounds like, this will be the same, just by association. “It’s Aqua? Hell no, I’m not playing that.” This will only appeal to Aqua fans, and sounding like it does it might not now do that; a few quotes from the Facebook page: “not really satisfied – sound of today – but not Aqua worthy!” “What is that?? Where is the great Aqua-Sound?? It’s okay, but… ;(” “It’s not bad, quite like it but if it wasn’t written Aqua on top of it, I couldn’t tell it’s from you.

Tom: To me, the Aqua-sound is mostly made up of Lene’s sqeaky bubblegum singing, and René’s growling vocals. Those are here, at least, even if the rest of their style has been pulled grudgingly into the 21st century.

Tim: The singing, yes, but what about the squeaky bubblegum backing track? It sounds to me more like a genre-shifting remix than an Aqua original. As far as I’m concerned, it’s okay, but it sure as hell isn’t Aqua.

Tom: But the good news: a new album means they might go on tour again – and that’ll be a show worth seeing.

Olly Murs – Heart On My Sleeve

Everyone’s favourite purveyor of leprechaun-like swaggering cockery is back.

Tom: Everyone’s favourite purveyor of leprechaun-like swaggering cockery is back. This time, though, he’s swapped the hat for a sweater from Steve Jobs, an apartment from IKEA and an attempt at emotion.

Tom: Oh, and he’s ripped off most of his verse melody from Radiohead’s “High and Dry”. Did you think we wouldn’t notice, Murs? Because I’m noticing. Every bloody verse, I’m noticing.

Tim: I have not heard that song; I do not intend to hear it because even with an Olly Murs track I’m not looking for reasons to dislike it.

Tom: Okay. Let’s try and get over our inbuilt anti-Murs prejudice and evaluate the song. It’s actually not that bad, once you get over the Radiohead thing. He can sing, that’s for sure; and as a heartfelt ballad it’s actually pretty good.

It features what I can only describe as a Proper Bridge: a complete change in chord progression, then into a quiet bit, and then into a suitably emotional final chorus.

Tim: Annoyingly, I have to say: I like this. The bending over in the video at about 2:17 annoys me, but that’s when any singers do it – I know it’s meant to help get the notes out better, but to me it kind of looks like they’re vomiting up the music. That aside, though, I have to admit I think it’s alright.

Tom: Is it enough to redeem Murs? For me, not quite. But that’s because I like “High and Dry”.

Cascada – Night Nurse

It’s pretty typical.

Tom: Europlop reader Chris writes in with this suggestion. “Pretty typical,” he says, “but I actually quite like the autotune in this.”

Tom: This is off her soon-to-be-released new album, and Chris is right – it’s pretty typical. Metaphor for love – this time a medical one – along with her usual produced beats and her usual voice treated in the usual way.

Tim: I was hoping to be able to think, ‘Ooh, they’ve mended it’ after the falling apart that was Evacuate the Dancefloor.

Tom: Whoa, whoa, hold on. Side track. Evacuate the Dancefloor was great. It’s one of the main songs on Dance Central for a reason. It’s got the strange pre-chorus bit, yes, but it’s one of the catchiest choruses she’s ever done. What have you got against it?

Tim: It was just so different – it came out before I’d had time to get used to all the autotuney nonsense that was just starting to appear, and it was entirely not Truly Madly Deeply. It didn’t help that she completely ditched pretty much a whole (quite good) album after only one single, just to release a song that was more commercially viable. Twelve months later I’d probably have been quite happy with it, but then it just didn’t seem right.

Anyway, you know what? I pretty much can think that, once I’ve accepted that five years have passed and that autotuney nonsense is in fact here to stay. This is good Cascada, the verses especially – the Cascada that brought us Every Time We Touch and Bad Boy.

Tom: The usual vaguely-abstract video with dancers and glamour shots, too – although the producer’s doing the ‘stop people listening on YouTube’ thing by interrupting the song with a video scene half way through. We’re going to see that a lot more, I reckon.

It’s still a very good track though.

Tim: Indeed, I think it’s great – the auto-tune actually does seem good here, as though it’s being used for a proper reason rather than just because you’ve got to have autotune these days.

Tom: It’ll be interesting to see if one man – or, rather, his estate – gets any royalties from it, though. Very few Cascada fans will recognise Gregory Isaac’s reggae classic ‘Night Nurse’, but I reckon that one line in the chorus might be close enough to count for a writing credit.

Tim: What, two words? Seriously?

Tom: Two very famous words.

Tim: Well, yes.

McFly – That’s The Truth

They’ve gone all JLS.

Tom: Last time we talked about them, McFly had gone all Taio Cruz. Well, now they’ve… they’ve gone all JLS.

Tom: Damn it, McFly, I know you wanted to go in a new direction, but did it have to be such a terribly generic one?

I can’t fault the song, really – it’s lovely, and if it were any other band I’d probably like it, but I can’t help feeling that McFly have done so much better in the past. If it wasn’t for Tom McFly’s distinctive voice* then this could be the Wanted, or hell, even the Backstreet Boys.

*Yes, I know their names. Deal with it.

Tim: Could it, though? Well, probably, but it doesn’t seem any more generic than All About You or Five Colours In Her Hair, say. It’s not quite as good as most of their others – you’re right that it’s a nice tune, but there’s nothing hugely memorable about it, and it’s not going to be a massive Stargirl crowd pleaser – but I don’t think overly generic’s a particularly fair criticism.

Tom: Also, what’s with the Olly Murs hat, Tom McFly? It does make you look like a bit of a prat.

Tim: That, I will not disagree with.

Saturday Reject: Anniela – Elektrisk

She’s got a small hedge on her neck

Tim: Her first entry into the competition, this came sixth in the second heat of Melodifestivalen.

Tim: Staging: brilliant. I think it is, anyway.

Tom: You’re absolutely right: compared to Jimi’s trade show booth last Saturday, this is… well, it’s electric, isn’t it?

Tim: Aptly put, sir. I do have a couple of reservations about the costume: I’m not entirely sure why she’s got a small hedge on her neck for one thing, and those bow ties are obscenely large. Musically, the choruses are quite good, and there’s a decent beat to it, although the verses just sort of drift along a bit, so the song as a whole seems to be left wanting.

Tom: There is a bit too much ‘Elektrisk’ in there, simple as that. It’s repeated about a hundred times during the song, so by the time it gets to the bridge it’s already starting to grate. Even the key change can’t rescue it.

Tim: Having said that, if it’s any consolation for her, one minor music TV station did at least enjoy it, and with a disturbing number of exclamation marks as well.

The Sound of Arrows – Nova

It’s like honey.

Tim: Sit back, close your eyes, listen.

Tim: I really really like this – pretty much Sunrise Avenue one-track repeat all day levels of like, in fact. This tune, from two Swedish chaps, seems to me like a tune it’s impossible to dislike, and not because it’s just a fairly boring one that doesn’t do anything special or interesting at all, because it does.

Tom: It’s got a long build before it kicks in, but it’s worth it. It’s like the musical equivalent of honey: notes seem to slide slowly over each other. I think I just beat our record for “worst simile”.

Tim: Strangest, perhaps, but not worst – I know exactly what you mean and it does describe it quite well. It’s sort of mystical in parts, which I think is lovely – the video as well is great, it’s a bit woo-oo-oh.

Tom: In the wide, fuzzy shots, I can’t help but think that the lead singer does look a bit like Abed from the NBC sitcom Community – it’s the lankiness and the hair – which means I can’t really take it seriously. Can’t deny it’s a good song, though; very listenable.

Tim: It’s a song that sort of carries you along, almost bouncing gently on a cloud of…um…cloudy stuff. You know, it seems hard to describe this song without coming across as though I’m on drugs. Just…oh, I don’t know. It’s great. I can’t describe exactly why it’s great, but it is.

Tom: And in that, I agree with you.

Sunrise Avenue – Hollywood Hills

What a voice! That’s a voice that removes clothing. Er, in a good way.

Tim: Finnish, these chaps are. Don’t bother listening to the lyrics here – just hear the sounds.

Tom: What a voice! That’s a voice that removes clothing. Er, in a good way.

Tim: Right. Now the first time I listened to this, I didn’t really pay much attention to the lyrics or anything either, but just the music. I was left with an impression of it being a fairly dark tune, nice music, big energetic instrumentation – generally all the things that make a song good.

Tom: It really is quite something. This is a soul-stirrer: it’s the chord progression and deep vocals that make it work.

Tim: Then I looked up the lyrics and listened to it properly – go on, do it now – and discovered that this song is bloody amazing. It’s a farewell song with so much energy that really, really shouldn’t belong there, and yet it fits perfectly.

There’s a sense of ‘it was great’, but the slightly contrasting ‘I have to go, I’ve got no choice’ almost takes that away again. It should be a depressing song, and the vocals kind of add to that, but then the music jumps in as well and makes it uplifting, and a song you really want to sing along to.

Tom: It’s the kind of song that leaves you with a smile on your face – and you’ve no idea why.

Tim: Not much to say about the video, although I absolutely love the fifteen seconds or so just after 40 seconds in when the band’s waking up – it makes the building instrumentation all the more effective, and when it finally comes together it’s just YEAH!

Tom: The clock in the background is at a very different time each time it’s in shot. Yes, I notice these things. Ah well.

Tim: Me too – and given that there a quite a few close up clock shots, part of me wants there to be a really obscure hidden meaning, since the alternative is them screwing up. OOH, maybe it’s like The Da Vinci Code! Oh, God, shoot me now. Another thing about the video, though, is that the ending doesn’t seem quite as weird any more – I didn’t like it at first, but now it seems like a closure type thing, which is pleasant.

Tom: Otherwise known as ‘the quiet bit that the radio DJ talks over’.

D:Ream – Gods In The Making

No, I couldn’t believe it myself.

Tom: No, I couldn’t believe it myself.

Tom: So, the important things first. Yes, this is the real D:Ream, of “Things Can Only Get Better” fame. Yes, this really is the official video. They’re releasing it themselves. And yes – Professor Brian Cox himself is on keyboards.

Tim: That’s quite a few things to take in.

Tom: Okay, let’s set the low-budget video aside for a while – because it seems bizarre that a track that sounds this well-produced has a video that looks like it’s put together by a YouTube fan in a fever dream. Is it a good track? Well, actually, yes. It’s not a classic, that’s for sure – but it’s listenable enough.

Tim: I wasn’t so sure about it for the most part, but then when the video, um, camera, I suppose, pulled back to show the words ‘gods’ I suddenly got it, and it became alright.

Tom: The lyrics about how “they said we were the next big thing” do seem a bit self-indulgent. But, hell, they’ve got a member who’s discussing the Wonders of the Universe: the least we can give them is a listen to their song.