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.

OMD – History of Modern, Part 1

The strangest stop-motion music video since Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer

Tom: I know, I’ve harped on about OMD twice recently, but that’s because they’re so damn good. The title track off the recent album is the next single, and it’s wonderful not only for all the typical reasons, but also because of the strangest stop-motion music video since Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.

(Technically there’s a bit of nudity in this video, but even YouTube doesn’t seem to mind it.)

Tim: You’re certainly right about it being an odd video.

Tom: Now, I’m a bit of an OMD fanboy, but even I have to admit that perhaps they’re now hitting the ‘album track’ material rather than the ‘lead single’ stuff; so this is probably the last single off the album that I’ll mention here.

But I still like this – the synth riff in the background just makes me smile, and even the nihilistic lyrics don’t seem to bad when they’re paired with a track like this. Perhaps they haven’t quite pulled it off as well as Hurts, but it works for me.

Tim: Well, it’s certainly not at all bad, although you might be right about the album track material – for me, it doesn’t do enough. Yes, it’s a good background riff, but that starts right at the beginning, and then it doesn’t really build on it at all. Still, it’ll do.

Hurts – Sunday

It just keeps getting better.

Tim: We’ve covered Hurts a few times here, and that’s because they’re bloody brilliant – the only reason we didn’t get round to looking at the amazing Stay back in October was because we were too busy being annoyed by Cheryl Cole. Their new track, Sunday, was released yesterday (see what they did there?), and guess what? Yes – it’s a bit good.

Tom: When all I heard was the first verse, it didn’t work for me at all. That bassline didn’t seem to fit at all, and it even set me on edge just a little. But the first chorus made me stop and reconsider, and from there it just keeps getting better; after the second chorus it’s all brilliant.

Tim: The video’s all sorts of weird, mind, but as for the song itself, there’s not much to fault, really. Not so keen on the quiet bit in the middle, but the sheer enthusiasm of the music in the chorus and at the end more than makes up for that – despite the theme of the song being ‘you’ve gone. I’m so lonely’, it’s the sort of music that appears at the end of romantic comedies, as the bloke runs towards the girls in the airport as they finally realise they both love each other.

Tom: It’s got that Hurts trademark style of being a very upbeat-sounding song with downbeat lyrics. Few songs have that dissonance – even fewer can pull it off. Well done, Hurts.

Saturday Reject: Jimi Constantine – Party to Party

Is he drunk?

Tim: Finland’s favourite topless Weird Al soundalike failed to get past the semi-final, which is a shame.

Tim: I say shame, but it isn’t really. Well, sort of. The thing is, the song is actually quite good, as evidenced by the studio version (even if the spoken ‘not gonna live forever’ does bear more than a passing resemblance to a spoken ‘dirty Cinderella‘), but the performance on the night seemed more like he just wanted to have a laugh than actually perform properly.

Tom: Is he drunk? He’s off-key frequently, shouting a lot, and seems to attempt the key change a verse early (at 1:46) before realising that no-one else is doing it.

Tim: It does seem like that, doesn’t it? The thing is, that sort of this is all well and good if he’s touring, say, and playing to a load of fans who know what they’re getting, but it isn’t really going to win over a nation of people who want someone who can be counted on to present a good image of their country.

Tom: Interesting how low-budget the set is, too: they’ve got him a couple of banners, as if it was some kind of trade show.

Tim: You think that’s low budget? You’ve been watching too much Melodifestivalen, mate. Finland pushed the boat out big time compared to other countries – Ireland, for example, just used the normal Late Late Show set, and as for Belgium, I think they just looked for the nearest cupboard (and yes, that really is their entry).

Back to Jimi’s performance, though, despite all the drunken antics I still enjoyed it. Sure, it would have been nice if it was a bit more musical, and he could have got together with the backing singers beforehand and decided who was taking charge after the bridge, but there was an energy there that really wasn’t present in many of Finland’s other competitors.

Tom: An energy best summed up by the young girl averting her eyes and possibly crying in the last few frames of the clip. She speaks for Finland.

Pink – Fuckin’ Perfect

What a track. And what a video.

Tom: How can she do it? This is Pink, the same Pink who recently charted with the laughing party-song irritating-vocal-interruption-filled Raise Your Glass. And now she’s released a song that’s going to make a generation of misunderstood teenagers cry.

Genuine warning here: this is the uncensored video, which includes sex and some fairly brutal images of self-harm. Any of our readers who’ve been through similar things may not want them brought back into their memory – which does question if showing them, and almost glamorising them, in a pop video is really the right thing to do.

Tom: With all that said: what a track. And what a video.

Tim: Indeed. And you think it’s glamorising it? The whole message of the song is don’t do this – you’re perfect, so ignore the people that make you feel otherwise. “Done looking for the critics, cause they’re everywhere…why do we do that?” The whole song is a powerful spirit-lifter – you should listen to it when you’re feeling shit.

Tom: As for the music: the only thing that I don’t like in here is the ‘pretty pretty please’ bit, but I can’t really ding it any points just because a few words annoy me. It’s very much a Song With A Message, and a fairly simple one at that, which normally would cause all the cynical parts of my brain to rise up in disgust… but somehow that didn’t happen.

Tim: It’s because it’s not just a Song With A Message that anyone can do – there’s a real feeling that here, it’s personal, it’s coming from inside Pink herself, and that makes it so much more powerful that it otherwise would be.

Tom: And I think it’s because, hell, it’s Pink – and she has that amazing voice that can go between ‘loud and anthemic’ and ‘deep and emotional’ in a split second. This might well be her new concert-ender. It deserves to be.

PULS – Lad Det Slå

I liked it from the start.

Tim: This one took me a while, so give it a couple of listens before you dismiss it.

Related pointless thought in the meantime, though: people say ‘it grows on you’ as though that’s good, but another way of saying that is surely just ‘it’ll wear you down eventually’.

Tom: Actually, if I remember right that’s pretty much what happens. The more you listen to a genre of music or an individual track, the more your brain recognises the patterns and gets used to it. But for me, that didn’t happen here: I liked it from the start.

Tim: Good. Stylistically, it goes pretty much all over the place. Google wants me to think the title translates to ‘Let it Beat’, so I’m guessing it’s basically about how dance music is amazing.

Tom: Wrong. I translated the lyrics, and they’re talking about a heartbeat – it’s pretty much your standard dance-track love song.

Tim: Fair enough. It’s the Danish duo’s second single after the similarly messy Superstar a year ago, and I have decided that I think I like it.

Tom: The trouble is, I can’t tell whether I like the track because of the music or because of the video with the woman dancing in front of fire.

Tim: There are also three separate songs this slightly reminds me of, none of which I can think of, irritatingly – the first half-second, the tinkly piano bit, and the high electro bit that first appears about twenty seconds in.

Tom: Also, that “ding ding ding” sound a little after two minutes in? It’ll make loads of people think their iPhone’s just received a text. That’s deliberate – he says ‘iPhone’ in the line slightly after that.

Tim: Finally, two non-musical observations: I’ve not seen many music videos in 1080p, so they get bonus points for effort there as a minor Danish boyband, and also that girl is totally wasting her time with the dark-haired one. What with that ear stud and the wink and everything, you can stroke him all you want, dearie, but he’s not interested.

Tom: Tim, I’m offended at your stereotyping. He might not be gay – he might just have stepped straight out of the 1990s.

Lisa Miskovsky – Got A Friend

The chorus: absolutely love it.

Tim: Hmm. When I first heard this, I loved it, and listened to it again and again and again. Then I started thinking about what I liked about it, and had a realisation.

Tom: Ooh, go on.

Tim: You see, the ‘na-na’ bits: not so keen on, as they leave me wanting more. The verses: ehh, take them or leave them – not particularly offensive, but they’re nothing to crow about. The chorus: absolutely love it. Yet overall, despite not not hugely liking most of it: still absolutely love it.

Tom: You’re absolutely right. It’s a fantastic chorus in need of a better song, isn’t it?

Tim: Pretty much, yeah. The rational part of me knows that the relatively short chorus is nowhere near good enough to make up for the less than inspiring na-na chunks, and so by rights I should think of this as okay at best, but somehow I love it. It just seems to go together and work properly.

Tom: I’m not that enthusiastic – but I will listen to it for that chorus, just one more time.

Same Difference feat. Alcazar – Karma Karma

A bit late to the Slumdog Millionaire bandwagon.

Tim: Same Difference: an X Factor 2008 finalist group whose track we previously covered reached the dizzying heights of number 100 in the UK charts. Alcazar: a fairly well-known Swedish pop group, whose biggest success internationally was 2003’s Crying at the Discotheque and whose most recent activity was a rather good 2010 Melodifestivalen entry, Headlines. For some reason – can’t quite see any particular logic – they’ve decided to team up.

Tom: Sounds like they’re a bit late to the Slumdog Millionaire bandwagon.

Tim: It is repetitive, and it is catchy, and it is pretty much what you’d get if you looked ‘pop music’ up in a dictionary, if you owned some weird dictionary that had videos in it instead of words.

Tom: It’s bloody not. I haven’t properly cringed listening to a pop song in a long time, but I did at this. It’s retro in all the worst ways: it reminds me of a dozen songs I hated when I was younger, and seems to jam in some Asian references and chord progressions that seem incredibly out of place.

Tim: Seriously? Because overall, I have to say: I think it’s brilliant.

Tom: I’m sorry to use this as a baseline, Tim, but I would honestly rather listen to the Black Eyed Peas’ “The Time (Dirty Bit)” than Karma Karma. Hell, I think I’d rather listen to dubstep. Now that’s saying something.

Tim: NO! I will NOT let that stand. You are WRONG. Just plain WRONG.

Extra points should be awarded for chaining together about five million ‘woah’s, and the bass line for some reasons makes me think of Super Mario Land. The only thing I’m not hugely keen on is the bridge exit, which is… odd, and I don’t really know whether I dislike it or not.

Tom: I almost thought the key change might redeem the song, but it doesn’t. It’s just as dire, only a couple of semi-tones higher.

Tim: Actually, scratch that – I’ve heard it several times now and it’s great. Like the rest of it.

Tom: I tried listening a second time, and it got worse. Probably because I knew what was coming.

Tim: And I now see the logic of the collaboration: together, they can make Proper Pop. And that is Good.

Tom: They can’t, and it isn’t.

Tim: WRONG.

Andreas Johnson – One Man Army

Energetic instrumentation, choruses and YouTube compression.

Tom: Ooh, Andreas Johnson. This bodes well.

Tom: Those opening notes have so much promise. It’s just waiting to burst out into a massive chorus!

Tim: Now, this isn’t as big or as loud as Solace was, but we still have the traditionally energetic instrumentation, choruses and YouTube compression that we expect from Herr Johnson, and I like this considerably. It’s basically your typical ‘I’ll do anything for you’ love song but ramped up to way beyond the usual.

Tom: And somehow it doesn’t seem melodramatic: I don’t know if it’s refuge in audacity or just very good production, but this sounds lovely. And how can an electric guitar part be ‘the quiet bit’? That’s amazing.

Tim: One of the best things about it is how just as you think it might be settling into repeat until fade territory, it comes back and blasts you with a bridge full of reasons why this person’s so great, why he loves her so much, and then a final declaration of devotion once again. If you’re paying attention to the lyrics, it’s beautiful.

Tom: Maybe when I go back and press ‘play’ again, I’ll do just that.

Tim: On the other hand, if you’re just paying attention to the lyrics, you’re missing out on a whole lot of fantastic music, so don’t do that.