Birgir – Letting Go

“I… I just don’t hear it. I wish I did, though, it’d be a better track.”

Tim: Tricky one today, Tom, because there are two tracks I’d like to feature before we inevitably get on to next week’s stuff on Monday, and they’re similar in style. One is Done Fighting by NorthKid, who we’ve featured a few times before; the other is this one, and in the end it came down purely to one thing.

You see, yesterday’s chorus reminded me of a 6/10 song by Zayn & Taylor Swift; today’s intro, and indeed backing throughout the verses, reminds me of a 10/10 song, dating all the way back to 1997.

Tom: I have absolutely no idea which song you mean. I can’t hear any connections to older songs in here, which is weird because normally that bit of my brain works in overdrive.

Tim: What, seriously? You don’t hear that single, one note at a time line and immediately hear it as being near identical to this fabulous guitar riff?

Tom: Love Shine A Light? Really? No, I… I just don’t hear it. I wish I did, though, it’d be a better track.

Tim: To be honest, it almost gets a bit annoying with it never actually resolving into that beautiful drum crash that is surely one of the single best moments in pop history, but then the chorus comes along and it’s just so good. It is about as simple as you can possibly get with the lyrics, but that leaves plenty of room for the melody, the volume, the rhythm, and the trumpets. It has trumpets! I’m sitting down now but I just had to get up to get a drink and I was more or less jumping around the room to it.

Tom: Wow. We haven’t disagreed this much on a song in a long time. I actually said the words “wow, this is dull” out loud at one point. I think you’re hearing Katrina and letting it colour your perceptions too much. This just seems to plod for me. Although, yes, the brass section’s worth it.

Tim: The middle eight is…novel, but it’s a brief interlude and one that certainly doesn’t detract for the rest of the song. All in all, a fantastic chorus, and Katrina in the background is just a bonus.

Birgir – Alive

Tim: Inexplicably, some artists were still releasing songs last week, which strikes me a bit like a school five-a-side match being played the same day as the World Cup final, but never mind. This from Birgir is substantially different from his Icelandic compatriots’ entry on Saturday, and while ‘stick with it’ is normally a terrible thing to say about a song, the first 43 seconds have almost nothing in common with the rest of it.

Tom: You’re not wrong, that unexpectedly goes… well, to me it sounds like Mumford and Sons decided to cover Bastille. By which I mean I was literally singing parts of Pompeii over the top of it.

Tim: Lovely melody, lovely instruments, lovely vocals, lovely message, even a load of lovely colours in the video – what’s not to love?

Well, aside from that dull as heck introduction, but that’s over soon enough and we’ve the knowledge of what to come that’ll get us through that. Aside from that, it’s an all in lovely song, that I’ve listened to a good few times now and not got bored of.

Tom: I feel like I’ve heard it before, which is — of course — probably why I’ve taken to it. I can’t remember any of it after I listen, but I certainly enjoyed it while it was there.

Tim: Great stuff.

Birgir – Glorious

“Tubular bells! I think they actually used tubular bells there!”

Tim: Bit of pressure laid on the song from the title here; see what you think.

Tim: Let’s be honest, it’s never going to beat Andreas Johnson.

Tim: It’ll probably beat Cascada, though.

Tim: And the main word I would use there is ‘pleasant’.

Tom: Tubular bells! I think they actually used tubular bells there! That’s basically going all-in, these days.

Tim: Aren’t they lovely? It’s nice to hear, the unambiguity of the message is quite sweet, and the chord progression on the titular ‘glorious’ is pleasing to my ears at least – however many times it’s repeated I’m fine with it.

Tom: I’m… not, really. Sure, it gets into your head, and at least a repeated word is less irritating than a repeated line, but I’m not sold.

Tim: Really? Because as I see it, the post-chorus melody is good, the middle eight works well (again, whoever came up with those tubular bells in is a genius), and the big shouting towards the end just reinforces everything. The only extra thing I’d ask this for is a big climactic final note, rather than the sudden drop-off we get. Other than that: lovely.

Birgir – Home

“A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music.”

Tim: I do like it, Tom, when very good looking people turn out to also be very good at making music. Today it’s the turn of Birgir Steinn Stefánsson, whose previous track we both largely liked. Quick heads up: the sound quality on the YouTube clip is somewhat atrocious, so if you’ve got access to a streaming service of some sort, you might want to use that instead.

Tim: The main criticism we had previously was that it sounded slightly derivative of other tracks; this one doesn’t have that problem remotely as much.

Tom: A combination of familiarity and novelty is generally what sells pop music, and I still reckon there’s a lot of familiarity here. You can trace the elements here back to all over the last ten years, but they’re pulled together well.

Tim: But this did give me the most obscure ‘sounds like’ I think I’ve ever had, with a ‘GAH, what I do want that to spin off into’ in the run up to the chorus. Took me a good ten minutes to work it out, but it was in fact the 2012 Belarusian entry to Eurovision. Third from bottom in its semi-final, but I quite liked it.

Tom: Astonishing.

Tim: BUT ANYWAY, this song. Takes a while to get there, but boy when it does, that second chorus is a blinder, as is pretty much everything that follows it; listening a second time, that first chorus stuck out at me more than it had done previously as well. All in all, lovely stuff.

Tom: And a note for having a Proper Ending as well. It stays exactly as long as it should, no less, no more. That’s underrated.

Birgir – Can You Feel It

“I think it’s more ‘inspired by’ rather than ‘ripping off’.”

Tim: Birgir’s new and off Iceland, and here’s a track for us to get our teeth into.

Tom: I’m always baffled when someone releases a song that has the same name as a classic. I get why, it’s the big line in the chorus, but surely it’ll always be eclipsed?

Tim: Perhaps, yes, but it’s not the only part you might recognise…

Tim: Now, I love that. It’s a brilliant track. And I can tell you exactly why, and upsettingly it’s not a good reason: it’s full of other people’s brilliant bits.

Tom: Which, given the title, isn’t surprising. I’m not getting anything specific, though: what do you hear?

Tim: The first few notes of the “whoah-oh-oh” line are familiar, I think it’s Coldplay? I’m fairly sure I’ve heard the exact melody of the very first line before. The pre-chorus is similar to that of Ben Haenow’s Something I Need, and they just keep coming. They’re all good bits, and I love the song because of it – but they’re all second hand good bits.

Tom: I think it’s more “inspired by” rather than “ripping off” – but then, I reread The Manual1 recently, so perhaps I’m more willing to forgive that at the moment.

Tim: I don’t know, you may be right – in fact you probably are, as it’s almost certainly not a deliberate “right, we’ll take that bit from there, and that from there, and ooh, let’s use that bit as well”, but it’s still too recognisable. It’s annoying, because the original parts of this are great as well (looking at you, electric guitar in the middle eight), but the level of familiarity is just too much. And that really sucks.