“Very much more a winter song than a Christmas song”
Tim: Clocks have gone back, November’s almost here and it really is remarkably cold outside, so let’s have this. The title translates to, well, exactly what you can guess it does.
Tom: It is too early for Christmas songs, Tim, and this feels worryingly like a Christmas song. Albeit one with a bizarre theremin in the middle eight.
Tim: True, though I’d argue it’s very much more a winter song than a Christmas song – no sleigh bells, for starters. No lyrics I can provide either, I’m afraid, so I don’t know if this is actually about the changing seasons or some metaphor for falling out of love, or if she’s just a particularly obsessive Game of Thrones fan. I’ll go with the first, partly through Occam’s Razor but mostly just because the sound fits in with that very well – all misty and atmospheric and conjuring images of snow capped forests.
Tom: It’s a lovely song but — and this is where I get controversial — I don’t think it’s good pop. It sounds like a folk song, or even a nursery rhyme, done by a slightly experimental band.
Tim: I wouldn’t say that’s controversial at all — it’d certainly struggle for inclusion on most pop radio stations’ playlists, for starters. A haunting vocal, rolling across the hills, reassuring and chilling at the same time, aided of course by the instrumental – particularly that ‘bizarre theremin’. Experimental maybe, but also quite lovely.
“I’m still breeeeathing, I’m still breeeeeeathing……”
Tim: We haven’t featured Miss Li for ages, but right now she seems to be very strongly channeling one particular US artist.
Tom: Brad Paisley?
Tom: Not Brad Paisley, then.
Tim: No. Hell of a of comparison to make, though – Sia, that is, not whoever that guy is that you suggested – and normally I’d pass it off briefly and move on. But here, it seems to be almost deliberate, and it’s so, so pervasive. Halfway through the verses I find myself drifting into “I’m still breeeeathing, I’m still breeeeeeathing……”, middle of the chorus I want to jump in with “you took it all, but I’m still breathing”.
Tom: There’s a bit of Rihanna in there as well, there, particularly in those first few opening notes. You’re right, though: and while she’s not quite pulling off quite as many Really Big Notes as Sia does, she’s certainly good enough to be… well, at least in the same league, even if she’s not at the top of it.
Tim: That’s very true, as I certainly don’t mean this all of this in a bad way. It’s very much a compliment, in fact, as most singers could only dream of vocals this strong. Yet, I really don’t think it’s a good thing that throughout the song I’m thinking I’ve heard it all before. And yet I am thinking I’ve heard it all before.
Tim: This is off the soundtrack for a new Swedish film, and it’s bloody brilliant.
Tom: Brass section! There’s a brass section!
Tim: There’s a BIG brass section, and it’s all HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY. It’s big, it’s full-on brass bandy, it’s JOYOUS. On my first hearing, I did think the first chorus, especially the first part, sounded a bit off – she’s shouting ecstatically at the top of her voice, but the backing isn’t quite there enough to match it.
Tom: Really? Because…
Tim: Well, yes, on hearing it again, I’m wondering how I could have thought that because of course it is, but anyway.
Tom: Right. The Björk-like vocals could be incredibly grating, but somehow they’re not; they’re a perfect match for the song and instrumentation.
Tim: The rest of it just keeps building up and up; by the time the second chorus arrives we’re right in the swing of things and nothing could be ever possibly of being too quiet. The middle eight gives exactly that sense – a feeling of being swept along, moving forward, just CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC and when we get to that triumphant climax there’s literally nothing I can think of that would improve this song. As the song is, it’s perfect.
Tim: According to Linda Carlsson’s YouTube biography (apparently that’s a thing now), she experimented with just about every style of music going as a youngster; seven years back, aged 24, she chose Serious Authentic Music and took on the name Miss Li. Last year, though, was a slight switch to good rowdy pop, as evidenced by My Heart Goes Boom, which UK advert-watchers may recognise from a furniture superstore advert. New up: this.
Tim: And isn’t that all kinds of lovely?
Tom: Oh, it is. I like everything about it about from the word “Transformer”. It’d be lovely if the line of toys and movies didn’t exist; it’d just be a fairly whimsical choice of words. But it stands out like a sore thumb here.
Tim: You think? Because I have absolutely no problems with it whatsoever – doesn’t stick out at all.
Tom: That said, on a second listen it didn’t seem so obvious, so perhaps it’s one of those things that you just get used to over time.
Tim: The voice wavers between being fairly lacklustre and downbeat in the verses and all happy and bouncy in the chorus – so much, in fact, that we bounce up a key entirely and have an even happier closing section.
Tom: Which is strange, given that the lyrics could be interpreted in quite a dark way.
Tim: Yeah – I thought it was quite nice at first, until I noticed that single chorus line that turns it from “let’s have fun doing whatever you want” to basically a desperate plea not to dump her. It’s still sung with enough brightness, though, that you can’t really help but be uplifted by it. And, let’s face it, when you get right down to it, making you feel good is what pop music is meant to do, so well done here.