Eesti Laul 2018: The First Semi Final Drop

Ah, Eesti Laul. A gem of a Eurovision national final, with fabulous genre diversity and a genuine sense that we’re seeing the best of a small and largely interconnected music scene. Last year we covered Eesti Laul (Semi 1, Semi 2)  and ended up in the press room at Saku Suurhall doing interviews with the artists and having a great deal of fun being the pretend jurors in the dress rehearsal. I’ll be going again this year, and as I said in the Curtain Up post I’m particularly hoping that I’ll be talking to Iiris and Frankie Animal.

So, let’s have a go at the first songs. There’s a lot of tropical house derived stuff to get through… (Official Mission Statement of National Final Season 2018)

You can listen to the songs here.

Aden Ray “Everybody’s Dressed”

This one reminds me of a very stripped back Constellation Prize, but Aden has a vocal quality that I can’t quite warm to. With there being so many genre songs in this semi, I think it’s got a reasonable chance of getting to the final, but I worry about the stability of his high and breathy head voice live. If it won, it would need a big old revamp. You could put a distorted harmonica on it. Maybe.

Desiree “On My Mind”

Extremely young sounding Carly-Rae Jepsen type stuff. It’s got something tonally in common with Liis Lemsalu’s 2017 Eesti Laul song Keep Running. It’s got a bit of that post-dancehall vibe to it, but the beach that it’s making you think of is firmly on the Baltic coast.

Elina Nechayeva “La forza”

Sitting prettily between Randajad and La Voix, this is a lovely fusion of your shiny Scandi-Baltic electronic atmospheric pop synths with a soprano giving it some welly. I wouldn’t put it past the Estonians to send this in a fit of operatic pique. A reasonable outside bet. Also the the 7th Heaven Remix would be BANGING and you know you want that.

Etnopatsy “Külm”

If you liked Vihm last year, or you generally enjoy a bit of Baltic trad (and you’re gutted that Baltic won’t be competing in Latvia’s Supernova) then this is the one for you. An achingly slow burn with a haunting call and response melody. Next year at Eesti Laul songwriting camps can they get a folk artist to do a writing session with one of the electro/post-dubstep artists? I would love to hear those beautiful ornate vocals juxtaposed with some very grindy beats and a big drop. See oleks põnev.

 

Iiris & Agoh “Drop That Boogie”

A totally cute and sparkly song about the perennial millennial state of mind – the world is messed up, I am failing the generational expectations set for me by my parents, but I realise that success is a construct and so I’m going to drop that boogie and give the means of production a good old shake on the dancefloor. Iiris is a UK-based Estonian singer who I’ve had my eye on for a couple of years – her happy/sad banger ‘Stranger’ from the summer was one of songs of 2017 – and I really expect to see this in the final.

Miljardid “Pseudoprobleem”

Here we go with the slightly mathematical indie funk of Miljardid. It’s really, really sparse in the verses, has a lovely set of hooky backing vocals (which is useful for non-Estonian speakers to be able to get some sort of a grasp on the song) and a quite startling breakdown which stops the repeated final chorus from dragging.

Sibyl Vane “Thousand Words”

On this single the raw and bluesy edge that has characterised their previous work has been polished up into something a bit more friendly to the wider public ear. Thousand Words is a bit like a slightly more cheery Interpol, or an emotionally vulnerable Franz Ferdinand, with the shifting and chugging guitar lines propelling us along. I can imagine the live version of this will have a great deal of intensity and power, but Helena will have to walk the line between being true to her authentic performance style and adapting to work with the cameras.

Stig Rästa “Home”

Oh my word. It’s just before Christmas so I am maximally susceptible to a sentimental song in 12/8. This is probably . This festively cosy swayalong vibe is what Ed Sheeran was also going for he was doing Perfect. This is a very nice listen indeed. Wait. Does he sing about watching Game of Thrones? YES! Sleep on the balcony, watch a little GoT. Stig, you marvel. See you in the final. Although, I do have my concerns that this might sound too Christmassy to do well in March, let alone in May.

Tiiu x Okym x Semy “Näita oma energiat”

Starting off with some moderately epic sax tooting and then introducing Okym & Tiiu spitting filthy sounding moon language rhymes over a spacey, juddering interpretation of a post-dancehall beat. It’s a few bpm and decibels away from being Igranka, but you get the idea. They’ve also got Semy of Estonian Eurovision winners 2XL involved, so they’re pretty serious. I am also looking forwards to talking to Tiiu, who looks like she means business. In the intro interview, she’s towering over her bandmates, wearing studded baby pink latex, a decorative merkin/sporran arrangement made of pom poms and a demure expression. Yass, challenging fashion queen.

Vajé “Laura (Walk With Me)”

Weirdly downbeat song from the Estonian/Armenian duo. There’s something a bit Chris Rea about the guitar solo, and then something a bit Heroes about the bridge into the chorus. I am not a fan of the genre, but this is definitely a nicely executed version of the thing that this is, which is country influenced pop.

Video

Temple of Boom – Lucky Chops

Last night I was out to see Gogol Bordello in Glasgow. They were ably and entertainingly supported by these chaps – Lucky Chops – a renegade brass section and a fantastic drummer giving us the funk with a sousaphone bass. They had the crowd dancing all the way back to the sound desk, and wound rocking originals and covers (Say You’ll Be There! Funkytown! Heart of Glass!) together. Also, their sound mix was top notch.

This is their video for Temple of Boom, which is delightfully 8 bit.

Curtain Up On Eurovision 2018 – A Tale of Two Idas

We’re starting to see the first few national final line-ups for Lisbon 2018, and there is a bit of Listen Outside interest scattered all over the contest. Let’s take a tour. Let’s start with the ScandiNordics.

In Sweden, Ida Redig  will be taking part in Melodifestivalen. We were obsessed with her Swedish-language pop which sounds like stripped-back Italo house, complete with breathy vocals. It’s unlikely she’ll wrestle the ticket to Lisbon out of the hands of Liamoo or Mariette, but it’s lovely to see someone new and this exciting come through Christer Bjorkman’s neo-schlager factory.

Next door in Norway, it’s not been confirmed yet, but we’re expecting Ida Maria to be participating in Melodi Grand Prix. Last year, she was the songwriter for Mama’s Boy -a piece of sexually assertive uptempo pop with the melodic hookiness you’d recognise if you were a fan of Ida’s first album Fortress Round My Heart. Her style has also encompassed roots and acoustic blues, but last summer she popped out a beautifully mellow and melancholic song called You. I love the vocal mellotron effect on the harmonies.

Over in Estonia, there is plenty to get excited about in Eesti Laul. Perennial Listen Outside faves Frankie Animal have brought the deeply slinky and sophisticated (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty which makes me want to turn up the collar on my trenchcoat and disappear into the fog under a gaslamp after breaking someone’s helpless heart.

We’re also going to be treated to a song by Iiris (whose recent single Stranger was one of my sounds of the summer) and Ago called Drop The Boogie which I’m expecting to be a shimmering dancefloor confection.  New to me, but no less thrilling is Sybil Vane and they’re as sexy and thematically dark as you’d imagine a band named after an Oscar Wilde character to be. Their song Thousand Words isn’t out at time of writing, but gosh, give me some of that noir.

In other intriguing Estonian prospects, Girls In Pearls bring lush pop (also, they are twins), Evestus have industrial new wave type stuff, there shall be various pop tracks, some rough naughty hip-hop, a dollop of ambient dubstep and some guy named Stig.

We already know that Finland are totally spoiling us by bringing Saara Aalto to the party, with presumably a huge stage production and an epic power ballad banger hybrid, which the 100 year old nation will select on March 3rd.

That just leaves Denmark (about which I’m none the wiser) and Iceland. So far there haven’t been any rumours about participants in Songvakeppnin, but I am pretty sure there’ll be something almost almost as good as Is This Love?

Next up: an in-depth look at the Latvia Supernova semi-finalists and some rending of garments over songs already lost to their process.

Sou Cidadão – 800 Gondomar

Seeing as we’re All Aboard for a trip to Portugal in 2018, I thought I’d start paying attention to some weird Portuguese music for you. 800 Gondomar are from Rio Tinto and they describe themselves as ‘The toughest and most heartfelt power trio to come out of Portugal,’ which is fair enough.  Their first album Linhas de Baixo is full of the kind of chuggy, atmospheric noise that goes with smoky rooms and boys who stare at you through lank fringes, but I’ve shared with you their most recent song Sou Cidadão, which has a bit of a groove and you can dance to it. Also, if you’re in Germany, France or the Netherlands you might be able to catch them live with Sunflowers (who’ve also been featured on here).

800 Gondomar are on Bandcamp

800 Gondomar are on Facebook 

Daniel Levi – Jõululaulud

I know that it’s not quite December yet, but I feel like you might be in the mood for some very pleasant, low key Christmas songs in Estonian. I certainly am.

Daniel Levi was one of the highlights of Eesti Laul 2017, and because everyone in the Estonian music scene knows one another, his Christmas EP features a lovely seasonal duet with fellow Eesti Laul finalist Liis Lemsalu. You might also want to know that Daniel Levi kept the Eurovision vibe going all year by doing a very creditable Slavko in the Estonian version of ‘Your Face Sounds Familiar’.

Die Mädchen aus dem Weltraum – Berry Lipman

Well. I bet you weren’t expecting this. While doing a spot of music research for the next Listen Outside radio shows over on Radio Six (Christmas specials!) I happened upon this and sat, listening, rapt for the whole hour.

This is the incidental music from a TV series called ‘Star Maidens’ or ‘Die Mädchen aus dem Weltraum’ which ran for 13 wild episodes in 1976. It is astonishingly groovy. The German language spoken word interludes and the lithe synths combine to illustrate the sexy, role-reversed retro-future that we used to look forward to.

The composer, Berry Lipman, has a discography stuffed with the sounds of shagpile and polyester shirts. Sadly, this seems to be his only TV compositional work. Imagine what the man could have done to late 1970’s Doctor Who?

Make yourself a gross 1970s cocktail (snowball? something with creme de menthe?) and enjoy this album. Especially Sex World, the greatest Bond theme never to have bonded.

Yellow – Mydy Rabycad

Like a jazz Goldfrapp, like a swing Human League, it’s Mydy Rabycad from Prague. They’re superb on record, and if the live videos are anything to go by, they’re a heck of a party. Yellow is their latest single, which is a bit more blues-inflected than their previous album Glamtronic. Give them a listen and get your jive shoes on.

Mydy Rabycad have a website

 

Zarx & Johnson – Orgel Vreten

It’s the best prog-flavoured, mainly instrumental, Hammond organ enhanced, rockin’ tune out of the Netherlands since Hocus Pocus by Focus.

Zarx & Johnson is the first single from Orgel Vreten’s upcoming album. If you like this, you’ll be please to know that there’s already an album called Komrad, which has a slightly Eastern bloc vibe.

Orgel Vreten have a website (sorta)

Orgel Vreten are on Facebook 

Take Him Back – Y’Akoto

Y’Akoto is a fantastic soul singer who I’m surprised isn’t HUGE all over the world. She splits her time between Hamburg, Paris, Stockholm, Los Angeles, Dakar, Accra and Lome – but I suspect that we’d like to hear from her in Glasgow, London and Manchester too.

She’s five years and three albums into her musical career, and her latest album Mermaid Blues weaves together mythological references, complicated emotions and allusions to the stories of refugees. She deserves to be massive. She’s currently on tour – catch her if you can.

Y’Akoto has a website

Y’Akoto is on Facebook