Frankie Animal: A Year In The Making

A year ago, in Tallinn, we met up with a band called Frankie Animal. We expect big things from these lovely people, because they’re hilarious, smart and they really care about their creativity. They had just released a shimmeringly pretty single called Nightlights, and we met them for breakfast in multi-roomed hipster haven Must Puudel. The breakfast part becomes important. Remember that.

Now we get to 2018, and Frankie Animal are in Eesti Laul with the sexy, world-weary Can’t Keep Calling Misty. The Listen Outside zine that I was going to put the original interview in is a long-abandoned project, and so here we are with what Frankie Animal thought about the Estonian music scene, taxidrivers, what a producer actually does, sandwiches and the Eesti Laul process.

Listen Outside

Me: asking questions

The Band

Jonas: guitar, talking

Maria: singer, talking, eating porridge throughout

Jan-Christopher: bass, punchlines

LO: Tell me about what Frankie Animal, where you came from and where you’re going.

Jonas: Well. We’re having a birthday coming up on the 20th of May, so we started off just about 5 years ago, as a couple of music school students and we were kind of influenced by the indie folk scene that was going on at that time.

Maria: Evert & the Two Dragons were very popular in Estonia at the time…

Jonas: And Mumford and Sons and everything that was going on back then.

Maria: And then we thought that it would be cool to make music ourselves and just, lets see where it’s going.

Listen Outside: So you were all studying together? What records where you were listening to?

Jonas: We all come from different backgrounds. Jan-Cristopher the bassist comes from a rockier background, I come from a classic rock back ground, Maria, I don’t know..

Maria: I don’t know, rock, jazz, classical, I don’t know whatever. But at that time, oh my god, I don’t remember, maybe Led Zeppelin?

Jonas: I think it must have been the folk scene that influenced us?

Maria: Vaga blick from Estonia, Evert, Elephants from Neptune

Listen Outside: Elephants from Neptune! We know them!

Jonas: We’ve come a long way since then, as we’ve grown ourselves the music has changed with us.

Listen Outside: You have one foot on the dancefloor, but you’re also attuned to the melodic side. Is that a result of your different musical backgrounds?

Maria: I think so, the boys…

(At this point, Jan-Christopher arrives. He is quiet, and isn’t eating porridge, but his arrival derails the previous thread. We begin anew, once the coffee arrives)

Listen Outside: What’s the indie scene like in Estonia? From outside it seems like there’s so much going on.

Maria: There is so much going on.

Jonas: Every weekend you can catch a band that is top notch. The instrumentalists are so good, and the songs being good, and the bands being good. The last 5 years have been a blooming time for the…

Maria: Estonian rock and indie scene.

Jonas: (clearly joking) That just happens to be the same time as we’ve been going.

Listen Outside: (clearly in on the joke) Are you taking responsibility for that?

Listen Outside: You’re going to be playing Tallinn music week next month. What’s that like as a performer?

Jonas: It can get really hectic, there’s so much going on.

Jan-Christopher: It can be really hard to stand out.

Maria: From the other bands. It’s like in a month. The 1st of April.

Jonas: Isn’t our show is on the 31st? On Friday the 31st of March?

(We briefly pause while we work out what Frankie Animal’s upcoming tour dates are. The above dates, of course, are for 2017. For upcoming dates, check out their Facebook)

Listen Outside: So let’s talk about Nightlights. Is this the first chunk of a batch of new material? Are you going for a slightly different sound?

Maria: We’re still searching for a sound. No, that sounds a little bit wrong…

Jonas: We’re still getting to where we’re going?

Jan-Christopher: (definitively) We’re developing our musical taste and sound.

Listen Outside: What records are you listening to now?

Jonas:  As time goes forwards it gets even harder to say.

Maria: We have Spotify and that’s like oh my god…

Listen Outside: Infinite records!

Maria: So many! There’s a playlist, Discover Weekly and every day you find something new and you just go crazy.

Listen Outside: I know that feeling.

Jonas: I think it’s fair to say that it’s a time of a melting pot. Everything that goes into our ears comes into the music. I think there’s a certain step towards a dancier thing, while keeping what we had as well.

Listen Outside: That’s good – your dancier ones are absolute floorfillers.

Maria: (graciously blushing into her porridge) Thank you!

Listen Outside: Was it cool to have the China Song on the radio over the summer?

Jonas: It was surprising for us, because it’s not really a single.

Maria: It’s four and a half minutes, there’s no chorus. It’s just sounds and stuff. I guess, thank you Raadio 2 for playing it!

Listen Outside: So you’ve got new music coming and it could sound very different! But looking at the Estonia music news, your current single Nightlights has made great use of not actually getting to be in Eesti Laul.

Maria: It wasn’t a scandal that we weren’t selected, it just ended up like that.

Jonas: But we still get comments and people ask us “What happened?”

Listen Outside: We would have swapped one of the solo girls for you guys easily. You did Eesti Laul before, Maria? What was the process like? How did you benefit?

Maria: I was so young. I was 17. I didn’t realise how big it was. The whole of Estonia watches you on tv and I was  like ‘Oh let’s just do it’. It wasn’t a big thing for me at the time, but now it actually was a big thing for me. Sorry. What was the question?

Listen Outside: What did you get out of Eesti Laul, I guess?

Maria: I got such huge experience and contacts and met new people. I got myself into the scene, I was famous for one day! Maybe that’s a bad word, but if you do Eesti Laul almost everyone in Estonia knows your name and that you’re a singer and that was a big step. I was in 11th grade in High school at the time. I was 17.

Listen Outside: Is that bit weird?

Maria: It is. It really is. There’s a girl this year, Ariadne, she’s also 17 or 18 and 11th grade also and I look at her and I go ‘Oh you’re so sweet and so young’. But you have so much to come and to develop as a musician. But it’s cute to look back at that time. But now I feel like grown up. I’m 21.

Listen Outside: Oh you’re all so young.  You’ve yet to have the existential crisis at 30!

(Everyone has a good laugh about aging and the changing definition of adulthood)

Listen Outside: You mentioned the Tallinn scene. How much space is there for collaborations & working with other artists?

Jonas: It’s quite easy – because the scene is so small and everyone knows each other. It’s not hard to pick up the phone and call another band. You might even be rehearsing at the same band as each other.

Maria: In fact, we just did a mashup with the most popular singer songwriter dude in Estonia, NOEP. It’s totally different music that he does. But it was cool to mash it up between the two songs. It’s our song The Backbeat and his song Rihanna.

Jonas: But it’s not out yet. It’s still in the making. It’s out in the summer….? It’s in the hands of some other people now.

Listen Outside: For your next record, are you working with a producer? Are you self recording?

Maria: We have a friend called Martin Guut, we did the album the Backbeat with him and now some new music with him.

Jonas: It’s kind of funny to call him a producer – he’s just our friend who comes in and listens to our stuff and says ‘That sounds shit, that sounds good’.

Listen Outside: A producer should be a grown up and maybe be wearing very fashionable Swedish glasses?

Jonas: Yeah, and you can tell you paid for the glasses.

Maria: No, Martin is not that official.

Listen Outside: But it’s more comfortable to work with a friend?

Jonas: That’s the good part of the scene, it’s kind of humble, it’s not as official as it might be in bigger countries.

Listen Outside: Yeah, it’s all casual. None of you are divas, we’re sitting here having coffees and a large amount of porridge.

(Everyone laughs. Maria still has a lot of porridge left)

Listen Outside: Unless you want to be like a diva, Maria- you’ve got that big blues voice.

Maria: It’s not possible in Estonia to be a diva. 

Listen Outside: So far, all the Estonians we’ve met are kind of calm and cool. We’re saying this because we managed to embarrass the server in the restaurant last night by being really enthusiastic about the food. It was Sigrid with the blue hair. Actually, our taxi driver was impressed that we were coming to meet you – he did a double take.

Jonas: Really!? Weird.

Listen Outside: Is that weird?

Maria: Yep. Taxidrivers, you know?

Jonas:  I have the image of a 50 year old with a moustache.

Listen Outside: Nah, late 20s.

Jonas: Then it’s possible.

Maria: We’re famous in the taxi scene.

Jonas: The underground taxi scene.

Listen Outside: Music radio is a big thing in Estonia, but do you find it difficult to get radio play above international artists? Are the stations keen to play the local bands?

Maria: It depends on the station. Raadio 2 play Estonian music.

Jonas: And the local bands are embraced by the local people, like everywhere.

Listen Outside: Compared with UK radio, more Swedish and Finnish music gets played, but also the big American hits are on the playlist. In the UK a lot of young bands say it’s hard to get radio play without a big label promo budget.

Maria: We don’t have a big label in Estonia. We’re all DIY and independent. As Jonas says, everybody knows each other, so you know the DJs. You just send the record to the DJ and say ‘Play my record!’ and he does. It is easy.

Listen Outside: Is it something to do with the size of a scene? Is Tallinn’s music scene a similar size to Reykjavik?

Jonas: I was in Ljubliana last month and there was a thing about Iceland – the guy brought up similar points. Everyone knows each other and is working together to push the scene as a whole to the wider world.

Listen Outside: Can you share some local Tallinn scene knowledge with us?

Jonas: Well, we’re in Must Puudel – this is where you bring people for lunch.

Maria: If we were going for drinks – Telliskiviloomelinnak? It’s a mecca for hipsters. It used to be like an old factory, this compound that’s turned into this cafe with concert venues. It’s a complex. It’s 2 or 3km from the city centre, it’s walking distance.

Listen Outside: Everything is walking distance! What do you think about hipsterism filling everywhere in the world with the same kind of places? Is there a hipster monoculture.

Jonas: With the decaf soy lattes

Maria: My porridge is not with soy milk, so I am no hipster.

Listen Outside: We should do a fun question. Then we can get all finish our porridge?

Maria: My favourite thing is food. And sleep. At least two of the top three.

Jonas: What is our favourite type of porridge?

Listen Outside:  Ok, here’s a stupid question. What’s on the perfect sandwich?

Maria: Avocado!

Listen Outside: Oh, so you are hipsters after all.

Maria: Some hummous!

Jonas: Some cheese. A huge pile of cheese.

Jan-Christopher: Some parma ham.

Jonas: Some cucumber, maybe some sundried tomatoes.

Maria:  And an egg, a fried egg, why not.

Listen Outside: Yes and chilli sauce.

Maria: Mayonnaise. And butter.

And so, now we’ve enjoyed an interesting throwback to March 2o17, let’s get right up to date with Frankie Animal’s Valentines Day treat for us all. It’s the superbly weird video for (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty.

Eurovision 2018: Early February Update

It’s definitely happening then, this Eurovision thing.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter at @ellie_made then you’ll know that I have been regularly tweeting the inferred average rates of song and artist reveal. There’s also a graph, showing how the rest of National Final season is going to work out. Some steep old Saturdays there!

A lot has happened since I told you back in December that you ought to be looking out for two amazing Idas. We’ve lost Intoxicating Caramel, but we’ve gained the possibility of a Rambo Amadeus redux. There’s been a flurry of disqualifications and shufflings of flags of convenience resulting in Belarus and Moldova potentially being represented by Ukrainian and Russian proxy artists. Russia seem to be headed down the overblown peace anthem road, while Ukraine’s Vidbir is chock full of incredible up-to-date Future Sound pop music. But at least we are going to get both of them competing this year, which is something.

We’ll have 4 of the Big 5 selections by the end of the weekend. France have given us all something to talk about with the stripped-back, poignant story of baby Mercy, Spain have gone for narrative by sending a love duet between a woman who can really, really sing and a young man she met on a reality TV show who can just about keep up. The UK have selected a sort of Clean Bandit type jaunty inspirational song sung by SuRie, a Eurovision-proven utter darling who has charmed online Eurofandom into heart-eyed jelly. Italy are doing their Sanremo thing, which is generating its own Eurodrama and will most likely conclude in a head-scratching situation where no-one is initially sure who is going to Eurovision. Germany haven’t started yet, but their selection show can’t be more counterproductive and confusing than last year, can it?

The 100 year old Baltic nations are busily getting on with it – Eesti Laul looks set to be dominated by Elina Nechayeva’s 21st century take on operatic chillout, while the best song left in Latvia is Madara’s sublime Esamaiba (lyrically a philosophical follow-on from Listen Outside anthem Seis) and Lithuania could potentially join in with the Baltic chill theme by going for Fire Fountain. However, that’s not going to happen because I think Latvia are going to send Edgars Kreilis, and literally anything could happen in Lithuania, including the victory of a song that I don’t remember being in the heats.

In the Scandi-Nordic zone, things are all topsy turvy as Songvakeppnin goes beige, Denmark contains multiple exciting songs, Finland are aiming for the win, Norway supply 10 uptempo numbers of varying quality and seriousness and Sweden have got through two heats of Melfest without getting anyone particularly excited. Still, there’s always Mariette.

Songvakeppnin is a particular disappointment to me. After three successive non-qualifications, it’s clear that they are all out of ideas and almost out of enthusiasm. You couldn’t ask the Icelandic population to be more engaged in the process – but you could potentially ask the more outre strands of the Icelandic music scene to get involved. Given that Iceland’s most recent qualification was Pollaponk, it is not stupid to think that a fun genre song could do well for Iceland. Power balladry in English simply isn’t cutting it. The worst case scenario is probably that they send the uptempo pop one from Aron Hannes, who would then be in the first half of Semi 1 with fan fave Lie To Me. Given that both of these songs sound reasonably musically fresh while lyrically they’re full of old fashioned sexism, there will be a direct comparison which Aron Hannes will lose. Badly.  I can’t really come up with a best case scenario that doesn’t involve one of the sappy duet teams turning out to be Hatari, with a special surprise for all of us.

I’ve got a full review of Denmark in this other post, but the headline is that even though they are going to find it really hard to qualify out of Semi 2, I’m pleased with the increase in genre and tonal variety. There are other shades than beige! It’s like when Changing Rooms discovered the feature wall.

Norway makes me really nervous. It’s a pretty wild, party-focused variety show line up, containing someone who is something to do with SKAM, three returning artists, three comedy songs and possibly the most geographically unlikely of this year’s cohort of Despacito wannabes. Alexander Rybak is one of the returning artists and also one of the comedy songs – with its panto-like call and response section, its cheapo lowest common denominator instrumentation and totally misleading, insultingly simplistic instructions on how to write a song, I fear that this is going to Lisbon. When look, you could have Ida Maria going full Lemmy in Euroclub!

Norway, Rybak may be your most recent winner, but he is neither God nor Johnny Logan and you should really think twice about this. I simply can’t take it seriously, and I think I’m supposed to. It sounds like he wrote it for a bet. A full rundown of the Norwegian songs will come in the run up to my trip out to Oslo (yes!) but for now, my heart says Scandilove and my head says, eh, Aleksander Walman enjoyed it enough last year and his song is quite reasonable. Whatever wins, it’s going into the first half of Semi 2 where there are three 100% qualifiers and Moldova, probably with Kirkorov-supported DoReDos. It will be a serious fight to qualify.

Oh, and Finland have got Saara Aalto going full Gaga. Monsters is probably the 2nd best of her 3 songs the Finns get to pick from, so get your kidneys listed on ebay just in case we’re going to Helsinki.

To the east, I’ve been really enjoying the wild swings in quality and tone in the Romanian selection tour. I’m particularly excited for this weekend’s heat that takes place in a historical salt mine. Cezar has been a fabulous host, Ilinca has been a highly memeable presence on the judging panel and we have definitely seen some stuff. Moldova haven’t really started yet, Poland are missing a trick by not sending Szpak duetting with Voice winner Marta Gałuszewska and I won’t have anything to do with Slovenia until full songs are out.  A Dal should only really be won by the exciting screamo of AWS with their singalong anthem Vislat Nyar. If I can sing along with it in Hungarian and I’m willing to go with them on a hysterical keychange that goes where My Chemical Romance feared to tread, then maybe it’s genuinely rather good.

The Serbian songs came out this week and sound WOW. There was some kvetching amongst Eurofandom on Twitter about how localised and Balkany the sound is, but I think this is people who’ve got used to hearing various tones of purchased Swedish pop from all corners of the continent. There’s wildness a-plenty from Maja Nikolic, Boriz Reznak, Lord (not Lorde) and DJ Niko Bravo, but my heart belongs to Saška Janks with her pink hair, her lovely voice, her fringed jacket and her folky, bluesy song which might be a bit too subtle to cut through. Also, if you need any further endorsement, Slavko loves her.

Around the rest of the Balkans, Macedonia and Croatia are still yet to declare, while Montenegro are having a national final for which we’ve not heard the songs.

It’s been going on since the end of October, but I’ve only just worked out what is going on in The Next Star in Israel – it seems like there is an amazing woman called Netta who is absolutely tearing it up. She’s got an incredibly powerful, expressive voice, she’s a dab hand with a looper and sampler and she’s got an amazing line in whacked-out cover versions of songs in a genre I describe as Only 90s Kids Will Remember This. I am so intrigued by this that I want to see her singing the living daylights out of the biggest, loudest Israeli party stomper that Eurovision has ever seen. And her band The Experiment is awesome. 

Oh, and if you like a bit of the Only 90s Kids Will Remember This, you are certain to enjoy the full 1993 dance anthems vibe of Asmik Shiroyan’s You & I, which is probably not going to Eurovision for Armenia.

And that’s it for now. See you in a bit, for another National Final Season Digest.


PS: What’s the wildest rumour you’ve heard about Bulgaria this year? If you haven’t heard one, make one up. I won’t be able to tell the difference.

Eurovision 2018 Reviews: Dansk Melodi Grand Prix 2018

Denmark already know that their Eurovision fate is at least half sealed, sitting in the deadly first half of a fully loaded Semi Final 2. So, in that spirit let’s look at the songs in DMGP in two terms – who would have the best (albeit narrow) chance of qualification and who would best broaden the terms of the musical debate in that wild, complicated Semi 2.

You can listen to all the songs here on this handy-dandy YouTube playlist if you’re outside Denmark.

Lasse Melling – Unfound

One of the songs where you could play the ‘You Decide or DMGP’? game and genuinely not know. Contains the weird line ‘get up off your filthy knees’. While it doesn’t have a lot of melodic interest, it has a nice progression of backing track to give the song a bit of a build. Ultimately, it’s not in with a chance of qualifying unless Lasse is very very handsome indeed (he falls short somewhat). Won’t really add anything in terms of genre representation. Oh well. On to the next!

Rasmussen – Higher Ground

Many countries follow the trends of the music charts in selecting their Eurovision song. Here, Denmark have realised that Eurovision is a TV show and so they’ve picked this song by looking at the TV charts. Rasmussen looks like a Vikings/Game of Thrones minor character and the song sounds like the theme tune to some Vikings rip off that was pitched in a bit of a hurry. (Beards? Swords? Arrows? Sexy druids? Leather? I like it). This has the best chance of qualification, and also will bring some Early Medieval realness to the Lisbon stage. Talk sagas to me.

Ditte Marie – Riot

Encouraging civil unrest is a serious thing, and shouldn’t sound as beige and chart friendly as this. This is the one that would most step on the toes of the UK’s newly selected Storm. Ditte Marie is known to Eurofans, but I don’t think that will actually translate into a result for her? This doesn’t stand a good chance of qualification and also doesn’t add anything musically that we haven’t already got.

Anna Ritsmar – Starlight

A cute, Songvakeppni style song where I can almost taste the ukelele even though I can’t hear it. A song so wispy it’s almost not there. She’s was on X Factor 18 months ago, so the reality TV priming effect means she’s likely to pick up votes. It is too unsubstantial to qualify but…. [reader, she trailed off mid-sentence]

Sannie – Boys on Girls

Can you picture my astonished face when I heard that Whigfield was doing DMGP? Can you picture my even more astonished face when I heard the song and it turns out to be a slinky, queer, cool Royksoppian reinvention of Blur’s Girls and Boys. It doesn’t really build, and so I think it would be entirely reliant on stage show to create a call to voting action, so it’s not a Grand Final qualifier. But I am so glad that it is here. Also, if we have Sannie in Lisbon, imagine doing Saturday Night in Euroclub?

Sandra – Angels To My Battlefield

So dull that while I was listening to it, I forgot I was reviewing it and consequently had to listen to it again. Do not send this, Denmark. Even though it’s going to have a big sentimental vocal and it’s got a sort of keychange thing for the last chorus, don’t do it. Wouldn’t qualify, wouldn’t add anything we don’t already have.

CARLSEN – Standing Up For Love

Motivational female trio alert! It worked for the Netherlands last year? Kinda? This is incredibly middle of the road. You could slot it into Radio 2 without anyone even noticing it was on. Probably not a qualifier, probably not going to Lisbon either. No need to worry about it.

Karui – Signals

Now this was one that made me prick my ears up. A low slung, sexy beat. Breathy FKA Twigs-style vocals. Genuine groove. A bassline that does things. And you’re telling me this is DENMARK? If she can do it live, this would be a really classy addition to our Lisbon party. Potentially too genre to qualify, but it would almost certainly stick out as something authentically sexy in a semi full of highly polished CNC-laser cut pop.

And now I’m going to have to take a break because it’s going to get a bit more beige from now on.

Rikke Ganer-Tolse – Holder fast i igenting

Sweetly melodic Danish language pop. Sort of Carly-Rae Jepsen, but with less oomph. I like it, it’s precisely the kind of pop I go for, but I think it would be way too slight to stand up against potential bangers from Romania, Australia, Moldova & maybe even Serbia. I like it better than Malta’s song, though, so even though it wouldn’t add much to the genre buffet, it would add a bit of quality.

Albin Fredy – Music For The Road

It can’t decide whether it wants to rip off Heroes ripping off Aviici or if it wants to be an actual country song. It is stuck in the dread hinterland between the two, which makes it all sorts of lowest common denominator awful. It’s not something that I care to be listening to. Also, we’ll probably have some actual country in Semi 2 in the form of Waylon for the Netherlands, so this plasticky, whistly nonsense is not required.

So that’s your Danish lot. There are songs in there that I actually enjoyed.

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.


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