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.


Flicker – Lxandra

Eurovision fans will have been listening to a lot of slightly melancholic modern pop not-ballads recently. Here’s another particularly fine example from Lxandra of Finland & Germany. I think there’s quite a lot here for fans of City Lights to enjoy. I particularly enjoy the huge echoing clock tick sound which has replaced the kickdrum, the vast mechanical breakdown and the refrain ‘Time, the killer’.

Lxandra is on Soundcloud

Lxandra is on Facebook



Recursive Finnish Memes: UMK 2017 Preview

In their national selections, Finland can usually be counted on to give us all three of the major Eurovision food groups: good, weird and good-weird. After the wonderfully sweet Sandjha didn’t qualify for the final in 2016 (I reckon going on first in Semi 1 made the performance feel a bit too aggressive?) there is a sense that this time round things have got to change.

So it’s a bit weird that even though they’ve shaken up the selection show format, things appear to have taken a step backwards. Let’s get to the individual songs, shall we?

Blackbird – Norma John

It’s slow and stately, but lacks an emotional punch. There should be something stirring in there before 2:28. Made me want to listen to Mørland & Debrah Scarlett from 2015, because at least there was some textural variation in that Nordic death ballad.

Perfect Villain – Zühlke

Apart from the obvious problems of including verboten references to the X-Men and the super clunky rhymes in the verse (even by Eurovision standards) there’s the problem that it lacks measurable oomph. There’s a chance that Zühlke’s charisma can sell it on the stage, but I don’t see it as a winner? Also, it’s a transparent attempt to provide something for Doctor/Missy shippers and hero/villain shippers of all fandoms to edit a bunch of clips of unresolved sexual tension together to.

Helppo elämä – Lauri Yrjölä

A Frankenstein’s monster of a track, made of the verses from Sweden’s very winning Heroes from 2015 sewn unceremoniously to the breakdown from Latvia’s 2016 hipster Eurovision classic by doe-eyed beauty Justs.  Maybe I’m being mean. But the narrowing of the sonic pallette in modern chart music means that you can quite often pick out the exact synth setting or production trick used in a track because you’ve got access to the same software and tools.

Anyway, for all that I’ve said I rather like this.

Caveman – Knucklebone Oscar & The Shangri-La Rubies

No, Finland. No. Either do a grubby retro garage rock thing or do a showgirl soul thing. For the love of Lordi, do not splice them together. What is it even about? Is it finished? How did this get through an initial long-listing process let alone an expert shortlist? What the hell else got submitted?

Reach Out For The Sun – Anni Saiku

Almost aggressively inoffensive, and blandly positive, it’s the kind of song that could really benefit from a big anthemic cheesy house remix that would at least put some form of ecstatic whoosh behind the chorus. As it is, it just doesn’t kick in at all.

Paradise – My First Band

Bloody hell. I mean, there are promises of sexual prowess and then there’s ‘I will leave you paralysed when I kiss your paradise’. No, lads, that’s not a nice metaphor, that’s GBH. They follow this up with a bunch more lyrics that make it sound like a Tinder date with this band would be one where you’d be running away through the fire escape or bathroom window. Swipe left? No, delete the whole app and burn your phone. I hate this. It sounds like a big hit.

Love Yourself – Günther and D’Sanz

Previously, memes have come out of Eurovision (let’s have 10 hours of Moldova’s very own Epic Sax Guy) but I think this is maybe the first time that a meme has tried to go the other way. As an amateur meme anthropologist, I’m going to try and dissect this dispassionately. Günther is a Swedish singer famous for the Ding Dong Song, which entered the meme-sphere for the phrase ‘oooh, you touch my tralala’ and the titillating Eurotrash-style accompanying pop video. It’s funny because it plays into the trope that Scandinavian folks are more relaxed than US and UK people about sex, and also that somehow Scandinavia lives in a perpetual Birkenstocked, lavishly moustachioed, wood-panelled sauna of 1970’s sexual permissiveness.

This is like that, but about wanking. Günther’s spoken word bits are actually amazing, but the generic Eurodance chorus and pathetically weak key-change rob it of any potential impact. With a bit more work on the music, this could have been good daft fun in Euroclub and a dodgy 10th place qualifier.

It is definitely not the stupidest thing that might find itself riding the Boaty McBoatface anarchy vote to Kyiv this year. And I like it much better than Paradise.

Circle Of Light – Emma 

Generally the songs that get used as ‘inspirational templates’ for the following Eurovision are not the ones that heartbreakingly failed to qualify, but I guess we should just let Finland be Finland in this regard. Maybe they aren’t planning on ominous stage projections of scary gothic hands? Maybe they’re not planning on dressing Emma as sexy Ozzy Osbourne? Maybe they’ll actually get poor, doomed Greta Salome on the stage to play her fiddle during the really rather good fiddle bits? Who knows. But I am still not over what happened to Hear Them Calling and for me this one is too soon.

Arrows – Alva

I am trying but I can’t get hooked on to this one. Repetitive, plaintive and harmonically very boring. It also contains some high risk notes in the chorus which don’t even sound very confidently supported on the studio version. Combined with a really flat backing track, this failed to make any impression on me.

My Little World – Club La Persé

I mean why not. Well, obviously that’s why not, but in the post-truth world why shouldn’t something that is post-tune and post-taste not proudly bear the Finnish flag all the challenging, ear-bleeding way to Kyiv? At least I imagine they’d be a total riot to interview. Nope out of ten.



Funk That War – Tomi Salesvuo East Funk Attack

2016 is a funny old year. ‘Everything’s so messed up right now’ is basically the mission statement for the year. It’s also part of the totally kicking chorus of this song by Finnish funk band Tomi Salesvuo East Funk Attack. Maybe we all need to adopt this song as our anthem as we grit our teeth and push towards a better 2017. Let’s dance into the future. Funk music could stop the war.

Tomi Salesvuo East Funk Attack have a website

Tomi Salesvuo East Funk Attack are on Facebook



Oo se kun oot – Sanni feat Paperi T

If you don’t participate in the grand festival of international pop that is Eurovision national final season, you’ll only just have become aware of Finland’s wonderful Saara Alto, who is currently battling the forces of evil on the UK X Factor (is that what happens on X Factor? I don’t watch it myself)

We’ve already featured some great Finnish music on Listen Outside, but for the rest of the week, I’ll be keeping it Suomi.

First up is Sanni – she’s one of a new wave of exciting Finnish-language pop singer songwriters. Her thing seems to be challenging, shifting beats that slightly distort the form of her pop songs. She’s already on her third album – she released the latest one, SANNI earlier this month.

Sanni is on Facebook


Dreams Take Over Everything – Lapsihymy

A sudden outbreak of wanderlust has occurred at Listen Outside – we wish we were packing our bags for a trip to Helsinki and all points North. Let’s listen to something dreamy from Finland.

Lapsihymy (literally ‘child smile’ and definitely not lapsimyhy or ‘child selling’) make beautifully expansive and free-flowing electronic music, that is somehow simultaneously emotionally warm but sonically chilly. It’s as suitable for dancing as it is for sitting down and thinking about the vast unknowableness of the universe and having a cup of tea. Enjoy the whole album, and melt into your weekend.

Lapsihymy are on Soundcloud

Lapsihymy are on Bandcamp