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.

Hello Hello – Mango Blitz

With a sunbleached aesthetic and a bouncy pop sound and infectious call and response duetting, Hello Hello has the potential to give Mango Blitz a big daft summer hit. The band are based in Budapest and have been making fun pop records since 2015. Over the summer of 2017 they’re finalising an album which, according to their website and Google Translate ‘can be said to favour the dancers’. Sounds good to me.

Also, and I am just saying this, a lot of their very catchy and danceable songs come in at the three minute mark. Maybe they should think of giving A Dal a go next year?

Mango Blitz are on Facebook

Mango Blitz have a website 

Amena – Iveta Mukuchyan

It is very hot in the UK today, so I’m sharing with you this empowering, simmering pop song with an utterly preposterous spoken word intro. Iveta, never change, you’re everything we could want in a pop star. You should totally follow her instagram – her life seems to be about as pop starry as it’s possible to be.

I’m glad I waited until the music video was out to show you Amena – feast your eyes on some superb sci-fi fashions and largely irrelevant jellyfish.

Video

Procrastination Queen – Liisi Koikson

If you like some pop that occasionally hits with a blast of juddering guitar noise, then allow me to present Procrastination Queen by Liisi Koikson. It’s an ode to everyone’s favourite vice – putting it off for a little bit longer.

Liisi is, I think, technically a jazz singer, but Procrastination Queen gives her a chance to blast through all her registers in the course of a single song. It’s an anthem for all of us who need to get things done. In real life, apparently Liisi has no problems with procrastination, because her 4th album – Coffee For One – came out on April 18th. Here’s a bonus live version in the ERR studios.

According to her twitter, she was Team #Salvadorable for Eurovision 2017 and also does that hand trumpet thing. Also, the ‘procrastination queen’ necklace she’s selling on her website is top notch merch.

Liisi has a website

Liisi is on Facebook

Liisi is on twitter

80s Mercedes – Maren Morris

I don’t often listen to country. I don’t often listen to pop country crossover. And yet, I did today. A friend recommended Maren’s album to me and this track jumped out as being the sonic equivalent of one of those ‘Only 90’s Kids Will Remember This’ memes. She’s kind of a big deal, but because of the way that music is sold and promoted, it has been possible for me to get this far without hearing about her.

Maren Morris is touring the UK this November – I bet it’s a super fun night out.

Stranger – Iiris

Listen Outside has now been going long enough that the artists that I first picked up on & started recommending last year are now on their next lot of new material. Iiris was in the first batch of songs I gathered when I came back from Stockholm enthused about pop, and I thought she sounded very promising indeed. Now she’s back with a double A side of Stranger and Drugs & Money.

Stranger is a propulsive, unsettling pop tune. Iiris coos beautifully, but with an underlying strength -because what doesn’t kill us makes us stranger. If you like your pop freaky and happy/sad, you’ll like this.

She lives in London at the moment, and she’s doing a gig with fellow Eesti pop wunderkind NOEP in a couple of weeks. You should go to it! It’ll be great!

Iiris has a website

Iiris is on Facebook

Video

Gimme Gimme – INNA

It’s Friday night and we ought to cut a bit loose. Inna is here to help you with a song that should be livening up the Radio 1 A-list right now. It’s basically impossible to avoid dancing to it. Even while I’m sitting down writing this blog post it’s making me do some very vigorous shoulder dancing.

Inna is a huge popstar (and a judge on The Voice) in Romania, where she’s been releasing records since 2009. Gimme Gimme is a bit of a sonic departure for her, but GOSH it’s a fresh, fun summer record.

Inna has a website (um, vaguely NSFW)

Inna is on Facebook 

 

ESC 2017: A (Pretend) Song For Turkey NOW VOTE!

To recap: we’ve got 8 Turkish and Turkish-connected pop songs that come from the ESC 2017 time window and I can solidly recommend all 8 of them. Now what you have to do is pick your favourite three.

Europe, the World, and beyond: Begin voting!

Which of these fab contenders should be our Faux Turkish Eurovision song?

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