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Game On: Uruguay vs France

Let’s have a bit of summery pop for this sunny Friday afternoon.

For Uruguay we have pop duo Olvidate! (the exclamation point is part of the name). Now, when I’ve been researching Uruguayan chart pop I’ve noticed that the basic reggaeton rhythm has mutated in all sorts of directions. The one you’ll hear in Qué Calor is at the same time closer to a Euro dance rhythm but also contains some jarring moments that would be challenging on the dancefloor.

For France, Therapy TAXI are very interesting indeed. They’ve launched their new album Hit Sale with a sequence of three videos telling a weird and troubling exploitation story, but for today I’ve got you ADENA from their first album.

 

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Game On! Spain vs Russia

You know the drill by now: more music, more football.

From Spain I’ve got you a rockabilly band with a lovely skeletal sound and a lot of energy. The Radions tour rockabilly festivals all over Europe, which are a very good time. Gig listings on their Facebook page.

For our Russian hosts, enjoy St Petersburg based Union Grail. Journey is track one on their new album, which contains some lovely tunes (Meet Me In Paris has a lovely bit of accordion on it).

Game On: Sweden vs South Korea

Two absolute pop powerhouse nations here, and we’re going to have fun with this. I know almost nothing about South Korean pop, but I know that I have some research to do (especially if Eurovision Asia turns out to be a thing) and well, Sweden gonna Swede.

With a bit of a paucity of actual football songs this year, I have to give Samir and Viktor’s ‘Hands Up For Sverige’ a spin. Could this be a more concentrated dose of Swedishness than Petra Mede’s Swedish Smorgasbord?

For South Korea, let’s have the new release from GIRLKIND. I think I’m going to enjoy  a voyage of discovery into K-pop, because it turns out that the pure pop sounds I’m enjoying at the minute (Carly Rae Jepsen, Lea Sirk) have at least a little bit in common with the sound of Seoul.

 

 

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Game On: Brazil vs Switzerland

I enjoyed the retro synthwave for Costa Rica vs Serbia so much that I had a look for similar stuff from Brazil and Switzerland so that we could continue to party in pastel neon shades. Oh boy, was that a good decision.

Brazil’s Lola Disco produce beautiful, heartfelt simulacra of 80s pop-funk tracks that you’ll swear you heard first time round. And the cover art is fantastic! This is the kind of artist that produces a tribute track to San Junipero. Sheer sunny positivity.

For Switzerland, I didn’t find any perfect 80s throwbacks, but I did find the delicate building ambience of Odd Beholder.

 

Game On: Portugal vs Spain

Let’s be real, this is the first Big Game of the tournament. And appropriately, we have some big songs.

Representing Portugal, it’s the Anarchicks. I’ve got a nice interview with Rita and Ana from the band in the can, which I need to get round to editing for your listening pleasure. We Claim The Right is all about how it’s basically up to you to keep pushing and disobeying and creating your own world. Also, it has a great riff. The Anarchicks are working on new material (the last I heard anyway) and I can’t wait.

Representing Spain, we’ve got a bit of heartfelt pop with the very recent new single from Alice Wonder. With a video featuring a bit of rock and roll destruction and the fabulously telling refrain “You’ve got me making songs for you” it’s something I’m surprised I’ve not heard on UK radio.

Which of our Iberians wins the musical battle?

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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.