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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: Germany vs Mexico

Ooof, here we go. Are Germany going to win their 5th World Cup as defending champions or is someone else somehow going to manage to get past them?

Representing Germany, we’ve got Cold Leather, a group of excitingly noisy punks who absolutely get the job done and in a quite entertaining and aesthetic manner to boot. Their album Smart Moves is well under 30 minutes long but contains 100% of your RDA of grit, yelling and frantic guitars.

Representing Mexico, we take a long draught from the well of doom metal witchcraft with Spacegoat. They’ve got my favourite combination of heavy riffing, huge female vocals and esoteric lyrical themes. I recommend you start with Transmuta to experience a bit of doom metal en español. 

 

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Game On! Costa Rica vs Serbia

Morning! Wake up and smell the football and feel the quality of the retrowave synth pop that I have sourced for you.

Representing Costa Rica we have Patterns, whose cool 80s throwback synthpop makes me think of a version of CSS that the NME weren’t adventurous enough to pick up on.

Representing Serbia we have Isidor who makes what I can only describe as hard-hitting sci-fi music. Don your technojackets and wear your cyber-sunglasses at night.

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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Game On: Egypt vs Uruguay

Team Egypt are missing the lovely Mo Salah for the first match, and tbh I have no strong feelings one way or the other about the current Uruguay line-up. Let’s dance!

Representing Egypt, FRKTL is the project of Sarah Badr. She’s from Cairo and began making deeply exciting, slightly threatening, expansively ambient music during her undergrad in Creative Computing at Goldsmith’s. The album I’ve embedded is called Prose Edda – yes, all the titles are in Icelandic. Yes, Iceland will be coming up soon.

Representing Uruguay, we have Montevideo’s premier brass-enhanced funk rock outfit Croupier Funk. All they ask is that you dance.

Which moved you more, Egypt or Uruguay?

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Game On: Russia vs Saudi Arabia

We find ourselves on the brink of a month of footballing excitement and Listen Outside is back to bring you another instalment of the GAME ON series. But first! The dubious spectacle of the opening match.

Listen Outside has a bit of a commitment to bringing you music that challenges your ideas about places, so for Russia vs Saudi Arabia we are bringing you two all female bands

For Russia, we have a brief, intense burst of feminist punk from Stresshold. This 53 second yell is Toshnota (Nausea). Sample lyrics: “Dreary everyday life, patriarchal lies“. Heck, I’ve embedded the whole album, it’ll only take ten minutes of your time.

For Saudi Arabia, we take a look back to The AccoLade, a 4 piece all-female rock band from Jeddah. Necessarily operating under difficult conditions, they got to the point of recording an EP in 2009. I wonder what they’re doing now? I would love to hear from Lamia and co.

So, while you contemplate the World Cup’s least democratic ever match (According to the World Bank’s index of democracy, Russia are 135th of 167 and Saudi Arabia are 159th) please do a couple of things for me. Vote for your favourite song below, share Listen Outside with your friends and drop Amnesty International a couple of quid.

Feminist rock: Russia vs Saudi Arabia. Who wins?

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Best Youth – Mirrorball and Midnight Rain

Hello there. We’re off to Lisbon for some big musical jamboree in a week and a bit, and I’ve been listening to Portuguese alternative radio to get acclimated. I thought you might want to hear some Portuguese music that wasn’t fado, because I believe there’s going to be a lot of that.

One of the coolest sounding bands I’ve heard is Best Youth. They sound world weary and cool, but they sound like they’re dancing. Mirrorball, from is a 3am low key minimal disco prayer for dancefloor deliverance.

The super-slick late-night aesthetic continues with new single Midnight Rain, which comes really close to having the beat from Sexual Healing, but is distinctly more about regretful tear-streaked mascara. I am glad there are years of their work to explore, because I’m going to luxuriate in it.

Best Youth have a website

Best Youth are on Bandcamp

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.