Thursday, 3 January 2019

Romania 2019 - Trooper - Destin

Romania used to regularly sit near the top of a lot of people's 'Country Most Likely To' lists for a good many years. But their brief flirtation with yodelling ballistics aside, they've fast been turning into lower table also-rans with a consistently uninspiring selection of entries. So it was that I was a little hesitant to plough my way through their finally-released slate of entries this morning - and my fears were not allayed...

Yes, it's coming to something when a repetitive slab of folkloric pub metal like this is the only thing that kept me from packing it in and cleaning round the back of the toilet. Pretty much all of its opponents sound as though they've been recorded in the same studio, using the same English translation tool, they're so interchangeable. And even when a tune did hold some promise of variation, like Xandra or Sensibil Balkan, they pretty quickly descended into the usualness.

And to be fair, the Trooper lads are probably only here to make Laura Bretan look even sweeter and more childlike, as we all have a suspicion that she's already the anointed one with her saccharine slice of schmaltz. But you've got to take what you've got, and if they can encourage everyone to swing their flagons in the air to this one on a mid-Spring Saturday night, their very difference might carry them through. Although one look as this cosy bar gig suggests that they're not the most dynamic of fellows.

Ah well... all together now... Lai-lai la-la-la lai...

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas 2018 - Kuunkuiskaajat - Talven Ihmemaa (Winter Wonderland)

A Happy Christmas to all our readers - however you choose to celebrate! Thanks for all your likes, shares and comments over the last year. Here's looking forward to a bumper crop of bonkersness in the 2019 season - and to help celebrate, here's our most favourite unhinged Finns singing a familiar ditty awkwardly in what looks like a cloudy studio!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Albania 2019 - Orgesa Zaimi - Hije

As we await this evening's FiK glory and the hunt to find this year's first fully confirmed entry, let us cast our minds back to last night. Orgesa here had on of the more interesting efforts based on audio alone, but her first night performance was a little disappointing, wearing as she was some kind of quirky Charlie Chaplin outfit and a beaming smile.

In that outfit her barked out lines "Back off, I ain't gonna lose my cool!" seemed a little more twee than hip, and she plummeted right down our rating pile. But in last night's second semi she pulled it our of the bag with the most ludicrous outfit of the season so far, slicked back hair and a more appropriate scowl.

Looking every bit like she'd just fallen out of a cereal box, she spat and snarled as two shadow dancers fannied about behind her. This was much more the kind of thing that we were expecting!

One only wonders what she'll be wearing in tonight's final! Don't let us down, Orgesa girl!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Australia 2019 - Courtney Act - Fight For Love

When Australia first announced they they were debuting a national final process, we were initially rather sceptical, expecting a parade of record company development acts and old stagers. But when acts the calibre of Sheppard and Electric Fields declared their interest we thought we could be up for something way more interesting than first feared. But then last night something complicated happened. Courtney Act announced that she'd be competing.

No we have absolutely nothing against Courtney herself. Together with her alter ego Shane Jenek she proved herself to be an incredibly decent human being on Celebrity Big Brother, and has got one heck of a good stage show behind her too. And her popularity on Drag Race should not be overlooked either.

And even if you disregard the age old and occasionally bitter argument over drag queens in ESC, the one fundamental truth of any entry should be whether the song is any good or not. And sadly, in this case, it's not terribly.

OK, so it's a decent, if not dated dancy pop plod with an optimistic message. But it's the kind of thing that finishes lower-to-mid-table in national finals all across Europe. And the occasional song of this calibre that does occasionally make it to ESC proper nearly always falters lower down the league than it would have hoped.

With anyone else that would have been the end of it. But big portions of fandom have absolutely lost their shizzle at the fact that this song even exists, and are already threatening to throw themselves under trains if it doesn't qualify. Add this to the almost undoubted "This is what Eurovision's all about!" sentiments of the Eurovision irregulars at home, being given the chance to make their own choice for the first ever time.

And that's before we even get to the voice. At times this studio version feels strained and autotuned on the trickier notes, which makes one fear for her when she's out there giving her all on the big stage. We know she can sing, but the odd wonky note in cabaret just adds to the showbiz. But on that big Eurovision stage? Well, we have fears.

A damn, damn shame, because we'd have loved this to have been brilliant. But instead it's got two feet firmly in the average - which for this artist is a massive missed opportunity.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Hungary 2019 - USNK - Posztolj

A Dal is fast becoming the one to watch, as the last handful of Hungarian entries will testify. And the most recent three or four runnings have shown an increasingly broad church of musical styles. And it appears that those screamo demons AWS have encouraged all manner of musical folks to chance their arms.

Of course, there's been a little barrage of rockish stuff trying to ride on on the coat tails of last year's success - but even those perpetual triers Leander Kills have realised this is fast becoming a busted flush and have elected to go all ethno folko this year. But the one song that's really grabbed our attention is this sweet little slice of urban hip hop.

It's no secret that we're massive fans of rap in mid European languages here, but this one's got a cracking little low slung West Coast vibe about it during the verses, with unexpected Zef-flavoured hints of Die Antwoord as it goes, before gear changing into a quite unexpected autotuned bit of chilled out electro pop during the choruses. And while we can't see this one knocking the socks off the punters as they doubtlessly prowl around the stage on the telly like confused kittens, we're really taken with its cool swing and it's everso slightly edgy attitude. Doom? Most probably. But it's really rather enjoyable all the same, and we'd love to see it go all the way.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Estonia 2019 - Cätlin Mägi & Jaan Pehk - Parmumäng

Yes, so I know we're a little late to the Eesti party, but we were on our holidays when the little barrage of tunes came out and this is the first time we've been able to sit down and enjoy them in full, rather than on a phone on a bus! And do you know what? It's not especially fashionable to say this, but we're a little disappointed with this year's table of Laul delights.

Obviously it's horses for courses - if the UK declared even half of these songs I'd be beside the moon with joy. But with Estonia we expect a little bit more. OK, so there are plenty of decent tunes, from the likes of Sandra Nurmsalu, Öhuloss, Iseloomad and even funny old Synne Valtri, but nothing that really knocks your socks off. And that Kat thing that everybody's raving about is trying waaaaay too hard.

So you can't imagine how chuffed I was that after all that lot, the very last song that I listened to was a quiet little belter. The prolific off kilter folker Cätlin Mägi has dragged our old pal Jaan Pehk along for the ride on a beauteous celebration of the jaw harp that may be minimal, but promises to be an absolute stormer live, with it's cool twanginess and slightly unhinged delivery.

There's a few tunes that suggest that they might up their game in the on stage situation, but this is the one that we're looking forward to the most - by a long chalk!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Austria 2019 - Hyäne Fischer - Im Rausch der Zeit

So Austria, the Eurovisions are going to be held in Israel next year, so what do you think that you might be sending?

Ooh, how about a bunch of women in Eva Braun chic singing a song that loosely translates as 'In The Intoxication Of Time'? That won't cause any kind of stir, surely...?

But what may at first feel like a somewhat ill-advised jape has a much more serious meaning. For dig a little deeper and you'll find a song using motifs from the past to warn about the worrying rise of the far right today. Add this to the fact that the artist's name is a pastiche on her nation's most glorious darling of pop - 'Hyäne' means 'Hyena' - and you've got a song full of darker inner meaning.

But whether the punters at home would understand any of that come a Saturday night in May (or Tuesday, or Thursday) is an entirely different matter, and the Pet Shops Boys covering Laibach electronic pop styles might make the whole project seem a little flimsier in real life than it actually is.

Still, keep an eye on this one - it'll be interesting to see how it turns out...

Monday, 10 December 2018

Moldova 2019 - Alex Bognibov - Love Me Like My Daughter

So the tiny glimpse we got a few weeks back that suggested a glorious glam stomper with a traditionally questionably lyric has followed through into a full bodied song - and boy is it hard to hate!

OK, so Sasha's very particular worldview can be quite tricky to countenance to a Western eye, but if you tap into his mythos as the Everlasting Boy it makes a whole lot more sense. But surely this has to be his most complete bit of songing yet, and his finest moment since the stellar Wounded Swan and his catchiest since his haunting Eurovision debut all those years ago.

He's clearly got the right people in to help put the thing together, as this could slot into pretty much any pop punk act's set with ease, and it stops, starts and noodles about in all the right places. How much longer can you repel this unique talent, Moldovan telly? How long?!

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Latvia 2017 - Dziļi Violets feat. Kozmens - Tautasdziesma

So yes, last year we may have got all over excited about outing the innards of the Riga Beaver when that shaggy-haired lad from Riga Reggae started stomping about all over the shop in a gruff faux Caribbean accent, but I always had a tiny element of doubt, despite my assertations to the positive.

Y'see, a couple of years back when I was lucky enough to find myself in the Latvian capital for Supernova I got a fleeting glimpse of the fella within the fur. There was a long spell of chatting going on, so I nipped out for a tinkle, and there in the wings, hiding amongst all the black curtains and flight cases, was a the beaver taking a breather. Head off, supping a drink, and smiling his face off, with a big mop of curly hair and an incredibly impressive tache. Yeah, I know, I may have killed the magic, but hey, Santa's still real.

Now last year I may have been swayed by that mock-rasta's mop of hair and funny voice. But this year I think I've actually found him. Possibly. The lad with the kilt and the impressive nose furniture is a local alt pop star and performance artist called Kozmens, and he's got form in the strange an esoteric.

On top of that, this song (translated coarsely as Folk Song) is a fantastic bit of understated prog pop, which I hope will go a fair way through the competition. If only our Kozmens could click in time though...

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Latvia 2019 - Ēriks Balodis - I Know You Know

We've all been to this wedding…

Lad: "Dad, Uncle Ēriks had been on the sauce again!"

Dad: "Is he drunk already?"

Lad: "Absolutely hammered."

Dad: "Whatever you do, keep him away from the band. You know what he's like when he gets behind a microphone!"

Lad: "Too late, Dad. Too late."

Dad: "Oh sweet Mary Jesus and Joseph! At least he's not trying to scat yet."

Dad and Lad: "Noooooooo…"

Monday, 26 November 2018

Latvia 2019 - Waterflower - Grow

It's been a slow November, but finally Latvia have treated us to all their Supernova long-listers in one big chunk - which should keep us busy on here for the next few days at least - oh yes there's some Latvian treats on offer for sure!

And while there's a lot of old familiar faces on show (and surely this will finally Markus Riva's turn - not that his song is any good, of course, but you know, long service medal and all that).

But what you really want from Supernova is a minimal bit of techno with a gothy tinge by a terrifying woman with flowers in her colourful hair. Oh yes, and we've got one of those straight off the bat. So ladies and gentlemen let me introduce you to this year's Supernova superhero - Waterflower!

(As it happens I really like this one, but you possibly won't. You may have to watch it twice to believe what you've actually just seen, mind).

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Moldova 2019 - Alex Bognibov - Love Me Like My Daughter

It's that moment you've all been waiting for...

Over the last few years we've seen the Everlasting Boy grow from an slightly creepy chancer to an artist of some merit. So when we learned that he'd upgraded his first name to a more adultified Alex, and apparently enlisted the help of some local punky types we became really optimistic about his chances this year.

But then we saw his song title and were sent back to his early days of lyrical unease.

However, like much of his finest work, it's not a matter of simple outrage. OK, so we know that Sasha has a slightly different outlook on life to the rest of us, and that his relationship with youth is more innocent than it apparently appears. But with a lyric like this we can't help but be drawn back to the likes of I Love The Girls, and the gooseflesh begins to creep.

But also like his debut hit, the chorus is insistent and instantly infectious, and once heard you'll find yourself singing it on the bus and over coffee at work - which could lead to potentially awkward results. Which is kind of what Bognibov love is all about.

So proceed with caution, because you're going to be singing this under your breath all flipping week. Good work my Moldovan friend. Good work!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

United Kingdom 2019 - Dië Spanglë - Nul Point (Eurovision Remix)

Well would you believe it - our Cornish pirate punk pals Dië Spanglë have only gone and done a disco remix for their soon-to-be ill-fated Eurovision attempt! And what's more astounding is that it's actually got a whopper of a groove to it!

To be fair, I'm not sure that they've done too much more than ramp up the bass, chuck in a drum machine and sprinkle a few sci-fi sounds liberally across its beams - but heck, it still counts. And as much as it does plough its initial furrow for a bit too long, it got our feet tapping entirely against our will. Good work fellas.

It's still doomed of course, but they're dragging this out like true pros!

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Switzerland 2019 - Sebalter - Carry The Light

When I was first thumbing through the Swiss-Italian hopefuls there was only one song that sounded like it was an actual song rather than three minutes of wispy wish fulfilment by some wide-eyed chalet singer. So it wasn't any massive surprise to discover that it had made it through to their final three. And we're not just saying that because it's performed by an old friend of Eurovision.

Yep, raggle-taggle Sebalter is back for another stab at the show, with his optimistic mountain pop that sounds just Celtic enough and just Scandi enough to pick up enough votes to haul it into a Tel Aviv Saturday. And while it's nowhere near as immediate as his last effort, it's still awash with uplifting chords, and a sort-of message that doesn't actually mean anything, but kind of sounds like it does.

Fifteen years back a song like this would have been considered a contender for the whole caboodle - but will his charm, his name, and his familiarity get him even as far as the Swiss final? I'll be one to watch, for sure, but a tricky one to call all the same.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

United Kingdom 2019 - Rainbow Orbit - (Un)Informed Opinion

The lambs to the UK slaughter are creeping out earlier than ever this year. It's almost as if they've realised that they're ultimately doomed and are cutting out the middle man in favour of early YouTube hits. But that doesn't mean that there's not still fun to be had.

Witness our old pals Rainbow Orbit. You'll probably remember them best for their song Genuine from a couple of years back where they pranced about in a parking garage in comedy onesies. Well this one's a more domestic affair, but it's every bit as bouncy and charming.

Over the top of some gloriously observed 80s elektro discow, our pal PJ and his mate muck about their kitchen and corridors, mainly filmed on a phone in portrait, with a wry yet thoughtful lyric stapled on roughly over the top. And again, as is their way, it's terrible and yet really enjoyable at the same time. It's songs like these that make the early months of on season thoroughly worthwhile!