Thursday 28 January 2021

Belarus 2021 - Pavloni - My Dreams Come True

(Click here if you can't see the video panel above and have your soul deeply stared into…)

Pavloni here reached the Apocalypse Hall Of Fame last year with an incredible performance of her song Stone Of My Soul at the Belarussian auditions. Starting off as a creepy, moody little number things soon got strange, as she began the kind of noise a dog makes when it's been locked in a shed for just too long, then she flung her coat off and broke into an awkward rap. Yes, that one! If you've not see it, you really must track it down.

Which is why we couldn't wait to see what she'd dished up this time round - although My Dreams Come True is a very different kettle of spuds.

For a start, Pavloni herself is scarcely recognisable from her 2020 self. She's bright, happy and full of fun, but as she jigs about in what appears to be the only studio in Minsk (see the Daz Sampson live clip), singing a bright but unremarkable little pop tune she suddenly draws you into the screen, and all of a sudden it's like she's singing right at you… and you alone. And I don't just mean your eyes or your face, but to the very depths your soul. Seriously, challenge yourself to watch the whole clip without ever losing her gaze - you'll come out a very different human by the time it's done…


Wednesday 27 January 2021

Lithuania 2021 – Aistė Brokenleg – Home

It's a darned shame that Lithuania's Pabandom iš Naujo! process is a little truncated this year, as there's less opportunity to mine for little leftfield gems like this. You might just remember Aistė for her song Electric Boy last year with the full Abrokenleg project, but where that was arch and edgy, this one's an altogether more laid back, but still slightly unsettling affair.

Starting with scratchy guitar strings and some atmospheric jangling about, it soon clicks into a sparse, Sleaford Mods-esque bass-n-drums backing, with the lass herself singing a meandering little lilt for a few bars before the real magic starts to happen.

For upon the words "Feels like home" 
Aistė launches into one of the finest minimalist keyboard solos we can ever remember at this contest. Y'know, one of those where the spaces between the notes are almost more important than the notes themselves, and from that point on we were hanging on her every gentle suggestion. And before you ask, no, we've got no idea why she's wearing her underwear outside her coat. They all seemed to be doing it in Lithuania that night. 

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Belarus 2021 - Katya Ocean & Daz Sampson - Give You Love

In times like these, when the contest is full of sadbois and dubious Norwegians, when we need is some pure and happy pop - and who better to give it to us than our old pal Daz Sampson. Our Daz has taken a bit of a liking to Belarus of late, and has teamed up this time with local lass Katya Ocean for an absolutely belting bit of optimistic 90s rave pop.

He might have dialled down the bonkersness since Kinky Boots, but it's still lays on the kind of hands-in-the-air party vibe, head-nodding drops and a positive, uplifting message that are totally needed in these times. On top of that, he's only gone and slipped in a passage in the local lingo to try and lure the Belarussian establishment to his pop ways - which is a stroke of genius in our book - and man, that key change is a thing of beauty.

Some might call it old-fashioned, but that's missing the point. Daz is one of us, and he loves this contest through and through, and is bringing us the thing he does better than anyone else - the absolute party.

Monday 25 January 2021

Belarus 2021 - Kazna - Braids


Since writing the original review it's dawned on us just how problematic this whole performance is, from the cultural appropriation of this very specific hairstyle, right through to the lyric and its presentation. It also doesn't help that Kazna herself is proving a tad porblematic in her own right. Sometimes you have to scratch a little deeper into what a song is really about before you really get to grips with what's going on - but this one was staring us right in the face and we missed it - swayed as we were by a half-decent bit of techno folk. Belarus is all about Zena or Daz this year anyway - what could possibly go wrong there!

                                                                    ***ORIGINAL REVIEW***

We've heard little from Belarus so far this year, so we were rather interested to find this little clip on our internet travels this morning. From what we hear heard, they're either going to run a ten song final or just straight up pick their fave and do away with any kind of contest all together. And to our ear, this is the kind of song that we always thought they might consider going with.

It starts off all serious and folksy before kicking into a proper sassy pop strut, all the while keeping some distinctly local tinges. We still have concerns though. The presentation does look a bit like sixth form performance project, and as this is a recorded version there's no guarantee that her vocals would be strong enough in the live sphere.

But having said all that, it's still a step in the right direction, but we suspect that there's some heavy hitters waiting in the wings to throw card onto the table. And surely it's time for our old mate Daz to have another pop at this too!

Norway 2021 - Emmy - Witch Woods

Lockdown must have been effecting the Norwegians more strangely than anyone else, if the songs they keep presenting for this year's MGP are anything to go by. So far we've had a plod metaller dissing Middle Eastern religions, a relic from the past basing his entire song around a hand gesture that's been recently co-opted by the ultra right, a young incel lad blaming his mental health problems on women, and what could be taken to be a nationalist call to arms, all wrapped up as a folksy jig. So somehow having a song about taking city boys to the woods and chopping them up doesn't seem quite so bad as it might have done in isolation.

It's a strange old piece of kit to be sure. Initially sounding like a standard piece of tropical pop on the start, it lilts along nicely, with Emmy's streetwise snarl spitting out a tale of rural life, until it all goes a bit Midsommer, and all manner of sticky ends are suggested for any young man who might happen to venture her way. Having said that, we do kinda like it, and can't wait to see how they do this live. But all the same…

Is everything alright, Norway? Do you need to talk…?

Thursday 21 January 2021

Portugal 2021 - Miguel Marôco - Girassol

Back in the nineties I was in a noisy little indie punk band called the Cesspit Rebels. For some reason we never entirely fathomed we were beloved of a strange sub-cult of indie called Twee Pop, and ended up on loads of cassette compilations featuring all this lovely floaty indie jangle, with our horrible noise bunged smack in the middle. I'm telling you this because Miguel Marôco's song here sounds exactly like the kind of song that was always on directly before us.

It's proper old school bedroom indie of a sort that never entirely pierced the mainstream - apart from that brief weird moment when White Town bagged an international number one. There's jangles, there's plinky plonks, and the song even appears to be about flowers - at least in some figurative manner.

Miguel himself seems to have the same kind of homespun do-it-yourself charm too, if you seek him out on YouTube. I can't see this doing very much business at all at Festival da Canção, as it's just a little too awkward compared to all the more slick and centred others. But it's most certainly one of the ones we're most looking forward to seeing performed live. Right then, it's given me an urge to go listen to Stereolab and The Field Mice again… 

Wednesday 20 January 2021

Finland 2021 - Blind Channel - Dark Side

After a nice little flotilla of gentleness these last few days, I guess Finland thought it was time to up the UMK noisiness a little and give us a bit of violent pop. At least that's how Blind Channel like to self-describe. In reality, genre spotters, what this band ply is something more akin to the lighter side of metalcore, and up to now their back catalogue has seen them unsure of quite which camp to plant their size nine boot in.

On top of that, louder bands frequently let us down in this contest, and offer up something far lighter than their usual frantic schtick - for every AWS, there's a dozen Nuteki's sitting at the bottom of the wilfully missed opportunity bin. Which is kind of why Dark Side here has come as such a surprise, because by jove, it seems like Blind Channel have got it! Just about.

The loud bits are rowdy enough for the more leftfield music lovers, while the poppy edge is laid on just thick enough to please the more noise-averse among us. It's a curious old hybrid to be sure, and despite being a bit of a plod to aficionados of the scene it might just be one that could do very well indeed if it managed to scrape its way to Eurovision proper. This UMK is certainly shaping up to be a difficult beast to call!

Portugal 2021 - Valéria – Na Mais Profunda Saudade

The songs foFestival da Canção were announced this afternoon, and while in the main they made up the kind of beautiful sunny afternoon chill out album that the good old FdC has been producing since its glorious post-Salvador reboot. But there's one song that stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the gentle loveliness - this one.

Na Mais Profunda Saudade is pretty much the Portuguese Eurovision song that we've been crying out for decades now. The kind of song we've quietly wept over in tiny local Fado bars any time we've been lucky enough to be visiting around those ways. The kind of song that we don't understand a physical word of, but deeply understand every last nuance of feeling that Valéria is huskily emoting.

Man, this is a bit special. We've got no idea how it's likely to do in the whole FdC process, but we're so very, very glad it's there.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Norway 2021 - Ketil Stokkan - My Life Is OK

What is it this year with men of a certain age being slightly embarrassing in the public sphere? I mean, I know that we're fully paid up members of their club too, so I shouldn't really mock, but never before have so many awkward old timers blundered about to so little effect in the Eurovision sphere.

Ketil here we know of old, and to be fair to the lad he was still reasonably cringe when he was of a more serviceable age, and now nicely into his sixties he's decided to treat us to a hymn about his own mediocrity. Yeah, fair enough, when you're older you get a little settled in your ways, but there's lines in this song that could be taken every bit as reactionary-flavoured as old Jorn in the previous round.

And as if all that wasn't enough, the song itself sounds like a mid-nineties Shakin' Stevens b-side!

I guess you could say it was whimsical and self-mocking if you were being generous, but there's still something about it that just doesn't sit right. Jeez, at this rate we here at Apocalypse Towers have got a decent shout at getting on the slate of some national selection process somewhere next year. Anyone got Norway's phone number?

Monday 18 January 2021

Norway 2021 - Tix - Ut Av Mørket

(Click here to see Keiino's biggest rival if the link above ain't showing…)

There are many within fankind who are of the opinion that Keiino merely have to turn up to bag the ticket to Virtual Rotterdam. But before they go lumping any money on at the bookies, we'd suggest they check the recent charts. Because although most folks outside of his own borders may not have heard of him, young Tix here is a pretty major player in Norway, with a bag of number ones already under his belt - not to mention a writing credit on Sweet But Psycho. The boy is clearly no sucker.

Witness, then, his gala performance on this weekend's MGP heat this last weekend. Easy swagger, an outfit to match the ego of his stage persona, and one of the most interesting staging concepts we've seen come out of Norway in an age. Add to that his massive online following, and the fact that despite you not thinking all that much of the song, it's the kind of thing that's littering the charts worldwide, and I fear that our favourite yoikers have got something of a battle on their hands in what is already looking like a bloodbath of an MGP final if Blåsemafian get a head of steam behind them and Raylee brings the showbiz.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

PS This is what all cis-het men would dress like if we were left on our own for too long! (Now where can I get those trousers in my size…?)

Sunday 17 January 2021

Finland 2021 - Danny - Sinä Päivänä Kun Kaikki Rakastaa Mua

As the years roll on, you get to an age where however cynical you want to appear, a sentimental song sung well by a senior with the weight of the world etched into their face will get you on a weep. But every now and again one will ramp it up a dozen notches and absolutely wipe the floor with your emotions. And oh boy has Danny here just done that in our house.

For those who don't know him, this singer is a much-loved 78-year-old veteran of the Finnish music scene. When it was announced that he'd be taking part, most of us just assumed that he'd be giving us a nice nostalgic slice of pedestrian rock'n'roll. What we weren't prepared for, however, was a list on instructions for his own funeral. But wait! As mawkish as that might sound, Danny's sardonic wit and cheeky glint life it into the realms of the glorious - although having said that, we were still in floods of tears before the end of the third line.

There'll be plenty of folks who just won't get this, and that's fine. But remember, music isn't only for young people, and for those of us with a few years on the clock who are increasingly aware of our own mortality it's an absolute bloody masterclass in dark humour and perfect delivery. I'm not sure that I'm going to hear a better song all year - in any musical realm.


Lithuania 2021 - Black Spikes and Indre Launikonyte – Don't Tell Me

(Click here for a portal into a noisier world if you can't see the video above…)

The self same schalgerists who've been moaning about that only-very-slightly-gammony Jorn getting knocked out in Norway seem to have been staying conspicuously quiet on Black Spikes failure to progress in Lithuania last night. "Why can't we have more rock at Eurovision?!" they whine, ignoring the fact that their Norse grandpa offered up one of the most cringeworthy three minute of try-hard awkwardness we've seen in flipping ages. A poor pop tune wrapped in fur and leather and sixth form poetry, the punters saw right through it and gave it the early exit it deserved.

However Black Spikes should feel infinitely more hard done by, because they put their heart and soul into doing something a little more artful and imaginative. Evoking the dark, on stage theatrics of bands like Portal, Earth, and every dare I say it the edgier side of Ghost, they came on stage swathed in fabric and spiky headgarb, and acted out a dramatic spooky tale that drew you right into its universe so that you believed every second of it - even if you might not have known entirely what was going on. And when it got to the growling bit - oh my days I was in heaven! Or maybe it was the other place…

One suspects they put them in the opening slot to wake up the punters, but the now tediously fun-hating Pabandom Iš Naujo jurors marked them just low enough cancel out a very respectable televote score. But while the song in itself wasn't great, the character and the atmosphere and the pure presentation power of Black Spikes elevated the performance to much higher levels than any of us expected when we heard the isolated audio.

This here is what all you "I don't normally like rock, but…" lot should have been mourning the loss of, not that superannuated pub rock dad with floppy hair and an over tight outfit. Let's hope they come back next year with a better song and a face-melting stage show!

Saturday 16 January 2021

Finland 2021 - Teflon Brothers x Pandora - I Love You


Updated with the UMK show. There's two schools of Eurovision performance thought. Either less is more, or more please and a bit more extra on top of that. Well this one appears to have broken through the latter category and not only chucked in the kitchen sink, but all the white goods and the entire contents of the outhouse too. And good on them!


First things first… this doesn't sound anything like bloody Take On Me! Wait, let me qualify that. It only sounds like the de facto national anthem of the world if you've never heard another bit of chip tune or electroclash or nostalgic electronica in your life! What, you haven't? Oh dear, our work's going to be cut out for us here, isn't it - as you were…

Anyway, the first signs were good. Very good, in fact. Older artists gleefully hammering out a plinky plonky bit of old time electronica that could have come from any one of the last five decades. Then a trio of lumpy blokes muttering in Finnish over an effortless skipbeat. Even better when the chorus teased, as a fabulous woman of a certain age stepped up to take the floor. And then…?

And then the chorus actually kicked in and we threw our hands up in dismay!

Is that it? You're just going to sing "I love you!" over and over and over again? Oh man, we sighed. Major missed opportunity or what. And then we played it again. And again. And then for a few more times. Before long we were standing on the table shouting "I love you!" over and over and over again at the top of our lungs. It's the musical embodiment of an HPV - burrowing under your skin and never ever leaving you, popping up in uncomfortable places when you least expect it!

And then there's the artists themselves. The Teflon Brothers we knew about, and were fully expecting something of this joyful ilk. But a little digging into Pandora revealed something that we didn't know. She only used to be a flipping massive international dance star, selling millions of records around the world, didn't she! Apologies if you knew this already (which you most probably did), but this puts an entirely different complexion on matters. Oh my days - this song has gone from a mild disappointment to a serious contender for UMK in a matter of days.

Can't stop singing the flipping thing now, either. I hope you can get cream for it.

Friday 15 January 2021

Norway 2021 - Keiino - Monument

Them juries are a tricky beast to try and second guess. Many a brave act have attempted to court them over the years, only to falter in the mid-table hinterland. The voters at home are a much more uncomplicated animal. They'll forgive imperfections and oddities if a song's got heart and honesty. But if you think to much with a jury kind of head on you could very easily chase the punters off and get yourself into a proper pickle.

So in attempting to court the dread jury vote I'm just a little bit cautious that Keiino may have shot themselves in the immaculately booted foot a little. Don't get me wrong, it's a cracking song. The atmosphere and the build are immense, and Fred's intro sends an expectant shiver down the pine every time. But it lacks those winning hooks that made the televoters pick up their phones by the thousand in 2019.

And far from it being the second coming that much of fankind suggests, I've got a horrible feeling that it might have a battle on its hands to even win the Norwegian ticket to wherever the heck they'll be performing from this year. It's a pretty strong selection in the old MGP this year, and the massive local appeal of the singer Tix must surely not be discounted, however uninspiring his song may be to the rest of us. But one thing's for certain, in 'Thunder and Gloria' we've already got our first catchphrase of the year!

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Norway 2021 - Jorn - Faith Bloody Faith

It's a by-product of looking like we might have been the lead singer of one of the less successful New Wave Of British Heavy Metal acts from the eighties that the moment any song appears with remotely crunchy guitars and a growly vocal my inbox fills with messages saying "One for you here, Mr Apocalypse!" And while my ageing Viking features probably do betray a tendency towards the noisier side of music, I do have some standards you know. And you should all know the EA mantra by now - no rock is better than shit rock!

So you shouldn't be surprised that we no fans of this dreary, and perhaps marginally contentious, plod from Jorn. It grumbles along like the loud one from a deliberately edgy musical, thinking it's all important because it's talking about, like, issues, where in actual fact it's more like taking an enforced stroll with your politically dubious grandfather after a big Christmas dinner.

Sure, the subject matter is one that's worthy of discussion, but perhaps not quite this tritely and hamfistedly. I mean, what's that little interlude of Middle Eastern sounding music in the middle there trying to tell us, eh, Jorn mate? It just sounds like something the artist was really proud of in the demo despite everyone telling him it was a bad idea, but he insisted on keeping at least a part of it in the final edit.

If you want to hear this kind of subject matter dealt with in a much more intelligent and exciting manner, go listen to Slayer, because this is faintly embarrassing.

Friday 8 January 2021

Lithuania 2021 - Twosome - I Love My Bear

When we heard that Apocalypse faves Twosome were having another crack in Lithuania, our hearts sang with potential glee. In what could potentially be the dullest of all years in the frikizone we were looking forward to a bit of knockabout fun, but were concerned that after their recent local X factor successes they might have gone a bit grown up on us. And the results? Kinda fifty-fifty.

And while it's almost impossible to go wrong with a song called I Love My Bear, it's sadly lacking in the infectiously catchy hooks of their two most recent efforts Hello and Playa. And half the time it sounds like they're singing "I Love My Beer" as well - which would still have been good, but not half as much fun as this ursine entertainment.

What we do know, however, is that they're going to do an incredible job of it live on Pabandom iš Naujo, and now that their winning, everyman, let's just get up and do the show here charm has been seen regularly on prime time showbiz TV, they might just knock the smug grin off that baldy lad from The Roop's chops come finals night. Or at least we sincerely hope that they do!