Norwegian singer/songwriter Ane Brun managed to bring out the subtleties in Beyoncé‘s gargantuan ballad “Halo”. Her chamber-folk rendition is a pared-down, understated acoustic affair with Swedish cellist Linnea Olsson on strings duty. It’s a nice break from the drum-heavy bombast of Ryan Tedder’s original production.
You can find “Halo” on her latest double album “Rarities”, collecting her rare tracks from over the years.
Moving away from the lush, dreamy soundscapes of her second album, Oh Land returns with something a little more adventurous. For her third full-length entitled “Wish Bone”, the Danish songstress works with producer Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio). Her relocation to Brooklyn really shows in the new batch of songs. Lead single “Renaissance Girls” is a fun celebration of female empowerment in the form of an infectious synth-pop tune. The girl-power sentiment is cool in a post-Lilith-Fair way, and the immaculately choreographed music video is AMAZING. She really put her ballet dancer skills to good use!
There’s also a lovely new video for the quirky “Pyromaniac”. She’s really nailing it down on the visual side this era. Her hair alone is divine, I can’t tell what exact shade it is (light blue greyish blond?), but she rocks it.
You can now stream the entire album on New York Times. FYI, the track co-written with former tourmate Sia is “Green Card”.
My favorite Norwegian Erlend Øye has returned with his first solo outing in 12 years. It’s a single called “La Prima Estate”, it’s in Italian, and it’s amazing in the most unexpected ways. Let me count the ways of its amazingness:
- THAT ARTWORK. Loud is the new quiet!
- How amazingly random it is. Apparently, the one half of Kings of Convenience is now living in Italy, and the song is his homage to ’70s Italo easy-listening folk-pop, popular in Norway at the time. He did his research, and it showed. It’s a totally unexpected re-introduction, but for a man whose past repertoire ranges from acoustic folk to Berlin indie techno, I shouldn’t be so surprised.
- Even though I don’t understand a word, it still sounds like the giddiest piece of jet-set-ready summer music. Jens Lekman would be proud.
- THE VIDEO, shot on location in Siracusa Sicily. Who are all these twee geeks dancing like fools, bursting with unadulterated joy? Prepare to grin like an idiot.
As a bonus, here’s a video of Erlend Øye casually performing a cover of Pet Shop Boys‘ 1996 single “Se a vida é (That’s the Way Life Is)” on an abandoned rooftop. So chill.
Postiljonen is the next big Swedish export, and they have delivered a stunning debut album in “Skyer”. I can only describe the Stockholm-based trio’s music as panoramic, multi-textured road-trip synth-pop. The ’80s synth and sax riffs are larger than life, while wispy, murmuring vocals are mixed like an afterdream, hazy and unobtrusive, interspersed with dialogue samples from unidentified, possibly non-existent films. As is the case with shoegazing dream-pop, due of its unique construct, you probably won’t remember much of the lyrics or melodies, but there’s enough ear candy to keep coming back and peel at the layers. The 10-track album is short and sweet, with the more upbeat numbers (Supreme, We Raise Our Hearts, Skying High) sequenced in between ambient, filmic ones (Rivers, Plastic Panorama). There is also an unlikely, spectral cover take on Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, gloomily retitled as “All That We Had Is Lost”. “Atlantis” – the current single – makes a perfect album closer, thanks to its monster saxophone action and a nocturnal, melancholic back-of-a-taxi-cab mood. If you like M83, or The Naked And Famous, then Postiljonen’s widescreen after-hours pop is for you.
Check out the music video for Atlantis below, and album highlight “We Raise Our Hearts”.
STREAM: Postiljonen – We Raise Our Hearts
Frida Sundemo ended 2012 on a high, having got the blogosphere a-buzzin’ with the brilliant single “Indigo”. Now she’s ready to kickstart 2013 with another taster, “Snow”. However, for now “Snow” is only available on Spotify in Scandinavia (damn those pesky region restrictions!). Fortunately, Swedish postrock band Immanu El have uploaded their beautiful slow-burning remix of the track for us non-Swedes to enjoy. It showcases another side of her – melancholy, downbeat, but blissful, not unlike her compatriot Lykke Li. And of course it’s only natural for a Swede to sing about snow. I wonder what the original sounds like, is it a electro stomper, or an introspective downtempo number à la Royksopp?
Frida Sundemo was previous known as simply Frida in Japan. The breezy-cutesy bossa-nova-tinged songs from her 2010 debut album “Dear, Let It Out” managed to strike a chord with the Japanese audience. Granted, she was not the first Swede indie girl to conquer Japan. Two years later, she has stunningly reinvented herself as Frida Sundemo, the next big Swedish synth-pop starlet.
“Indigo” is the kind of song that came out of nowhere and catch you by surprise. Her sweet vocals against the aggro synth backdrop made for a striking combo. It’s clear she has graduated from the same School of Pop as Robyn, Lykke Li, and Tove Styrke. It’s electro-pop perfection that only the Swedes can effortlessly offer in spades.
And here’s a different side from her early career, the sweet lounge ditty “Towers”:
One of the most promising acts for 2013? I think so.
Chart Music is the new joint project of Le Prix and Roger Gunnarsson, both of whom have worked with Sally Shapiro, Johan Agebjörn, Cloetta Paris and Queen of Hearts. If you don’t know any of those names, educate yourself. If you do, then you probably know what to expect. The first song from the Stockholm-based duo is “When You Lied”, featuring Viktor Ginner on vocals, and it’s a gorgeous piece of melancholy heart-on-sleeve anorak twee-pop blub-a-thon. Influences include italo disco, ’80s synth-pop and John Hughes films. If you don’t feel something when the middle eight’s instrumental breakdown glides in, then you sir need to check your pulse!
STREAM: Chart Music – When You Lied
An accompanying video was made of clips from obscure 1986 teen flick Lucas. Prepared to get your sad eyes on.
Swedish indie-pop veterans Acid House Kings have been enjoying a resurgence lately. They just reissued most of their back catalogue, as well as invited friends and fans to remix their most popular track “This Heart is a Stone” (it was on a Korean ice cream commercial featuring Drew Barrymore don’t cha know). Out of the whopping number of 12 remixes, here are my two cherry picks. The Perfect Nines mix goes for the jangly C86 Sarah Records sound which I adore, while the Sunny Intervals opt for relaxing Sunday-morning vibes. Both give a fresh take on the original without straying too far from its roots. Have a lovely listen below.
STREAM: Acid House Kings – This Heart is a Stone (Sunny Intervals Remix)
A lot is happening in First Aid Kit‘s world. First, the Söderberg sisters will be featuring on several tracks of the new album “The Fire and The Flame” by Blood Music, aka fellow Swede Karl-Jonas Winqvist. The lead single, “Glad That You Called”, is a charming, laidback twee-folk duet, with a cute music video of the three frolicking about in a big greenhouse.
STREAM: Blood Music feat. First Aid Kit – Glad That You Called
Secondly, the indie-folk duo has recently released a iTunes Sessions live album, featuring this harmonious cover of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot.”
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith Cover)
Last but not least, their excellent album “The Lion’s Roar” will get a Limited Edition boxset edition come October 2, with 2 bonus b-sides and one brand new track/single, “Wolf”. Here’s the kaleidoscopic, forest-based video for it.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – Wolf
Have I mentioned the girls are performing in New York tonight and tomorrow too? As I said, a lot is happening in First Aid Kit’s world, and deservingly so.
Every now and then I come across a gem from out of the blue, and this is definitely a keeper. Kasper Bjørke is a Danish DJ/producer who has done remixes for the likes of Moby, Trentemøller and The Ting Tings. He also happens to look like Erlend Øye’s doppelganger. His latest single “Deep Is The Breath” is a fantastic pastiche of ’80s synth-pop in the veins of Human League, down to the male/female “call and response” -styled vocals handled by Jacob Bellens and Emma Acs. The melodies sound odd at first, but will eventually worm their way in. It’s retro-minded pop done so well, it could have easily come out 30 years ago and become a hit. Sweet one.
STREAM: Kasper Bjørke – Deep Is The Breath (with Jacob Bellens & Emma Acs)
There’s a music video too but it’s quite boring, unfortunately.
Danish songstress Fallulah is back with a brand new track, “He’ll Break Up With You When Summer Comes”. It’s a beautifully arranged, delicate alt-folk-pop number, with Fallulah delivering some choice words to Mr. Ex in the bridge in a rather calm manner. She makes summer postbreakup sound like a picnic by the lake, which is how it should be.
Here’s a lovely outdoor live performance for your viewing pleasure.
And while her new album isn’t coming out until 2013, us Americans can finally get a hold of her debut, as “The Black Cat Neighbourhood” is set to drop on August 21 on MBM Records, with fall tour dates to follow. I’d love to see her when she stops by New York!
Tove Styrke proves that Swedish popstars are not above Western sales-boosting tactics, by adding a rapper feature for the single version of “Bad Time For A Good Time”. However, it’s one of the rare cases where the amped up version is actually an improvement on the original. Even though I never heard of this Gnucci Banana before and she gives me unpleasant Karmin vibes, she did a good job of giving more oomph to the track. Tove’s vocals on the album version sounds too polite to match the brattiness of the production. Is it me or is this more of an Icona Pop song? This suits them down to a tee, considering both Tove and Icona Pop share the same producer Patrik Berger. Check out the budget music video below, and stream the original version after the jump.
For some reasons, I always assumed Rebecca & Fiona‘s music to be more bubblegum/clubby, what with their collaboratons with the likes of Kaskade and Adrian Lux. With that said, I’m glad I gave their new single a chance, because “Dance” actually falls more on the side of Fever Ray or iamamiwhoami. It’s nocturnal electro-pop the way I like – with an insidious bassline, beautiful synthetic strings and a slow-burning atmosphere throughout. The restraint in execution here is quite masterful, ’cause it doesn’t have to be raved up all the time. The moodily-lit visuals are a great complement to the track, too. It does make you wanna stop the car in the middle of a desolate road at night and dance away to oblivion, which is not advisable though. Check out the video & the track below. And yes, they’re Swedes.
STREAM: Rebecca & Fiona – Dance
“Dance” is off their debut album “I Love You, Man”, released in 2011.
More on Rebecca & Fiona.
LA-based DJ Skeet Skeet just dropped this hot new remix of Oh Land’s “White Nights”, and the title could not be more accurate. It’s all chill, summery ’80s disco, I can almost picture a Miami Vice montage set to this. Apparently, he put this together while they were touring alongside on Katy Perry’s California Dreams tour. Grab a free download below and add it to your spring break/summer playlist!
Susanne Sundfør is no rookie to the indie music scene, but I only just discovered the Nordic singer/songwriter via her latest single “White Foxes”. And what a first impression it was! Susanne possesses a haunting, theatrical voice, with a sorta operatic delivery style that reminds me of Austra. If you’re into eerie, cerebral indie electronic pop, you’ll like this. Clocking slightly over 4 minutes, the song still feels short to me – I wanted her to belt out that strange chorus once more. Notably, the contrast between the warmth of the piano and the iciness of synths is an interesting choice. Practically, it’s music tailor-made for long, dreary winters.
The unsettling music video also build ups the mood to great effect, with footage of her playing the piano in the middle of a forest in snow, a mysterious kid carrying a dead fox, and a disturbing brain surgery scene that’s not for the faint of heart. “White Foxes” is the lead single off Susanne’s 5th album “The Silicone Veil”, scheduled to drop March 26. Thanks to Wears The Trousers for the heads up.
Darkness Falls is the Danish indie rock duo of Josephine Philip and Ina Lindgreen. Together they created “Alive In Us” – their first album released in late 2011 with production handled by Trentemøller. They remind me a lot of their fellow Danish rockers Mew, and for good reasons too.“The Void” is the single to discover, a prime example of just how well the Danes understand atmosphere in music. Instrumentally, it’s flawlessly produced – chilling, brooding, and melancholic. However, it’s not without flaws. It feels like the vocals didn’t maximize the ethereality it could go for, and the lyrics left something to be desired, beside its English-as-second-language charm. Regardless, it’s music that pertains to a certain kind of mood and weather, and a Saturday rainy morning is just the right catalyst, not to mention that the gorgeously-shot music video is a must-watch.
STREAM: Darkness Falls – The Void
Their album is available for streaming on Spotify, so I’ve got my homework cut out. Hopefully there’s more where this comes from.
Frida Hyvönen is known as the serious indie artist type, but for her comeback single “Terribly Dark”, the Swede singer/songwriter has decided to turn to intergalactic disco and ABBA for inspiration. The risk paid off, in the form of properly amazing Scandinavian pop. Somehow she managed to make the infamous Swedish winter sound so fun and effervescent. “It’s so terribly dark here. I’d put myself on fire if I find a spark,” she grimly sings, in contrast to the shoulder-shaking disco beats and vintage synths. The song starts off slow but trust me, by the time it’s over, that hook will NOT leave your head. The music video is a simple, Fever-Ray-ish black-and-white performance-based piece, and it looks like she’s channeling Madonna in “Nothing Really Matters” with those herky jerky moves!
The single is out now in Sweden. The new album “To The Soul” drops April 18.
Danish pop princess Oh Land just unleashed a jolly music video for her brand new single “Speak Out Now”. Shot in Copenhagen, the Sebastian-Birk-directed video has the songstress frolic through a beautiful botanical garden, flaunt her cheekbones in a forest, and ends with an evening dance by the lake, all in a day’s work. The gorgeously filmed, nature-themed visuals are a perfect match for the sprightly tune. Plus, who needs a comb when you’re a pop star!
“Speak Out Now” is out now digitally, and also available as a free download.
MP3: Oh Land – Speak Out Now
Back in late 2010, when Lana Del Rey was still relatively unknown and blond, she made what was possibly her first European TV appearance on Mandio Diao‘s MTV Unplugged show. Backed by the Swedish rock band themselves, Lana gave an acoustic rendition of “Chet Baker”, an obscure 2007 b-side named after the jazz legend. The show was later released on CD/DVD, and footage of her segment has been floating around since, but I only managed to discover it a couple days ago. Her voice was a good fit for the jazz-tinged track, and it was certainly fascinating to witness the soon-to-be pop star in progress, just a year before the big break. Not that much has changed, vocally and aethestically. A lovely listen, anyhow.
What I find interesting is that Juliette Lewis, who previously tweet-bashed her SNL performance, was also a guest star on the same show. I wonder if she remembers that they might actually have met before?
“Born To Die” is out now worldwide.
Miike Snow won’t stop teasing. Only within days after unveiling new single “Paddling Out”, the Swedish supergroup has now unleashed the third new track from upcoming album “Happy To You”. The Lykke-Li-featuring “Black Tin Box” sounds like the best of both worlds: pretty synths from the band and Lykke’s love for boisterous drums. It’s probably my favorite out of the three we heard so far, from what’s shaping to be a great second album.
“Happy To You” drops March 27.
Visit their Soundcloud for more new tracks.
Check out their North America tourdates at Pitchfork.
More on Miike Snow.
The video for Firefok AK‘s new single “Color The Trees” is out, and it is awesome! Once again Andrea Kellerman and her husband Rasmus (Tiger Lou) joined forces, but this time they got to burst out some pretty cool dance moves on surrealist CGI landscapes. This marks the third time they collaborated, which appears to be a once-in-an-album thing. “Color The Trees” is definitely one of her best songs to date, a very catchy, uptempo tune of the quality melancholic Swede electro-pop calibre, with a distinctly wintry feel. The Bjorn-Yttling-produced track springs from her third album of the same name released last year in Sweden. The album has a tentative release date on February 6 in UK, and hopefully, a Stateside release will soon follow. In the meantime, check out the great video below and download a bonus remix.
So it’s that jolly time of the year when new original festive songs are in demand again. Up-and-coming Swedish duo Serenades has stepped up to the challenge by releasing a holiday-themed song as their first single. However, “Come Home” is not so much about Christmas itself, but rather a lament about the non-festivity of a one-man holiday. And they sugarcoat the depressing sentiment with lovely sun-kissed melodies that Swedes can seemingly do in their sleep. Serenades’ music falls in the same subgenre of chill, tropical, Instagrammed ’80s pop that The Tough Alliance and Gypsy & The Cat also frequent. While their sound’s not entirely original, it’s done beautifully, and there’s enough room for another band in that niche. Curiously, they are signed to Cherrytree Records, Lady Gaga’s label, so undoubtedly we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in 2012. Watch/stream “Come Home” right below.
A 4-track EP is out now, including a remix by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John.
I was first introduced to First Aid Kit via their sublime performance of “You’re Not Coming Home Tonight” on Youtube. Two years have passed since then, the Söderberg sisters had gone on to release a debut album, as well as recorded a single for Jack White‘s boutique label Third Man Records, which is a quite impressive feat. While they surely both have grown and matured much, two things remain the same: their world-weary, melancholy folk harmonies, and their habit of hanging out in forests. Their upcoming sophomore album, “The Lion’s Roar”, was recorded in Nebraska, promising a full-band sound, and the lead single of the same name might in fact be the best thing I’ve heard from the duo so far. It still astounds me to hear these two Swedish girls sing the blues like they were born and raised in the South all their lives. Age and geography ain’t got nothing on them! If you’re a follower of the nu-folk wave of Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver, you’re in for a treat. Watch the gorgeous music video for “The Lion’s Roar”, or stream the radio edit right below.
STREAM: First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar (Radio Edit)