Stine Bramsen of Alphabeat has officially kickstarted a solo career with her debut single “Prototypical”. Released worldwide last January, the toe-tapping track sees her leaning towards a more mature singer-songwriter direction, but worry not, the hooks are still very much present. A music video will be coming soon, until then you can stream the track right below.
I also made a late discovery of her collaboration with alt-rock band/labelmate Carpark North on their single “32” last year. I don’t know much about the fellow Danish rockers beside their striking Martin De Thurah-directed videos in 2005 for “Human” and “Best Day”, both of which were admittedly quite good Depeche Modesque tunes. It’s good to know the band still releases music in that same vein. In fact, I find myself liking “32” much more than I expected, thanks to Stine’s star-turn vocals. Then again, the Danes have always excelled at cold water music, like this subtly anthemic synth-rock jam (see also: Mew). Watch the moody video featuring a girl with superpowers.
W▲TCH: Carpark North – 32 feat. Stine Bramsen
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)