#6 – 01 Aug 2018
Welcome to the sixth edition of Nordic Music Scene, a monthly section within God is in the TV that is dedicated to reviews and news of artists from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and their associated territories, focusing on indie artists and labels.
In this edition: Ólafur Arnalds featuring SOHN, Sudakistan, NONONO, Feel Freeze, Mayka, Dominique Tey, MØ, Sigrid, MALMØ, Sauropod, Summer Heart, Yaeger, VUYO, Årabrot, Frøkedal, Becky and the Birds, Ane Brun, Magnus Carlson, Norwegian musicians contribute to new animated film soundtrack, Ólafur Arnalds ft. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Festival preview – Øya, Oslo.
Sections: Singles/EPs/Albums/News/Down Memory Lane/Festival preview
** Starting with this edition, singles, EPs and albums are rated out of 10 **
All the editions of Nordic Music Scene are stored under ‘Features’ on the GIITTV website or can be located by searching the website for ‘Nordic Music Scene’.
Ólafur Arnalds (Iceland) – unfold, featuring SOHN
How did that flock of birds from Choir of Young Believers’ ‘Hollow Talk’ video get here from Denmark, you’ll ask as you watch this video? And is this a film score?
Actually, Ólafur Arnalds is adept at writing those, having produced soundtracks for the British TV drama Broadchurch (a sort of Scandi Noir-like effort but not as good).
Arnalds is classically trained but keeps it sweet and simple on this track, which is the second single from his upcoming album re:member, released on August 24th.
It avoids lyrical vocals altogether, with a repetitive violin/cello section broadening out with the addition of piano. The video story is of a young couple who meet on a night out, shifting between ‘before’ and ‘after’ scenes, although there’s a slightly darker undercurrent as she wanders lonely as a cloud amongst typically bleak Icelandic scenery, they take part in what could be a Black Mass and then she gets baptised in the freezing cold North Atlantic where those undercurrents are strong before enjoying a quick levitation.
Arnalds is joined here by English singer and producer SOHN (Christopher Michael Taylor), presumably for his production skills are there are minimal vocals, and the video is by Thora Hilmars and stars BRÍET. She’s a 19-year old from Reykjavik who’s trying to make her own way with a formulaic electro-R&B (“is it Banks?”) sound. She released a single, ‘In Too Deep’ (as indeed, she almost is, in the video here), back in January, which wasn’t bad.
Arnalds’ music is always uplifting, frequently atmospheric, and he doesn’t fail here although I’m not sure it’s as convincing as some of his work on his last album, Island Songs. There is a track from that album, ‘Particles’, which features Of Monsters and Men’s Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, in a new section of Nordic Music Scene later, called Down Memory Lane.
Arnalds is about to embark on a European tour, his first solo tour since 2015, with UK dates in late September (30/31 October for London).
Sudakistan (Sweden) – Whiplash
My first reaction on receiving this single from the Stockholm five-piece is that the band’s name suggested it was likely to be heavily politically influenced, what with the ongoing debate in Sweden about immigration policies. It turned out to be a lengthy (6 ½ minute) standard heavy rock piece punctuated with punk and psych themes and the odd pointless oath, against a background of Latin American rhythms which overshadow the lyrics.
The Latin American influence shouldn’t be a surprise. Of Sudakistan’s five members, only guitarist Arvid Sjöö is Swedish born-and-bred. The other four – front man Michell Serrano, bassist Maikel Gonzalez, percussionist Carlos Amigo and drummer Juan Jose Espindola – all hail from South America.
‘Whiplash’ is the second single from forthcoming second album Swedish Cobra, which will be released on September 7th.
Known for their “chaotic” live shows, the album was largely recorded live in the sense that all five were in a big recording studio at the same time. Its lyrics deal with a wide range of topics that run the gamut from partying to introspection.
It only took me a couple of hearings to realise that had they played ‘Whiplash’ to the Swedish football team before they took on the mighty England they might have won. It’s quite stirring in its own little way. Except that Michell Serrano appears to sing something about “breaking your fucking leg”. Now that would never do, would it, Ron Manager?
NONONO (Sweden) – Ego
There are Latin American rhythms propping up alt-pop band NONONO’s latest single, ‘Ego’ too. It is taken from their forthcoming album which is set for release this autumn.
It’s a song about “channelling the bittersweet feeling of refusing to grow up and not wanting to let go of your youth. You know you are broken but you don’t want to fix it”, says the singer-songwriter, Stina Wäppling.
Tell me about it.
NONONO was one of the biggest Swedish musical exports in 2013-2014, and with multi-platinum sales within Scandinavia. They took a break to find new inspiration, producing (there are two producers in the trio) songs for artists including Zara Larsson and Madonna.
That sort of high-level exposure is evident in this well-produced and catchy pop song, which has Ibiza, Faliraki and every other Mediterranean and Aegean beach resorts’ clubs and bars written all over it.
‘Ego’ was released on June 29th through Warner Music Sweden.
Feel Freeze (Denmark) – Bridge to your Heart
Danish Electro pop duo Feel Freeze released a new single and video ‘Bridge to your Heart’ at the end of June in support of their debut album Feathers and Scars which will be released in the autumn. It was produced in collaboration with Lasse Lyngbo and Troels Damgaard-Holm.
The song is billed as “a celebration of the LGBTQ community…it expresses that we wish to build bridges between people with our music and it is therefore an introduction to some of the themes on ‘Feathers & Scars’ which is filled with messages about equal rights, norms for gender and sexuality, feminism, queer- and trans politics.”
The duo is best known for melancholy ballads and this is certainly one of them. It’s like one of The Pet Shop Boys’ quieter singles at 33 rpm. Their sound is pleasant enough but the song is overly repetitive and the synth-produced animal-like sounds do start to grate a little towards the end. The best part of the track is the instrumental bridge from 2:30 and I wish there was more of that.
As for the video, well if you like balloons, it’s your birthday; there are plenty of them.
Sorry, it’s not really my cup of tea but I’m sure there will be many who will love it. To suggest it is danceable and to compare it to Sigur Rós though is a bit of a stretch.
MAYKA (Sweden) – Watching You
MAYKA is the solo project of Mayka Edd, one half of the electro-pop-rap duo Death Team. Previously she rose to prominence in dance music as a DJ and producer, playing at parties across the US and Asia, while also running her own show on Swedish Radio P3.
Being a female in the male-dominated electronic music scene meant that she was all too often considered to be a novelty rather than an artist who deserved equal respect. Now as a solo artist she hopes to inspire a new wave of young female talent to pursue their own passion projects in the arts and beyond. The essence of her message is simple: follow your dreams, don’t be afraid to fail, be who you want to be, and carve out your own place in society.
Her latest single ‘Watching You’ was released by Warner Music early in July.
She says, “‘Watching You’ is a bittersweet pop song about temptation, always seeking what’s no good for you and pushing boundaries just to get a rush.”
It’s a pop song but there are some trap-influenced UK bass elements in it to give a dance feel.
The production is minimalist and so is much of the accompanying DIY video, which alternates between images of the portrayal of temptation (the burning flower) and decadence (riding around in an ASDA trolley). She says it was filmed during a night out in Stockholm and she felt like she was 14 again.
It isn’t a bad song. It would be disingenuous of me to say I’d never heard anything like it before; in fact I review at least one song that sounds just like this every month. I’d prefer a little more originality and her previous single, ‘Rich’, did have that. But her hooks are strong and the target market (presumably 14-year olds) will take to it like supermarket shoppers to a BOGOF.
Dominique Tey (Sweden) – Heartstream
Dominique Tey sounds like she might be a French quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, or he might be the midfielder feeding Mbappé’s surging runs down the wing.
In fact she is Swedish and previously half of the duo MAASAI. This is her first single as a solo artist since MAASAI and the first of a mini-EP due for release this autumn on Norwegian label Toothfairy.
The song is an ‘unrequited love’ one and the different phases of frustration and desperation that she went through, giving all and receiving nothing in return. The video uses aquarium and rain forest images to reinforce an anti-zoo concept philosophy Dominique holds, which hasn’t got much to do with the song but it’s tastefully done.
The strongest part of the song is the trap-reinforced chorus, which comes around often. I’m tempted to say the weakest is the animal-like noises but you do get used to them after a while.
Dominique set out to venture into a more personal and intimate arena post-MAASAI with this solo material, and that does come across in the song. Her inspiration comes from dream-pop innovators such as Beach House and Cocteau Twins. While I don’t quite hear that myself, putting yourself in that exalted company is highly aspirational, and admirable.
Equally aspirational is her desire to join the ranks of Scandi-compatriots Tove Lo, Sigrid, and MØ, and if ‘Heartstream’ is anything to go by, if she gets the right breaks, that’s within her capabilities.
MØ (Denmark) ft. Diplo – Sun in Our Eyes
Speaking of MØ, her latest single, released on July 14th and the lead track off her new album ‘Forever Neverland’, to be released on October 19th , features a collaboration with her ‘best friend’ Diplo, (Thomas Wesley Pentz) the U.S. producer who’s worked with her before and with just about every A-List artist in North America.
MØ gushes about the album on her You Tube account. “This album means a lot to me and has been LONG under the way + it’s been a long journey & learning curve for me in a lot of ways so I’m just so so grateful and happy that I can finally announce that it’s coming out and that I CAN’T WAIT to share it with you!! Excited for a new chapter. I’ve been dreaming about this forever!! I love u, thank u for waiting.”
She also describes it as “a combination of the two ingredients I’m always craving in music: uplifting and melancholy vibes.”
There is a great deal of discontent on the internet to the effect that MØ is chronically under-rated and that she deserves far greater recognition. That lack of recognition may be down to the fact that her long-play output isn’t exactly prolific so far (one album not counting the forthcoming one) and she does seem to spend a lot of time being sidetracked into writing and/or voicing for other artists such as Major Lazer.
I went to see her in October 2016 and was bewildered by her energy and extraordinary dancing style, her long legs often akimbo as she jerked around the stage like a marionette on invisible strings, somewhere between Björk and Beyoncé if you can imagine such a thing.
Unfortunately I found many of the songs (principally from the first album plus a few Major Lazer covers) to be comprised of no more than half-melodies, and it was the rare slower ballad that she delivered that was more appealing to me.
Since then she’s disappeared off my radar so it was with some trepidation that I attached the headphones for ‘Sun in Our Eyes’.
I wouldn’t say it’s a great song but the melody line is noticeably stronger and consistent than some of her previous work. It threatens a grand climactic chorus or bridge (which is just a series of la-la-las) on several occasions but doesn’t quite get there, which is a shame but we can’t have everything.
The ‘melancholy’ vibe is missing here, but there’s plenty of ‘uplifting’; it is an outright feel good song. I should add though that the song is a little reminiscent of ‘Already There’ by Norwegian artist ARY and MØ’s voice is very similar to hers in parts. On balance I’d say ARY, who is nothing like as well known (perhaps she should be ØRY), probably shades it.
Unless I missed something, Diplo’s vocal contribution is a muffled “Yeah” at 1:23. I can do that. Gizza job?
Realistically, this will be a huge summer hit. She’s only the fourth Danish performer ever to achieve a #1 position in the UK charts – albeit for contributing to a Major Lazer song – but she could conceivably do it again, and genuinely, with ‘Sun in Our Eyes’. In my eyes though, she remains what used to be known as an “improver” in the engineering business here – an apprentice close to qualifying, but not quite there yet.
Sigrid (Norway) – Schedules
Along with the release (at length) of her debut EP, ‘Raw’ on July 14th, Sigrid also released the final track of the five on it, ‘Schedules’ on July 11th. All the tracks have been made available, one way or another, previously, this one as various live performances, so there are no great surprises.
I was intrigued by some of the comments on the official You Tube video. Here are two of them:
“She deserves more attention and recognition worldwide”. “Why is she so underrated? She deserves much more recognition”.
I can only assume the people who made those comments can’t receive British television or radio because we’ve been swamped with Sigrid since the beginning of the year, when she won the BBC Sound of Music 2018 award, resulting in constant ‘Red Button’ BBC exposure, several TV chat show appearances both here and in the U.S. and even a week as ‘record of the week’ on the Ken Bruce show on Radio 2, which is pretty well unheard of for a 21-year old Norwegian. Prior to that, she was on Later with Jools Holland, over a year ago. And she threw in a performance at the Nobel Peace Prize concert last December along the way.
Let’s talk about the song first. It is typical Sigrid; bouncy, up-tempo bop, with a tune she could have taken straight from Teletubbies or In the Night Garden. The thrust of the lyrics is that for various reasons including their mutual disorganisation she and her man are “a hit”.
It’s a nice song, good to dance to. “Oi’ll give it foive” as Janice Nicholls would have said on Thank your Lucky Stars back in the 1960s.
She’s so confident that she even throws in a swear word as if she’s daring broadcasters not to play it.
Last year so many people told me I had to see her perform live that I did. And she’s good, commanding the stage in the same way that, say, Ariana Grande does and with unbridled enthusiasm.
But that’s where I have to draw the line. ‘Schedules’ isn’t great. Just as Oasis wrote one great song and a handful of other good ones in their career so far Sigrid has produced one great one – ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and a good one, ‘Strangers’. The rest of her modest output is not too different from that of the many hopefuls from across Scandinavia that fill these pages each month.
While I’m convinced her raw talent (pardon the pun) and especially her live performance is more than adequate to establish her as a genuine star in the future I prefer to wait for a full album before drawing any firm conclusions. I did exactly the same with Aurora, who did deliver. Let’s see if Sigrid can match her.
MALMØ (Denmark) – River of the Heart
It‘s good to have some more Danish representation this month. This bunch of Great Danes is MALMØ (not the Swedish city as in “Saga Norén, Länskrim Malmö”) and ‘River of the Heart’ is released in the form of a new video to celebrate the international release of the album it is from, We Come From The Stars.
The album had a limited release in autumn 2017 in the Nordics only (via the Songcrafter label). Integrity Records picked them up for records and publishing late last year and released a couple of UK-only singles in the last six months, and then the album world-wide on June 22nd.
MALMØ is a five-piece from Aarhus, which I’m advised is the Danish music capital, fronted by Maria Malmø (or Malmoe), who writes all the songs.
The song is an acapella effort from Maria, filmed at a frozen lake in Switzerland in -10 degree temperatures earlier this year.
Acapella has to be special to do it for me and Maria has such a comforting voice she could sing me to sleep.
The full album is accessible now on Spotify world-wide at: https://open.spotify.com/album/02ZwO6Uqtd4VyKX2zfjzsQ
Sauropod (Norway) – Ripping
The Norwegian dinosaurs are most definitely not extinct and the Oslo feminist-inclined trio return for a third time to NMS with another grungy, rip-roaring track from their self-titled EP, to be released August 24th.
If you look at that little volume chart on Soundcloud you’ll see that this one looks like a seismic representation of an earthquake, followed by aftershocks that are even more powerful. And it’s violent in more ways than one.
The track makes a blatant comment on sexual violence against women, with vocalist/guitarist Jonas Røyeng contemplating a more retributive path to justice: “It’s a purposefully violent lyric, there’s an urge to actually assault someone,” he says. The closing lyric actually reads as, “Wish I could’ve found my lover’s violators all at once, castrate them”. Echoes of Charles Bronson’s character in the Death Wish franchise.
Jonas says, “I guess the last chorus turned into being about the urge to literally ‘rip’ someone’s dick off. And ‘you go free’, about how most guys go unpunished for sex offences.” But to me, “why not rip it off and you go free” suggests they see it as a sort of French ‘crime passionnel’ in which the punishment is reduced accordingly.
Hm, I wonder how that will go down at any female-only festival they attend? And it seems they promote underage shows and have toured schools with this particular rhetoric.
‘Ripping’ is partnered by news of Sauropod’s UK return. They play on October 20th at The Lock Tavern, London. (Memo to Promoter, there is a world outside London. It’s a long way to come for one show).
Summer Heart (Sweden) – Aftershock
Dream-popper Summer Heart, the solo project of singer-songwriter and multi -instrumentalist David Alexander is back with what is probably the perfect soundtrack to this everlasting summer.
Coquettish and smooth, like Sex on the Beach on a hot day is the chosen PR promotion and who am I to argue?
Not sure what it will sound like in January though.
Yaeger (Sweden) – Dopamine High
The main reason I picked up on this release is that 20-year old Swede Hanna Jäger is a DIY artist, doing everything herself, including recording, interviews and researching and identifying this e-zine for promotional purposes. I like to see an entrepreneurial approach.
Her name is Germanic and means hunter in both Swedish and German. She’s something of a fashionista as well and has already branded herself as ‘Yeager Yellow’.
She hails from a small town outside Stockholm and had a four-hour bus, Metro and ferry commute to and from school every day during which she wrote lyrics, singing melodies into her phone.
Having self-released two singles already, ‘Now You Know’ and ‘Ocean’, coinciding with her graduation from music school, ‘Dopamine High’ is the first single from her debut EP, which she will put out on August 24th. She mixes R&B, pop and electro house and the song concerns two young lovers who, after an electrifying first date, get sucked back into their carefully-planned careers but get the ‘Dopamine High’ when they meet again by chance.
Vuyo (Norway) – Window
Ole ‘VUYO’ Småge has an interesting back story. Born in Zimbabwe and raised initially across South Africa and Zambia, his father was involved with Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid movement and his mother with the Namibian Liberation. As a result, their family received recurrent death-threats. Consequently, Ole and his mother left for Oslo where he lived out his teenage years.
VUYO’s musical inspirations range through J Dilla, Miles Davies, Fela Kuti, and The Beach Boys.
‘Window’ is the second single from his upcoming EP and a track which came to life after a family member in Johannesburg urged him to revisit Tupac’s poem The Rose That Grew from Concrete. It explores observations of animosity between communities based on their social standing.
He said, “As I wrote the song, I spent hours just looking outside at the street right across from our apartment. There, I could see the way people would treat beggars differently based on the colour of their skin, how men on their way home from the club would treat women, and the general carelessness we show to our fellow humans on the street.”
Whether it be race, gender, or wealth, VUYO reflects on what he’s witnessed, as a faceless narrator and with a production style akin to parts of Kendrick Lamar’s “offcuts” album ‘untitled unmastered’, while maintaining the dense, grandiose statement of ‘To Pimp a Butterfly.’
Årabrot (Norway) – Maldoror’s Love
Norwegian Grammy-winning art/noise rockers Årabrot are set to return in September with Who Do You Love,’ the follow-up to their 2016 album The Gospel. This track, ‘Maldoror’s Love’, is the latest to be released from it.
Over the years the band has collaborated with producers like Billy Anderson and Steve Albini, and musicians such as Ted Parsons (Killing Joke/Swans) and Sunn O))))‘s Stephen O’Malley. Mention of Swans and Sunn O)))) put me on my guard. I saw both of them last year and found their take on drone music to be too intense for my liking. I prefer the lighter, Anna von Hausswolff touch.
As it happens, I needn’t have worried. This, my first experience of Årabrot, which is named after a rubbish tip in their home town of Haugesund, paints them into a middle ground somewhere between Deep Purple and any number of early 1970’s British prog bands. Let’s face it, there’s something quite proggy about the title ‘Maldoror’s Love’.
Presumably this Maldoror is the character invented by the Comte de Lautréamont, who renounced morality. The band’s suggestion the track is “‘for all of you lovers out there whose love has been tainted, corrupted or touched by pure evil” convinced me I’m right about that. And the album cover features a little girl stood next to someone wearing a dress, with a fox’s head. It’s like a mash-up of Genesis’ Foxtrot and Nursery Cryme covers. The only things missing are a croquet mallet and a severed head or two.
In another example of Swedish-Norwegian co-operation (to which I referred with respect to Highasakite a couple of editions ago), the band is based in a former church in the woods of Dalarna in rural Sweden, where they also recorded their new album. Frontman Kjetil (Nernes) lives there with his wife Karin Park who plays keys in the band and who is also a Swedish-Norwegian pop (goth) star herself, with five albums to her credit and a role in the Norwegian version of Les Misérables. She likes to portray herself as the white Grace Jones.
Kjetil, who survived life-threatening illness four years ago, says, “I don’t care about what’s in between, the middle of the road isn’t my thing. The bible fits really well with that. I’m using it thematically all of the time.” Apparently, the church they live and work in has hundreds of old bibles left behind when the congregation stopped coming (as they would once the band started up). The clerical environment has proven to be an excellent creative tapestry for a band whose lyrical focus orbits around sex, death and defiance.
So – religion, sex, evil, the Bible and Grace Jones. You know now what to expect.
Årabrot play The Dome, London, on November 2nd, followed, appropriately, by the Damnation Festival in Leeds the following day.
Frøkedal (Norway) – David
It would be nice to think Anne Lise Frøkedal had written this about me, given the amount of words I’ve written about her in the last couple of years. In reality it’s a paean to love and hope, the whereabouts of which she finds it hard to identify – “Love and hope keeps knocking on your door / Where do you think it is? /Upstairs, in the street, by the window”. Reminders of her compatriot Ingrid Helene Håvik’s “Lover, where do you live? In the sky, in the clouds, in the ocean”.
This, by my calculation, is the sixth single or pre-release track from Frøkedal’s forthcoming second album, ‘How we made it’ (August 31st). I’ve listened to the album a couple of times and it is a cracker but at this rate there will not be much left to review next month.
So suffice to say that owing to her being out of booked studio recording time the track was recorded in several places around Oslo courtesy of various colleagues from her ‘Familien’ band and her previous one, Harrys Gym, and her own sister, who provided the bass. Even then it almost did not make the cut but it suddenly dawned on her that “I missed its hopeful optimism in between the other songs. I needed ‘David’ to shine a little light on the album.”
One of the things I like about her is her ability to flavour what are essentially indie-pop songs with a touch of folk, like some C-list celebrity might flavour a casserole on Saturday Kitchen. This song is a prime example of her strengths in that department and is enhanced by the perfectly balanced addition of the hammered percussion (a vibraphone, I think?)
Becky and the Birds (Sweden) – (self-titled)
Becky and the Birds is a 21-year old Swedish producer and singer, Thea Gustafsson, who writes, produces and sings all of her own music and attended the prestigious Musikmakarna Songwriters Academy of Sweden, which I suppose is the Swedish version of The Brit School.
She has already achieved millions of streams as a vocalist in collaborations, but switched direction as a result of a non-sexual #MeToo moment when she realised she’d allowed herself to be sucked into what she saw as a male-dominated world.
She released her debut, five-track self-titled EP in June, which has been sorted into a continuous mix on Soundcloud, like a concept album. Actually it is seven tracks but two of them are short, spoken pieces. The first one, ‘Becky’, recited in a nerdish male voice, could be her profile on Plenty of Fish and I really don’t get its significance, while ‘Die While You Love Me (Intro)’, a sort of Shakespearean soliloquy to what could be the next Bond movie, again in a strange voice, at least leads into the track of that title. The Intro voice returns on the track proper but this time it can’t unsettle or detract from her luscious vocal. Thea reminds me of Thorunn Egilsdóttir of When Airy met Fairy at times on this track (and others) as her voice becomes so slight and wistful it almost disappears.
I reviewed one of her previously released singles that is on the EP, ‘Concept Store’ in NMS #4 and referred to her terrifically soulful vocals. They are evident again on the opening track proper here, ‘Malaysia’, but rather tainted again by an unnecessary male voice addition that could be Paul Robeson.
‘Concept Store’ is a different type of track altogether. It’s a song about paranoia over the prospect of a lover leaving you but the laid back hip-hop/jazz fusion, the sort of thing that might be playing in the background at an cocktail bar, suggests anything but such obsession.
‘Holding On’ starts in much the same way but quickly breaks into an alternating alt-pop/trip hop production which sounds in parts like it is being voiced by Minnie Mouse, unless Thea’s taken a slug of helium. An excellent track, well composed, but again spoilt a little by strange voices.
Closing track ‘My Man’ is an exercise in vocal sampling which at times sounds like operatic star Joan Sutherland, at other times is intoxicating, but occasionally set my teeth on edge.
This is not a work you can easily put to one side. There is evidently a talent at work here and when the PR says she “takes ownership of her work while rejecting the pop-saturated sound of Sweden” you can see what they’re getting at.
For her part she claims to experience synaesthesia (the evocation of one kind of sense impression when another is stimulated) and that she can visualise colours and patterns, hence “I want people to feel it… I want it to be about the art, and to build a whole world around it, with visuals – art using all of the senses. I don’t want it to be so much about me, or what I look like.”
For that reason she has released an EP video, encapsulating the entirety of the work and it is included here along with the Soundcloud recording as an alternative method of accessing ‘Becky and the Birds’.
Thea Gustafsson is undoubtedly an artist to watch though personally I’d rather she dispensed with the redundant voices, which don’t add anything to the production, with or without synaesthesia.
Magnus Carlson (Sweden) – A Nordic Soul
Magnus Carlson’s debut UK solo album ‘A Nordic Soul’, recorded at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studio with ex-Weller bassist Andy Lewis, was released on June 22nd.
Magnus Carlson is one of Sweden’s most successful male solo artists, as a songwriter, composer and singer. Originally the founder member of Weeping Willows, an indie band, he launched his solo career in 2003, with 16 albums in total to his credit to date.
His collaborations include Anna Ternheim, Nina Persson (The Cardigans), Ebbot Lundberg, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and recently he performed a tribute to David Bowie with the Royal Symphony Orchestra.
While not being as well known in the UK as in Sweden a recent appearance on Jools Holland’s BBC2 radio show and heavy promotion by Craig Charles on the same channel should improve recognition considerably.
Carlson is a fan of the sixties. He was raised on all things British, collecting UK vinyl from the age of six and watching Jools Holland’s The Tube in the eighties.
‘A Nordic Soul’ is billed as a mod/indie/soul-pop production and prior to it, in late 2017, he issued a series of northern soul singles followed up by Motown/Phil Spector-influenced Christmas mini-album with Weeping Willows.
While I’m not a particular fan of Northern Soul, it is something I could hardly ignore while growing up and I even vaguely recall a visit or two to The Twisted Wheel Club, an icon of the genre (though never an all-nighter at Wigan Casino).
This album took me right back there. The tempo and the beat are there in most tracks, although it is at times touched by that almost indefinable sense of sadness, even dejection, which pervades so many Swedish musical genres. Horns are very much in evidence, though with a wide range of top Swedish session musicians involved there is an orchestral feel to the work.
The pace does slow a little towards the end of the album, on ‘Flames’ which has a jazz element to it, on ‘The Ties that bind us’ and on ‘Eternal Love’. Carlson’s vocals are effortless throughout and you can hear every word.
Not all the content is new. There are several earlier Weeping Willows songs and a great cover of The Four Tops’ ‘Beggin’.
For fans of 1960s soul this is an album that will touch yours.
Norwegian musicians contribute to new animated film soundtrack
Norwegian musicians have come together to record a soundtrack to a new animated children’s film from Qvisten Animation based around farm animals – Ku Toppen the Movie – which will be released in October.
Film characters include Klara, a young “city calf” with dreams of becoming a star, her father Mosk, whom she believes to be a big rock star though he isn’t, the fierce hen Chickolina, the careful neighbour Gaute, his nervous uncle sheep Bærnt and the creepy bird scarecrow Fobetron.
The film music and songs are composed by renowned Norwegian artists such as Odd Nordstoga, Tooji, Black Debbath, Valkyrien Allstars and two that have featured in previous NMS editions, Emilie Nicolas and Sol Heilo.
Nicolas’ excellent effort, ‘Stor Stjerne’, has a strong dance theme, while Heilo’s ‘Le Bare’ has too, with African and Latin American rhythms enhanced by her best raspy voice, a memorable hook, and a swathe of Katzenjammer-style dirty laughs. Le Bare is also a film about a male strip club in Dallas but even though I don’t speak Norwegian I’m sure she isn’t singing about that in a kiddies’ movie though I wouldn’t put it past her, having experienced her wicked sense of humour. I’ll wager a slightly extended English-language version could be a surprise novelty hit. If ‘Despacito’ could be so huge then there’s no reason why not.
Meanwhile, Black Debbath don’t disappoint with ‘Fobetron’ (Gravensteim’s Monster)‘, which could have been made in Birmingham.
Odd Nordstoga is a sort of Norwegian Val Doonican or Donovan in looks but his folk ballad ‘Tru’, also voiced by Eva Weel Skram, is one of the highlights of the album. He sings in his native Telemark dialect. You won’t hear that too often on Radio 1.
Every song is in a different style and you wouldn’t believe that some of them were written for a children’s movie, they have an adult appeal, too. Overall, it’s quite entertaining.
The teaser here is ‘Milkshake’ by Lisa Børud, a 22-year old whose songs are usually more appropriate to Norway’s version of Songs of Praise.
The full soundtrack is here:
Down Memory Lane
Ólafur Arnalds ft. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (Iceland) – Particles
I became aware of a dearth of Icelandic artists being featured recently so purposefully looked to this masterpiece to fill the gap in this first ‘Down Memory Lane’ feature. ‘Particles’ was released two years ago by Ólafur Arnalds, the BAFTA-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer who is variously tagged as ‘experimental, electronic, and ambient.’
You’d never guess from this song that Ólafur has been a drummer in hardcore and metal bands but that’s Iceland for you, the country that first coined the phrase “expect the unexpected.”
‘Particles’ is from his 2016 album Island Songs (a sort of play on words; apart from it being an island, the Icelandic for Iceland is Ísland). The project involved Arnalds travelling to seven different locations around the country in seven weeks, collaborating with seven different artists and releasing the audio and video for each on a weekly basis as the tour progressed. It could have been six/six/six but the devil wasn’t in the detail.
Of Monsters and Men’s Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir pops up to deliver the vocals on this track. OMAM have been very quiet recently but the world touring that followed each of their two albums in 2012 and 2015 would have taxed their Viking ancestors. I speculated in “21 Albums We Are Looking Forward To In 2018” in January that there will be a new one this year and I’m sticking to my guns, probably just in time to be launched at Iceland Airwaves. Much is expected from the first Icelandic band to reach 300 million You Tube hits for one song and one billion Spotify downloads.
Meanwhile, she’s been keeping in practice with little excursions like this.
Actually, ‘Particles’ was recorded in week #6 of Ólafur’s sojourns and if I understand it correctly it was in one of the two lighthouses in the tiny community of Garður on the tip of the wind and Atlantic Ocean-battered Reykjanes Peninsula, which just happens to be Nanna’s hometown. I visited it once. If a place can be “romantically isolated”, it is. You half expect Heathcliff and Catherine to walk past at any moment. And that isolation tells me a lot about her writing style and content. According to the album notes, she spent much of her childhood playing on the rocks there and telling ghost stories to other children. Those are the stories I suppose that later appeared on OMAM’s albums, especially ‘My Head is an Animal’.
What I don’t know is if she penned the lyrics here. Ólafur isn’t known as a lyricist (see ‘unfold’ in the Singles section here, there aren’t any lyrics), while the words and delivery are very reminiscent of the soft ballads on both the OMAM albums. In fact, it could be an OMAM song. Whatever, it’s lovely.
Ane Brun collaborates with Andrew Bayer on single ‘Your Eyes’ from his next album
American singer/songwriter and producer Andrew Bayer has teamed up with Norway’s Stockholm-domiciled Ane Brun on the second single from his forthcoming third studio album, ‘In My Last Life’ which is scheduled for release on August 24th (Anjunabeats). Brun herself is between albums, her last one, the very personal lovey-dovey covers album ‘Leave me Breathless’ having been released in October 2017, and she is believed to be working on new material for her eighth studio album.
Brun has worked with Bayer before and she will turn up on three of the tracks on this album. He’s an interesting guy, having taken up music after being forced to take piano lessons by his parents. He was producing at 15, moving from pop to electronic along the way. He was Grammy-nominated for ‘Best Dance Recording’ in 2015 and again for his co-production on Above & Beyond’s third US album ‘Common Ground’ this year.
I saw Ane Brun a couple of years ago when many of the songs she performed were from Leave Me Breathless and to be honest I couldn’t imagine her doing anything like this. But ‘Your Eyes’ works, mainly because her vocals are on top form. The tune isn’t bad either, and it builds to a satisfying trancey climax. But it’s almost ruined by a sort of semi-military beat of the sort the Albanian army might march to after they’ve perused the first page of EDM Beats for Beginners.
Øya Festival, Oslo
One of Scandinavia’s major music festivals gets under away again on 7th August until 11th August. The Øya Festival takes place in and around the Tøyenparken, close to Oslo’s city centre. It aims to be one of the greenest city festivals.
Headliners include Arcade Fire, Arctic Monkeys, Kendrick Lamar and Lykke Li.
For further details see: http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2018/07/31/preview-oya-festival-oslo-7th-11th-august-2018/