Welcome to the first Nordic Music Scene of the new decade, which as always is dedicated to reviews and news of artists from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and their associated territories, focusing on indie artists and labels.
This month, there is a tribute to Roxette’s Marie Fredriksson which includes a cover of ‘It Must Have Been Love’, a little ‘dream pop’ that sounds more like 1970’s prog (Genesis) to me, a Swedish band with an air of Bruce Springsteen about them and the latest track from the talented young Danish woman who became my favourite solo artist in 2019.
In this edition: Alice Boman, Lydmor, Pintandwefall, lodet, Oda Loves You, Sløtface, Fluqx, Top 10 tracks of 2019, MYYY, Johnossi, Frida Sundemo, Al Fama, Sunna Margrét, Royal Prospect, Mats Wawa, Blaue Blume, Marie Fredriksson tribute/ Rånda, Julia Jonas, The Stillwalkers, Peter Bjorn and John, boerd.
Sections: New Singles/Singles from previously featured artists/EPs/News
Singles, EPs and albums are rated out of 10.
No sound-bites, no arty-farty language, no English Literature dissertations, No B-S. Just honest opinion.
(Sweden) Alice Boman – The more I cry
Surprisingly, this is the first time Malmö-born Alice Boman has turned up in these pages and despite her having released her first EP (of three) six years ago.
She began writing and recording at home when she was a teenager, songs that were never intended for public consumption but fortunately a studio technician she sent them to in order to get them professionally recorded thought differently, alerting the company Adrian Recordings.
Boman’s debut album, Dream On, comes out on 17th January 2020 on a new label, Play It Again Sam.
‘The More I Cry’ is the last track she wrote for the album and the studio recording was inspired by Elvis Presley’s ‘Blue Moon’ which she and her producer played there before laying down this song, using a 1950’s mic intended for drums to record the vocals. (Her other influences are as diverse as Cyndi Lauper, Portishead and Pink Floyd).
She’s well known for her ability to enter into a hypnotic state when recording and equally for the inherent sadness in most of her songs. While she’s often promoted as being for fans of Agnes Obel, Daughter and AURORA, (and she certainly has the crisp intonation of Ms Asknes) as soon as I heard this song I was transported back to the 1960s and British singers like Marianne Faithful and Dusty Springfield (with her less upbeat output), perhaps the USA’s Melanie Safka. Maybe even with a dash of Alela Diane.
Then, would you believe it, on the high notes her voice is reminiscent of my favourite quirky Swede, Stockholm’s SoLBLoMMa on one of her sadder songs.
Incidentally every word of this song is crystal clear; I wish some others would follow suit.
Enough name checking. This is well worth a listen.
Alice Boman will play a special showcase gig on 20th November at the Slaughtered Lamb in London, and will return to the UK in February for the following shows:
23 Feb – Brighton – The Latest Music Bar
24 Feb – Manchester – Gullivers
25 Feb – London – Union Chapel
(Finland) Pintandwefall – Ah-Ah-Ah
Pintandwefall, which sounds like it could be a song from Chumbawamba, is a band with a lengthy history, going back over 14 years. Their founding members, still in situ, are Sanna Komi, Ninni Luhtasaari, Ringa Manner and Iiti Yli-Harja, otherwise known as Crazy Pint, Cute Pint, Dumb Pint, and Tough Pint, and they are also regulars in other bands and as solo performers. They consider themselves to be a ‘reverse super group’
The band have released five albums and their sixth, Your Stories Baby, is due on 17th January 2020, on vinyl and digital. The ‘baby’ part seems to be a component of every album they make.
They have joined the Soliti record label for the new album along with the first single from it, ‘Ah-Ah-Ah’, and a video.
They say, “It’s a song about trying to find beauty in longing and reminiscing about everyday things. Either things that have happened in previous stages of your own life, or the lives you imagine people in old photos to have lived, way before you yourself were ever born. Feeling nostalgic over a milk carton design that you have never even seen but in your parents’ old pictures. Hearing your friend’s familiar voice over the phone but not knowing what they look like these days.”
That seems something akin to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi.
I prepared myself for this single by trying to imagine what other all-girl Nordic band they could sound like? Norway’s Katzenjammer? Sweden’s Cure-a-Phobia? In the end neither of those bands are remotely like them. With the Spice Girls’-type naming and the constant wearing of masks á la Orville Peck they remain as mysterious to me as they were on the day the PR arrived.
They are classed as garage rock but this song is lighter than that, perhaps a comparison could be made with, say, Hinds but definitely not with Sleater Kinney.
I didn’t really take to the song at first, with Go-Go’s style percussion and bass and its off-kilter harmonies but after a few goes at it, it isn’t half bad.
(Norway) Oda Loves You – Goal Getter
Oda Evjen Gjøvåg has been in the music business for 13 years as a songwriter and artist, with 140 million streams behind her on her own and with other artists and recent co-writing credits with Alan Walker. Then she decided that it was time to produce for herself. ‘Goal Getter’ is her producer debut.
At the age of 19, she made the bold decision to challenge herself both personally and professionally and migrate to the pop metropolis of Los Angeles, picking up an education in Screenwriting as well as a solid amount of song lyrics that she’d written. It wasn’t until recently that she adopted the artist name Oda Loves You – a summary of her objective to spread love and positivity through her music. She takes influence from life on a farm outside of Oslo surrounded by many pets, as well as from artists including Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Britney Spears and the Spice Girls. The result is catchy pop hooks with hip-hop influenced production and even some audacious rap sections thrown in,
She describes ‘Goal Getter’ as “a fast-paced motivational anthem about overcoming your fiercest competition; yourself. Either as an up-tempo workout buddy or simply some enthusiastic rhythms to get you out of bed, Goal Getter cheers you on.”
I suspected I might not like this but I do. It starts off like a Spice Girls song; it might be a variation on ‘Wanabee’. But after 25 seconds it changes tack into something remarkably similar to ‘Hot Butter’ the final track off Fiona Apple’s 2012 album The Idler Wheel… the one she recorded with sister Amber, aka Maude Maggart. Thereafter, it’s a spicy orchard to the end.
‘Goal Getter’ was released on 6th December on Six Incognito.
(Denmark) Fluqx – Staring at the Sun
Fluqx members, producer-engineer Joel Krozer and singer Brian Della Valle formed the band together in Copenhagen after a chance meeting with co-writer Søren Holme.
‘Staring at the Sun’ was conceived on a flight from Barcelona to Copenhagen. The song is inspired by a scene from the 1988 Polish sci-fi film On the Silver Globe. Not so much the story, but the solitary, explorative feeling the director Andrzej Żuławski portrays.
It follows their debut single & video ‘Vanishing Point’.
There’s chilled, and there’s fluqxed. I can imagine Neil Armstrong listening to this on analogue headphones while taking that “one small step for man” that he got wrong.
(I checked out ‘Vanishing Point’ too; if anything it’s a slightly more convincing track).
(Finland) MYYY – Shadow Dancer
Finnish “synth-based indie pop group” MYYY have released their second single, ‘Shadow Dancer’, described as “an ode to childhood.”
The band consists of former and current artists from Finnish shoegaze group Mumrunner and other bands.
The lyrics describe the songwriter’s childhood memories. “When I was a child and went to bed the streetlight used to hit the nearby tree and the branches of that tree made shadows on my bedroom walls. Those shadows looked like dancing shadow-creatures from another dimension.”
‘Shadow Dancer’ is also MYYY’s first music video, directed and shot by Mikko Koide Kaistinen.
A veritable blitz of synth arpeggios and a semi-military beat hold your attention almost from start to finish. A song that is sure to go down well at live shows.
Is it just me or does the bassist resemble ex-Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson?
(Sweden) Johnossi – Longer the wait, harder the fall
Their sixth album is coming up but Johnossi are first-time visitors to NMS. They have toured extensively throughout their career in Scandinavia, Europe, the U.S. and Japan, both headlining and as support to other acts like The Hives, Green Day, Shout out Louds, Lykke Li and The Soundtrack of Our Lives.
It’s scheduled for release early in 2020 (BMG Records) and is their first since 2017’s ‘Blood Jungle’. This is the first single from it.
The recording was in a mansion north of Stockholm, but the duo – John Engelbert (Guitarist, Vocalist) and Oskar “Ossi” Bonde (Drummer, Percussionist,) made the music video in their own rehearsal space.
I can’t visualise a British band or duo to compare them with, this sort of rock act isn’t so common here these days but there’s an air of Bruce Springsteen about them, emanating from John Engelbert. And they look the part.
A good old-fashioned rocker, no more to say really.
They’re touring in Europe from March through to May but not, so far, in the UK.
(Sweden) Frida Sundemo – Gazelles
This one came with scant information so I had to do some research on Frida, who’s from Gothenburg and I’m glad I made the journey.
She’s released an EP and an album since 2013 and her motivation seems to be space – both terrestrial and celestial – and science fiction, in a pop-meets-classics manner that is described as “cosmic alt-ballads.”
She’s labelled as ‘badass’ but on the strength of this song at least I don’t know how that came about.
The song is a passive ballad punctuated abruptly by swirling violins as if she’s just broken through the atmosphere of Venus to discover a string quartet playing on a croquet lawn while tea and cucumber sandwiches are served, instead of a boiling lake of sulphuric acid.
A good, strong, memorable tune, too. I don’t dig the sudden ending but I can’t find any other fault with it.
(Finland) Al Fama – No More Waltz
Al Fama is a band formed in Helsinki by Johannes Bäckman, Axel Tuliara and Anssi Salminen.
We’ve featured songs about all sorts of subjects, from what goes on in the mind of a serial killer to how a panic attack can make you feel like killing yourself.
In Al Fama’s case ‘No More Waltz’ concerns Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and how singer and guitarist Johannes dealt with it. He says, “In the past I’ve had OCD. Well, I still do but nowadays I know how to handle it. It is a scary feeling not to have control over your behaviour. I kept wondering who the person is making the decisions for me. ‘No More Waltz’ explains the final moments of OCD before I could make a change in my life.”
The PR says to expect a heavy bass and drums and they’re not kidding. The bass dominates the song relegating Johannes’ voice to the background. Described as ‘alt-rock’, there’s a fair dollop of prog in here as well. I hear a couple of Swedish artists I’ve reviewed. Representing the rock side is Mike Granditsky whose vocals are similar to Johannes’ and the prog side is Rikard Sjöblom. Much of this song puts me in mind of Sjöblom’s epic ‘Rumbling Boxes’.
The jazzy central riff can be a little irritating but overall, a good effort.
‘No More Waltz’ was released on 13th December.
(Norway) Mats Wawa – Sparkly Eyes
I’m not usually attracted to anything marketed as ‘garage rock’, but I thought I’d give this song, by Mats Wawa, a band led by the Norwegian indie songwriter of that name (actually Mats Mentzen Wang), a go. My interpretation is that it’s somewhere between The Monkees and Jamiroquai if that is feasible.
The track is about “being really star struck.” There are a couple of nice string interludes and a groovy little guitar bridge. It’s all very, well…sparkly.
Other reviews have painted them as slacker rockers but I’m not buying that.
I’m not sure though that Mats quite merits the accolade of “legendary” as it says on the Soundcloud page! Not here yet, anyway.
‘Sparkly Eyes’ is available via Black Pop Records.
(Denmark) Blaue Blume – Sobs
Blaue Blume had passed me by despite the presence of various label-mates in this edition but when we found ourselves in alignment I was sufficiently impressed with them to feature them here even though they released their latest album, ‘Bell of Wool’, back in November.
According to the PR they are “the successors of the New Romanticism, which was born in Great Britain 35 years ago as a reaction to the insolent and vulgarly simple punk music, which enthralled the youth, and which was epitomised by the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet.”
It also compares and contrasts them with Talk Talk, The Smiths and Cocteau Twins.
Meanwhile the “androgynous falsetto” of the band’s front man, Jonas Smith has been compared to the voice of Antony Hegarty (or Anohni as she now is).
Perhaps so, but the track I chose from the album, ‘Sobs’, directs me more to the musical genre that punk replaced, namely prog. It could be early Genesis, perhaps as early as ‘From Genesis to Revelation’ or ‘Trespass’.
And rather than Anohni I’d liken that vocal more to the Swede Nad Sylvan, who is, inter alia, the front man for Steve Hackett’s ‘Genesis Revisited’ shows, taking the Peter Gabriel role.
The record was mostly made before Jonas Smith slipped into a depressive episode, and you can sort of sense that. Nice piece of atmospheric composition.
(Sweden) Julia Jonas – Walk with Me (from the EP Air)
Not quite a proper Scandinavian, but we’re a broad church; Julia Jonas was born in Cape Town, South Africa but raised in Stockholm.
In this EP, released on 29th November, she shares her honest and at times challenging life experiences. Having spent years of her childhood in a conflict-ridden country, later followed by the challenges of adapting to a society with little resemblance to her roots, music became her way of expressing herself and she started exploring and experimenting with sounds in her basement home studio as a means of escape.
These experiences inform the subject of her latest single ‘Lift You High’. She says “the track reflects a feeling of loneliness and alienation when feeling pressured to fit in but having the strength to strive for diversity and tolerance despite it. Being quite obviously different in a world where people strive for uniformity creates very strong feelings of loneliness and exclusion.”
But I’ve selected the third and final EP track instead, ‘Walk with Me’ as the most powerful track, one in which atmosphere is created by way of piano, accordion, possibly a harmonium, and various other acoustic instruments as much as by electronic ones, and very effectively.
And she has the voice, too.
(Finland) The Stillwalkers – Concrete Heart
The Finnish rockers, an indie/alternative band from Turku, had to be carried over from December owing to the volume of submissions but I wanted to feature them and ‘Concrete Heart’ for a particular reason.
‘Concrete Heart’ is the third and latest single from their forthcoming second album, due out in 2020. It is a song about longing for something that you can’t really put your finger on. It’s also about friendship, life in a small town and how that same life takes people into different directions.
The PR says, “Like the two previous singles (‘Crystal Clear’ and ‘Still Life’) it’s made of loud guitars and heart-warming melodies.”
The problem I have is that the guitars are so loud I can barely hear those melodies. When I can, it’s evident that they have real class. The riffs are right up there in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘November Rain’ territory (well they’re at base camp, ready for the final assault on the peak, let’s put it that way) but it’s hard to pick them out in the sonic mélange and the vocals are equally difficult to access.
For that reason only I have to give this 6/10.
Less is more!
Singles from previously featured artists
(Denmark) Lydmor – ‘Guilty (Kill Me)’
Anyone who has read my ramblings in the last few months will know well that I think Lydmor is a bit special and an artist who could be huge if she plays her cards right and doesn’t get sidetracked by acting, directing or other media. I was undecided at first about her last single, ‘LSD Heart’, although it grew on me rapidly.
Despite a heavy touring schedule she is getting close to finalising her second international album. It’s hard to believe she’s been around since 2011, limiting herself largely to the local scene in Denmark until a couple of years ago.
Her latest single, ‘Guilty (Kill Me’) was released on 27th December. According to the PR, “The song showcases a more introspective side of her. Whereas the previous single ‘LSD Heart’ had social commentary, Lydmor this time around turns the reflection onto herself… showing a more pensive side than many concert goers have witnessed during her many intense live shows throughout 2019. A natural progression for her constant development as an artist.”
She says, ”I don’t want to reveal too much of what the song is about – the lyrics are quite explanatory – but I think the song hints at the direction where I’m heading as an artist.”
It’s an interesting one. There’s a bigger production than I’ve heard on any of her songs before now and I wondered if Trond Bersu of Highasakite, who produced her previous album, was responsible for this one as well. There are very strong hints of that band’s approach, especially in the big climactic ending in the last minute or so. But no. As it turns out, Bersu was not involved in the previous single ‘LSD Heart’ or this one, rather they were produced by Jenny Rossander (Lydmor) herself and Christian Schousboe Vium.
The song drifts into electronic R&B territory, too and there are traces of Highasakite’s Ingrid Helene Håvik’s style and delivery in there as well, another artist she respects.
At the same time she’s included several allusions to previous work, notably the song ‘Claudia’ from her last album.
It comes across as an experimental number, coalescing her established manner with some new and different approaches. I’m sure it will be a popular live show song as it will afford Lydmor the opportunity to demonstrate her acting abilities.
The downside if there is one is that her innate ability to find a memorable melody has taken a nap here; you won’t be whistling this one at work. There’s a little electronic tinkering with the vocal as well, and on some lines there’s a nod or two to a guttural English singing style; think, say, Lily Allen.
It’s fine for one song but I hope she sticks with her natural voice which, especially on her non-electronic ballads, is captivating.
It’s just my personal view but I’d prefer that to her sounding like a myriad other alternative electro R&B artists. Doing that could quickly catapult her into the Banks league but for me it wouldn’t be the Lydmor that has gained my affection in the last year or so.
(Lydmor was recently interviewed and the result was posted in God is in the TV. http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2019/12/04/in-conversation-lydmor/
(Sweden) lodet – Volvo
Lodet (Joakim Björnberg) made his debut here in NMS #20 with his single ‘Hageduma’. I described both that song and its predecessor, ‘Calling’ as a little reminiscent of Oasis.
‘Volvo’ most certainly isn’t. Portrayed as an “up-tempo, feel good single” and a ”metaphor for when life takes a new turn and you leave something old behind” it is possibly the hardest rocking track we’ve ever had in NMS with a bass line that will loosen your teeth if you’re not careful, together with guitar that redefines ‘industrial’. If push came to shove and I had to find a reference point I’d suggest Pom Poko, both for the angular guitar and some of the vocals towards the middle of the song.
I really don’t know what he’ll come up with next, something of a loose cannon, but entertaining.
(Norway) Sløtface – Another Year, Another Me
Sløtface had a fair degree of exposure in NMS in 2019 including two singles, and a live review in the previous edition, as they crank up towards the release of their second album, ‘Sorry for the late reply’ at the end of January.
I didn’t intend to include them again for a little while but this, the fifth single from the album, deserves it for being so distinct from their usual style. It’s a slow, contemplative ballad with minimal instrumentation in which vocalist Haley Shea gently berates herself for promising that anything is going to change on 1st January, no matter what resolutions she makes. “New Year, new me, it’s the greatest lie I always tell myself”.
As if to make the point about the brevity of the lifespan of such resolutions the track is only two minutes 30 seconds long.
I would not have thought Haley’s vocal style would suit this sort of song; she’s a full-on belter. But to my surprise it does. What other wonders await us with the album? Find out next time.
Forthcoming UK tour dates:
Mar 14th – Southampton @ The Joiners
Mar 15th – Bristol @ Louisiana
Mar 16th – Cardiff @ Clwb ifor Bach
Mar 18th – Nottingham @ Bodega Social Club
Mar 19th – Liverpool, @ Arts Club Loft
Mar 20th – Leeds @ Headrow House
Mar 21st – Newcastle @ Think Tank
Mar 23rd – Glasgow @ Broadcast
Mar 24th – Manchester @ Deaf Institute
Mar 26th – Birmingham @ Hare & Hounds
Mar 27th – London @ The Garage
Mar 28th – Brighton @ Patterns
(Sweden) Royal Prospect – Lights Out
No hint of minimalism from Royal Prospect, just a full-on pop extravaganza from the Swedes, who sound more like Coldplay than do Coldplay.
The song is about ” feeling that you’re stuck in life and no matter how hard you try and even if you do succeed with what you commit to you still have those demonised thoughts telling you you’re not succeeding and that you’re not living life to its fullest.”
Formed in Sweden by brothers Oscar and Gustav, and their childhood friends Hannes and Hannes, Royal Prospect are testimony to the power of unsigned band festivals like Emergenza, the Swedish competition of which they won.
Could easily have been a Christmas #1 somewhere.
(Sweden) Peter Bjorn and John – Idiosyncrasy
Peter Bjorn and John are being idiosyncratic right now as they change their usual group modus operandi to one of individualism. ‘Idiosyncrasy’ was penned by the band’s John Eriksson and follows Peter Morén‘s ‘Reason To Be Reasonable’ and Björn Yttling‘s ‘Rusty Nail’ as the third new track off their forthcoming studio album ‘Endless Dream’, due out March 13th via INGRID.
John says, “I think I wanted to write the ultimate love song, A love song that everyone can relate to, Okay, maybe not everybody but definitely some people. When I wrote it, I was listening to a lot of blues from the 20s and 30s so this track shaped itself in to some kind of odd, self aggrandising blues.”
It isn’t the sort of thing you normally expect from them. The opening could be the theme from a Pink Panther movie. Laid back in 3:4, nice double bass, would have been a Fast Show ‘Jazz Club’ classic two decades ago. Still “nice” today.
(Sweden) boerd – Before we Drown (ft. Stella Explorer)
boerd (Bård Ericson) last turned up in NMS#5, and since then he’s released an album, ‘Misplaced’ on Anjunadeep.
The Swedish producer, who is a classically trained musician performing as part of the Royal Swedish Opera, moonlights as an electronic producer signed to Anjunadeep, a London electronic label.
He’s a regular member of the Royal Swedish Opera, Swedish Radio Symphony, and Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and an accomplished bass player for numerous ensembles around the world. Touring Tokyo, Stockholm, and New York, boerd performed in the Philip Glass opera ‘Satyagraha’ earlier this year and contributed as a member of Andrea Bocelli’s orchestra throughout his Scandinavian tour.
This immersion in the classical world of opera and orchestra is regarded as a sign of things to come from boerd. But for now he’s hooked up with Stella Explorer, a bit of a joker who describes her ‘awards’ on Facebook as ‘Best Orgasm Faker 2014’. She co-wrote this song with boerd.
Well I wouldn’t know about the faking – perhaps she got boerd with her partner – but what I do know is you can’t feign the quality in this recording, which it what really makes it (the excellent guitar break and her sultry vocals apart).
boerd plays a special one-off showcase live at the Bermondsey Social Club in Southeast London on January 23rd. Followed by Bingo and a pie & mash and jellied eels supper.
(Iceland) Sunna Margrét – Art of History (sample track Art of History – title track)
Reykjavik-er Sunna Margrét, currently based in Lausanne, began her career in her teens with the electro pop band Bloodgroup, then debuted her first solo single in the summer of 2017 with a performance at LungA art festival in Seyðisfjörður, east Iceland. Since then she has worked on remixes from some of Iceland’s top electronic artists.
She’s recorded five experimental-ambient-braindance-electronica tracks on the EP ‘Art of History’ which has been nominated for the Kraumur Awards, an annual music prize awarded for the best albums released in Iceland.
She is known for sensorial, atmospheric and emotive live shows, encompassing installation and visual projections that reflect the mood and narrative of her abstract electronica that could be described as psychedelic.
I’m quite interested in Icelandic folklore and particularly the Huldufólk or hidden people who are elves; supernatural beings that live in nature, inhabiting mounds and lava rocks and making themselves visible at will.
So it’s appealing to learn of a song that purports to bring together “distant dreams of elvish druids and beats of a contemporary urban woman.”
I don’t quite sense psychedelia but the track is more sensuous than much of the ambient electronica I’ve been exposed to and the effects generate an atmosphere of mystery.
The EP was available exclusively on vinyl from the 17th of December through Reykjavík Record Shop and No Salad Records. The digital version of the album will be available on the streaming services on January 3rd 2020.
Marie Fredriksson tribute/ Rånda
Roxette’s Marie Fredriksson died on 9th December following a long spell of illness.
Gun-Marie Fredriksson was best known internationally as the lead vocalist of Roxette, which she formed in 1986 with Per Gessle. They achieved international success in the late 1980s and early-1990s with their albums ‘Look Sharp!’ and ‘Joyride’ (1991), and had six top two hits on the Billboard Hot 100 including the songs they are probably best known for, ‘Listen to your heart’, ‘The Look’ and ‘It must have been love’.
Marie Fredriksson had a successful career prior to forming Roxette. She was a member of punk group Strul (‘Hassle’ in English), a band which created their own music festival in 1979, then the short-lived MaMas Barn, after which she began releasing solo work. Roxette’s international breakthrough coincided with a period of inactivity for Fredriksson as a solo artist, though she did release several solo albums later.
In 2002 Marie Fredriksson was diagnosed with a brain tumour. During her rehabilitation, she continued to record music as a solo artist, resulting in ‘The Change’ in 2004 and ‘Min bäste vän’ (My best friend) in 2006, as well as the non-album single ‘Där du andas’ (Where you breathe) in 2008—her first and only solo number one single in Sweden. She and Gessle later reunited to record more albums as Roxette, who embarked on a worldwide concert tour. She also continued to record as a solo artist in her native Sweden, releasing ‘Nu!’ in 2013.
She was brought up in difficult economic circumstances and suffered a family tragedy when her elder sister was killed in a road accident when she was 20 and Marie only seven. She learned to play musical instruments and to sing with the help of siblings, also at the family church. Discovering artists such as The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and Deep Purple she enrolled at a music school aged 17 where she began her writing career by composing music for the theatre department’s plays. After graduating she worked in theatre before getting involved in the local indie scene and forming Strul.
‘The Look’ was probably Roxette’s breakthrough song, becoming a top ten hit upon release in January 1989 and then unexpectedly entering the Billboard Hot 100, despite Roxette not having a recording contract in the US; the local branch of EMI had previously rejected the duo as “unsuitable for the American market. It topped the chart after just eight weeks and went on to peak at number one in a total of 25 countries. The parent album eventually sold over nine million copies worldwide. ‘Listen to Your Heart’ was their second number one on the Hot 100.
Marie Fredriksson will, though, forever be remembered for ‘It must have been love’.
In 1990 Touchstone Pictures approached Gessle to compose a song for the forthcoming film ‘Pretty Woman’. As he did not have time to do that — Roxette had recently embarked on their first international concert tour — a new edit of their 1987 single was created, and it featured prominently in the movie. The track became their third number one on the Hot 100, and remains one of Roxette’s best-known and most successful singles. The following year, the duo released their third album, ‘Joyride’, which remains their most successful release, with worldwide sales of over 11 million copies.
The impact of her illness was severe. In January 2003, King of Sweden Carl Gustaf XVI awarded Roxette the Litteris et Artibus (Culture and Education) award. Both Gessle and Fredriksson attended the ceremony, which was the first event Fredriksson appeared after an operation, and one of the very few public appearances she made during the next two years. Lasting effects of her brain tumour included her being blind in one eye and having limited hearing and mobility as well as being unable to read or write. She was also unable to speak for a considerable period of time after her treatment. But she recovered and had stopped receiving treatment by October 2005. Roxette carried on releasing albums until 2016 and Marie Fredriksson herself released singles until 2018.
However, her death was attributed to the radiation treatment she had received earlier.
Per Gessle wrote on Twitter, “Time goes by so quickly. It’s not that long ago we spent days+nights in my tiny apartment sharing impossible dreams. And what a dream we eventually got to share! I’m honoured to have met your talent+generosity.”
Below is a cover of Roxette’s signature song ‘It Must Have Been Love’ by Swedish band Rånda, which was released last year.
Top 10 tracks of 2019
My selection was published by GIITTV recently. As with other such lists I’ve compiled recently Nordic artists featured heavily and in this case comprise: The Ghost of Helags (Sweden/Germany); Tarja Turunen (Finland); Sofia Härdig (Sweden); Moddi (Norway); Swan/Koistinen (Finland); AMBAGE (Sweden); Moyka (Norway); Lydmor (Denmark); Pom Poko (Norway). All have featured in NMS in 2019.
See the full list and listen to/watch the tracks here:
Featured image of Marie Fredriksson courtesy of the Roxette Facebook page