Nordic Music Scene #23 - News and Reviews from across Scandinavia and the Nordic countries

Nordic Music Scene #23 – News and Reviews from across Scandinavia and the Nordic countries

Welcome to Nordic Music Scene, which 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, in an edition chock full of Nordic talent, a poignant ‘self portrait’ of an anorexia-stricken Norwegian photographer; a plethora of Norwegian inter-related-artists; Siv Jakobsen returns, fearing her own fear; an Icelandic Eurovision-performing band with an anti-capitalist bent; a Swedish veteran also returns, with one of the songs of his times; and much more with every Nordic country again represented.

In this edition: Samoaja, Big Fox, STRØM, Sofia – ft. Jesse Markin, Strandels, Simen Lyngroth, KLARA, Di Leva, Amanda Tenfjord, Susanne Sundfør, 7 Billion Hera, Löv, John Olav, Jonathan Hultén, Deerborn, Comminor, Highasakite, Nelson Can, Ocelot, Ida Wenøe, MYRKUR, Stian Westerhus, Siv Jakobsen, Anton Fernandez, HATARI, Peter Bjorn and John, by: Larm Festival preview.

Sections: New Singles/Singles from previously featured artists/News

Singles, EPs and albums are rated out of 10.

No sound-bites, no English Literature dissertations, No B-S. Just plain, honest opinion.

New Singles

(Finland) Samoaja – Their sons and daughters

Samoaja (it translates as ‘wanderer’) is a four-piece ‘landscape pop’ band from Finland which was formed in 2014 as a solo project by Viktori Pesonen, the singer/songwriter of the band.  They have released two EPs and one full-length album, ‘Landscapes’ in 2017. The band is currently working on their second full-length album. They’ve toured extensively, mainly in the Nordic countries but also in the Baltic States, northern Europe and the UK.

They have an interesting strap line in their Facebook ‘about’ section, “It’s not about what people want to hear, but what they need to hear.” That’s confidence for you. Apparently a religious band (we’ve featured few but I’ve noticed an increase in them) they say “We want to have a deeper aspect to our songs than just mere everyday topics. We want to leave a mark in peoples’ hearts, and we want to sing about things that matter beyond life and death.” Sorry Bill (Shankly) I don’t think they mean football.

Coming from a land known primarily for heavy rock and metal the first section of the song is noticeably restrained, played on acoustic guitar and with a whistled melody. Then it picks up pace and volume, and more instruments, and develops a sort of spaghetti western feel to it. You’re half expecting the ‘Man with no name’ to turn up at the door. I can sense what they mean when they refer to a ‘cinematic single’ and ‘painting Nordic soundscapes’ in their PR, which they write themselves.

Interesting, different, and well worth a listen.


(Sweden) Big Fox – All I’m trying

Big Fox (Malmö, Sweden-based artist Charlotta Perers) was due to release an album, ‘See how the light falls’ in May-2018 when she fell ill.

A year and a half down the line, Charlotta is better and “slowly reclaiming my life back”. Charlotta didn’t allow ‘See How the Light Falls’ to be rushed. Taking two and a half years to finish, and five years to release the album, Perers laboured over it, allowing it to unravel and accumulate organically.

Produced by Tom Malmros (Alice Boman, This is Head), the full-length explores varying sonic avenues, showcasing instrumental eclecticism in the form of subtle brass blasts, swelling cello and scintillating synthesisers.

With the visual side of things closely curated by Perers and her partner Anna Brånhede (from the band bob hund), the end result of the entire creative process is a long play that is intensely evocative of times and feelings for Charlotta. ‘See How the Light Falls’ is due for release 20th March 2020.

Big Fox remarks that she found it difficult to pen the lo-fi ‘All I’m Trying’; “Some songs are hard to write about. They just move like a slow train, as if they had no intention of causing any big fuss or drama. But they are sincere, honest. Every word is carefully selected, every synthesizer questioned. And the more time you spend with them, the more you start loving them. That’s how I feel about ‘All I’m Trying’.

The video was shot at her parents’ summerhouse “for its timelessness” – despite the length of time between visits everything had the air of familiarity she sought.

Having attracted the attention of 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne with the previous single from the album Charlotta Perers returns with a simple confessional-style love song which proves you don’t need many words or notes to convey a feeling.


(Sweden) STRØM – Last Try

Swedish artist/producer STRØM debuts a new single, ‘Last Try.’  The song is the first to be released from STRØM’s forthcoming debut album, which is slated for a February 2020 release via This is Scandinavia/Sony Music.

Growing up in Värmdö, an island off the coast of Stockholm, STRØM began experimenting with musical instruments around the age of seven and later formed a string of bands throughout his teenage years. As he grew up, he took a greater interest in production and eventually moved to Berlin for a period to study music production and sound design.

His debut track was born out of coincidence after he composed a song for a BMW commercial, which he later finished and released in 2017 as ‘Mesmerise.’ It went to #1 on Hype Machine.

So this new single is only his second-ever.

Whispered vocals over repetitive electronic beats – the sort of thing that might be the last smoochy record at a wedding reception for a couple of robots – aren’t really my bag. But being as objective as I can, for those that like this sort of recording they’ll probably enjoy it.

It starts to get more interesting in the last 30 seconds or so, going all ghostly and ethereal, but it peters out before he can bring any further substantial experimentation to it. Hopefully the next song – and the album – will pick up from there.


(Finland) Sofia, ft. Jesse Markin – Sorry

Last year I featured a Swedish artist, Molly Hammar, whose pleasant song ‘No place like me’ was ruined by the inclusion of the grunts and groans of one Big Narstie, a London rapper, whose moniker suggests a gangland enforcer.

Lo and behold if it hasn’t happened again. What is it about female singer/songwriters that they think these guys add anything to their record? Some sort of arcane cultural correctness?

This time Jesse Markin is at it as soon as the song starts, with a series of what can only be described as animal noises before Sofia has sung a word.  Somewhere between a mooing cow and a bellowing steer.

When he comes back in at 1:33, at first it’s complementary to her R&B-lite vocal but it isn’t long before it degrades into a ubiquitous meaningless, nasal rap, like his needle got stuck.

He says, “I wrote my part as an answer to Sofia’s (break-up) experience. My aim was to capture the thoughts of one going through a break-up. The questions one might be asking, for example: does she love me for my public persona or is it just me? Why continue if the spark is missing? Am I making the right choice by leaving? What love should feel like and is our generation too hasty with these decisions? At the end the answers are something we have to figure out for ourselves”.

Sorry Jesse I don’t hear that. I might have done had you continued as you started but once the rap began it lost all credibility.

It’s a real shame, because Sofia has considerable promise and the claim that she’s “one of the Finnish music business’ big hopes” has some veracity.

I can only give this 6/10. Take the farmyard noises out and replace the rap with a musical bridge and it would be 7/10 or more.


(Sweden) Strandels – Not My Party

Strandels are two siblings – Tova and Sixten Strandell – they’ve lost an ‘l’ somewhere in their band name. They released an EP in 2016 and have since toured with Per Gessle (Roxette), played at The Great Escape and starred in Swedish television programmes, racking up a lot of plays of their last single ‘Love on Repeat’ last summer on Swedish national radio.

Now they are working on a forthcoming debut album, one which may include this new single.

It’s a floaty pure teenage pop song with a fairly strong melody, simply structured and sung with a basic message – it’s not my party but I want your body so much I’m not going anywhere else anytime soon. And it can be read from either the Tova (female) or Sixten (male) viewpoint.

I can’t think off-hand of any UK band that’s doing this sort of thing at the moment but then I don’t have a 14-year old daughter to put me right on that. It’s quite possible the pair could find a market here in the young teen category.


(Norway) Simen Lyngroth – Morning Light

I wasn’t familiar with Simen Lyngroth but I am with Kristoffer Lo (ex-Highasakite) who is credited with producing Simen’s forthcoming second album which will be released in March. I automatically associate Lo with quality, whatever he’s doing.

‘Morning Light’ is the second single from the album. It appears that one morning while recording the album, Simen and Kristoffer practised the song in the studio’s dining area. The studio engineer found it so beautiful that he rushed to find some microphones, and recorded it live, presumably right there in the dining room though if that is the case he deserves a medal for the sound quality. It is about appreciating a few moments of rest when you feel exhausted and empty.

The song has the same pace as a stripped back version of ‘The Boxer’ without the chorus and could easily fulfil a role for those in need of a rest themselves. At just over two minutes it could perhaps do with being a little longer. It’s as if the hypnotist has put you under and brought you back before you’ve had time to remember anything. Nice to listen to while it’s there, though.

The album songs will “explore a fairytale-like, yet modern environment in which the main character embarks on a journey in search for “the spark.”


(Sweden) 7 Billion Hera – Quitter

7 Billion Hera’ (an artist pseudonym and the goddess of marriage, women, the wife of Zeus and the Queen of the Heavens if Greek Myth is your thing) is a marginal case for inclusion, being actually a Kiwi who has spent a lot of time on the other side of the Atlantic, where she is playing a show literally as I write this. But as she was living in Stockholm when I met her and has some roots there now she’s an honorary Nordic.

She’s been acting since she was nine but spends most of her time now making corporate videos. When she isn’t doing that she sets herself targets such as writing as many songs as she can in two hours.

That must take a particular skill but after I saw her playing live at a festival in 2018 I concluded that if she just slowed down a little she could produce something quite interesting. I observed at the time, “Her stage act is energetic and inventive, conjuring up an image of St Vincent. And like Annie Clark she’s super confident, fiercely intelligent and engaging.”

I’m not sure she’s quite done that here with her debut recorded single. They used to say that Los Angeles was 100 suburbs in search of a city. ‘Quitter‘ seems like 100 notes in search of a melody. Except in the chorus, where there is flavour of 1980s Prince.

Speaking of Annie Clark the song comes across like (and follows a similar trajectory to) her ‘Cheerleader’ except that Clarke found the hook that has eluded 7BH here. On the other hand an interesting mix of instrumentation does produce quite a moody piece, in line with the subject and the multiple voices are suggestive of an internal discussion in the head if that was the intention.

It may have been because the song was written to deal with her own state of crisis, and the meaning changed dramatically on the day of her recording session, when she received a suicide note from a New Zealand based musician colleague via Facebook.

She says, “It’s OK to want to quit, but please don’t. I have wanted to quit over and over again. I have felt so alone and so embarrassed about my life, and I couldn’t find the compassion that I needed, quitting everything felt like the only rational thing to do. But the hurt I felt when I lost my friend, and the hurt I see when others lose someone makes me realise how important my life is to this world.”

‘Quitter’ was recorded in Stockholm and Miami with the Grammy-nominated producer Carlos ‘El Loco’ Bedoya, who previously has recorded and produced Beyoncé, Mick Jagger, Whitney Houston and Rihanna amongst others.

‘Quitter’ is the first of a series of singles, leading up to an EP to be released later this year.


(Norway) John Olav – I Am The Thing

Jon Olav Sandal to give him his full name has previously won Norwegian Radio’s new music competition ‘Urørt’ (Untouched), which put him in the company of Iris and girl in red. He released a Norwegian-language album ‘Young Poetry’ in 2018 and this is his first song released in English after trying to continue writing in Norwegian but “it just didn’t feel right, so I switched.”

I’m usually a bit suspicious about song titles like this. Makes me think of Mourhino and his “I am the special one”.

And Jon says, “I guess it’s a song about how I both love and thrive in light of the attention I’ve gotten in the previous years, but also hate and feel kind of strangled by the pressure that comes with it.”

I was intrigued that the PR for this song spoke of it being “soulful yet sinister”. Sinister isn’t a word you’d usually associate with pop music. But as it turns out it’s pretty accurate.

It starts out as a fairly innocuous ballad but quickly moves into different territory altogether as Jon intones “I am the thing” in a distorted voice which might have been taken from a 1950’s Hollywood horror B movie. Indeed, there was a 1982 film called The Thing, remade in 2011. Then it turns in to a head-banging electro-pop track before ending as it began.

I can’t get my head around this one; whether it’s a novelty or whether it’s so cutting edge that I don’t get it. Bearing in mind that Billie Eilish gets hundreds of millions of streams for songs not that far removed from this it might well be the latter. For now I’ll sit on the fence, wait and watch.

‘I Am The Thing’ was released on January 21st.


(Sweden) Jonathan Hultén – The Mountain

Here’s an unusual one. Jonathan Hultén plays guitar in a black metal band, Tribulation, which explains the make-up in his promotional photos.

As a solo artist his music is as far away from that as it can be. ’The Mountain’ is taken from his debut album  ‘Chants from another place’ which will be released on 13th March (Kscope) and he will also be touring Europe with Chelsea Wolfe to support it.

The musical inspiration for the album is drawn from acapella folk and church choir compositions. He draws comparisons to artists including Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Tim Buckley, and Fleet Foxes and he reminds me of the Greenlander Simon Lynge, who we featured in NMS#9.

‘The Mountain’ is a minimalistic ode to loss and hope. The emotive animated video, created by Jonathan Hultén himself, took visual influence from the likes of Tolkien, Tove Jansson and art nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley.

It’s a simple song with just an acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies – presumably with himself – but attracts and retains your attention from the word go.


(Denmark) Deerborn – Where Demons Hide

Danish rock band Deerborn, hailing from Odense and Copenhagen, return after a four-year-long hiatus with new music ready. They class themselves as ‘Dark Folk Rock’ and ‘Dark Americana’ on Facebook, “ exploring the lines between folk rock and alternative country” but the new single ‘Where Demons Hide’ shows a new and heavier side of the band which this time around has found inspiration in Rage Against the Machine and Grinderman. That’s quite a shift away from Neil Young, Pearl Jam, and My Morning Jacket, who they’ve channelled previously.

Lead singer and songwriter Lasse Nørby has this to say about the song: “We all fight with and against them. They come in many shapes and shades. They often hide in the dark and rarely see daylight. But sometimes they show their faces and when they do it can have big or even fatal consequences. Demons are born everywhere – some thrive inside us, others as a result of external circumstances, but we almost all try to hide them so that others don’t see them. “

‘Where Demons Hide’ tries to pull a few of them out into the light and confront them. The song addresses the thoughts and fears that arise when young men and women are asked to go to war – like machines – not for their own sake, but for the sake of others. What demons are born when thousands of refugees from war-torn areas knock on our door and ask for shelter and food? Do we let them in or do we point our fingers and declare that they are the demons? Maybe it’s time to light a candle in the dark and see what is hiding.”

That last observation (refugees knocking on the door) puts me in mind of the U.S’s hopelessly under-rated Steady Holiday (Dre Babinski) who tackled a similar theme but in a cosy neighbourhood setting in her song and video, ‘Mothers’.

Except that the equally hopelessly un-woke Babinski made the point that some people have a hard time distinguishing compassion from the slippery slope of altruism and that maybe it’s more convenient to keep the door locked.

But I digress. For all the name checking above, when the song begins, sung with a slight American intonation, it could be Bob Dylan, or even Greg Lake in his King Crimson days, though he was English. When the heavy rock kicks in around the 2:00 mark it has the hallmarks of Carter USM in full-on angst mode, but heavier.

Regrettably the lyrics aren’t quite in Carter’s league (nobody’s are) but they ain’t bad either.

The simple b&w video is very effective and compelling.

Deerborn have got something to get off their chest here and boy, do we know about it.

Question. Does the line “There’s a motherless child outside my door/oh I swear I’ve seen her face before” refer to the famous photograph of ‘the Afghan girl?’ Just wondering.


(Denmark) Nelson Can – I wanna be with you

Danish electro/goth indie rock trio Nelson Can revealed their latest single ‘I Wanna Be With You’, the final single to be taken from their forthcoming album, ‘So Long Desire’, their first in six years (31st January 2020), both via Alcopop! Records.

The drums and bass equipped trio (“all you need”) was founded in 2011. They are vocalist Selina Gin, bassist Signe SigneSigne, and drummer Maria Juntunen.

Nelson Can has quite a pedigree, having supported Royal Blood and The Black Keys, and had music synced to productions from Lars von Trier’s Zentropa Film Company. And they’ve been banned in China, which is always good for the CV.

The album draws on references including St. Vincent, The Knife, The Kills, and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

They say this single is “an energetic pop song that pays homage to some of our favourite old school female front women from Fleetwood Mac, Blondie and ABBA. The lyrics are about having an overly dramatic friendship with your best friend, but still wanting to keep them in your life forever. Sometimes we choose the dramatic friends because they’re just so much more exciting.”

There’s an interesting comment in the PR that “theirs is a beautiful and special love, to the point of self-immolation.”

That’s pretty strong statement and you’d expect it to be reflected in the power of their songs and the lyrics. As much as drums and bass are to the fore – and the bass definitely is – it is the addition of synths that make this track. “This is a Fleetwood Mac moment, can we let it slide?/Even though we know how to make it right” intones Selina in the opening line before throwing in a casual reference to ‘Champagne Supernovas’. Be careful not to mess with big Noel, ladies.

There are strong melodies throughout, they harmonise well and the song builds nicely to a fairly dramatic ending.

There were a couple of live shows in Denmark in January but no indication of anything in the UK yet.


(Finland) Ocelot – Kukkapelto

Ocelot are a ‘power trio’ based in Helsinki (a rock band format having a typical line up of electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, leaving out the second rhythm guitar or keyboard instrument; a good example is Motörhead).

The band started as the solo project of Emilia Pennanen (Dinosauruxia) in 2016 and has since taken various shapes and consisted of different members. The current configuration came together for the first time in the autumn of 2019 and includes Victor von Hellens and Rasmus Pietilä.

The band could be described conservatively, as “unconventional alternative pop rock”. The music is based on piano, bass, drums and “some fairly extraordinary vocals.”

In spring 2019 Ocelot released their first EP called ‘Mä voin ottaa sun ikävän pois’ (on Soliti). The band are now working on their first full-length album. Singles from the upcoming album will be released during the winter and spring of 2020 starting with this single ‘Kukkapelto’ which translates as ‘Flower Field’.

Ocelot describe ‘Kukkapelto’ as “a song where the words, melodies and rhythms are repeated and intensify until the listener is sucked into a sonic whirlpool. The song is four minutes long but in the Ocelot universe this song swirls on forever. ‘Kukkapelto’ is a place you can always return to.”

‘Power trio’ applies to some of their other, back catalogue material, which really rocks and is well worth checking out, but ‘Kukkapelto’ owes much more to 1970s flower power, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love, hippies and Woodstock. And for the second edition in succession a vocal is offered up which might belong to my favourite crackpot Swede, SoLBLoMMa. Her influence is growing.


(Denmark) MYRKUR – Ella (from the album Folkesange)

Myrkur (Amalie Bruun) is a practitioner of extreme black metal but has always challenged preconceptions of heavy genres. She also kept her identity secret á la Orville Peck until it was revealed.

Her new album, ‘Folkesange’, recorded while she was pregnant, relinquishes black metal for an evocation of traditional – and dark – folk. ‘Ella’ is the lead single and album opener, of which she says it is “the result of years of studying, playing and listening to traditional Nordic folk music. This is my version of a new folk-song, with roots planted in history and in the past. It is my ode to mankind and our connection with nature – a rite of passage as a woman and a rebirth-ritual in the sea.”

She continues, “Three years ago I decided to share a video where I performed an old Scandinavian folk-song on the nyckelharpa. After this I realised that I had a strong need to create an album within this universe and that other people also wished to hear this. So I started working on picking out what old songs to reinterpret as well as write my own version of this. ‘Ella’ is this.”

I was interested to learn that the album will also include a few examples of kulning, the ancient herding call which we’ve featured previously.

It all seems something of an odd mix but she must be doing something right with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

Perhaps it’s because the video looks as if it might have been filmed in the Faroe Islands that I couldn’t help drawing comparison with Eivør. There are definite similarities, check out the video for the latter’s ‘Í Tokuni’ for example. They both have metal undertones.

She also puts me in mind of Norway’s impressive Thea Hjelmeland.

Perhaps it’s just a Danish thing but there’s a sort of Viking/Celtic weirdness about it that’s quite enticing. Music for a Scandi Noir drama. And the little voice break at the end alone is worth the wait.

If it is the Faroes the tourist authorities should sign her up for a promotional duet with Eivør a.s.a.p.

Folkesange’ will be released on March 20th, 2020 via Relapse. There will be several limited deluxe vinyl versions available. ‘Ella’ is available now on all streaming services here


(Norway) Stian Westerhus – Chase the New Morning (from the album Redundance)

This is a peculiar NMS in that we’ve got four intertwined artists – Highasakite, Löv (two ex-Highasakite  members) Kristoffer Lo (ex-Highasakite and working with Simen Lyngroth), and now Stian Westerhus, who played on Highasakite’s soon to be released album.

This track is the second from his forthcoming album ‘Redundance’ and it’s a political one, a song about the oppressive regime of China; its ways of controlling the masses through technology and finance. “A new modern-life cultural revolution lifting millions out of poverty and into submission” as he says. Now, a year on from when he first wrote it, the song is a direct homage to the Hong Kong riots. “Liberate Hong Kong. The revolution of our times”, he adds.

I’m not sure about paying homage to riots, better to solve the problem, surely.

Stian Westerhus admits that he has revisited songs here he’d previously “never dared to record (for being) too direct, too simple” and this is one of them.

He’s a dark horse, referring to himself on Facebook as merely ‘a musician from Norway on Facebook’ and his genre as ‘music’. But Wiki will quickly tell you that he’s jazz-trained at my old university (Middlesex) with a master’s degree in the same subject at the renowned Trondheim Conservatoire. He’s well-known for his experimental guitar style and has worked with plenty of movers and shakers around the country.

The song is deep, long (over eight minutes) and heavy. Correction: very heavy. Scandi-pop it ain’t. You really need a lyric sheet because the words are often indecipherable. He references 1984 quite early, which sounds interesting but then it all gets lost although I read that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently likened the treatment by China of Uighur Muslims to Orwell’s novel.

And I’m not certain exactly what chasing the new morning means, which would help. Something from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book perhaps.

The most interesting part for me is an extended extreme guitar ‘break’ if that’s what you would call it for a minute from around 3:20. I could have listened to more of that.

If obscure, shapeless, anarchic music without any discernible time structure floats your boat you’ve hit pay dirt with ‘Chase the New Morning’. If Sigrid is more to your taste you needn’t fear her being usurped by Stian anytime soon.


(Sweden) Anton Fernandez – What Now (from the EP Soda Press)

Very occasionally an artist writes to us directly and asks for a review. I recall it happened about 18 months ago with a young female Swedish artist who was quite good but unfortunately we never heard from her again.

But it’s rare. However, we did receive a message from Anton Fernandez from Stockholm, who, over the last couple of years, has worked with a lot of different local indie bands and artists, helping them with recording, co-writing, producing and mixing.

But he’d never written any songs of his own until last summer when he set up one mic and a little drum kit in his tiny one-room apartment, plugged in a couple of guitars straight into the computer and wrote and recorded his first four songs, what he describes as “lo-fi indie alternative emo rock” and indeed he’s recorded a track called ‘lofi – emo’. He says, “I grew up on American pop punk and British indie rock so I guess that weird mash is what comes out when you put me alone in a room full of instruments.”

The songs amount to an EP, ‘Soda Press’, and ‘What Now’ is the track Anton suggested is the main single.

If he’s played everything himself here, as well as recorded it, without any help from those mates, it’s not bad at all. He’s got a good voice, the songs have the atonal ‘feel’ he attributes to them, he can play his instruments, and the distortion is just at the right level. With a higher standard of recording equipment it would sound better. Melodies aren’t strong, but that will come.

I suppose this is how Noel Gallagher started off, in his Burnage council house. I was going to say White Town as well, but he was a one-hit wonder, which I wouldn’t wish on Anton.

It will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Any Swedish managers want to contact him?

‘Soda Press’ was self-released on the main streaming platforms on 24th January.


(Iceland) HATARI – Engin Miskunn (No Mercy) (from the album Neyslutrans)

Iceland is a place of huge contrasts. You can see it in the ice and fire (glaciers and volcanoes) of the topography. It’s there in the music too, which varies, in a population of just 330,000, from gentle indie folk to, well, HATARI.

HATARI is a self-proclaimed “anti-capitalist techno performance art group and bondage-inspired multimedia sensation”. Well there’s a thing, I didn’t think I’d ever see ‘anti-capitalist’ and ‘bondage’ in the same sentence. Nor a band called Hater (the literal translation); I thought hatred was out of fashion.

If you watched the Eurovision Song Contest last year you’ll know them. They represented Iceland, having entered the local qualifying competition as a joke, finishing 10th in the final and rubbing Eurovision bosses the wrong way by displaying a Palestinian flag. A Palestinian musician, Bashar Murad, features on the album.

Hatari was formed in mid-2015 by cousins Klemens Hannigan and Matthías Haraldsson, described as a “screaming vocalist”. They were joined by Einar Stefánsson, as their drummer. They made their breakthrough live performance, like so many of their peers, at Iceland Airwaves, performing at the trendy Kex Hostel. The band’s debut EP, ‘Neysluvara’, was released in October 2017.

They have an unexpectedly ‘normal’ background. Hannigan is the son of the head of the trade office division at Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and of a lawyer mother. His own trade is as a furniture maker.

Haraldsson is the son of an artist mother and of the owner of the aforementioned law firm, and is a playwright and broadcaster.

Stefánsson is the son of the Icelandic ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Like I say, that’s Iceland for you. The weirdest place on the planet, man.

All the songs on the album are in Icelandic and in view of the BDSM thing surprisingly only two are identified as ‘explicit’ by Spotify.

There’s nothing particularly novel about ‘Engin Miskunn’. Musically, it’s a heavier version of some of the stuff I’ve heard from another Icelandic band, Sykur (and even more so on second track ‘Spillingardans’) while Matthías grunts away like the singer of Lordi, the 2006 Eurovision metal winners from Finland. (Third track, ‘Klámstrákur’ is just a plain good old rocker).

The lyrics are interesting though.

“The final meteorite/Will be your bane/Belated repentance/Changes nothing…

The glory will spread/Over the Earth/For mortal children/Doomsday is at hand”

Er, this is not a time for pessimism, guys.

Which makes me wonder why they didn’t record it in English; a language understood by about 5,000 times as many people, and just about everyone in Iceland.


Hatari plan to tour Europe throughout 2020 on the ‘Europe Will Crumble’ tour. I think you’ll find it’s started already lads.

Singles from previously featured artists

(Sweden) KLARA – Blossom

KLARA has found herself in NMS twice before and with a good review on both occasions. Her debut album was released on 24th January so this, the title track, was the last pre-release single from it. As with the other two, it was recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, near Bath.

Now based in North London, she’s certainly been around. She spent several summers in Tanzania studying traditional tribal music and learning to play the thumb piano. She has also been educated in jazz and has a Masters degree in singing and composition.

If  you add all that to the name-checking – Gabriel, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) who has “approved” her (it makes her sound like a corporate annual report) and her positioning “like Laura Marling viewed through the prism of London Grammar, while echoing Daughter’s frosted atmosphere”, it’s a pretty comprehensive package.  But is it that good?

She says it’s about “hopes and dreams…how we carry them with us close to our hearts and how we are sometimes too shy to show them to others. How we dream big and work hard, whilst at the same time we may feel fragile. We can all feel lonely and isolated even when surrounded by others”.

Yes it is good. I liked it from the first spin. I’ve noted before that vocally she makes me think of Freya Ridings but down an octave or two, possibly Dolores O’Riordan, and on this occasion you can add, both vocally and in the song’s structure, lashings of Aurora. I’ve also reported previously how she’s prone to using old analogue synthesisers and an omnichord or Q-Chord as it is now known, which you play in the same way as swiping your credit card. I suspect both of them might be in use on this track. And she’s employed African-style backing vocals to just the right degree and a military beat. I just wish it could have gone on a little longer to the big climax it promises but doesn’t quite reach.

On the strength of this track alone the album (‘Blossom’) – released just too late for this edition – is eagerly anticipated.


(Sweden) Di Leva – If You Believe

There are multi-talented polymaths and then there is Di Leva. He’s been a fixture in the Swedish music scene forever, as a winner of the Swedish Grammy as Best Artist of the Year, making multiple  TV-show appearances, concert tours and theatre plays, including playing Hamlet in an acclaimed performance of  the Shakespearean epic and David Bowie in a tribute show – ‘Changes’ – about his life and times. This coming spring he will tour that show around Sweden for a third time.

More recently he was in NMS#19 with ‘Men in Black’ an unusual 1950’s-style song written for the ‘Storm Area 51’ event in Nevada, USA, where he premiered it.

Now he’s come back to Earth, and this is the follow-up from his forthcoming concept album, ‘The Hybrids’.  The song deals with life after death and the title promises “If you believe, you will see that love can’t die”, according to Di Leva.

A music video for the song has been made by the acclaimed Swedish film director Måns Herngren.

The previous song and this one mark a change of direction for Di Leva, who now feels the urge to reach out globally with his unique visions and music.

The concept sounds a little like Cher’s ‘Believe’ (“Do you believe in life after love”) but the song is quite different. The first thing I’ll say is that there are strong elements of Bowie in the vocals. It’s as if by playing him on stage, he’s become him. But there’s more to it than that. This is a genuine power ballad by someone who isn’t well known in the UK but should be. It has the hallmarks of someone in the league of, say, Alfie Boe. I’m sure there will be a host of British singers queuing up to cover this, both male and female.

The other thing I’ll say is that this should really have been performed at Bowie’s memorial concert at the Royal Albert Hall.


(Norway) Amanda Tenfjord – As if

I’ve been anticipating her next single since I saw Amanda Tenfjord play Iceland Airwaves back in November. Just to recap where we’re up to with her, Amanda, who is half Norwegian and half Greek, and based in Trondheim, which is the equivalent of Carlisle here, I suppose, has been proposed as ‘the next big thing’ in Norway for a while now without quite getting there. In fact, “Scandinavia’s next pop sensation” were again the opening words on the press release concerning this song.

I was impressed with her last single, the oddly-titled ‘Kill the Lonely’ – well it’s one way of dealing with the detritus of social exclusion I suppose – and she killed the audience in Reykjavik with a live performance well beyond what I’d been expecting; indeed one of the best at the entire festival.

Amanda explains the latest song. “The day I wrote this song I was upset because it hit me that along the way you’ll get to know people that you think genuinely care about you as a person, but you slowly realise that that’s not the case. With that being said, this song is not full of hate. It’s not a song to hurt anyone. I made this song to make myself stronger and to realise that I should use my time and energy with those who care, and the ones who make me happy.”

Unfortunately, for me it’s the “one step back” that often follows “two steps forward”. In common with so many female singer-songwriter songs coming out of Norway this last couple of years it has that indelible mark of Sigrid’s pop bangers on it. I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word derivative but many of the Sigrid elements are there including the big booming chorus and some aspects of the vocalisation.

That’s a shame because in just 30 minutes in Reykjavik Amanda told me she can easily forge an identity of her own, with some great tracks including ‘Kill the Lonely’ and another which had a melody to die for.

Hopefully there will be more of those in the future. On the other hand, as Sigrid seems to be drifting away from banger territory now I suppose Amanda could go on to own it herself?


(Norway) Löv – Take Me Home

They’ve featured in NMS before but it’s worth recapping on Löv as they have an impressive pedigree. Two of them, Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, are ex-Highaskite while Martin Halla was once a winner of Norway’s version of ‘The Voice.’

Their new single, ‘Take Me Home’, follows a year spent playing festivals around Norway and pre-dates a debut album this year.

The collective experience these three have is almost guaranteed to produce top notch songs and they haven’t failed with this one, which is right on the button. In its structure it might have been written specifically with a Radio 2 playlist in mind. More interesting to me though is the combination of piano and percussion that is reminiscent of Arcade Fire’s ‘Sprawl II (Mountains beyond Mountains).’

As with their previous releases there is little similarity to anything Highasakite produced, either now or previously, apart from occasional vocal interjections by Marte Eberson.

Löv has nailed a generic European pop song formula here, which will play equally well in Sienna, Sitges and Southend, and led by a male soprano voice, in a way I haven’t previously heard from a Norwegian band. Well, not since Morten Harket anyway. And this time the synths that were evident in the previous singles ‘Superhuman’, ‘Fuel to the Fire’ and ‘All of the Lights’ (although the acoustic version of ‘Superhuman’ is better) have been toned down, where Highasakite have been turning them up.

I speculated when I reviewed ‘All of the Lights’ that they could achieve the same heights as Highasakite and to that I’ll add now that they might even surpass them abroad, including in the UK, if they get the right break.


(Sweden) Comminor – The Cure for Bullshit

Well actually Johanna we don’t need one. We’re a bullshit-free zone at NMS but it’s nice to know what the cure is just in case some manages to creep in.

Johanna Berndtsson is the singer with the skate punk band from Västerås, a satellite town on the northwest fringes of Stockholm. “We are so loud you can hear us when we don’t speak” is the strap line of this latest delicate ballad (not) with another pulsating guitar and bass line.

The more I listen to Comminor the more I draw parallels with Norway’s Sløtface both in the pace and violence, which is some compliment though Comminor actually have more social media followers than their Norwegian counterparts.

The song is taken from the band’s forthcoming album ‘Answering Machine for Broken Dreams.’

It’s a political track, I’ll leave it at that, you’ll soon figure it out.

In the last song they sent our way they were singing rather more gently to a roomful of old folks’ home residents. This one would finish them all off.


(Norway) Highasakite – Under the sun

Speaking of bullshit (Comminor, above), Highasakite recorded a track entitled ‘I Call Bullshit’ on their 2019 album, ‘Uranium Heart.’

They’ve certainly been putting in a shift since then, touring around Norway, releasing a mini-album, ‘The Bare Romantic, Part 1’ later last year and ‘Part 2’ follows this month (February).

The new album sees the involvement of former Jaga Jazzist and Puma guitarist Stian Westerhus, (who also features separately in this NMS) and traditional and fiddle composer Sarah-Jane Summers, as well as the inclusion of regular live band members’ Øystein Moen and Kristoffer Bonsaksen.

This new song is taken from the second ‘Romantic’ instalment. It was written for a one-off live performance on Norwegian TV to raise money for the national Refugee Councíl and recorded by popular demand. It relates to the national reaction in Norway to Syrian refugees; positive and negative. It has been included in the end credits of Norwegian movie ‘Tunellen’, which had its debut at the Cannes Film Festival.

Given the subject, ‘Under the sun’ could hardly be what has become the stock, though always enjoyable, Highasakite electro-pop banger since Ingrid Helene Håvik was enticed by Stargate to record ‘5 Million Miles’ in 2016 and everything that followed it.

Instead, it’s a slowly building, thoughtful, powerful piece, with cleverly arranged, lush, beautiful orchestration. Compelling lyrics, too. “I’ve lost my rights and it isn’t that big of a deal/ I’ve lost my heart and it isn’t that far from the truth/ I’ve lost my house, are you glad to see me on the run?/I’ve lost my faith, you seem glad to see me come undone”.  

Towards the end the atmosphere builds quickly into a sudden explosion of instrumentation, all very tastefully done, before it plays out to melancholic piano and strings. And Ingrid’s vocals are so strong it’s as if she’s got a battery of supercharged mics in front of her. If they can carry it off onstage it should bring the house down.

Without doubt their best work since ‘Camp Echo’ (and closest to the style of the original band) and if they continue like this they might even be asked to support Löv on their next tour. Only joking, Ingrid, keep smiling!

Is it any better than what they would have been doing had the original band stuck together? I doubt it. On the other hand I didn’t think I’d be awarding Highasakite 9/10 again anytime soon but this song deserves it, without question.


(Denmark) Ida Wenøe – Värmeland

Ida Wenøe was reviewed in two successive NMS’ last year and we pointed out her Nordic folk-noir with a flavour of Americana style.

She returns with ‘Värmeland’, which was inspired by a recording session in an old wooden house in Sweden, with snow so deep that the band had to transport their equipment there on bobsleighs.

She says, “Snow has a way of both covering and revealing. There’s something so delicate about that. You don’t see the things beneath, but you see everything above. The things above will disappear but the things underneath will not, and will catch up with you eventually.”

This one is slightly different with more of a Celtic hint to it and an occasional vocal inflection that I hadn’t heard previously and which is very close to that of Kate Bush.

It all comes together in a pleasing melange which will undoubtedly sound good live. Speaking of which, she will play a number of live shows in the UK through late February and early March, many of them at venues she used in her last tour and by and large avoiding much of the north of England and west or south of London, unfortunately:

28/02 Friday – St Peter’s, Sudbury

29/02 Saturday – Café #9, Sheffield

01/03 Sunday – The Musician, Leicester

03/03 Tuesday – Green Note, Camden, London

04/03 Wednesday – Kitchen Garden Café, Birmingham

05/03 Thursday – Hug & Pint, Glasgow

07/03 Saturday – Elm House Concerts, Fife

08/03 Sunday – Craigdarroch Arms, Moniaive, Dumfries

‘Värmeland’ is taken from Ida Wenøe’s second album ‘The Things We Don’t Know Yet’, out now via Songcrafter Music (Nordics) and Integrity Records (World excluding Nordics).


(Norway) Siv Jakobsen – Fear the Fear (from forthcoming album A Temporary Soothing)

There’s something about Siv Jakobsen’s album titles that suggest an afternoon of meditation, followed by a massage, followed by an hour in a Radox bath. The previous one was ‘The Nordic Mellow’ and the new one (April 24th) is ‘A Temporary Soothing’.

‘Fear the Fear’ is the first single from it. In contrast, it concerns Siv’s acknowledged propensity to overthink, worry, and create problems where none exist. A nagging sensation that she wouldn’t be able to create well if she was well, happy, content with herself, and her life. It touches on her tendency to hang out in her own head and stay there, worrying about something or other in a constant, stressful loop.

That does come as a surprise to me. I’ve been lucky enough to meet Siv a couple of times in the UK and again at Iceland Airwaves last year. She’s so serene and composed she could be a nun from ‘The Sound of Music’. And yet, you do sense the merest hint of edginess as if she’s expecting you suddenly to produce a machete and carve her up, screaming “I hate Norwegians.”

So, the song is an intimate exploration of fear, anxiety, change, and the struggle between being healthy and being productive.

It looks like we are in for more of the same in the album, in which she explores these themes in a time “where just existing represents a constant battle of anxiety and fear.”

In contrast to the creation of ‘The Nordic Mellow’, which was recorded in mere weeks, ’A Temporary Soothing’ is the fruit of almost a year of writing and recording. “It’s a way for me to look back and see what I have been going through, both the good and the bad,” Siv says. “What I hope for is that people can take it and understand what they have been going through personally, too.”

What is particularly attractive to me about this song, apart from her voice – as ever – and her innate ability to transport you instantly into her own little world; is the instrumentation and orchestration, which is spot-on. It’s added another string to her bow and hopefully can be replicated live.

And there’s a wonderful line. “I fear the ness in happiness”.

The video will give you the willies. She reminds me of Sissy Spacek in ‘Carrie’. Seriously, some pretty good acting. Yet another string?


Unfortunately we won’t be seeing Siv live in the UK just yet; the only shows booked are back in her old stomping ground of New York, and in Los Angeles, in March. But there will surely be some before long.

(Sweden) Peter Bjorn and John – On the Brink

Peter Bjorn and John kick off their 20th year together with the release of the fourth song from the band’s forthcoming new album ‘Endless Dream’ which is out March 13th, 2020 and which will be their ninth full-length studio album. It follows on from previous singles ‘Idiosyncrasy,’ ‘Reason To Be Reasonable,’ and ‘Rusty Nail’, which have been covered in NMS.

In line with most of the other songs on ‘Endless Dream,’ ‘On the Brink’ has a cautiously positive philosophical outlook on life and the shortcomings of being. It looks onwards with a grain of hope and confidence. It wonders what’s really important when everything comes to a head and the mind is bogged with how extremely tiny we all are compared to the vastness of the universe. The track has a lot in common musically and emotionally with PBJ’s epic indie-classic ‘Objects of My Affection’ from the ‘Writer’s Block’ album.

The video is explained by the fact that Peter used to be a scout as a kid and felt that if there is a song on the ‘Endless Dream’ album that suits marching and campfire singing its definitively ‘On The Brink’. Not sure how Greta Thunberg managed to get in it though.

One of the catchiest tracks they’ve recorded in a while.



(Norway) Susanne Sundfør pens the score for Norwegian documentary about famous photographer. Song – When the Lord

She’s been absent for a while so it’s good to welcome back Susanne Sundfør, and with something a little different.

She has recorded the score for a feature-length theatrical Norwegian documentary called Selvportrett (Self Portrait) which tells the story of Norwegian photographer, Lene Marie Fossen, who suffered from anorexia and passed away in October 2019 at the age of 33.

Fossen stopped eating when she was 10 years old: she didn’t want to grow up. 20 years later she still wouldn’t eat – for 18 years she evaded help from the Norwegian Health Care system.

Her days were divided into four – four nutritional drinks – and work, the work of an artist. She was a unique talent in the world of photography, self-taught, and her knack for dramaturgy (the study of dramatic composition) and ability to read the light, made her photography stand out.

She is best known for her soulful portraits of victims of the refugee crisis on the island of Chios in Greece.

Lene Marie’s last wish was that her work should be shared with as many people as possible. “My photographs are not about anorexia”, she said, “They are about human suffering.”

There’s not much to say really, the song and the video speak for themselves. Warning: Have your tissues ready before you watch the video.


Main Photo source:

(Norway) Preview – by: Larm Festival

The by:Larm showcase music festival and conference has been held annually at different locations in Norway since 1998. Since 2008 the festival has been held in Oslo. The 2020 version of the festival will take place between 27th and 29th February 2020 at locations around the city centre that range from small clubs to international venues.

by:Larm consists of two parts: a festival and a conference. The conference is a meeting place for the Norwegian and foreign music industries. A series of lectures, seminars and debates are held during the day. The festival concerts take place at night and are open to the public. Their main focus is to present artists that are on the verge of success, either in their homelands or internationally.

That means that artists often play there only once (there is a burgeoning scene in Oslo, Bergen, and throughout Norway alone right now, never mind the rest of Scandinavia). However, of the several artists that will appear who have featured in NMS recently, one of them, Das Body, (which also featured in the Nordic region ‘2020 Tips’ in GIITTV) will be playing for the second time in two years, having been touring the U.S., and preparing a debut album since then.

Other NMS regulars include the awesome (my word) Lydmor from Denmark, Stella Explorer who appeared in support of boerd in the previous edition, Löv, which is in this one, Sweden’s Augustine, and Boy Pablo. And from the UK, there’s that other Dorset girl, Fenne Lily.

For the full list of artists see

Pass information:

The cost of visiting Norway does put some people off but it needn’t be that expensive. There is usually some airbnb accommodation around for £50-60 per night or so, occasionally even less. And if you can’t commit to flying there you can always do a Greta and sail it, though that’s not recommended; the North Sea can be a touch choppy at this time of year. The point is that price equates with quality, and there’s no lack of that.

2019 Aftermovie:


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.