From Icelandic soul to Norway’s finest Lovespeake, here’s Derval McCloat’s latest take on what’s happening in the Nordic music scene…
These days the air is full of buzz about the ever expanding Solar Solstice and Iceland Airwaves line-ups, which after another quick perusal this evening, look like they’re going to be even bigger and better than last year. Meanwhile, back in Scandinavia, the propellers of the emerging Finnish musical engine are beginning to whir, and at quite a pace. 2016 looks like being a bit of landmark year, with Finnish artists finally getting the attention they deserve. With a surge in musical output, methinks we’ll be featuring a lot more artists from the baby of the Nordic family in the future. The more the merrier (says everyone except the Ed, eh?).
Remix alert! A few weeks ago, uber cool ‘icesmiths’ Samaris hopped out ‘Wanted to Say’, the lead single from their upcoming album Black Lights, due out 10th June. Its breathy/fidgety poppiness has been replaced by ambient restraint in the frosted remix by fellow Icelanders, Gervisykur. They dissected the vocal stems then warped them, the combination of which gives the remix an echoey lost in space feel. Sonically, this is like walking in a lonely lunar landscape devoid of anything tangible, dark to the point of pitch, the only light coming from small shards of faded stars far away in its never-ending nothingness. We’re loving Gerviykur’s approach to remixing the original: “We thought it would be fun to try to reverse it back to that outer-space ambience in our take on it, with Gervisykur characteristics swirled in.”
Just in case you’re nodding off amidst all those lovely wafts of ambience: woah! Yup, get your adrenaline pumping with this sonic ‘Sugar Rush’ from Finnish popstrel, Venior. This Rihanna vox-doppelganger is set to cut straight through the middle of the Nordic music scene with her feisty vocal style and punked-up pop sound.
Speaking about the track Venior explains: “‘Sugar Rush’ is about an addiction to something or someone you know isn’t good for you in the long run, but you still want more because you like the rush it gives you”. Brimful of attitude and with talent in spades, Venior is set to be a shining light, scratch that, beacon on the Finnish music scene for some time to come. Watch out London, she’s on her way to The Lexington on 28th where she’ll hook up with Palace Winter and the elfin ARY! More on them later, in the meantime check this sweetie out!
Double wattage then with this electronic medley of breathy confectionery and treacly pop fantasia. In cleverly choosing to release these two tracks simultaneously FeF have been able to show the two sides of their sonic personality. ‘Seer’ is the bubbly blonde, radiating happiness and positivity, whilst ‘Eaten’ is the prodigal daughter, slightly dour and a bit naughty, this is the one that goes against the grain, needing to be reined in to keep it in check.
I sense a lot of potential here. These FeF girls are capable of a taking a lot of diverse electo-ingredients and using an eclectic book of recipes to concoct a menu of variety and colour.
Tailing off with some vibes that remind me a bit of Steely Dan here and a touch of Bobby Womack there, we have Icelandic soul-man Júníus Meyvant. His latest single ‘Neon Experience’ is a delish soul-filled track on the scale of Marvin Gaye or Al Green. Complete with conga beats and jazzy keys, this is possibly one of the best tracks on release from the Nordics this fine April. Seductive melodies and wishful harmonies trip around Meyvant’s soft husky vocals, on a path laid by funkiest of instrumentals lifted straight from the seventies. You want soul? You got it, right here, in spades! Perfection.
This month over Stockholm way, Swedish sistas are doin’ it for themselves, with a flurry of homegirl gal-pals currently dominating the Top 40 singles charts. Topping the ‘Swede Sorority’ is R’n’B ex-pat Peg Parnevik, whose addictive debut single, ‘Ain’t No Saint’, is residing at the number (2) spot. Fresh from the realms of Reality TV (think Peeking at Parneviks), Peg was snapped up by Sony on whose label this slickly produced, laid-back affair has been released. Brimful of catchy pop hooks, lyrical attitude, summer breeze melodies and chilled beats, this more rhythm than blues track will have you humming along in no time. More than solid start then for this debutante, who, with the Sony wind machine behind her back, should be soon steering a course for stardom.
Former number 1 ‘Lush Life’ is now in its 38th week in the charts, but notwithstanding that, this happy hearted hippety-hoppety pop track is still as fresh and bubbly as the day its cork was popped.
Bit quiet down in Denmark this month… wakey, wakey folks.
I think those ‘dude’ Danes are just too chilled in their happy little country to be overly-stressed about whacking out new music every other minute, unlike their ant-like fellow Nords across the strait in Norway, who are taking the word industry to an altogether different level this year.
Never mind, what has bubbled to the Danish surface this month more that makes up for in quality what is lacking in quantity…
Out with the old, in with the new (it’s becoming a bit of a habit in the Nordics this year). The artists fka Rangleklods have shed their winter skin, and like a butterfly emerging from the chrysalis, emerged as a bright, shimmering, platinum Blondage.
Quote time – “The name Blondage is a contraction of ‘blond’ and ‘bondage’ and to us it combines naivety and daydreaming with aggression and sensuality. It has given us an empty canvas and a greater creative energy than we’ve ever had.”
Pernille Smith-Sivertsen & Essen Andersen have taken that blank canvas and painted it with a vibrant summer-scape of multi-coloured dance-pop. Part retro, yet very now, this rose-tinted floor-filler is brimful of dreamy harmonies, playful melodies and frantic electro-beats. This is the stuff electro-pop dreams are made of, the kind of #tune you totally want to hear when you hit a club. ‘Dive’ marks a directional change from their pre-2016 darker side, but this is a band that has never been afraid to mix it up. With an aesthetic that has always been both diverse and fearless, Blondage are continuously experimenting and evolving. Long may that continue.
Up next, we gotta bitta “boya boya” Danske style for ya … We like to stretch ourselves when compiling the tracks on this column and believe me when I say that nothing apart from having to repeat the Icelandic alphabet would stretch me more than having to sing in Danish! Which is exactly what our next act is doing, albeit in a lush Afro-Caribbean Nordic kinda way, if you catch my drift.
Due to circumstances beyond my control – i.e. everything that’s written about Sleiman is in Danish (any helpful translators knocking around eh?) – I can tell you very little about the man, music or the Livid, MFM collaborators.
What I can tell you is that this bit of “bom bom bye eye” is currently number 1 in the Danish singles charts. This Windies ‘fluenced hip-hop track comes replete with sun, sea and sand, honey-kissed backing vocals and wave-lapped instrumentals, all topped off nicely with what sounds like some heavy duty, kickass rappin’. Check out the money visual accompaniment which throws out a few clues about the lyrical content of the song.
In advance of their HUGELY anticipated debut album (if I could make HUGELY any bigger I would), Palace Winter have casually thrown out single number three, a track of such cinematic proportions that Dolby have gone back into R&D to produce a surround sound system so illimitable as to be able to handle its epicness. ‘HW Running’ takes its thematic inspo from the PT Anderson cult classic, There Will Be Blood. Runaway guitar, electronic sorcery and the inimitable ‘PW Beats’ all rush along, carrying the as-ever sun-kissed, honeyed vocal of antipodean Coleman.
The boyz play the Lexington in London on May 28th (along with Norwegian sweetheart ARY) and if you’re bloody lucky (you’ve more chance of winning the lottery) you’ll bag a ticket, most of which have already been snapped up. Probably one of the last few chances to get within touching distance of a band who are set to hit the musical stratosphere once their debut album hits the June sunshine.
Recent Tambo signees IRAH have just unveiled their second single, ‘Mirroring’. Intensely atmospheric, this track plunges dramatically into inky dark depths only to rise swiftly upwards to icy crescendos, where it hangs swathed in clouds of mysterious synth, cradled in the arms of an angelic choir.
Well as is becoming the norm, Norway is still the Niagara Falls of the Nordic scene, pouring downstream at a pace and breadth of such scale that we at The Monitors could actually dedicate this whole column to it, and still not have enough space. Suffice it to say we do NOT have room to fit in all the most recent Norwegian releases, so here’s the deal. We’ll list you what we can’t feature, Ok?
Right, getting down to business then, we’ll kick off proceedings by name-checking Norwegian indie label, Riot Factory, whose current crop of new artists are of such an exceptionally mind-boggling standard as to have left us stunned. Panda Panda, Svankropp & Commonplace have all recently bombed the scene with drops of intense musical potency, some of which we’ve previously referenced, but it is skywards that we now direct our gaze. Another new addition to the Riot roster, lunar musos Ludvig Moon (*makes note to ask where the name came from*) have just released the lead track from their debut album, and it’s ‘WOW’.
Bombastic, dynamic, trenchant, ‘Cult Baby’ is a wide-screen chaos stained with the personal nuances of frontman Anders Killerud. In the midst of this glorious chassis lies an emotional resonance inherent in many of Ludvig Moon’s compositions, a personal laying bare from which the searing glare of strident guitar jams should not deflect. Veering as is their wont towards American pop-rock anthemic, Ludvig Moon are probably Riot’s most commercial-sounding act which, from a chart perspective, is something that should stand them in good stead. Foot-to-the-floor stuff, this track is one for blaring on your car stereo on a sunny summer’s day, windows down, sea in the distance, and the whole world ahead of you!
And if you thought it couldn’t get any better, well think again. DNA, the debut Lovespeake album drops today and I can tell you, hand on heart, that it’s even better than anticipated. All available via Toothfairy – get on it.
Never one to miss an opportunity to talk about one of my favourite bands, the arrival of yet another single, in the form of ‘Sponge State’, affords me the chance to mention newly renamed Sløtface. Yep, more than a little hacked off with certain social media bureaucracy, they’ve dumped the ‘u’, replaced it with a Norwegian ‘ø’, and hey presto, system beaten, they are still Slutface in everything but name.
A kickass call to action with grit in its guitars and fire in its belly, ‘Sponge State’ is another riotous yet melodic notch on the punk belt of what is fast becoming one of Norway’s best musical exports. Fighting for the Fjords and shouting out to their screen-obsessed peers, nothing daunts these guys, no subject is taboo, and that is what is so very punk about them. Punk isn’t just about a sound or style, punk is about attitude, and this group has it in spades.
With Shea belting out her laconic lyrics with more force than her pint-sized form should be capable of, Sløtface has fast become a statement-making, banner-waving political vehicle for the many youth-related themes this fervent four-piece feel need to be addressed. Expect more of the same, if not louder and most probably bolder, throughout 2016.
It’s not often I find myself namechecking an Irish band in a review of Norwegian music, but that is what’s just about to happen folks. Yup, dude of the moment Kygo has collaborated with Kodaline, yet another global ‘Irish’ phenomenon, and the result is ‘Raging’, currently parked at number 2 on the Norwegian singles charts (in the bunk under berth number 1, also filled by Kygo, this time under the covers with R&B merch Labrinth). ‘Raging’ is very Kodaline, with its rippling melodies, strong basslines and uplifting vibe, positivity being an inherent part of their genetic make-up. The evenly matched vocal duet of Kygo and Garrigan is warmly inviting, and the overall effect here is one of uplifting joy.
Hanne Kolstø – Album – ‘Live at Tøyenkirken’ (Jansen Plateproduksjon)
Panda Panda – EP – ‘Millions’ (Riot Factory)
Antler – Album – ‘Bon Bons’ (NO FOREVERS)
Susanna – Album – ‘Triangle’ (SusannaSonata)
Bellman – Single – ‘Colored by You’ (NO FOREVERS)
Commonplace – EP – ‘Commonplace’ (Riot Factory)
Words: Derval McCloat
Photo: Olav Stubberud