Tuesday, 15 July 2014

10 Scandinavian Artists From The Last 15 Years

The following list contains well known acts and some you may not have heard of, and I'm pretty sure I may have overlooked a good few as nationality isn't something I dwell on with regard to bands and solo artists, besides, their English (when used) is usually better than our own so it can be hard to distinguish them from American / UK and Oceanic artists at the best of times! One common theme they all have though is that they're pretty bloody good, which isn't surprising as the Nordic countries have a proud tradition of creating great music, remember Ace of Base? 

*I'd love it if anyone could recommend any other albums in the comments below, or on the Facebook page as well.

1) Sigur Rós - Reykjavik, Iceland

My own personal favourite, hearing 1999's Ágætis byrjun for the first time was a mind-blowing experience, it was like an acid trip in Middle Earth, never has the word ethereal been more suited to an album, haunting vocals in Hopelandic, an amalgamation of Icelandic and an invented pseudo-language by lead singer Jonsi (Volenska in Icelandic) combined with beautiful strings and haunting guitars, it's undoubtedly a masterpiece that has an assured place in the music history books. The below video for 'Svefn-g-englar' ('Sleeping Angels') featuring actors with Down's Syndrome is also very touching.


Sigur Rós - Agaetis Byrjun, 1999


'Svefn-g-englar'

Key Album(s) - Agaetis Byrjun (1999), ( ) (2002), Takk (2005), Kveikur (2013)


2) Röyksopp - Bergen, Norway

2001's Melody A.M. was an electro-pop delight and while subsequent albums never reached the same heights, they are still worth a listen, especially 2005's The Understanding. The album was loaded with hits such as 'Eple', 'Sparks', 'Remind Me' and 'Poor Leno', some of which heavily featured in advertising after the album's release, such as a UK T-Mobile ad featuring 'So Easy' and the experimental videos for the singles also received considerable airplay on MTV, boosting the albums popularity. The below video for 'Remind Me' is still intriguing 13 years later, I first saw it on a barge in Amsterdam, which made it extra special....

Röyksopp, Melody A.M., 2001

'Remind Me'

Key Album(s) - Melody A.M. (2001)


3) Kings of Convenience - Bergen, Norway

From the same neck of the woods as Röyksopp, and whilst officially still together, it's been 5 years sings Kings of Convenience released their last album, Declaration of Dependence. The folk pop duo of Eirik Glambek Boe and Erlend Oye are very reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel, soft, calming vocals and soothing acoustic guitar, a perfect example of which is the opening track, 'Homesick'. The  lyrics of the second track, 'Misread' are a fine example of Scandinavian dexterity of a language which is not their mother-tongue;

'How come no-one told me
All throughout history
The loneliest people
Were the ones who always spoke the truth
The ones who made a difference
By withstanding the indifference
I guess it's up to me now
Should I take that risk or just smile?'


Kings of Convenience, Riot On An Empty Street, 2004

'Cayman Islands'


Key Album(s) - Riot On An Empty Street (2004)


4) The Radio Dept., Malmo, Sweden

Inspired would be too strong a word, but The Radio Dept. are the band that got me thinking about how many good bands there are from the (European) northern hemisphere. I first came across them when going through lists of 'the best albums...' a few years ago and was very pleasantly surprised to find that they had two excellent albums, their debut, Lesser Matters (which just arrived in the post today from the States, hence the train of thought for this list, and 2010 release, Clinging to a Scheme, 23 songs across two albums and no duds, pretty impressive stuff. Once again, ridiculous mastery of the English language, writing better lyrics than most bands which are native speakers, we really need to start copying their educational system!

The Radio Dept., Clinging To A Scheme, 2010


'Heaven's On Fire'

Key Album(s) - Lesser Matters (2003), Clinging To A Scheme (2010)


5) Kent, Eskilstuna, Sweden

Shout out to Brian Healy for these guys, who had two remarkable albums in the late 90's, Isola and Hagnesta Hill. Best summed up as camp and kitsch indie-pop with more than a hint of punk, they remarkably released both albums bilingually with no difference between the tracks on each album other than the language. Still going, but no longer releasing English versions of their albums, the band's forte was their catchy sound and excellent lyrics, as comfortable with high-speed guitars as they are with lo-fi ballads.

Kent, Isola, 1997


'747'

Key Album(s) - Isola (1997), Hagnesta Hill (1999)


6) Peter, Bjorn & John - Stockholm, Sweden

Sell-outs! Sell-outs! Yes, P, B & J or their record company or both whored themselves out to advertisers following the release of Writer's Block in 2006, and they have never matched their song-writing since, on pretty non-descript follow-up albums, but Writer's Block was an album that went from 'These guys are kind of good' to mainstream popularity at a stellar pace, and it all comes down to the album's pop bliss at the end of the day. Funnily enough, considering the saturation of the well-known 'Young Folks', the other singles on the album were not that popular, and it was tracks that weren't released as singles such as the excellent and timeless 'Amsterdam' and 'Start To Melt' that grabbed fans.

Peter, Bjorn & John, Writer's Block, 2006


'Amsterdam'

Key Album(s) - Um, the one above.


7) Todd Terje - Oslo, Norway

Look, Todd's just the man, from his excellent 80's remixes, collaboration with Bryan Ferry, this years piece of delectable audio that was It's Album Time, to his hair-raising set in The Button Factory a few months ago. I've praised him enough on Facebook and here so I'll leave it at that.

Todd Terje, It's Album Time, 2014


'Delorean Dynamite'

Key Album(s) - It's Album Time (2014), An Anthology: Weighed & Measured (2010)


8) Lykke Li - Ystad, Sweden

Lykke Li, excuse the pun, 'exploded on the scene', with 2008's Youth Novels and has since released two acclaimed albums which have seen her become an assured artist who is also one of my favourite female soloists of the last few years. She is a remix DJ's wet dream with her sultry vocals and fist-thumping choruses. Not that it matters, but she has managed to inhabit the side of the fence of respected musicians, whilst at the same time seeing her popularity transcend all branches of music fans from snobs, hipsters, casual listeners to chart fans, and she keeps nailing it with each record, up to and including this year's I Never Learn.

Lykke Li, Youth Novels, 2008


'I'm Good, I'm Gone'

Key Album(s) - Youth Novels (2008), Wounded Rhymes (2011)


9) Fever Ray - Stockholm, Sweden

Gothic electropop from Karin Dreijer who is also a member of The Knife, unfortunately in one sense, most well-known for the theme tune of the wonderful History Channel's Vikings TV series. Fever Ray's one and only self-titled album from 2009 is a haunting and very dark piece of music, tracks 'If I Had A Heart' and 'When I Grow Up' are easily the highlights of the album.

Fever Ray, Fever Ray, 2009


'If I Had A Heart'

Key Album(s) - Only one! So, Fever Ray (2009)


10) Trentemoller - Copenhagen, Denmark

Multi-instrumentalist DJ Anders Trentemoller's ambient techno sound is quite similar to Todd Terje at times but far more focused on a contemporary sound as opposed to Terje's mix of same and 80's synth electropop. Swinging from contemplative soft soundscapes to more beat driven remixes such as his collaboration with fellow Danes, Efterklang on 'Raincoats', his growing reputation has seen him work with the likes of Moby, Royksopp and the previously mentioned The Knife. 

 Trentemoller, 'The Last Resort', 2006


'Miss You'

Key Album(s) - The Last Resort (2006), Into The Great Wide Yonder (2011)

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