February 24, 2011
Amazing Things I’m Listening to From Sweden, Vol. 2
Fact: The Swedish government puts trace quantities of MDMA in the drinking water in Sweden. Because of this, Swedes feel their emotions with earth-shattering profundity, and have no choice but to make devastatingly beautiful pop music about it.
Fact: What I just wrote was not entirely true. (They use GHB.)
Seriously though, the music coming out of Sweden right now is at least twice as amazing as the next-most amazing thing you’re listening to right now (sorry, “Bruno Mars“). In my new series, Amazing Things I’m Listening to From Sweden, I discuss the best shimmery gloom-pop that our Scandineighbors have to offer, and explain why it’s better than your faves.
The Sound of Arrows – Nova
The Sound of Arrows are attractive Swedish boys who make delirious musical confections and have a track record of re-swizzling excellent tracks like like Gaga‘s “Alejandro” and Alphabeat‘s “Hole In My Heart” into sparkly pop masterpieces. This should be a no-brainer, right? And yet, as likable as “M.A.G.I.C” and “Into the Clouds” were, it never fully resonated with me. Their new single, “Nova,” finally hits all the right notes; it’s a lurching, swirling, wistful slice of synthpop that I can’t stop playing â€” and given the recent UK success of acts like Hurts, this next stab at success feels like perfect timing.
September – Party In My Head
As a platinum-haired Swedish songbird making happy-sad electro-pop, it’s something of an inevitability that September frequently comes in second to Robyn, her better-known counterpart. But even if September’s music has never been as masterfully evocative as Robyn is at her best, September’s output is refreshingly â€” consistent. The euphoric thrill of “Resuscitate Me” was a surefire crowd-pleaser, but September’s next Swedish single from her latest LP, Love CPR, is tipped to be “Party In My Head.” It’s an old-fashioned club stormer peppered with Usher-style “Ay!”s and an irresistible sing-song chorus (“I don’t care if the whole club is dead/ ‘Cause the party’s in my head, the party’s in my head”).
Asha Ali – The Beat
An Ethiopian-Swedish singer and writer, Asha Ali‘s breathy, emotive delivery and distinctive lyrics should have made her a big star â€” but alas, she remains virtually unknown outside of Sweden. Soulful single “Fire, Fire” and summery “Hurricane” set a solid precedent, but she’s hit her stride with “The Beat,” a haunting lo-fi number with hypnotic percussion and wistful vocals.
The Pusher – Blinded By the Dark
From looking at the single artwork, you’d think that The Pusher are a band comprised of those guys your college boyfriend used to have jam sessions with in the student lounge. And the opening moments of “Blinded By the Dark,” to be fair, deliver on the melodramatic title by sounding no different from the derivative post-grunge pablum that stateside acts like Nickelback and Daughtry are currently generating. But give it a minute. By the time that piercing, anthemic pop chorus comes around â€” a chorus that Erik Hassle would just kill for â€” it’s easy to see why “Blinded By the Dark” has been topping the Swedish charts.
Firefox AK – Boom Boom Boom
I’ve been having a love affair with Firefox AK for several years now â€” her debut, Madame, Madame, was decadent with electropop gems like eerie “What’s That Sound” and the jittery “Habibi,” and her sophomore LP, If I Were a Melody, remains as glitchily gorgeous as anything else I heard in 2008. Her most recent single, “Boom Boom Boom,” is perhaps mellower, but no less catchy than her earlier efforts, given its sickly sweet chorus and cool, shiny instrumentation.
(Note that an honorable mention is in order to Erik Hassle’s spectacular new single “Are You Leaving,” which would have topped this list had it not already been featured as a MuuMuse Approved track.)