Tag Archive: Sweden


Wintergatan

Toy piano, accordion, glockenspiel, theremin, traktofon, synths and more synths… These are the things dreams are made of, my friends.

If you’ve been following The Indie Handbook over the past few years, you know that often, my role here ends up being the Swedish ambassador of sorts. It’s not that I think we don’t cover Sweden enough, it’s just that there is so much great music coming out of Scandinavia right now.  And when I talk about Sweden, it usually is somehow related to this guy, Martin Molin.

MartinYou may know Martin as part of the brilliant band Detektivbyrån, that I covered way back in 2010, or you may know him from that lovely remix of Those Dancing Days that I mentioned last year. At any rate, you can’t have missed him and his signature tinny toy piano, theremin, and glockenspiel sounds, or my undying devotion for it all. Blame it all on my weakness for a good accordion part if you like, though you must admit that it is a tragically underrated instrument. Or blame my obsession with his particular alt chamber sounds, mixing low-fi percussion instruments (scissors and typewriters anyone?) with auto-tuned theremin and old-school style game music melody lines. But either way, you do have to admit that it’s fascinating, fresh, and always perfect.

So, when I received an email from Martin a few months ago talking about a new project he was starting up with a few fellow musicians, alternative instrument devotees and electronic instrument geeks, I could hardly contain my excitement. Actually, to be honest, I did not contain my excitement at all. Not even a little. I just danced it out for a while and then played back through my entire Detektivbyrån collection to prepare myself.

His new project is called Wintergatan and they have just released their first full-length album, full of accordion, scissor snaps, dreamy waltzes, magical synth melodies, and a lot of new sounds as well. Four space-suited musicians choreograph pieces with more instruments than you can imagine, creating both an aural masterpiece and a visually fascinating performance.

WintergatanPerformanceThe album is nine tracks long, all available to stream for free on their media page, and a truly rewarding listen. If you know Martin’s previous work, you will definitely hear a lot of familiar sounds. There are the waltzes, the accordion hum, and the theremin, but there are a lot of new things as well. Tracks like “All is Well” bring in a much more dance sound, albeit played out primarily on bells, and “Västenberg” features a harp melody and much more dreamy, atmospheric opening than I have heard before, though it leads straight into a driving accordion and vibes section, reminiscent of “Honky tonk of Wermland” from Detektivbyrån’s Wermland album. However, the most surprising track is the last, a 14 minute long kaleidoscopic piece called “Paradis.” It ends the album on a perfect note, and marks a clear contrast from Martin’s previous work with Detektivbyrån. Hammered dulcimer and harp weave together into a unique mix over a synthesized bass as the originally pentatonic melody morphs into a full, complex mix of sounds – piano, synths, dulcimer, drum kit, and so much more. It’s more aurally complex, more mature, and even more delightful.

As you can probably tell by this point, this album is not really like anything else. Though I compare it a bit to Detektivbyrån, in truth, I only do that because it’s the closest relative I can find. If you are looking for something approachable on the surface, but complex enough to listen to again and again, this is it. The instrument combinations alone can keep a person occupied for days. But don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at these two music videos they have posted. You’ll even get small behind the scenes peaks at their instruments and recording techniques at the end of each.

Sommarfaågel:

Starmachine 2000:

And if you haven’t yet, head over to their website where you can stream the entire album and let Wintergatan take you for the space ride of your life.

Right, so I kind of disappeared on you there—a point which was made abundantly clear to me after Dani Charlton mentioned it on Amazing Radio a couple of weeks ago. Sorry about that. Rest assured, I have a good, blog-related excuse. Some of you may already know—or think you know—what it is, but I’ll make a formal announcement soon enough. There’s a lot to get caught up on—new stuff from NewAm (including Missy Mazolli’s new chamber opera), two new September Girls singles, and new stuff from Northern Portrait due out in the coming months. If you’ve sent me something to listen to in the last few months and haven’t heard back from me, I’m sorry, I really am trying to get to everything.

So, while I get caught up, here’s the new single and video from Lissi Dancefloor Disaster to keep you occupied. You may remember the kitty masked Swedish electro duo from one of last year’s posts. “Kill the Winner”, a new single out today, is the follow-up to their first single from earlier this year, “Singing My Heart Out”. The single, with it’s synthy blips over a strutting, minimalist ’80s bassline, is a solid offering from a band who received a great deal of attention for their remixes before ever releasing a single of their own.

Since they are so clearly related here are the videos for both “Kill The Winner” and “Singing My Heart Out”.

Check out Lissi Dancefloor Disaster on:  [Facebook] [Twitter] [Spotify] [Soundcloud]

 

Sweden Calling

Mire Kay

This past weekend, I dropped by one of the local bars to hear one of my favorite French bands The Limiñanas (whose 2010 debut on Trouble In Mind is a must have for fans of Serge Gainsbourg, French psychedelia, or the idea of Jacqueline Taïeb on acid). And while I gave my usually stifled inner Francophile a chance to get out and stretch his legs a bit, a friend introduced me to a friend of hers and we had a nice chat about Ingmar Bergman and is Lars Von Trier a creative genius or a sadistic nutcase, etc. Which is to say that, at one point, they mentioned they were thinking of traveling to Sweden in the next year and did I know any bands they should check out while they’re there.

It’s a question which is, as most of you know, nearly impossible to answer. Yes, of course there are good Swedish bands that everyone should check out. There are hundreds of them. It’s probably not far from the truth to say that you could walk into just about any club in Stockholm or Gothenburg or Malmö on just about any given night and you’ll probably hear something good. Some cases in point:

It’s actually been several months since Lissi Dancefloor Disaster contacted me. And, unless you followed the TIH Tumblr for those two weeks or so that I actually made an effort to keep it updated, then I’ve been remiss in sharing their music with you. And, in all honesty, I’ve kind of been beating myself up over it since then. From the moment I began playing the video for “Glowing Hearts” (the single at the time), I experienced a sense of instant familiarity. And by the second video – “Oh My God” – it was as if I’d gone back to the endless stacks of albums in my library and pulled out a long forgotten favorite, only to rediscover (as I have so often done) why I loved it so much in the first place. Check it out. You’ll see what I mean. And, while you’re there, give their remixes a spin as well.

It isn’t quite right to call their music electropop – it’s really more like electronic indiepop (or, as one of their tracks—my favorite—is labeled on Soundcloud: “electropopdancewhatever”). One thing is for sure, if listening to these songs does not make you want to dance wildly about the room, it’s probably because you know you’re surrounded on all sides by high voltage invisible electric fences.

And on the other end of the spectrum, there’s Mire Kay, an indie folk duo featuring Emelie Molin and Victoria Skoglund, formerly of the band Audrey. It’s understandable if listening to their ethereal, effervescent debut EP Fortress, calls to mind our old friends (and recent Swedish breakout duo) First Aid Kit. After all, their new video for “So You Learned” was directed by Mats Udd who’s also done videos for First Aid Kit (not to mention the video for Those Dancing Days’ single “Fuckarias” [swoon]). But, if you listen closely to the vocal delivery, especially on tracks like “Sea Monster” [free download on Bandcamp] you might pick up on traces of Emiliana Torrini – as if someone had gone in and removed all the electronics from Love in the Time of Science. With the elegant richness of their standard guitar and cello instrumentation bolstered occasionally by banjo and bare bones percussion, Mire Kay have crafted a hypnotic, enchanting debut that beckons the listener away – much like the video below – to the water and wild to be willingly lost forever.

You might remember that post about a year ago when I raved on about my new obsession. If you don’t, it’s okay. The post is still up and it is a fast and worthwhile read. I had just been caught up in Detektivbyrån fever, which is a remarkably pleasant sort of fever, though it did result in me buying an old accordion on eBay and inadvertently serenading my neighbors during the summer when all the windows were open.

Yes, it was love – pure, sweet, and beautiful. But like most summer loves, it eventually had to end. The Detektivbyrån brothers, Martin and Anders, announced that they were disbanding and I promptly went into mourning. I was left with a big, gaping, Detektivbyrån-shaped void, which I, in classic ex-stalking fashion, attempted to fill by listening to their albums repeatedly and checking their website every few minutes hoping to find an announcement saying, “just kidding, kids!” No such luck along those lines, but I did find some other pretty interesting things along the way.

First of all, this amazing mix crossed my path at the perfect time and brought me out of my Detektivbyrån slump. It was the perfect transition from my old Swedish obsession to my new. (I love you, Those Dancing Days!) They have been lighting up the Indie Handbook lately, and are so fresh and cheeky. Have a look:

Do I need to remind you to read Eric’s post on “I’ll Be Yours” and “Fuckarias“, if you haven’t already? I hope not. You won’t be disappointed.

Then, I started to follow what Martin Molin, former half of Detektivbyrån, was up to. Apparently not one to slow down, and quite the Renaissance man, he now has his own production company and studio in his home in Göteborg, Sweden, and is working for some pretty interesting groups.

He has produced a lovely little single, Alibi, for Winding Stairs, a cool, soft, synthy, alt pop duo, also from Göteborg. You can hear it on their myspace page. The story goes that they met in a coffee shop and ended up in a recording project together, which is proof that all those hours Eric and I have spent in various coffee shops has not been wasted at all. I will just start thinking about it as a musician’s more delicious version of a social networking website.

Martin is also playing with Maud Lindström & Nåt För Alla these days, a band that sings on all things love, sex, culture, and power and leads some pretty cool creative workshops for schools and artists on living and working as a freelance musician. Was that an accordion I heard in “Vacker vid vatten?” Martin, you are the best.

So in the end, it all worked out. Though my dream of seeing Detektivbyrån tour in the States will now never come true, I do have other things to look forward to. Martin is not going anywhere and Those Dancing Days are certainly going to keep me dancing through mine. Plus, I think I may have found the perfect venue for realizing Eric’s dream to put together a band mash-up recording project a la In a Cabin With. Check out those studio pictures on Martin’s website! He even has a kitchen! 

Those Dancing DaysI was supposed to be taking some time off, you know, working on that opera I have due next month and about a hundred other projects. But then this happens. And who am I to deny my favourite band to ever leave a note for me in a country where I do not live?

Yeah, that’s right. Those Dancing Days are giving away another track from their upcoming album, Daydreams & Nightmares. The new song, ‘I’ll Be Yours’, is more in line with the melodic pop of their debut while at the same time markedly more mature, both musically and lyrically. But I’ll have to stop myself there (after all, I’ve got to save some metaphors for the actual album review…). Why don’t you listen for yourself instead?

Those Dancing Days – I’ll Be Yours by Radar Maker

With each new TDD track I hear, it becomes more apparent that these ladies, young though they may be, are growing increasingly comfortable with the niche they’ve been carving out for themselves, all the while exceeding all expectations and setting new standards along the way. That’s certainly one way to drum up interest in the new album: one I look forward to with greater anticipation each day.

Daydreams & Nightmares is released 7 March on Wichita Recordings. Also head over the band’s website to check out their upcoming European tour dates (and cross your fingers in the hope that they play some shows here in the States in the not-too-distant future).

Those Dancing Days – ‘Fuckarias’

Normally, I wouldn’t dedicate an entire post to one song (that’s what the Tumblr page is for), but I’ve been nothing short of obsessed with ‘Fuckarias’—the new song and video from Those Dancing Days, released this morning—all day.

For a long time, I was on the fence about Those Dancing Days. Was my love for them grounded in the music they make, or was it simply the manifestation of an immense crush on Linnea Jönsson? But hearing ‘Fuckarias’ for the first time this morning has left me with no doubt whatsoever. It is definitely the music.

Cissi Efraimsson

Cissi proving my point. How hot is that, eh?

Catchy as ever but more driving than anything from In Our Space Hero Suits, if this is the direction the girls are headed, then their future is exceedingly bright. And, as her performance on ‘Fuckarias’ will once again attest, Cissi Efraimsson is easily one of the most solid (and under-appreciated) drummers in pop music. Seriously. Watch the video.

As if I needed another reason to be depressed about missing Bowlie 2…

Those Dancing Days are set to release their sophomore album, Daydreams and Nightmares, on the first of March. For now, download ‘Fuckarias’ for free.

God, I love these ladies!

Lars Ludvig LofgrenI’m falling behind on—well—just about everything these days. I’ve got months worth of music to review and not enough time to post them, so I am going to be crazy efficient today one band from each of the three largest exporters of music in the world. If, at any point, you feel you’re falling behind, feel free to stop, backtrack, and read again. I’ll wait.

Draygo’s Guilt, Great Britain – If you’re unfortunate enough to be mired in the dankness of American college radio, you’ve no doubt noticed the oppressive stranglehold the new Seattle scene has on indiekids nationwide—everyone wants to be Fleet Foxes and Fleet Foxes want to tucked up in a mountain pass somewhere with their beards and their ostinatos and their echoing voices (oices-ices-ces-es-s-…). So, in a time when everyone seems to be unplugging their amps, it is impossible to overstate the welcome sound of anyone willing to turn theirs up to eleven—and when that band is good at what they do, the results can be ravishing. Draygo’s Guilt are very good at what they do. When I was first introduced to them, the music was described to me as The Doors meets Joy Division. Personally, I would throw The Animals in their as well (and not just because “House” is a version of “House of the Rising Sun” that captures all the energy and passion of the classic recording but with better vocals). The single, “Pulse” is bluesy fuzzpop with a hook to die for and a groove to match. You can head over to MySpace to hear a handful of tracks or download the entire album, Trust Me…, from draygosguilt.com (hint: free music is good).

Lars Ludvig Löfgren, Sweden – From Swedish DIY label Häleri comes the debut album from Lars Ludvig Löfgren, Heterochromia. I will admit that, at first listen, Heterochromia comes off as a pretty decent pop record. It’s not until a few hours (or even days) later that the music really begins to take full effect. But once the high-powered sixties-laden pop has seeped into your brain, there really is no hope of ever separating yourself from it. You can stream the whole album as well as download a couple of the singles for free on Lars’ Bandcamp page. I’ve been listening to it as I’ve been writing this, which has made the writing process rather laborious because all I can think is holy crap, this is brilliant. So, please, excuse my uncharacteristic lack of eloquence and varied vocabulary. A couple of months ago, I was chatting with Geert from The Black Atlantic about this album (at least I think that’s who I was talking to) and he said that he reckons Heterochromia is one of the best albums of 2009. In retrospect, I think I agree with him.

New Canyons, USA – I met Adam Stilson of New Canyons at a Starbucks in Chicago back in October. It was on the same night, in the same Starbucks where I interviewed Emilie Simon (still one of the top 5 highlights of my life, by the way). No, it wasn’t quite so serendipitous as it sounds. Adam was working the show that night, and we got to talking after exchanging a couple of those awkward “don’t I recognise you from somewhere?” looks. After a few minutes of chatting about how sweet Emilie is and why she would ever take the time to talk to a loser like me, he mentioned his band New Canyons, and I am glad he did. New Canyons are another one of those bands deeply ingrained in the 80s revival, owing a great deal to both shoegaze and new wave, with lots of synths and drum machine and a touch of ambient noise. Listening to New Canyons is like 1983 all over again, but in good way, kind of like it would be if MTV decided to show music videos again.

Who are they? First Aid Kit! And aren’t they cute?  Eric’s going to need a first aid kit for his heart!  (I’m so clever…)

I’ve been really slacking on my reviews lately.   I need to sit down and write some album reviews, but recently I haven’t had enough time or emotional energy for that (story of my life).  Also, my job pretty much equals staring at a computer screen all day.  I know, I know, no excuses.  I will write some bonafide album reviews ASAP.  In the meantime, I am trying desperately not to let you down.

So, for tonight, another EP I cannot purchase on iTunes because it is Swedish.  So I will see what I can do on Amazon.  But for now, check out First Aid Kit’s myspace.  They aim for the hearts, not the charts!  And that, my friends,  is the best thing a band can do.  Writing and playing good music also helps.

First Aid Kit is a lovely indie folk two-piece: sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg.  You’ll be charmed at the first acoustic lilt of “You’re  Not Coming Home Tonight,” especially as the girls’ voices blend into lovely, melancholic harmonies.  Klara and Johanna’s voices are an awesome combination of playful, rich passion, and their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” shows this off beautifully, especially at the end with “I don’t know what I have done, I’m turning myself into a demon.”  Honestly, I like the Fleet Foxes and everything, and even though they are overrated, I understand why they are–because they’re creative and wonderful, obviously–but I like First Aid Kit’s cover better than the original.  They downplay the acoustics and emphasize the vocals, which are strong and full of character.  If you haven’t already noticed, I really love when singers know how to use their voices in creative ways, almost as actors.   Maybe this comes from studying classical music for so long, but in any case, it reflects the singer’s own passion, talent, and all  in all just makes them a whole lot more interesting to listen to.  You can hear another example of this in “Jagadamba You Might”–the girls’ moody ooh’s and aah’s lead into almost-scat, and still fit the eery folk perfectly.  Finally, “Cross Oceans” is not to be forgotten, with its rhythm-based acoustics.  Despite the moodiness of their tracks, something about First Aid Kit is still uplifting.

If you don’t already love Swedish music, start here.  I know I’ll be keeping my eyes out for First Aid Kit to be more readily available in the States.  For now, here’s the Fleet Foxes cover.  Leave your comments and let us know what you think–better than the original?

Catching up with Ce-ci-ci-cilia

First, do me a favor and try out these links and tell me if they work: theindiehandbook.co.uk and theindiehandbook.net. You should automatically be redirected to this page, but it has only worked on half of the machines I have tried so far. (If anyone can explain this to me, please do.)

So, anyway, where was I….Oh, yeah!

I love Sweden! It’s gorgeous (as are the people), they design some of the sexiest furniture I have ever seen, and once, in Göteborg, I found dark chocolate infused with Earl Grey tea. Now, I’m not quite prepared to live there (no offense, but walking around at 21h45 in broad daylight kinda freaks me out) but the unbelievable music is almost enough to make me change my mind. (Third largest exporter of pop music in the world, Sweden is, after the US and the UK.) They have provided us with a lot of great music over the years (the Cardigans; Peter, Bjorn, and John; ok, fine, ABBA, too), but I don’t think any has struck me the way Hari and Aino have.

Hari and Aino came up on my last.fm playlist about a months ago and I liked it. Then, last week, I heard “On my usual catch up with Cecilia” and I am telling you all, I have not been this excited about a band since I first heard The School three weeks ago (if you listen to them both, you should have no trouble telling which direction my tastes are trending these days). I loved it so much that, after listening to their MySpace on repeat for two hours (and “Cecilia” at least a dozen times), I bought their self-titled CD which doesn’t even have “Cecilia” on it (you can download the track by clicking here: \”On my usual catch up with Cecilia\”, however, and several other tracks are available for free on MySpace and last.fm).

“Cecilia” (from the digital compilation put out by eardrumsmusic.com called Birdsongs,Beesongs–volume A available here for free) is admittedly a wee bit bouncier than the other tracks (I believe the technical term is “twee as f*ck”), but they will all make you smile. And they all feature Andrea Dahlkild’s stunning vocals (a cross between the color of Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer and the laid back delivery of Linnea Jönsson from Those Dancing Days, though Andrea’s phrasing is far more relaxed and natural), nice, clean, pseudo C86 guitar, and, wait for it, GLOCKENSPIEL!!! (actually, it could be a xylophone, it is definitely a mallet struck idiophone; I’ll let the band correct me if I’m wrong).

Ladies and gentlemen, listen to this. Listen to it now. This is Friday music, folks. And today is FRIDAY! I guarantee, you will be hooked from the moment you hear Andrea linger on the name “Ce-ci-ci-ciliaaa”. What more could you want?

Also, word around the Twitterverse is that Hari and Aino would like to make a trip out to the States to play some shows. If you love what you hear (and you will), go to MySpace or Twitter or Facebook or wherever and tell them how much you want them to come here. If you don’t love it, just tell them how much I want them to play here.

And download the Birdsongs, Beesongs compilation. It also includes another favorite band of mine, Mockingbird, Wish Me Luck. Also, did I mention it’s free?

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