Artists You Should Know: Gothenburg, Sweden
The Atlantic recently asked the question “Why Is Sweden So Good at Pop?” We’ve been asking ourselves that same question for a while, and apparently we’re not the only ones — Pitchfork asked the same question a few years ago. For a country of 9.5 million, Swedes disproportionately put out more exceptional pop music per capita than almost anywhere else in the world. There’s gotta be something in the water, or maybe it’s a result of their generous public arts-funding program. If Sweden has a general knack for globally-accessible pop, the industrial port city of Gothenburg in Southwestern Sweden is a veritable mecca.
While Stockholm may be stock home for Nordic nocturnal dance music stars like Robyn and Aviicii, Gothenburg, a city of only half a million, hosts a more sophisticated alternative scene with synth poppers like Little Dragon and The Knife and twee pop songwriters like Jens Lekmen and El Perro del Mar. Whether it’s the long winters that keep artists in the lab with a pen and a pad or the mysterious magical properties of the life-giving manna known as Swedish meatballs, Sweden, and especially Gothenburg is home to a vibrant music community. Let’s take a closer look.
This electro-pop quartet, fronted by soulful straight-talker Yukimi Nagano, has been representing Gothenburg since the release of their eponymous debut album in 2007. Since then, the band has released an additional three albums and dozens of singles. With fans in the music industry ranging from Andre 3000 to Gza and they've collaborated with Big Boi, SBTRKT, and Gothenburg neighbor Jose Gonzalez. It’s been two years since their last album was released--and we’re waiting patiently for the release of their forthcoming Namuba Rubberband. If you're curious at all about the album, click here to send your phone number to the band members. They'll dial you right away, play you some new music, and tell you all about the album release on May 12 in the UK and May 13 in the US. Check out their latest song "Let Go" here and watch the video for "Klapp Klapp" above.
Cloaked Pagan wizards, The Knife, are brother-sister duo Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer. The band makes dark, hypnotic synth pop that refuses to conform to expectations. While that may sound like an empty threat, just one listen to Shaking The Habitual, their highly-praised, highly-challenging release from earlier this year (and their first in seven years) and the scope of their creative expansiveness becomes evident. After the addictive dynamic pop of their award-winning previous record Silent Shout, the abrasive ambience of Shaking The Habitual not only seems to shed the band of their past lives, but of society as a whole.
We came to the Jens Lekmen game late. But as soon as we heard the orchestral ebullience of “And I Remember Every Kiss” the switch was flipped. That song, from his wonderfully eloquent Night Falls Over Kortedala—Kortedala being a hip neighborhood in G-burg—is representative of Lekmen’s ability to convey universal emotions with a coy sense of humor and childlike naiveté. In other words, you have to be a grinch not to like this dude. Listen to "And I Remember Every Kiss" above.
Jose Gonzalez first came to international attention with his smoky, wistful folk ballads like “Crosses” and his cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats.” At the time, he fit comfortably alongside other soft-spoken folk artists like Iron & Wine, and has made a similar branch away from the singer and acoustic guitar archetype to explore different, fuller musical landscapes with his more-recent releases, as well as rock with his band Junip. For proof just check out this song he wrote for the film A Secret Life of Walter Mitty, above.
El Perro del Mar
Sarah Assbring, the sole member of El Perro del Mar (a literal translation from Swedish to Spanish meaning “sea dog,” which colloquially means an experienced sailor), writes sun-showery tunes about heartbreak influenced by the singing styles of Smokey Robinson or Brian Wilson, with a modern twist. She’s like Jen’s Lekmen’s sad sister—and we mean that in a good way. With five releases under her belt, El Perro del Mar shows no sign of slowing. Her last album, released in 2012 found her moving in a darker, synthier direction, and we can only imagine what she’ll share with the world for her next full length. Until then, check out her latest song, "Våroffer(Alla Vill Ha)," from the Feministiskt Initiativ's new election compilation F!
Love Is All
While most Gothenburg musicians err on the side of sweet and melancholic, Love is All deal in quirky post-punk. Yeah, there’s a sax player and frontwoman Josephine Olausson sings like a little kid, but the most divisive elements of the band are also their most attractive. While the band’s been quiet as of late, their track record so far has been solid, so we’re looking forward to what Love is All have to offer us next.
Before Basque synth poppers Delorean brought their tropical tunes across Europe and the U.S., a handful of bands associated with the Sincerely Yours label had already laid the groundwork for what would become known as Baeleric pop. A tropical, sample-friendly, very “chill” vibe ruled the aesthetic of bands like Air France, Studio, and Tough Alliance — all hailing from Gothenburg. However, barely any of these bands are still together today, only five or so years after their music began to reach a larger international audience. ceo, nom-de-plum of Eric Bergland, one half of the late Tough Alliance, is one of the few remaining torch carriers for the Baeleric movement. But Bergland does the sub-genre justice with disco beats, found sounds, strings, and his signature sunshiny vocals.
Formerly anonymous duo jj weren’t the only band to capitalize on mystery and shrouded identity in the past half decade, but the anonymity seemed to suit them better than most. Signed to a label with an already cult-like following—Sincerely Yours—jj made requisite nods to the light-hearted pop of their Swedish contemporaries, but they did it with a knowing sense of mischief, and of hip-hop, releasing mixtapes ahead of other non-hip-hop artists, and pulling choice verses from some of rap’s favorite songs. Their identities are no longer a mystery, but their music is still as warm and dreamily breezy as ever.
Anna von Hausswolff
Singer/pianist/songwriter Anna von Hauswolff often draws comparisons to Kate Bush and fellow Swedish songstress Lykke Li. Her most recent release this past summer, Ceremony, showcases soaring tunes replete with pipe organs and musings on mortality. This is music fit for the chilly high-contrast Swedish landscape. Anyone who is a fan of Arcade Fire, Explosions in the Sky, or Florence + The Machine should check this lady out.
These dream poppers’ band name roughly translates to “strong woman,” and their music broaches upon subjects like the social implications of relationships and empowerment. Makthaverskan’s punk-inflected new wave sound is less distorted than previous releases on their album put out this past Spring, simply titled II, (because it’s their second album). Signed to local boutique label Luxury, this band’s messy, cutesy delivery belies some serious topics and a solid tribute to the pop-punk legacy. Check out their single, "Enough," on Bandcamp.
May 05, 2014 via Pepsi