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We weren't quite as efficient at tracking some of the new bands breaking through last year (the 'live' dates we organised took way too much time), and one Swedish band we missed were Indie Rock outfit 'Beverly Kills', who released 3 singles which led to them being nominated for the "Breakthrough of the Year” in the Gaffa Awards. That success has led to a stream of live appearances at festivals such as 'Viva Sounds' and this years 'by:Larm', and now they're back with another single entitled 'Revellers'.
Released to coincide with them signing to Australian label 'Hell Beach', 'Revellers' is a convincing melodic indie guitar driven track, the highlight of which are Alma Westerlund's dreamy and slightly melancholy vocals, which are a great constrast to the chunky guitar backdrop. The song rattles along at a good pace, and I particularly enjoy the bursts of guitar sound which come to the fore a few times in the song. Lyrically there's a particularly dark theme, setting out the scenario where everything and everyone has been killed off just to satisfy the worlds need to see death and chaos - until there’s nothing left to kill but ourselves. Wow, and I thought the insanity of Brexit was as bad as things could get....:
Anyway this is 'Revellers', and this was released just 2 days ago:
'Beverly Kills' really do have something about them which will give them pretty widespread appeal, and we look forward to a longer play EP or Album release at some point down the line.
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I've been looking forward all week to writing an update on 'Vilnes', simply because it gives me an excuse to listen to his new track 'Play With Me' just a few more times - not that I needed much of an excuse, given I've had it on rotation from the moment I first heard it. It's another really good song from the songwriter, and everybody I've 'made' listen to it seems to agree with me.
So we have written about 'Vilnes' (the musician Eivind Vilnes) before, but in case you msised it he's a Norwegian musician who tantalised us all last year with snippets of music videos before launching with his debut song 'Demons', which we rightfully described as '2 minutes 40 seconds of indie pop genius'. He then went on to release 'Good Old Days', which we didn't have time to write about but is almost good, and now he's back with another new song entitled 'Play With Me' - and it's utterly marvellous.
This is his most upbeat catchy track of his releases thus far, almost outrageously quirky pop, which I promise will bring a huge smile to your face. If this doesn't have you dancing down the tram or train carriage on your commute home tonight then nothing will. I just love the way 'Vilnes' writes his songs, his vocals are distinct and interesting and we all hereby formally request a full album of music by the end of 2019.
Anyway, so this is 'Play With Me' by 'Vilnes', it's erm…. '2 minutes 50 seconds of indie pop genius':
Anyway, new 'Vilnes' tracks are always welcomed at Nordic Music Review, and we look forward to future releases, and maybe even our requested album at some point...
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Sometimes it's not the actual music or melodies that I'm drawn to, but rather the stories that an artist tells, and the lyrics that they write. And that's definitely the case with Swedish songwriter 'Jonas Källstrand', who's music is based around the older traditions of folk musicians where tales (and sometimes even myths) were passed down through their music and words.
So Källstrand is from Gothenburg, and there are a few tracks he's released in the last couple of years to be enjoyed on streaming services. My favourite older track is 'The House My Parents Later Sold', and there's a lovely video to go with it which I've added to the feature below. His perspective on songwriting is really interesting, because as he says himself 'the story must not end after the first chorus' - and the music production in his studio is based around vintage microphones and tape machines, which gives his sound a distinct yet familiar style.
Anyway his new release is called 'Dynamite', and the first thing that hits me is the amazing sound of that guitar, and whilst melodically there is a familiarity to it, the there is a passion in the vocal delivery and the lyrics that really do capture the attention. It's dealing with the delicate balance between heartbreak and mental illness, and it's a really interesting perspective. There are some lovely touches musically too, not just in the guitar playing, but for example the double bass at the end adds a different texture to the sound.
Take a listen to 'Dynamite':
Fore more details and songs please check out his Facebook and Soundcloud pages.
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After the general chaos and energy of 'Pom Poko' from Norway (a mighty fine album if you haven't heard it), I guess we should change the ambience and balance things up slightly. 'Azure Blue' has the ability to apply the softest textures to his songwriting, and the latest single 'The Rose' is as gentle and understated as you can almost get.
Behind 'Azure Rose' is Tobias Isaksson, and he's a renowned songwriter we really should have covered before - Swedish readers will be pretty familiar with him already, although maybe UK readers less so. Previously he was the frontman of the band 'Irene' as well as being in the acclaimed folk pop band 'Laurel Music', and since then he has released 4 albums under his 'Azure Blue' solo project, as well as being involved in the disco project 'Personal Trainers'.
'The Rose' is as delicate as the name suggests, characterized by a delicacy in both the vocals and the backing instrumentation, which has the faintest hint of a crescendo in the middle, but that's about it. It Is also based around an apparently simple melody, and at just over 2 minutes it's as if 'Azure Rose' doesn't need to labour a point, just make his statement and move on. I rather like this approach, it feels like the glimpse into a dream, or a brief vision of natural beauty that disappears.
Anyway this is 'The Rose':
'The Rose' is a released from the forthcoming 'Azure Blue' album,which we will try and cover when it gets released in the next few months.
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If truth be told, then I have no idea what I'm going to say about the 'Pom Poko' album 'Birthday'. In some ways I feel I should just demand nicely that you all go and listen immediately, and allow yourself to be blown away by its energy, complexity and hugely entertaining array of sounds, but I guess I have to try and say something, even if I do feel so 'in awe' of their debut release that I've struggled to know what to say since its release a couple of weeks ago.
I guess I should start off by introducing them. 'Pom Poko' are from Norway, and they're a 4 piece band who've simply exploded onto the music scene in the last year or so. They met whilst studying at the Trondheim Music Conservatory, and as a band they take influences from a huge array of musical styles, from African music through to Punk, calling in at multiple points on the way. The result is an extraordinary blend of high energy sounds, and the attention they're getting from radio stations (including Album of the Day on Radio 6) to music websites (too numerous to name...) shows just how much everyone is engaged by them.
Within 1 minute of 'Theme #1' this explodes with a cacophony of noise, but it's 'My Blood' that really appeals, a warped pop song which switches between stripped back vocals and screeching guitars, and the variety in rhythms and sounds left me immediately scurrying back to listen again. 'Follow the Lights' is another track very possibly written in an unfathomable time signature, and I have no idea how they even begin to construct a song of this complexity. 'My Work Is Full of Art' reminds me, not for the first time, of fellow Norwegian (and part Swedish) band 'Svankropp', whilst I just love the rhythms and beats that sit behind 'Crazy Energy Night', it just takes the music in an outrageous direction, with some brilliant changes in tempo. After the slightly absurd but fun title track 'Birthday' (and there's nothing wrong with 'absurd'), we're offered 'Milk Trust', which I adore for its opening, and the way it builds and switches direction. And if that's too much at first listen, then there's tracks such as 'Day Tripper', warped high energy pop punk and then 'If U Want Me 2 Stay', which combines thunderous fuzzy guitars with sweet trippy vocals.
I guess the thing that really appeals to me in 'Birthday' is the complete freedom in the songwriting. I've seriously never heard anything quite like it, with a complexity which will take you months to decipher, but with a 'pop' mentality that makes it instantly appealing too. The melodies and vocals are engaging as well as entertaining, and I just love the huge range of musical influences that sit behind the songs. I have a huge bias towards bands like 'Cardiacs' obviously, and as such this is always going to be 'my' type of music, but 'Pom Poko' have delivered an outstanding album that will have huge widespread appeal, and as such we're going to be hearing so much about this band. See you at the tiny Castle Hotel Manchester in April, and the Deaf Institute Manchester later in the year - 'Pom Poko' are the band of 2019.
Nordic Music Review 9/10
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We're still trying to get into the habit of writing a couple of short and sharp album reviews each week, so that we can cover as many new releases as possible, and Swedish duo 'Les Shales' are definitely worthy of a few lines with their new album 'Nowhere's Eve'. It is an album which was sent to us last week without any fanfare, just one line asking us to take a listen, and that seemed rather nice - no big attempt to capture our attention, or use of a pestering PR companies to make the point.
So 'Les Shales' are a brother / sister duo, Judit and Erik Fritz, but it was originally formed by multi-instrumentalist Eric, who is also the drummer in one of our favourite indie bands 'Honeymilk', whom we've featured a few times. So whilst Erik intended originally to do most of the vocals with Judit offering backing support, in the end they liked the style of her voice so much that she became the feature vocals.
There is music to take you away from the strains of every day life, to get lost in during the morning commute and to transport you to a different place. Highlights include opening track 'Nowhere's Eve', where despite the whistling (see previous reviews...) it opens up with a lovely musical theme just 40 seconds in, whilst lyrically it sets out early one of the themes of the albums, the relationship with nature - ''trees are dying, such a monumental greed''. 'Lover Lost' offers intricate intertwining vocal melodies and harmonies that are endearing, whilst 'I Hope the Next Summer Will Be Fun' conjures images to me of the long summers I used to have when returning to rural England, and I particularly like songs that whisk my mind away to different places.
'Midsummer Night' has beautiful dreamy harmonies, and effortlessly seems to wander into a world of its own, and the albums concludes with a real favourite, the unusual 'We Both Know It's Over', with more complex instrumentation (I love the 'Rachmaninov' style piano chords in the background) and a jaunty melody that sits over the top.
There is a warmth to the musical writing in 'Les Shales' that I like, and whilst not all the tracks always quite hit home, there is a lovely texture to the music, with engaging harmonies, interesting layers of sounds and an easy going melodic lilt - from the dreamy 'Midsummer Night' to the more intense 'We Both Know It's Over'. It is probably the type of album that will get lost under the weight of bigger releases, but please try and give 'Nowhere's Eve' a listen, because it really will grown on you, and it is the perfect escape from the stresses of daily life.
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We have briefly written about 'Ida Wenøe' previously, but have given her nowhere near the coverage she deserves, but thankfully we should be able to correct that over the next few months with a new single, an album and some UK live dates to write about. I think I first read about the Danish singer songwriter a few years ago when our friends at the excellent 'Good Because Danish' wrote about her, and since then she has released a steady stream of music, including the excellent 2017 album 'Time of Ghosts', and was even nominated at the Danish Music Awards.
The good news is that she will be releasing a new album shortly (the beautifully titled 'The Things We Don't Know Yet' on 12th April), and in advance of that she's released a single entitled 'Another Kind of Love'. There's so much to like about this song, and actually I think it's probably the vocals that really make it special. At times the instrumentation is sparse and all you can here is that voice, which has this comforting, absorbing and authoritative quality that makes you want to turn up the gentle melody. And at close to 4 1/2 minutes it feels a substantial song, too, building subtly in volume and intensity - I think the style and pace just gives it a really 'classy' feel.
Even better, for those of you in the UK, Ida Wenøe will be doing some live dates later in April, the full list is below, but she'll be playing one of my favourite small London venues, the Green Note in Camden on Wednesday 24th April. Obviously for those of you in Denmark she's doing a fair few gigs in Denmark too.
Anyway this is 'Another Kind of Love':
And here's those Ida Wenøe UK gig dates:
Thursday 18th April - Sheffield, Café No 9
Friday 19th April - Cardigan, Small World Theatre
Sunday 21st April - Leicester, The Musician
Wednesday 24th April - London, Green Note
Thursday 25th - Sudbury, St Peters Church
For further details please visit the following places, in case there are more dates added or any changes.
twitter.com/idawenoe
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So we've featured a newish band in 'St. Bennetts' from Norway, and we'll head back to someone who is becoming somewhat of an old favourite, Swedish visual Alternative / Progressive Rock phenomena 'YOHIO'. Now I'm going to admit straight away that I do feel his music is somewhat of a guilty pleasure sometimes, and I mean that in the nicest possible way, simply because it is just so lavish and fully orchestrated, but the reality is that it's also hugely entertaining too.
Last time we wrote about 'YOHIO' he had just released the track 'Merry Go Round', and 'My Nocturnal Serenade' is in a similar style. The iconic singer, who has an unbelievable career behind him despite a relatively young age, has the ability to churn out songs with the most monumental melodies, backed up with elaborate and sumptuous instrumental arrangements. I love in particular the section just over 2 minutes where medieval string influences meet Eurovision, before it launches back to the main musical themes. It is all highly enjoyable and slightly absurd.
'My Nocturnal Serenade' was only released today, take a listen here:
Anyway apparently 'My Nocturnal Serenade' is the latest single ahead of the release of an entire album of 'YOHIO' music. Can we cope with such an extraordinary thing?? Sure.... bring it on....
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We have 2 rather good tracks to bring you tonight, even if I do say so myself. The first, somewhat inevitably, comes from Bergen in Norway, a city we've not visited musically for at least one whole week, and it's to introduce you all to a band that I particularly like because it's very much my type of musical nonsense. 'St. Bennetts' are a 4 piece band that have been around for a while, and I have listened to an old track, but I think it's their new material which will really start to make an impression.
So 'St. Bennetts' list their influences as the likes of 'Kaizers Orchestra' and fellow Bergen musicians 'Major Parkinson', which is great to hear, although clearly these are such hallowed names to us that we would never want to make a comparison - nothing will ever come close to 'Blackbox'. Anyway 'St. Bennetts' new single 'Oh Sweet Devil' is a hugely entertaining 7 minutes of well.... music, because it does cross the boundaries between folk and rock, but it's not folk rock, and whilst it may have some progressive influences somewhere, it's not really in that style either. All this is good, because we do like music we can't entirely categorise.
The track tells the cheery story of a religious farmer who has lost his son and wife to the evils of war, and decides to embrace darkness by joining the devil and heading out to the battlefield with a gun. I like dark storytelling in songs ('Mannen I Ausa' by Moddi remains a favourite), and so I think this element all works really well. Musically though is where it all gets really interesting. It opens gently with a very obvious folk leaning, telling the story of the farmer, before it explodes into life some 3 minutes in, with a rather wonderful guitar sound, and then builds with a huge sweeping melody to the big climax at the end. It's a pretty hefty track, but it doesn't feel like 7 minutes of music.
Take a listen to 'Oh Sweet Devil', you really have to listen all the way through to get the full impact:
Anyway I do like this new track from 'St. Bennett's'
and apparently 'Oh Sweet Devil' is the first of 3 tracks about the poor farmer, and they're all due this spring. We'll try to bring you the others at suitable times to cheer your weekend.
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We want to keep up the momentum on Album Reviews (we did slightly less last week), even if it means keeping them short, and if truth be told 'dj. flugvél og geimskip' is the type of artist that is so difficult to define and write about, it's probably all best if you just go and take a listen for yourself anyway. But we will try to explain some background.
So 'dj. flugvél og geimskip' can only be described as an 'experimental electronic' musician, she's from Iceland but has gained some attention across the world with appearances at everywhere from 'SXSW' to 'Sonar Reykjavik' and even the excellent 'The Great Escape' festival. Her new album 'Our Atlantis' considers the fabled city underneath the ocean, but in the context of each person's choice to decide how they perceive their own world view - so who knows if a place called 'Atlantis' exist, and only you can decide what you believe. I like this world perspective, even if it obviously doesn't quite explain Brexit madness and Donald Trump - or maybe it explains everything...
Anyway.... just take a listen to 'Our Atlantis', because whilst it appears a curiosity at first listen, there is an unusual brilliance to it all too. 'The Sphinx' which opens is a pretty good example, fusing electronic sounds (that remind me a little of 'Frisk Frugt') with a melody with apparent Middle East / Asian influences, and then launching off with a vocal tune that almost has a childlike simplicity to it. 'Having Fun At Home' is even more 'way out there', whilst in 'Allt er bara bull' the vocals disappear in so many different directions, I can honestly say that I'ne never heard anything like it. I like darker tracks such as 'Can We Stop The Time', maybe they're more straight forward vocally, whilst the highlight for me is the extraordinary 'Let Go', with the explosion of beats and sounds just after 2 minutes being a real moment of genius.
This has grown on me considerably. At times it's still slightly confusing and somewhat of an oddity, but there's such an amazing fusion of sounds, melodies and rhythms - with a mix of influences melodically from across the world, and from folk to children's nursery rhymes too. There are moments of brilliance, interspersed with electronic complexity and vocals which are inspired and slightly unworldly. I'm not claiming that everyone will love this, because like Atlantis, everyone will have their own perspective on 'dj. flugvél og geimski', but 'Our Atlantis' is indisputably fascinating, original and mesmerizing.
Nordic Music Review 7.5/10
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