It’s C.L.E.O! Or Cleo as she seems to prefer to be called. Now when the US have their own M.I.A. in the shape of the superhyped-but-not-that-great Santogold I felt that it was time for Sweden to step forward and claim their own heir to the eclectic electrorap throne. Joking aside, Cleo is Natalie Missaoui who lives on a farm on an island west of Stockholm. That she’s a farmer / hippie you can kind of see on photos like this (I can't see any incense or Indian tourist guidies though, they must be under a pillow). It’s a bit grating in places with some silly lyrics and patios nonsense, but I kind of like it – it’s quite affable! I wouldn’t mind hearing “Witness the empress” while out in a bar, after a few sour apple shots (always my drink of choice of course).
Steso Songs (aka Korro / female / 24 years old) from Malmö (Sweden!) is pretty good in a Regina Spektor kind of way. It’s not that original (seems to be more Regina Spektor clones coming out lately than gay magicians) but charming and of pretty high quality. It might be a bit harsh to write her off as a Regina Spektor-clone, especially since not all her songs sound like "Blinding...", but listen to "Tonight it's oh too dark" on her Myspace page and you might find it hard not to sigh all day. Regina Spektor is quite big in Sweden so there will probably be quite a lot of these copycats in the next few years, I suspect. It's all a bit too polished / pop for me to really get into it though. I first read about Steso Songs last week on Marit Bergman’s website where Bergman wrote something about how she spent her birthday listening to “Blinding light of love” over and over again. Is your birthday coming up soon? Then you should download the below song and live like a rockstar!
Like Honey released two EPs in 2004 and 2005 on Hybris. Now it seems like they’re about to release an album. I say “Finally!” because I really dug those EPs. Hybris have posted a new track called “Five minute dream” on their blog. It sounds a bit like … Heavenly! It’s pleasant and uplifting, a bit more twee than their previous material, but I don’t mind. Twee away! No mention of when the album is out though..
Love is All - Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen - 21 May 2008 - Live review
I managed to watch most of the first half of the Championship League final yesterday before I went to see Love is All play. I was a bit surprised how many people were at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, especially since there was a real ghost town vibe on the streets of east London during the game. The opening band was marvellous, but the main support were so annoying that I had to leave the room. When Love is All played the place was pretty packed, and they played a whole lotta new songs. It was a good set, but even though the new songs sounded alright I wasn’t exactly blown away. Being tired and drunk might not have helped. I’m looking forward to seeing them again after I’ve heard their new album. Thumbs up though for them putting on a good show!
PS: They had a CDR for sale with 4 covers on it that I bought. Their cover of Prince’s “Darling Nikki” is on their Myspace page. I need some s0ber sleep before I can comment on the CD.
Jens Lekman - Scala, London - 20 May 2008 - Live review
I’ve now seen Jens Lekman quite a few times, but yesterday was the best of the bunch. He was on fire! Like an active volcano! I was a bit worried during the first few minutes when he looked very solemn (some punter even shouted “Don’t be angry!”) and I feared he would put on a grumpy performance, but during the second song he cracked a little smile (that looked involuntary) that stayed on for pretty much the rest of the night. He played a new song, some classics and quite a few tracks from his last album. The last two times I’ve seen him it was just him and another musician but this time he had his whole band with him and it really made a difference. They were very tight and they all looked to thoroughly enjoy playing. He talked quite a lot in between songs, and he did a long prelude to “Postcard to Nina” that’s not on the album that was quite charming, just like most of the other stuff he said. I almost started crying at one stage because it was so good, Lekman’s a great showman! Only negative thing I can say was that “Sipping on the sweet nectar” didn’t sound that amazing live, but despite that I guess it could have been the best gig I’ve seen in my whole life.
I’m crazy excited about seeing Jens Lekman tonight! I saw him do a show a few months ago as support to Josh Rouse and it was just depressing, the audience talked (loudly) throughout the whole gig. He played The Luminaire a few days after that show, but I didn’t get a ticket in time (tonight's show is sold out, but I'm sorted!). I also saw him at SXSW, but I haven’t seen him do his own proper (non-festival/support) show for some time. There’s no way he can fail, right? Scala is a decent venue, it’s usually easy to get a spot where you can see ok in there. Expensive beer though! Like £5 for a can of disgusting Red Stripe. I don’t want to get too drunk tonight though, there are a lot of gigs this week to go to. I hope he doesn’t play only instrumental songs or something, if he did that I might have to throw a Red Stripe can on him (that is, if I buy one). No, I won't throw any cans, at least not at Jens Lekman. To get in the right mood for the evening, I’m listening to some Lekman tracks. Below you can check out some rare, live and classic tunes that you should dedicate your ears to if you want your ear trolls (they’re the dental trolls’ cousins, all Swedish people have got dental trolls) to have a party. Jens Lekman! Jens Lekman! Jens Lekman! (they, ie the ear trolls, will shout after a couple of songs)
PS: Oh dear. Just read this on Lekman's blog (written 17 May): "I just can't pull it off. I just can't glue that fake smile to my face and go out there, it makes me feel like a fraud. I've really been struggling with tricking myself into being excited for every show." Pull yourself together, Jens! Please!
There’s a new signing from The Tough Alliance’s label Sincerely yours called Nordpolen (translation: The North Pole). It could be considered lazy and perhaps unimaginative to call Nordpolen a TTA with Swedish lyrics, but it’s also a fitting description. One difference though is that Nordpolen seems to be a one man band, and not a duo. There are only two songs available yet, “Skimret” (listen below) is pretty good, but the K. Strandberg (who the hell is he?) remix of “Kanske jag” is not that great, a bit too ambient and dull for me. Quite difficult to judge whether Nordpolen will change lives, but judging from “Skimret” he’s at least definitely worth keeping an eye on. Buy the CD single here.
Ok, I’m in Brighton at The Great Escape and the UK summer that seemed to have started out so nicely a week ago has been replaced with a chill and depressing overcast. But what better way to brighten up my dampen spirits than to see the band who have done one of my favourite albums of 2008! Envelopes! They played at 11 pm in a dingy pub called Hectors House (where I last year, also at The Great Escape, saw one of the worst gigs of my life – the pathetic excuse for a band called Palladium was the "band" "playing"). The place was packed and I’d drunk a beer or two so I was really in the mood for some fantastic quirky indie. Unfortunately the sound was appalling, the vocals could hardly be heard and the rest just sounded messy. Audrey (the band’s female singer) looked grumpy throughout the gig, which is always a downer, and I think they forgot to play some of their best songs! I’d brought a friend along after telling her how amazing Envelopes are, so it was a bit annoying that they couldn’t live up to my precious hype. They were actually the band I wanted to see the most at TGE. Hopefully they’ll be better next time I see them or maybe they're just a band that should only been heard and not seen.
Suburban Kids with Biblical Names are playing a one day festival in Manchester on Saturday 2nd August called A Day At The Races. It looks like it could be a pretty swell day, with Jeffrey Lewis, Nina Nastasia, Adem and some other folks performing. If I feel a bit adventerous I might go up there and mingle with the folk freaks, that is if I don’t go here. There’s a new song on SKWBN’s Myspace page called “Europa”. Not perhaps as great as most of their other stuff, but then it’s from a Spanish compilation (nothing against Spanish compilations, but it’s hardly the place for hidden pieces of gold, or are they? Maybe I've missed out). SKWBN are usually fun live, so let’s hope that they do some more UK shows while over here. They were such an new and exciting band, and then I'm not sure what happened, perhaps they got tired of it all. I Springfactory and Johan Hedberg's solo stuff are ok, but nothing compared to the real thing. Speaking of tiredness, I’m so tired, I need to go to the park and sleep a bit. Good night
Über-charming Jocke Åhlund from Caesars and Teddybears STHLMhas a new band called Big Bird (or Les Big Bird? I’m a bit confused). They’ve only released one 7” so far, but there are four songs (four songs!!! In this day and age!!!) on their Myspace page. It sounds pretty decent, and a lot like Caesars. I don’t mind though, I’m a fan of Caesars. Bring it on! It could have been so much worse as well, they could have sounded like Teddybears. Jocke has this time stepped properly into the spotlight and taken on the role as singer (he doesn’t sing in Teddybears or Caesars). The other band members are Frans “Fireside” Johansson, Nino “Caesars” Keller and Carl Zim “Never heard of this guy” Lundell. Listen to “Anna Belle” below, it’s a catchy tune.
Those kids in Those Dancing Daysare coming back to the UK in June, July and August for some shows. I’ve never seen them live, but I think their hyped EP is ok. The first London gig is stupidly on the same night as Shout Out Louds and Lykke Li are playing 100 Club. Hmmm. Where to go? I love Shout Out Louds and Lykke Li but I’ve seen both of them plenty of times (never on the same bill though!), so I might just go to 100 Club to check out Those Dancing Days perform their seasonable indie pop. Difficult to think about gigs now, I just want to sit in a park and drink beer. I drank port wine for the first time ever two days ago, it was well sweet! If I could make all of the members in TDD four times older, I'd invite them over to have some port on my balcony (they have to stand though, it’s quite small, or at least lean on their rollators). Dates below.
I used to love Billie the Vision and the Dancers, but then I saw them live and was instantly repelled. I really couldn’t get into their album from last year either (only song I liked was “Overdosing with you”, a duet with Annika Norlin / Hello Saferide / Säkert). They’ve become so … cheesy, sentimental and hippie-like! Still, I do like their first two albums, so now when I heard that they’ve got a new album coming out, I started wishing for a return to form. The new album is called “I used to wander the streets” (pre-order it here), and it’s out on 4th June. The album was recorded at Tambourine Studios by the legendary Per Sunding (from now long defunct Eggstones, who also produced The Cardigans, Saint Etienne etc). There are three songs on Billie the Vision and the Dancers’ Myspace page, the first one (“Lily from the Middleway Street”) has that annoying happy-go-lucky thing happening that BTVATD have now made their own. The next two songs are ballads, where listening to the first one (“I belong to you”) is like pouring syrup down one’s ears, but the other one “Someday somehow” is a bit better. Listen to it below and make up your own mind. No UK tour plans for the band as of yet.
Sunshine! Sunshine! Sunshine! Let’s celebrate it with a new song by depressive shoegazers The Radio Dept. Yay! I used to love them, but I was nonplussed by their second album “Pet grief”. Now they’re back, and pissed off! New album “Clinging to a scheme” will be out on 10th September, but before that they’ve got a three track CD single out on 4th June called “Freddie and the Trojan horse”, which I believe is about Sweden’s right wing Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (not a song of praise, I suspect). It’s an ok track, but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet like those early The Radio Dept. songs did. But I'm starting to get into it, slowly. They used to be one of Sweden's best band, you know! Listen below.
Owen wrote about new Labrador-signed band The Sound of Arrowsback in March (read it here). The EP he mentions is out next week. TSOA are Oskar Gullstrand and Stefan Storm. The latter of these chaps also have a solo project (cunningly under the disguise of his real name). There are only three songs on his Myspace page, but I actually prefer these to the TSOA songs I’ve heard so far. Give a listen to “Catch the breeze” below, it’s vaguely reminiscent of Le Sport / The Embassy. It’s catchy and fresh! Ok, so I’ve decided to buy TSOA’s new EP. If Stefan Storm can cook up such a great song as “Catch the breeze” by himself, his “real” band should be at least equally as great, right? Anyway, it was only £5 for 9 tracks! Buy it yourself here.
Hey! Bank holiday weekend coming up! Hey! Before you go and get thrashed, you should check out this new Swedish artist who is a real gem. His name is Joel Almeand he’s signed to The Tough Alliance’s label Sincerely yours, but he sounds nothing like TTA (surprise!). Instead of electro with cocky lyrics we get string-laden crooner-like music with very romantic (I guess TTA can be quite romantic at times) lyrics mostly about relationships gone bad. It’s quite upbeat in places, which makes me feel like dancing like an old man, and Alme’s got a voice to die for. It sounds a bit like Weeping Willows, but Weeping Willows, in my opinion, are yet to make an album as accomplished as “Masters of ceremonies” (which is the name of Alme’s debut album) - an opinon that could get me in trouble with a whole bunch of sad and lonely older Swedish men who wear their hearts on top of their quiffs. I really like the album, but I’m such an easy target for this type of music, there’s no way I can resist it now matter how hard I try. Hold on, I need to make myself clear to avoid any confusion – Joel Alme’s album “Master of ceremonies” is nothing gorgeous! Buy the album here. Listen to one of the better songs from the album below (or more on his myspace). Hopefully he’ll come to the UK soon to play some shows. I bet it’ll take a while though.