Next Nordic Wave - It ain't all Eurovision: Bad Sauna, Tribe Friday, Joe & The Anchor and MORE...
Many readers' only experience of music from the Nordic nations will be through Eurovision. Since the success of ABBA back in 1974, Scandinavia has bred 11 winners of the competition, most memorably the monster masked Rockers Lordi in 2006. Yet, Nordic music isn't just cheesy Europop, Heavy Metal and scenic soundscapes inspired by their nations' natural beauty. Like all regions, they have a wide variety of great music and a large selection of thriving new artists breaking through into the larger music scene. So, here are a few of our favourites that you should keep on your radar.
Finnish band Bad Sauna are one of the region's most highly respected Rock artists, making a name for themselves with the sheer power behind their instrumentation. They released their debut album around this time last year which earned them the title of 'Best Newcomers' as the Finnish Indie Awards and have now returned with two fresh new singles.
The first of which, 'Kaikki Kotona', fires up your senses pretty instantly with their trademark wall of sound. Gritty riffs and drums that engulf the track are a staple. The vocals come pretty sporadically and wait till the chorus to bring a beautiful melody of 'oohs' that sounds like its being sung by the whole band and thus brings a collectiveness to the track. The melody is uplifting and evokes a feeling of freedom which sparks thoughts of roadtrips or warm summer nights with friends. Their most recent single 'Vessanpönttö' manages to lull you into a more laid-back dreamy trance before the sonic wall hits. This only enhances the impact of the instrumentals later on. The track continues to flip between a lazy summer Indie track and an ear blasting Rock showdown. This symbiotic relationship between the two sounds elevates both of them, showcasing their intricacies. If you are a fan of dense Rock atmospheres then Bad Sauna are for you and head to 4:05 on 'Vessanpönttö' for a mind-melting treat!!
The opening riff in Tribe Friday's new single 'conversation' is so electrifying that it demands your attention from the opening note. The Swedish trio describe themselves as Bubblegum Emo which is a pretty apt choice of adjectives that the cover of their September single 'forward is the way out' puts into visuals. The bright blend of colours and emo aesthetic of their frontman give you an indication of why they choose this description. Yet, they also fit the Bubblegum Emo moniker sonically. Their music has dark lyrical undercurrents, dealing with topics such as death, sex, love, androgyny and self-detriment) yet often turns their subject matter inside out by throwing in completely contrasting audible atmospheres. You can see this clearly in their more emo take on the Spiderman theme below.
This idea of playing with expectations and twisting audible emotions is apparent on 'conversation' too. Many of their previous tracks have radiated quite a lo-fi, monotone aesthetic reminiscent of The Strokes but the new single takes a completely different turn. The aforementioned high-octane riff is complimented by a fast paced dance drum rhythm. Together they create a whirlwind of infectiously energetic sound that is built for an Indie dancefloor. The vocals are direct and manage to not become overwhelmed by the high energy levels. They provide fantastic angsty build ups to the biggest moments of the track On the whole it is their brightest and most upbeat release to date...that is until we are met with a ferocious pounding instrumental outro which, true to form, is subsequently followed by a delicate piano fading in the background just to mess with our auditory senses once more. These guys have released three singles in as many months! So lets hope there's more around the corner.
Joe & The Anchor
Joe & The Anchor are a Swedish Indie Pop quartet who are fast becoming Scandinavia's next big thing. Their music thrives on smooth vocal melodies that are designed to be sung back without shame, carpool karaoke style. Their 'Blue' EP from earlier this year was a great sampler for their bright Indie Pop concoctions with tracks like 'Wait On Me' showcasing the impressive vocal range of lead singer Joakim Rosenlund whilst the title track took on a more low key and heartfelt vibe with a harmonious soundscape providing the platform for a rare spoken word performance reminiscent of the more intimate moments on Loyle Carner's first LP.
They returned with the single 'California' last month, a slick Indie Pop ballad that has vocal tones comparable to The 1975 and builds layers of smooth synths and backing vocals that wash over your. Now, they are back again with 'Leaving You Know', perhaps their most heartfelt track to date. It showcases their vocal power like never before and amplifies the poignancy of the lyrics "honey I'm leaving you now" with a rousing string backing. It is a song that demands your attention with the audible honesty in the vocals and the anthemic instrumental tone that lets you know this isn't just a track you can stick on in the background...this is one to sit and listen while you take in the emotive experience.
With a name that seems to be referencing the famous artist and a bio that simply reads “long story” you can get a sense of the attitude of Norwegian Psych Rock outfit Salvador Dassi. Since their self titled debut album in 2019 they had been taking things slow in terms of new music with just one single to offer for fans. However, they are back once more with their first music of 2021, the brand new single ‘Occhiolism’.
The term refers to the awareness of the smallness of your perspective. Basically the knowing of how insignificant your life is in the grand scheme of things. It is an introspective concept that is reflected in the sonic style in the early parts of the song. Laid back vocal phrasings pepper a sunwashed American coastal sound. It is a dreamy state that is driven by a surf style guitar line that adds a bit of crispness into the soft mix. The second half of the track takes a sharp turn into a much more dense and fuzzed up Psych sound. The band describe their music as ‘psychoactive’ and at about 1:30 in you can see why. A grumbling guitar riff starts off the sonic melee with the drums raising their energy too. Then a fantastically electrifying guitar solo grips hold of the track and plays out a huge instrumental finale...before they add in a strange rewinding effect to leave you with a lasting strange Psychedelic flavour in your mouth. Hopefully this is the start of their next chapter!
Helsinki based solo artist Sätilä (translating as The weather in Finnish) has been sporadically releasing music since 2017 yet he has really turned up the gears this year with a debut EP and three singles under his belt. The most recent of these 'Social Isoloation' and 'Coward' appear thematically connected by the similar artwork aesthetic but deliver quite different sounds. There's no prizes for guessing what inspired the first of these two tracks, 'Social Isolation' which arrived in August. It talks of the inherent loneliness we all occasionally feel, expressed through the story of two people separated by time zones. Yet, the atmosphere of the song is surprisingly upbeat in moments considering the lyrical theme. It may begin more as you'd expect, with a pretty stripped back instrumental of just a washy background guitar, distant drum sound and pretty low key, subdued vocal tone. However, the chorus then bursts into an uplifting moment as Sätilä pushes his vocals high. Then, after the second chorus a rousing synth build up is introduced which brings a euphoric instrumental close to the track as his vocals linger and sway somewhere in the sonic mist of the background.
In contrast, 'Coward' is a more melancholic and intimate piano led number. The piano tone feels soft and delicate as if they keys are being treated with the same fragility that is expressed through Sätilä's vocals. The track slowly builds with warm strings and a deep percussive beat transitioning the sound from light and intimate to rich and poignant. Yet, it stays heartfelt throughout and, when paired with 'Social Isolation', provides a great showcase of the artists versatility and songwriting ability.
"We're from Sweden where the summer's short and the winter's long, hence the warm and colourful tunes" is how the bio of Kone Mara reads, and it is an accurate summary of their sound. The pastel tones of their cover artwork capture the their idyllic soundscapes that are themselves pastel in a sense. Their songs are smooth and hugely melodic, acting as dreamy sonic escapism that replicates the warm fuzz of a winter jumper. They arrived in 2021 with their debut single 'The Ordinary Place' which is driven by vocal harmonies that sit on top of slick lounge-style R&B rhythm. The track builds gradually, growing from a stripped back vocal performance to a full, rich textural jumble of sounds from the tight rolling drums to sporadic synths.
The trio have now returned with their second release, 'Highway 1'. Again, it is warm and smooth yet it has a more swaying coastal feel than its predecessor. From the blissful layers of female vocals to the less obvious background textural elements like the echoed shouts, every brush stroke that makes up this artistic endeavor overlaps one another seamlessly. In a similar manor to 'The Ordinary Place' this track gradually builds so that by the final moments it has a completely full sound with lots of different components providing a backdrop that is as punchy as Dream Pop can get. Meanwhile the vocals sit on top, becoming more and more infectious as the urge to play a part in the vocal tapestry becomes more irresistible. As the name suggests, 'Highway 1' is the perfect coastal driving soundtrack with melodies that you can't resist opening up the roof, letting your hair blow in the wind and sing a long to.
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