Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

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We only need to hear the opening, warped guitar lines of “Deep Web” to find ourselves lifted out of our chairs and taken to somewhere far more glamorous and unhurried. Given that we first covered the track back in February of 2015, it’s no mean feat that it still retains such a sense of glowing magic and it remains a key component of Magic Potion’s debut album, which followed this year via Stockholm’s ever-engaging PNKSLM label.

Handily, for both us and them, such pleasantries weren’t only savoured for that track, and across this record the band deliver a multitude of utterly delightful guitar-pop songs that hang in the air like the summer’s most fascinating breeze. Led by the delightfully soft croon of a voice, the Stockholm-based quartet make good on their early promise, delivering a collection of songs that simmer, glow, and grab in all the right places. “Golden Power” is exactly that, a spirited message delivered with all the languidness we’ve come to expect, while “Jelly” rivals “Deep Web” for their most endearing moment, drifting effortlessly and captivatingly through dreamy guitar lines and a sumptuous atmosphere that will slow your day down to a crawl, no matter what situation you find yourself in.

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Originally released May 27th, 2016

Written, recorded and produced by Magic Potion.

I never imagined that The Radio Dept would produce a 1960s girl group cover. For me, You’re Lookin’ at My Guy only confirms the fact that genre aside, The Radio Dept  are fantastic songwriters. Whether it’s indie-pop or lover’s rock, the strength of their music is in the quality of their writing and delivery, particularly their choice of melody.
Could You Be the One is the perfect TRD ballad. That Bacharach-esque call and response between Johan’s vocals and that horn-sounding synth is heavenly. Pure genius.

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The Radio Dept have chosen to release a series of singles this year instead of an album, though they say that they’ll all be compiled onto one record when they’re done. So far they’ve just been digital singles but today, as part of Bandcamp Friday, they’ve offered up an actual 7″Vinyl. The a-side is a cover of The Tri-Lites 1964 single doo-wop-y “You’re Lookin’ at My Guy,” which they transform into jangly indie-pop a-la The Go-Betweens, complete with a lovely violin line. The b-side is an original, “Could You Be the One,” which is reminiscent of their early hushed, melancholy singles: “Guilty of wishing / You’ve been wishing away / Aching to be led astray / Anything to be the one that got away.” Both tracks are pretty great.

Band Members:
Johan Duncanson
Martin Carlberg

Released July 3rd, 2020

Many nations can lay claim to being Bruce Springsteen’s second home or adopted country. Italy has a strong case, given the ancestral roots of Bruce’s mother Adele (maiden name Zerilli) and a history of special shows that took place there, particularly in Milano. England is in the conversation too, with an incredible run of concerts dating back to 1975, and the passion of Spanish fans is well documented on Live in Barcelona. Australia may be a latecomer, but there’s no denying the love affair between Bruce and the land down under that played out in two major tours in 2014 and 2017.

Yet it would be hard to deny Sweden the symbolic honour of first among equals. Sverige’s history with Springsteen also dates back to 1975, when it was one of three markets Springsteen played on a brief European sojourn on the Born to Run tour. But the special relationship really starts with a pair of shows inside the very building in which this Devils & Dust performance takes place. Then called Johanneshovs Isstadion, the venue was the site of two legendary nights on the 1981 European leg of the River tour, memorialized on the famous vinyl bootlegs Follow That Dream and Teardrops on the City.

Four years later, Gothenburg cemented its place in the narrative with two dates at Springsteen’s home away from home in Sweden, Ullevi Stadium. Legend has it the passionate response of fans in Ullevi actually caused structural damage to the building in ‘85, and Springsteen has played the stadium nine times since that human rumble took its toll. Throw in the 1988 radio broadcast from Stockholms Stadion, the Tom Joad tour at Cirkus, and many other celebrated gigs, and the case is quite compelling. The country’s passion for Springsteen never wanes. Case in point: He sold out three stadium shows in Gothenburg alone in 2016, where it would appear he is as popular now as he was in 1985.

You can hear the special bond with Bruce’s Swedish fans on Stockholm 2005. Jon Altschiller’s mix showcases the audience-artist dynamic and the interplay between the two that makes live performance so special and so missed in these times of social isolation.

One element that made the Devils & Dust tour so bewitching was ever-changing setlists. At nearly every stop, Bruce dusted off a few songs that had been sitting on the shelf awhile and added them to a common core. In Stockholm, he opens with the tour debut of “Downbound Train,” hearkening back to those Ullevi ’85 shows. Boldly, the second song of the night is one of the highlights of that common core, “Reason to Believe.” Springsteen completely reimagined the song on this tour, transforming “Reason to Believe” into a Delta blues stomper with his inventive use of the bullet microphone.

Bullet mics are designed for harmonicas, with intentionally limited frequency range (usually cutting anything above 5,000 khz) and distortion. For his new take on “Reason to Believe,” Bruce played harmonica and sang his vocals through the bullet mic, distorting his voice and crunching down the sound to an eerily narrow slice.

The result sounds like an otherworldly transmission from the Crossroads or a lost Bluebird 78 RPM record spinning in the past. Rearranging his own songs is something Springsteen has excelled at going all the way back to “E Street Shuffle,” but this radical and riveting “Reason to Believe” is one of his most memorable and a standout every night of the Devils & Dust tour.

“Empty Sky” from The Rising had a second act on the tour as well, making close to two dozen appearances. The mournful tale rides Springsteen’s percussive acoustic guitar and focused vocals. Two guitar songs follow, the heartfelt parental reflection “Long Time Comin’,” which gains poignancy when Springsteen sings off-microphone, and the least-played track from Devils & Dust, “Black Cowboys,” which made 16 setlists in 2005.

Bruce moves to the keys for a rare outing of “The Promise,” in its first ever performance in Sweden. What a moment that must have been for diehard fans, five years before it became the title of the Darkness on the Edge of Town box set. We go down to “The River” on piano as well, with a striking prelude that starts with a single note, builds, swells and then settles solemnly before Bruce sings the evocative first lines.

Though it had been a standard feature on the Tunnel of Love Express tour, Bruce’s entertaining evolution tale, “Part Man, Part Monkey,” had its own second life on the Devils & Dust tour, a narrative befitting the candor Bruce was expressing about human behaviour in story and song during the shows, sometimes in deeply contrasting ways. Several Link Wray guitar turns only add to the appeal.

“All I’m Thinking About” is an underrated charmer. Sung in a faltering falsetto, it’s a series of sweet, real-life snapshots (little boys carrying fishing poles, little girls picking huckleberries) set to a simple chorus of devotion (or obsession?). Two songs later in “Reno,” fishing poles and blueberries give way to a price list of front and back door sexual access. Damn.

Snuck in between (no pun intended) is “Across the Border,” played for the first time since the Joad tour, augmented with a rich, accordion-like harmonica. You’d never know Springsteen hadn’t played it in so long, his reading is faultless.

Over to the irresistible eclectic piano we go for “Point Blank,” sounding more haunting and knowing than ever, then a true gift, “Walk Like a Man,” making its second archive appearance this year. Springsteen starts it on electric piano (not unlike the arrangement of “Tunnel of Love” from the previously released Grand Rapids 2005 show) and it unfolds warmly. It’s interesting to note that when he last played the song in 1988, he had no children of his own. Singing it here, Bruce is son and father. The song’s gravitas rises for the final verse as Bruce switches to full piano and the arrangement grows richer and more confident. What a gift to have two incredible live versions in our hands now.

That theme of fatherhood is enhanced with the piano pairing of “Walk Like a Man” with “My Hometown” in a powerful, straight-ahead reading where every line rings true. With that, the first half of the show concludes and we move back to guitar for “The Rising” and an intense take of “Lucky Town,” with Bruce strumming his acoustic with physicality and conviction like “Darkness on the Edge of Town” at the 1990 Christic Institute performances.

The back nine of the show rides his conviction to excellent performances of a trio of story songs, “This Hard Land,” “The Hitter,” and “Matamoros Banks.” One might go so far as to call “The Hitter” the closest thing to an unpublished screenplay Springsteen has penned since “Highway Patrolman” and until Western Stars, where it could have slotted in nicely. As character studies go, it is one of his finest.

As he does so masterfully, Springsteen rounds the bend and lightens the mood with a storming, Seeger-ized “Ramrod,” Dylan-ized “Bobby Jean” and a true-blue “Blinded By the Light,” making its Scandinavian premiere 32 years after its release.

The show wraps with the soul-stirring Devils & Dust tour pairing of “The Promised Land” and a cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” both offered in meditative, at times mantra-like arrangements. In “Dream Baby Dream,” the words “keep on dreaming” and “I just want to see you smile” sink into our subconscious, floating on dark-cloud organ notes that brighten as they turn towards heaven. Given the genuine dark clouds that so many of us are weathering, the spiritual power of the “Dream Baby Dream” mantra may provide genuine solace

Words by Erik Flannagan

  • Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, electric and acoustic guitars, ukulele, harmonica, electric piano, acoustic piano, pump organ
  • Additional musicians:  Alan Fitzgerald – Off-stage keyboard

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Stockholm’s Les Big Byrd are back with their new EP “Roofied Angels” due out on June 26th on limited edition 12” vinyl and with the A-side and title track released digitally in May. Roofied Angels is the first piece of new music from Les Big Byrd since 2018’s acclaimed Iran Iraq IKEA LP outside of the instrumental “Snö-Golem” 7” from last fall and the English language version of the band’s 2017 hit “Two Man Gang” which was released in May 2019. The 7 minute fuzz-blizzard “Roofied Angels” might just be the best thing the band’s put their name to yet, melding Motörhead and Shangri-La’s influences into their krautrock infused psychedelic rock, while bringing to mind the heavier side of the band’s 2014 debut LP They Worshipped Cats and was recorded during the sessions for the band’s upcoming third full-length.
Releases June 26th, 2020

Image may contain: possible text that says 'THE TALLEST MAN EARTH ON SONGS BY KRISTIAN MATSSON PERFORMED ON GUITAR & BANJO'

Sweden’s Kristian Matsson – aka The Tallest Man On Earth – emerged as one of the most charismatic, entertaining new singer-songwriters in the world. Scowering the stage menacingly at solo performances which became infamous, his gritty twang of a voice and stunningly intricate guitar lines made early comparisons to Bob Dylan not all that ridiculous.

I will play “Weather Of A Killing Kind”. I will play other songs. I will water the plants. Kristian playing his Joni Mitchell covers. And that Bon Iver cover was so beautiful!.

I’m going to do another YouTube livestream / hang from my room this Friday, April 17th at 3pm eastern time (21:00 CET). I’m still learning how to do these, I will try to tame the buffering monster the days leading up to it.

TRACK LIST: 3:27 Fields Of Our Home 9:03 För sent för Edelweiss 16:26 Museum of Flight 23:28 Weather of a Killing Kind 32:15 A Case Of You 43:00 Winds and Walls 52:20 Tougher Than the Rest 57:40 Blood Bank 1:08:46 1904 1:21:33 ‘I want to go everywhere’ (Not an actual song, I just like his strumming pattern 🙂 1:22:44 Like The Wheel 1:25:40 Eva Dahlgren is the musician, but I don’t know the song.  1:27:59 ‘The Most Beautiful of Souls’ (I don’t know the song, sorry!)

If there was ever a time to appreciate archival live recordings, that time is now.

Many years ago, I heard the brilliantly talented and famously cantankerous guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson posit a provocative position on the subject of live recordings. “Of the many, many performances [I’ve seen] over four decades,” he told an audience at SXSW in Austin, “I have [never] left and felt I wished to have it on tape. There was nothing in my experience of any of [those] events which were other than available to my experience. And if I wasn’t there, I missed it. And if I missed it, photographs, recordings, nothing could bring this back to me.”

The core idea Fripp articulates is undeniably true: Nothing can fully replace or replicate being at a concert in person, as it happens. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Archival live recordings are, as Ma Bell used to say, “the next best thing to being there.” As undeniably magical as live concerts can be, they are by nature fleeting, real-time experiences. Yes, they live on in our memories, but what’s the larger cultural value of these unique performances? When the technology was invented in the 1870s to record and preserve audio, after the spoken word, the earliest recordings captured on those cylinders were of musicians performing live. Preserving performances is arguably the fundamental underlying purpose of recording technology.

Hearing a show you attended can stir memories back to life. Amazing as that is, live recordings even allow time travel and can place us at the Tower Theater in 1975, the Roxy in 1978 or Wembley Arena in 1981 when we couldn’t have possibly been there any other way. Is it the same as having had Bruce stand on your cocktail table during the middle of “Spirit in the Night?” No, but close your eyes, let your imagination flow, and it is awfully close.

Gothenburg 28th July 2012 allows fans who weren’t there at Ullevi to travel through time and space to hear one of the best nights on the Wrecking Ball tour in a closing run of European concerts that was, to quote Stevie Van Zandt’s predictive tweet before the show, “one for the ages.”

There’s something about rainy shows that brings out the best in Bruce and the E.Street Band. The show opener, a cover of Creedence’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” is a bellwether for great things to come, with crunchy guitar leading the way. Fan-band bonds are solidified through sparkling takes of “The Ties That Bind” and “Out in the Street” (with extra long intro) before we move to the less-traveled corners of Born in the U.S.A. with an excellent “doubleheader” of “Downbound Train” and “I’m Goin’ Down.” The former extends the guitar-richness of the show’s opening salvo and benefits from the heft of the horn section; the latter restores a bit of often-missing edge to the self-deprecating tale.

The aforementioned guitar tone extends seamlessly into a sharp “My Lucky Day” in one of only four Wrecking Ball tour performances. Special nights are built on special songs, and Gothenburg has particularly juicy ones.

What is it about “Lost in the Flood?” Bruce and the band can let it lie dormant for ages, then nail it as they did in NYC 2000. “Flood” had gone unplayed for three years prior to Gothenburg, wasn’t soundchecked, yet the mighty E Street Band is more than up to the task. “In the key of E minor,” says Bruce, “then we’re gonna hit the big chord.” Do they ever. The big chord that follows Roy’s prelude smashes forth an electrifying version that sounds as vital and fresh as it did four decades prior. Bruce vocals are especially gritty, evidenced by this not-so-subtle lyric change: “Hey man, did you see that? Those poor cats were sure fucked up.” Damn.

The energy generated by “Lost in the Flood” propels the ensuing three-pack from Wrecking Ball (“We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Death to My Hometown”) plus kindred spirit “My CIty of Ruins.” Pick your cliche—firing on all cylinders, in the zone, killing it—all would apply, and doesn’t the horn section sound fantastic? Despite the stadium scale of the show, Jon Altschiller’s mix is tight and close, with Roy’s piano and Max’s high-hat in particularly sharp focus.

“Frankie.” Merely typing the song title brings a smile. The marvelous, lost-and-found Springsteen original premiered on the Spring 1976 tour, his first new song after the release of Born to Run. It was performed around a dozen times that year and cut for Darkness a year later (despite Bruce’s introduction saying The River). It was recorded again for Born in the U.S.A. in 1982, and that version was eventually released on Tracks in 1998.

The song’s live outings in modern times are equally limited. One-off attempts in 1999 and 2003 showed “Frankie” deceptively tricky to get right; something about the song’s lilting quality and mid-tempo pacing proved elusive. But after working through the arrangement in soundcheck, Bruce unlocks the wondrous heart of “Frankie” and lets it wash over Gothenburg in a spellbinding performance.

The show’s second act begins with slightly off-kilter take of “The River,” though normal service is restored in a crisp “Because the Night” and on through “Lonesome Day,” “Hungry Heart,” “Shackled and Drawn,” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” We step back into special-show territory with another great pick from Tracks, the rollicking River outtake “Where the Bands Are” dedicated to the fans who had travelled from show to show around Europe. It is the last performance to date of the irresistible track.  Thanks for the words Erik Flanagan

The Band

Bruce Springsteen – Lead vocal, guitar, harmonica; Roy Bittan – Piano, keyboards, accordion; Nils Lofgren – Guitar, lap steel, backing vocal; Garry Tallent – Bass; Stevie Van Zandt – Electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, backing vocal; Max Weinberg – Drums; Jake Clemons – Tenor saxophone, percussion, backing vocal; Charlie Giordano – Organ, keyboards, accordion; Soozie Tyrell – Violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, backing vocal; Everett Bradley – Percussion, backing vocal; Curtis King – Backing vocal, percussion; Cindy Mizelle – Backing vocal; Michelle Moore – Backing vocal; Barry Danielian – Trumpet; Clark Gayton – Trombone; Eddie Manion – Baritone and tenor saxophone; Curt Ramm – Trumpet

If I Break Horses’s third album holds you in its grip like a great film, it’s no coincidence. Faced with making the follow-up to 2014’s plush Chiaroscuro, Horses’s Maria Lindén decided to take the time to make something different, with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of favourite films on her computer (sound muted) and made her own soundtrack sketches, these sonic workouts gradually evolved into something more: “It wasn’t until I felt an urge to add vocals and lyrics,” says Lindén, “that I realized I was making a new I Break Horses album.”

That album is Warnings, an intimate and sublimely expansive return that, as its recording suggests, sets its own pace with the intuitive power of a much-loved movie. And, as its title suggests, its sumptuous sound worlds – dreamy mellotrons, haunting loops, analogue synths – and layered lyrics crackle with immersive dramatic tensions on many levels. “It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”

As Lindén notes, the process of making Warnings involved different kinds of dramas. “It has been some time in the making. About five years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, writing new material again instead of trying to repair it. New studio recordings, erasing everything, then recording most of the album myself at home…”

Yet the pay-off for her long-haul immersion is clear from statement-of-intent album opener ‘Turn’, a waltzing kiss-off to an ex swathed in swirling synths over nine emotive minutes. On ‘Silence’, Lindén suggests deeper sorrows in the interplay of serene surface synths, hypnotic loops and elemental images: when she sings “I feel a shiver,” you feel it, too.

Elsewhere, on three instrumental interludes, Lindén’s intent to experiment with sound and structure is clear. Meanwhile, there are art-pop songs here more lush than any she has made. ‘I’ll Be the Death of You’ occupies a middle ground between Screamedelica and early OMD, while ‘Neon Lights’ brings to mind Kraftwerk on Tron’s light grid. ‘I Live At Night’ slow-burns like a song made for night-time LA drives; ‘Baby You Have Travelled for Miles without Love in Your Eyes’ is an electronic lullaby spiked with troubling needle imagery. ‘Death Engine’’s dark-wave dream-pop provides an epic centrepiece, of sorts, before the vocoder hymnal of closer ‘Depression Tourist’ arrives like an epiphany, the clouds parting after a long, absorbing journey.

For Lindén, Warnings is a remarkable re-routing of a journey begun when I Break Horses’s debut album, Hearts (2011), drew praise from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, The Independent and others for its luxurious grandeur and pulsing sense of art-pop life. With the electro-tangents of 2014’s Chiaroscuro, Lindén forged a new, more ambitious voice with total confidence. Along the way, I Break Horses have toured with M83 and Sigur Rós; latterly, U2 played Hearts’ ecstatic ‘Winter Beats’ through the PA before their stage entrance on 2018’s ‘Experience + Innocence’ tour. Good choice.

A new friend on Warnings is US producer/mixing engineer Chris Coady, whose graceful way with dense sound (credits include Beach House, TV on the Radio) was not the sole reason Lindén invited him to mix the album. “Before reaching out to Chris I read an interview where he said, ‘I like to slow things down. Almost every time I love the sound of something slowed down by half, but sometimes 500% you can get interesting shapes and textures.’ And I just knew he’d be the right person for this album.”

If making Warnings was a slow process, so be it: that steady gestation was a price worth paying for its lavish accretions of detail and meaning, where secrets aplenty await listeners eager to immerse themselves. “Nowadays, the attention span equals nothing when it comes to how most people consume music,” Lindén says. “And it feels like songs are getting shorter, more ‘efficient’. I felt an urge to go against that and create an album journey from start to finish that takes time and patience to listen to. Like, slow the fuck down!” Happily, Warnings provides all the incentives required.

releases May 8th, 2020

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I Break Horses is the musical project led by Maria Lindén. From her Stockholm base, the Swedish artist delivered an extraordinary debut album in the shape of ‘Hearts’, released by Bella Union in August 2011. Having last week announced their return via the track ‘Death Engine’, today I Break Horses have unveiled a visually striking video for new single ‘I’ll Be The Death Of You’ from their upcoming third LP Warnings, released 8th May via Bella Union Records

There’s a certain thrill in putting a playlist of your favorite songs on shuffle and eagerly anticipating what comes up next. But as I grow older and less exciting, I’m finding that there’s also a certain thrill in listening to the same song repeatedly—a practice made particularly easy when the song is approximately five minutes long, generally hypnotic, and never really progresses at any point. “I’ll Be the Death of You” is this idyllic type of song in its purest form, comprised of lullaby vocals and flatlined synth beats upbeat enough to never get stale. The softcore homicidal lyrics are pretty cool, too.

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Sometimes you need an amazingly crafted Swedegaze pop album, and sometimes that album will kick in your door, shower you with kisses, then proceed to back its time capsule steamroller over your face. The band’s debut album “Last Forever” from 2015 was a surprise to many, not just because of its shoegaze influences but because of the depth and maturity of the songwriting. Unlike many Swedish bands Westkust didn’t fit the framework of the indie rock or the indie pop that have engulfed the guitar based music scene in Sweden . Instead they walked down their own road and followed the same path like shoegaze guitar heroes such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and that kind of patented quiet-loud dynamic that have inspired many bands.

Four years after they released their debut album Westkust are back with their sophomore self-titled record, but it’s a band that experience transitional times. First, original members Gustav and Hugo left the band to focus on other projects, but with the new line-up entailing Brian Cukrowski and Pär Carlsson added to Julia Bjernelind and Philip Söderlind, there’s greater focus on Westkust; second on Luxury Records,

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released March 1st, 2019

Malmo’s much-praised quartet of Caroline Landahl, Måns Leonartsson, Adam Agace and Lukas Thomasson release two glorious new tracks hot on the heels of ‘Siesta’, their excellent second album of last year on Fire Records.

“Swoony Swedish indie-pop.” Record Collector

“Too noisy to be indie pop, too sweet to be post punk.” Clash

‘Four Tries Down’ and ‘It’s A Mess’ further hone the band’s dream-pop adding extra allure through the musical interplay that coagulates behind Caroline Landahl’s ethereal vocal.

“Perpetually swaying between comforting and devastating” Gorilla Vs Bear reckoned of their debut album, ‘You Tried’ from 2016, and last year’s ‘Siesta’ was celebrated for being “nostalgic for ‘90s indie-pop innocence” by MOJO.

As their reputation gathers global attention, Hater have continued to blossom making a compelling slice of angular pop music that’s dysfunctional, dreamy, tempting and teasing.

‘Four Tries Down’ presents an acute hand-tooled angular rasp, with its chiming guitar chopped out against a disengaged rhythm, topped with the dreamy ambience of Caroline Landahl’s whispered confessional that cuts through the mesmerising hum.

‘It’s A Mess’ is more subtle, with a teenage Nico admitting to inevitable boyfriend trouble. Drums rattle before cutting down to the basics to let Landahls pontificate as it all goes wrong – it’s a beautiful mess. Beautiful.