Nordic Music Review Favourite Albums 2019
Do lists like this matter? Probably not, but we know people look at them and for us it's a good way of wrapping up the year and setting ourselves for 2020. We deliberately call it our 'Favourite' Albums list for a reason. Other opinions are available, and there are some 'obvious' omissions, so feel to drop us a line to tell us what you liked, what we missed and what we maybe shouldn't have included. Thanks for reading this and we will try to bring you the best of Nordic music in 2020. Best wishes to everyone for the New Year.
25. 'Ari' - 'Radikoj'
Icelandic songwriter ‘Ari’ is always welcome in Nordic Music Review, a quirky songwriter with a true ‘Indie’ spirit. His 2019 release ‘Radikoj’ is the 2nd in a trilogy of albums he’s planning to release, and it is a warm, thoughtful release with some real stand our songs such as the particularly lovely and cello accompanied ‘Repeat’, as well as the catchy ‘Blue Neon Moon’. We’re delighted to include ‘Radikoj’ in our favourite 2019 album list.
24. 'Loyal Liar' - 'For the Sharks that Roam Below'
‘Loyal Liar’ were a new name to Nordic Music Review, and the Swedish / Austrian duo consisting of Albin Andersson and Hanna Godl released a charming album entitled ‘For the Sharks that Roam Below; at the start of the year. Soft, warm and always melodic, the duo are clearly influenced by the likes of Sufjan Stevens and ‘Belle and Sebastian’, which is always going to be a positive in our eyes, but this is an album definitely worth of inclusion in our list in it’s own right.
23 Juha Kujanpää - Kultasiipi (Goldwing)
We’ve done our very best to review a wide range of different styles of music this year, and Finnish composer Juha Kujanpää released an extraordinary instrumental based album called 'Kultasiipi' combining Nordic Folk, modern classical and some rock influences towards the end of the year. Some of the tracks such as ‘Impromptu’ are just the most beautiful compositions and positively compare with the likes of Max Richter and Arvo Part. This is well worth its inclusion in our favourite albums list.
23. Junius Meyvant - 'Across the Borders'
I guess we were expecting a sophisticed slick release from Icelandic musician Junius Meyvant, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. ‘Across the Borders’ is a beautifully written soul folk album, which is as cultured as it is stylish and has some lovely string arrangements throughout. Highlights include songs such as ‘Punch Through the Night’, ‘Holidays’ and the title track itself.
22. 'Pelicat' - 'Pelicat'
We were really spoilt with Norwegian indie pop / rock releases in 2019, with bands such as ‘Beezewaz, ‘The Side Ways’ and of course ‘Pelicat’, who opened the year with their self titled release in January. Timeless indie pop songs with a big hint of 60s / 70s influences, including the warped ‘Tell me I’m Wrong’, the anthemic single release ‘Down at the Arcade’ and my personal favourite, the lovely ‘Inside your Head’. ‘Pelicat’ is still a release which I really recommend.
21 Susanne Sundfor - 'Ten Love Songs'
Susanne Sundfor’s album ‘Ten Love Songs’ has appeared in many peoples ‘Album of the Year’ lists, and this was another excellent release from the Norwegian artist, with a diverse album based around a very simple theme.
21. . M Rexen - 'The United Kingdoms Part 2 – Animals of the Frozen Cloud'
’The United Kingdoms Part 2 – Animals of the Frozen Cloud’ may take some time to get into, but it’s really worth the time and investment, and in retrospect it’s an extraordinary release courtesy of ‘M. Rexen’ . There are some beautiful moments, such as the gorgeous end to ‘Autumn Home’ and lovely musical arrangements throughout, and it’s unusual, quirky and interesting, He’s also prolific in his releases, we didn’t even have time to consider his follow up release ‘And They Danced’ released in the last couple of months – it is definitely worth checking that out too.
20 Mew - '+ ='
Danish band ‘Mew’ followed up their No More Stories…. (etc)’ Album with a simpler titled release called +=, and its a triumphant return which is big, bold and full of confidence. Their live shows in the UK were very well received and they sneaked back at the end of the year to do 2 in London too.
20. 'Highasakite' - 'Uranium Heart'
‘Highasakite’ released 'Uranium Heart’ at the start of the year, and it’s without question my favourite of their 4 albums released to date. The duo, as they now are, poured an incredible energy and passion into the album, and it really shows, as it’s both personal and powerful. Tracks such as ‘Mexico’ are a particular highlight, as is the incredible title track, which is also one of my favourite songs of 2019. Since the album release the band have gone on to release the EP ‘The Bare Romantic, Pt 1’ the 1st part of what will comprise a new album next year
19. Fródi - 'Hola'
Multi-instrumentalist Fródi from the Faroe Islands captured our hearts with his gorgeous release ‘Hola’, which mixes classical minimalist and folk influences with some delightful melodic moments. Some of the magic might even be lost on me due to the lyrics being in Faroese, but there’s just much going on here, with complex arrangements, experimental elements and delicate thoughtful vocals. It really is a clever album.
18. 'Beezewax' - 'Peace Jazz'
As we said at the time, there’s really nothing not to like about ‘Beezewax’ and their album ‘Peace Jazz’ which was released back in May – especially if you like bands such as ‘Teenage Fanclub’ as much as we do. Incredibly this is their 7th album, and they’re a prolific touring band too, and ‘Peace Jazz’ is an irresistible album full of warm indie pop melodies. Check out tracks such as ‘Two Diamonds’, which are just classic indie and the excellent ‘Rainbows’
17. 'Pastis' – 'Circles'
If it’s a more traditional style of ‘Indie’ you’re looking for then look no further than ‘Finnish band ‘Pastis’, their album 'Circles' is packed full of anthemic sing-a-long indie numbers, such as the excellent ‘ Amazon’ and ‘Valour Valour’, as well as more whimsical songs such as ‘Barrack Street’ and my favourite of all, the irresistible ‘Ballad of Franz Reichelt’. We’ve featured ‘Pastis’ a good few times in the last couple of years, and the band who first met on the football terraces are worthy of inclusion in our favourite albums of 2019.
16. 'ELVAR' - 'Daydreaming'
Another true ‘indie’ artist, Icelandic musician ELVAR released his album ‘Daydreaming’ back in Spring, and its a thoughtful album which doesn’t confine itself to a specific genre – just 11 expressive songs with plenty of tunes, with an appealing blend of synths and guitars and interesting instrumental sections. Check out tracks such as ‘Over and out’, ‘Runaway Heart’ and the reflective ‘One of a Kind’.
15. 'dj. flugvél og geimskip' - 'Our Atlantis'
Experimental artist 'dj. flugvél og geimskip' released album 'Our Atlantis' way back in February, and its certainly one of the most memorable releases of the year. The album 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. There's such an amazing fusion of sounds, melodies and rhythms here, with a mix of influences and moments of brilliance, interspersed with electronic complexity and vocals which are inspired and slightly unworldly.
14. 'Spielbergs' - ''This is Not the End'
For slightly heavier guitar releases, you really can’t get much better than Norwegian band ‘Spielbergs’ who released ‘This is Not the End’ and have followed that up with an extensive European tour, including some fantastic live performances in the UK. Their album is packed full of high energy and blistering tracks, such as the obvious favourite ‘We Are All Going to Die’, but also ‘You All Look like Giants’, as well as my personal favourite, the atmospheric ‘Familiar’..
13. 'Nattfari' - 'D-Sessions'
We don’t include anywhere near enough Post Rock style albums in Nordic Music Review, and we really need to try harder in 2020. This year ‘Nattfari’ from Iceland returned from a long hiatus with a beautifully handcrafted instrumental release, which has real diversity in the writing of the tracks. There is so much to get totally absorbed in here, check out tracks such as ‘Hafsjor’ and the thumping ‘Sonic’, which will give you a good indication of how fantastic this band must be in live performances.
12. Moddi – ‘Like in 1968'’
A favourite Album of the Year list doesn’t ever seem complete without Moddi, who released his 5th studio album, and ‘Like in 1968’ is as memorable for the inspiring lyrics as much as the familiar melodic arrangements and vocals. Inspired by an era where music really did matter, it was written not so much longing for the past, but to ‘pick up some of the threads’ from that time, and in songs such as ‘Kriegspiel’ he absolutely achieves that - ‘who are we really fighting for,’ indeed.
11. 'Melby' - ''None of This Makes Me Worry'
Undoubtedly one of my favourite releases of the year, Swedish band ‘Melby’ released ‘None of this makes me worry’ and it’s a well titled album for a laid back psychedelic indie pop album, which is interesting, cleverly conceived and always easy on the ear. Released through the always excellent ‘Rama Lama Records’, check out the delightful ‘Overthinking’, as well as more unusual tracks such as ‘Always’. We would love to see some more UK live performances from these guys.
10 Marteinn Sindri - 'Atlas'
After featuring Marteinn Sindri and his debut single back in 2017 (after spotting him at ‘Sofar Sounds’), it was lovely to be able to feature his full length debut this year. The album ‘Atlas’ is well balanced and feels so natural in its songwriting and musical arrangements, with beautiful musical contributions from an array of musicians - the phrasing throughout is genuinely lovely. Check out tracks such as ‘Dice’, ‘Spring Comes Late Sometimes’, ‘Summerwine’ and ‘Drops’ - relistening to this album over Christmas has reminded me what a gorgeous release this is, please give it a listen.
9 rauður - 'Semilunar'
Undoubtedly one of our favourite releases of the year (partly because it just came as such a lovely surprise) came courtesy of Icelandic musician rauður, thanks to her album ‘Semilunar’. Behind 'rauður' is the experimental electronic musician and producer Auður Viðarsdóttir, and ‘Semilunar is a pretty startling album, incredibly clever in its construction, with tracks such as 'Flugdreki' and 'Lost / Love' a great example of her ability to merge both darkness and light into one, and with concluding track 'We Will All Feel Better One Day And / Or Die' a stunning conclusion.
8 Frisk Frugt - 'Den Europæiske Spejlbue'
Frisk Frugt's album ‘Den Europæiske Spejlbue‘ is utterly outstanding, brilliantly conceived and totally original. To many I realise it's probably a bit overly complex and even indecipherable, but to me there is so much in this release that I have remained entertained all year. It's also Kavus Torabi’s (Knifeworld, Cardiacs) Album of the Year, and he really does know what he’s talking about.
8 'Phogg' - 'Mofeto: Mashine Adamkosh''
‘Mofeto: Mashine Adamkosh’ by ‘Phogg is a sprawling fusion of traditional rock influences, warped psychedelia and experimental ideas, which just has so much going on it will take you months to fully appreciate. There’s a darkness to the Swedish quartets music too, which I loved from the moment I heard pre release single ‘Stupid kid’ and then in ‘Pearls’, the 2nd track on the album. ‘With Love’ reminds me of some of my favourite bands, and the whole album has become an absolute favourite the more I’ve listened.
7 'Pom Poko' – 'Birthday'
What can I say about Norwegian band ‘Pom Poko’, who simply exploded on to the indie scene in 2019, with outstanding live performances, extensive coverage on stations such as Radio 6 and the release of their album ‘Birthday’. The 4 piece band, who met at Trondhrim Music Conservatory take influences from such a wide array of places, and the result is an extraordinary blend of sounds, all delivered with incredible energy. Check out ‘Follow the Lights’ , the post punk inspired ‘Day Tripper’ and the incredible ‘If U Want Me 2 Stay’.
6. Ida Wenoe - '‘The Things We Don’t Know Yet’'
‘Ida Wenoe’ stunned us with her release ‘The Things We Don’t Know Yet’, an album I will always personally treasure and made a real impact back in April. She managed to create so much intensity and command so much presence through her quiet, delicate vocals and with the sparsest of instrumental support too. Check out tracks such as ‘The River of Treesbury Hill’ (everyone needs one) along with Self Pity’, and in particular of course Another Kind of Love’ .
5. 'The Wit' - 'A Whole Article. A Life'
To be honest, it’s pretty much impossible to separate our top 6 favourite Albums of the Year, and ‘A Whole Article. A Life‘ by Norwegian band ‘The Wit’ (featuring band members from Drape and Gold Celeste) is one of my favourite releases of the decade, let alone this year alone. Packed full of great songs, it mixes heavier guitar led tracks such as ‘Tiny Crack’, with great indie pop in the form of ‘If You Ain’t Got Nothing to Do (Don’t Do it Here’), and one of our favourite moments of the year was Indiefjord festival picking up and booking the band courtesy of our review. This is just such a good album.
4. 'The School Book Depository' - 'Bob and the Pitchfork Mob'
'The School Book Depository’ featured really high in our 2017 favourite Albums of the Year list, so it was great to see them back in 2019, courtesy of the excellently titled ‘Bob and the Pitchfork Mob’. The project courtesy of songwriter Fredrik Solfors is one of my most listened to Nordic artists and the new album is a real treat, with a mix of warmth and melancholia, and lyrics that so cleverly sum up humanities failings, but do so in a way that makes everything seem just about ok again. Check out the amazing title track, as well as the lovely ‘Tear in the Fabric’.
3.'Cats of Transnistria' - 'Aligning'
I have so much time for Finnish band ‘Cats of Transnistria’, and their album ‘Aligning’ is pretty magical from start to finish. The duo based around Tuomas Alatalo and Henna Hietamaki write such stunning songs, balancing shoegaze rock and ambient electronica, and the result is an overwhelming musical experience, with rich unusual textures and gorgeous vocals. Their music is so distinct, powerful and yet always personal and intimate too, and everyone should have room for some ‘Cats of Trans’ in their lives.
2. 'Moron Police' - 'A Boat on the Sea'
My expectations of the new ‘Moron Police’ album were rather high, but it way exceeded what I could have dreamed of. ‘A Boat on the Sea’ contains so many jaw dropping moments of musical brilliance, its no wonder it took so many years to conceive, record and release. Somehow combining power rock, progressive elements and pop anime it’s hugely entertaining, and 100% guaranteed to put the biggest smile on your face. Highlights include ‘The Phantom Below’, ‘Captain Awkward’ and the brilliant end track ‘Isn’t it Easy’. Marvellous stuff.
Also isn't the artwork fantastic? Our review came at quite a busy time, so if you didn't catch it first time, it's here.
1. 'The Sideways' - 'Can't Wait to Arrive Somewhere''.
‘This is of course carefully defined as our ‘favourite’ album, which is often our most listened to release, and this year our favourite ‘Album of the Year’ is from Norwegian band ‘The Sideways’ and their lovely indie pop album ‘Cant’ Wait to Arrive Somewhere’. Without question my ‘go to’ album of 2019, listened to just so much for its carefree melodic jangling indie guitar sound, somewhere between Teenage Fanclub and the equally loved Delay Trees.
Similarly to the ‘Stillwalkers’ album from a few years ago, this just appeared out of nowhere in an Inbox somewhere, and with tracks such as ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ and the gorgeous ‘A Man Behind Glass’, this album represents everything that we love about indie music, and we’re just so privileged to have been sent it.
Best wishes to everyone for 2020, and the reviews will start again on January 3rd thanks to a brand new release from none other than Major Parkinson...