To conclude our series, we’re delighted to welcome Dan Cromb to NMR, with his pick of Nordic artists to look out for in the next 12 months.
One thing 2020 wasn’t short of was new music. What better thing to do when the world is quietly imploding than to turn to your art, I suppose? Thankfully, it seems that 2021 is shaping up to be equally exciting in that regard.
Writing about ‘Artists To Watch’ for the year is one of my favourite things to do. It’s also fraught with challenges. There are undoubtedly artists who’ve been around a while that haven’t yet received the recognition they deserve, alongside genuinely new emerging artists without a release to their name. With that in mind, whilst it’s true that some of the artists I’ve included here may have been doing their thing for a while in their home countries, I’ve tried to focus this for a UK audience where they might not be so established. Ultimately, these are artists who I think deserve to find some commercial success in 2021 (whatever that means these days), have a quality that sets them apart from others and who I also just really enjoy listening to and want to spread the word about.
I’m also following on from Andy and David, so in an attempt not to duplicate artists, I’ll have to avoid mentioning a few who would definitely have made it on to my list. For prosperity, though, I wanted to give a quick hat-tip to the following artists: Gurli Octavia is an Danish songwriter I’ve had my ear on for a while (seriously, try listening to ‘Winter Arrived’ without falling into pieces) and her upcoming debut album is genuinely one of the best records I’ve heard in a long time; døssi keeps pretty stellar company and as far as debut singles go, ‘Beloved Sun’ is an undeniable beauty; The whole of Frida Sundemo’s 2020 EP ‘Sounds In My Head’ was excellent but ‘Gazelles’ is so drop-dead gorgeous that I won’t ever tire of listening to it; Löv have the potential to be huge, both in their home country of Norway and further afield, and 2021 could be the year they capitalise on that.
Iris (Norway) has been around for a couple of years now, with a two EP’s to her name (Femme Florale and A Sensitive Being), both of which highlight her uniquely delicate vocal style and her ear for a sweet melody. She’s an artist who’s not afraid to completely expose her soul when writing or performing. She excelled at an intimate gig in Camden at the start of 2020, and I suspect she’ll appeal to those who like their music overflowing with emotion. In my opinion, her most recent single ‘Lavender and Heaven’ was the most gorgeous song to land in 2020 and it revealed just what a frighteningly talented songwriter she is. Here’s hoping for more of the same this year!
Moyka (Norway) is another Bergen based artist from team that brought us Sigrid and Aurora and who also has a couple of EP’s ('Spaces' and 'Circles') to her name. I remember the first time I heard ‘Ride’ and was blown away by how good it sounded, as well as how impressive the production was. There’s a notable guest appearance on Lokoy’s upcoming album ('Badminton' - due to arrive January 22nd) too. Mark her down as the heir to Röyksopp’s synth-laden empire.
Axel Flovent (Iceland) is the softly-spoken troubadour you may already have heard of (his 2015 debut EP 'Forest Fires' has racked up 40 million Spotify streams to date). It’s fair to say that six years down the line, “long-awaited” is an appropriate description for his debut album. “You Stay By The Sea” is set for release in on the 15th January and, having spent the last few weeks listening to it, I’m happy to confirm that it’s been totally worth the wait. Moving back to Iceland (following stints in Amsterdam and Brighton) obviously helped Axel rediscover his roots and contributes to the warm and homely feel you get when listening to the album.
GRANT (Sweden) released, in my opinion, one of the most impressive yet underrated albums of 2018 with “In Bloom”. It’s a thundering tour de force of emotive, hard hitting songwriting, swaying from one genre to another, notable for the fact that all songs are, at all times, delivered with passion. Arguably the biggest draw, the diminutive Swede’s voice takes centre stage at all times, and that remained the case on 2020’s “Vertigo” EP too. We live in hope for another album in 2021, but regardless of whether that happens, GRANT is a definite compulsory addition to anyone’s record collection.
LOVA (Sweden) is another artist who’s been around for a little while but deserves to break through properly this year. Unashamedly pop, every song she writes is phenomenally catchy, and there’s certainly a radio-friendly element to her sound, but there’s also a deeper message to a lot of her lyrics. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from her this year, both individually and as a collaborator.