There’s no denying that 2021 has been somewhat incomplete from a Nordic Music Review album review perspective. Maybe 2022 will be better. In the meantime here’s my favourite Nordic albums from the last 12 months.
Anna Leone - I’ve Felt All These Things
The Swedish artist emerged only 3 years ago, and her debut release is the delicate, soft acoustic ‘I’ve Felt All These Things’, with Leone’s all so natural expressive songwriting a compelling listen from start to finish. Highlights include ‘Once‘, ‘Still I Wait’ and ‘Do You Ever‘.
Astrid Swan - D’Other
Another extraordinary release from the Finnish songwriter, who is able to deliver more power and poignancy into her poetic lyrical content than any other artist I can think of. Raw, intimate yet still easy to listen to, ‘D/Other’ considers the relationship between mother and daughter, as well as life and death itself.
CeaseTone – Egotopia
The great thing about ’Egotopia‘ is that as much as love it, I still feel I’ve only scratched it’s surface, such is the web full of contrasts and complex instrumentation and electronica woven by Hafsteinn Þráinsson . Yet through it all the most gorgeous vocal melodies will carry you away into a different dimension completely. Utterly brilliant. .
Sturle Dagsland - Sturle Dagsland
An album so complex that I’m still struggling to fully comprehend it, Sturle Dagsland invites us into a unique musical world where no genres or conventional boundaries exist. The result is an extraordinary mix of sounds, instruments, rhythms and vocal techniques, which somehow blend together to almost make perfect sense, at least after a few listens.
Marianne Sveen – Next of Kin.
‘Next of Kin’ is a delightful folk pop release, combining beautiful melodies with thoughtful personal lyrics that will draw you into her world completely. 'Look Away' is an obvious highlight, but the gorgeous intense instrumentation in 'Elephant' takes the album to a different level completely.
The Stillwalkers – Still Life
Still my favourite Nordic ‘indie’ band, The Stillwalkers finally returned with 'Still Life', the long awaited follow up to the 2015 NMR Album of the Year. It wouldn’t be out of place as the 2021 favourite either, with their customary blend of big guitars and and even bigger blissful melodies, which as demonstrated in tracks such as 'Headlights' and 'Concrete Heart', remain at the heart of their songs. Can’t wait to see them live in Turku in 2022.
Pom Poko – Cheater
Of course it’s up for debate whether 'Cheater' quite delivers the post punk punch that 2019 debut Birthday did, but for me it’s so packed full of high energy entertainment that it’s definitely worth inclusion. Singles 'Like a Lady' and 'My Candidacy' demonstrate Pom Poko at their best , whilst ‘Andy Goes to School’ remains an obvious live favourite.
Nordic Music Review Album of the Year
The School Book Depository – Bob and the Eastern Beacon of Hope.
If ever we needed a beacon of hope it’s right now, and Fredrik Solfors’ The School Book Depository project released an album that delivered melodies, warmth and indie pop charm in equal quantities. Although the album tells stories about family holidays and searching for lost friends, Solfors is not afraid to deliver some caustic commentaries on the failings of human kind too, but prefers to do so whilst gliding by on a skateboard rather than getting too damn depressed about the whole situation. Just a delightful listen from start to finish, with guest contributions from Helena Lindsten well worth a big shout out too.
So yeah I’ve missed a fair few (Lydmor, Gypsy Chicken, Iceage, Color Dolor and many many more probably), but it’s still a pretty good selection I think, and The School Book Depository, CeaseTone, Stillwalkers and Astrid in particular have again released albums I know I’ll treasure forever.
I really hope everyone has a great 2022, and that you are all keeping safe. Look after yourselves and NMR will return shortly. Hopefully.