1747 results found
- Featured Artist – Pétur Ben (IS)
New releases slow to a trickle at this time of the year so this is as good a time as any to do a Featured Artist post and I’ve had it in mind to take a look at Pétur Ben (Pétur Thor Benediktsson) for a while. Although he has been on the Icelandic music scene for a couple of decades now my exposure to his guitar skills has mainly been by way of his membership of Soffía Björg’s band, whom we featured a few weeks back with a new single. As clever a songwriter as Soffía is her work has always been enhanced by Pétur Ben’s masterful guitar work and wandering experimental solos during live performances. But he is an award winning composer and singer-songwriter in his own right, having working as a producer, arranger and guitar player, and his list of collaborators in Iceland and abroad also includes Shahzad Ismaily, Nick Cave, Mugison, Oyama, Valdimar, Sóley, Amiina, Lay Low and the Icelandic divaEmiliana Torrini. His 2006 debut album ‘Wine For My Weakness’ won the Icelandic Music Award for the Best Rock album that year and in 2012 he was nominated for Best Album at the same event, and separately won the Kraumur award for his second solo album ‘God’s Lonely Man’. And his range is very wide, everything from delicate minimal folk songs to black metal. He has written music for chamber ensembles and choirs and is a founding member of KÓRUS, a notorious choir/collective of Reykjavik creatives and a sort of super group with a core of five or six but up to 30 acolytes. I saw him perform in a church at the last Iceland Airwaves (Emiliana Torrini took part if I remember) and his show spanned everything from gentle folk to some pretty raunchy stuff accompanied by some ribald humour that I was surprised went ahead in a strict Lutheran church. The times are changing in Iceland. He writes movie and TV scores, and works for Ragnar Bragason’s movie ‘Metalhead’ (2013) and the TV show ‘Prisoners’ (2017) both won the Edda Award in the category Best Film Score. But here’s the thing. Last year I watched, in the traditional BBC4 9pm Nordic Noir slot on Saturday night, the whole eight episodes of ‘The Valhalla Murders’, the superior Icelandic cop drama about childhood abuse and murders committed 30 years previously close to Borgarnes, north of Reykjavik, and marvelling at the score without the faintest notion that Pétur Ben had written all of it. Interesting to see too that he is signed to an Icelandic management and PR outfit, The Peer Agency, which has also brought us the likes of Myrkvi and Boncyan, and which has impressed me in the past with its commitment to supporting its artists even psychologically when needs be. There are many videos of him on YouTube although most are quite old but I reckon he really should play this out with something from the Valhalla Murders. This is the first track from the album and the music to the opening shots of the first programme and ultimately the theme. And here within the trailer for the series. Find him on Facebook.
- ARMY of MOTHS - ‘The Canine Trilogy’ (EP)
I was thinking when David covered ViVii recently that they’re fast becoming ‘our most featured artist’ in these pages. But I then remembered the even more frequently referenced ARMY of MOTHS, and it so happens they have a new EP / Mini Album of sorts out. It’s called ‘The Canine Trilogy’ and as you might have guessed, it’s all about our 4 legged ‘not a cat’ friends. Of course, ARMY of MOTHS, with their curious blend of pop, psych, indie and rock, are not entirely Nordic. Their principle members are Scottish and English, but yet again on this occasion they’re joined by 2 ‘superstars’ of the Norwegian music scene, Sondre Veland, officially the best drummer on the planet, and all round top guy André Lund (guitars and mixing), both of whom having had the misfortune to have either played, or still play, with Major Parkinson. This of course makes the Moths officially Nordic, and certainly far more so than The Dowling Poole, who I once let slip through into NMR on account of them claiming ‘they sometimes felt a little bit Swedic’. 'The Canine Trilogy' follows on from two albums featured on these pages, ‘Sorry to Disturb You’ and ‘By Word of Moth’, the latter which contains one of my favourite tracks of recent years, ‘Wired To The Moon’, as well as ‘Touched by the Power of Dog’, which if you hadn’t noticed, is another track about dogs. The new EP opens with erm ‘Dogs’, a cacophony of noise, a dog bark and then a driving upbeat introduction, which immediately veers between the conventional and leftfield, cheery pop melodies accompanied by offbeat twisted rhythms and a vast array of supporting instrumentation and ideas, that catapult the track in every direction. ‘A Canine Prayer’ is an epic 9 minutes, although quite touchingly it’s not actually about an actual dog, rather band member ‘Lady Moth’s’ childhood ‘dog on wheels’. Early on we get a hint of what’s to come musically with a quite beautiful ‘Major Parkinson’ style vocal tune just over 1:20 in, before the most stunning musical build up just under 5 minutes that carries the track to levels we probably haven’t seen from the band previously – a huge anthemic progressive rock theme, all belted out in homage to a toy dog. It’s utterly marvellous. But the ‘dog on wheels’ isn’t finished, morphing into ‘Astropup’, a super hero ‘made of love, chosen to protect the universe’, which might of course seem somewhat far fetched but just go with it, an entertaining prog power pop rock‘n’roll stage musical boogie woogie blast, delivered at a pace only equalled by the flying dog himself. The huge ending is simply stunning and ‘goosebump’ inducing. And those of you that have sat out recently during the the warm nights and seen what you think is the International Space Station flashing overhead at 30,000 KPH, well think again my friends, think again. 'The Canine Trilogy' isn’t just my favourite release of 2021 by a country mile, I’m struggling to think of any EP / mini Album that I love quite as much as this over the last 30 years plus. Of course the fusion of Bowie, Cardiacs and others is right up my musical street, but this is just great fun, packed full of melodies and ideas, joyous without a hint of melancollie (that's the only one I promise), written too with such warmth and energy. Yet throughout it always retains that unique independent spirit involving 2 people writing tunes in a living room somewhere ‘up north’ just because they love doing so, and producing the whole thing on the tiniest of DIY budgets. But the other impressive thing is that not only is their songwriting getting better and better, but the scale of their tracks is reaching an extraordinary level too, and that means 'The Canine Trilogy' has hours of repeat listening to be enjoyed. I would also suggest that it demonstrates that André Lund (responsible for the mixing) is a genius. Magnificent, absurd, beautiful and totally life-affirming, ARMY of MOTHS have no idea what they’ve done, or what they’re capable of - and we love them for that as much as anything. Find them on Facebook. Buy the CD and a load of great new merchandise on Bandcamp.
- Hwaino (NO) – ‘Lithium Lullaby’ (track from recent EP)
As is regrettably all too often the case these days I know little about Hwaino but he was covered here only a while ago with a full in-depth analysis of a convoluted book he’d written which bears comparison with the epic ‘Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ tale by Genesis. He’s just released an EP, ‘The Insomniac Sessions’ and this track is from it. He bills himself as “eclectic post-rock/post-metal based in Bergen, Norway.” Hand on heart I haven’t a clue what ‘post-metal’ is; can’t even imagine it. Then he adds, “Elements of prog, trip-hop, lofi and blues-rock.” Now I’m starting to get there because I often hear prog in what passes for metal, or even post-metal. To my mind what remained of prog took off in two directions when its ultra showbiz era crashed and burned in the late 1970s and early 1980s. On one hand you have the perfectionists, with their meticulous complex arrangements across keyboards and guitars and on the other what I call prog-metal, a harder sound with distinctive metal riffs underpinning the flowery stuff. Symphonic metal is a notable branch of it. And Hwaino’s music falls loosely into that category. He calls this track, “an ethereal post-rock-ish song, with some nice and soothing violins and a catchy climax.” The previous review by Andy referred to the “blissfully layered violins” and he called for more of it. I’m in accord with that observation as his violins here complement perfectly a guitar riff that might have arrived courtesy of Steve Howe, The Moody Blues or Wishbone Ash. Not sure which lithium is providing the lullaby but I doubt it’s the one in your batteries. Then again it is a metal and it might be a play on words of sorts. Whatever it is, this is better than any medication. Does he play all these instruments himself? Lord knows but I’m sure he can. It just seems to be de rigueur in Norway right now. Find him on Facebook.
- 2019 Albums
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 2 nd 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...
- 2015 ALBUMS | nordicmusicreview
Nordic Music Review Favourite Albums 2015 As always this is personal opinion, and we deliberately call it our 'Favourite' Albums list for a reason. Other opinions are available, and as always we welcome yours, 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 2016. Best wishes to everyone for the New Year. 25 DIG DEEPER - 'How You Spend Your Days' The great thing about doing this is that we get to revisit some releases from right at the beginning of the year, and Norwegian band Dig Deeper with their album ‘How You Spend Your Days’ has continued to grow on me throughout this period. Described as ‘Mountain Rock’, it fuses together different styles of guitar based music, and its packed full of good melodies - its well worth checking out. 24 Soley - 'Ask the Deep' We didn’t formally review Soleys album ‘Ask the Deep’ because it got so much attention elsewhere, and there are so many beautifully written reviews out there (I think we pointed people in the direction of the tremendous review written by Edward Hancox if I remember), but the former member of Seabear released her excellent and haunting album, full of darkness and mystery back in May, and her reputation as a versatile multi-instrumentalist and composer continues to grow – even if I do love her piano compositions more than anything. 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 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. 22 Katzenjammer - 'Rockland' Not forgetting we’re a review site aimed, in the first instance, at increasing awareness of Nordic music in the UK, we almost always get a really great reaction when we point people in the direction of Katzenjammer, and their album ‘Rockland’, released back in January (I think dates may have varied across countries), is packed full of outrageous tunes, whilst their live shows in the UK have been excellent, and great fun too. 22 Katzenjammer - 'Rockland' Not forgetting we’re a review site aimed, in the first instance, at increasing awareness of Nordic music in the UK, we almost always get a really great reaction when we point people in the direction of Katzenjammer, and their album ‘Rockland’, released back in January (I think dates may have varied across countries), is packed full of outrageous tunes, whilst their live shows in the UK have been excellent, and great fun too. 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 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. 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 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. 19 Gold Celeste - 'The Glow' We’ve covered Gold Celeste’s release ‘Glow as well as their recent UK gig, and the album has definitely continued to grow over the last few months of the year. The Norwegian band released a dream pop album with lovely layers of sound, flowing melodies and really interesting lyrics. 18 Laura Moisio - 'Ikuinen Valo' Laura Moisio popped up in last years favourite album lists too, and I really loved her most recent release ‘Ikuinen Valo’, a warm and gorgeous album, the instrumentation is written with a real sensitivity and her vocals are simply outstanding. It’s the first album on our list sung in that countries native language, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. 17 Valsaland - 'Fängelset Valsaland released their debut album ‘'Fängelset’ at the end of the year, and it brings together their outstanding (and award winning) single / video releases from the last year with some extra tracks. Post rock, but not as we’ve heard it before, the vast array of instruments used set out compelling visions of the world we live in, and the accompanying videos are powerful and beautifully presented. 16 Dråpe- 'Relax / Relapse' Norwegian band ‘Dråpe’ released their ‘Relax / Relapse’ album in October, and even if it took us a while to review it, we’ve listened to it so much, it’s a dream pop album packed full of addictive melodies and carefully blended synths guitars and vocals. In ‘?’ and ‘My Friend the Scientist’ there are 2 exceptionally good tracks as well. 15 Bjork – Vulnicura Bjorks album ‘Vulnicura’ was an astonishing release, personal, intense and so powerful that I actually found it difficult to write about. In many ways it was more accessible than some of her previous releases too, and whilst it did slightly divide opinion in those we asked on whether it was a true ‘favourite’, it is well worth its inclusion in our end of year list. 14 Amason - Sky City Swedish band Amason released their stylish and smooth album ‘Sky City’ in August, and its had a good reception in the UK, with a real laid back quality and the vocals, particularly from Amanda Bergman are outstanding. This will appeal to a wide range of musical tastes too. 13 NEØV - 'Dominique' Early in the year we had a release from Finnish band NEØV, and 'Dominque' remains a real favourite of mine, melodic noise pop – shimmering shoegaze with real tunes. There are great melodies, and a distinctness in sound and instrumentation that I like, and its all very laid back. Still recommended to get your hands on a copy. 12 Lockerbie - 'Kafari' Another album that I’ve just listened to so much this year, Lockerbie's ‘Kafari’ has just continued to grow and grow, stylish post rock and another band to effectively utilise brass in their instrumentation. This is lovely songwriting, understated and clever, full of flowing melodies and as a band their music continues to evolve. Button 11 Black Lizard – Solarize Its not often the collective Nordic Music Review ‘helpers’ and occasional review writers agree on something (or anything), but Black Lizards were pretty much mentioned by everyone when I asked them for favourites of the year. Their album ‘Solarize’ is really easy to like, psych rock with great tunes and a real identity. We saw them live in Manchester and they were great there too, and tracks such as ‘All Her Time’ are amongst our most listened to playlisted songs of the year. 10 Bang Gang - 'The Wolves Are Whispering' We’re amongst some real favourite treasured albums from the last 12 months now, and Bang Gang's ‘The Wolves are Whsipering; is such a lovely album, and a welcome return too. This album is so genuine and heartfelt, and the depth is in the beauty of the lyrics as well as the music itself. I really do like this album very much. 9 The Tallest Man On Earth - 'Dark Bird is Home' I realise that not everyone loves the ‘The Tallest Man On Earth’, but he received a few ‘votes’ when I asked for opinions, and his release ‘Dark Bird is Home’ was confirmed by Spotify as one of ‘my most listened to albums’ when I checked what I’ve been listening to this year (along with Major Parkinson obviously). He remains an exceptional songwriter, individual and compelling, and when someone ‘new’ to Nordic music asks who they should listen to, I will often ask if they’ve come across his music, so we’re delighted to include this in our Top 10. 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 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. 7 23:23 - Softest Wave, Torero, Drifter This is where it gets slightly complex, because 23:23 (the Finnish songwriter Rami Vierula) confused us by releasing 3 Albums simultaneously back in May, ‘Softest Wave’, ‘Torero’ and ‘Drifter’ and whilst Drifter remains my favourite, I’ve decided just to simplify things by including all 3 at the same time in our favourites list. This is a real low-fi, hazy, treasure trove of music, with tracks written over a number of years, and they all feel precious and collectible. Amongst my most listened to music from 2015, I realise this might not be for everyone, but to me there is a genuine and rare songwriting quality here. 6 Bror Forsgren - 'Narcissus' Bror Forsgren's album ‘Narcissus’ is a spectacular achievement and a hugely enjoyable listen. It is ‘epic’ in many ways, and a complex mix of many different musical styles, utilizing a full orchestra and bringing together influences from across the musical spectrum. The Norwegian composer / instrumentalist has released something very special here, and I really recommend it. 5 Dreamers Circus - 'Second Movement' I came across Dreamers Circus very late in 2015, the Danish folk trio have made an extraordinary impression with their release ‘Second Movement’, and it recently won the Album of the Year in the Danish Music Awards Folk 2015. A beautiful blend of classical music from across the ages and traditional folk, the album is truly exceptional and I really think would appeal to such a vast number of people. And they come to the UK in February too. 4 Sara Forslund - 'Water Became Wild' Sara Forslund's ‘Water Became Wild’ is a beautiful, striking and personal release which was released by the Swedish songwriter earlier in the year. It is stripped back, with every note and instrument used intelligently and sparingly. Utterly captivating, I like it even more than I did when I reviewed it back in June, and as always I find it helps if you turn her music up really loud so that it takes over every little corner of your house. 3 Árstíðir – Hvel Árstíðir's ‘Hvel’ made an instant impression back in March with a release which has both an intimacy which makes it feel deeply personal as well as a power to it too. The songwriting is completely beautiful and utterly mesmerizing, and it is performed by the most extraordinary musicians from Iceland. ‘Hvel’ has a real magical quality to it, and I will always remember the first time I heard it. 2 Agent Fresco - 'Destrier' Quite simply ‘Agent Fresco’s Destrier is a blistering album, and staggeringly impressive too. With a phenomenal mix of brutal guitars and the most sensitive vocals, the Icelandic band have put together an album which continues to keep me interested months after its original releases. It hits the mark in so many different ways, and the album has so many ‘favourite’ tracks on it. 1 The Stillwalkers - 'The Stillwalkers' Normally at this point i think I’m supposed to say that it was impossible to choose an Album to list at ‘Number 1’ on the basis that there were so many amazing and very different releases to compare and consider. But if truth be told, ‘The Stillwakers’ self titled album has been such a personal favourite since its release, and the fact that another Nordic Music Review ‘helper’ then voted for it too, this actually became an ‘easy’ choice for our 2015 ‘Album of the Year’. This is an outstanding debut, a release at the heart of an ‘indie guitar band’ genre, but packed full of great melodies, brilliant instrumentation and genuinely loveable songs. There are 10 very strong tracks, put together on a low budget with real love, care and enthusiasm from a small Finnish band who just want to write great music with tunes in. Last year our 2 top Album of the Year choices (Mirel Wagner and Monotown) went on to win prestigious awards for their albums. ‘The Stillwalkers’ probably won’t, but that hardly matters, to me this will always be a truly special and treasured album, and I have no hesitation in listing it as the Nordic Music Review Album of the Year for 2015.
- 2017 Albums
Nordic Music Review Favourite Albums 2017 A list such as this is always going to be a matter of personal opinion, and 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 2018. Best wishes to everyone for the New Year. 25. Novocaine - 'Swept Away' Influenced by a diverse number of rock genres, Novocaine have an ability to write big rock melodies accompanied by this huge instrumental sound that will please those who like classic, progressive and post rock styles. For me they're at the best when they 'go large' instrumentally in that post rock style, and when they get it right as in 'Paradox', it is both blistering and hugely enjoyable. 24. Black Dough - Freaky Family We like to cover a diverse set of genres, and in Black Dough we were delighted to come across a band not afraid to experiment around the edges of mainstream rock, taking influences from bands such as The Breeders, but putting their own distinct mark on it. It undoubtedly takes some listening to, but you'll get drawn into the mesmerizing beats and howling vocals. With unconventional songwriting structures and some dark visions expressed through the music, Black Dough created a weighty album, with highlights tracks such as 'Constant Contact' and the mammoth 'The Well'. 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. Simen Mitlid - Everything Stays the Same Norwegian songwriter Simen Mitlid released his album in September, with songs well constructed and intricately written with different shades of darkness and light, and always with finely judged instrumentation which demonstrate subtlety as well as some richly textured sections. Simen Mitlid is a songwriter with a lovely natural ability to write expressive and thoughtful songs and 'Everything is the Same' was a real success. 22 Katzenjammer - 'Rockland' Not forgetting we’re a review site aimed, in the first instance, at increasing awareness of Nordic music in the UK, we almost always get a really great reaction when we point people in the direction of Katzenjammer, and their album ‘Rockland’, released back in January (I think dates may have varied across countries), is packed full of outrageous tunes, whilst their live shows in the UK have been excellent, and great fun too. 22. Line Bogh - 'Like Fire Like Fire' This is an album which has really grown across the last few months. It's a an album written in very much a personal style, softly written songs with gentle melodies and her distinct vocals carrying the tracks forward. But it just has this lovely warmth, and Line Bogh's vocals are compelling throughout. 'Yellow Moon' remains an obvious highlight, as is 'Airplanes'. 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. Lowly - Heba We wrote about this briefly back in Match, and it is an album that has also continued to grow. The band from Denmark released an impressive debut, that mixes atmospheric instrumental and vocals with innovative rhythms, and they feel like a band with a wealth of creative ideas at their fingertips. For those looking for good examples of the latest 'Nordic' sounds, I often point them in the direction of 'Lowly', and in tracks such as 'Deer Eyes' and 'Prepare the Lake' they really hit the mark. 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. Death Machine - Cacoon This was an album which was released back in April, but that we only came across much later. Behind 'Death Machine' is the musician Jesper Mogensen, who started the project back in 2013, and Cocoon' is a beautifully written and stylish album, that takes influences from folk and synth artists from the 80's. The songs are melancholy and intimate, at times spiritual sounding in their vocal quality and delivery, and ultimately the album is uplifting. Highlights include 'Disco Blues', 'Under the Pillow' and the expressive 'When you Sleep'. 19. Circumnavigate - 'When World Collide' This was released very late in the year, and it is an ambitious album from the British / Norwegian band who demonstrate this lovely musicality in everything that they do, from the subtle piano touches to the wonderful trumpet contributions. We have always loved the way that they infuse ideas from across genres, particularly the jazz touches, and this album is full of gorgeous moments. Not an album to listen to as you rush around on your daily routine, just chill, relax and enjoy the beautiful instrumentation and vocals. Highlights include 'Under Water' and 'Secret'. 18. Strange Hellos - Chromatic For those of you that looking for the latest guitar / shoegaze style band, look no further than Strange Hellos from Norway, their album 'Chromatic' is packed full of blissful guitars, dreamy guitars and the vocals, courtesy of Birgitta Alida, are a strength throughout. There are so many highlights, jangly pop led 'Is It Me' through to the brilliant 'We Are Trouble', and the acoustic led 'Albert' shows a different side to their songwriting too. We've mentioned this band a few times and are delighted to include 'Chromatic' in our favourite album lists. 17. Black Dog Howl – Psalm It’s great to be able to include this on our Albums of the Year, as it is undoubtedly a real favourite but it also helps demonstrate the diversity of styles of music that is out there. Gothic Americana is probably not everyone's ‘go to’ music style, but take a listen to ‘Black Dog Howls’ interpretation of the genre, packed full of catchy tunes and expressive lyrics, its difficult not to like the duo. 16. Ilkka Arola - From the Depths of the Earth This a fascinating and brilliantly performed album by the Finnish jazz trumpeter, and irrespective of your normal music tastes we really hope that everyone has given this album a chance. It cleverly fuses such a variety of world music influences, from Middle-Eastern sounds to Afro-American rhythms, and the best place to start is opening track 'Qlanadia', which is a pretty extraordinary composition. But actually it's the contribution made by all musicians on the album which make this music so special, and this is a really recommended release. 15. Jaakko Aukusti - Mountain This was possibly our first detailed album review of 2017, and the Finnish musician conjured up a distinct and original sounding album, packed full of big tunes and clever rythyms. There are some really good tracks throughout, from the opener 'Oasis' right through to the excellent concluding track 'Turmoil'. Jaakko Aukusti is a musical inventor, who loves to come up with complex and entertaining musical ideas, and the album is simply great fun. If you have time check out some of his live performances on YouTube too. 14. Bjork - 'Utopia' As always so much has already been written about this album, to me 'Utopia' a far more 'accessible' album than her previous release, An exploration of 'Utopia' it is her most weighty album to date, 71 minutes and 14 tracks long. But once you get inside it, there is beauty, emotion and an extraordinary range of musical textures and sounds. No doubt there will be disagreements about the position on our list but... 13. The Sleeplings - Elusive Lights of the Long-Forgotten I think its expected that there’s a few ‘hidden gem’ style bands / albums end up on our Favourite lists , and we’re delighted to include Danish band The Sleeplings on our list for 2017. ‘Elusive Lights of the Long-forgotten’ has progressive rock influences no doubt, but actually the key to its success to me is the fact that it simply has great melodies and guitar contributions, and it always sound like a band who are having great fun writing their songs. Similarly to The Stillwalkers in 2015 this is an album which hasn’t received that much attention, but those who have reviewed it have been very positive. 12. Koria Kitten Riot – ‘Songs of Hope and Science’ There is no doubting that Koria Kitten Riot remain a real favourite at Nordic Music Review (even if Santa didn’t bring me the vinyl edition of the album which was on my list), and ‘Songs of Hope and Science’ is such a well written album, full of easy lilting 60’s influenced style tunes, with lyrics in particular that hit the mark – observant, thoughtful and often darkly comic. This is a band who have so much to offer, and all of their albums remain essential listening. 11. Susanne Sundfor – 'Music For People in Trouble' This is an album which has really grown on me, and which I really think everyone will like. Stripped back from her previous album, based mainly around guitar and piano, the songs allow Sundford beautiful voice to shine through, and there are some genuine ‘goosebump’ moments in tracks such as . Delighted to include this, not because we feel it ought to be there, but because it is genuinely a ‘favourite’ album. 10 Ari - 'Fræ' This is undoubtedly 'our' type of music, independent multi-instrumentalist Ari Gudmundsson utilises both electronic and acoustic instruments to create a varied album with melodies and songs to sing around the house. Highlights of the album include the passionate 'Hinnin og haf' and the outstanding 'Auga uppotsins', and this is definitely an album I've kept coming back to across the year. Part of a trilogy of albums, we're looking forward to the follow up. 9 Astrid Swan - 'From the Bed and Beyond' We wrote about Astrid Swan earlier this year, but never formally completed a 'full' album review, and there was a reason for that - I honestly found it simply too powerful to write about, for reasons I wont explain but you would all understand. It was written during the long road to recovery after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and tracks such as 'Song of Fear' are so strong, poignant and personal that it is impossible not to be affected. I keep coming back to the album, and ultimately I have found it uplifting, even if it has been difficult at times. 'From the Bed and Beyond' is an astonishing achievement. 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 Water Boogie System - 'Year of Silver'' I really love Water Boogie System, even if their album 'Year of Silver' will be an acquired taste to some. From the instrumental theme in 'Herne Hill', to the complex 'But Why' to the gorgeous 'Hear me out', this is an album packed full of ideas, and performed by brilliant musicians who take their influences from across the rock and jazz sectors. In the midst of it all they're able to throw in extraordinary quirky tracks such as 'Hunting Song' too, and the more I've listened to the album, the more I've really appreciated just how darn clever the whole thing is. 7 Mammut – 'Kinder Versions' This is a beast of an album, dark at times, but consistently rewarding and . I guess if I was to recommend one Icelandic band which demonstrated the strength of the nations musicv it would probably be Mammut – not afraid to show their infleunces but strike their own distinct course too, ‘Kinder Versions’ has a number of really strong tracks – with ‘Breathe into Me’ and being particular highlights. 6. ONBC - 'Travelmate' This is another band we have no hesitation in recommending when we're asked for the latest Nordic sounds. 'Travelmate' is a really substantial album, with plenty of really strong tracks. There is no doubt that the style, 90's indie shoegaze / dream pop influenced songs, with big tunes and soft blissful vocals fits right into the type of music we like at Nordic Music Review, and the middle and latter tracks of this album are particularly strong. This is an excellent release from the Danish band previously known as the 'Oliver North Boys Choir' 5. TELLER - 'Strive Recess Echo' Hurrah, a proper Post Rock album in our top 5, and this is a blisteringly good listen from Swedish band 'TELLER', with epic overblown 10 minute long tracks, with huge musical themes. But listen to for the subtle contributions from both cello and trumpet. Highlights include the particularly excellent 'The Wary and Watchful'. This is an album which took 4 years to create, and you can tell, it has that precision in the detail. This is just great to put on really loud and indulge yourself completely. 4. JFDR - 'Brazil' We featured Pascal Pinon in our 2016 Albums of the year, and it's probably no surprise that JFDR, the solo creation of Jófríður Ákadóttir is included in our 2017 listings. This is a beautiful album, minimalist in its approach, and poetic in its delivery. There are so many tracks that stand out, from the opening 'White Sun', to the atmospheric 'Instant Patience' and the extraordinary 'Anything Goes', this is an album that will be on so many peoples favourite albums of the year. Jófríður Ákadóttirn is an incredible talent, and every project she's involved with offers something so special. 3. The School Book Depository - 'The School Book Depository' I admit for the first week of listening I thought this might be a ‘guilty pleasure’, but this is just such a good album, packed full of brilliant tunes and incisive lyrics, which will really keep you thinking. It is such an eclectic mix of songs too, with no attempt to maintain a define style / genre. From the hip hop inspired to the gorgeous ‘Airport Aprons’, manages to consistently hit the mark, and everybody should listen to concluding track ‘treadmill heaven’. 2. Delay Trees - Let Go Sadly this has turned out to be Delay Trees final release, but what a wonderful way to go. 'Let Go' is indie pop genius, an album just so full of great tunes, and it has a charm and soft melancholy that makes it so easy to identify with. As we wrote at the time, it is as perfect an Indie guitar album as you'll get, with jangly guitars, lovely melodies and some blissful instrumental sections. Clearly it is so sad that they've called it a day, but we look forward with patient anticipation to further Rami Vierula releases, and Delay Tress have left behind such a lovely legacy in this album, and it's been such a privilege to have been able to write about them. 1. Major Parkinson - 'Blackbox'. 'Blackbox' is monumental. It is both extraordinary in scale, and extraordinary in delivery - with astoundingly conceived rhythms, wondrous melodies and astonishing musical performances throughout from the collective of musicians and singers. It has so much in it, so much amazing detail, that you can listen again and again, and you'll always discover new intricacies, and new favourite moments. 'Isabel...' and the extraordinary 'Baseball' stand out, but it is truly a remarkable composition both lyrically and musically throughout. An interview with Major Parkinson will follow on January 2nd!!