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The best (and worst) Swedish music of 2012

Published: 27 Dec 2012 16:20 GMT+01:00

When I first moved to Sweden this year, one of my worries was that I’d miss British music. I wrote about music for two UK national newspapers and thought London was the epicentre of European pop music.

I was dimly aware that Swedish pop had a good reputation but was so caught up in all things London that, musically at least, I rarely ventured east of Shoreditch.

Back in 2007, however, Robyn’s With Every Heartbeat may have been my favourite single but, shamefully, I’m pretty sure I thought she was Danish.

I know.

Within just a week of being here, I realized just how wrong I'd been to worry.

Listening to Sveriges Radio P3 (for the most part a grown-up version of the UK’s Radio One), I found myself regularly Shazam-ing, using an app that identifies songs using your phone.

Click here for Paul Connolly's five best Swedish songs of 2012

Who were the Acid House Kings? Who was that lovely 70s singer-songwriter? (Ted Gärdestad, as it turned out). What on earth was that sound like a robot falling down the stairs while singing a Robyn cover? (Alina Devecerski)

I began to spend a fortune on iTunes and I finally invested in a full Spotify subscription.

I started to rave about Swedish bands to my English friends. One of my music biz friends even signed a Swedish artist on a singles deal mostly on my say-so.

I was going native.

Click here for Paul Connolly's best pop event of 2012

When it comes to Swedish music culture, I do have an advantage over most immigrants to Sweden in that I still have an obsessive, almost teenage-like love of pop music.

I may have mistaken Robyn for a Dane but I do know that the holy touchstone when it comes to aspiring Swedish musicians is not Abba or The Hives or even The Cardigans, although they're marvellous bands all, and certainly not the ubiquitous masters of cheese themselves, Swedish House Mafia, but the Gothenburg brother-sister electro-pop duo, The Knife.

Click here for Paul Connolly's worst Swedish song of 2012

As I’ve discovered over the past few months, their importance to and influence on pop musicians in this country is incalculable and far outweighs the relatively modest commercial success they’ve had as a band.

Their distinctive aural fingerprint can be heard right through the following round-up of the best Swedish music of 2012.

Click here for Paul Connolly's five best Swedish albums of 2012

And one final heads up. I’ve always been inclined to the more melodic side and I am no snob. To me, there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure.

If a song has a great tune, I’m pretty sure to like it whoever the artist. I once made S Club 7’s Don’t Stop Movin’ single of the week for The Times and was mercilessly ribbed by my peers. I did the same for TLC’s No Scrubs and was on the wrong end of another bout of intense ridicule.

But you know what, I still stand by those choices – they are both great pop songs.

Here are some more, and I promise there's no Swedish House Mafia in sight…

Paul Connolly

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Your comments about this article

18:09 December 27, 2012 by jarvtrask
Since I started spending my summers in the Arvidsjaur area, I've found P3 to be a precious source of new music. Every year I find myself googling and searching youtube for tracks I heard on there whilst out driving. Elin Ruth Sigvardsson' s "How You Dug Your Own Grave" was the first...First Aid Kit's "Blue" was this year's find. In fact, the first time I heard unsigned Leeds band China Rats was in the car near Glommerstrask this summer.

Who did you write for in the UK Paul?
21:46 December 27, 2012 by GraceBee
I love First Aid Kit and I really like the Alina Devcereski album too. Not too sure about Switch Opens though, more heavy rock garbage. Good choices though, I agree on most of them.
09:39 December 28, 2012 by skånegirl
OMG, that Alina song is amazing and the Icona Pop song is great too. I've been here for 4 months and assumed Swedish music was all house crap like SHM and Loreen (I hate that song), looks like I was wrong!! Must listen to more radio!!
10:34 December 28, 2012 by PaulConnolly
jarvtrask, I agree, P3 is mostly great. Apart from their comedy hour in the late afternoon, where all they do is talk loudly in "comedy" voices. Loathsome nonsense.

I was rock critic for The Times and London Lite and still write about music for three other newspapers, one English, one Arabic and one American.
22:29 December 28, 2012 by jarvtrask
Ah yes, I've happened upon the comedy hour. My Swedish isn't good enough for it to be excruciating....or listened to. I agree about the Knife. The estimable Jeff Barrett of Heavenly pointed me towards Fever Ray's "When I Grow Up" (via First Aid Kit's cover)...it's probably the one track that has made the most impact upon me this year...even though I know it's an oldie.

I've just remembered a couple more P3 finds "Impossible" by the Shout Out Louds and "treehouse" by I'm from Barcelona". Both ace.

It would be good to hook up with you in the North. I have a TV project that your input would be well suited to.
15:30 December 30, 2012 by Greysuede
Best are Agnes, Robyn, Veronica Maggio.

Worst is sarah down finer.
19:35 December 30, 2012 by travies04
I'm a big fan of Swedish music based in Houston, TX. Just so we're clear about P3, are we talking about regular P3 or P3 star? Also, a couple of years ago I used to listen to P3 svea which played exclusively Swedish music. It's a shame that they stopped streaming that station!
17:41 December 31, 2012 by True & Evil
Sweden = Black Metal

pop is crap, set it on fire to please Satan
21:23 December 31, 2012 by beefpatty
The Goat album is fantastic.

No mention for Tallest Man on Earth, Niki & The dove or Holograms? A lot of good Swedish music at the moment.
14:56 January 5, 2013 by PaulConnolly
Travies04, I'm pretty sure it's the regular P3.

beefpatty, I only had so much room. All three of your suggestions were on the longlist.

I'm trying to hook up with Goat as I type this.

Thanks for all the feedback. Yes, even you True & Evil.
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