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Striking a chord
'The kids should have alerted me to the horror'

'The kids should have alerted me to the horror'

Published: 01 Mar 2013 13:08 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Mar 2013 13:08 GMT+01:00

In the first of a new column on music, life, and many other things Swedish, Paul Connolly takes us along for his first up-close experience with Melodifestivalen, and offers up his choices for Swedish album and gig of the month.

All of my English friends ridicule me for admiring the Swedish approach to the Eurovision Song Contest. But I think Sweden is right to take the competition seriously.

When you have a small population/customer base of 9.5 million, Eurovision's television audience of 100 million is not to be sniffed at. That's a lot of potential customers to flog your pop to. So, why not make a fuss of the song selection process too?

Consequently when the Melodifestivalen roadshow recently came to Skellefteå, a town near me up in northern Sweden, it was rather exciting.

We didn't manage to nab tickets for it but, instead, we had a wee "Mello" house party to watch it on television with a few of our new Swedish friends.

The fact that our friends' kids were much more excited by the prospect of the event than their parents really should have alerted me to the horror I was about to let myself in for.

Within minutes I was glazing over, and by halfway my memory had more or less shut down. All the adults had left the room long ago. Only the children remained and two of those were gently torturing one of our cats to distract themselves from the unfolding nightmare on screen.

But, luckily, my journalistic training kicked in and I kept taking notes.

These notes on the participating acts of the Skellefte?? heat are all that remain of those lost hours. Here they are, uncut... just follow the link below.

IN PICTURES: Take a look through Paul's comments on each of the eight Melodifestivalen songs performed in Skellefte?

Okay...back now?

As you may have noticed, I did lose a little focus at the end, admittedly, but it all came fizzing back when the winners were announced.

Ravaillacz? Really? How? Why?

The reaction of Lukas, the 7-year-old who had remained enthralled by the show throughout, echoed mine.

"Noooooo!!!!!" he yelled, palpably distressed at the injustice. He'd voted for Janet Leon. The boy has some taste.

The rest of the Swedish voting public? Not so much.

But enough about Mello, let's see what other highlights are in store in March for true Swedish music fans.

March Album of the Month

Artist: Sibille Attar

Album: Sleepyhead (Stranded/Universal)

Sibille Attar may have been hyped a little recently but she's no callow youth pushed into releasing an album early to exploit her few seconds of "coolness". Attar has been around for a decade or more on the sidelines of pop and this wonderfully rich collection of songs has taken a couple of years to record. Nothing has been rushed on Sleepyhead.

This attention to detail shows too. Lead track, Go On, is lush without being swaddled in production, while The Day shares that track's sumptuous piano lines but also wraps them round an opulent tune that gives full rein to Attar's icily beautiful voice.

While Go On and The Day are representative of Sleepyhead's grown-up side, singles Alcoholics and Come Night, offer a more playful, ecstatic take on indie-pop. Alcoholics, initially released last year to almost no acclaim, brings to mind The Sugarcubes' breakout song, Birthday, with its slightly awkward structure and swooping melody.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Attar's vocals rush to keep up with tune in a way not too dissimilar to Bj?rk's voice on Birthday. Come Night, meanwhile, is joyful, bright and luscious pop that could brighten the most leaden of winter days.

Sleepyhead does fade away a little towards the end but there's plenty here to suggest that Attar's patient approach to music-making has every chance of paying off in the long-term.

March Gig of the Month

Event: SVMK Fest 2013

Date: Saturday, March 9th

Venue: Munich Brewery, Torkel Knutssonsgatan 2, Stockholm

As well as Lorentz & Sakarias whose Garbo, Astrid & Taube was one of our favourite singles of 2012, this excellent line-up features Miriam Bryant, arguably Sweden's answer to Adele and Amy Winehouse, folky dance exponent Nordpolen and the moody but magnificent electro-pop of Karl X Johan.

Visit the Svenska Musikklubben website (in Swedish) for more information.

Paul Connolly

Read more from Paul here, including his Northern Dispatch column

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:08 March 1, 2013 by lundygirl
LOL Iggy Pop in a wig, that's so true. I love this, so funny.

Love the new Sibille Attar song, will check this album out.
23:13 March 1, 2013 by theobserver
Eurovision Song Contest is for people with extremely poor taste. The worst kind of corny music and dance can be found in this contest. People who have no culture can find solace and amuse themselves by watching this cheap contest. I could imagine nothing worse, except, perhaps, watching Melodifestivalen. This kind of "art" is trash. I'm not surprised that Swedes would like it. They have no taste, with very few exception, neither in art or music, and let's not speak about food....
11:52 March 2, 2013 by PaulConnolly
Thanks Lundygirl - that's very kind. The Sibille Attar album just keeps growing on me.

Woah, steady on there theobserver. I don't think the Swedes have cornered the market in trash TV - it's not exactly a peculiarly Swedish trait. And some great art has come from so-called 'trash'.

And The Swedes have no taste? Have you seen a Bergman movie? Have you listened to The Knife? Have you spent any time at all considering the influence of Swedish design on the world? If your answer to any of those questions is 'yes' I really don't know what else to say.
11:07 March 4, 2013 by rise
I love Mr Connolly's sense of humor with its dry English touch. It reminds me of a question John Cleese got in Swedish television some years back, about why he thought his films were so popular in Sweden. He answered that Englishmen and Swedes had pretty much the same sense of humor.

Mr Connolly is also having very much the same kind of calm dryness, shifting into complete absurdity that makes you laugh.
13:38 March 4, 2013 by Shayne Rivers
What to do...I discovered this site this morning and saw that Swedes are fighting for More nudity...I love Swedes!
22:48 March 4, 2013 by ninkasp
Hey Paul, having read some of your previous stuff and this which is totally not funny I can say you sound like a typical English/British moaner. I mean everyone knows England is a nation of moaners so you might try and do something to break that stereotype instead of posting all that pathetic rubbish.( I`m saying this as a non swede) Seriously get a life man.Most of the people you`ve criticised are genuine artists and do this for a living I wonder how you`d feel if someone came at you and tried to humiliate and ridicule you at your work place. Wouldn`t be nice would it?
09:58 March 7, 2013 by Migga
@PaulConnolly

Great story as usual. Don`t mind theobserver though since he`s just a swede hating troll. As you say Sweden has a rich heritage in culture which continues today and will continue to do so in the future. No matter if it`s books, films or music. But it also has it`s "trash". But that`s something to embrace, a culture should have both it`s "trash" art and it`s fine art. Keep the stories coming.
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