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Top ten Swedish songs of the decade

Songs of the decade: The Local's editor Paul O'Mahony dips into the vaults and pulls out his ten favourite Swedish tracks of the last ten years.

Top ten Swedish songs of the decade
Håkan Hellström tells Gothenburg not to worry

One of very first phrases I learned in Swedish informed me in no uncertain terms that taste is like the buttocks – divided (Smaken är som baken – delad).

Here then, in no particular order, is a predictably divisive list of the top ten songs of the decade by Swedish artists. Listen with extreme prejudice.

Listen on Spotify: Top ten Swedish songs of the 2000s

bob hund – Tinnitus i hjärtat

Arguably the best Swedish band of the past twenty years, bob hund laid low for much of the 2000s before making a delectable return to form in 2009 with the album Folkmusik för folk som inte kan bete sig som folk. Though a calmer affair than much of their nineties output, it retains all the band’s trademark lyrical dexterity, effortless riffery and musical singularity. Flagship single Tinnitus i hjärtat has all the above and more besides.

The Plan – Mon amour

Out of the ashes of legendary Gothenburg band Broder Daniel rose the occasional phoenix. One such creature was bassist Theodor Jensen who soared to unheralded heights as the man with The Plan. Pacy debut single Mon Amour warmed up many a dancefloor in 2001 with its desperate and repeated cries of merde as it railed against the insufficiencies of love. The song is what the French might term a tour de force.

Håkan Hellström – Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg

Another of the Broder Daniel brigade, it’s hard to describe the enormity of this former drummer’s solo breakthrough back in 2000. Clad in a sailor’s uniform, he took to the stage with rare abandon: the critics lapped it up, teenage girls fainted, teenage boys, well… they fainted too. Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg gets the nod here not only because it’s still one of his very best songs but also because it was the one that made him an overnight superstar.

The Hives – Hate to say I told you so

The Hives were such a breath of fresh air when they stepped out of their home town of Fagersta and onto the global arena. While they clearly knew their musical history, they didn’t take themselves too seriously, and in Howlin’ Pelle they had themselves one of the generation’s great entertainers. And the songs weren’t half bad either, as proven by this corker first released at the dawn of the decade.

Love Is All – Busy Doing Nothing

Propelled forwards by Slits-inspired front woman Josephine Olausson, Love Is All back up their lead singer’s punky vocals with all the right noises. Though not considered one of Sweden’s bigger bands domestically, this Gothenburg group has built up a loyal fan base in the United States and beyond. They’re tight, loud and eclectic, and as a live band they’re absolutely electric.

The Tough Alliance – Koka-Kola Veins

The hits just kept on coming from Gothenburg, as homespun labels pumped out a steady stream of idiosyncratic innovators. The Tough Alliance divided opinion with the thuggish imagery of their baseball-wielding live shows but most were won over by the forward-looking dance music built on a foundation of past greats.

Peter Bjorn and John – Young Folks

Three evergreen figures on the Stockholm gig circuit, Peter Bjorn and John struck international gold with a song prefaced by the catchiest bit of whistling this side of The Dock of The Bay. They couldn’t have done it alone though: a good song was made great with the vocal assistance of former voice of The Concretes, Victoria Bergman.

José González/The Knife – Heartbeats

Brother and sister Dreijer, aka The Knife, wrote this finely crafted song, later recorded by Jose González. The Knife’s version set dancefloors alight in Sweden but canny González had the last laugh as a million coloured balls tumbled down a hill to the accompaniment of his dulcet tones in a TV ad seen worldwide. Each version is engaging, infectious and worthy of a top ten place. Let’s call it a draw and stick them both in…

Bear Quartet – Put Me Back Together

Luleå in the far north of Sweden is home to one of the country’s finest indie pop bands. In fact, at one point it seemed everything good in Swedish music was drifting down from colder latitudes, and the Bear Quartet were as prolific as they were consistently excellent songwriters. The output slowed down somewhat in the latter half of the 2000s as singer Mattias Alkberg sidled off on a series of solo ventures that were also marked by the stamp of quality. Below is the video for Ask Me Don’t Axe Me, another song from the same album, 2004’s Angry Brigade.

Robyn – With Every Heartbeat

Having shot to fame for her part in the soundtrack of Lukas Moodysson’s fantastic coming of age drama Fucking Åmål, there seemed a danger that Robyn might be destined for a career of capable but ultimately uninspiring production line pop. When her label hinted that this was in fact the path mapped out for her, the artist took a brave stance and cut the safety net, establishing Konichiwa Records and never looking back. If there were ever doubts about the move, they were swiftly dispelled in 2007 when this collaboration with production wizard Kleerup earned her the top spot in the UK charts.

Listen on Spotify: Top ten Swedish songs of the 2000s

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MUSIC

What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.

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