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THE YEAR IN REVIEW

MUSIC

The best (and worst) Swedish music of 2012

With the new year approaching, ex-Londoner Paul Connolly takes a look at the best - and worst - Swedish music released in 2012, while pondering if his love of the Swedish pop charts might mean he's "going native".

The best (and worst) Swedish music of 2012

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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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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