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'The kids should have alerted me to the horror'

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'The kids should have alerted me to the horror'
13:08 CET+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

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