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STRIKING A CHORD

MUSIC

‘The kids should have alerted me to the horror’

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.

'The kids should have alerted me to the horror'

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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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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