Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland
This year's Scandinavian SXSW performers offer a smorgasbord of sonic variety. Starting in Finland, Husky Rescue paints an aural rendering of remote landscapes from Helsinki composer Marko Nyberg. By contrast, Turku's the Crash parlayed their melancholy mix of lush pop, prog flourishes, and Euro-disco to become mainstays on MTV Nordic. Helsinki quintet the Latebirds cites influences from Sonic Youth to the Dead in their 21st-century psych-pop, while Nieminen & Litmanen ply "Scandinavian Action Jazz" with just a Hammond organ and drums. Laika & the Cosmonauts have wooed Austin fans for years, evolving from surf-rock to broader instrumental forms. 2004's Local Warming is their strongest yet.
Over in Norway, Oslo's Bonk creates a pipe bomb out of metal, pop-punk, and laptop techno. Imagine Joy Division fronted by Björk, and you'll have a mark on Haugesund's Low Frequency in Stereo. Oslo's Silver combined all-meat glam-rock with epochal Nordic mysticism to powerful effect on last year's White Diary. Led by ice priestess vocalist Mariann, Telemark quintet Surferosa trades in New Wavisms with an angular nod toward Elastica. Oslo-based cut-and-paste chemist Gisli recently teamed with the Dresden Dolls on their UK tour to promote How About That?, an indie-flavored foray into hip-hop, while Bergen duo Kings of Convenience earned raves with the sprightly acoustic Francophonic pop of last year's Riot on an Empty Street.
The Swedish team is led by Gothenburg encyclopedic pop masters the Soundtrack of Our Lives. Touring behind their long-awaited Origin Vol. 1, the septet's live prowess is legendary. The lo-fi alt.country musings of songwriter Thomas Denver Jonsson recall Townes Van Zandt, while Malmö's the Ark engineers precision pop ready-made for use in hip car commercials. Twenty-three-year-old Gothenburg crooner Jens Lekman's Vegas songs deftly crossed Morrissey and Engelbert Humperdinck, attracting the attention of Secretly Canadian Records, and Stockholm's Shout Out Louds mix lush indie-pop with pub-rock camaraderie.
In Denmark, Copenhagen "donkey punks" PowerSolo deliver psychobilly of the Hasil Adkins/Cramps variety, while Epo-555's cool, synth-driven shoegazer pop resembles Ride and Ultra Vivid Scene. Singer-songwriter Tina Dico puts her soulful, dulcet voice and introspective lyrical hand to work on her acclaimed EP, Far. The Blue Van kick out the British Invasion jams with a Kinks-like fervor on their latest, The Art of Rolling. Hailing from the remote Faroe Islands, Teitur's intimately catchy songs like "Sleeping With the Lights On" were compelling enough to attract the attention of producer Rupert Hine, land a deal with Universal, and get him on the road with John Mayer. Copenhagen duo the Raveonettes wound up on many 2003 best-of lists with the nostalgic, fuzz-laden Chain Gang of Love. Their forthcoming follow-up features guest shots from Maureen Tucker and Ronnie Spector.
The midnight sun mecca of Reykjavík, Iceland, sends three acts southward. Vinyl melds Iggy Pop theatrics to Cars-flavored synth flourishes, while AMPOP invites slow-moving daydreams with their ambient bedroom pop. Finally, eclectic septet Ske earned transatlantic acclaim with Life, Death, Happiness & Stuff, a full-bodied debut combining acoustic and electronic instrumentation with pop-minded savvy.
Scandinavia @ SXSW
DenmarkThe Blue Van (Copenhagen) www.thebluevan.dk; Fri., 1am, The Drink
Tina Dico (Denmark) www.tinadico.com; Thu., 9pm, The Drink
Epo-555 (Copenhagen) www.epo-555.dk; Thu., 11pm, The Drink
PowerSolo (Copenhagen) www.powersolo.dk; Thu., 12mid, The Drink
The Raveonettes (Copenhagen) www.theraveonettes.com; Fri., 11pm, Emo's Main
Teitur (The Faroe Islands) www.teitur.com; Fri., 9pm, The Drink
FinlandThe Crash (Turku) www.thecrash.com; Fri., 11pm, The Drink
Husky Rescue (Helsinki) www.husky-rescue.com; Thu., 12mid, Latitude 30
Laika & the Cosmonauts (Helsinki) www.laikaandthecosmonauts.com; Wed., 1am, The Drink
The Latebirds (Helsinki) www.latebirds.com; Sat., 8pm, Cedar Street Courtyard
Nieminen & Litmanen (Helsinki) www.grandpop.net/nieminenjalitmanen.html; Sat., TBA, Elephant Room
22-Pistepirkko (Utarj i) www.22-pistepirkko.net; Thu., 1am, The Drink
IcelandAMPOP (Reykjavík) www.ampop.co.uk; Thu., 9pm, Latitude 30
Ske (Reykjavík) www.ske.is; Thu., 8pm, The Drink
Vinyl (Reykjavík) www.vinyl.is; Fri., 1am, Caribbean Lights
NorwayBonk (Oslo) www.bonk.no; Wed., TBA, Parish
Kings of Convenience (Bergen) Sat., 8pm, Antone's
Low Frequency in Stereo (Haugesund) www.lowfrequency.dk; Thu., 10pm, The Drink
Silver (Oslo) www.thesilverband.com; Thu., 11:30pm, Maggie Mae's
Surferosa (Telemark) www.surferosa.no; Fri., 12mid, The Drink
SwedenThe Ark (Malmo) www.thearkworld.com; Fri., 8pm, The Drink
Backyard Babies (Stockholm) www.backyardbabies.com; Sat., 1am, Emo's Jr.
The Bones (Karlskrona) www.bonesrocknroll.com; Sat., 11pm, Emo's Jr.
Deportees (Umea) www.deportees.se; Sat., 8pm, The Drink
Nicolai Dunger (Stockholm) www.nicolaidunger.com; Fri., 10pm, Antone's
Thomas Denver Jonsson (Grums) www.thomasdenver.com; Fri., 10pm, The Drink
Melody Club (Stockholm) www.melodyclub.com; Sat., 10pm, The Drink
Moneybrother (Stockholm) www.moneybrother.net; Sat., 9pm, The Drink
Shout Out Louds (Stockholm) www.shoutoutlouds.com; Fri., TBA, Stubb's
The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Gothenberg) www.thesoundtrackofourlives.net; Thu., 11pm, Austin Music Hall