Night falls over Scandinavia
Kortedala is a small housing district on the northeastern outskirts of Gothenburg, Sweden, notable to locals for having the city's largest ice-skating rink, Isdala. Last year, however, the suburb was thrust into the international spotlight as the backdrop to Jens Lekman's sublime pop opus, Night Falls Over Kortedala, a stunning example of the way regional styles develop in the most unlikely places. The album features contributions from fellow Swedes El Perro Del Mar and Frida Hyvönen, samples local electronic duo the Tough Alliance, and is rich with tropicalia orchestration popular in the area. From Lekman's personal accounts of the city, Night Falls sounds a lot safer and more interesting than night actually falling over Kortedala.
The new musical syndrome of Stockholm, meanwhile, can either be traced back to the breakout success of Peter Bjorn & John or the Knife, whose influence on Norway's small-town supersound and local club scene can't be masked. Sure, there's still death metal, and there always will be, but in 2008, the music scene in Scandinavia is defrosting nicely.
Five Degrees of Peter Bjorn & John
Shout Out Louds: Björn Yttling produced the quintet's stellar sophomore effort, Our Ill Wills (Merge), a dreamy indie-pop record, rich with evocative male-female exchanges and Cure-esque melodrama. The Impossible EP is due in April, featuring remixes from Studio and Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid. Bassist Ted Malmros also directed the animated video for PB&J's "Young Folks."
Peter Morén: One-third of Peter Bjorn & John makes his solo debut with The Last Tycoon, due April 8 on Quarterstick. Judging from his stark cover of Gene Clark's "For a Spanish Guitar" on 2006 tribute The World Turns All Around Him, expect tunage more stripped-down and ethereal.
Lykke Li: There's an allusive charm to the lo-fi and unmistakably Swedish indie-pop of this 21-year-old chanteuse on her 2008 debut, Youth Novels, produced by Björn Yttling.
Ida Maria: Indie songstress likened to the Concretes or Taken by Trees runs her own label, Nesna Records, and cut two equally addictive singles, "Oh My God" and "The One That Got Away." Presumably has some connection to PB&J.
Robyn: Sweden's pre-eminent pop princess, Robyn's impact across the Atlantic has been minimal due to label complications. That should change with American distribution of Robyn, boasting production from the Knife. Yttling recently remixed the single "Handle Me."
Paint It Norwegian Black Metal
Enslaved: Longstanding black metal quintet employs symphonic thrashing on 2006's Ruun.
1349: Black as coal, birthed where else but Oslo.
Goat the Head: Break-heavy death metal that gets primal on last year's Simian Supremacy.
Afenginn: "Intoxication and strength." In other words: genre globe-trotting, recalling a more classically minded and instrumental Gogol Bordello. The stringed quintet's debut, Retrograd, snagged Best World Album at the 2005 Danish World Music Awards.
Slaraffenland: "Land of milk and honey." In other words: The group's third album, Private Cinema, sounds like Animal Collective on tranquilizers, an amalgam of atmospheric jazz, avant-rock, and mild electronica.
Diskjokke: Classically trained violinist and mathematician Joachim Dyrdahl crafts ethereal electronic beat-scapes with rich basslines.
Kim Hiorthøy: Fractured, lo-fi electronica with snippets of found sound, not unlike Four Tet.
Lindstrøm: Space disco explorer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm has remixed Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem, collaborated with Prins Thomas, and runs his own label, Feedelity.
Norway's Leading Ladies
Hanne Hukkelberg: Enchanted, idiosyncratic pop songs halfway between Joanna Newsom and Björk.
Kate Havnevik: Elegant and heavily textured electro-pop fleshed out by grandiose strings.
Silje Nes: Hushed vocals and aqueous atmospherics reside in Ames Room, an almost ambient album of patchwork instrumentals that seems to magnify by the minute.
Break On Through to the Other Side
Graveyard: Sweden's long overdue answer to 1970s Southern rock.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives: Swedish retro psych-pop outfit is still scoring a follow-up to 2005's Origin, Vol. 1.
Boys in a Band: Hammond organ meets slapstick guitar for a dance-off on the Faroe Islands.
In the Club
FM Belfast: Icelandic electronica collective turned Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" into a local club anthem.
Ralph Myerz: Bombastic, stadium-sized electronica from Bergen, Norway.
The LK: The LK is short for "the Love of Kevin, Colour, Chaos, and the Sound of K." Translation: electro-pop from Malmö, Sweden, routed through musique concrète.
Reykjavík!: Techno terrorism in the form of glacial landscapes, religion, oppression, and alcohol.
The Tough Alliance: Sampled by Jens Lekman, the duo's A New Chance channels their fellow countryman's charm and charisma through slick synths.
International Indie Rock
Kirsten Ketsjer: Experimental trio balances soft indie rock with unexpected, open-ended noise, often times in the same song on last year's Ffffoo K Tsscch.
Kristoffer Ragnstam: Gothenburg native could pass for a one-man Canadian collective on his eclectic and whimsical debut, Sweet Bills.
Syme: The expansive electronic ambience of Aphex Twin meets the post-rock of Under Byen on Modern Love.
Afenginn, Copenhagen, Denmark, www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.asp?epk_id=85982, Wednesday, 9pm, the Rio
The Fashion, Copenhagen, Denmark, www.thefashion.dk, Friday, 9pm, Maggie Mae's
Kirsten Ketsjer, Denmark, Denmark, www.yoyooyoy.dk/kirstenk.htm, Wednesday, 11pm, Mohawk
Slaraffenland, Copenhagen, Denmark, www.slaraffenland.net, Wednesday, 9:30pm, Maggie Mae's
Wolfkin, Copenhagen, Denmark, www.wolfkin.dk, Wednesday, 9pm, B.D. Riley's
Boys in a Band, Gøta, Faroe Islands, www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.asp?epk_id=112722, Thursday, 11pm, Habana Calle 6 Annex
FM Belfast, Reykjavik, Iceland, www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.asp?epk_id=107707, Thursday, 8pm, Maggie Mae's
Reykjavík!, Reykjavik, Iceland, www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.asp?epk_id=78418, Thursday, 9pm, Maggie Mae's
A-Laget, Bergen, Norway, www.myspace.com/alagetbergen, Thursday, 9:20pm, Fuze
Diskjokke, Oslo, Norway, www.myspace.com/diskjokke, Wednesday, 11pm, Thirsty Nickel
Enslaved, Bergen, Norway, www.enslaved.no, Friday, 12:45am, Red 7
Goat the Head, Trondheim, Norway, www.goat.as, Friday, 9:30pm, Red 7
Kate Havnevik, Oslo, Norway, www.katehavnevik.com, Thursday, 8pm, the Parish
Kim Hiorthoy, Oslo, Norway, www.myspace.com/kimhiorthoy, Wednesday, 1am, Thirsty Nickel
Hanne Hukkelberg, Oslo, Norway, www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.asp?epk_id=131328, Saturday, 9pm, Emo's Jr.
Lindstrøm, Oslo, Norway, www.feedelity.com, Wednesday, 12mid, Thirsty Nickel
Ralph Myerz, Bergen, Norway, www.myspace.com/ralphmyerz, Wednesday, 1am, Prague
Silje Nes, Bergen, Norway, www.fat-cat.co.uk/fatcat/artistInfo.php?id=122, Wednesday, 1am, Velveeta Room
Shining, Oslo, Norway, www.shining.no, Saturday, 11pm, Emo's Jr.
Sissy Wish, Bergen, Norway, www.sissywish.com, Thursday, 10pm, Wave
SYME, Bergen, Norway, www.syme.no, Saturday, 11pm, Esther's Follies
1349, Oslo, Norway, www.legion1349.com, Friday, 11:30pm, Red 7
Bjørn Torske, Bergen, Norway, www.myspace.com/bjorntorske, Wednesday, 10pm, Thirsty Nickel
Ungdomskulen, Bergen, Norway, www.sonicbids.com/epk/epk.asp?epk_id=118901, Thursday, 12mid, Maggie Mae's
Lars Vaular, Bergen, Norway, www.myspace.com/dlars, Thursday, 9:50pm, Fuze
Avatar, Gothenburg, Sweden, www.avatar.net, Friday, 10:30pm, Red 7
Graveyard, Gothenburg, Sweden, www.myspace.com/graveyardsongs, Wednesday, 9pm, Bourbon Rocks
Ida Maria, Stockholm, Sweden, www.myspace.com/idamaria, Thursday, 12:45am, Latitude 30
Jens Lekman, Gothenburg, Sweden, www.jenslekman.com, Thursday, 12mid, Mohawk
Lykke Li, Stockholm, Sweden, www.lykkeli.com, Friday, 11pm, Maggie Mae's
The LK, Malmö, Sweden, www.myspace.com/thelkhideout, Saturday, 11pm, Habana Calle 6
Peter Morén, Stockholm, Sweden, www.peterbjornandjohn.com, Wednesday, 10pm, the Parish
Kristoffer Ragnstam, Gothenburg, Sweden, www.ragnstam.se, Friday, 9pm, Creekside @ Hilton Garden
Robyn, Stockholm, Sweden, www.robyn.com, Friday, 1am, Pangaea
Sabaton, Falun, Sweden, www.sabaton.net, Friday, 8:30pm, Red 7
Shout Out Louds, Stockholm, Sweden, www.shoutoutlouds.com, Friday, 11pm, the Parish
The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Gothenburg, Sweden, www.tsool.net, Saturday, 12mid, Esther's Follies
Tiger Lou, Stockholm, Sweden, www.myspace.com/tigerlou, Saturday, 10:30pm, Spiros
The Tough Alliance, Gothenburg, Sweden, www.thetoughalliance.com, Wednesday, 12mid, Karma Lounge