Saturday, March 31, 2012

Guest Blog: World Tour Of Bands-Stop 1: Sweden

Today's guest blog comes from Asheem who writes regularly at his own blog Enjoy The Static

Here's Asheem:

Hello everyone (or should I say "Hej")

Let me start with saying a big 'thanks' to Kevin, Matt and Pat for letting me post something on their blog.  I am very excited to share one of my passions with a new group via inter web technology.  Music.  I know that Matty has the market cornered on music awesomeness, but hopefully I can bring some new sounds, bands, etc to your attention.  (or bring back some memories by mentioning a band or two that you haven't heard from in a long time)  Either way, I'm looking forward to this and hope you enjoy.

I was asked by Kevin to provide a guest blog post and while I have heard many great things about Kevin, I have never met him.  I have known Matt and Pat for a while.  (I believe I met Matt in 2001 right after I met Liz...I think our first meeting was a New Years Eve party with a bunch of former JV's)  I credit Matt with getting me back into music while living in the Bay Area.  (I remember quite a few nights of listening to and talking about music with him in Berkeley)  Crazy enough, the conversations began with Radiohead (I know, shocker, right?)  Pat I met a three or four months later during a visit to Boston and have seen him a couple times since.  Like I said, I had heard some great things about Kevin and was very surprised for the guest blog ask, but am thrilled to do so.  So, thanks guys!

So, the next question for me was what to post?  I typically post on my own blog weekly with a set of new songs that hit me during the week, album reviews and 'best of' lists.  I had considered a review, but Kevin challenged me to come up with a list of sorts.  I finally decided to go a different route.  A 'World Tour', if you will.  I am going to give you a list of my favorite bands from a certain country.  The first post is going to be about one of my favorite countries in the world...Sweden.

I was lucky enough to visit Sweden twice in 1999 and 2000 to visit friends I had met while attending college (a commuter school in Dayton, Ohio -- Wright State University).  I was in a class with one of the exchange students and we were placed on a team together.  Once we started talking I realized he had a thick accent and when I asked where he was from, Sweden was the answer.  (funny enough, I thought he was 'American' and he thought I was 'Foreign', so we laughed about it later)  Through him I met a large group of Swedish exchange students and made some lasting friendships.  Those friendships are what took me to Sweden.  To this day, Sweden is a place I would love to live and I hope to go back again someday soon.

I am amazed at the amount of great music that comes out of such a small country as Sweden. (the population is approx. 9.4 million)  There are all types of music that they 'export' (or that I Import).  The styles range from dance, to pop, to alternative, to indie/folk.  I have found some great artists in all the genres mentioned.  Some you will have heard of, some not.  If you like any of the bands/artists mentioned I hope you will check them out some more.  If not, that is cool.  That's what I love about music.  Everyone has a right to listen to what they like.  I will never ridicule one's music taste because as I have said to others in the past, "I might think the music you listen to is crap, but you probably think what I listen to is crap as well."  But, give it a chance...dare I say:

What??  I am writing a blog post about Swedish music and you think I WON'T put something by ABBA?  Come on!!!  (I will say, that I do enjoy ABBA from time to time...sorry)

Ok, now that I have gotten that out of my system, let's shift to some other great bands/artists from Sverige.

Some of you may know of Kent.  This was one of the first bands that I REALLY got into during and after my first visit to Sweden.  Kent is an alt-rock/indie/electropop band that has quite the following in Scandinavia.  I was introduced to them when I walked into a record store in Stockholm and asked a clerk for some good Swedish rock bands.  They actually released most of their first albums in both Swedish and English, which worked out great for me since I do I say this....not good at speaking/understanding Swedish.  (I was dangerous because I do know German and they have similarities)  So, at the recommendation of the record store worker I picked up the album 'Isola'

I remember putting the cd into my cd player (yes, I said CD player) that night while going to bed and while I was tired I actually stayed up for the entire album because I was so taken by it.  There was something about frontman Joakim Berg's vocals that really spoke to me.  And, to top things off, the last track '747' is just amazing.  (to my day it is still one of my all time favorite tracks)  I know Matt can attest to this because one of those nights in Berkeley I brought over a Kent CD and had him take a listen and his words were something like, "That last track rules...I wish it would go on forever."  My thoughts exactly.  Sadly, the released this as a single and cut a lot of the extra music out of it to make it 'fit' onto radio.  (you see, the track is actually 7:47 long...see what they did there?)  Well, I was going to post the 'cut' music video version, but I decided against it.  Below you will hear a YouTube 'still' of the un-cut track.  It's in Swedish, but you don't need to understand the words to get this song.  Seriously, from about the 4:00 mark on it is pure bliss for someone that loves music.  

One of the other things I love about Kent are the layers that they build in their music.  I am a big fan of this type of song writing (it's something that makes Radiohead so awesome)  You can hear it in 747 above and they carry this on with most of their songs.  So, after I bought and listened to Isola, I went back to the same record store the next day and purchased everything from their catalog to that point in time: their self titled debut from 1995, Verkligen from 1996, Isola above from 1997 and Hangsta Hill from 1999.  They have since released 5 additional albums and are set to release a new album this year.  I have had to purchase imports of all the albums since my last visit (in fact, I had to re-purchase Hangsta Hill a few years ago when I stupidly left my cd's on a flight...that was a sad day for me...I lost a hell of a lot of music on that flight.  The only thing that gave me some solace was that someone was able to hopefully listen to some awesome music at my expense.  I could really go on longer about Kent, but I fear I have already bored you, so I will move on.

Jose Gonzalez
Yes, this is a proper Swedish name.  I can't tell you how many people with the last name 'Gonzalaz' I have come across from Sweden.  Actually, Jose is Swedish-Argentinian.  You see, his family moved to Sweden from Argentina in 1976 and Jose was born in 1978.  I came across Jose a couple years ago while listening to 91.9 WFPK (Radio Louisville) and I REALLY liked his stuff.  He is really an indie-folk singer and he has quite a unique voice.  He has released two full length solo albums (Vaneer in 2003 and In Our Nature in 2007)  One of my favorite tracks is 'Down the Line':

In addition to his solo work, Jose is part of another Swedish group....

Junip is a group made up of Jose Gonzalez, Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn.  They released an EP in the mid 2000's and one of my favorite records from 2010 - Fields.  If you like Jose's solo stuff I am pretty sure you will dig Junip.  They have very similar sounds with the only difference being Junip has a bit more 'polished' sound (meaning: it is more than just acoustic as most of Jose's solo stuff is)  The track below made my 'best of' 2010 mix and I still LOVE this song.  Check out 'In Every Direction':

I'm From Barcelona
So, this is a pretty new band (to me).  Have you heard of the term 'Super Group'?  Yeah, well, I'm From Barcelona is a Super Group.  Not because they have members from 'well known' bands joining forces to put out awesomeness.  Instead, they have 29 band members.  Yes...29!!  I am still getting into this band, but I really dig their eclectic sounds.  They have released 4 albums since 2006 (the latest being 'Forever Today' in 2011)  I'm not going to lie, listening to their latest album just makes me happy as it is very upbeat.  I have included the video below for the track 'Battleships'

The Radio Department
This is another band that has been around for a while (2002) that I recently discovered (recently being in 2010)  One of the music blogs I frequent posted a couple songs from them and I really liked what I heard so I checked them out some more.  The track I included on my best of 2010 mix was titled 'The New Improved Hypocrisy' and it is a slam on the Swedish Government.  (this non-album track was released at the time of Swedish government can really tell they are not happy with things if you listen to the lyrics)  They also released a greatest hits collection called 'Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002 - 2010' and I highly recommend it.  The stand out track for me was the very last one titled 'The One'. (I have shared this below)

Shout Out Louds
Together since 2001, the Shout Out Louds are yet another great Indie Swedish band.  They have released a number of albums (three to be exact) and their latest 'Work' (from 2010) was pretty strong.  At times you would think you were listening to the Cure, or the Smiths/Morrissey.  They continue to put out some great indie pop with each release, so are definitely worth a listen (or two)  Take a listen to 'Fall Hard' and try not to think the Cure has released a new single.

Peter, Bjorn and John
Alright, raise your hand if you can't help but whistle along to 'Young Folks'.  Ok, those without your hand raised....LIARS!  I am sure everyone knows of PB&J.  They hit the scene pretty hard when Young Folks was released a few years ago.  It seemed to be on every tv show, commercial, street corner, etc.  It is kind of sad in some respects that that song got so much exposure because I will be honest, I got really sick of the song.  But, it really was a strong song and that particular album was strong as well.  They actually had released two albums prior to that and have since released another three albums. (the latest being 'Gimmie Some' in 2011)  It doesn't hurt that Gimmie Some was one of my favorite albums of 2011.  Below is a track from that album 'Tomorrow Has to Wait':

First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit is a band I just started to get into in January of this year and I will say at this point their album 'The Lion's Roar' is my favorite album of 2012.  First Aid Kit are sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg and they are YOUNG.  (Johanna is 22 and Klara is 19).  One of their influences is the band Fleet Foxes and in fact it was a YouTube video of a Fleet Foxes song that got them noticed and landed them a spot playing the song alongside the Fleet Foxes in a concert.  

I have actually noticed a bunch of different sounds in their songs ranging from the Fleet Foxes to Neko Case and She & Him.  I chose to include two tracks from this amazing album to give you an idea of just how talented these sisters are.  The first is 'The Lion's Roar' and the second is 'Emmylou'  Both are amazing and I am looking forward to hearing more from this band for years to come.  (they are also playing at Bonnaroo this year so that should get them some more exposure)

I know there are WAY more bands/artists that I am missing, but these are the ones that stick out to me and that I really dig.  I look forward to hopefully hearing about others that I have missed, so please leave a comment if there is someone you feel I should check out (I am always looking for new music, or perhaps I just completely blew it and forgot to include an amazing band)


1 comment:

  1. Yes, I could totally listen to that Kent song for hours on end. Very solid album. And I can also say that I do not find the urge to whistle to "Young Folks" and I'm not lying. Only because I can't whistle. First Aid Kit sounds great and I'll totally look to see them at Bonnaroo. Well done, sir.