Fact: Everything Swedish is better than you.
As Sweden’s pop ambassador to the interwebz (a title I made up for myself just now), it’s my job to highlight the very best pop music coming out of Sweden. (This is an easy job, given that Swedish pop music is always good.) In my ongoing series, Amazing Things I’m Listening to From Sweden, I’m bringing you the dopest Scandinavian sounds out there. Just don’t blame me when you end up spending your paycheck renting a proxy server in Stockholm so you can shop on Swedish iTunes. (Trust me — the exchange rate does not work in our favor.)
Velvet – Love Struck
Velvet’s music is, as her name suggests, plush, decadent, and just a little trashy. But her new single, “Love Struck,” packs the euphoric punch of one of those eight-minute ravey dance remixes, crammed into three densely packed minutes of pounding pop goodness. The opening synths evoke Ke$ha, but the chorus is all Velvet: “Feel me now/Boy, you’ve got me love struck,” she sings, a driving house beat underpinning crashing synths. While perhaps not as impeccable as the V Factory track by the same name (any V Factory fans in the house? No? Okay, glad we talked about it), it’s a more than worthy effort from the dancefloor diva.
Deportees – Islands & Shores
Deportees fall on the indier end of the Swedish pop spectrum, but as with their contemporaries — like The Perishers, Shout Out Louds, or even José González — their music is a more refined, genteel rock than what we tend to hear stateside. Packing a solid pop pedigree (drummer Thomas Hedlund toured with Phoenix, and bandmate Anders Stenberg is Lykke Li’s guitarist), “Islands & Shores” is a miniature epic of love and heartbreak. “I figured out why some days feel like ages/I figured out why some rooms feel like cages,” frontman Peder Stenberg sings as the song builds with layer after layer of guitars, drums, and strings, reaching an orchestral climax and then collapsing into dissonance. I can’t deny that “Islands & Shores” has a little bit of the Springsteenian heartland rock crunch of The Gaslight Anthem — which I normally find quite odious — yet the poppy Scandinavian backbeat marries the two forms marvelously. A sad, beautiful song for fall.
Loreen – Sober
Dance chanteuse Loreen doesn’t have the established track record of some of her better-known counterparts, but her 2012 Melodifestivalen entry, “My Heart Is Refusing Me,” was a superb nugget of moody dance-pop that certainly put her on my radar. (The fact that it was covered by perennial favorite Andreas Vijk, whose acoustic cover is as impossibly gorgeous and perfect as he is, only adds to its appeal.) Her newest single, “Sober,” continues in the grand tradition of great songs with that title — see Kelly Clarkson and P!nk for more — with an irresistible melody and crisp house production. “I know this moment will be over/Tomorrow comes and we are sober,” Loreen belts over glistening synths. Um, Agnes who?
Caotico – Brains Out [feat. Tove Styrke]
Caotico and Tove Styrke are both virtually unknown in the English-speaking world, but this track has already received a ton of attention from English bloggers — and it’s no surprise, given that it’s modern, infectious, and hilariously scabrous. Vocals from rising underground pop band Caotico set the scene — “The air was filled with the scent of burned rubber/The sky was dark for the first time this summer” before Swedish Idol hottie Tove Styrke jumps in to make her demands: “Fuck my brains out/Like you did last night!” In most contexts, this chorus would just be arbitrarily crass — but here, paired with an effervescent electropop beat and Tove’s squeaky vocals, it’s nothing short of adorable.
Wolf Box – Mirror Wisdom
You remember Isabel Guzman, right? The Swedish sprite who released utterly sublime dance-pop songs like “Lovesong” and “Mysterious” back in 2007, then disappeared completely? (Okay, maybe it’s just me.) Either way, she’s back, with the artistic (i.e., inexplicable) new band name “Wolf Box” and a serious (i.e., brunette) new hairstyle. Her first two songs, though, are nothing short of perfection. “One for the Radio” is ambient pop, humming and thrumming before launching into a big, melodically charged chorus, but “Mirror Wisdom” is piano-driven and gloomy, with a grinding chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on the latest Lykke Li record. I’m calling it what it is: A a long-overdue return for a little-heard popstar who never got a chance to realize her true potential.
Sam Lansky is a contributor to MuuMuse.