A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOT
(Our Swedish Correspondent)
It’s the time of the year when I try to summarize the Swedish musical year just passed, this time I confess I dreaded my self-given task… Another year working from home in isolation, I have continued to play through my vinyl collection, which has been kind of an introvert exercise. Not quite sure if it was only me not paying much attention to the outside world, or if the output continued to be hampered by COVID restrictions, artists in the same kind of isolation as myself.
So when I finally got myself around to see what new, Swedish, music I had purchased (or at least enjoyed) from 2021 I thought I’d be at best able to come up with a split 7″ for the annual update – and admittedly it might not have been the richest year in terms of releases, but it did bring some of the best releases so far by a couple of favorites around my corner of Stockholm. Potentially due to the isolation, the artists or my own, this year probably has a softer, more pop oriented direction. Or I’m only getting old and soft, I can’t tell…
Breaking the golden rule of only one track per artist, I put together an album’s worth of the best Swedish music from 2021, according only to yours truly.
A1. Thåström – Papperstunna Väggar (Paper Thin Walls) feat. Titiyo. Thåström,
As some might remember from my Swedish Girls ICA, once punk Royale over here, now I would say he is our Leonard Cohen – a storyteller in a dark and moody way. One of our best artists, with untouchable integrity, that made one of his best albums ever (in my eyes). He exchanged more or less all of his old band to new musicians to get new inspiration, the album having less guitars and more keyboards – still unmistakably Thåström the poet. This song has several hints of recognition to the Swedish (disbanded) band Kent, they sung about paper thin walls in a similar way, hearing what is going on next door, and they have also recorded a duet with Titiyo (who by the way is sister to Neneh Cherry).
A2. Makthaverskan – Lova (Promise). Makthaverskan (approx. Lady Of Power)
Surprised us all not only by releasing new material, but to abandon their normal album naming tradition – after releasing the albums I, II, and III they last year released “För Allting” (For Everything) and also moved slightly away from their punk-ier sound for something more melodic and pop-ish. As usual though they name some of the songs with Swedish titles, but they always sing in English. A band in the tradition of Thåströms first band, punkers Ebba Grön.
A3. Badlands – Feel Like You.
Badlands is composer, musician and soundscaper Catharina Jaunsviksna, and last year saw her release her second album, Djinn. A dark, moody, electronic record based in her sorrow of her mother’s tragic passing in 2017. Lyrics centered around loss, departure and letting go.
A4. Augustine – Fragrance.
Debut album from Stockholm based multi-instrumentalist Augustine. High pitch voice, combining 60’s falsetto soul with retro synthpop, his album is a real soother for a year in COVID-restricted isolation. An album I’ve played frequently in the background during endless meetings since it’s release.
A5. First Aid Kit – If It Be Your Will.
Some years ago they put up the show Who By Fire for two nights in Stockholm paying tribute to Leonard Cohen, so I tie together this side’s first and last track neatly. Spring 2021 saw the release of the music from the show, recorded live. I confess not being a huge fan of Mr Cohen, but I’ve seen him live once, and it was great – and I attended the first of the shows FAK did, this is my personal favourite of their versions. The exchange of Leonard’s dark, almost spoken delivery to the crystal clear voices of Klara and Johanna is striking.
Time to get out of that chair and flip…
B1. ionnalee – Machinee.
ionnalee continued to be pretty active, first performing a live broadcast from a tiny island outside her childhood’s village, with remote, live and direct, contributions by collaborators as Zola Jesus and a few others. This was also released as an album, and then she released 2 singles, the first Machinee b/w Anywhere I Roam – another really good ionnalee release. Then she released a song in Swedish about her upbringing, later translated in English and released as a single with both tracks. This however didn’t float my boat as much as this one.
B2. Makthaverskan – Maktologen.
Their album closer about the wrong guy, lies and empty spaces in a just slightly slower pace than their normal full throttle.
B3. Thåström – Mamma (Mother).
Another track from Thåström’s album, telling the story of how his mother as young left her countryside small town and moved to Stockholm, and how he had wanted to see her back then. Very touching, if you know Swedish…
B4. Badlands – Fantasma I & II.
Ending the album with an epic, beautiful, track which has become one of my absolute favorites from last year. On the vinyl release these two where segued into one long, epic, track whilst the CD have them as 2 separate tracks. To me they are inseparable and I include here the close to 10 minutes vinyl version.
All the best, again from the dining table (aka office desk).
JC adds..…As I’ve said before, I always look forward to Martin’s end of year round-up as there’s inevitably something in there that grabs may attention, and this year is no different.