One of the bands close to the very top of our hitlist of acts to see live was Little Dragon, a group with a pretty phenomenal track record when it comes to innovative, inventive music. Formed in Gothenburg just over 20 years ago, the quartet have spent most of their career ‘below the line’ somewhat, rarely bothering the upper echelons of the charts. This is mostly to do with their material being more predisposed to a more selective, perhaps even cult following than the mass market, but it’s all the better for it.
Much of this live performance was given over to the kind of stuff you are very unlikely to ever catch on the radio. There was all sorts there though, from trip-hop to dream pop and indietronica to trance, all delivered in Little Dragon’s own unique world; an otherworldly place full of bright lights and neon, with lead singer Yukimi Nagano – whose occasional tantrums in the studio when the group first formed inspired what would later become the band’s name – an energetic and entrancing stage presence throughout. Continue reading
While it may seem her career trajectory has been impressively steep, Swedish singer-songwriter Zara Larsson is no novice when it comes to this pop music lark. She has been a big star in her native country for almost half of her 19 years ever since appearing on Sweden’s equivalent of Got Talent at the age of 10.
2015 saw her break out internationally with the release of bouncing single Lush Life which topped the charts in several countries and acted as the forerunner of her album So Good, released in March this year. Collaborations with MNEK, Tinie Tempah and Clean Bandit have elevated her profile, cementing her considerable pop pedigree in the process.
It all makes for an impressive CV, but does she cut it live? Well, in a word, yes. Hers is a big, bold pop performance, complete with dazzling light display and impressively choreographed dancers. Performing most of the tracks from So Good, singles Never Forget You, I Would Like, Symphony, and Lush Life were perhaps unsurprisingly the stand-outs. Continue reading
Steadily gaining profile, Avante Black have been on our radar for a good long while now. Former tracks Drug Money and Make A Mess have both featured on past Sync Lists and it’ll come as no surprise to know that latest single Acid Love will be appearing on the next one when our latest playlist is unleashed upon an unsuspecting world next week.
This four-piece London-based collective – fronted by Swede Ottilia Zimmerman Kjulsten – clearly have that knack when it comes to catchy yet slightly leftfield pop, and they’ve struck gold again with this one. It’s delicately and neatly produced, with smooth, confident vocals, and strong earworm-quality hooks.
Don’t miss the chance to catch them for an intimate show at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters on 11 December – tickets here.
Avante Black – Acid Love
Brand new from Swedish singer Tove Styrke is this peach of a pop tune. We’ve been desperate to share Mistakes ever since we first heard it a week or two ago so thankfully release day has arrived at last! The song is the follow-up to her hiatus-halting tune Say My Name which was released back in the Spring and was her first new material since 2015 album Kiddo.
We caught Styrke live in London back in June and it was clear that she is on form and ready to move up a gear. Mistakes is a wonderfully minimal pop tune that resists the temptation to overdo its various parts, but all the while keeping the catchiness set to maximum.
Tove Styrke – Mistakes
Here’s one that has been bubbling under for a while and since we can’t get it out of our heads, decided it was deserving of a share. BC Unidos is the brainchild of two of Sweden’s biggest producers, Markus Krunegård and Patrik Berger, who have worked with big names such as Santigold, Charlie XCX, Icona Pop, and Robyn. Bicycle is a real feel-good summer cut which has unsurprisingly been picking up a fair bit of airplay. BC Unidos have also released the Carli remix of the track which takes the original into club territory by fusing grime and dancehall and is well worth a listen.
BC Unidos – Bicycle (ft. Shungudzo)
Here’s just the right kind of tune if the sun is shining where you are right now… or even if it’s not hopefully it can brighten your day. So We Can Sing is the debut from Swedish singer-songwriter Albin Loán and the song is the result of a collaboration with producer EKKO.
Albin Loán & EKKO – So We Can Sing
Heading up our latest Sync List, the new song from Swedish singer-songwriter Skott has all the ethereal beauty of her earlier songs Porcelain and Glitter & Gloss, building delicately to something of altogether epic proportions. There’s a hint of Lana Del Ray to start with, some Kate Bush-esque magic too, but really, Mermaid signifies more of a confirmation in earnest of Skott’s very own distinctive style.
Hearing her live is believing – those high notes really are that flawless when she performs. Shortly heading to the US for a couple of support slots with the mighty Phantogram, her next UK headline show in London on 13 September is sold out but fans can track her down supporting MØ on her autumn tour dates in Bristol (23 October), Glasgow (24), Manchester (25), London (27), Norwich (28), and Birmingham (29).
Skott – Mermaid
Now here’s one that will divide opinion! Me, My Selfie and I is a tongue-in-cheek debut from Swedish pop artist Luxia whose Instagram-obsessed alter-ego delivers a bouncing bubblegum pop tune with a dark undercurrent.
Once you get through the difficult first listen and come back to give it another go, it may well get stuck in your brain for good. It’s brilliantly weird, and if this kind of brave, offbeat and outlandish stuff is a flavour of what’s to come from the Malmö-based artist, then bring it on.
Luxia – Me, My Selfie and I
Despite being a pretty big deal in her homeland, Swedish singer Tove Styrke has remained mysteriously under the radar in the UK. With this, her comeback gig after a period of time in the studio, she did much to further the mystery of why she isn’t more up front and centre, with a powerful, high tempo performance that suggests she should be on a far bigger stage – metaphorically as well as literally.
Her long-standing domestic profile is due in part to a third-place finish in Sweden’s version of Pop Idol back in 2009, but the music that immediately followed that TV experience in her youth is a far cry from where this sassy lady is at nowadays. New song Say My Name offers a good handle on the strong and creative approach to pop that Styrke is taking, but her hour-long London show was nicely varied, stringing together a mix of material old and new.
Kicking of with Samurai Boy and Borderline from her second album Kiddo, she followed that with another from the same LP, Ego, which is arguably the most accomplished song of her career up to this point.
She excitedly announced that she had a couple of new songs to play for the first time, and they went down a storm; Mistakes and On The Low giving some indication that her third album will represent another major step forward for her material, full of hooks and energy.
She returned to tracks from Kiddo, mining the album for Who’s Got News, Number One, and Snaren before launching into new tune Say My Name, which was delivered with panache as the crowd sung the lyrics back to her. But it was encore tune Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You which really sums up what she is all about. Bold, confident and fun – it’s pure pop… and she’s brilliant at it.
New from Swedish singer LOUUD (AKA Louise Udin) is the track Fools. Full of ambient guitar and hook-filled pop, the song is a precursor to an EP which is on the way a little later this year.
Udin has been writing songs from a young age, developing and honing her craft at the Rytmus music school in Stockholm, following in the footsteps of artists such as Tove Lo, Icona Pop and Robyn. Now based in London, expect plenty more to come from LOUUD over the coming months.
LOUUD – Fools
Swedish pop artist Tove Lo brought her show to Manchester as part of her UK tour, kicking off her set with two of the strongest tracks from her recent album Ladywood. True Disaster is a brilliant start as its fiery beat is just as powerful as the lyrics in which she exclaims “pretty boys, they didn’t teach me things I didn’t know“, her first of many social commentaries over infectious pop hooks, this time a statement on today’s over-emphasis on physical appearance.
Then she goes straight into the album’s title track, with lyrics about a couple who are being judged but pretty much not giving a f**k, a point the crowd here are getting behind.
The popstar struts up and down the stage rocking her high waisted 70s-style silver pants with Ladywood embellished on the back as she blasts through more from the latest album, and later changes into a disco ball-style jacket, a party outfit which is a great tie in with her dance-ready anthems.
She harks back to earlier tracks with Not on Drugs and one of the highlights of the night Talking Body which shows off her ability to write a banging pop tune. But as well as her knack for pop, the lady is known for her outspoken attitude on female sexuality and that’s no more apparent than when she cooly and uninhibitedly lifts her top up to huge cheers from the crowd – it’s something she regularly does at her live shows, making the point that if male rock stars can perform topless then why can’t women?
There is slight lull mid set where she disappears for a quick change – but her enthusiastic band keep up the momentum. She returns for Imaginary Friend, during which she takes charge on the keyboard on a song about loneliness in the public eye and music industry.
It seems her thrust into the media has been a rough one – she started out writing with pop royalty Xenomania for other artists before finding herself front of stage – and with that comes criticism, particularly for a strong-willed female.
She amps up the energy again on another teary dance anthem WTF Love Is before Cool Girl – the earworm electropop banger which suffered an injustice for not topping the charts around the globe – finishes up the set ahead of an encore.
She apologises to the Manchester crowd for a number of gig cancellations over the past couple of years in the city, something that was mostly out her hands. But they seem more than pleased that she’s finally here as the energy in the room replicates the leading lady on the stage.
She finishes up on her breakthrough track Habits (Stay High) for a much more chilled out version as she winds down her dance moves and lets the crowd take over.
Tove Lo is clearly leading the new wave pop pack with her fellow unashamedly honest and fearless contemporaries who, although perhaps not topping the charts, are certainly connecting with the right crowds.
Bursting on to the scene at the start of this year with her huge song Glitter and Gloss, Swedish singer-songwriter Skott is experiencing a somewhat meteoric rise in profile. Plenty of radio airplay has brought her considerable talents to a wide audience, so it was no wonder that this gig at London’s small but beautifully formed Omeara venue near London Bridge sold out ages ago.
Her sound is ethereal and magical, yet amazingly powerful at the same time. Opening with the aforementioned Glitter and Gloss, Skott had to contend with technical issues to begin with, her in-ear monitors failing to work – not that it put her off her stride with the first song, which was as mesmerising as it was dramatic. Although she was clearly and understandably relieved when the problem was resolved.
What followed was a very short – just a little over 30 minutes – yet unforgettable set. What was so striking about her show was just how utterly accomplished she is, both in terms of stage presence and vocal performance. A particular stand-out was her 2016 single Porcelain, which is beautiful enough in its recorded form, but takes on a whole new level of feeling when heard live. Technically tough to sing, it was nevertheless delivered faultlessly, and anyone present who didn’t experience shivers during the song’s crescendo clearly has no soul!
Skott is a simply astounding vocalist with a massive future ahead of her. Don’t miss the next chance to see her for yourself when she returns to London for a show at Village Underground on 13 September. Tickets here.
There’s something unusual and pretty special about this alt-pop track from Swedish singer-songwriter Skott. Glitter & Gloss meanders and intrigues but the whole effect is overwhelmingly pleasing.
The track has been deservedly getting plenty of radio airplay and we expect plenty more material along these lines from her over the coming months. You can also catch her live over the coming months on a number of European and US tour dates that include London (7 March) and Brighton’s Great Escape (20 May).
Skott – Glitter & Gloss
Super-psychedelic Outer Spaced by Swedish group Hashish is as spaced out as the title suggests.
The track is from their debut album A Product Of which is out tomorrow (26 August) on Whoa Dad! records. Hashish are led by Stefan Kéry, an avid record collector and a bit of a retro-psych guru who has been releasing records by Dungen as well as a whole treasure of forgotten Scandinavian prog-psych gold via his own label Subliminal Sounds.
Inspired by the kaleidoscopic sounds of the 60s and 70s, Hashish have combined retro bass lines and kraut drums with an overall electronic lounge vibe, to create a record that is genre crossing, experimental and yet modern. It kind of picks up what Goat have started and takes it in an even more far out direction. The video really has made me hungry though…
Hashish – Outer Spaced
There’s something addictive about this cheesy slice of pop from Swedish singer Tove Styrke. Ego is out already and is taken from the forthcoming album Kiddo, which will be released on 16 March.
Tove Styrke – Ego