2015 was a magnificent year for Norwegian music … here are what I consider to be the best ofs …
Norway One to Watch Antler
Relatively new to the Norwegian music scene, electro-pop outfit Antler have already caused quite a stir with their debut tracks ‘Animal’ and ‘The Dip’ which were released in late 2015 via newbie Trondheim label, No Forevers.
Antler’s style shifts between electronic dance-pop and alt-pop jazz, with a heavy reliance on multiple layers of synth and electronica and their sound is a sticky confection of quirky harmonies, come hither vocals, slinky synths and strong percussive beats. It is catchy, offbeat electronic pop that is as charmingly captivating as it is irresistible.
With an album already recorded and scheduled for release in March, 2016 will see Antler hit the live circuit taking in Phonofestivalen, Bergen, in January, and Trondheim Calling in early February. The coming year should prove both interesting and exciting year for this young band. With luck, it’ll also prove to be hugely rewarding!
Norway Breakthrough Slutface
Neo-punk come riot grrrl quartet, Slutface, stormed their way into the Norwegian music scene this year with their fresh, feisty and fun flavour of frenergetic noise. Four articulate, intelligent students, Slutface have also effortlessly grabbed the attention of UK media, with their insightful, acerbic lyrics and raucous, catchy sounds.
The band dropped their debut single, ‘Shave my Head’ in November, to universal acclaim. With its urgent, high energy guitar riffs and drum beats, and attitudinal vocal, ‘Shave my Head’ is indie-pop-punk at its punchy, addictive best.
Currently working on material for their debut album, which will be released next year, Slutface, a 2015 Nordic meld of Sleater Kinney, No Doubt and Elastica, are on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest acts to emerge out of Norway for quite a long time. Bring it on grrrl …
Norway Best Solo Farao
Multi-instrumentalist, Kari Jahnsen, aka Farao, is like the Nordic embodiment of an Amazonian warrior-woman. A vocal, musical and visual tour-de-force, Farao released her debut album, ‘Till It’s All Forgotten’ in September and to say it blew the critics away, is putting it mildly.
Resistant to classification, Farao’s music is as unique as it is memorable. An intricate musical network of sonorus layers and varied textures, it is a complex sound that is quite unlike any other, unique to Farao, and to her alone.
Farao’s vocal goes slightly against the cool, clear, crystal Norwegian grain. Not unlike Sundfor when she dips down from those iceberg sopranos, Farao’s voice has a warmer, darker, husky tone that whilst being undeniably lovely, gives her vocal ‘an edge’. Quite apt really considering how defiant her neither indie, nor electronic, nor pop, nor rock sound is.
‘Till It’s All Forgotten’ is a triumphant showcase of Farao’s songwriting skills and instrumental talents. What happens next, should be even more remarkable.
Norway Best Group Dråpe
To be honest, there was a three way tie for this one – in the end what swung it in Dråpe’s favour was continuity and consistency.
2015 has seen this five-piece change lineup, release the single ‘Together We’re Pstereo’, hit the festival circuit, record and release an album plus three further singles, complete a looping tour of Norway and self-produce and release their first music video (more of which anon!).
Second album., ‘Relax/Relapse’, saw them change their recording MO, opting this time around to record on a 24-track tape recorder, which by confining their options, conversely gave them the freedom to be more selective with their choices of what stayed, over what was, “non requis”. The end result was a more defined, mature and experimental sound, that highlighted the breadth of Dråpe’s abilities as musicians, as well as the depth of front-man, Ketil Myhre’s song writing skills.
February will see Dråpe kick start the new year as part of the Trondheim Calling line up, which will be this reviewers first glimpse of the band live.
One feels that Dråpe are within touching distance of something big. Will 2016 be the year that sees them follow their ‘friend’ into the ‘stratosphere’? One certainly hopes so!
Norway Best Video Dråpe ‘Round and Around’
From the first clip of Dråpe’s 60’s vibing video, you just know you are in for a fun ride. An hilarious take on stilted pysch videos a la Procol Harem, with a dash of farcical self-deprecation and some comic genius scripting, this is without doubt the most individual and entertaining video of the year.
No flashy gimmicks, no big budgets, this wittingly conceived of video for the brilliantly sardonic ‘Round and Around’, was scripted, filmed, directed and edited by in-house filmic gurus, Even Hafnor and Lars Boquist, with the help of Hafnor’s professional film-making partner, Lisa Brooke Hansen.
Shot on location around Oslo, the vintage style visual, with its washed out colour grading, bonkers building shots, priceless choreography and deadpan Dråpe expressions, is a stroke of pure visual genius. Enjoy x
Norway EP of the Year Frøkedal ‘I See You’
Anne Lise Frøkedal has thrown everything, probably including the kitchen sink, at 2015 and it’s worked! This incredibly talented, inventive artist has released single after single, debuted EP ‘I See You’, and rounded off 2015 in style, with the release of hauntingly beautiful electronic-pop song ‘Kid’. To put the cherry on top of the musical cake, she has also announced the 2016 release of her debut album, which she will promo with a lengthy tour that will include a slot at the “Norwegian Glastonbury”, Oya Festivalen alongside backing band Familien.
Frøkedal’s transition from simplistic folk melodies to dark electronica via a detour through quirky pop, has showcased not only her ability to change and diversify, but also exemplified her seemingly boundless song writing talents.
Without doubt a solo Anne Lise has had a standout 2015 – one wonders what myriad routes Frøkedal will take her sound down in 2016?
Norway Album of the Year
Susanne Sundfor has had a jet propelled 2015. Unleashing the magnificent opus, ‘Ten Love Songs’ upon the musicverse at the start of the year, she has toured extensively, been feted by the creme de la creme of radio hosts including those at the Beeb, headlined festivals, made stunning visuals, and even now, still shows no sign of letting up, with more dates pencilled into the diary for 2016, starting with PolarJazz.
‘Ten Love Songs’ is Sundfor’s musical diary of her relational experiences – the good, the bad and the bleak. It is a paradoxical menagerie of every feeling of bliss, every ounce of pain, every spasm of venom, and every wave of euphoria, that anyone who has ever loved, been loved, or been flailed by love, has experienced.
Part electronic adrenalin rush, part neo-classical sublimeness, always unique, ‘Ten Love Songs’ is as electic a range of songs as you could hope to find on album. With Sundfor’s pitch perfect voice, as cool and clear as a Norwegian mountain stream, her adept keyboard skills and an exacting ear for a wonderful arrangement, this is the album that has brought her closest to the holy grail of all albums, the ‘magnum opus’.
As the song goes, “things can only get better”! How much better, we will have to wait and see.
Farao ‘Til It’s All Forgotten’
Gold Celeste ‘The Glow’
Susanne Sundfor ‘Ten Love Songs’
Norway Song of the Year
Once heard, never forgotten!
Beautiful, wonderful, awesome, amazing, stunning, superb, classy…the amount of adjectives I have both seen and heard describing this song, could fill several pages. ‘The Wonder of Love’ by Gold Celeste, yet another act that defy classification, is the hands down, standout Norwegian song of 2015. And, that’s not just my opinion.
Everyone to whom I have sent the link, shared the video, directed towards Spotify, have all said the same thing – just using different words.
This honeyed, soulful stunner, is musical elegance personified. In a league of it’s own, it is a disarming wonder of musical loveliness conjured up by three exceptionally gifted musicians.
Having seen Gold Celeste play live, I can attest to their superb musicianship – these guys know no musical boundaries, there are no sonic hills they cannot climb. Brilliantly creative, lyrically insightful, vocally sublime and instrumentally unparalleled, musical magicians Gold Celeste have, what I can only hope is, a truly wonderful future ahead of them.
Genius deserves to be rewarded … and Gold Celeste are instrumental Einsteins!
Maribel ‘And Back In’
Susanne Sundfor ‘Fade Away’
Gold Celeste ‘The Wonder of Love’