If you like your Celtic folk-pop with some Scandi on the side, Irish-Nordic trio Karmacloud should be right up your street or gata depending on which side of the North Sea you’re inhabiting.
The Irish-Swedish-Danish alt-folk trio have just released their latest single ‘The Longing‘, a track which “likens the adventure we experience through love and romance to a hike through the forest: passing in and out of the light and shadows of love and loss, all the while longing for an elusive equilibrium that brings us comfort.”
Be that as it may (most forest hikes I’ve participated in have resulted in my longing for the elusive equilibrium of a big comfy armchair and large G&T), this is a delightful folk ballad not without an abundance of pop sensibilities, delivered with a sincere honesty and gentle warmth. As you would expect from a song dip-dyed in the well of traditional folk, it comes replete with reps of soft acoustic guitar loops, brightly chiming piano sequences and gorgeous clouds of vocal harmonies.
However, as is often the case, there is more going on underneath the surface than might first seem apparent. From early on, intermittent sample sounds dart through the vocals like fleeting shadows adding to the afore-mentioned sense of loss and elusiveness.
The song’s airier folk elements are earthed by clever percussion that leans towards a jazz style, while the addition of a dreamy drone of unknown origin- harmonium? accordion? – creates warmth and adds texture as it sketches the most inviting of melodic landscapes.
“Along the way, we learn from our mistakes, and we discover that relationships can be shaped by the secrets we hide and honesty we reveal that make us vulnerable and open to receiving.”
Vocally this is as engaging as any vocal can be, with Danny Forde using all his Irish charm to convey the sincerity of the everyday existentialism behind the song. In fact, having Forde at the helm gives ‘The Longing’ an essence of traditional Irish balladry to which his Scandi comrades have added magical strands of that innovative folk-pop for which they are renowned.
Karmacloud is Linnéa Lundgren, Rumle Langdal and Danny Forde. ‘The Longing’ heralds the first of three new 2017 releases, the updates on which you can keep track of on the band’s Facebookpage. You can listen to The Longing, which is out now via digital channels, here.
Introducing Sigrid Raabe, the Norwegian challenger to the Larsson throne!
One year ago this month, I stood in Trondheim’s Dokkhuset watching headliner Tellef Raabe close the Trondheim Callingmusic festival. Last week, in that very same city, I sat on a sofa in the Clarion Congress hotel with the head of another music festival. We were discussing the Norwegian music artists we felt were going to go #gold in 2017. Top of that list came the afore-mentioned Tellef’s baby sister, Sigrid.
Coming from a family who immersed themselves in music and culture, all of whom are musically talented, Sigrid Raabe who began her career as her brother’s backing singer, has finally stepped out of the shadow of her older siblings. And with a GIANT step at that!
Recently signed to the Island Records division of Universal Music, Sigrid, who goes by her first name a la Kylie & Adele, has just released her debut single, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe‘, and it’s 100% electrocket-pop.
With a big and bold voice scuffed by a grungy, gravelly texture that is the antithesis of the her ice-tipped Norwegian peers, Sigrid doesn’t just sing, she punches out a formidable yet mellifluous vocal with a plucky confidence and ease honed by years of on-stage experience, that belie her young age.
Opening with modulated vocals and sombre piano chords the song quickly perks up with the addition of rapid synth sequences, underground basslines, bombastic percussion and Sigrid’s feisty vocal. A vocal that picks up and rugby tackles the 2-fingered gutsy attitude of the track’s lyrics.
“You’re acting like you hurt me but I’m not even listening …
You think you’re so important to me don’t you, but I wanted you to know that you don’t belong here”
‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is a pop song in the mould of Zara Larsson, another Nordic singer who isn’t afraid to sound off about how she feels. Similarly to the Swede’s street style, the track builds from the ground upwards on a foundation inlaid with the #hiphop beats that give it a refreshing newness and raw energy lacking in many of today’s ‘same old’ churn.
Swede Zara Larsson is to glam-meets-street pop as Norwegian Sigrid is to dance-pop with a feisty urban twist, and while Ms Zara has been one of the top Scandinavian exports of the past few years, the Queen of the Nordic territories just might be about to lose her golden crown to a formidable new challenger!! Time will tell, but for my money, I don’t see why not! Likewise, I can also see a world in which both Scandi sirens can ‘do’ dual world domination! #girlpower
Sigrid’s single, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is out now on Island Records with an accompanying video due to be released shortly. Listen to her ‘packs a punch’ pop track here,
Sigrid is set to play by:Larm in March and TGE (UK) in May – if you’re anywhere near Oslo or Brighton on either occasion you know what to do! Follow Sigrid on Facebookand Twitter– and you’ll find me likewise @#DervSwerve
If their social media presence is anything to go by, Swedish band ‘Many Voices Speak’ are a very, very recent formation. Online for less than a month, the band have obviously been living in close quarters and deliberately keeping themselves under the radar, given they have already signed to not one but two labels, and also debuted their first single, ‘Video Child‘.
Opening with a shiver of guitar strings with a nuance of Twin Peaks mystery, ‘Video Child’ slowly and cautiously evolves into an intricate, yet loosely woven retro menagerie of guitar lines lightly dusted with reverb, delicate melodic keys, and barely there horns, all underpinned by the most discreet of RS arrangements. Full of Hollis-esque spaces that give it a relaxing tranquility, the song has a dreamy nostalgia into which we are irresistibly drawn, not least by the softly restrained vocals of Matilda Mård, whose careful enunciation evokes feelings of both nostalgia and regret.
With scant information on both their socials and website, there’s little to go on here, but what we do have is a quote from Mård about how the song was shaped: “‘Video Child’ was shaped from a kind of rebellion against the musical introspective sound that I devoted myself to for several years. To me it’s a song that looks back to the late nineties. Both lyrically, but also I’ve given into another kind of arrangements that provide space for a larger expression, which looks back to the artists who made me want to sing in the first place, like Dido and Destiny’s Child.”
‘Video Child’ is lifted from the band’s debut EP, ‘Away For All Time’, which Mård wrote during a long term stay in the Swedish town of Borlänge. Be prepared for more gentle, halcyon pop melodies laced together by pure, unadulterated vocals that invite and assuage with the lightest of impressions, as they sing of a darker past whilst looking to a brighter future.
You can stream or buy ‘Video Child’ via Spotify or iTunes, while Away All the Time will release via Hit City U.S.A. on October 28th. In the meantime, you can listen to the debut single here.
There isn’t anything that the pomp of brass and wistful elegance of strings can’t take to the next level, and then some.
By layering russet hued horns and yearning string sequences over menacing basslines, sweetly seductive synth and touches of plinking piano, Swedish trip-hopper, Alma, has scored a classy soundtrack that could easily pass for a younger, sassier sibling of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box – Give Me A Reason‘. Cloaked in the same hypnotic allure threaded with subtle strands of intrigue, her latest single, ‘Wicked’ oozes that same sumptuous, off-limits sexiness as its mid ’90s predecessor.
Vocals with an attitude face off against dreamy pillows of feathery delightfulness, giving the sultry, chastising lyrics a warm, animated colour with just the right touch of cool, refined disdain around the edges.
‘Wicked’ is Alma’s latest release following the feisty electro-dance track, ‘I Do It For You’. Less poppy, more intense, this is an extremely sophisticated production that significantly ups the song-crafting ante. In fact, ‘Wicked’ is of such richly textured and cinematic proportions as to be practically of the same calibre as the many hits penned by Guy Chambers or Adele (think Millenium meets Skyfall).
While the song itself was released a few months back, the Nim Sundström directed, sensual and dramatic Bondesque video (check out the Bond referencing shots of that spiral staircase) was only premiered a week ago.
Relatively new to the music scene in the UK&I, this young Stockholm based singer appears to know her strengths and is playing to them like a well seasoned pro. If Alma keeps firing shots like ‘Wicked’ from her musical armoury you can expect to see her star in the ascendancy quicker than Bond could say ‘007’.
Around the middle of April, Swedish duo Malin Dahlström and Gustaf Karlöf, aka Niki & The Dove, released their second album, ‘Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now‘ without, it would seem, too much fanfare. Reviewed and favourably received by some of the big guns, it has since then, somehow managed to keep its head just under the parapet, shimmering away in the shadows without ever building to a dramatic, fireworky explosive ‘Ta-dah’“! Which is a shame, because this is one truly super-cool ‘back to the ’80s’ time-travelling pop album.
While on a very obvious level this album recalls Prince and Donna Summer and, is rife with vocal enunciations that scream Stevie Nicks at every possible nuanced turn, it is also a fusion of everything that was great and glorious about 70’s disco and ’80s pop, conjuring up sonic images of every stand-out name from that era, from 10cc to Five Star, from Nile Rodgers & Chic to Michael Mc Donald.
Album opener, single ‘So Much It Hurts‘, has an intro cut straight from Foreigner’s ‘Waiting For A Girl Like You’ and a melody line that could amiably mash up with ‘On My Own’, Pattie Labelle’s famous duet with the afore-mentioned Steely Dan frontman. It is sparkling ’80’s slick pop, bedecked with smatterings of darting synth sequences and Rn’B basslines, all topped off with a gloriously wistful vocal. Those dude basslines become even more pronounced in the next track, ‘You Stole My Heart Away‘, when they go pure vintage Freddie Washington in a 21st century refresh of Chic vs Patrice Newton with its crossover jazz/Studio 54 blend. This is the track to transport you back to the glitzy glory days of ‘Forget Me Nots’ and ‘Good Times’, with it’s infectious handclap beat and strutting hard funk guitar.
‘You Want The Sun‘, is jizz-jazzy Summer filled slacker-funk coloured with golden flecks of lush guitar, and a song very much in the mould of the duo’s fellow Nordic musical bedfellows, Lovespeake. While billowing in a reverbed Fleetwood Mac ‘Gypsy’ breeze, ‘Play It On My Radio’ has a line in percussion stuck in a Phil Collins timewarp, with traces of Mike and the Mechanics’ ‘Living Years’ in the easy melody of its inviting guitar loops and strum patterns.
‘Coconut Kiss‘ is an electro-reggae trip to the tropics dotted with gorgeous synth ‘birds of paradise’ singing their sweet song amidst a luscious dense growth of cheeky bass and 10cc style guitars. Watercolour washes of Malin’s infectious dreamy vocal beckon the listener to come take a stroll with her along the sun-kissed white sands of some azure lapped Caribbean paradise. ‘Shark City‘ is a bit of an odd one mind. On the one hand, it’s a little bit Toni Basil on high-pitched steroids, on the other it’s way down low groovy basslines and disjointed percussion. I can’t quite make up my mind, so I’ll leave you to your own decisive devices.
Album closer ‘Ode to Dance Floor‘ sees Malin kick off with a rambling monologue that’s followed by disparate vocal styles, part talking, part oooh ooh, with very little of what you could actually call singing (except for the background harmonics). It veers a little towards late ’80s Talking Heads with it’s talk-talk vocal and bubbling rivulets of electro noises, which Karlöf backdrops with a delightful melodic montage of guitars. The addition of a sublime overlay of brassy sax gives both track and album a gilt-edged, elegant finish.
It’s four years since Niki & The Dove released their debut album, and in that time they have honed and evolved their sound into a rainbow hued confection the recipe for which has been the best of breed ingredients from the glory days of the 70’s and ’80s – an era when pop was king, and disco was queen. In 2016, these avant-garde pop virtuosos have wed these regal highnesses to create a rich royal blend of smooth, groovy disco-funk that is a modern day musical marriage made in retro heaven.
“Sending you Forget me Nots …To help me to remember”
In an industry traditionally dominated by men, it has always seemed that women, who have always been in the minority, were destined to remain somewhat on the back-foot.
In 2016 however, all the indications are that the this may not be the case for much longer. The tide is beginning to turn, certainly across the Northern European scene, where a new generation of intelligent, driven, articulate and uber-talented young women are beginning to take their place at the helm. In a very assured and controlled manner, they are leading a new and courageously outspoken charge through an industry that for all intents and purposes has hitherto been yet another male-only private members club.
Glass-ceiling? Twenty, thirty years ago, the perception was that only a pneumatic drill would break through; never something that a quick flick of a finely turned stiletto could crack, recently it has somehow managed to become more fragile in its consistency, as hairline cracks begin to show on its testosterone coated surface.
And yes, back in the 80’s Smith, Harry, Hynde, Bush, all strong, outspoken women not only carved out hugely successful careers for themselves in the music business, they achieved iconic status for having done so. But, more importantly, they did the groundwork, laid the foundations for empowerment from which a new group of emerging female artists can now build upon and flourish.
Furthermore, in those intervening years, a slow but sure shift in mindset has also occurred, so that today, one of the advantages that many female artists have, certainly those in Scandinavian countries, is that their male peers no longer just talk the talk. Significantly, 2015/16 has seen the rise of the male feminist and that in itself has been a key game-changer. That is not to say, that the rise of so many women to forefront of the industry has been down to some form of male acquiescence, far from it, but this shift in mentality has certainly played an integral part in this change in dynamics.
So just who are these young women standing front and centre of today’s pack of emerging musical talent? Who are these silk voiced lasses with steely backbones and radars more perceptive than a sonar submarine? It’s not quite jackboots all round, some of these gals being of a very ‘ethereal’ ilk. But, what all of these young women have in common, is a determination ranging from the quietly understated to vigorously riotous, not only to succeed, but to have their voice however, soft or loud, clearly heard!
In this two-part special feature, we introduce you to twelve young women who are currently making an indelible mark on the emerging music scene across Northern Europe of 2016.
Who: Australian avant-garde provocateur, who honed her lyrical craft in LA, then put the Kate into Swedish outré synthpop outfit Kateboy.
Vocalist Akhurst also carries out joint writing, instrumental and production duties alongside Markus Dextegen, formerly of Swedish music collective Rocket Boy from whence the ‘Boy’ element of their moniker came. The consummate “performance artist”, Kate incorporates several non-musical elements to recordings, visuals and live performances, including dance, art and high tech graphics & special effects.
Creator of magnetic hooks enhanced by her stunning vocal theatricality, Kate Akhurst is the lyrical engine behind such gloriously gleaming pop anthems as ‘Midnight Sun’ and ‘Northern Lights’. Kateboy released their debut album, ‘One’ last November and are currently on tour having just played Barcelona, with an upcoming gig in Prague next week. Expect bolder, bigger, better from the next round of Akhurst fuelled creations. This livewire has well & truly marked the music world’s card with brand Kateboy.
“It’s really important to me that someone doesn’t come in and make me a star.” – ARY
Who: Baby faced, doe-eyed, twenty-one year old Norwegian Ariadne Loinsworh, aka ARY.
Of Jamaican extraction, this raven haired beauty is as perceptive as she is delightful, and wittier than she is both. With her quirky style, tireless enthusiasm and uncanny knack for delivering the most perfectly nuanced vocal, ARY is surely one of THE upcoming forces to be reckoned with in the Norwegian music industry. Creating intoxicating cold electronica gently warmed by her mellow voice and sunny disposition, ARY has, in the past 6 months, become the darling of the pop scene, with music media tripping over themselves to view, review and interview this shining star. Collaborating with Olefonken on the ‘Quaaludes’ project has given ARY’s “cool cred” an enormous boost, surprising more than a few in the process. Don’t be fooled by the cotton wool softness of that voice, there’s a lot more to ARY than at first meets the eye, or indeed the ear! Watch this space!
*Read the unedited version of my interview with ARY which was first published by The 405 in February,here.
Who: New kid on the solo block, Brixton based electric guitar cognoscente Sarah Howells.
Operating under the nom de plume Bryde, this fresh-faced English singer musician totally kills it in the atmospheric stakes and, kicks HUGE ass with her gutsy performances, so to read that she takes inspiration from the likes of PJ Harvey comes as no surprise.
Featured by BBC6 Music’s Fresh on the Net, not once but twice, Bryde crafts songs with the punch of Debbie Harry and the electricity of Pat Benatar, with whom she also shares the same pure-diamond vocal. Lyrically terse, emotionally tense and vocally theatrical, this talented Brit has concocted the perfect recipe for her ferociously honest compositions. Self-deprecating, sometimes self-condemning but with more than a touch of f**k you, Bryde’s songs, which tend to throttle rather than hold tightly onto past mistakes, come out of that new wave of female lyricism that sees them continuously shed skin and evolve by looking forwards,
Gigging with gusto since the start of the year, this Summer sees Bryde tour the length and breadth of the UK, which will culminate in a festival slot in June, details on her website, here. As I’ve said before, “Bryde is to singing what Caitlin Moran is to wording: ballsy.” Bryrde’s debut EP is out on 13th May, and you’d be a fool not to invest.
“I realised I had a bigger dream, and wanted to do this for myself, to prove myself.” – GRIS-DE-LIN
Self-taught percussionist and creator of songs which she describes as “Subtle electric honesty”, this smoky-voiced lyrical emancipator has pro-actively media managed Temples of Youth since its inception just over a year ago. In the space of a year, ToY has evolved quite significantly both creatively and sonically, honing their live performance to such a sharp extent that they are already lined up for not one but two slots at Blissfields. ‘Faved’ by BBC 6 Music’s Fresh on the Netwhose Tom Robinsonwas suitably wowed by “the epic chillwave” of this enigmatic Cancerian’s Sade-esque delivery on their track ‘AM’, Temples have also been featured in live sesh by BBC Introducing,
An articulate advocate of feminism and active promoter of positive mental health, we asked Jo to explain what it was that was most important for her to achieve both as an artist and a woman. “As an artist I do what I do because it helps my mental and physical wellbeing. Writing gives me something to pour myself into and it makes me feel like being different is okay because something good is coming out of it. It makes me feel accepted. In terms of being a woman, I want younger women to see that gender isn’t defining and that music is open to everyone. There are so many horror stories in the media, Kesha and Grimes are just two examples. I think that intimidates young girls. It’s just awful that, that kind of thing happens so it’s important to raise awareness. But what about all the women out there who are having the best time and growing through music. Let’s not forget to tell the kids about those people too.”
Carson is the creative brains behind Temples of Youth’s new website, where you’ll find details of their latest music news and upcoming gigs, including the aforementioned Blissfields. Fast gaining traction beyond the pale of their neatly trimmed Hampshire borders, this is a band and a feminist, of whom you’ll be hearing a lot more in the future.
Who: Anna Lena Bruland, guitar playing solo artist who hails from a fishing port on the outskirts of Oslo.
Her grungey guitar sound and emotionally stripped down lyrics have brought her to the attention of top level hacks and DJs alike, including the illustrious 2FM jock and Irish John Peel, Dan Hegarty, he of the biggest alternative radio show in Ireland, no less.
Originally the face of Anna Lena and the Orchids, the Norwegian singer/songwriter now performs under the moniker EERA, something which automatically gives her both an air of distance and aura of intrigue. Some five years back, EERA upped sticks and moved to London, and it was in the magnified miscellany of that metropolis that she finally felt able to mine deep enough to unearth her true lyrical expression. Having tested the waters with some well received low key dates, EERA stepped out into the headlights of the world stage earlier this year when, with a flurry of promo and a whirlwind of live dates, she launched her debut single, ‘Drive with Fear’, which was quickly followed by her eponymous EP.
While her songs cut deep emotionally, the gritty, earthy power behind their visceral landscape roughs them up around the edges, turning them into dirty diamonds sparkling in a sonic twilight. EERA’s voice is as capable of gravel strewn husky as it is of mountain stream clarity, and the singer fully utilises the far reaching range of her incredible instrument, in a subtle and nuanced fashion. Emotionally potent themes held in check by no-nonsense grunge set EERA apart from many of her female solo peers. Having just received wow reviews for her performance at Danish SPOT festival, EERA hits The Great Escape in two weeks time where she’ll play to her largest audience to-date, something which undoubtedly, this understated young artist will coolly take in her confident Nordic stride.
Who: Other-worldly, tractor hugging, sparkly boots wearing free spirit from Bridport, whose debut EP, ‘The Kick’ hit the musicverse just two weeks ago.
Gris-de-Lin is a one woman philharmonic orchestra without the phil, whose instrumental spectrum includes drums, guitar, keys and saxophone, amongst others.
Walking away one year ago, from the comfort of playing within a group, Gris rented out a nearby nursery school, and with the help of some close friends including regular jammer and collaborator, Matt ClymaGooderson, the music of Gris-de-Lin was born. Speaking of the move to solo-dom Gris explained, “It got to the point where I just wanted control, wanted it to be personal, wanted to prove myself. I wanted to experiment, and for the music to reflect that experimentation. I wanted it to feel organic, to flow freely. I realised I had a bigger dream, and wanted to do this for myself, to prove myself.
In terms of originality, Gris is probably at the top of the otherworldly pile and while the most wondrous melodies flow through the soul of her songs, there hangs over them, the most unique and spiritual aura, not akin to anything we’ve previously come across. An adept musician and pan-cultural aesthete, Gris has a flair for devising ingenious lyrical and musical creative approaches, which seeps into her outputs.
Since those Summer jams in a Bridport nursery, Gris single handedly (no PR/Manager/Label) released a double A sided single (YourGhost/Birthday) complete with hand-painted artwork for the groovy yellow vinyls and two visual accompaniments, organised a launch party at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters (complete with Gris-tailored cocktails), toured with Joe Gideon and gigged withJim Sclavunos, as well as playing a series of gigs in Dorset/London.
A BBC favourite she has played live sessions on both Marc Riley‘s BBC6 Music Radio Show and BBC Intro South, as well as being featured by both Tom Robinson on his 6-Music Show and BBC6 Fresh on the Net, where her tracks ‘Birthday’ and ‘The Kick’ were huge fan favourites. Gris has since signed to German indie label, BB Island, through whom she has just released her debut EP, The Kick, details here.
This Summer will see Gris release her debut album which was produced by Chris ‘Cee’ Hamilton, whose much revered services she enlisted after inveigling him with some fine single malt when they met at the gig of a mutual friend.
I think you’ll agree that Gris has achieved her objective, having most certainly proved herself, something which no doubt, she’ll continue to do. Keep up to speed with gig news and posts on the upcoming album release here on her website.
“I won’t be at the mercy of your ghost, cold hand knocking at my window pane, I wanna be dancing with my friends, so if you go, just be gone, no strands left hanging or dreams undone, my closet is already full, skeletons hanging, no space for you.” ‘Your Ghost’ – Gris-de-Lin
Part 2 of this special two-part series, will feature six more cutting edge ‘fab femmes’ whose names we think you should become familiar with.
It’s more than probable that at some point down the line, these female forces to be reckoned with will have very much established themselves both in their profession as artists, the music industry in general, and possibly beyond. Truth be told, some are already very much on their way … can’t you hear them?
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‘Compassion’, the latest long player offering from Swede/Dane outfit, Lust for Youth, is an impressive production that fuses sounds of shimmering light and morose dark to create a glossy ball of monochrome synthpop. Think black glitterball – spangles from the dark side.
Originally the solo project of Swede Hannes Norrvide, Lust for Youth developed into a triumvirate after a move to Copenhagen saw Norrvide hook up with Danes, Loke Rahbek and Malthe Fischer. Now following on from their 2014 post-punk, cold wave grit-comp, ‘International’, they have released this much anticipated album, in many ways the culmination of a continuous evolution of sound.
The antithesis of its predecessor, ‘Compassion’ is a more mature, sophisticated creation, although some might say that with that same refinement comes a loss of the very rawness that gave ‘International’ a grimy and therefore, more interesting edge. Ultimately, what way you swing will come down to personal taste: if you are a dirty sounding, industrial leaning synth pop fan, then ‘Compassion’ may not be for you. If you are a lover of slick synth-pop noir, then this is a gem you need to add to your musical treasure trove.
This eight track Lp opens with ‘Stardom’ a fusion of sketches from SGR and Black Celebration, with overtures of Wilder’s more finessed electronic flourishes a la SOFAD. Compounding the Mode comparison is the wistful vocal redolent of a Nordic Dave Gahan, although the parsimonious modulation gives it a slight Kraftwerkian mono-automaton quality. ‘Stardom’ is a two tiered dichotomy: overhead lines of warm melodica flow in parallel with underground undulating bass electronica & dancing percussion. Interestingly, despite being a love song, it is tinged with an air of despondency.
“I’m complete, I’m content
In your bed but I’m floating
In the air in the clear”
Second track in, ‘Limerance’, which means infatuated love, has a dreamy wistful melody that perfectly complements the songs lyrical theme of obsessive, unrequited love. Pure 80s dance-pop, it is made up of a series of interlinking loops underpinned by an insistent drum beat and repetitive sequences of warm synth that give a honeyed glaze to a washed-out, detached vocal.
Smatterings of “found sounds” and spoken word, are dotted through the compelling meld of poignant cold electronics and warm acoustic chords that make up ‘Easy Window’, a curious yet enchanting instrumental choc full of quirks and delightfully arranged synth sequences that brings to mind a sonic Star Wars between outer space and planet earth. From interstellar handbags at dawn, to nocturnal handbags on the dancefloor, pure 80s pop-monster, ‘Sudden Ambitions’, is an infectious muddle of NO, ‘Regret’ and TfF ‘The Working Hour’, while its mille feuille of up tempo synth layered over a foundation of gyrating percussive beats, is joyful dance pop in the mould of Pet Shop Boys. Here Norrvide’s vocal, at its most Gahan-esque, is also at its warmest and most inviting.
Rolling with the PSB and NO sound is surging disco track, ‘Better Looking Brother’, which will sweep you away on the tide of its driving momentum, while duet ‘Display’, does a sonic volte-face changing down gears to first and brings a welcome albeit temporary reprieve from the continuous thrum of up-tempo pop. Despite comprising a bolognaise of several strands of warm electronica and melodic guitar lines, ‘Display’ is full of wide open spaces, making this ballad one of the most interesting, and for my money definitely one of the best, tracks on the album.
The album closes with the rather bizarre ‘In Return’. Ambiguous Swedish spoken word is married with an almost ambient instrumental accompaniment, its pervasive sense of stasis given only brief moments of animation via electronic flourishes. It’s an easy listening close but probably the most dated sound on the album.
All in all, ‘Compassion’ is more retro than its more futuristic predecessor. It references some of the best 80s brand names, which in turn adds to the sense of wistful nostalgia so integral to the album’s thematic core.
‘Compassion’ is a dark reflective stroll through 80s pop highlighted with some wonderful flashes of melodic silver lining. While it may be less edgy than ‘International’, it is significantly more mature, and as far as pieces of polished synth-pop noir go, this is one classy affair.
Lust for Youth’s album, ‘Compassion’ is out now on Sacred Bones records.
The band are currently on tour, you can check out the tour dates below (they play London’s Moth Club 22/4)