musings from boston

screams, whispers and songs from planet earth

Tag: Sweden

Lars Eriksson Conjures the Vitaliebröderna Pirate Gang of Gotland

photo by Adam Hultberg

photo by Adam Hultberg

To listen to the lush music of Lars Eriksson is to allow yourself to be transported to a distant shore. Recently released is the first single from his forthcoming 6-track EP. “I Love You Now” is a beautifully fluid piece that flows around a gypsy violin and Eriksson’s softly sensuous vocals.

Lars Eriksson is a Swedish-born musician who first came to public attention following appearances on the Swedish Idol TV show in 2008. By that time, in his late 20s, he had already written 200 songs. He played piano at age 5 and started writing music when he was 9, performing at his school. He took up guitar at 16 and played with friends under the band name “The Jisreels” at local shows and on tour.

His previous recordings, which can be listened to on Spotify, include Dictions and Contradictions (2012), Rust and Golden Dust (2011), two demo albums titled As It Were and If You Will, plus EPs Inconsequencia and Lonely Jim. Eriksson collaborated with Elin Sigvardsson on the single “Love,” which reached #5 on the Swedish singles chart, and also worked with Anders Bagge and Birger Pettersson (High Gear Music label).

The songs on the new EP were written on the Swedish island of Gotland, during a three-year period when Erikkson lived there. The mood of this special places infuses the songs, some of which incorporate mystic elements that conjure ancient times. The title, Guds vän och allas fiende (“Friend of God and enemy of all”), was the battle cry of the Vitaliebröderna pirate gang, who lived on the island of Gotland in the Middle Ages.

On the EP, Eriksson (who performs on acoustic guitar, vocals and pump organ), is joined by David Åhlén (studio technician Gotland, violin), Magnus Olsson (drums), Carl Ekerstam (electric guitar), Jonas Nilsson (double bass) and Elin Ivarsson (background vocals).

Artwork for the EP and singles are by the Spanish artist Lucía Espinós Bermejo The digital-only release of the EP is on September 15, preceded by the second single, “Breadcrumbs” (August 15).

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Introducing… Hana Oceans

Hana Oceans

It is difficult, if not impossible, for an artist with any sensitivity to create in a world that is so troubled and not be affected by what happens around them. For Swedish singer-songwriter Hanna Nilsson, who goes by her stage name Hana Oceans, the plight of European immigrants fleeing war in their native countries is impossible to ignore. For her recent single “Invincible Borders,” she tells their story with a powerful video that was directed by Natalya Holley and produced by Holley London/Lauren Holley. It immediately personalizes what can all-too-easily become just a series of newsreel images from some distant, foreign land.

“So let’s break these walls, these invincible borders,
crushed we feel small but we can’t live by their orders,
so we march march to the sunset, fight fight til the day ends
There is a fault, that’s always on their minds but never outshined
there is a people that never are heard but will always rise, will always rise

– Invincible Borders

In a premiere feature and interview with Atwoods Magazine, Oceans explains what inspired her to write this song:

“I can’t be happy in a world where people have to risk dying at sea for the hope of a better life, only to be blocked by borders if they are lucky enough to reach dry land. It upsets me that over 60 million citizens of the earth are fleeing from conflicts.,” says Oceans. “Nobody should have to live in fear and the more that people start to organize, the more chance we have of affecting the politics that have led to so many people facing uncertainty every day. However, I want people to know ‘Invincible Borders’ is not about all of the negativity surrounding this political crisis. This song is a reminder that there is hope in the world, and that hope is represented by unity only.”

Traveling the world at a young age, Oceans became interested in the idea of inspiring people through music. She studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston before releasing her critically acclaimed debut EP Dust (OStereo) in 2015. As for her own inspiration, her favorites include Florence and The Machine, Ane Brun and Highasakite, in addition to pop and cinematic music.

Hana Ocean’s Dust EP (which includes the single) can be found on iTunes. You can listen to “Invincible Borders” on Spotify.

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Introducing… Sofia Härdig

“Low and Slow,” the first single from And The Street Light Leads To The Sea (Solaris Empire), is anything but. From the beginning, this song by Swedish multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Sofia Härdig is adreneline-pumping, edgy and tightly wound with considerable muscle and fury.

The upcoming album, due out October 28th, was recorded in Tambourine Studios. This first single promises a wild ride from the quartet — Härdig on vocals, guitar and synth; John Essing on guitar and synth; Per Svensson playing bass and Knut Finsrud on drums. It was mixed by Damian Press and produced by Damian Press, Sofia Härdig and John Essing. Mastering was done by Hans Olsson Brookes.

Known in her native Sweden as the “rocktronica queen of experimental music,” Härdig has collaborated with Bob Hund, The Hellacopters, Boredoms and Yoshimi P-We (Free Kitten). She has also opened for Stevie Jackson (Belle and Sebastian) and Lydia Lunch. Listening to Härdig’s lusty vocals, you can definitely hear how she’d be a natural opener for an artist with the gravitas of Lydia Lunch.

Of her inspiration and artistic vision, the artist says, “I find beauty in flaws and that which is not perfect is what excites me, I love the unusual, the unexpected, untrained and unplanned.”

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Introducing… Frantic Sunday

Something thrashy for you on this fine day. It’s a new single from Frantic Sunday, though it’s likely that this Swedish band’s exhuberance runs pretty steady through the entire week. “We’re the Future” portends very good things for their sophomore album.

Frantic Sunday came into being in 2008 and have performed all over Europe, the U.S. and Canada, including many festivals. The released their debut album just last year, but have had several singles and a self-released EP from 2009-2011. Their debut ended up in the #3 spot on the Swedish iTunes chart when it was released. They have a new album coming out in September, produced by Patrik Frisk, and are planning a European tour this autumn with a U.S. tour slated for Spring 2016. Their sound, at least judging from this first single, has a more mature sound and a harder edge which I believe will serve the band well.

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Introducing… Swedish songstress Sara Forslund

Photo by Lisa Ljunggren

Photo by Lisa Ljunggren

On “Morning Is Leaving,” the first single from Sara Forslund’s debut album Water Became Wild, her voice is barely a whisper, yet she immediately commands your attention. Mystical and intimate, she’s minimally accompanied by a simple piano melody. Other songs on the album, just released on VOLKOREN, feature cello and trumpet in addition to piano. Water Became Wild was produced by Forslund and fellow Swedish musician David Ahlen, mixed by John Wood (Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention, Cat Stevens), and is available from VOLKOREN (CD – Digipack in Europe) and from Time Released Sound (CD – limited edition – U.S.).

Forslund’s melancholy imagery and spiritual introspection is perhaps inspired by her father, a priest in the small Swedish village of Borgvattnet, who offered to exorcise the ghosts from the village’s haunted vicarage. Now based in Stockholm, Forslund began in the folk band Birch and Meadow, where one can hear the seeds of her unique style being sown. They released their debut album Butterflies and Graves, but a concert by singer-songwriter Gareth Dickson (and subsequent introduction to the music of Nick Drake) inspired her to strike out on her own. She has performed in Sweden, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

If you live in Sweden, the release party for Water Became Wild on July 5. See the Facebook event for more information.

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Teddybears and Baby Trish ask “What’s Your Problem?”

If you’re a regular Musings from Boston reader, you’ll know that I don’t often cover rap music or techno. You’ll also know that I cover Grammy Award winning mainstream artists even less seldom. I’m going to have to make an exception in both cases for three bears from Sweden and a little girl from Jamaica. This song called “What’s Your Problem” is the brainstorm of Swedish hip-hop/electro/Brit-pop/indie/rave/whatever trio Teddybears with the help of an amazingly talented 12-year-old girl called Baby Trish. It has become a huge sensation in Sweden, with a live appearance at Grammisgalan, the Swedish equivalent of the Grammy Awards.

What makes the song even more special (I mean, apart from a 12-year-old Jamaican girl expertly rapping to a hypnotic electro-pop song performed by three Swedish men in suits wearing bear heads) is that it’s a song with a mission: to fight against prejudice, inequality and racism, and to support understanding, open-mindedness and tolerance. This is a little girl and three bears with an important message, to challenge people “to truly look beyond skin colour, hear beyond genre and focus on what matters most: the core of their message!” They also want everyone to know that the power is theirs to take charge of their lives, make their own decisions and make a difference. The song is out now via Stranded Records/Polydor Swede. You can grab it from iTunes.

Teddybears, originally a grindcore group called Skull, features Jocke Åhlund, Klas Åhlund and Patrik Arve. They have worked with artists as diverse as Iggy Pop, Cee-Lo, Madonna, Flaming Lips, Daft Punk and Snoop Dogg. They’re among the first to cross musical boundaries, combining rock, hip-hop, pop, electro and dancehall music to create their own wacky sound. They’ve been nominated for a Grammy twice and have won nine Swedish Grammys. Teddybears first met Baby Trish when she was just 9 and already performing around Jamaica.

From the press release:

What’s Your Problem? is not a just a single. It is a whole movement which even comes with its own instruction manual:

  1. Ask yourself this: What’s your problem with someone of different gender? What’s your problem with someone of different skin colour? What’s your problem with someone of different religion? What’s your problem with someone different? What’s your problem?
  2. Ask yourself again: No really, what is your problem?
  3. Press play.

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Introducing… Hurricane Love

Though it’s difficult not to compare Sweden’s Hurricane Love to bands like Monsters and Men, what with their anthemic choruses and male-female group harmonies, they have, to my ear anyway, a more polished sound and pristine voices that seem classically trained. Whether or not this note perfection is to your liking is, of course, personal preference, but anyone who enjoys music that’s strengthening and spiritually uplifting should definitely give these talented musicians a listen. Like Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers, they carry on the tradition of folk-infused indie rock, albeit with a pop sensibility.

The video for their single “Nowhere To Go” is simply filmed, showing the ensemble performing in a full circle as the camera slowly rotates. It’s highly effective in displaying their group dynamic, camaraderie and passion.

The six members of Hurricane Love first came together in early 2012 and have already toured in Germany, England and Sweden. With their first single, “Only Human,” released in 2013, they earned a place on Billboard’s Next Big Sound feature. They stripped things down to the basics when they performed acoustically on the streets of Cologne, Germany, for the Cardinal Sessions. Personally, I love acoustic sets like these, as you can see immediately whether or not a band truly has it or doesn’t. These guys definitely have it. I don’t see any shows scheduled for now, but for now, you can order the “Nowhere To Go” single from iTunes.

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