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Archive for the ‘Swedish Music’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIEL NORGREN-Tiny Desk Concert #929 (January 3, 2020).

download (19)I feel like I’ve heard of Daniel Norgren, but I really don’t know anything about him.  In fact, when I first started playing this Tiny Desk Concert I was surprised at the kind of music this Swedish musician played because it was steeped in American roots music.

Daniel Norgren has been self-releasing his analog recordings for nearly a dozen years. At the Tiny Desk, he and his band sampled music from three different records.

For the first song, “Putting My Tomorrows Behind,” Norgren plays piano.  There’s a slow, simple drum beat from Erik Berntsson.  And when the chorus comes along, all four sing with gorgeous harmonies.  There’s a pretty bluesy guitar solo from Andreas Filipsson.

Throughout the five minutes of this slow song, it feels like a piece of working-class Americana:

I hear myself saying, I’m doing fine
My life is a walk through the pines
But I’m sick and I’m tired, spending my time
Putting my tomorrows behind

The sky is big and white and I’m locked inside
Working all day with a frown
I guess I’m just a coward who would need to get fired
And banished from this town

For “Everything You Know Melts Away Like Snow” Norgren switches from piano to guitar.  This simple song runs 6 minutes with minimal lyrics.  But it has some lovely backing vocals and an interesting lead vocal melody that seems to go nicely with the guitar lines that are picked out.  As he played,

the bluesy Swedish musician kept his eyes tightly shut, as he seemed to tap into old souls to help conjure his tunes.  His body sway[ed] and writhe[d] as he and his band create[d] a dream state calming enough to slow the day’s hectic pace to a crawl.

Norgen takes the guitar solo on this song (mostly on the lower strings–a very bluesy kind of solo).  You’d swear this song came from an American band from the sixties.

You can’t really hear his Swedish accent (you can hear a fraction of it when he sings) until he introduces the band.  I also like that Anders Grahn plays the upright bass as Norgren is talking, giving everything they do a musical feel.

“Moonshine Got Me” is the oldest song he plays–it dates back to his 2011 EP Black Vultures.  The title sounds like Americana but the song also is not about “moonshine,” the liquor, it is about the actual moon shining. It’s over ten minutes long and opens with beautiful intertwining guitars–both he and Filipsson play different lines that feel like leads but which keep the melody perfectly.  His voice is the most aching on this song.

There’s a lengthy slow jamming middle section, in which both Andreas and Daniel take solos.  As the song slows, Daniel moves back to the piano and picks out a quiet melody to bring the song to a close.

[READ: January 6, 2020] “Linda Boström Knausgård’s Post-“Struggle” IKEA Trip

I don’t usually write about short pieces like this.  But this is about an author who I’ve recently read and whose new book I am quite interested in.  Plus, Linda Boström Knausgård is the ex-wife of Karl Ove Knausgård and she was written about so much in those books that I feel like I know her (fairly or unfairly).

This piece is, indeed, about Linda Boström Knausgård in an IKEA.  She is in New York for a book tour for her new novel Welcome to America.

It’s odd to feel you know things about a person when you have never met them and your only exposure to them is from someone else’s point of view.  There’s not a lot that Linda Boström Knausgård can do to get away from what we “know” about her.   But this little story does show her to be a bit more upbeat than the way she was left off in the novels.

It also made me laugh that the author of the piece felt the need to explain IKEA as “a notional store from Sweden.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH-Tiny Desk Concert #888 (September 6, 2019).

I watched the first Tiny Desk Concert from The Tallest Man on Earth about five years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since.  He looks pretty different than he did back then.  But that’s because even though I watched it five years ago,

It’s 10 years almost to the day since we published The Tallest Man On Earth’s Tiny Desk in 2009. What I remember most about that performance was the intensity of Kristian Matsson and how astonished our audience was to discover him. I think of it as one of our very first viral videos.

It wasn’t viral for me in 2009, but I did really enjoy it.

Since then I have planned to see him on two occasions.  Back in 2018 I had a ticket for him at Union Transfer, but I wound up going on a Boy Scout hike that weekend.  This year, on October 2, he was supposed to play the Met Philly, but he cancelled the entire American tour.

So, maybe in 2020, it will finally happen, especially since he doesn’t live in Sweden exclusively.

The Swedish singer now splits his time between Djurås, Sweden and Brooklyn, N.Y., and has just put out his fifth studio album titled, I Love You. It’s a Fever Dream. 

I don’t honestly recall what first attracted me to his music (his voice and guitar playing, i suspect) although this observation is fascinating:

I think Kristian Matsson’s words are more focused, more observational and more appreciative of life than in the past.

I suppose it would have been interesting if he played one song that he played ten years ago to see if he did it any differently.  But it’s probably better that he plays three new songs with C.J. Camerieri on French horn and muted trumpet.

“What I’ve Been Kicking Around” opens with his fast finger-picking–there’s really quite a lot going on in this song.  He plays this one on electric guitar  and C.J is on French horn.  His voice is gruff but inviting with a vaguely Bob Dylanesque delivery.  There’s something about the way that minimal French horn accompaniment fills in the spaces between the songs that allows him to play his complex fingering and the song still feels full.

For “I’ll Be A Sky,” he switches to acoustic guitar and C.J. plays muted trumpet.  His fingerpicking style doesn’t change, but the song is a lot warmer.  I love the way he delivers these lines almost conversationally

I feel that I’m a little lost most of the time
But I don’t really mind, oh, when my heart feels young
I travel through the storms but then I hang to dry
And I don’t really mind, oh, when my arm is in the rain and the sun

For the the final song “”The Running Styles of New York,” he switches back to the electric guitar.  He has to tune it and jokes that he was trying to dumb it down by bringing fewer guitars.  The song

begins with, “I hear beauty in things / Like the neighbors return / To their love and pride / Their day like a wicked ride / But then to belong.”

Continuing with the muted trumpet, C.J. plays some solo melodies while Kristian plays his complicated fingerpicking.  There’s some really lovely harmonics on this song, too.

I hope all is well and he’s able to tour again soon.

[READ: August 14, 2019] Gone with the Mind

I’ve enjoyed most of what Mark Leyner has written to varying degrees.  He tends to be an over-the-top satirist of himself, of pop culture and of concepts like the novel.

He wrote two novels and three collections of short stories in the 1990s, was celebrated and vilified and then kind of disappeared.

He was primarily writing for magazines and TV and stuff behind the scenes.  Then he came back in 2012 with The Sugar Frosted Nutsack which I have yet to read.   Then he wrote this one.  I grabbed it from work a couple years back and finally got around to it and it was much like what I was expecting and miles away from what I imagined.

The book beings with an introduction from Mark’s mother Muriel.  She is reading aloud and explains that she is coordinating director of the Nonfiction and the Food Court Reading Series at the Woodcreek Plaza Mall.  She thanks various people for giving them such a nice location at the mall as well as the sponsors Panda Express, Master Wok, Au Bon Pain, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, etc. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 13, 2019] Avatar 

I have grown to really dislike the Fillmore (which is not how I felt almost exactly three years ago).  The sound is always excellent and it’s a nice big stage, but I feel the venue is too big and, more often than not the crowd is really unpleasant.  I’m sure this is because I’m a priss, but I don’t need rude people around more interested in the bar than the music, me pushing for no reason (a mosh pit is a good reason to push, but not much else is), and talking through a show.  It’s especially irritating with quieter bands.   Fortunately, Avatar is not quiet.

I had not heard of Avatar when it was announced that they’d be opening for Babymetal.  I didn’t really know who would pair up with Babymetal’s brand of JPopMetal.  Rather than going for another Japanese metal band (of which there are dozens of great ones to choose) they went with a more theatrical outfit.  And if Babymetal’s stage show weren’t as spectacular as it was, Avatar would have blown them away.

Avatar is a metal band from Sweden.  They formed in 2001. They started out as a “melodic death metal” band.  I’ve never quite understood this phrase, but Wikipedia tells me

The genre combines aspects of traditional heavy metal [like] fast riffing and harmonic guitar lines, with the heavily distorted guitars, fast double-bass drum patterns and occasional blast beats of death metal. The vocal style typically combines harsh screaming and growling with melodic singing.

On their first two albums, singer Johannes Eckerström emphasized the growling vocal style.  They became more melodic (with some growling and some singing) and then for their fourth album, Black Waltz, Eckerström added a “Clown” persona.

Since then, the Avatar show has become a, quite frankly, amazing spectacle. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: THE RADIO DEPT.-Clinging to a Scheme (2010).

In this final book, Karl Ove mentions buying a record on a whim by The Radio Dept.  Given the timing of the book, I assume it’s this record.  So I’m going to give it a listen too.

I really enjoyed this record which has a feeling of a delicate My Bloody Valentine fronted by The Stone Roses.  The key word in all of this is delicate.  It’s a very soft and gentle record (except for one song).  It hits all the buttons of 90s Britpop and to me is just infectious.

“Domestic Scene” opens the disc with pretty guitars intertwining with an electronic thumping.  After the first listen I was sure the whole record was synthy, but this track has no synths at all, just like five or six guitar lines overdubbing–each opener just as pretty as the others.  The voice sound a lot the guys from The Stone Roses on the more delicate tracks.

“Heaven’s on Fire” opens with bouncy synths and a sampled (from where?) exchange:

People see rock n roll as youth culture.  When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business what are the youth to do.  Do you have any idea?
I think we should destroy the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture.

Then come the jangling guitars and the introduction of synths.

“This Time Around” has a cool high bass line (and what sounds like a second bass line). I love the overlapping instruments on this record.  I couldn’t decide if it was a solo album or a huge group, so I was surprised to find it’s a trio.

“Never Follow Suit” continues this style but in the middle it adds a recorded voice of someone speaking about writing.

“A Token of Gratitude” has some lovely guitars swirling around and a percussion that sounds like a ping-pong ball or a tap dancer.   The last half of the song is a soothing gentle My Bloody Valentine-sque series of washes and melody.

“The Video Dept.” is full of jangly guitars and gentle blurry vocals while “Memory Loss” has some muted guitar notes pizzicatoing along and then what sounds like a muted melodica.

David is the one song that sounds different from the rest.  It has strings and synth stabs and drums that are way too loud.  Most of the songs don’t have drums at all, but these are deliberately recorded too loud and are almost painful.

The final two songs include “Four Months in the Shade” which is an instrumental.  It is just under 2 minutes of pulsing electronics that segues into the delicate album closer “You Stopped Making Sense.”  This song continues with the melody and gentleness of the previous songs and concludes the album perfectly.

I really enjoyed this record a lot.  It’s not groundbreaking at all, but it melds some genres and styles into a remarkably enjoyable collection.

[READ: September and October 2018] My Struggle Book Six

Here is the final book in this massive series.  It was funny to think that it was anticlimactic because it’s not like anything else was climactic in the series either.  But just like the other books, I absolutely could not put this down (possibly because I knew it was due back at the library soon).

I found this book to be very much like the others in that I really loved when he was talking conversationally, but I found his philosophical musings to be a bit slower going–and sometimes quite dull.

But the inexplicable center of this book is a 400 plus page musing on Hitler.  I’ll mention that more later, but I found the whole section absolutely fascinating because he dared to actually read Mein Kampf and to talk about it at length.  I’m sure this is because he named his series the same name in Norwegian.  He tangentially compares Hitler to himself as well–but only in the way that a failed person could do unspeakable things.

But in this essay, he humanizes Hitler without making him any less of an evil man.  His whole point is that in order to fully appreciate/understand Hitler’s evil, you have to realize that he was once an ordinary person.  A teenager who had dreams about becoming an artist, a boy who was afraid of sex and germs.  If you try to make him the inherent embodiment of evil, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that he was a child, a teen, a young man who was not always evil.

Why Karl Ove does this is a bit of a mystery especially contextually, but it was still a fascinating read especially when you see how many things gibe with trump and how he acts and behaves–especially his use of propaganda.  It’s easy to see how people could be swayed by evil ideas (and this was written before trump was even a candidate). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VÄSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #720 (March 23, 2018).

Back in 2012 I had my first exposure to the nyckelharpa at Scanfest.  And now, nearly six years later Väsen (who did not play at Scanfest that year) have brought the nyckelharpa to Tiny Desk (and the blurb’s description is hilarious).

Väsen came to the Tiny Desk with just three instruments, but all together it was a 30-string sonic blast of 12-string guitar, viola and nyckelharpa (a fiddle with keys — think 15th century keytar).  Guitarist Roger Tallroth, violist Mikael Marin and nyckelharpist Olov Johansson have been a touring troupe for more than 25 years with 18 albums filled with adventure, amusement and virtuosity. They span the wide emotional range of Swedish folk music, equally haunting and celebratory. There are some similarities to Irish jigs, reels and waltzes that I’m more familiar with, but this music is more ear-bending, with more surprises than I’m used to in traditional string band folk music.

The band plays three instrumentals (all of their songs are instrumental) from their new album Brewed.

It’s fascinating how much these songs sound like Irish jigs and reels (fiddle and guitar after all).  There’s a looseness to them that makes them fun and enjoyable–perfect for drinking and dancing.  Especially a song called “IPA-Gubben” which means, “The old IPA man.”  On introducsing the song Olov points to Mikael and says “this is the old IPA man, he brought this tune as a birthday present when he turned 50.”

It’s possible that the nyckelharpa is quieter than the viol as it’s not always unique sounding amid the music.  But there are a few times when the nyckelharpa is playing a melody that stands out and you can really watch and hear Johansson shine–I had no idea the instrument could be played that quickly either.

Not to take anything away form the other two.  The viol plays some incredibly fast runs and melodies and the guitar while primarily used for chords, also adds in some fast runs.

“Väsenvalsen” was composed by Mikael.  It is the first ever Väsen waltz.  The song starts slowly and then dramatically takes off with some wonderfully fast (and very Irish-sounding lead lines on both viol and nyckelharpa.  I love in the middle when the nyckelharpa plays a harmony melody over the top of the viol so you can hear both instruments clearly.  It has a lovely ending with the nyckelharpa playing high notes to end the song.

“Sommarpolska” means “summer polka.”  It was written by Roger and has a  lovely melody that grows and subsides as the instruments ebb and flow.  It’s a joyful dance song and a wonderful concluding piece.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “Two Women”

In typical Amos Oz fashion, this was a rather short story.  It was translated by Sondra Silverston.

Osnat wakes before her alarm and passes the apartment occupied by Boaz and Ariella.  She thinks about what happened two months ago as if it had happened to strangers many years ago.

But it was only two months ago Boaz told Osnat he’d been having an affair with Ariella.  So he’s leaving her and moving in with Ariella (who lives in the same building).  Their affair began one day when Boaz came to fix a broken tap.  Boaz prepared for a huge confrontation, but as he started to ramp up his argument, she cut him off: “Go.  Just go.” (more…)

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nySOUNDTRACK: TAKEN BY TREES-Tiny Desk Concert #253   (November 29, 2012).

treesTaken By Trees plays only 2 songs, and it’s one of the shortest Tiny Desk Concerts I can think of (it’s not even 7 minutes long).  I clearly have gotten Taken By Trees confused with a number of bands with similarly constructed names (band with By and The in the title), for I had no idea what this band sounded like.

They are a four-piece with a lead singer, Victoria Bergsman, who sings in such an understated way that it’s almost melodic speaking.

“I Want You” has a reggae feel to it—the quick guitar chords and slow bouncy bass, but with Bergsman’s delivery the song couldn’t sound less reggae.

“Only You” is a bit more uptempo.  It was in this song that I noticed Bergsman’s accent (she and the band are from Sweden).  The set up of this song is similar to the previous one–a deep bass running through under high guitar chords.  It doesn’t sound reggae this time, but it sounds very delicate.

This was a gentle concert, which I enjoyed, although I don’t know that I’d ever want to see them live.

[READ: July 14, 2016] ”La Vita Nuova”

I enjoyed the fragmentary way that this story was constructed.  The story begins on the day that Amanda’s fiance left her.

Her parents were upset and angry.  Her friends said that he was no good.

She walked home, took out her wedding dress and brought it to work where she had all of the children at her school “decorate it.”  The school didn’t appreciate this gesture: “your personal life is not an appropriate art project for first grade.”

Then she lost her job at the school and later that year her ex-fiance married someone else (as her friend said he would). (more…)

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felciaiSOUNDTRACK: FREDRIK-Tiny Desk Concert #57 (May 3, 2010).

fredrikFredrik are a Swedish band.  They were a duo, then a sextet and then a duo again.  In this concert, they are in that duo state–Fredrik Hultin on vocals and guitar and Ola Lindfelt on electronics and percussion.

Their then new release was a dark album called Trilogi and was just the two of them.  They play two songs from that album and one form their debut.

“Ner” is quite dark, with the whispery vocals and the minor chord progression.  The simple thudding drum beat also keeps the song somewhat ominous.  Speaking of the drummer, he is using a microphone (into which he later whistles) as a drumstick (he hits the cymbal with it later).  But his main “drumstick” is a maraca.

“Locked in the Basement” is a bit louder but with the same percussion set up.  It maintains that ominousness (just see the title of song).  Although in the middle it quiets down to just a thumping drums and gentle guitar noises with Ola’s backing oohs.

“Black Fur” is a bit more upbeat (in the blurb Robin says it is a soaring song on their debut).  It is stripped down here and it quite catchy–almost upbeat and positive.  It’s quite different from the other two songs. You can hear their recorded version of it (when they were a sextet) here.

I enjoyed these songs, and wonder if Fredrik has continued as a duo in the last five years.

[READ: September 7, 2015] You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) 

Like most geeky folks, I love Felicia Day.  The Guild was an awesome show and her creativity behind it is really masterful.  And she was in Dr Horrible, which is how I found out that she was one of the slayers in the final seasons of Buffy.

So Felicia has the geek cred.  But I didn’t know anything about her.  And I wasn’t sure that I cared all that much.  I mean, Felicia is the bomb but do I need to know how she got to be that way?  Nevertheless, I was curious to see what she would put into this book.

If you’re looking for salacious stories about working on Buffy, you won’t get them.  Aside from an intro by Joss Whedon, there’s very little information about her time on Buffy.  Rather, she talks about her childhood (which is fascinating) and her Guild making days and her post-Guild success.  And there’s a rather dark turn near the end.

But really, this book is all about empowerment (as the title hints at)–all about embracing your inner loves and following what you want to do.  In the book, which is chock full of pictures, she calls these coffee mug moment sand Photoshops her aphorisms onto mugs for our edification.  There’s also a lot of very funny pictures of herself from throughout her life. (more…)

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