If you ask a Londoner what first springs to mind at the mention of Scandinavia, these days they’re more likely to neglect Abba and Ikea in favour of brutal dismemberment by a serial killer. In accordance with current trends, it’s apparently a part of the world stocked with abandoned warehouses to be explored by torchlight, where all that’s missing from your chunky patterned jumper is a significant splash of someone else’s blood.
If you’ve been bludgeoned into submission by Scandicrime, whether it’s The Bridge, The Killing or Wallander on telly or Larsson and Nesbø on the page, there is locally sourced music to suit the dark mood. The latest Sigur Rós album Valtari, out on Monday, is full of sombre Icelandic atmospherics, and last month there was a new album, Rhine Gold, by the Copenhagen composers of The Bridge’s theme song, Choir of Young Believers. It’s also a fruitful source of the grimmest music in the world, black metal.
But we’re forgetting what this region, especially Sweden, has been good at for a lot longer than detective stories. From Abba’s Eurovision triumph to the present day it has punched well above its weight for sunny, hummable pop and rock. The latest wave of Scandinavian musicians is doing very nicely, and many key acts are on their way to London. Never mind dragon tattoos, how about The Girl (and Boys) with the Catchy Tunes?
As pop producers Bloodshy & Avant, Stockholm’s Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg should be well-known to readers of the sleevenotes on Britney, Madonna and Kylie albums. Unite them with American Andrew Wyatt and voila! — two albums of supremely melodic electropop and a band name that looks like a typo.
May 31, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9
(0844 477 2000, o2academybrixton.co.uk, miikesnow.com)
Swedish pair Gustaf Karlöf and Malin Dahlström take their band name from songs on Prince’s Purple Rain album and polish up the moody, female-fronted synth sound of influential fellow Swedes The Knife. Their impressive debut album, Instinct, came out last week on Mercury.
May 28, XOYO, EC2 (0870 264 3333 , xoyo.co.uk). Supporting Miike Snow, May 31, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9 (0844 477 2000, o2academybrixton.co.uk, nikiandthedove.com)
House DJ and producer Tim Bergling briefly came to mainstream attention last year when he had a legal row with Leona Lewis over her sampling one of his songs. In the dance world, however, he’s massive, bringing his poppy sound to London’s biggest venue next month.
June 4, O2 Arena, SE10 (0871 984 0002, the02.co.uk, avicii.com)
Not quite so ready for mainstream success perhaps, 47-year-old Finn Pohjonen is an accordionist who uses amplification and modifications to create something new. His latest show sees him playing in the middle of choreographed traditional Finnish wrestling.
June 8, York Hall, E2 (020 7638 4141, barbican.org.uk, kimmopohjonen.com)
A kind of house supergroup, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and the singly-monikered Axwell were independently successful as DJs and producers before uniting and gaining international renown. They’re best known for their Tinie Tempah hit Miami 2 Ibiza – a glossy, vacuous electronic thumper that’s also enormous fun.
June 23, Radio 1 Hackney Weekend, Hackney Marshes, E9 (bbc.co.uk/radio1/hackneyweekend/2012) July 14, Milton Keynes Bowl (0844 811 0051, swedishhousemafia.com/mkb/tickets, swedishhousemafia.com)
Of Monsters and Men
For shorthand, let’s call them the Icelandic Mumfords. The stirring folk-pop — massed vocals and energetic acoustic strumming – of this sextet has already hit the US albums chart top 10. Their debut album, My Head is an Animal, should replicate its success elsewhere when it’s released over here on Universal on July 23.
July 12, The Scala, N1 (020 7833 2022, scala-london.co.uk, ofmonstersandmen.is)
This Copenhagen post-rock band have an epic sensibility and aren’t short of ambition. Having
performed their second album, Parades, with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, they’ll play their forthcoming fourth, Piramida, in the autumn with the Northern Sinfonia.
Oct 30, Barbican, EC2 (020 7638 4141, barbican.org.uk, efterklang.net)
Stockholm sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have covered Fleet Foxes in the past and have a similar backwoods harmony thing going on. Jack White is impressed enough with them to invite them to support him on his UK tour this summer, and they’ll be back to play their biggest London headline show near the end of the year.
Nov 20, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12 (0844 477 2000, o2shepherdsbushempire.co.uk, thisisfirstaidkit.com)
Who could forget the band that burst into our lives alongside The Strokes and The White Stripes at the start of the last decade? Life in the charts may now be behind them as they release their fifth album, Lex Hives, on June 4, but they remain one of the most ridiculously entertaining live bands on the planet.
Dec 14, Roundhouse, NW1 (0870 389 1846, roundhouse.org.uk, thehivesbroadcastingservice.com)