I’ve never been to Sweden. I’ve never bought an Abba record, driven a Volvo or slept with a blonde. I do have a house full of Ikea furniture. And more and more of the music I love seems to be coming from Sweden.
I can count on the fingers of one hand the pop records I own from other countries in continental Europe (OK… Air, Nouvelle Vague and Louise Attaque from France; Jaques Brel (Belgium – I may also possibly have an old tape of a dEUS album somewhere); Norway’s Kings of Convenience, who are honorary Swedes anyway. Iceland (Bjork, Sigur Ros) doesn’t count.
So what is it about Sweden (pop. 9 million)? Yes, they’re cool and they speak impeccable English, but then so do the Dutch, and the best they’ve given us is 2Unlimited – thanks for that. Maybe it’s the legacy of Abba, and a steady stream of superstars since – Neneh Cherry, Roxette, Ace of Base… For all I know, every child in their social democrat Utopia gets subsidised lessons in guitar jangling and lyrical whimsy.
Either way, I thought I’d make my own flatpack playlist. I’m not pretending to be any sort of expert, and I discovered many of these artists from other ’Spillers (a big Thank You For The Music to Shane, Blimpy & ElDerino). There’s some obvious choices, and some hopefully slightly less so.
The Cardigans – Daddy’s Car
The Cardigan’s Life album is 15 years old, but I never tire of it. They drew the blueprint for what somebody who deserves to have a flute stuffed down their throat labelled ‘twee pop’. This song is an asaferae of mine.
Anna Järvinen – Svensktalande bättre folk
Ever wondered why The Sundays don’t release more albums? It’s possibly because Harriet Wheeler leads a double life singing in Swedish.
The Tough Alliance – Taken Too Young
TTA are an electronic duo from Stockholm notorious for swinging baseball bats on stage. This is a remix of a Taken By Trees song…
Taken By Trees – My Boys
Taken By Trees made the A-list for their unlikely cover of Sweet Child of Mine. Here’s an equally unlikely Animal Collective cover.
jj – From Africa to Malaga
The most ecstatic song about the inevitability of death I’ve ever heard. Their album recalls One Dove in places, which is a Very Good Thing. jj recently toured with The xx, in what must be one of the best Scrabble-scoring tours ever.
Lykke Li – Dance, Dance, Dance
Love it, love it, love it.
Robyn – With Every Heartbeat
Simply one of the best pop songs of the last decade. And talking of heartbeats…
The Knife – Heartbeats
Scary brother-and-sister electronic duo – sister recently gained critical acclaim and Festive ‘Spill plaudits as Fever Ray. You probably know the cover version by…
Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats
The name couldn’t be less Swedish (he’s of Argentine descent), the sound couldn’t be more so.
Frida Hyvonen – See How I Came Into Town
Frida’s album Silence is Wild has been easily my most-listened-to record of the last six months. I couldn’t decide which track to choose, so went for a non-album track instead.
Jens Lekman – The Opposite of Hallelujah
Bouncy melodies, witty lyrics, a touch of melancholy… Jens is the Swedish Stuart Murdoch.
Pelle Carlberg – I Just Called to Say I Love You
Actually, maybe Pelle Carlberg is…
Suburban Kids With Biblical Names – Seems To Be On My Mind
Almost as good as their name (which comes from a Sliver Jews song). SKWBN have something of The Magnetic Fields about them. I saw this track described on a blog as “…if Johnny Cash ended up as a member of Tullycraft”.
Fanfarlo – The Walls Are Coming Down
Fanfarlo are based in London, but the main man is Swedish, so they count. Heard them described on 6Music the other day as “a happier Arcade Fire”.
P.S. I’ve boxed these for a limited time – feel free to add any glaring omissions.