It's the time of year when pop-pickers start to compile their 'top songs of the year'. Lists have already appeared on #1 Hits from Another Planet, dirrty pop, karinski and Indie Girl & Pop Boy.
For my list, I've decided to compile my top 9 most ace Swedish pop songs from 2006. So, in no particular order other than numerical, here we go:
1. Jessica Andersson - Kalla natter
This Melodifestivalen song didn't make it through to the finals. Jessica Andersson's performance was a little odd, which is a pity as Kalla Natter is an excellent pop song par excellence with a great opening, nice vocal melodies, a storming chorus and the words "Går vi närmre och närmre varann" in the second line with just sounds cool.
2. Bodies Without Organs - Chariots of Fire
BWO gave Carola a run for her money in the Melodifestivalen final with the excellent Temple of Love. My favourite song from them this year was Chariots of Fire from their second album. The album overall had a few misses, but its hits were spectacular. Chariots of Fire is just one, with an excellent chorus, melody and lyrics which suggest continually trying to reach pop perfection. Buy Halcyon Days
3. Marie Serneholt - Enjoy the Ride
Ex A-Teens popette Marie Serneholt's album was pretty great. My favourite song, without a doubt, was Enjoy the Ride. It's ever so slutty, but comes off sounding oddly innocent. Using a horse riding conceit for a riding of a whole other kind (the Irish slang kind...), the song has excellent clip-cloppy sound effects. Horses hooves, people!!! Special marks also for the lyric "straddle the seat". Buy Enjoy the Ride
4. Le Sport - Your brother is my only hope
Now sadly split up, Le Sport (or Eurosport?) were a very quick ray of electro-poppy brilliance. Taking tATu's teenage lesbian idea, but changing it to boys with a fascination for the Pet Shop Boys, Le Sport had some excellent songs such as If Neil Tennant was my Lover. I was torn between choosing Chemical Drugs or Your brother is my only hope for the list, but the latter song won out for the "Kathy, Lisa, Mary-Beth" line and the wonderful small-town-gay feeling that it invokes.
5. Linda Sundblad - Pretty Rebels
Linda's debut solo album Oh My God!, released this year, was amazing and made bloggers stand to attention. Pretty Rebels is a highlight, with an all-too-cute line declaring that "we're the babies, born in the 80s". Yes, Linda, yes we are. Buy Oh My God!
6. Magnus Carlsson - Lev Livet
Magnus' entry for Melodifestivalen was pure schlagery greatness, and didn't really deserve to come in 8th position. It has a catchy sing-a-long chorus, plinky-plonky bouncy verses and a great build for a key change. The complicated choreography probably cost it a vote or two, so let's hope Magnus' song for 2007 Melodifestivalen will be equally as ace but with better dancing. And let's hope he continues wearing suits. Rarrr, Magnus.
7. Andreas Lundstedt - Lovegun
This is wonderful filth from Magnus ex (colleague). A Swedish friend of mine claims to have been "friendly" with Andreas, friendly so as to avoid libel action. I asked him if he saw Andreas' lovegun. The link was lost on him. Evoking disco, evoking Studio 54, evoking oral sex, and with enough phallic images to shake your stick at, this is glorious disco-smut - you have to love it.
8. Kikki Danielsson - I dag & i morgon
A Swedish guy I know once told me that nobody in Sweden likes Kikki! It's no wonder she ended up last in the MF final. Poor Kikki! Having been on the Swedish version of You Are What You Eat, she's a bit like Michelle McManus but 1000 times more ace, as this song proved. It had bells, it had sing-a-long chorus, it had a sort-of triumphant 'I beat the booze and now I'm singing a song about it' sentiment. Most of all, it had Kikki on stage in a glorious pink kaftan. Viva Kikki D!
9. Amy Diamond - Big Guns
A rallying cry for all Swedish tweenies - don't let The Man (or the Gentlemen with the Sharp Tongues) tell you what's cool. Except if he's saying that cool = Amy Diamond. Cos that's correct. I love this song for the line "Have a cookie and some television". Buy This is Me Now
So they're the top 9 most ace Swedish songs of the year. The first 5 songs can be downloaded, by clicking links. There were loads of songs I didn't include, and if the list proves anything it's that Swedish pop is just 100% pure ace brilliance.
...oh, if you're wondering about the absence of the divine Carola and Evighet / Invincible - she reigns supreme, like a deity overseeing all. I preferred Evighet, the Swedish version, simply for the line "ingenting kan stoppa mig, det blåser en vind" which means "nothing can stop me, a wind is blowing". This is ace because:
a) IT REFERENCES THE WIND MACHINE!!!
b) it uses ingenting, the unofficial word of all Swedish schlager songs.
God bless thee, Carola. Watch an ace MF medley performance here. About 4 minutes in, Carola goes whoopsy-daisy, head over feet, suspended above the audience. It's amazing.
Things I do
I ask people to draw maps...
· Draw the World
· Draw Europe's nations
· Crowdsourced Continent maps
I make map cards:
· See map cards
· Buy map cards
And other things I write about:
· Little moments from travel
· London art & museums
· Football with foreign fans
· London shop geography
About this blog
I may have asked you to draw me a map - have a look around, they're all here somewhere.
It's the time of year when pop-pickers start to compile their 'top songs of the year'. Lists have already appeared on #1 Hits from Another Planet, dirrty pop, karinski and Indie Girl & Pop Boy.
I'm leaving on a jet plane tomorrow for Ireland, so would like to take this opportunity to say Happy Christmas Island to all you lovely people reading and commenting here. It makes me very chuffed.
I'm in a very festive mood now, but the list of potential Christmas number 1s is not festive at all. Sure Leona's A Moment Like This has a certain "seize the moment and live it" charm which could be said to be Christmassy, and Girls Aloud offer the soundtrack to so many drunken Christmas parties with I Think We're Alone Now...
But! There are no bells! Bells are what Christmas music is all about!
Here to rectify this is supermodel Heidi Klum with Wonderland. Hurrah for this. It's so schlagery it could be Swedish but it's German - where the word schlager came from. There's bells, a children's choir, high oh oh oh parts, more bells - it's cheesy Christmas cheer in one brilliant song.
Download Heidi Klum - Wonderland (right click - save as) [file removed]
This is the first mp3 I've posted on acediscovery, but I feel it won't be the last. Hurrah.
Last night, I went to see West End Girls, a Swedish pop duo. Their name says everything about them. They sing cover versions of Pet Shop Boys' songs. They dress like the Pet Shop Boys. They move like the Pet Shop Boys. Hell, I'd think it was the Pet Shop Boys on stage... if they were two Swedish teenage girls.
The clothes they wore were grey. This was not exciting. I wanted something more like the red PVC they wear on their myspace. They were not wearing red hard hats. They did sport sharp black bob wigs. This was somewhat more exciting.
They sang a number of songs, to an amused audience. The best songs were Always on my Mind and Suburbia. One West End Girl stayed behind the keyboard, plinking away with a sullen, straight face. The other West End Girl bopped about the stage singing, doing jerky dances which I can only assume Neil Tennant does or did. She's copying these because she's clearly an uber fangirl. She tries to maintain a straight, sullen face, but you can tell she's loving it.
It's all a bit strange, but I enjoyed it. Imagine X-Factor but, like, much better performers covering the Pet Shop Boys with girly poppier vocals, and slightly dancier music. I'm sure they're making some very clever statement about fandom and mimicry and post-modernism. There's something quite Japanese about their dress-up-and-be-the-Pet-Shop-Boys act. Overall West End Girls are quite original, even though they're singing covers, so hurrah for them and hurrah for another Swedish pop act playing gigs in London.
> I saw ace Swedish pop-star Robyn play the second of two London gigs last Friday at Puregroove at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen. Robyn's 2005 album combines acoustic guitars, electro synths and hip-hop beats with cute, cool vocals and lyrics. It is ace, an amazing album.
Opening her set with the ‘I-know-I’m-better-than-you’ sentiment of Handle Me, it was clear that Robyn was here. Backed by just one guitarist / drummer, the music was pared back and minimal, with Robyn’s cool, emotional vocal style to the fore. This detracted from the familiar synthy sounds of some of her songs, which was something of a shame but her vocal style more than made up for this.
What a style! At times confident and boastful, she taunted the audience, but we always knew it wasn't us, she was just playing. And then fragile, sentimental and bittersweet, we just wanted to reach out and touch. Playground tauting, in-your-face hip-hop styled Konichiwa Bitches and Cobrastyle were strong, uptempo songs. Robyn controlled and sparred with the audience, and we loved it.
I was struck by her on-stage behaviour: Robyn raised her fists, clenched her eyes, snarled her lips, and appeared frantically breathless at times. I was expecting polished Swedish pop star, so as stage presence goes, it was certainly surprising but utterly engaging. This was Robyn, raw, emotional and up close.
Sadly, two of my favourite songs from the album weren't played (Who's that Girl? and Crash & Burn Girl). The set focused on her more acoustic and edgy material. Ending with the very excellent and bittersweet Be Mine, the audience joined in, convinced and won over by a very impressive pop star.
See my review of Robyn on Londonist.com.
Robyn official site Robyn myspace Buy The Rakamonie EP
I met Tatiana, from Moscow, at a party last week. Tatiana was ace, she has recently arrived in London. We talked about: gays, WWW, Leningrad, countesses, communists, religion, the Russian alphabet, VIA Gra, hair, the Russian for "cat", Dima Bilan, how to say "how are you" in Russian and many other exciting topics.
I asked Tatiana to draw a map of Russia. Here it is.
Also new is another map of the world. Markus, from somewhere near Stuttgart drew this, as he had seen Tatiana drawing her map. I have already 'got' Germany, so I asked him to draw the world.
I wasn't sure how this would translate on stage. Happily, in a live settings, Nouvelle Vague's music becomes more rhythmic and insistent with a deeper resonance as the double bass makes its presence felt.
Nor had I reckoned on Nouvelle Vague's two very charismatic live singers, Melanie Pain and Phoebe Killdeer. Playing a range of instruments - tambourines, maraccas, cowbells and harmonicas - both have a captivating stage presence. Their voices have contrasting styles which perfectly compliment each other - Melanie sings sweetly with breathy, wistful, hopeful, poignant tones, while Phoebe's voice is darker, deeper, and more dramatic. As a twosome, they're wonderfully alluring and enigmatic, dancing through the songs with light sways and expressive hands. Melanie plays a cute, wide-eyed innocence. The songs she leads (Ever Fallen in Love, Blue Monday) become melodic and sweet. Phoebe's songs have more drama - her Bela Lugosi's Dead is baroque.
It doesn't always work. Their cover of Blondie's Heart of Glass begins brilliantly with Phoebe archly singing a melodramatic Spanish flamenco. The song soon turns to sweet melodies, which I felt was a missed opportunity. Conversely their cover of Too Drunk to Fuck descends from their style to a riotous cacophony, with most of the audience dancing and chanting along as if the original was being played.
Happily, these are exceptions rather than the rule. There's a sense of playful fun through their music, especially in concert. Phoebe caused my favourite moment, melodramatically asking for the house lights to be turned "red, deep red, passionate red, blood red". The lights stayed candy pink, to which she replied gothically, "...or pink will do". Their versions of Guns of Brixton and Friday night, Saturday morning were sublime, melodic and haunting, the latter all the more so as I had gone out on Friday night and returned on Saturday morning and felt the effects... The overall effect is to cause a wry smile, with admiration for talent both in performance and music.
Buy Bande a Part
This is my 50th post on acediscovery and, by sheer serendipity, is a year to the day that I started the blog with my very long post about Gdansk.
So to mark the occasion, I've been out and about in London looking for 50s. And here they are:
I went to see up-and-coming popstar Mika last night. Dingwalls is a rubbish venue, but Mika more than made up for it. Although he's relatively new, as 2007's great big hype, he seems to have amassed a hoard of fans. Fan girls crowded in front of the stage a good twenty minutes before the gig began, all clutching their Mika rosettes and sucking the Mika lollipops which had been dutifully provided by his street team.
Mika's performance was energetic and entertaining. He bopped around the stage, high-kicking and flailing his arms about with aplomb. He is quite tall, thin, with a fey indie style dressed in white shirt, red trousers and black braces (looked better than it sounds). His voice has a quite surprising range - from high falsetto to an almost indie growl, the vocals oscillate, often in the same song.
Mika's popstar equation:
|(Jake Shears + Freddy Mercury) - (homosexuality + campness + rock) =||Mika|
|(Rufus Wainwright x disco) x metrosexuality =|
Sort of. Either that, or he's oddly unique, and yet not really unique either. The songs sound like everything we've heard before in a familiar, loving way. Most are instantly catchy.
His first single, Relax (Take it Easy) opened the gig, and it is ace, a potential anthem for early 2007 with its arms-aloft-yet-chilled sentiment, soaring high disco chorus and dance-bop beats. This was followed by the more strident, more uptempo Love Today and other jolly, ecccentric songs about married men having gay affairs, and loving larger ladies, and a rather affecting, dramatic ballad. The gig ended with the anthemic-although-formulaic Grace Kelly, made better with ace vogue-esque hand movements. The encore was the quite wonderful playground-esque Lollipop, which could either be about having too much sex, or too much wanking or quite possibly neither of these things.
The dancing for Lollipop involved playing with his braces in a jaunty fashion. This was rather good.
At one point his grandmother appeared on stage to dance with him, providing the best On-Stage Granny Action since Boonika banged her drum for Moldova on stage at Eurovision 2005.
He has an ace drummer, who plays a starring role during Grace Kelly.
Mika is almost certainly destined for popstardom. The songs are ace, he's a great performer. Hurrah.
Mika website Mika myspace
On Saturday evening, I went to First Out Café to a Spanish pop music night held there every two weeks. I didn't know a lot about the night before going, having only seen a flyer on a recommendation from Karinski. The dress code, rather fabulously, was for "wigs & heels".
Getting there around 8.30, it was already busy with a happy bunch of Spanish gays, guys and girls bopping around the DJ box. The music initially was quite Spanish-indie-pop guitar bands, so I wondered how Spanish poppy it would be. How soon should I pester the DJs, asking for anything by Chenoa! or David Bisbal! or any other fab latin-pop songs?!
Las Ketchup's Asereje was played a few minutes later, and I was happily reassured that it was pop, pop, pop all the way. Chenoa's excellent Cuando Tu Vas soon followed, with joyful whoops from me, as did David Bisbal's Buleria and Shakira's Hips Don't Lie, which (if not strictly Spanish) is whole lot of ace latin pop. One man told me that the night was "really great" as it was the only gay Spanish pop night in London. Hurrah!
Highlights of the new-songs-I-hadn't-known were a song which may or may not be called Enamorada del amor by Joan Sebastian, a Mexican singer and definitely Maquillaje by Mecano, an ace song which sounds like early 80s preview for Girls Aloud's Biology. You can listen to that below. Apparently it's all about disguising one's true appearance through make-up, with reference to the superficiality of modern society. So, here are some people wearing wigs and dancing. Ace!
Listen here to Mecano - Maquillaje:
Like so many Londoners, I read today's Metro on my trek to work. Tabloid journalism is never very accurate but today's headlines seem just ridiculous. I can't believe that Metro, Evening Standard, London Lite and thelondonpaper can get away with such scurrilous, shrieking, scare-mongering and worrying headlines.
"DRUG RAPE IS A MYTH" screams today's headline. The article reveals how sedative drugs had not been used in a sample of 120 rape cases tested by the police. Not that drugs had never been used, not that drug rape is non-existant (or a "myth") - just that drug rape is not as widespread as we would perhaps believe. With a rather cruel irony, it would seem drug rape is a media panic.
On a lighter note, I noticed a headline about the "real James Bond". The article showed a composite picture of what makes the ideal James Bond, taking elements from all the actors that have played Bond. So this picture is not the 'real' James Bond - it's a fake picture, of actors. The survey revealed that the 'perfect' Bond would have Daniel Craig's eyes, Sean Connery's nose, Roger Moore's hair and eyebrows, Timothy Dalton's jaw and Pierce Brosnan's Smile.
I don't know what the survey respondents were thinking about. Have they not seen the Daniel Craig's publicity shots for Casino Royale? It ain't his eyes I'm looking at! Hello.
On Monday night, I went with Mr. Gaypop and Ms. Karinski to Ghetto to see Dragonette, a new electropop band who are Canadian but based in the UK. They played about 8 songs in all. Their song I Get Around is an ace synthy number with an excellent rousing pop chorus. I think about this song at least 3 times a week, as it has the line "so I tiptoe out of this mess / as I slip myself back into last night's dress". Then the singers slathers herself with lipstick and faces the day - a song about The Walk of Shame, how fantastic.
The gig was great. Lead singer Martina is quite fabulous, addressing the crowd with a louch, but enthuastic, style. She wore gold spandex skin-tight leggings (which I know she bought at American Apparel), ace black shoes with gold heel, black-and-gold fingerless gloves, and black cashmere cardigan with a piece-de-resistance accessory - a mutilated pom-pom hanging from one shoulder (made from cassette tape, so she told us).
I was highly impressed by some of their newer songs, which I hadn't heard before the gig. True Believer sounds like an ace rousing, power uptempo ballad-esque pop song. I can see it being huge. I like equations, so Dragonette sound something like this:
Rogue Traders - Rock + Electro = Dragonette ≈ No Doubt + Pop - Ska.
While Martina moved around, dancing with the audience, standing on the amps and generally shimmying like a funky-robotnic, the rest of the band stood intent on playing their music. I was quite taken by this guitarist. Hello. The band finished off by saying, “We’re Dragonette... you’re not -but don’t feel bad about it.” Cute, and great attitude.
So. Dragonette: they have excellent synthy-pop music and a fabulous nouveau-eighties look. The pic below is one of their striking gender-bending-but-not-too-much promo images. Having already supported Scissor Sisters and New Order live, 2007 could just be their year. Here's hoping.
When an idea forms in my brain, I often find myself thinking that I wish I'd thought of it earlier. For instance, I wish I had thought of my map collecting project a year ago, and could have collected maps from my trips to Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Japan etc. This thought came to me again a few weeks ago. We went for a day to Hastings, during the lovely weather of the Indian summer.
As we walked along the clifftops, I looked out to sea. I was taken by the strong, vivid, complimentary blues of the sea and sky, divided by the horizon. I took some photographs. I was pleased when I looked back at the photographs, but thought that these could have been taken anywhere. There was a universality in the combination of sea and sky.
I again started to wonder why I hadn't thought of this idea earlier. A framed picture formed in my mind, showing 8 small photographs of the sky and sea, each taken in an entirely different location, yet each with a similar and timeless universality.
I thought about this some more when I got home, and started looking through my photographs pictures. I found that kernels of this idea had formed, but nothing fully fledged. The photographs below are from Brighton, Barcelona, Japan, Cork, Kerry and San Francisco.
I love how each photograph could be anywhere (with the possible exception of the photo from Barcelona). There is sky, there is sea. But each photograph is, for me, grounded - that is Kerry, that is Barcelona etc. My memory of these places influences my viewing of the photographs. So while I was disappointed that I had not had this idea sooner, I found that thinking about how the idea traced its way through my previous travels was as rewarding as any ultimate framed picture.
I've spent the past couple of weeks working on this image from my trip to Japan. I put most of these photographs on the blog inMay. I wanted to do something more with them. So I collaged the best photographs together, making a large poster print which I've framed and now adorns my bedroom wall. It measures 30 x 40cm, and is a riot of colour. I'm really quite pleased with it.
I'd like to sell this, and any other image I've done, as prints. So if you'd like to buy a print of this, just let me know by commenting or emailing or any-way-you-can and we'll organise something.
A new airport terminal in Marseille was in the news last week, as it is being dubbed Europe's first no-frills airport. The former freight warehouse has been minimally transformed into an airport, designed to cater for the burgeoning low-cost airline market. This article describes the airport - only minimal seating, very few mechanics with passengers carrying their own luggage to security, there are no carpets and passengers walk to the plane, rather than on ramps. The idea is that the airport cuts down on costs and time spent waiting.
I can't quite decide if this is a good idea or not. Cutting time and costs is to be commended, but it should be questioned what is being lost. Airports are strange spaces, devoid of any identification. One airport wall could almost be any another. If it were not for the shops, restaurants and other amenities, airports could be in any city, any country, anywhere.
I remember quite a few years ago, Cork airport unveiled a statue of the ex-Irish soccer manager Jack Charlton. This statue was located in the main hall of the airport. The statue is gone now, as is the sense of the space as being Irish. The new terminal is a very bland space - the most Irish aspect is its use of wood as a decorative material (an almost ubiquitous feature of contemporary Irish industrial architecture). In the run up to the launch of the airport's new terminal, Cork airport ran an ad campaign saying "Soon, you won't know where you are" referring to the great changes in the airport, but equally having a poignant double meaning.
San Francisco airport was the probably worst airport that I've been in. Nothing about it said "San Francisco". I arrived in the evening, the airport was relatively quiet. But more than that, it was dull. All I remember from the airport is grey - grey walls, grey carpets, grey atmosphere.
I quite like airports. I like knowing where I am. I'm always keen to find the large signs outside airports declaring the town or city, and disappointed when they're not there. I feel sad that airports are not more rooted in their cities. Maybe I'm overly sentimental, of course, as airports in the modern travel industry seem to have become nothing more than in-between spaces, out-of-place buffer zones.