Scandinavia has contributed its fair share to the arts, from cuisine and design to Nordic noir TV hits such as The Killing and The Bridge, and its music scene is no exception. Check out Culture Trip’s guide to the best Nordic artists making waves today.
Thomas Moen Hermansen, better known as Prins Thomas and hailed as a Scandinavian ‘cosmic disco’ king, has been making music for the last 15 years. This eclectic music is made up from a mix of ingredients including chilled out beats, kraut-rock and psychedelia. Chilled out, yet energetic, Prins Thomas is always seeking ways to throw contrast into his music to transport listeners into a different realm. A lot of his inspiration is taken from the feeling of empty space while commuting in Norway – an almost opposite sensation to the commute Londoners experience, as there are far fewer people in Norway. Drawing upon the blank spaces on the journey and while passing through the landscape, he likes to create sound as if to ‘fill the void,’ so to speak.
Born in Stockholm in 1975, but growing up in Linkoping, Lars Winnerback creates pop rock/folk music, taking inspiration from the likes of Bob Dylan and Swedish native Ulf Lundell. The world as a whole and individuals in society are faced with problems and fears daily, which are often addressed in Winnerback’s music. His powerful lyrics deal with emotions such as shallowness, romance, prejudice and anxiety. His songs are only ever written in Swedish, giving the listener a true glimpse into Swedish culture and society. Even for non-Swedish speakers, there is the sense of being driven to find out the meaning and history. Winnerback’s heartfelt duet with Swedish pop singer Miss Li, ‘Om Du Lamnade Mig Nu,’ is a powerful ballad dealing with romance – a ballad which won many awards. Other tracks include ‘Faller,’ which deals with the changes across the years seen in the capital city of Stockholm.
When listening to Melissa Horn, you can expect enchanting folk-rock with often moving lyrics. A striking example of this is in the song ‘Kungsholmens Hamn,’ which is about the murder of a 16-year-old boy. This song was performed live at the memorial ceremony dedicated to victims of the brutal 2011 Norway attacks in Oslo and Utøya. Melissa Horn, a Swedish pop-folk singer from the very trendy district of Sodermalm in Stockholm, is similar to and has performed duets with Lars Winnerback. As with Winnerback, she is also, on the whole, unknown outside Scandinavia – the world is truly missing out. Her lyrics tap into many emotions of which we can all relate. Her poetic lyrics together with the use of sounds from different musical instruments such as the glockenspiel add an air of unique character to her style.
Samaris is a three-piece band from Iceland – a mix in which downbeat dreamy electronica, synthpop and chilled out beats come together to form a unique sound. On each track, you can be sure to be transported to an ethereal state as if almost on an entirely different planet. Samaris’ music is filled with an air of mystery as if in a hazy, dreamlike cloud.
Half Japanese, half Swedish singer Sumie creates haunting folk music and has powerful vocals, so much that little other than her voice and an acoustic guitar is ever needed to convey the emotion within her songs. She began recording music at home in her bedroom in 2008, with her mysterious, edgy sound ultimately earning her a record deal.
Alice Boman, from Malmo, is somewhat of an accidental singer-songwriter who recorded her first tracks in her bedroom as demos, never expecting for them to be released. When going to the studio to professionally record them, the tracks were liked so much that Boman ended up snagging a record deal with Adrian Recordings. Skisser (meaning ‘Sketch’ in Swedish), her first EP, is a small collection of peaceful and dreamlike yet haunting material. For a twist on her music, have a listen to the later-released EP which contains remixes of tracks featured on Skisser by the likes of 1987 and NATTEN.
Indie music band Efterklang comes from Copenhagen and has so far released four albums, one of the most intriguing being their latest, Piramida, which was released in 2012. It’s an emotional album that is somewhat cold yet stunningly characteristic, fitting in well with the climate in which it was recorded. A unique experimental undertone shines through mainly due to its production when Efterklang, having not yet written one song on the album, traveled up to the island of Spitsbergen, Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to board a boat for nine days, despite the heavy rain and challenging weather conditions, en route to Piramida, now an abandoned ghost town. Once there, they discovered objects to make and record sounds. In Danish, ‘Efterklang’ means ‘reverberation’ or ‘after-sound,’ something which remains long after the sounds created by their footsteps through a deserted emptiness, or the banging on corrugated metal and fuel tanks.
Anders Trentemøeller creates a mystical, hazy atmosphere with ambient, minimal indietronica. Based in Copenhagen, he’s worked with many great influential artists to offer a vast range of intriguing and captivating music which always offers a route of escape from whatever you’re doing, taking you into an exciting yet almost unknown space. He’s received a total of 11 music awards including 2007’s Danish Producer of the Year, Danish DeeJay Award and Beatport in 2008, and his latest being a Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical of Franz Ferdinand’s ‘No You Girls’ in 2010.
Lykke Li was born in Ystad, Skane County, a town considerably well known as the setting for the TV series, Wallander. She has worked with electronic duo Royksopp, and her music takes you on an adventure between pop and electronica. ‘Little Bit,’ her debut track, came out in 2007 and is a catchy electro-pop song with a feel good air that makes you want to dance instantly. Her second album, titled Wounded Rhymes, in 2011 is catchy even if it is somewhat different to her debut sound. ‘I Follow Rivers’ sees her carry her voice far as if in a large stadium, and ‘Unrequited Love’ puts her strong vocals in the spotlight. Her latest album, I Never Learn, sees her voice take on a new strength. On the whole, the album contains a strong sense of pop; however, the emotional ballad ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone’ is definitely worth a listen. This striking track will have you possibly hitting the repeat button.
Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg make up the folk duo, First Aid Kit. Drawing influence from traditional folk, they are right up there with some of the classic folk artists of the 1960s. First Aid Kit have produced three studio albums from 2010 to 2014, and each has been impressive, featuring big vocals, captivating lyrics and dark sounds enhanced by the pedal steel guitar. They have worked with Bright Eyes on Conor Oberst’s album and vice versa and have even become a bigger part of this group of Omaha musicians, as their latest album, Stay Gold, was produced by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes). First Aid Kit may have beautiful vocal arrangements and create peaceful sounding music, but one thing is for sure, in stark contrast, the complexity and depth of their lyrics make them all the more intriguing.