Wednesday, January 12, 2022

GL.21.15: Carl Anderson

 



100 Songs: Aaron Bergstrom

GL.21.01: Ilana Bergstrom

GL.21.02: Curt Trnka

GL.21.03: Remko Van Knippenberg

GL.21.04: Erik Kristjanson

GL.21.05: Marisa Plaice

GL.21.06: Lukas Brooks

GL.21.07: Desa Warner

GL.21.08: Garrett Bukunt

GL.21.09: Dillon North

GL.21.10: Ryan Joyce

GL.21.11: Shay Corbett

GL.21.12: Nick Leddy

GL.21.13: Ryan Joyce (Part Two)

GL.21.14: Tom Morgan

GL.21.15: CARL ANDERSON

***

33 1/3 for 2021


(01) Lucy Dacus - “Hot & Heavy”


Let me remind you all that Lucy Dacus was the best songwriter in boygenius. And I would gladly die on this hill, but I won’t have to because Dacus’s body of work will exterminate all opposition! This was the first song I heard from the new album, and it's still my favorite. The lyrical part of the song has a crescendo of sorts but it’s not any kind of resolution. “It’s bittersweet to see you again”—that’s obvious from the start. So Dacus glides into an instrumental that ties it all up. There are two or three other tracks on this album that rival this one, and I’m not going to bother to include them in this list, they might all be tied for second. That’s what happens with her albums, she so fucking good at writing songs. I know there will come a day when I don’t fall for the new album from Dacus, but I’m psyched for a good long run until that happens.


(02) Morgan Wade - “Wilder Days”


This is such a perfect country song, I can’t understand how it didn’t make a bigger splash, especially with Jason Isbell rooting her on. I guess it’s not “family friendly,” but good country usually ain’t, amiright? Basically this is a why-don’t-you-get-drunk-and-kiss-me song. Maybe a little splash of awkward age-difference. Anyway, “You say I am too young for you / You're scared I'm too right for you” is hardly explicit for popular music these days. “What were you like when you were a little wilder? / Why don't you show me? / Why don’t you show me / What you were like when you got a little higher? / Just for tonight …” That’s just so good. 


(03) Torres - “Don’t Go Puttin’ Wishes In My Head”


Any song that is this great to listen to and delivers this powerful of a message is a keeper (one member of the household thinks it should be on the top of *every* list). I remember after this song came out I listened to it for weeks. Then I sent Aaron one of those “dude, this track SO rocks!” emails. He said he might see her show while on a trip home … and my God I’m so sorry about what happened. But I didn’t know about that awful turn, and I just kept listening to this track and smiling. Mackenzie’s voice used to turn me away, and even on this album it often doesn’t inspire me. But her distinctive tone turns out to be exactly perfect to deliver a line like, “I know promising forever’s not your thing / but girl if you don’t want me to go dreaming …” It’s just magic. This is one of those songs it's hard to believe hasn’t been done before. If you told me Willie Nelson did this 40 years ago I might believe you. 


(04) Cherym - “Listening To My Head” 


Cherym are girls from Derry who look and sound exactly like what should have been season 2 of Derry Girls. Impossible not to be a fan of this. 


(05) Lunar Vacation - “Shrug” 


This track is like chili con carne for me. It’s not an intellectual experience. Is it groundbreaking, or even novel? Can’t say so. Do I love it just the way it is? Absolutely yes. More, please!


(06) girlhouse - “knuckle tattoo” 


Simple with a capital S, but it comes together perfectly. I wouldn’t have expected to like a mix with these guitars right in front and the vocals phased out, but it works great here. The internet says this is “bedroom pop” and I have not a damn clue what that means. Another track I could listen to for lunch every day with a smile on my face. 


(07) ME REX - “Galena”


I understand why there’s a lot of talk about how this single was put together from the “album,” if that is the right word for it. Whatever the reasoning behind the refusal to add any kind of transition between the four or five separately recorded pieces in this, it works well enough. We (or I should say “we old timers”) grew up on radio edits of ten minute rock songs. So even if I’m a generation past these folks, I’m on board. 


(08) girl in red - “Serotonin”


In the universe of songs about depression this stands out as brutally frank and hyper-informed. I appreciate that. Other than deciding you just can’t have pop songs about depression, it seems worth it to get past the initial shock of how explicit it is. I mean, some folks have intrusive thoughts that are really bad. That’s why it’s a dangerous disease. It can’t all be lyrics like “I have intrusive thoughts / like, what if he doesn’t text back?” There’s a YouTube version where she just sings it acapella in an atrium, and it is probably better that way. Regardless, I’m going to classify this as “bedroom pop” because it could also be sung in a bedroom. 


(09) Wet Leg - “Chaise Lounge” 


If this list was the wittiest songs of the year, here’s your number one. Bonus points for showing up for Popscene and HOLY SHIT I ACTUALLY SAW THEM LIVE THIS YEAR (in what now looks to be trough between delta and omicron, ugh). No, the crowd did not chant along to “I went to school and I got the big D” so that’s a little disappointing, but typical for San Francisco. 


(10) Arlo Parks - “Too Cool” 


This year my go-to chill album was Arlo Parks. There is nothing not to like about this track. 


(11) Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen - "Like I Used To"


For indie music fans this is a generational anthem. Every time I heard “Under Pressure” this year I thought of this. OK, I’m not comparing them to Queen and David Bowie, just saying that their collaboration instantly seems like destiny. 


(12) Kynsy - “Happiness Isn’t a Fixed State” 


I was a little conflicted about the Strokes-centric sound here, until Ciara Lindsey said, in effect, she was going for that feel because she is a big fan of the Strokes. I guess liking this track is flattery of the Strokes, too. But consider, dear reader, this is far better than 90% of what the Strokes have put out this decade.


(13) Mannequin Pussy - “To Lose You”


There were months this spring where I was obsessed with Mare of Easttown. This led me to think that everyone was intensely following the minutiae of the show, including the wonderful Mannequin Pussy cross-promotion. In hindsight, this was one of those “everyone I know was so excited about this, how did all those other artists win the awards?” situations. OK, so Mannequin Pussy is not the new Taylor Swift. Probably not the new Phoebe Bridgers, either. Fine. They still put out some great songs this year!


(14) Something for Kate - “Cardigan (Triple J Like A Version)”


I have a point to make here, so tuck in. Taylor Swift is a great songwriter, but if she joined a band, it could be the greatest band on earth. Consider: Something for Kate is a *competent* Aussie indie band (yes, that is faint praise but appropriate). This is a “live in studio” recording, no reworking, no reimagining, and nothing beyond the grasp of a competent, veteran group. It’s just, hey she did this song, here’s us playing it. And it KILLS. When I imagine how many of Swift’s recent songs could have turned into all-time great recordings, if she just had to work with other players who would make independent contributions to the arrangement … And instead, she has moved in the opposite direction. For example, she dropped the producers who used to push her a bit and turned to Jack Antonoff, the Mr. Smithers of contemporary music. John Lennon was a fine songwriter. When he joined a band, it became the Beatles, for Christsake. I’m saying Swift could give us a new Beatles, but won't. This is probably capitalism’s fault. Fuck capitalism. 


(15) Orla Gartand - “You’re Not Special, Babe” 


“Everyone else wants to get right back to the chorus.” What a genius line, what a killer chorus. 


(16) Olivia Rodrigo - “good 4 u”


I think the first time I heard this was when she performed on Saturday Night Live. How curious to see this teenage princess decked out in immaculate brand names perform in front of five older studio musicians. It’s like the *least* punk thing that could ever happen. I turned the corner on this track by making fun of it—telling a friend it sounded like David Geffen decided to make the ultimate Avril Lavigne album. But when I had a moment to reflect, I thought, “What would I do if, like David Geffen, I had 10 billion dollars and every contact in the music business?” Well for one thing I might say, “Sign up one of those Disney girls, I want to make the greatest Avril Lavigne album ever!” So yeah, I shouldn’t disparage this. I learned that her parents are big fans of Green Day and boy, does that ring true. Separately, this track has about 1.2 billion listens on Spotify. How do such numbers make sense? That’s roughly the number of English-speaking humans currently alive. 


(17) illuminati hotties - “Pool Hopping” 


Our favorite tenderpunk has a real album out this year, with lots of new directions. To be honest though, it’s this, the least surprising track on the album, that I like best. 


(18) Grrrl Gang - “Honey, Baby”


My favorite band from Yogyakarta, Indonesia, AFAIK. Bonus points for proving my thesis that the premise of the “indie” genre(s) is that if you can write good songs, you don’t need virtuoso technique or novel production tricks. Wishing all the best for Angeeta, Edo, and Akbar, wherever you are. 

 

(19) dodie - “Cool Girl”


This is dodie’s first album for a label (she’s a YouTuber), and I’m not sure there’s any justification for that, other than that she’s so popular why not have a label pay to do it in a studio? Does sound great, though. To me, dodie sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel. She’s from Essex, the east side of London; he’s from Surrey, the west side. I wonder if that’s like saying to someone from Queens that they sound like they’re from Newark. Probably should have kept that all to myself. 


(20) Brandi Carlile - “Broken Horses”


Our ROCK portion of the list begins with a masterclass from Brandi Carlile. 


(21) Citizen - “I Want To Kill You”


This might be a guilty pleasure. Pardon the laziness, but we’re in need of pleasures so I can’t be bothered to decide whether to be guilty about it. 


(22) Iron Chic - “Catgut” 


This track might never have made it on my contenders list but for the fact I visited their bandcamp page, which reads: “Iron Chic is a decent band from Long Island, NY. They play songs that are acceptable.” You automatically earn five listens just for that. That’s how I grew to like this. 


(23) Pom Pom Squad - “Drunk Voicemail”


In a similar way, “produced by Sarah Tudzin” gets you five automatic listens, too. 


(24) PONY - “Couch” 


Sometimes folks write on this blog about bands they’ve been aware of for years and then finally put a new track on a year end list. Well this is my example where I can say that. I think Toronto would be a fun place to visit, if we ever resume cross-border travel without spacesuits.


(25) Bartees Strange - “Weights”


It’s so impressive when an artist who absolutely cannot be put in any genre sees some success. Thanks to Lucy Dacus for helping me find this one. Unclear to me whether this truly counts as a 2021 track. Maybe it is a version of something released earlier? Well it’s new to me and I enjoyed it a lot this year, so I’ve not much motive to find a reason to disqualify it. 


(26) Bachelor - “Back Of My Hand”


It was touching to hear about two artists who wanted to work together and so they simply got together in the same place and did it. Not by Zoom, not using Dropbox, just actually in the same space. It seems like such a luxury. Happy with the result, too. 


(27) Arlo Parks - “Hurt”


I could (did) just very quietly groove to this album all day long. 


(28) bikini - “Clay Pigeon”


Earworm. That’s the only justification. These lyrics are so sloppy it must be hard to perform them. Maybe he can just improvise them live or whatever. My favorite “who cares?” performance of the year. 


(29) The Mountain Movers - “Flock Of Swans”


If I had picked five of my college friends who were the most serious about being in a band, and gave them the ability to put together their ultimate performance, it would sound just like this. It’s like 1990 in a time capsule, only more 1990 than 1990 could ever have been. How this was released in 2021 is a mystery to me. Did all of my college friends have kids and raise them specifically to be in this band? In any event, good to see more folks recognize that The Verlaines are the blueprint.  


(30) Samia - “Show Up” 


In 2021, it seemed like every single person was thinking “why can’t I just *not* show up?” about once a day. This year, the line “Nothing could ever stop my ass from showing up” rang out like a declaration of defiance. Even if, literally, it was never true at all. 


(31) dodie - “Hate Myself”

 

For a minimalist like dodie this track is a stadium rock anthem. Tough to choose between “Cool Girl” and “Hate Myself” but “Cool Girl” was out first so I listened to it more. 


(32) Amy Shark feat. Travis Barker - “C’MON”


Amy Shark writes these songs that I don’t really understand, and I keep listening to them thinking there’s got to be some narrative or subtle resolution zooming over my head. But I can’t find it. “Here are some bad feelings I had. I arranged them in a song!” It’s like the whole album could be called It Sucks To Be Amy Shark. I’m starting to think maybe she wouldn’t disagree—that’s her voice and she’s not forcing anyone to listen to it. Anyway, this is what I think about when I’m listening to Amy Shark. 


(33) Allison Russell - “Nightflyer”


The more I listen to this, the darker it seems. Not sure why I wanted this to be edifying or liberating or something, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t. What a perfect soulful voice though. 


(33 1/3) Taylor Swift - “State Of Grace (Taylor's Version)”


I agree with Aaron that Swift’s re-recordings are not really in the spirit of this list, but I wanted to make a gesture of appreciation that they exist, so I awarded this a 1/3 spot on the list. Fearless and Red are such good albums and these recordings are fantastic. This year I really enjoyed listening and reminiscing. 

Friday, January 7, 2022

GL.21.14: Tom Morgan

 


100 Songs: Aaron Bergstrom

GL.21.01: Ilana Bergstrom

GL.21.02: Curt Trnka

GL.21.03: Remko Van Knippenberg

GL.21.04: Erik Kristjanson

GL.21.05: Marisa Plaice

GL.21.06: Lukas Brooks

GL.21.07: Desa Warner

GL.21.08: Garrett Bukunt

GL.21.09: Dillon North

GL.21.10: Ryan Joyce

GL.21.11: Shay Corbett

GL.21.12: Nick Leddy

GL.21.13: Ryan Joyce (Part Two)

GL.21.14: TOM MORGAN


***

Jazmine Sullivan “Girl Like Me” (feat. H.E.R.)


A true goddess of singing and storytelling, Jazmine’s Heaux Tales album was a highlight of the year and most songs could have made this list (“Lost Ones” made the 2020 list). This track features H.E.R. who took the challenge of matching runs (and did!!). It’s a lament of not being enough in a world of impossible standards and the urge to just give in and be somebody else in order to measure up. “Still don’t know what I was missing / what you asked I would’ve given”


MUNA - “Silk Chiffon” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)


A perfect pop song. Phoebe was my most listened to artist from 2021 despite not releasing an album this year. This song is a slight-departure from her sad girl vibes, which made it even more exciting of a listen


Caroline Polachek - “Bunny is a Rider”


A perfectly produced pop puzzle.


Joel Corry - “Sorry”


Not a big fan of producers not crediting their singers on tracks like this (shout out to Denzie) but in a year where his tracks dominated the good times, this was my favourite. Fully 90s Brit house joy, it was the song that I envisioned in my head when I manifested BOPS and the moment lived up to the joy. A true moment of pop ascension in my life.


Adele - “I Drink Wine”


Lamenting that she was once absorbed by the wonders of the world as a child, but now she only soaks up wine. Seeking a life with substance and perhaps less substances. She has a way of writing lines so simple and powerful that I’m able to understand that classic songs were once new songs. “I hope I learn to get over myself / stop trying to be somebody else” is one of those moments where you stop, stare into the abyss and feel it.


City Girls - “Twerkulator”


Taking me back to “Perculator” school dance days, JT and Caresha interpolate the dance groove into an ass-shaking anthem. It gave us the best thing to scream at a party - or in any setting really: “YUNG MI-AMI YEAH BITCH IM FROM THE CITY!” 


Charli XCX - “New Shapes” (feat. Christine and the Queens, Caroline Polachek)


A mini gay-Avengers moment. A great lyric with three unique deliveries that could not be more defining of each pop gal’s style - “Charli, Caroline, Chris what you want what you want”


Rina Sawayama - “Lucid”


A shot or pure pop adrenaline that showed Rina’s true Little Monster nature.


Tyler, the Creator - “JUGGERNAUT”  (feat. Lil Uzi Vert & Pharrell)


Blast the fucking bass! Pharrell hasn’t excited me like this production wise in a long time 


Billie Eilish - ‘Oxytocin”


Billie and Finneas getting dark and grimy is a revelation. Doing things so narsty that God has to look away because she wouldn’t approve? And because she would only want to get involved if she watched? Ma’am.


Rostam - “From the Back of the Cab”


Stealing an extra hour together, extending a connection that is doomed to end with daylight, fighting the sleep. Head on the shoulder on the way to the airport. There is something so familiar and queer about the picture painted. Falling deep and quick, while the track conveys a machine-like progression - a reminder that things are moving forward, as they do.


Kim Petras - “Future Starts Now”


Yes, she’s still working with him and yes I hate it but the bops never miss. Here’s to hopes of a new production partner in the future - starting now!


Victorian Monet, Khalid, SG Lewis - “Experience”


SG’s domination of 2021 tracks continues as the three combine to create the smoothest of vibes.


Lady Gaga - “Free Woman” (Rina Sawayama & Clarence Clarity Remix)


There is a certain part of my brain that activates emergency serotonin when Rina scream “ANNNNNNND IM FREEEEE” to round out this queer woman pop power collab. It was the transition song at BOPS between our two sets bc it captured what the event was all about :)


SG Lewis - “Impact” (feat. Robyn & Channel Tres)


The SG supremacy continues.


Normani - “Wild Side” (feat. Cardi B)


The Normani situation is an interesting one: immense pressure to release a first album with a fanbase that seems ready to stan to the highest degree, yet no major hits. Another one-off here, Wild Side showed that she’s more interested in the RnB - rather than pop/hip-hop route - along the lines of the sampled Aaliyah. More than any other song on this list, this one has to be accompanied by the video - which is one of my favorites of the year.


Doja Cat - “Get Into It (Yuh)”


First listen: WTF is this and what is wrong with her? Second listen: this is terrible, why is her voice doing that? Third listen: I MEAN YALL BITCHES BETTER YUH LIKE ARIANA!!!


Agnes - “XX”


The lyrics are a mantra of self-expression and praising our own existence, leaving behind any element of trying to be anyone other than who you are meant to be - time to speak the truth!


Olivia Rodrigo - “Drivers License”


A seismic smash from the new ingenue. From the car noises that punctuate the production to the surprisingly emotive and anthemic chorus and bridge, it’s just a really really good song and I still fucking love it, babe.


Go_A - “SHUM”


An unusual Eurovision entry that feels like an increasingly intense experience in a Ukrainian dungeon rave. I was lucky enough to see this song performed live (multiple times in a row) at a Eurovision show, in a year where live music performances were rarities. The fury that this song builds to at the end was one of my favourite DJ moments of BOPS!


VINCINT - “Higher” (feat. Alex Newell, Princess Precious)


Summer 2021’s gay bop!


Ashnikko - “Slumber Party” (feat. Princess Nokia)


Let’s call it hip-hyperhop.


Drake - “7am on Bridle Path”


A consistent part of Drake’s career are his time/location based tracks where he spits relentlessly for 4+ minutes and it’s my favorite form of the fan favorite’s flow.


Tinashe - “Bouncin”


A video of trampolining? We will be supporting that!


Priyanka, Lemon - “Come Through”


Did we expect the nerdy Canada’s drag race contestant to drop the most viral verse of ‘21? We did not but Lemon sure did deliver!


Dawn Richard - “Jacuzzi”


This whole Second Line album goes off!


Dijon - “Many Times”


There’s a bit of bizarre stutter-percussion that almost threw me off but ended up being the thing that pulled me in here.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

GL.21.13: Ryan Joyce (Part Two)

 


N Ø R D I C • T R Å C K S

The playlist linked here contains 50 songs by Nordic artists; it represents just one of the rabbit holes I fell down in 2021.

An abridged account of this list’s genesis starts and ends with the Spotify algorithm and “være med deg,” a piece of peppy, guitar-driven pop so undeniably catchy that it was Matt who first fell in love with it, despite the unintelligibility of the Norwegian lyrics.

A more complete explanation would account for my brain chemistry, primed to engage in an endless cycle of medium-term obsessions, and how life in lockdown influenced my screen time and my use of platforms whose content was tailored for me by powerful and sophisticated algorithms. 

But the network of roots from which this playlist sprouted actually connects back to a fifth grade project on Sweden; the half-Icelandic friend from high school who introduced me to the campy magic of Björk, Silvía Nótt, and Eurovision; my 2018 trip to the Faeroes; the vague intelligibility of Scandinavian languages to a Dutch and German speaker; my college a cappella group covering Robyn’s “Show Me Love”; and the unforgettable bliss of an evening of löyly and plunges into the sub-zero Baltic Sea at the Kulttuurisauna in Helsinki.

The songs on this list span genres; they come from recording artists with long careers as pop vanguards, those reinventing themselves for new audiences, and total newcomers. About half are in the Scandinavian languages, others are part of artists’ bids, with varying degrees of credibility, for a piece of the larger market recording in English grants them access to.

A few nod to the sizeable African diaspora that is redefining what it means to be a Swede, Dane, or Norwegian, but Nordic is a slight misnomer, as the list is light on Icelandic, Finnish, Faeroese and Sámi representation. (A goal for 2022, perhaps.)

More than anything, though, the list testifies to the stellar reputation Scandinavian pop has built over many decades, is a love letter to my brain, and shows what we stand to gain by reframing our relationships to what algorithms serve us.

Happy listening and many happy returns for your 2022.

—————

Songs listed by country of origin, then artist. My Spotify Top 100 is cross-referenced, with rankings in braces.


SWEDEN


Agnes

“24 Hours” 

“Here Comes The Night”

  • Needs no description; the EP that makes me hope beyond hope there’s more dancing in 2022.

Arvid Lundquist

“Låt det regna” (“Let It Rain”) {73}

  • “Sunday Candy”—but the reduced-sugar variety. (I’m a sucker for choirs as backing vocals, though.)

Benjamin Ingrosso

“Allt det vackra” (“All This Beauty”) {3} 

“Sarah”

  • Ingrosso is…the Swedish Justin Bieber? Child star, more than half his output (all the English stuff, a good chunk of the Swedish music) is drivel, but every so often produces something golden. His EP, En gång i tiden, del 2 (Once Upon A Time, Part 2), is a lushly arranged love letter to 60s and 70s AM radio. The songs handle love, loss, loneliness and old age with a maturity entirely was absent on the EP’s first half. (It’s a shame the two halves share a name, given how tonally different they are.)

    Ingrosso, for all his privilege and polish and pedigree (his mother is a pop star, his cousin is part of Swedish House Mafia), seems deep down to just love making music—behind a mic, he is naturally charismatic and earnest. He delivered two of my favorite “live” performances this year on his TV show, in which he cooks pasta for and sings with famous musicians. (Ingrosso’s father owns a restaurant group). The first was a duet with Thomas Stenström on “Forever Young”—which Ingrosso confessed to Stenström was his favorite song—that left an onlooking Zara Larsson speechless.

    The second, “Det stora röda huset” (“The Big Red House”), is an ode to his grandparents’ home where he would summer as a boy. Ingrosso, accompanied by two bandmates, traveled to the house for the segment, singing to his grandfather and grandmother across the room. There were no dry eyes in the room by the final verse but, given circumstances in pre-vaccine Sweden, the three couldn’t physically embrace. The air-hug his grandmother offers him as the video closes could do anyone in.

Cherrie

“VHS” [w/ Benjamin Ingrosso”] {1}

  • All sultry alto lines. Yes, please!

Daniela Rathana

 “Satan i gatan” (“The Devil In The Street”) {7}

  • Rathana gives Rita-Ora-with-better-pipes vibes, in that she has star quality but seems to fly under the radar. But she goes off on the final chorus of this cover of a Veronica Maggio classic and injects unexpected urgency into the song..

Felicia Takman

“Lagom, vanlig, och lame” (“Average, ordinary, and lame”) {82}; 

“Rulla eftertexten” (“Roll Credits”)

  • Even to an outsider, Takman comes off as the most Scandinavian artist on the list; she seems content making her play to be the biggest fish in the small pond of Swedish pop. There’s a specific Swedish-ness to the frustrated young lover she portrays throughout her album Alla gör slut (Shutting Down): the anxiety of the conformity imposed by the Swedish virtue of striving to be lagom (think “just right,” in the Goldilocks sense) and the resolution to take a vit månad away from her lover (the Swedish expression for gone “dry” for a time). But she’s winking at the listener the whole way through, the lyrical content never superseding the fun.

ionnalee

“sommaren är min och jag kommer tillbaka” (“summer never ended and the damage was mine”) [w/ iamamiwhoami]

  • An experimental pop giant, though this is more melodic and feels closer to Lana than Björk. Collaborated with Röyksopp in their post-Robyn era. An interesting example of how artists approach the simultaneous release of a song in two languages.

KLARA

“Badam Badam” {20}

  • A minor moment in layered-vocal chorus history.

LÉON

“Hear Me Say” [w/ Jonas Blue] {25}

“Soaked”

  • She’s primed for a Dave Audé remix in her future.

LOVA 

“Dance For The Hell Of It” {52}

  • This is on the soundtrack to last season of The Bold Type. Need I say more?

Miriam Bryant

“Mitt hjärta blöder” (“My Heart Bleeds”) {2}

“Passa dig” (“Watch Yourself”) 

  • This woman can SING. “Passa dig” is the type of indulgent power ballad meant to be screamed in the shower after a rough day. That general energy transfers well to the cover of “Mitt hjärta blöder.” (My friend Thomas made Miriam sing it for him before he did her eyebrows and he said he released a Trixie-level scream when she was done.)

Molly Sandén

“Nån annan nu” (“Someone Else Now”) {24}

“Noise Cancellation” {8}

  • Ms. Husavik herself had a year! She capitalized on her newfound name recognition not with a play for the international audience, but by treading new ground on the dark-pop path Tove Lo, MØ, and) Charli have cleared for her. Her album, DOM SKA VETA (They Should Know), is driven by the same drunk, self-sabotaging woman-who-should-know-better persona that animated the best pop album of the 2010s, Veronica Maggio’s Satan i gatan. Sandén, though, brings a vocal prowess Maggio doesn’t quite possess; that versatility will let her move in any of several directions from here.

Mona Masrour

“2 STEG” (“Two Steps”) {62}

Oscar Zia

“Ta på mig” (“Touch Me”) {4}

  • A Swedish Troye Sivan, down to the “Dance To This” callout in the bridge of this cute mid-tempo queer bop.

Sabina Ddumba

“Swishers” {12}

  • Plausible buyer for the singles CANDIACE or Kelly Rowland don’t bite on.

Sarah Klang

“Anywhere”

“Fever Dream”

  • Klang is a very compelling young songwriter. She gives of energy something akin to a combination Phoebe and Taylor’s from their Red duet.

Seinabo Sey

“Rom-Com” [w/ Hannes]

  • A neo-soul darling; could H.E.R. doing a good cover of this.

Tomode

“Golden Retriever” {95}

Tove Stryke

“Mood Swings” {66}

“Start Walking”

  • Tove is putting Kim Petras (and the other Tove) on notice. Keep an eye out.

Veronica Maggio

“SE MIG” (“See Me”) {53}

“Varsomhelst/Närsomhelst” (“Anytime/Anywhere”)

  • The Holy Trinity of female Swedish pop would probably be Agnes, Robyn, and Veronica. Spotify released four covers to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Satan i gatan, and the songs still teem with life. Her new output feels like where it should be 10 years on from that moment—still that little bit dangerous, desperate, but less chaotic.


ICELAND


Áslaug

“Timezone” {92}

  • All the early 90s schmaltz of O’G3NE/Wilson Phillips in one person, thanks to the production. (No shade.)

Daði Freyr 

“10 Years” {35}

  • Eurovision’s lovable weirdo/loving father/doting husband returns! 8-bit self-portraits for everyone!


NORWAY


Dagny

“BAD” [w/ Rat City] {17}

  • My shibboleth on meeting a new queer person: do you know who Dagny is?

Jesper Jenset

“Skyt Me I Hjertet” (“Shoot Me In The Heart”)

  • Wild title, admittedly. Sounds like River Cuomo, if he were a piano guy.

Ka2

“være med deg” (“be with you”) [w/ Coucheron] {15}

“i natt” (“tonight”) [w/ Gabrielle] {83}

  • Ka2 sprinkles his electronic music solo releases with these joyful, poppy collaborations with small Norwegian artists. My favorite find of 2021.

KAMARA

“Sideways”

Metteson

“Harder” [w/ Niilas]

Misty Coast

“Transparent”

  • Shades of Chutes Too Narrow: psychedelic and philosophical.


DENMARK


Aksglæde

“Passager” (“Passenger”) {45}

  • Like that Ed Sheeran song you like as a guilty pleasure.

Alma Agger 

“Uundgåelig” (“Unavoidable”) 

  • Agger, like KLARA or LOVA, feels one world-class hook away from her moment in the sun. Also, this might be the only song in which every syllable of a Danish word is clearly pronounced.

andreas odbjerg

“i morgen er der også en dag” (“tomorrow’s a new day”)

Drew Sycamore

“45 Fahrenheit Girl” {29}

“Jungle” {5}

  • The world needs more gender-bending pop stars! Her eponymous album, Sycamore, is exceedingly catchy. Sounds like she would take the Caroline Polachek on a Danish version of “New Shapes.” Hoping she gets her flowers soon.

Faustix

“What If”

Jung

“To Timer I Træk” (“Two Hours Straight”)

“Tur Retur” (“Round Trip”)

  • Late 90s/early 2000s U2, but half their age and Danish.

Liss

“Leave Me On The Floor” {54}

Pil

“Inde I Mig” (“Inside Me”)

“Når Du Går Herfra [Nattely]” (“When You Leave [For The Night]”)

  • Dido, but “Hunter” rather than “Thank You.”

URO

 “Havernes Duft” (“The Smell Of The Garden”) {11}

  • The sort of spoken rock-rap that must be all over the place in an overwhelmingly white country. But Spotify doesn’t lie—clearly, I lived.