euro pop

JOHAN ANGERGÅRD: SWEDEN’S INDIE-POP MASTERMIND
February 5, 2016 9:46 am

You know that unique feeling of gratification you get when you discover a new sound?  It’s an impulsive need, an addiction.  I’m constantly searching for that next infectious dose. Thankfully the freakishly endless Internet universe never ceases to deliver new sonic pathways.

Sweden’s bustling independent music scene is as robust as it gets.

Johan Angergård is the founder of Stockholm-based Labrador Records.  He’s a DJ, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and producer.  His career spans back to the early 90’s and his prolificacy is profound, having been a key component of several noteworthy bands including Acid House Kings, Club 8, Pallers, and The Legends.

Labrador specializes in a particular brand of indie-pop classified as “twee”.  Quaint, naive, cute. There’s a distinct nostalgic nod to early 80’s indie-pop bands like The Smiths and the cheerful innocence 60’s rock. But that’s where any easily drawn comparisons end.

Labrador is first and foremost, an electronic music label with a sleek,  distinctly Scandinavian twist, an off-the-cuff repertoire of bright, audacious, and irony-tinged pop.  Labrador’s sonic pallet encompasses the so-called “balearic Sound”, popularized in Ibiza night clubs in the early 90”s. A notable manifestation of Labrador’s nuanced grooves can be heard on the The Radio Dept.’s highly acclaimed 2010 record Clinging to a Scheme.   These influences are the glue that make Angergård’s vision come to life.

If you’re in need of some new tunes, Labrador’s SoundCloud is a vault of music worth excavating.  It’s crammed to the brim with singles, EPs, remixes, and playlists that encapsulate Labrador’s touchingly off-kilter world.  It feels like an exhibit curated by Angergård himself, which I suppose, is part of what makes indie labels like Labrador great.

According to Labrador’s Facebook page the label is gearing up for an exciting year with “something like a handful of new artists” releasing music.  In the meantime, his own band Club 8 released their 9th full-length album Pleasure.  The leading single, “Late Nights“, is a sleek synth-pop that defines both where Angergård comes from and also where he intends to take us next.

MICAH P HINSON’S LIVE MUSIC IS THE BUTTER ON YOUR TOAST
May 19, 2015 8:49 pm
Picture by Giulia Di Nella.

Intimate, powerful, gorgeous. Micah P Hinson’s live music sounds like fucking butter.

On 5 May, the Tennessee born songwriter performed at ATP Pop Up, charming ground floor of former recording studio Total Refreshment Centre, in Dalston, London.

“This Texan can say even more than what he plays. Remarkable experience!” Comments F. Tonello, 26, audio engineer and Hinson lover.

The ATP date opened the official European tour on occasion of the 10th anniversary of the debut album Micah P Hinson And The Gospel of Progress. A well-earned anniversary indeed for an album that after 10 years is far from being outdated.

The tour will unfold and head South, with seven dates in Spain and four in Italy, spreading throughout the month of May.

“I could play my whole fucking career in two nights guys, we just need a bit of patience,” Hinson said to calm the rowdy crowd.

After a casual explanation for bringing a carton of cranberry juice on stage (“sorry guys, this is what you drink when you fucked up your liver”), Hinson started off with a few big hit classics, Close Your Eyes, and Beneath The Rose.

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Picture by Giulia Di Nella.

His oldest records unfurled in front of the small audience, which was by then completely melted to the floor by the bitter, mellow, notes. Don’t You Forget (“I really don’t like this song, but I’ll play it anyways…”), The Possibilities (wow), As You Can See, I Still Remember, At Last Our Promises, Stand In My Way, Behind The Music, Caught in Between, until the final, much waited for, soulful,The Day Texas Sank To The Bottom of The Sea.

The crowd just stood in silence. The artist, however sober for his standards, launched himself in a fierce panegyric of acoustic guitars. Despite his reluctance to actually practice scales (“I fucking hate practicing, although I don’t need the practice, I wrote the fucking thing!”), Hinson knows he can totally afford to proclaim the acoustic supremacy.

After some exquisitely southern remarks, “you guys are so quiet, really, I appreciate it,” Hinson went on with a few songs fromThe Baby And The Satellite, his 2006 album. “My worst record,” he commented, “I was trying to help a friend out, and it didn’t do shit.”

At times reincarnating Bob Dylan, as in the intro of the ecstatic The Leading Guy, mindful of the simplest Jim Morrison, as in Diggin’ A Grave, Hinson blooms of the same genuine storytelling as the American masters that have preceded him. His deep-timbered voice, accent, and sensitivity also overcome Jack White’s flaunted effort to mime the true southern musician. Micah P Hinson is the real thing.

Micah P Hinson And The Gospel of Progress was released by Sketchbook Records in the UK in 2004, followed by a US release in 2005. It was then reprinted by no less than EMI, in 2008.

The older-than-his-age voice tells the stories of his early twenties, when Hinson was overcoming a drug addiction, fleeing home and facing homelessness, spending a few nights in the local jail, but most relevantly, overcoming the first, real, burning heartbreak. When the album was recorded, the Mark Laneganesque artist was only 22.

“Good music comes from bad times,” he open-heartedly commented from the stage, “Jesus those weren’t great times, I’m not even sure they were worth the music…”

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Picture by Giulia Di Nella.

However bad, those days earned him an album worth honoring in a decade, in a concert where real folk was intertwined with personal anecdotes, a pregnancy declaration, laugh out loud jokes and confessions on his wasted liver. As the artist announced proudly, his wife is 20 weeks pregnant, despite the doctor’s worries on his own fertility.

“I guess you just need one good motherfucker,” Hinson fairly explained.

Micah P Hinson And The Gospel of Progress, The Baby and the Satellite, enriched by more songs from various EPs, flowed as smooth as honey, in two dense hours of music, in the niche, cosy venue in North London.

Picture standing in front of a stage no more than two feet tall, facing an artist that acknowledges his doubt towards unrehearsed lyrics while wearing a farmer’s jumpsuit holding an old guitar. You cannot help but be transported to a southerner’s patio in the springtime, laying back and offering all ears to his guitar and voice.

Before this relatively undiscovered artist gets too big to truly enjoy his minimalistic performances, whoever loves his music should seize the chance to see him now, and witness a musical miracle of the kind that are few in a lifetime.

Written by Marianna Giusti 

Picture by Giulia Di Nella.

 

STOCKHOLM TO NYC: URBAN CONE RELEASES “POLAROID MEMORIES”
May 15, 2015 10:27 pm

Urban Cone is a band fresh out of Stockholm Sweden, and ABBA themselves would be proud of their latest electro pop release “Polaroid Memories”. The album is bright, fresh and authentic. Another Stockholm Native you may be familiar with (Tove Lo) does a feature on the track “Come Back To Me” and Urban Cone is even able to make “the saddest girl in Sweden” sound like she is dancing. Some stand-out tracks are “You Built Your House of Cards”, “Rocketman”, “We Are Skeletons” and “It’s Hard To Hate Someone You Love”.

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“You Built Your House of Cards” is basically “Fireflies” by Owl City, but all grown up. The lyrical sentiment expressed in “I want you to understand that this is over” and “you built your house out of cards” are very heavy and perfectly juxtaposed with the light and sparkly keyboard melody so the lyrics really have room to stand out.

“Rocketman” has a melody that will be stuck in your head for ages, much like the Elton John tune of the same title. This track really encapsulates the beauty of the album, because it is pop, makes you want to dance, has electronic instrumentation, yet avoids cliché.

I could show you the sky

Like a dream I will make it alive

I could show you the lights

Wish I could show you all this tonight

If I was the rocketman

This is the opening line of the song, and although it reads like a poem it is paired with an undeniably catchy melody.

“We are Skeletons” is out of the Matt & Kim camp of strong laser-beam esque keyboard with bombastic electronic drums under it. The track has a nebulous disco influence and it is easy to imagine the cast of “Girls” dancing away the night in a warehouse in Bushwick as this track plays. The boys of “Walk The Moon” would commend the song for its energy and forward-driving beat.

“It’s Hard To Hate Someone You Love” is the album’s down time and is a chilled-out hazy version of the energy and forward driving force we hear on the rest of the album. We see this dreamy shoe-gaze influence on the track “Never Gonna See You Again” as well, and the songs provide a bit of a respite from the highs of the album (“Never Gonna See You Again” sounds like Foster The People, but not boring). The lyrics on “It’s Hard To Hate Someone You Love” are quirky and relatable, while also retaining a poetic element.

All these folks that end up all alone

Do you want to be like them I said

Its so hard when you conceal your heart

I don’t want to lie to you I said

I don’t want to lie to you again baby

It’s hard to hate someone you love

Urban Cone 2MAIN_PhotoJohnArthur

Urban Cone’s new album is the perfect soundtrack for your summer, and we the Beasts can’t wait to catch them at Bowery Ballroom opening for The Griswolds in NYC on June 18th.

Written by Alessandra Licul