Speak Galactic, and The Language Of Drab Footballing Parallels

So in the end, the inevitable sensation of disappointment prevails – the result of over-hyping a deceptively middle-of-the-road, expensive and charmless event. And that was just Glastonbury.

Ah yes – it’s football again – but this will be the last World Cup related post for a while, I promise. But something occurred to me in between Germany‘s excellent third and brilliant fourth goal. I’d missed a massive opportunity on ANBAD. The World Cup was the perfect excuse to draw tenuous parallels – ANBAD’s favoured type of parallel, natch – between bands and the teams  taking part.

For example: if the England team were a band, they’d be the latter-day Oasis: over-confident, yet wildly under-performing; supported by loutish, drunken mob; living off past glories, yet clearly without the ability to add to them; in possession of a hugely inflated sense of self-worth.

So, before I start to regret this whole charade: Speak Galactic are almost definitely Sweden’s national team – understated, skilful, calm, and packing dynamite punches.

How useful then, that Speak Galactic are based in Gotenburg, lending my dreadful soccer-analogy a modicum of credence.

Songs like Wool Socks are the ones I always look forward to receiving. Why? Let’s use Wool Socks as the readily-available example. I don’t know exactly what causes this, but as soon as the song started, I knew what I was going to get.

Don’t interpret that the wrong way: it’s not that the song is predictable – it’s not – but as it began I got the sensation very quickly that I was going to enjoy the next four-ish minutes.

And how: the song is delicate and sinewy; light, like the cool gold of evening sun; and wistful, expansive, complex. Delicious, fulfilling, shimmering. You know, just like England aren’t.


Vampyramiden; Occult, Conspiracy, Trolls

As a native English speaker, there’s something hugely satisfying about listening to and reading Scandinavian languages.

Because of the very distant link between our languages, if you squint or strain your ears it almost starts to make sense. It’s like tuning the FM-Radio dial of comprehension down just a few notches – confusing but comforting; a leap into the past, the unknown, another world, or all three simultaneously.

Languages like Swedish can either sound like English spoken by very drunk people or give you the feeling that you’ve just had a bump on the head. Bands like Vampyramiden will make you grateful for such feelings.

Any band that uses a portmanteau to scrape the occult and conspiracy theories into one blisteringly brilliant name is worth a few minutes of our time, right?

Vampyramiden // En Stad Och En Trollkarl

I have been making ill-educated guess as to what En Stad Och En Trollkarl means, none of which I will post here, for fear of offence and embarrassment. Oh OK then: the best I came up with was In The Stadium Of A Troll Called Carl. Things we derive such pleasure from don’t need to make sense, OK?

The song itself is a sweet, crystalline gem: delicate to the point of fragility, melodic to the point of heartbreak. Hovering in a newly-defined spot between twee, folk, space-tinkling and sing-along pop, Vampyramiden have managed to make a song that will charm all our pants clean off.

It is entirely superfluous to point out that Scandinavian bands seem to make these sort of songs by accident, but it is worth remembering such geographical oddities.

Vampyramiden might find themselves in the ridiculous situation of being crowded out of their local market because everyone else’s songs are just as excellent. They can move here and entertain me any time. And teach me some Swedish too.


The Forest And The Trees Vs Liam Gallagher’s Hissy Fit Antics

As much as I’d like to be able to ignore it, the Brit Awards are an all-invasive part of British life right now, in spite of – or perhaps because of – their overwhelming, bone-china blandness.

The only honest way to react to a celebration of  such mundaneity is to produce yet another facile list, and so here’s the ANBAD Alternative Brit Awards 2010:

  1. The Least Comprehensible Appearance Award: The Spice Girls
  2. The most affable man who once wrote  songs called Suk My Dik and now makes great mass-market pop albums award: Dizzee Rascal
  3. The “I just can’t believe this is happening to me” Faux-Sincerity Award: Three-way tie between Ellie “can you beleive how normal I am?” Goulding, Lady “Can you believe how abnormal I am?” Gaga and Florence “Have you noticed my legs recently?” Welch.
  4. The ‘Was That Just John Bloody Lennon Appearing In A Citroen Advert?’ Award: That Citroen advert featuring John Bloody Lennon
  5. The ‘Fine Line Between Appearing Rock ‘n’ Roll and Looking Like An Embarrassing Middle-Aged Idiot’ Award: Liam Gallagher (Inevitably)

The Brits are the UK’s version of the Grammys. Amusing fact: The Swedish version is called the Grammis. Excellent. My love for Sweden grows every day.

This love is not only due to their amusingly localised versions of major awards ceremonies, but also music like The Forest And The Trees, a Swedish band whose actually manage to evoke the sense of being surrounded by lush green woodland.

THE FOREST & THE TREES To The Forest! (I Need Some Peace) [Single Edit] by ILL FIT

By now, you know what to expect from a Scandinavian pop song: driving, delicate drums, honeyed melodies awash with bittersweet glee, and a strict pop song structure that brings back the chorus just when you want to hear it one more time.

To The Forest! (I Need Some Peace) doesn’t break with this ethic, and why should it when another dreamy summer pop hit is the result? Even in southern Sweden, when the snow falls, it stays, deep and heavy, for months. But with songs like this, summer is always just around the corner, tantalising, sunny and drenched in love. The lucky so-and-so’s.


Photo: Sara Arnald

>Taxi! Taxi! Adios, In The City

Two days after In The City has ended, and almost all traces of its existence have dissipated. The buzz has moved elsewhere, and a only few limp posters remain. Shame. The feeling of being in the sticky armpit of the UK’s new music world was nice while it lasted.

So here’s an affectionate* faux-award-ceremony look back at ITC:

The Sudden Flash Of Common Sense award: When an unnamed BBC Radio One DJ left Mark Ronson’s keynote speech after 5 minutes, because he suddenly realised that he hated Mark Ronson ‘with a passion’

When Hair Reigned Supreme: The giant, all encompassing fringes of Egyptian Hip Hop; the bleached Princess Diana hairdo of the singer from Ou Est Le Swimming Pool; even Mark Ronson’s slicked quiff: The Conference When Hair Got Bigger Than Rock

Sack The Proofreader Award: The slogan “ITC: Everything Else Is Just Noise” is quite zippy, but only if you remember to include the ‘Y’ in ‘Everything’ before you plaster it all over all thousands of posters, T-Shirts and all merchandise

The Man With The Best Anecdote award: Peter Hook, for his story about Bernard Sumner displaying his displeasure at Spandau Ballet by urinating onto them from a balcony as they played a gig in Paris

The Award For The Most Reverb-Drenched Microphones: 19 year-old Swedish twins Taxi! Taxi!, for their unusually echoing warble.

(Male readers – admit it: a very specific mental image was dredged up when you read the words ‘19 year-old Swedish twins’, wasn’t it? Bleach your mind and be reasonable, please.)

Taxi! Taxi! were elfin, brunette, clad in denim dungarees, and grasping spookily at guitars and accordions. Their songs, punctuated by pleas for more reverb directed at the sound technician, were so alien they felt beamed-in from another planet.

If NASA discovered life in a far away solar system and responded by blasting a space ship filled with Patti Smith and Kings Of Convenience records at them, songs like More Childish Than In A Long Time would be beamed back, and songs like All I Think Of would be made after their first confusing visit to Earth.

Taxi! Taxi!‘s songs are barely there – emotions first, noise second, understanding third. Lovely, wispy, dissolving.


Photography by Martina Hoogland Ivanow

>Today’s New Band – Southside Stalkers

Anyone who watched man-witch Derren Brown predict the lottery results on TV last week couldn’t have failed to have been massively underwhelmed by his subsequent explanation that it involved “deep maths and patterns within random behaviour.” The real explanation, though, was obvious: Derren Brown sold his soul to the devil and can travel through time.

Still, the more I thought about it, the more I was swayed by his account. I realised that there’s a hint of ‘deep maths and patterns’ within the A New Band A Day archive, in so much that there are a disproportionate number of Swedish bands in there. Check for yourself and drown in Swedish bands here.

Perhaps it’s some sort of musical reflection of sub-molecular cosmic order. Or maybe it’s just that Sweden keeps cranking out great bands, one after another. Take Today’s New Band, Southside Stalkers, from Stockholm. Their songs are typically brief bursts of poppy rock, exploding into your life, wiping a smile all over your face, and skipping quickly away.

Bones is just plain daft, a riff on an anatomical song you’ll already have sung at nursery, albeit with a new, sweary ending. The band just about stay in control to create a neat, playful song, despite the fact that they sound like they’re having all the fun in the world.

Even more shiny pop happiness is in Robert Downey Jr, which is on one level a meditation on the perils of massive drug addiction, but most obviously a truly brilliant, knock-about jangly pop blast. And it’s under two minutes long. All the best pop songs are under two minutes long. It’s the song The Kinks or The Monkees should have written, but couldn’t.

Southside Stalkers are a crsytal-clear, 100%-added-sugar delight – life affirmation doesn’t get much better than this.

>Today’s New Band – Felix Wickman

>Most of these current posts were written over a month ago, while I was still entrenched, for better or for worse, in city life; the rain, the buzz, the estate agents with £100 haircuts. Right now I’m on a train, zipping through wet green fields towards Manchester, but in real terms, I’m actually somewhere on Mainland Europe, struggling to erect a recalcitrant tent.

This whole exercises has proven the folly of trying to plan too far ahead, or worrying about what might happen. I’d like to think that a scantly-planned low-budget European jaunt will open my eyes and communicate with my soul, maaan – but who knows. I might hate the Euroeality of good bread, great wine and fabulous weather, though that seems like a long shot.

As such, these posts are time capsules, and are from a time when my situation was very different. It’s probably only of real interest to me, but if you can’t indulge in cod-self-psychoanalysis on a blog, where can you?

Take Today’s New Artist – Felix Wickman. Songs like The Stage would suggest a maudlin soul, but perhaps he was merely experiencing a little light glumness on the day he wrote it? It’s certainly a delicate and sweet ‘n’ sad ballad; bleakness is the one note played loudest here. Impressively, even the use of what sounds like a saxophone can’t damage the song’s downright wallowing nature.

If Mauro The Clown is about a real clown, cower with fear if he’s booked for your child’s birthday party. Clowns often have sad face-paint, but from the sounds of it, Mauro’s face would be 90% bright red frown.

Fabulously, Felix Wickman is signed to the brilliantly named Waggle-Daggle Records. Maybe the man is a knock-about laugh-riot after all. Or not. But do listen here and mourn, baby, mourn!

>Today’s New Band – Liechtenstein

>It says much for the depths of resolve in the human psyche that, even when presented with an entirely stressful situation – like, say, moving house – it’s approached with delightfully optimistic naivety. “Surely this time, it’ll all be one, smooth, graceful procedure,” you muse, gingerly lifting the first of many boxes.

So, by the end of the process, how did I end up exhausted, aching, soaked through with rain, and sitting in a strange pub with a shellshocked look on my face? Having blanked out the preceding 48 traumatic hours, even I can’t answer that question. Sat in the pub, finally facing the light at the end of the tunnel, the Pub Jukebox God found time to play one final sick joke.

As the white stress-noise in my ears abated, it was gradually replaced by one that actually made my laugh at the sheer cruelty of it all. That noise was Katie Melua‘s cover of What A Wonderful World, a version so will-sappingly horrible that all who hear it must surely respond with the question, “But is it really?”

Today’s New Band actually is wonderful, and charming, and gutsy to boot. They’re Liechtenstein, and are probably already more exciting than their namesake country.

While Roses In The Park owes a little to Jesus and Mary Chain, it’s no generic copy – instead it uses the sparseness of the production to hoist the very lovable vocals high and to the fore. As a result, a throwaway chorus becomes a fine, sweet harmony to sit alongside the guitar’s rumbling chime. Apathy summons up enough interest to craft a gentle, lilting song; tranquilised, calm and detached. Stalking Skills sashays with the slink and guile that only women really posses.

Liechtenstein are strangely timeless, winningly female, pleasingly self-believing and have the coolly disconnected nature you’d hope for in a bunch of talented, attractive women. Great – listen here!

>Today’s New Band – The Love Kevins

>The second gig I ever went to was to see Manic Street Preachers in 1996. They were just post-Richey, pre-Big Time and were noisier, angrier and more intelligent than anyone I had ever met growing up in Stoke on Trent. I pushed to the very front and spent a happy hour crushed against glum, milk-white girls wearing kohl and leopard print.

The Manics’ primary attraction is their wilful perverseness; actively encouraging people to dislike them, releasing hit-and-miss albums that confuse the unsuspecting. They have veered, in deliberate disorientating fashion, from smooth rock to grating punk to electro-flop and back and forth and back again as and when they like it, not us. And all the while not caring, growing stronger, tighter, feeding off the anger, hate, bewilderment.

Now they’re releasing a new album, produced recorded by another man who doesn’t give a shit – Steve Albini. It prises open the past, using Richey’s lyrics, and deliberately treads over fan/media fetishising of 1994’s The Holy Bible. Perhaps it’ll be great, perhaps it won’t be. It doesn’t matter. That’s the point.

Today’s New Band, The Love Kevins, have songs with titles whose themes might have interested the Manics a decade or so ago. Oh, and just take a second to fully appreciate the minor brilliance of The Love Kevins’ name. Continue.

You’re going to die, you’re going to die alone,” is the chorus We’re All Going To Die, a song whose sweet melody that couldn’t vary much more from the vocal sentiments. Plain, bare and calm, it’s the sounds of objective lushness. Stop Being Perfect passes quickly and quietly before you realise how enjoyable it was.

The Love Kevins are from Malmo in Sweden, and – surprise – have the Swedish way with top pop tunes, and add to it a dollop of strange, unexpected perverseness. Perhaps the Manics would like them, in secret. You will – listen here.

>Today’s New Band – Friska Viljor PLUS! "It’s BAWWWSS TAAAIIIIME!"


Someone sent me a link to the half-time entertainment from the Super Bowl. My knowledge of American Football began and ended in a bar in Haight in San Fransisco, where I watched a game whilst the myriad rules were explained to me by increasingly exasperated friends. Even though it seemed that my knowledge of the game decreased exponentially the more was explained to me, I enjoyed watching the nylon blur of colours trying to cripple each other.
This particular video began with an announcement – “It’s Boston!” which immediately caused an involuntary keyboard-stabbing recoil, in fear of the upcoming MOR onslaught. After a few seconds, it dawned that “Boss Time!” had actually been announced, and so I settled back to enjoy some only slightly less MOR rock.
Bruce Springsteen has an influence on modern rock that I suspect comes from many bands’ too-intimate childhood knowledge of parents’ record collections. Bands have learnt to drop in epic power chord choruses willy-nilly, and the result, ultimately, has been The Killers. The Boss has also become a nice easy comparison for music reviewers to sling at any band with a big, lush rawk tune in its armoury. Reviews of the last, hugely overblown Arcade Fire album were particularly guilty of this.
If there is a bit of The Boss in Today’s New Band, Friska Viljor, he’s hiding, or at least exploring a newly cute side. Shuddering inevitability out of the way first: they’re from Sweden, and so are typically tuneful, upbeat and unpretentious. Their songs are joyous, gentle and poppy – the antidote to almost all current rock music.
Songs like Arpeggio are so simple, kind and happy that only a determinedly awful person would not feel toes involuntarily twitching to the twittering beat. Choruses soar sweetly, without bloating or preening. Old Man is almost Ska-Pop, but not quite; this in itself is its saving grace – and its chorus rockets into the clouds, mindless and gleeful. Early Morning changes again, slickly rocking with stabbing guitar and metronomic drums, and then Gold grabs a big, loony, falsetto chorus from the Chorus Gods and shoves it at you madly.
Friska Viljor are rock magpies, nibbling this sound and that riff and producing music that flip-slops whichever way they fancy. Maybe calling their sound a musicial Smörgåsbord would be one glib Swedish reference too far, but damn it, it fits perfectly. Get your fill here!

>Today’s New Band – From Saturn PLUS! Theology!

>It’s the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin‘s birth. His theory is being debated as furiously now as it has ever been – perhaps even more so. Most people broadly accept evolution as a sound explanation for life’s progress – it’s just that the crazed and dissenting minority are more tooth-rattlingly, mouth-foamingly vocal than ever.

What I enjoy hearing the most is not the mentally disturbed rantings of Creationists, but those who are trying to reconcile their centuries-old religions with a 150-year old scientific theory, a bit like how David Bowie jumped on the Drum ‘n’ Bass bandwagon in the mid 90’s. Hilariously, the Vatican claim that St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas actually got there first, and so if you think about it, evolution is actually all to do with God, yeah?

People love clinging onto their beliefs, especially ones that are specifically meaningful to them alone. Music means different things to different people, and rabid followers of bands are particularly befuddled individuals. I was once stuck on a ferry to Belgium with, apparently, the Queen fanclub, and they all had matching double-denim jackets ‘n’ jeans with Queen badges and patches all over them. They looked like particularly grumpy, beardy children’s entertainers and/or real ale fanatics.

You can be a crap band, but summon emotions way beyond the feasible. Today’s New Band, From Saturn, definitely aren’t crap, but may eventually conjure similarly fanatical tendencies. They’re from Sweden – which bands aren’t these days? – and make songs that sound as if they’ve been recorded in the bottom of a well filled with dry ice and guitar effect pedals.

Sometimes smashes softly, like the dense mist at the foot of a waterfall, and is appropriately welcoming, calming and dangerous all at once. There is so much guitar fuzz in the song that it even seems to have leeched into the vocals’ nihilistic drone. Buddies is hyped on uppers and, peering through a woozy fug, lurches forward, having too good a night for its own well being.

From Saturn have found what they like – fuzz, echo and wispy confusion – and they pound each song into submission with their ideals. The songs bend to their will, and not the other way around. I’m not sure if there’s a religious parallel to be drawn here or not. I am sure that you should listen to their songs, right here.