Infinite Shuffle

April 27, 2014

203 – Mr. Little Jeans

Filed under: Los Angeles, M, Norway — assman41 @ 3:00 am

When I first heard Lykke Li back in 2008, I never would’ve guessed that six years later, I’d be using her as a reference point for so many new artists. It seems like a new woman or female-fronted band pops up every month that owes a debt of gratitude to Li for paving the way for the recent surge of soulful electro-pop.

It was only a few weeks ago that Highasakite was dominating my airwaves, and now one of their Norwegian brethren has taken their place in the form of Mr. Little Jeans. The name — which is an awesome reference to a bit character from the movie, Rushmore — is the moniker for Monica Birkenes, who left Scandinavia for Los Angeles, after an extended layover in London.

Last month, she dropped her debut full-length, Pocketknife, which is filled with catchy hooks and enough beats to get hips shakin’ and heads bobbin’.

That’s “Runaway”, probably the best song on the album. Just listen to that chorus, and you’ll immediately want to put it on repeat.

There is very little filler among the 12 tracks here, with each song conjuring up a different influence.

The solid opener, “Rescue Song” is reminiscent of Feist and Ingrid Michelson and others of that ilk. It’s followed by one of several sleeper hits on the album, “Mercy”, which is so sneaky that it isn’t until the song is over that you realize how great it was. And then you’re forced to play it again.

Then comes the aforementioned “Runaway”, which could easily hold its own against any of HAIM‘s recent hits.

That is followed by “Oh Sailor”, featuring the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Youth Chorale. If it brings to mind Dead Man’s Bones’ debut album, that’s because the entire thing was a collaboration with the same youth choir. Also, both albums were produced by Tim Anderson.

“Don’t Run” calls to mind both Li and Zola Jesus, but by the end it suffers from Anderson’s reliance on computer effects.

“Good Mistake”, which was the title track of an EP released in February, rounds out a strong first half to the album.

The back half of the disc is notably lacking in flair, but it never sinks too far. Track 9 is a cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”, which helped Mr. Little Jeans earn some internet buzz a few years ago. It’s followed by another sleeper track, “Heaven Sent”, which seems like it should be higher up in the pecking order.

“Far From Home” is one of several songs in which Birkenes sounds like she could be related to Imogen Heap — or at least have the same auto-tune program as the former Frou Frou singer.


April 3, 2014

200 – Highasakite

Filed under: H, Norway — assman41 @ 2:07 pm

I am pleased that my 200th “official” band post is on a group that has the potential to be a favorite of mine for years to come.

I first heard about Highasakite during All Songs Considered‘s post-SXSW podcast. Of all the bands the music enthusiasts touted, this Norwegian quintet was the one that really stood out to me.

The group consists of Ingrid Helene Håvik (vocals), Trond Bersu (drums), Øystein Skar (synths), Marte Eberson (synths) and Kristoffer Lo (guitar, percussion and flugabone). Håvik, who writes most of the lyrics and music, has a voice and cadence that sounds like a mix of Lykke Li and the Söderberg sisters in First Aid Kit.

That’s the first single off the band’s sophomore album, Silent Treatment, which is set to be released April 8. While “Since Last Wednesday” is a great song, it’s not the best on the disc. That distinction belongs to “Leaving No Traces”, the track that was played on All Songs Considered.

Since I couldn’t find a good video of the song, you’ll just have to go here to check out the song on NPR.

Besides the above two tracks, the album is filled with solid tunes, including “Lover Where Do You Live?”, “I the Hand Grenade”, “Darth Vader” and “Hiroshima”.

The group began as a two-piece when Håvik met Bersu at Trondheim Jazz Conservatory and the pair started writing, recording and performing together. It doesn’t appear as though their jazz studies influenced their current sound too much.

Highasakite dropped its debut album, All That Floats Will Rain, in Norway in February 2012. Later, they took that disc’s best tracks and released them as a five-song EP, In and Out of Weeks, worldwide in March 2013. Everything on the EP is solid, but the standouts are the title track and “Winners Don’t Come Easy”.

You can check out several tracks from both albums on their SoundCloud page.

September 23, 2012

131 – Team Me

Filed under: Norway, T — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Anyone who pays attention to the indie music scene knows that Scandinavia is a hotbed for up-and-coming acts. It seems like every time you turn around, there’s a heavily hyped band whose members’ names are full of funny-looking letters.

For a region so small in terms of population, it turns out a disproportionate amount of great music. Sweden gets most of attention, and rightfully so, with a slew of talent that includes First Aid Kit, Lykke Li, Shout Out Louds, The Radio Dept., Junip, Fine Arts Showcase and Marching Band — just to name a few.

But just to the west lies another incubator of indie talent — Norway. And the latest Norwegian export that is trying to gain a foothold in America is Team Me, a six-piece from the city of Elverum.

Falling somewhere on the indie spectrum between The Polyphonic Spree and New Pornographers, Team Me churn out electro-tinged pop anthems that beg to be sung along to.

In case you didn’t catch the title, that was “With My Hands Covering Both of My Eyes I Am Too Scared To Have a Look at You Now”, easily the most fun and catchy track on the band’s debut full-length, To the Treetops!, which was released in the United States in March.

The group was thrown together somewhat haphazardly in early January 2010 to perform at a Norwegian music competition. It didn’t win, but it did start receiving some critical praise. Eventually, as the buzz grew, Team Me toured, signed with a label and put out an EP.

By the time To the Treetops! came out in Norway last October, the native bloggers were racing to proclaim the band the best thing to ever come out of their country.

Besides a cameo appearance at SXSW in March, Team Me have pretty much sequestered themselves in Europe. But, as their popularity grows, it’ll be hard for them not to tour worldwide.

October 10, 2010

46 – The Megaphonic Thrift

Filed under: M, Norway — assman41 @ 12:01 am

The Megaphonic Thrift, a four-piece from Norway, conjure up thoughts of Dinosaur Jr. and Built To Spill, falling somewhere in between twee-pop and the distorted, fuzz-rock of Sonic Youth. One contemporary that definitely comes to mind is the early work of fellow Scandinavians The Radio Dept.

The group has been together for a little while but didn’t release anything noteworthy until the past year. Last October, they dropped the six-track EP A Thousand Years of Destruction, followed in March by their first full-length, Decay Decoy.

I’ve listened to each about four or five times in the past couple weeks, and they’ve really grown on me. I first discovered the band on RCRD LBL’s Oya Festival playlist.

Other than that song, there are few standout tracks. Mostly, The Megaphonic Thrift is perfect background music — not necessarily chill-out music, what with all the distortion and guitars, but music to work to.

Between their MySpace and Facebook pages, you can hear nine different songs, including my favorite, “Dragons vs. Dust”.

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