Vikings and Elves: Music from Sweden

From the most intimate introspection to the cutting edge of electronic sound-art, Sweden (population: just over nine million) is producing some of today's most compelling modern popular music. And it's not just Peter Bjorn and John, The Knife or Jose Gonzalez: All Songs Considered lays out a smorgasbord of lesser-known Swedish music highlights from 2007.

Loney, Dear

Loney Dear
Courtesy of Sub Pop Records

In the space of three years, the one-man band Loney, Dear (a.k.a. Emil Svanangen) has put together four exquisite LP-length records — in his parents' basement. Earlier this year, the Sub Pop label picked some of them up to distribute stateside, giving U.S. audiences a chance to hear his sense for infectious melodies and impressive orchestration. (from Loney, Noir, Sub Pop)

E.S.T.

E.S.T.
Courtesy of Emarcy/Universal

Perhaps E.S.T. isn't pop per se — it's often called jazz — but Sweden also has a long history of great jazz music. Yet pianist Esbjorn Svensson's trio isn't quite bebop, either: More accurately, it's been making a subtle and intricate sort of instrumental music for years. The group's new album blends aggression and impressionism in a thoroughly modern way. (from Tuesday Wonderland, Emarcy/Universal)

The Field

The Field
Courtesy of Kompakt Records

Pop music is often built on structures designed to propel songs forward: When a phrase is played, you expect it to be completed or developed somehow. But it's what doesn't happen on the new album from The Field (a.k.a. Axel Willner), and that makes it appealing. If you think minimal techno couldn't possibly be gorgeous or even interesting, give a listen to this song. (from From Here We Go Sublime, Kompakt)

Sambassadeur

Labrador
Courtesy of Labrador Records

The Labrador label has been one of the leading lights of independent Swedish pop for some time now. Long enough, anyway, to have put together a new four-CD set commemorating the release of its 100th record. The group Sambassadeur produces a heartfelt, wistful sound tinged with muted grandiosity — a good representation of the Labrador aesthetic. (from Labrador 100: A Complete History of Popular Music, Labrador)

The Tough Alliance

The Tough Alliance
Courtesy of Summer Lovers Unlimited

Though the Tough Alliance has been known for provocation in Sweden for some time — both in terms of music and stage antics — it's just beginning to gain attention in the U.S. Guest DJ Jens Lekman, himself a prime Swedish export, hipped us to the progressive electro-pop duo, which he calls one of his favorite groups. (from New Waves EP, Summer Lovers Unlimited)

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Labrador 100, A Complete History of Popular Music

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Labrador 100, A Complete History of Popular Music
Artist
Various Artists
Label
Labrador
Released
2007

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Loney, Noir

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Loney, Noir
Artist
Loney, Dear
Label
EMI
Released
2007

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From Here We Go Sublime

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From Here We Go Sublime
Artist
The Field
Label
Kompakt Germany
Released
2007

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Tuesday Wonderland

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Album
Tuesday Wonderland
Artist
Esbjörn Svensson Trio
Label
Emarcy

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