Click here to download a zipped file containing all 21 mp3 files and the front and back cover artwork.
1. CoStar: Yeah Right (Keep It Light, 2004)
When Even Johansen’s solo success as Magnet caused the demise of Libido, few people were watching what the other band members would do. Certainly no one expected drummer Jorgen Landhaug to “do a Dave Grohl”, put together a new band and write and record one of the most engaging and under-rated rock albums of 2004. Re-naming himself “Brighton Gay”, this Norwegian maverick roped in his former Libido bandmate Johansen to mix the majority of this album, and it has Magnet’s magic stamp all over it. This album features catchy, hook-filled rocking songs which grow on you with every listen. No two songs sound anything alike. I was right about Magnet when no-one was giving him the time of day, and I believe I’m right about CoStar too. Fantastic stuff.
2. Johan Bergqvist: Bliss (Throwaway Moments, 2004)
Johan Bergqvist’s full-length debut album delivers on the promise of his previous EP “Boy Extracting Thorn”. It lulls you with piano/voice opener “A Silent Cry For Help” before exploding into the power-pop single “Bliss” which isn’t 100 miles away from Ben Folds when he takes himself seriously. Bergqvist also delivers a disarmingly mellow interpretation of Popsicle’s powerpop classic “Hey Princess” which has been highly praised by it’s composers. More piano-based than his earlier work, this album is balanced out by having an equal number of ballads and upbeat numbers. And Johan has very kindly signed every copy he sent us. What a nice chap!
3. Moi Caprice: To The Lighthouse (You Can’t Say No Forever, 2005)
This was one of Spinguy’s discoveries, and I’m glad he found it. Moi Caprice rose to underground fame when they were the first ever unsigned band to hit no. 1 on the Danish Alternative Chart. One of two Danish bands who have gotten us excited in recent months, Moi Caprice are really hard to pigeonhole. The singer has a unique, velvety voice that’s not a million miles away from Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue. The music is mostly upbeat pop but has an other-worldliness to it that you can’t put your finger on. This album and their earlier debut release (see track 20) are two of my most played CDs of recent months.
4. The Mopeds: Refused Demoland (Fortissimo, 2005)
It’s been four years since The Mopeds released “The Land Of The Three” and while nothing IMHO can touch their 1998 debut ”The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Mopeds”, Fortissimo is a great return to form for this Malmo trio. They are studio wizards and this album is brimming with frenetic high energy power pop that bursts from the speakers from start to finish. This is one to play loud, and exclusively signed for us here at Popsicle by all three Mopeds!
5. Labrador: Freeway To Mars (Instamatic Lovelife, 2004)
This is the second album from Danish pop dude Flemming Borby and his almost-one-man-band Labrador. Spinguy reckons that this album could easily be one of the greatest all time pop recordings ever made. “Every song is like an instant long lost friend who’s company never grows old” he says. Well, I wouldn’t go quite as far as that, but if you like your Scandinavian pop light, airy and whimsical, this album is surely for you.
6. Metro Jets: Lady Gwendoline (download-only single, 2005)
You’ll be forgiven for not realizing that Metro Jets had released a second single, seeing as it was a download-only affair on a Swedish website that even I had trouble navigating my way around. So Magnus kindly let me share the track with you on this sampler, and it’s a real corker of a song. While it lacks the immediate-pop-heaven-hookiness of “The Morning Show”, it’s a delightful piano-based 70’s influenced romp with cascading vocal harmonies that would put a smile on Brian Wilson’s face. Lord only knows what these guys will come up with next!
7. Girlfriend: Blank (Opening Nights, 2001)
Girlfriend is the other Danish band we’ve only just discovered. Spinguy was horrified to find that you couldn’t get their albums anywhere, so we decided to stock both this one and their just-released “Blue Sky Love Scene” (see track 19). They have in common with Moi Caprice an unusual lead singer, but Girlfriend are a more straight-up pop/rock band who have clearly been listening to all the right guitar bands of the last ten years. I actually hear a lot of The Motorhomes in their sound, which can only be a good thing. These guys have been in heavy rotation here at Popsicle HQ lately.
8. The Charade: Monday Morning (The Best Is Yet To Come, 2005)
One of the most touted Swedish pop releases of the year, The Charade has the right pedigree, featuring members of The Shermans with roots that go back to both Red Sleeping Beauty and Happydeadmen. The first time I put this particular song on I didn’t make too much of the verse, but the chorus was like slipping into a warm vat of pop custard and I was hooked. Any fans of jangly guitar pop and girly vocals will be hard put to find a warmer slice of pop sunshine this year.
9. Jens Lekman: The Opposite Of Hallelujah (The Opposite Of Hallelujah EP, 2005)
I saw Jens play a packed club here in Toronto the day this EP came out (on tiny local Toronto indie label Evil Evil). After the show he took his ukulele out onto the street, followed by half the club, and played three more songs to the assembled masses in the freezing cold on College Street! True to his previous EPs it’s a cohesive and brilliant bit of work that has tracks that will not see the light of day on any album. Brilliant use of horns, strings and his curious style make this as noteworthy as all his previous EP’s. Don’t wait until they’re gone…these are bound to become collector’s items.
10. Magnet: Believe (The Tourniquet, 2005)
This was easily my most anticipated album of the year, having loved everything this guy has ever released, and that was BEFORE I found out that my pop hero Jason Falkner was co-producing and playing all over it! Suffice to say it was worth the wait. I was surprised to find that it was a little more understated than his previous work, especially with Falkner onboard, but that’s easy to forgive when the songs are this good.
11. Daniel Saturn: Settle Down (Softly, 1998)
I was looking over the past sampler tracklists and I realized that I never featured anything from Daniel Saturn’s bedroom 8-track masterpiece debut “Softly” before. Coupled with the fact that NO-ONE has ordered it from Popsicle despite the fact that it’s the only place ON THE PLANET where you can get this CD, I figured it was time to give it a little push. Basically, If John and Paul had been born ten years later and played in Stockholm instead of Hamburg, with Bjorn and Benny instead of George and Pete, well….they might have sounded like Daniel Saturn. Oh, and all our Daniel Saturn CDs are signed by the elusive man himself.
12. Ane Brun: To Let Myself Go (A Temporary Dive, 2005)
I was taken with Ane Brun’s disarming voice and unusual songwriting and production right away, and this album is proving to be one of the best of the year. Ron Sexsmith makes an appearance too, but not on this song.
13. The Perishers: When I Fall (From Nothing To One, 2002)
I make no bones about my love of The Perishers. I’ve been hooked on these guys since I first heard this, their debut album a few years ago. I was delighted when they got picked up by Nettwerk, and I was thrilled to watch them sell 900 copies of their new album off the stage at a single concert in Toronto opening for Sarah McLachlan in May. Then I found out that Nettwerk are basically doing absolutely nothing with their debut album and decided it was my duty to make it more widely available. BOTH their albums are pure solid gold from start to finish, it’s as simple as that. I dare you not to love this band!
14. Dive: Alive (Unfortunately Dead EP, 2004)
Spinguy got his knickers all in a twist over this Danish four-piece earlier this year. He thought they were the second coming. So much so that he talked me into stocking this 4 track EP, something I don’t normally do. I get where they’re coming from with their PIL-inspired 80’s tinged sound and I love the strings on this tune. The singer has a really unusual voice which Spinguy loves and I can take or leave. Here’s hoping they do a full-length album soon so we can see what they’ve really got going on. Four songs just isn’t enough to go on…
15. Labrador: In A Blue Balloon (Goodbye Susanne, 2002)
Here’s another one that you really can’t find anywhere unless you can navigate your way around Japanese websites. Labrador’s debut album only ever came out there, and it costs an arm and a leg to import, but Spinguy threatened not to share his toys with me if I didn’t get it, and I must admit it’s a rather special little album. Flemming Borby barely changed his sound between the two albums, which won’t draw complaints from fans of this style of spacey boy/girl tweepop.
16. Holm: Tell It Like It Is (South Of The River, 2004)
Keeping up the tradition of featuring a non-Scandinavian artist on the sampler CD, I present you with Holm, a German pop crooner whose “South Of The River” album is a real treat. I don’t know if he listens to anything that came out after 1972, but let’s not hold that against him. His voice is lovely, the songs are great and his arrangements fit the music perfectly. Spinguy did an interview with him which you can read here: http://www.indiespinzone.com/bands/holm.html
17. Popium: Matters Of The Heart (Camp, 2004)
I’d like to go on record as saying that this CD was a BUGGER to get hold of. I started trying to get it the week it came, and it was in my hands, oh, about six months later. Lazy record companies aside, there are some real pop gems on this third Popium album, as you would expect. I don’t know how much touring they did behind it but they’re apparently back in the studio already working on the follow-up.
18. Girlfriend: Everyday I Wake Up (Blue Sky Love Scene, 2004)
Here’s a second cut from Girlfriend, this time from their most recent “Blue Sky Love Scene”. It’s a more ambitious album than their debut but they pull it off nicely. There’s not a duff track on it.
19. Moi Caprice: Daisies (Once Upon A Time In The North, 2003)
I think I’ve listened to this album 15 times at least in the last month. The fact that Spinguy and I are BOTH blown away by these guys should be a pretty strong indication of how great they are. I mean, listen to this track….have you ever heard anything quite like it before? I certainly haven’t.
20. Jaga Jazzist: Stardust Hotel (What We Must, 2005)
I’m going out on a bit of a limb with this selection, but I reckon that if you’re still coming back after seven sampler CDs you’ll give me a little latitude. Norwegian 10-piece instrumental “new jazz” combo Jaga Jazzist have released one of the most engaging left-field albums of the year. It’s much more guitar-heavy than their previous efforts, which is one of the reasons I like it so much, and they even dropped the “Jazzist” part of their name in recognition of their new direction, but they are still referred to by the full name in most circles. Make sure you listen to this track at least three times, and play it loud. At night. In the car.
21. Anna Ternheim: I’ll Follow You Tonight (Somebody Outside, 2004)
This album came out late last year with very little fanfare. My contact at Stockholm Records sent me a copy and I listened to it a couple of times and filed it away. Then Anna started to gather steam in the Swedish charts and I decided to have another crack at it. Like a fine wine it had matured considerably and has been in heavy rotation for the last few months. This is super introspective, sparsely arranged folk/pop with a truly unique voice. There’s a limited edition double CD with the second disc full of solo renditions and some non-album tracks.