New Tunes from Klangstof

klangstofYou all know how I love my Scandinavian tunes, so when there’s something incredible popping up, I’ve got to give it some press. Seems like I might even be a bit behind, as this track from Klangstof has blown up overnight…deservedly so. Opening with softened pop is an easy way to catch my ear from the start, yet the song pushes forward building on the initial opening by filling in the space with playful, infectious samples. This tune works on multiple levels too, bursting with pop sensibility at moments, then reigning it in for a smoother croon that soothes the soul. The group has signed with Mind of Genius, so we should be hearing more about a nice full-length in the near future.

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The Megaphonic Thrift Makes Its Way to the USA

megaphonicIt’s been a rather big year for The Megaphonic Thrift, winning all sorts of awards in their homeland, Norway. But, there’s still the US market left to conquer, which should be easier now that the band has signed on with Old Flame Records to release Sun Stare Sound on this side of the pond. Their sound reminds me a lot of the tunes of early Stars, playing upon the dynamic interchange between male and female vocalists. I will say there’s a little more detail added to the songs too, giving a more artistic touch to theircraftsmanship. Look for the band to make waves when the album comes out later on this year.

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Sorry I Slept on Dylan Mondegreen

LIFE134_Cover480Shelflife Records is one of my favorite small labels, and with that, they’ve got an expected sound…but their signing of Dylan Mondegreen is a slight turn to the more casual side of pop music. Here you find the title track of his album Every Little Step, with Mondegreen playing the role of indiepop crooner. It’s relaxed and filled with simple melodies, which might draw similarities to Jens Lekman. I look forward to hearing the complete work from the Norwegeian, knowing I fully trust the label and their choices. Look for the LP on April 8th.

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Have You Heard of Death by Unga Bunga

deathbyungabungaIn the world of band names, I’ll have to say that Death by Unga Bunga falls on the stranger side of things (though clearly not the strangest).  Still, their music isn’t too far out there, instead nestling itself alongside today’s purveyors of power pop. It’s got a hint of garage influence and brattiness, though there’s still this undeniable lineage to early 90s alternative pop music. Think of listening to Superdrag record hits in your neighbor’s garage; it sounds like a recipe for success if you ask me. The band’s debut Tell Me Why EP will be released on October 2nd, so keep an eye and ear out for the Unga Bunga.

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Nice To Meet You, Kid Astray

kid astray image by akam1k3You all know by now that we are full on suckers for a great pop song. I was trolling about the internets and came across Norway’s Kid Astray. Scandinavia is churning out some hits these days and this hits all the marks for indie pop bliss – plinking synth, great bass line, lovely hooks, harmonies and the break and build. “Diver” plays as Tear For Fears meets Wild Cub. I was sad to see we missed them when they came for SxSW in 2014. Bummer. The album Home Before The Dark is out June 15.

Soundtracking your holiday weekend, people…

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Sweeping Beauty from I Was a King

iwasakingTwo things have already made my year, musically speaking, pretty remarkable.  One I’ll keep to myself, and the other is this new tune from I Was a King.  Their previous three releases were wrapped around the mold of classy power-pop, and I adored them all.  Now, the band is growing, sonically.  You’ll notice on this first single alone that there’s a vast difference in the pacing, not to mention the fact that there’s a female vocal up front from Anne Lise, which is a slight twist, though one that I find intriguing.  Can’t wait for the band to release their next album, which is still shrouded in a bit of mystery…I’ll keep you up to date as I know more.

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Brand New Tunes from I Was a King

iwasakingIf you’ve followed this web site for some time, then you’ll surely be aware of my unabashed love for I Was a King.  Through three albums, they’ve continued to amaze me with their pop tunes, and today there are signs that they’re progressing even further.  They’ve got a new single coming out soon, and they’ve allowed us to share one of the tracks with you all, so we’re doing just that.  I’ve chosen “Oslo Share,” which displays the band working with their excellent vocal harmonies, providing music that continues to leave an impression, even as the song comes to an end.  IWK will be working on a new album in September, and I guarantee it’s going to be amazing.

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Rocking It Out With Mikhael Paskalev

1170In my experience, music from Norway doesn’t sound quite like Mikhael Paskalev.  At first opening it seems to have some sort of barroom jangling troubadour, with a nice little effect on the vocals, but then he changes the direction of the track, slowing it down to allow room for his pop-centricities to slide through.  He’s about to release the below single on March 5th via Mom + Pop, so it should be making some waves just before he blows into Austin for our annual SXSW festival.

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I Was a King – You Love It Here

Rating: ★★★★½

I’ve long praised the wonderful work of I Was a King, and for a bit I felt like I was the only one that noticed.  It seems that wasn’t true at all (thank goodness) with the band getting a touch of grace on production duties; Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Robyn Hitchcock share duties on You Love It Here.  If that’s not enough to sway you towards the excellent work of this Norwegian trio, then perhaps I can push you just a little further.

Three albums into their career and the group opens You Love It Here with perhaps one of their best songs, “Frozen Disease.”  The guitar has that nostalgic ring to it, distorted yet melodic.  The song itself has a down-trodden temp, but Frode’s voice has this warmth to it that somehow allows the song to avoid any sense of melancholy, even if that’s the intent of the vocals.  Then they move off into their meat-and-potatoes indie pop, blending slightly angular guitar work, emphatic drumming and harmonies that would make your mother swarm.  “Leave” is the sort of song that originally endeared me to the group, and it’s clear that even with great producers on hand, you can’t take away a band’s songwriting sensibilities.

You’ve only got to skip ahead a few tracks to see the progression I Was a King has made in their songwriting; it’s nice to see them holding close to certain aspects, yet still see them pushing forward.  “Hanging On” isn’t filled with distorted guitars, rather it’s filled with vocal harmonies and light instrument strumming.  I particularly love the change in the vocal pitch that comes in right at 1:40 on your player; this is a mood affecting shift that’s been perfected by the likes of Nada Surf.  Another move that was unexpected, yet welcomed, was Anne taking the lead on “Superhero.”  For the majority of the track, there’s a hint of guitar, though it’s been cleared out in the studio to let her vocal shine through, remaining the perfect focus.  It’s striking, not only for the power in Frokedal’s voice, but in its ability to break up some of the album.  While I love power-pop and such, a little differentiation goes a really long way.

As always though, the winner on You Love It Here seems to be the sound of the guitars.  “Food Wheels” enters near the end of the album, and while there’s still that element of swirling guitar, a more rudimentary sound is what struck me most.  The distortion is peeled back, and I dare say that there’s a bit of a jangle to the track.  It’s similar to the earlier appearance of “Eric” on the record, though that track has more of a chugging folk guitar vibe, and a more pronounced rhythm.  All in all, these tiny additional touches demonstrate both exceptional songwriting and the band’s ability to adapt/change.

Sometimes when I listen to a record like You Love It Here, I want to hold it close to my heart/ears.  It’s the perfect pop record that I can play any time of year, and it will always bring a smile to my face.  That’s selfish though; the whole world needs to get a chance to listen to I Was a King.  If you make one decision today, I beg you to make sure that it’s to pick up this delightful record from our friends in Norway; it’s a decision that will improve your life drastically, I swear.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/1-01-Frozen-Disease.mp3]

 

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