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Friday, June 22, 2007

The Hultsfred Report: The Day After

Although Hultsfred ended with a bang and a washout, I wasn’t done concert going yet. For, the day after the festival, in the small coastal town of Oxelösund, was the line-up of my dreams: a double billing of Melody Club and The Ark. Really, could it get any better than that? For me, it couldn’t.

The gig was held at the town’s Hamnfestival (harbor festival), and it was really quite bizarre circumstances, actually. For one, Oxelösund is even smaller than my home town (small enough that it didn’t even have a McDonalds!), and The Ark and Melody Club are two of Sweden’s biggest bands. I, quite frankly, would fall over and die if bands like that came to my town.
Second, the two groups played after an endless succession of local bands, who ranged from alright to awful. The venue was tiny and located right on the coast and there really weren’t all that many people there. Of course, that just meant that I could get close enough to touch the bands without being pushed around by the crowd.

The Gig:

First on were Melody Club, one of my favorite bands that I’ve (amazingly) never seen live before. They floored me with their energy. For some reason I thought they’d be more reserved, but lead singer Kristofer and bassist Niklas (formally lead singer of my other favorite band, The Mo) were absolutely crazy, flying around the stage like maniacs, dancing, strutting, and striking poses. Their set was brilliant as well, with all the hits (except, oddly, Boys In The Girls Room) and plenty of album tracks from their last two albums. Killing A Boy, one of my favorite MC songs, was a standout, while Electric proved to be a natural singalong piece. The show ended with Kristofer bounding off the stage and climbing onto one of the speakers, every inch of his bizarre haircut completely sopping with sweat. I have rarely seen a band give this much to their audience. It was amazing.

Next, of course, were the Ark. They played the same show that they had at Hultsfred, with a few minor changes. All I Want Is You replaced New Pollution, Melody Club’s Electric was sang in the middle of One Of Us Is Gonna Die Young instead of PSB’s Being Boring, and the Calleth You, Cometh I finale was shortened (though Melody Club joined them onstage to help sing instead of Pikko). All in all, it was a victory lap after the insanity of the night before, and it was great to see their show again in a slightly different (and much smaller) setting. Plus, it was a highlight for me to see Niklas Stenemo watching the band from the sidelines and to see the two bands interact. It’s a shame that I have to go all the way to Sweden to immerse myself in shows like this, rock shows that truly enter and take over my heart, but it was worth every penny (or kronor) that I spent.
The Dance Inc. - Don't Run To The Suburbs

"When you're still young, when you're seventeen"

This band's name pretty much tells you all you need to know about them, right? This song was submitted to me and, while I get a lot of submissions from artists and labels of varying quality, I'm always pleased when a submitter has obviously been reading my blog and knows what kind of music I post. The Dance Inc. creates moody, 80's inspired electro pop that has a real stately, accomplished feeling about it. Taking a break from all the amazing Swedes this week, this group hails from Germany, another hotbed of European talent (well, most of the time). Don't Run To The Suburbs (great title, btw) is from their new album Legs And Arms, which I am excited to hear in its entirety based upon the strength of this track.

The Dance Inc. - Don't Run To The Suburbs (mp3) (zshare)

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Hultsfred Report: Day Three

The third and final day of Hultsfred was really devoted to one act and one act only… The Ark (as if you really needed to guess). But, more on that later. Saturday was the day where the rain finally showed up and absolutely dumped on us all night. My hoodie, of course, was not waterproof. Luckily, my tent was.

Lisa Miskovsky

While I like a lot of Miskovsky’s songs, her middle of the road country pop wasn’t something that I was necessarily chomping at the bit to see performed live. And, as expected, the performance was good, but far from amazing. The singles and songs I knew were by far the best of the show, but everything else was pleasant enough. Miskovsky seemed to be having a good time, and that was enough for the crowd.
Best bit: Mary
Rating: ÅŽ

Fibes, Oh Fibes!

Despite really liking their singles, I just didn’t get this performance at all. The band performed in front of a large screen that showed a bizarre discovery channel type video of animals and nature shots. It didn’t go with the music at all, which, besides the singles, was really quite boring. I was happy to get out of the rain, as this event was located under a tent, but I ended up leaving early out of boredom.
Best bit: Can’t Be So
Rating: Ž


Despite hearing a lot about this band all over the internet, I actually didn’t know any of their songs. I really enjoyed their brand of cold electro pop, though, and it fit the rainy weather perfectly. The three girls walked on stage dressed in black leather and worked through their set in a very workmanlike, cold manner. It wasn’t off-putting at all, actually, and the thumping beats were a nice change from the acts earlier in the day. Some of their stuff was way too repetitive for my tastes, but all in all I think they earned a new fan in me.
Best bit: Lights Go Out, a very Goldfrapp-ish number
Rating: ÅÅÅ

Manic Street Preachers

I hate to admit that I’m only a new MSP fan, even though they’ve been around forever. In all fairness, they’ve never been very big in America, so there is a reason for my ignorance. Anyway, I’ve been loving their new album Send Away The Tigers, for the past few weeks, so I was excited to see them play. And, they were amazing live. I mean, it was pure, perfect rock and roll, oozing from every chord and drum beat. James Dean Bradfield sounded amazing live and the rest of the band was just as good. Plus, as a surprise bonus, Nina Persson (from the Cardigans) arrived onstage to duet with them on their newest single, Your Love Is Not Enough
Best bit: Your Love Is Not Enough
Rating: ÅÅÅŽ

Bobby Baby

Like Steso Songs the day before, Bobby Baby is a girl singer that plays minimalist piano/keyboard-based music. I enjoyed her show a bit more than Steso’s, though, mainly I think because she had a band behind her (though they were hardly like any other band). The drummer/guitarist/whatever-needed-playing-ist wore a bear suit (I was kind of jealous because I bet he was warm) and the keyboardist occasionally would walk over and throw glitter on her fellow bandmates. What is it with these Swedes and glitter? Still, although none of Bobby Baby’s songs really floored me, I was endlessly entertained by the performers’ seeming innocence and glee.
Best bit: Ten Years From Now
Rating: ÅÅÅ

Pet Shop Boys

Pet Shop Boys were the last to play and by the time their set began (1:00AM) it was absolutely pouring. I mean, buckets of water were drenching us. Luckily, I was front and center, squeezed between people to keep warm. Although PSB are not the most amazing live act around (they’re more of a studio group), they didn’t disappoint. They played most of their old hits and a lot of stuff from their newest album as well. Flanked by two complimentary dressed dancers, Neil Tenant was pure camp. Their stage light show was also pretty impressive, twinkling in the rain like some insane carnival ride.
Best bit: Can You Forgive Her?
Rating: ÅÅÅÅ

The Ark

So here it is folks, the Ark’s coronation… and the gig of my life. Headlining Hultsfred has got to be the biggest concert the group has ever done. Performing in front of thousands, the band put on the most energetic, theatrical and brilliant show I’ve ever seen. Ola was on fire, proving that he is the performer of my generation. It was really like seeing Queen at their prime, and you can’t argue unless you’ve seen this band live. Rattling through all of their hits with little time left for stuff off their new album (only New Pollution was played other than the three singles), the band was unstoppable. Ola brought out a harmonica for Clamour For Glamour, broke down into a bit of Pet Shop Boys’ Being Boring in the middle of One Of Us is Gonna Die Young, and transformed early anthem It Takes A Fool To Remain Sane into a slow building, epic sing-along. There were three costume changes, the first being my favorite, and a wicked Jepson guitar solo where he wore out his fingers until he had to gnaw on the thing with his teeth. Best of all, though, was the finale of Calleth You, Cometh I, the most life-affirming and breathtaking live experience I’ve ever had. Having seen The Ark live before, I knew that they always close with this track and turn it into an extended, fists in the air singalong, but tonight was different. In front of such an enormous crowd (where, this being Sweden, everyone knew the words to all their songs), the chorus of voices was unbelievably powerful. And, perhaps as a nod of support and friendship, Ola invited Pikko (remember her from day one?) and her band onstage to help sing along. It was rock music at its most powerful, and I left wiping tears from my eyes. I’m beginning to fear, after Eurovision, that The Ark may never find the global success that they deserve, but at least they had this night… a night where it truly felt like they ruled the world.
Best bit: Calleth You, Cometh I
Rating: ÅÅÅÅÅ+

Other acts I managed to catch a few songs by:
Säkert - I like Hello Saferide better, but this was pleasant enough
Evanescence - I’ve really fallen out with them, but I was impressed with the songs I liked
Turbonegro - Quite freaky, fat, hairy, and (presumably) smelly
The Blood Brothers - Far and away the worst band I saw at the festival…. unlistenable

(all photos courtesy of, who covered the whole festival)

Tomorrow I'll have all the details of the day after!!
Pikko - Kill With A Dance

"If I gave you the chance would you kill with a dance?"

I promised you some Pikko and here she is with her brilliant single Kill With A Dance. This song is so great that the first time I heard it I had to check and make sure it wasn't a cover. It sounds like an 80's classic... with one difference: the voice. You're either going to love her or hate her depending on whether or not you like her vocals. They're definitely unique. As my breakout performer of the Hultsfred Festival, though, I'm completely smitten. If only I could bottle up her live show and let you all see it. In a strange way she reminds me of the Russian runner up on last season of America's Next Top Model, if anyone watched that. I know that's completely random, but there you go. Basically, I think she and her music are very exciting and bizarre, and there really isn't enough bizarre pop in the world. Plus, the song's got one of the best, most irresistable choruses I've heard in some time. Let me know what you think about this track because I honestly don't think many people have heard it before.

Pikko - Kill With A Dance (mp3) (zshare)

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Download more for free here)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Hultsfred Report: Day Two

After a night of freezing camping, I went out to the town of Hultsfred (which I hesitate to even call a town, because it's more like a street) and bought a hoodie at a secondhand shop to cope with the cold Swedish nights. With that, I was ready to set off on day two, which was the most jam packed of the three festival days.


I only got to see about half of her show, which was a shame because out of all the Swedish female solo folk/pop singers, Laleh is by far my favorite. She sounded amazing live and was absolutely adorable. Her show was very minimal but she didn't need a lot of flare because her voice and musicianship spoke for itself. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see her perform November, my favorite of her songs.
Best bit: Salvation
Rating: ÅÅŽ


Juvelen's small stage area was packed with people waiting to see him and I was lucky to get a good spot. He entered dressed more like a roadie than a popstar, but his effortless charisma was undeniable. it was just him, a guitar and a backing track on the stage, but he rocked it even without a full band. He played all the singles, as well as some new tracks off of (presumably) his yet to be released debut album. The new tracks sounded every bit as good as the ones we've already heard, which leads me to believe his debut (whenever it's finally released) will be one of the albums of the year.
Best bit: Hanna, which sent the crowd into a fenzy
Rating: ÅÅÅŽ

The Sweptaways

I was intrigued by this group, a choir of female singers who cover classic pop hits, so I decided to stop by. The women were all dressed in elaborate and whimsical yellow/gold outfits and looked like they had jumped straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. They sounded great as a group, and in between songs individual members would come down and say apparently very witty things. I don't know, because eveything was in Swedish, but the audience was laughing.
Best bit: Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush cover)
Rating: ÅŽ

Those Dancing Days

I went to this gig solely on the response this group has gotten by my fellow bloggers. I wasn't overly familiar with most of their music, so it was a bit of an introduction for me. As an introduction, it wasn't highly memorable, but I did see a lot of potential in this young, chirpy band. It actually felt like watching Josie & The Pussycats as the girls bopped about looking almost scarily happy. I didn't hear anything that sounded like a breakout single in their set, so it'll be interesting to see how they do on the charts.
Best bit:
Opener Home Sweet Home (or at least I assume that's what it's called)
Rating: ÅÅ

Oh No Ono

I was really looking forward to seeing this strange group of Danes that I've been championing for so long on alienhits. They didn't disappoint at all. In fact, they were the sound of a band at the top of their game. The show was very loud and energetic, and it was hilarious to watch teh crowd's reaction as the guys opened their mouths and sang. The vocals are definitely an acquired taste, but those who stuck around for the whole show were in for a treat as the band played a furious set, even tossing in a surprisingly amazing Dylan cover. Plus, nothing was funnier than hearing their soundcheck before the gig. It sounded like a bunch of warbling aliens.
Best bit:Am I Right
Rating: ÅÅÅŽ

Steso Songs

This was another bizarre performance, as Korro (the voice behind Steso Songs, looking very much like a doll come to life) sat behind her pink keyboard and played some Tori Amos esque songs. At one point she plugged in her mp3 player and sang to a backing track, throwing glitter over herself as she performed. It was kind of strange and amatuerish, as if we were at her house and she just decided to get up on a whim and start singing. It wasn't completely successful, but it was at least interesting. Not all the songs were great, but there were definitely a few gems.
Best bit: The OD
Rating: ÅÅ

Ozzy Osbourne

This was very strange for me because I would never actually go to an Ozzy concert, as it's not really my thing. Still, the whole festival seemed to be obsessed by his presence so I knew that I had to see him, even if it was just for a laugh. The audience was full of scary old men dressed in leather and playing air guitar (never an attractive thing at all). Ozzy sounded horrible (as expected), but I've got to give him respect since he is a legend after all and has come up with some terrific hits in the past. His between song chat seemed to consist of only three phrases: "I can't fucking hear you!" "You're not loud enough" and "I fucking love you." Seriously, that's all he said. He was very funny, though, and I must say I enjoyed myself.
Best bit:
hearing him warble through Mama, I'm coming Home
Rating: ÅÅÅ


I enjoyed this band a lot last year but haven't really listened to them for some time. I was surprised to see them on the bill since their album passed by a year ago with moderate to little success. I was even more surprised about how vibrant they were live. I was blown away, really. They looked great and were one of the more energetic bands that I saw throughout my time at the festival. Apparently this was their last show before going back to London to record their new album. Based on the new songs they played here, it sounds like it's going to be amazing.
Best bit: Keep It Together
Rating: ÅÅÅŽ

Amy Winehouse

I finally got to see the carnival show that is Amy Winehouse live. She drank throughout the entire show, until she had to stumble offstage after uneasily warbling her way through the closer You Know I'm No Good. I couldn't understand anything she said in between songs, even though unlike most of the acts, it was said in English (well, Winehouse's version of the language, at least). Putting that all aside, though, her voice was phenomenal and the show was great as well. There was no denying Winehouse's star power, even though it was at times like watching a car crash.
Best bit: Rehab, what everyone was obviously waiting for
Rating: ÅÅÅÅ

Marit Bergman

This woman was a revelation! All I really knew about her before this was what I gleaned from her singles, and I never knew she was such a dynamic and astonishing live performer. She took the stage at 2:45 AM (just as the Swedish sun was rising... very strange) with her gargantuan sized band/cult and gave so much vibrant energy that it was impossible to feel tired even though it had been a long day of festival going. The show was so bombastic and energy filled that it practically felt like a religious experience. Bergman closed the show swooping down to the audience and running around the stage like a maniac. Ridiculously good.
Best bit: I Will Always Be Your Soldier
Rating: ÅÅÅÅÅ

Other acts I managed to catch a few songs by:
Salem Al Fakir - I only saw Dream Girl, but that's my fav. song and it was stunning
Goose - Great energy... songs were so so
Veto - Great songs... energy was so so
Mando Diao - I loved the singles, the rest wasn't so amazing
Sophie Zelmani - Snore
50 Cent - God he's annoying

(all photos courtesy of, who covered the whole festival)
Tomorrow I'll have all the details of day three!!
Hail Social - Annabelle

"You're the only girl that I will ever love"

I've been meaning to post this track forever. I wrote about neo-soft rock/disco band Hail Social months ago but that was before I heard the brilliant Annabelle. At just barely two minutes long, it's a short punchy pop song that sounds like a long lost summer classic. It's the kind of tune that'll have you singing along before it's over. Don't be fooled by the somewhat slow build-up, because at about 40 seconds in, it really blasts off and doesn't let up until the end. You'd be forgiven for mistaking this band for Hall & Oates or even the Bee Gees, because they possess that classic pop sound that not many current bands (besides maybe Under The Influene Of Giants) have managed to replicate.

Hail Social - Annabelle (mp3) (zshare)

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Hultsfred Report: Day One

What an eventful past few days it’s been! Hultsfred was a blast… so much so that it’s going to take me the rest of the week to describe it in full. Luckily it only rained one day out of the three, though Swedish nights are very cold (I seem to forget this, though, every time I go to Sweden).
Today starts my round-up of the acts that I saw at the festival. And, because I’m such a fan of reviews, I’ve rated each on a scale of one to five Å ’s, just because I like that particular Swedish character (and it’s fun to pronounce!).

Maia Hirasawa

The first act of the first day, I went into this only knowing her two singles (And I Found This Boy and Gothenburg), but loving what I had heard so far. Maia was absolutely adorable, and her small but extremely talented back-up band gave the music great character, with brass, string, and even whistle sections. All in all, a lot of Hirasawa’s stuff is a bit down tempo for me, but I was quite impressed with her vocal talent and the sheer joy with which she and her band played (especially the Olsen-twin-esque girls perched on either side of her who seemed to know how to play about every kind of instrument available to them).
Best bit: And I Found This Boy, in a different league than everything else performed
Rating: Å Å Å

Helena Josefsson

I was not all that familiar with Helena’s music before seeing her, but I had heard a few songs and was pretty impressed, so I decided to stop by. I felt a bit sorry for her at first because there didn’t seem to be much of a crowd, but she didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she was a bit crazy, lurching around the stage and singing about air hostesses. The same couldn’t be said for her stoic background singer, who rarely moved (but sounded great). It was funny because at several times during the performance Helena put her hand on the background singer’s shoulder and tried to interact with her, but the girl didn’t seem to notice or care. It was all very entertaining to me.
Best bit: The frantic operatics of The Moon Is A Grain Of Sand
Rating: Å Å ½


I had been looking forward to Laakso’s performance with great anticipation, as I truly think their new album (Mother, Am I Good Looking?) is one of the best releases in recent years. Luckily, they played most of my favorites from that album, including the perfect Norrköping and the emotional Västerbron (side note: on my way to Hultsfred I actually passed through the town of Norrköping and, like the nerd I am, I was way too excited about it). Their set consisted of a nice mix of old and new (though I don’t know why Never Satisfied wasn’t played and why In My Blood -my least favorite of their singles- went on for like ten minutes). Best of all, though, they brought on Peter Jöback as a surprise guest to duet with Markus for Italy vs. Helsinki. Phenomenal.
Best bit: the aforementioned Italy vs. Helsinki
Rating: Å Å Å Å ½

Sahara Hotnights

Playing the Pampas stage (the second biggest of the seven stages at Hultsfred), Sahara Hotnights commanded their piece of the festival with a very straightforward rock show. Entering the stage in matching (very tight) shirts and shorts, they launched right into their set, which was mostly songs from their new album with a few hits thrown in. All the singles went over very well, especially Cheek to Cheek. And, despite my slightly negative review of their new album a few months ago, SH fans will be pleased to know that I’m really warming up to it now. Neon Lights was especially good live.
Best bit: Cheek to Cheek, clearly their most popular single to date
Rating: Å Å Å


The poor girl was onstage unaccompanied and with nothing more than a backing track and a microphone. Still, she commanded the stage and looked very hip, dressed all in black. She went through almost all of the tracks on her debut album and danced like crazy with a huge smile on her face the entire time. It felt a lot like an intimate club gig.
Best bit: Shark Attack
Rating: Å Å ½

Anna Ternheim

I wasn’t going into this show feeling all that excited, expecting a somewhat bland performance given the mellow nature of most of Ternheim’s tracks. I was surprised, however, with how dynamic the show turned out to be. The use of synths on a lot of the tracks gave them a huge, symphonic sound and Ternheim proved to be remarkable both on the guitar and the piano.
Best bit: Shoreline, the stripped down closer
Rating: Å Å Å


This was the discovery of the night, for sure. Expect to hear a lot about this girl on alienhits once I can figure out where to get her bloody album. I went into her show knowing only one song (the brilliant Kill With A Dance), and I was floored with the bizarre, compelling show she gave. It started out with a video screen of Pikko singing, then she entered (dressed in skintight spandex -is there any other kind?- carried by two men in suits) and did some bizarre dance moves. Then, as she sang, her two men stood on either side of her looking very concerned and uninterested (both at the same time), until they broke down with an insane dance at the very end. It’s impossible to describe unless you’ve seen it, but believe me when I say that this girl is absolutely crazy. She never once spoke to the audience or even really acknowledged us. Instead, she and her band got on with acting like aliens and singing their amazing, high pitched electro pop. It was unbelievable, and it’s a shame there were only about a dozen people there to see it. I feel very lucky to have seen it because I think this girl could be huge. Somebody else apparently does as well, but more about that in my report on day three….
Best bit: Kill With A Dance
Rating: Å Å Å Å Å

Other acts I managed to catch a few songs by:

Billy Talent - Surprisingly good
Velvet Revolver - A bit silly, really
Tingsek - Sounded alright
Korn - Giving American music a bad name...

(all photos courtesy of, who covered the whole festival)

Tomorrow I'll have all the details of day two!!

Napoleon - I Love My Baby (But If Anyone Touches Her I'll Kill Them)

"Lovin' me so loose"

Hey everyone! I'm back from my Hultsfred sojourn with a band so great that I have to post not one, but two tracks by them today. Napoleon is a new Swedish band with a fantastic old-school soul-pop sound. If you're a fan of Moneybrother's off kilter vocals you'll love lead singer Johan Barrett's singing, but it's really the background vocals of the girls that power this band and give their sound a great classic pop feel that should appeal to pretty much anybody with ears. Add to that songs of incredible catchiness and you've got an absolutely amazing band in the making. They haven't yet released their debut album, but they have a new single out called Cleopatra that sounds great. If you're in the mood for some shimmering summertime pop, this post is definitely for you. Get on the bandwagon early and become a Napoleon fan before they set Swedish radio on fire, which of course they will.

Napoleon - I Love My Baby (But If Anyone Touches Her I'll Kill Them) (mp3) (zshare)
Napoleon - I Try To Despise The Ugly People (But The Beautiful Ones Keep Turning Me Down) (mp3) (zshare)

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Download more for free here)