Football eh? Let’s get into Euro 2016 by deciding which nation’s Listen Outside recommended song is better. There’s two videos and a poll. You know what to do.
France: With You – Clément Bazin [Floaty tropical dance with steel drums]
Romania: Dream About Your Face – Antonia [Solo female electropop with a big chorus]
The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky and you’re listening to the anthemic sounds of Basque rock group, Gatibu. Like a lot of regional language groups and subsumed nations, the Basque speaking parts of Spain and France have a strong musical scene in their own language. Gatibu, which means ‘captive’ in Basque, aren’t avoiding the political implications of singing in their own language, but on songs like Gabak Zerueri Begire (which means something like ‘Nights looking at the sky’), they’re also not about to be po-faced about when they could party. I can explain all the bums in the video – there’s a line in the chorus about how it would be cool to dance naked, and that’s what all the Gatibu fans are doing.
But this song. It’s lovely, summery, slightly ska-influenced singalong pop rock. It makes you think that there’s still time to book festival tickets. Ey-oh, ey-oh.
Gatibu have a multilingual website
From Finland’s thriving pop scene comes Ufoja: a lovely burst of futuristic, yet warm-hearted anthemic pop music by Vilma Alina. It’s got a lovely rising bridge, a chorus that’s rhythmically confusing enough to get stuck in your brain and just enough robotic bells and whistles to keep it interesting all the way to the end.
Vilma has been on the Finnish pop scene since about 2014, as a solo artist and playing keyboards live for fellow Finnish pop star Robin. As we’re going to keep saying at Listen Outside, you don’t have to understand the lyrics to get the song. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Vilma in the future and giving her album a listen too.
Vilma is on Spotify
Who amongst us does not want to be as cool as Berlin? This 2008 song from Valeska Steiner is a walk down a back alley to a rave in a squat in Kreuzberg – which at that point was still a cool neighbourhood.
This song, with a rather farty bassline, very lazy surf riffs and tinny hipster drum machine, is really different from the rest of Valeska’s singer-songwriter material, and much more interesting. It sounds cool, but communicates the nature of being a bit of a try-hard at the same time. It also deserved to be a bigger hit than it was.
Valeska is also half of BOY, who appear to doing rather well from their Spotify page, but again none of it has quite the laconic, bubblegum-snapping charm of Cool As Berlin.
BOY are on Twitter
BOY are on Spotify
Valeska’s solo album is on Spotify
Vampires and bankers! Some spirited anti-capitalist rock for you.
This is not new music, but if you’ve not heard it, it’s quite a thing. Barón Rojo are a Spanish hard rock/metal band who’ve been trucking almost continuously since 1981. If you need a higher recommendation than mine, try Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. It also sounds from some of the rhythm guitar like they’ve got some of the same songwriting harmonic template as The Misfits. Anything halfway between Maiden and The Misfits is going to be of interest to me, and that’s precisely where this song lies.
I found some of the studio albums I sampled to have aged somewhat badly in terms of production technique, but the live album that this version of Vampiros y Banqueros comes from is extremely powerful, putting their musicianship and showmanship centre stage. Their website reports that the current line-up is touring. It’s probably worth a look.
Barón Rojo have a website
Barón Rojo have tour dates
We’re not just here to dance. Except this song definitely came here to dance, in that amazing 2001 to 2008 guitar disco way. Remember when the NME still cost money? Remember when suddenly you could actually dance at the indie disco again? Remember when you put rhinestones all over your Converse? (Was that just me?)
Pfemme Records don’t have a lot of info in English, but via my Level 5 Duolingo Swedish (I’m working on it) and Google Translate, I have worked out that they’re a Swedish feminist indie rock collective. They have produced for us this awesome tune with splendidly, defiantly political lyrics and some proper dancefloor action. And now I know how to say ‘minimizing us is not an option’ in Swedish, amongst other important vocab building phrases.
In a hypothetical ‘Listen Outside’ club night, we would play this back to back with Standing In The Way Of Control and we’d all chant along to the ‘dig, dig, dig, dig, dig’ bit in the middle eight.
Pfemme Records are on Soundcloud
Pfemme Records have a shop
Yona is another magnificent product of the Finnish dream pop industry. Naivi – released in May 2105 – was her 5th album in five years, and one that I was introduced to via the sonorous, unhurried beauty of the opening track Matka.
This record is like the a refreshing evening breeze after a stifling hot day. It’s the sound of the condensation on the first glass of wine.of a beautiful summer holiday. If the thermal contrast metaphors aren’t strong enough, it’s a collection of low key but not lightweight songs of delicate, tango influenced beauty.
Other highlights include the cute, slightly dubby Niitty ja taivas, blissed out but anthemic Indigoi (which incorporates spoken word bits – extra points!) and Tule minun luokseni rakas, which is the main theme from the mumblecore Bond film they’re making in a parallel universe. And then there’s vagely the Portisheadian Syyt which appears to have been a single.
I look forward to spending quiet summer evenings with this on, and will soon be getting into her next EP – Jona which is apparently out soon. Hurrah for lovely, prolific Yona.
Yona has a website
Yona is on Spotify
Would you like an earworm? Would you like some light hearted pop music cranked up to almost terrifying intensity, cut through by a lovely/infuriating birdsong riff? Well. Have I got a song for you.
Zlata took this song, with its groovy Hammond organ stabs and massive chorus, through Ukraine’s Eurovision selection process in 2011. I wasn’t watching National Finals back in 2011, but this one sounds like a doozy, with drama, disqualifications, the threat of the return of Verka Seduchka, and a sufficient level of uncertainty about the integrity of the result that they had to re-run the Grand Final, from which Zlata and future Ukrainian heroine Jamala asked for their songs to be withdrawn. Such drama! But even without the backstory, The Kukushka stands up as an inspired bit of pop music.
Zlata did eventually get to go to Eurovision, of course, with the equally high-intensity Gravity (which manages that musical trick of seeming to be entirely composed of ever-rising key-changes) but I think The Kukushka is the more interesting and inexplicable song.
Zlata is on UK Spotify
Zlata is occasionally on Twitter
Oh my gosh. You have to listen to Par Amour. My French is very much not even at the level of understanding a simple reply to ‘Ou est la piscine?’ but I don’t think you need to understand every word to take the full nuance of Diami’s extraordinary, passionate flow straight between the ears. Whatever is happening, it’s for love, and judging by the terrifying gunshot in the instrumental break it is coming to a tragic ending. I like a bit of French rap under normal circumstances, but when it’s conveying this level of operatic emotion, I can only hand you the link and urge you to have a listen.
I didn’t know anything about Diam’s before listening to this song, but the general read-around revealed an extraordinary life. If it’s true that Diam’s has left the music industry for good, then it’s wonderful that she’s doing what she needs to do for her own well-being, but it’s sad that we can’t hope to hear more passionate, beautiful words and music from her.
Diam’s is on Spotify
Diam’s is on iTunes