Curtain Up On Eurovision 2018 – A Tale of Two Idas

We’re starting to see the first few national final line-ups for Lisbon 2018, and there is a bit of Listen Outside interest scattered all over the contest. Let’s take a tour. Let’s start with the ScandiNordics.

In Sweden, Ida Redig  will be taking part in Melodifestivalen. We were obsessed with her Swedish-language pop which sounds like stripped-back Italo house, complete with breathy vocals. It’s unlikely she’ll wrestle the ticket to Lisbon out of the hands of Liamoo or Mariette, but it’s lovely to see someone new and this exciting come through Christer Bjorkman’s neo-schlager factory.

Next door in Norway, it’s not been confirmed yet, but we’re expecting Ida Maria to be participating in Melodi Grand Prix. Last year, she was the songwriter for Mama’s Boy -a piece of sexually assertive uptempo pop with the melodic hookiness you’d recognise if you were a fan of Ida’s first album Fortress Round My Heart. Her style has also encompassed roots and acoustic blues, but last summer she popped out a beautifully mellow and melancholic song called You. I love the vocal mellotron effect on the harmonies.

Over in Estonia, there is plenty to get excited about in Eesti Laul. Perennial Listen Outside faves Frankie Animal have brought the deeply slinky and sophisticated (Can’t Keep Calling) Misty which makes me want to turn up the collar on my trenchcoat and disappear into the fog under a gaslamp after breaking someone’s helpless heart.

We’re also going to be treated to a song by Iiris (whose recent single Stranger was one of my sounds of the summer) and Ago called Drop The Boogie which I’m expecting to be a shimmering dancefloor confection.  New to me, but no less thrilling is Sybil Vane and they’re as sexy and thematically dark as you’d imagine a band named after an Oscar Wilde character to be. Their song Thousand Words isn’t out at time of writing, but gosh, give me some of that noir.

In other intriguing Estonian prospects, Girls In Pearls bring lush pop (also, they are twins), Evestus have industrial new wave type stuff, there shall be various pop tracks, some rough naughty hip-hop, a dollop of ambient dubstep and some guy named Stig.

We already know that Finland are totally spoiling us by bringing Saara Aalto to the party, with presumably a huge stage production and an epic power ballad banger hybrid, which the 100 year old nation will select on March 3rd.

That just leaves Denmark (about which I’m none the wiser) and Iceland. So far there haven’t been any rumours about participants in Songvakeppnin, but I am pretty sure there’ll be something almost almost as good as Is This Love?

Next up: an in-depth look at the Latvia Supernova semi-finalists and some rending of garments over songs already lost to their process.

Game On! The Netherlands vs Norway

It’s summer again and that must mean that it’s time for some international football. We’re celebrating the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euros with another set of Game On! posts.

First up, it’s the hosts The Netherlands vs Norway.

The Netherlands are represented by Amsterdam based dance duo Secret Rendezvous, with summery 90’s tinged anthem Don’t Look At Me That Way. Secret Rendezvous have been doing their thing for a few years now – if you like a chill dance vibe, check out their Soundcloud page.

Norway are represented by thoughtful and ecological trop house anthem ‘Save Tropical House’ by R.E.D.D and DL Marlene Martinsen. You’ll love the lyrics, you’ll love the message and you’ll love the bit where they repeatedly shout ECUADOR! Yes, they are comedians.

Does The Netherlands or Norway win the Women's Euro 2017 curtain raiser?

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ESC 2017: Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix

Ulrikke – Places

A slinky slow burn modern pop number, with a relaxed touch of post-dancehall exoticism about it, but which never really catches fire. It’s a bit Era Istrefi, a bit Dua Lipa, which makes it a credible choice for the contest, but would it stand out in the uptempo 2nd half of Semi 2? Would it take more than that drop?

Jenny Augusta – I Go Where You Go

A wonderful confection of psychedelic fantasy imagery but with a very Nordic unicorn death scene at the end. This song sounds like it might belong Joanna Newsom’s Americana-focused Have One On Me album, which is actually pretty high praise. It’s also so twee that it makes Zoe’s Loin d’Ici sound like Judas Priest, but I for one love it.

Rune Rudberg Band – Run Run Away

Very straightforward country and western. I am hoping that this is only in the competition for genre diversity and that the jury of international Eurovision fans will give it the short shrift it desrves.

Jowst – Grab The Moment

There’s a lot of unsettling death imagery in this song which is ostensibly about carpeing the heck out of every single diem. Norway gonna Norway, I guess? That being said, it’s very modern and very danceable, but like a lot of these modern EDM influenced tracks it has a significant use of vocal sampling which is not going to be doable live. I guess we’ll see.

Kristian Valen – You And I

Drippy, formulaic and boring. Nope. Don’t fall for it, Norway.

In Fusion – Nothing Ever Knocked Us Over

This is the most Swedish sounding track of the bunch – country-esque singalong chorus over pounding, shimmering synth lines and then a big cheesy drop into a synth hook that fell out of Aviici’s toolbag. It’s going to be tough to beat, and it would probably qualify for the final, but because I’m an insufferable hipster I would rather they sent one of their more distinctive tracks.

Amina Sewali – Mesterwerk.

100% dignified, romantic, sweeping electropop with a beautiful sentiment. There are lots of parallels between this song and Aminata’s Love Injected, but I think Mesterwerk is a little bit more immediately accessible despite being in Norwegian. I would definitely support this song going to Kyiv. A bit of class. (Also what a gorgeous lyric video!)

Ammunition – Wrecking Crew

No, Norway. Wig Wam were cracking back in the day, but this is to Wig Wam what Mambo Number 5 is to Buena Vista Social Club. It’s got a whistled hook, which is one of my least favourite things in all pop music and I’m expecting the stage show to be All Wrong.

Elin & The Woods – First Step In Faith/Oadjebasvuhtii

Oh boy, do I love hearing some joiking. Elin is a Sami musician and bellydancer, and she seems like a fabulously interesting character. Hopefully she’ll bring every bit of the full traditional mysticism of her art to the stage. Songwise, I am not sure which of this Eurovision weekend’s major joik-pop contenders I like better. Elin’s song is very singable, has beautiful dynamics and a good contrast between sparkling electronica and the rooted, natural singing but over in Sweden Jon Henrik is bringing the fully intense power ballad duet treatment to his music. However it happens, it’d be lovely to have someone flying the Sami flag in Kyiv.

Ella – Mamma Boy

I’m not sure that this does anything to combat toxic ideas of masculine roles in relationships, but it sounds fiesty and particularly rude what with fingers going in sockets and such like. It’s like what you’d expect Shampoo or Daphne & Celeste to be up to in the current pop climate.  (I remain disappointed that I couldn’t convince Max Tundra to write D&C another song for the UK Eurovision selection)

They’re also going to have to take that partially buried expletive out of the mix if this goes to Kyiv. I wouldn’t put it past Norway to actually send this.

My picks: Amina Sewali, Elin & The Woods

Indigo Child – Marez

It’s Friday so I am giving you that will simultaneously relax you from the stresses of the week and energise you for the weekend to come. Marez is a Norwegian producer who seems to have remixed all the usual Norwegian pop suspects, but Indigo Child is a thing all of their own.

Make sure you listen to all of the fabulously detailed percussive noises in the mix. Marez worked hard putting them there for you to hear.

 

Video

Higher – ARY

I am having a bit of a Norwegian pop moment right now. The shimmering synths, the lovely accents, the major/minor shifts. You can hear a lot of it on Norwegian pop reality competition The Stream – they’ve put an album of beautifully produced covers on Spotify and whoever gets the most plays wins? My favourites are the covers of Yellow and This Year’s Love, which remove all of the landfill-indie era vibes and replace them with chilly Nordic synthpop.

But today’s song is by ARY, who is not on The Stream. I’ve only heard two things by ARY – this song and this incredible, sobering vignette and I am distinctly eager to hear more.

Spit – Rabagast

No, I don’t think they’re named after the legendary Tolkein wizard and mushroom fan, Radagast the Brown. They’re Rabagast, with a B. They’re from Norway and they rock. Riffy female fronted rock is definitely my thing and this is definitely that. I’ve had a bit of a listen to their other tracks and it’s not all full-on Stooges stuff, but I think Spit is their strongest song.

According to this indifferently machine translated article in the Norwegian music press, this is from their very recently released debut EP and an album is coming after the summer. I’ll be keeping an eye open.

Rabagast are on Facebook

Kriger – Bendik

 

Today we’re listening to Kriger, by Norwegian band Bendik. This video looks like it took absolutely everything out of the singer Silje Halstensen, and provides a decidedly visceral support to the emotional power and synthy whoosh of this song, which is about being a fighter and overcoming the odds. The whole album, Fortid, is available on Spotify and it’s full of uplifting choruses, judicious electronica and Nordic melancholia, if you like that sort of thing.

Bendik have a website

Bendik are on facebook