Monday, September 11, 2006

Embiggen Your Mix: NordicTracks

By d-mac
NordicTracks MixOne year ago today I was on a plane to Oslo, headphones on, listening to a lot of Kings of Convenience, Sondre Lerche and other random music I had carefully selected to be my soundtrack for the two-and-a-half-week sojourn in Norway. I was travelling with my mom, who was an only-child, born in the US to Norwegian immigrants, making me 50% Norske by blood. This was Mom's second trip ever to the country of her parents' birth, and my first. In fact, this was the first and only time I've ever been out of the country. On our itinerary was to visit dozens of relatives on my Grandmother's side, spread out in towns and villages across the country, travelling by plane, train, automobile, boat, and foot from Oslo, to Trondheim, to Mosjøen, to Bodø in the Arctic Circle, and finally Fagerli, a little strawberry farm in the mountains where my Grandmother was born and raised with her eleven younger sisters and brothers (ten girls, two boys in all... thanks Mom, for correcting me here).

At each stop along the way we were eagerly greeted by family, some of whom I'd met on their occasional visit to Florida, but most of whom I'd never seen or spoken to in my life. Nevertheless, they'd consistently smother us with hugs, shower us with pleasantries, and then immediately sit us down and demand us to, "Spise! Spise! You must eat." We'd then share family stories over coffee and cake, or "middag" (lunch/supper), or strawberries and cream, or some combination thereof. We'd eat and eat and eat, and then we'd eat some more.

As I'm writing this I'm realizing that I sound like I'm Will Ferrell telling a tale of when I passed through the seven layers of the candy cane forest, through the sea of twirly, swirly gumdrops (and then presumably walked through the Lincoln Tunnel). Up until a year ago, I guess that's sort of the image I had of Norway: the far-away land of my maternal ancestry, from which many Christmas traditions and family lore had been passed down through the years. A place whose mental projection in my mind had been based mostly on oil paintings that hung in the walls of our house. But it was never a real place before. It was Neverland, or Wonderland. It was Santa's Workshop.

But now it's real. Now I've been there. Now I can claim it as home. Just as Honolulu, or Jacksonville, or Tallahassee, or Atlanta, or Conyers is my home, Norway is my home.

*    *    *
So maybe I've just been on some kind of subconscious kick to get in touch with the motherland or something, but I'm finding that a lot of the new music I've been getting into lately is from Scandinavian bands. Maybe it's a newfound pride in my heritage, or maybe it's just that all the good music these days is coming from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland. Anyway, my latest mix is dedicated to the Scandahoovians. It's about 50% Norske, just like me. I present you, NordicTracks...

Listen to the playlist [M3U]. Click on image above for printable track list and album art.

Track Listing:
  1. Sweden The Knife - Heartbeats
    Swedish twee singer Karin Dreijer Andersson and her little brother Olof Dreijer form this electronic indie duo, who are apparently notorious for big-leaguing the media all the time, and rarely making any public appearances or playing live shows. Fans of The Knife might also want to check out Karin's old band, Honey Is Cool.

  2. Norway Blind Stereo - Go!!!
    Blind Stereo is an electronica trio from Norway, composed of Jan Tore Smith, Nils Jakob Farestvedt, and Trygve Hjermann Berg. According to their myspace page, "[they] aim to make music that challenges the listeners, both on the dance floor and in more laid back environments. The music is all about groove, noise, beats and beatiful melodies." Okay sirs, challenge accepted!

  3. Norway Datarock - FaFaFa
    Another duo. Wikipedia describes them as a Norwegian "new rave" band and I have no idea what that means. You can find some more stuff on their myspace page, including a very, very geeky song about finding love at computer camp.

  4. Denmark Figurines - The Wonder
    Representing the alt. rock scene from Copenhagen, Denmark. From what I've heard, I'd describe them as The Strokes meets Built To Spill meets... I don't know, you decide. Not to be confused with Jimmy Tamborello's band, Figurine.

  5. Norway Hanne Hukkelberg - Ease
    This is one of the last tracks I found for this mix, and currently one of my favorites. It's got a lot of little syncopated rhythms and melodies going on at the same time, as if six musicians sat down in one room, swapped instruments, and decided to all just start playing the first thing that came to their heads, but it works.

  6. Norway The Whitest Boy Alive - Burning
    Erlend Øye of Kings of Convenience recently joined up with a couple of German dudes to form The Whitest Boy Alive. Mix-tape purists might point out that since the band is actually 2/3 German they don't neccessarily belong on an all-Scandinavian mix, but I couldn't leave these guys off. In fact, I put them on here twice. Anyway, Erlend Øye is Norwegian enough to carry the whole band, and he kicks fucking ass.

  7. Sweden doublePark - I Don't Want To Party
    Pure, unadulterated, indie pop. Sweden's answer to Fountain's of Wayne?

  8. Norway Sondre Lerche - The Curse Of Being In Love
    Off Sondre Lerche's contemporary jazz album with the Faces Down Quartet, Duper Sessions, which came out earlier this year.

  9. Norway Ane Brun - Rubber & Soul
    Born and raised in Molde, Norway on a steady diet of Ani DiFranco, Joni Mitchell, Ben Harper, Nick Drake, and lutefisk, Ane finally picked up a guitar at age 21 and began playing to anyone who would listen. She spent a brief stint in Spain in the late 90's, playing as a street musician and honing her chops. Now, at age 30, she's tearing up the music scene all over Norway and Sweden, and even getting some well-deserved attention on this side of the pond.

  10. Sweden Tobias Fröberg - God's Highway
    You may think you're hearing Paul & Art, but nay, it's just Tobias. Here's what Fröberg has to say about this one:

    "I wrote that song in a guitar store, trying an old guitar. Immediately I heard two lead-vocals, the vocal arrangements came to me in that store. It's very much a tribute to Paul Simon."

  11. Norway Kings of Convenience - Love Is No Big Truth
    I'm convinced that everything Erlend Øye touches turns to gold. He's like the Nordic Ben Gibbard. Eirik Glambek Bøe, the other half of Kings of Convenience, is not to be overlooked either. He's the Garfunkel to Øye's Simon; the Oates to Øye's Hall. Together, they compose subtle, yet poigniant indie-pop ballads that are sure to have you tapping your feet and reaching for the volume knob every time.

  12. Sweden Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks
    I challenge you to listen to this in your car without whistling along to the melody. It's infectious. The video is also great.

  13. Norway a-ha - Fine Blue Line
    The latest from the pioneers of Norwegian pop.

  14. Sweden Acid House Kings - That's Because You Drive Me
    Really, really good twee pop band from Stockholm, Sweden. For fans of Belle & Sebastian and Ambulance LTD.

  15. Iceland Emiliana Torrini - Sunny Road
    The sweetest thing to come out of Iceland since, well, Björk I suppose. A lot of her stuff, this song in particular, reminds me a lot of Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist (that girl who did that "Mushaboom" song).

  16. Iceland Björk - Jóga
    This song is nothing new, but I felt like this mix wouldn't be complete without some good old Björk. This version of "Jóga" has a cool string arrangement running through it that I really dig.

  17. Norway Röyksopp - Sparks
    I almost put this one on the Blips, Beeps & Farts mix I made a while back, but decided to save it for this one instead. These guys are often classified as "electronica" or "trip hop", but may be more well known for their collaborations with other musicians, such as fellow Bergen natives, Kings of Convenience.

  18. Norway The Whitest Boy Alive - Don't Give Up
    Okay I'll shut up about Erlend Øye now. But how awesome is this guy?

  19. Sweden José González - Heartbeats
    You may recognize this one from such songs as Track 1 of this very same mix. Born in Sweden to Argentine parents, González has been getting a lot of indie/folk cred these days with his cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats," following the same slow-it-down-so-the-lyrics-can-sink-in approach that Ryan Adams did so successfully with Oasis's "Wonderwall" and Iron & Wine with The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights". The song has since made its way to the digital appliance commercial circuit, with the obligatory cameo on The O.C.. Many thanks to Radio Paradise for turning me onto this guy.


Blogger header5 said...

I am of Slovenian descent and have always wanted to visit but have never gotten the chance. You are very lucky and sounds like it had a great impact on you!

2:06 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Ingrid (McDonald) Wilson said...

Hi David -- Your mother here. I am sooooo proud!!!!!!!!

Just a couple small corrections. Your grandmother was the oldest of 12 children, two of which were boys - remember, the farm belonged to Lars until the tractor ran over him?? And "first generation immigrants" doesn't exist. They were immigrants, I am first generation American. You are second generation -- You've come a long way baby! I think you need to be seventh generation to be considered a "real" American. I don't really know where I am pulling that piece of info from. Maybe I made it up.

Any chance we can get a copy of that music? The sound on this computer is terrible.

5:24 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

Thanks, Mom. That's what happens when I stay up too late writing and not proofreading. Maybe I was mixing up your folks with Dad's?

At least I know where I get the making things up trick from.

I'll burn you a CD.


7:29 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger Ingrid (McDonald) Wilson said...

Very cool...this is your sister now, responding from my username that mom had to steal because she couldn't figure out how to create an account, which I have since done for her. I loved your synopsis of your trip and the Will Ferrell references. I can't wait to go myself, because I want someone to force me to consume coffee and cake, too. :) It will be quite a trip with our brood, but thankfully we only have 1/3 of a crew that Great-gramma had. (I haven't had a chance to listen to all the music yet, so maybe you can burn a cd for me, too.

8:42 PM, September 12, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

I'm on the case.

12:57 PM, September 14, 2006  
Anonymous Marit said...

Hi David!

Reading about your trip to Norway made me feel sooo proud of beeing norsk! And I am happy you had such a good time. I really hope I will see you soon again, and meanwhile I will have to send you more music. I am surprised you already knew Hanne Hukkelberg because she's pretty new for me too. I loved the link to the lutefisk! Next time you will have to taste it. I can't wait...;o)Talk to you soon!

1:08 PM, September 15, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

Great hearing from you Marit. Has the rainy season started yet up there?

My best to Nora, Espen and the rest of the gang.


1:07 PM, September 20, 2006  
Anonymous marit said...

Well, actually you should be here now. The weather is GREAT!! It is warm and nice and we are just wearing t-shirts! Can you belive it? I am going up north for the weekend and I hope it is nice there too..... You never know, though.......;o)

4:50 AM, September 21, 2006  
Blogger alannajoy said...

Nice D... I have to say that I think I only know one or two of these tracks, but then again, thats what I appreciate here- I get a heads up on some new tuneskies to check out and a stellar description to accompany!

Nice hearing about ur trip.

PS- Can u burn me a CD too?

10:37 PM, September 23, 2006  
Anonymous APJ said...

This may sound lame but I feel like this is possibly the best post I have read all year. Thank you for sharing.

3:02 PM, October 11, 2006  
Anonymous Aleks said...

Ich bin ein norwegian, -do bist ein norwegian! Wir bist Norwegians

Just when the gloominess was about to tear down my mind, I saw this post..

Other bands you could check out: El Perro Del Mar (swe), Jens Lekman (swe), Keizers Orchestra (Nor), Motorpsycho (Nor), The Raveonettes (Den), Saybia (Den), The Soundtrack of our Lives (swe), Serena-Maneesh (Nor), Magnet (Nor), Beezewax (Nor) ao

Thanks, or should I say: TAKK!

2:18 PM, December 03, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

Vær så god, Alex, and Tusen Takk to you too!

I am familiar with a few of the bands you mentioned (Sountrack of our Lives, Magnet, Raveonettes), but I will definitely look into the others. Thanks for sharing.

Ha det bra,

4:56 PM, December 03, 2006  

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