Read the last edition of Nordic Adventures here.

Hi, and welcome back. We are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called life. Or something. The past month has been quite great when it comes to Nordic music, or maybe I should say it’s been a great month for Swedish music as my knowledge of the rest of the Nordics is extremely lacking. Sorry about that (i.e. send me the stuff that should have been included here).

We’ve got something a bit special for you this month as we’ve chatted a bit with The Mary Onettes and their record label Labrador about The Mary Onettes’ great new ep, as well as Labrador and Nordic music in general (check out the interviews below the regular column). The EP, which is titled Love Forever, is out via Labrador tomorrow, and while it’s quite short at only four tracks over fifteen minutes, these fifteen minutes are sure to be some of the best you’ll hear this year. Half of the EP was produced by Dan Lissvik of the now defunct Studio, and Lissvik’s production married with the remarkable songwriting on here is just something extremely special. If you haven’t heard it yet you can listen to opening track 'Love’s Taking Strange Ways' below, and make sure to check out the full EP – it’s streaming over at TLOBF. It’s got a track called 'A Breaking Heart Is A Brilliant Star', how could it not be amazing? (It really is amazing).

For me, personally, one of the most exciting things to happen this month is the release of Francis’ new EP This Must Be Blood via Strangers Candy/Playground which is actually coming out today. If you’ve heard of Francis, chances are you discovered them when they were opening for The Tallest Man on Earth on his European tour last year, were they also backed him on a few songs. This Must Be Blood follows their debut record Lekomberg, We Were Kin, which was released last summer with many of the songs being far older, and for the EP they’ve moved away from the more folk-inspired sound of Lekomberg to a confident indie pop-rock sound while retaining their signature sound, which is heavily based around Petra Mases intriguing vocals. Listen to the full This Must Be Blood EP below.

One of my absolute favourite bands right now is the Swedish duo Korallreven, who released their excellent debut record An Album by Korallreven in November last year via Hybris/Acéphale, so I’m bound to be covering most of everything they release in this column. Their latest single is the beautiful Julianna Barwick-featuring 'Sa Sa Samoa' - and in mid-February they released a Filip Nilsson-directed video for it. It’s good so go ahead and watch it below, and if you missed it last month there’s an extended For Real For Sure reworking of 'Sa Sa Samoa' by the band available for free download (and it’s very good).

I seldom get truly invested in music videos, usually watching them while doing something else and paying more attention to the music than the images, but Loney Dear’s 'official European video' for the track 'Blues' (or 'Loney Blues' as it was called on the record) is truly an exception to the rule. The video is remarkably touching, while being extremely simple and to the point. Truly outstanding. The track is taken his newest record Hall Music, which was released last year. Watch the video below.

Well the last of our monthly five for February is the Swedish pop artist Azure Blue, real name Tobias Isaksson, who released one of the strongest Nordic albums of last year in Rule of Thirds on Hybris. He recently won the 'pop of the year' award at the Swedish independent music gala Manifest over Korallreven and Loney Dear – that should tell you something about how good this is. A couple of weeks ago he released a very pretty video for one of my favourite tracks on Rule of Thirds; 'Seasons', which you can watch below.

As per usual there’s been far too much great music over the past month to keep it to five so here’s some more for you: Amanda Mair’s debut album was released here in Scandinavia via Labrador with an international forthcoming and she also released a video for 'Sense'. Niki & The Dove are naturally as great as ever with a gorgeous video for 'The Fox', plus a pretty great acoustic performance of 'DJ, Ease My Mind', in anticipation of their debut album Instinct which will be released in May. Plus in last month’s edition of this column I posted the video for The Tarantula Waltz’s 'Majestic Jaws', and now he’s released live videos of two more tracks from his upcoming record; for 'Erase the Space' and 'Tinderstickneck'. The quality is as usual through the roof. See you in a month.

Interview with Johan Angergård who runs Labrador Records:

Thanks for taking the time to chat a bit with us… How would you introduce Labrador to someone who’s never heard of you?

I'd answer that with some quotes for a start:

"Stockholm's Labrador Records has helped define the "Swedish pop" sound now heard in club nights from London to Berlin." - PITCHFORK

”Sweden’s most influential indie label” - GUARDIAN

...and the most important one:

"Sweden's and the world's finest purveyor of pop music"- LABRADOR.SE

Not sure if that helps. Labrador hovers around my personal taste in music. It's a way for me to try and force as many people as possible to listen to the music I love. I'm not sure about why I want everyone to listen to the same music as I do. When I was younger a lot of my favorite labels were the kind that release 7" singles in 500 copies or so and I probably felt a little cooler knowing stuff no one else knew about - but then I wanted everyone else to listen to the same 7" singles which, if I had succeeded, would have made me less cool as I would have been listening to the same kind of music as everyone else. I don't know where I'm going with this answer, you better edit it. But I don't quite know why I want everyone to listen to the same kind of music as me. It would make the world a better place, yes, but I doubt that's the true reason. Or maybe it is. I have a fairly narrow taste in music which is a good thing. I imagine Labrador's one of those label you can buy most releases if you like one of them and know you'll like it. It's a world of its own.

How do you go about picking the artists for Labrador?

I stumble across them, get things sent to me, read a bit, listen here and there etc. The only way I don't discover bands is by seeing them live. Live music is overrated. If it's something that surprise me, something that I want to listen to over and over again, and - of course - something I really love. Then I'll release it.

There’s lots of exciting acts from Sweden and the Nordic in general right now, why do you think that is?

I hope I don't sound rude here. If I do it's all because of the language barrier - I would have said it in a really nice way if this was in Swedish... So, in advance, sorry for any rudeness that might appear, I don't mean it like that. Anyway, I recognize this question to the point that I think I've heard it from day one when we started the label. Perhaps the question has come from different countries at different times, but it's always been there. I guess it was Asia in the beginning. Spain perhaps. And then the US. Now perhaps it's the UK's turn to start appreciating Swedish music. If it's so, no one is happier than me.

Swedes make good music. One factor is that people here were quick to adept home recording, hence giving bands time to explore sounds of their very own. Another, perhaps more important thing is that a large part of what's happening here isn't driven by managers and lawyers because most bands doesn't have managers or lawyers. They're allowed to grow as artists, songwriters, people, etc in their own pace without someone telling them what to be or what to do. At least for a while. Once they become a bit popular they might get managers. But then it might be too late for the manager to destroy the band - they might have cemented a will of their own. Well, fairly often they sort of destroy the bands anyway.

How do you imagine the future for Labrador, and Swedish music in general, will look like?

In general; more extrovert. For Labrador; I don't know before I discover the next band. I'm longing to be surprised! Something very noisy or something very depressing perhaps. Or hard erotic ebm with a touch of pop. Something carefree and lively would be fun too.

If you had to pick one thing you’d be the most proud of when it comes to your work with Labrador, what would it be?

The upcoming Amanda Mair album is really amazing. I have to say that's it. I'm really impressed by Philip Ekström of The Mary Onettes in a lot of ways. He writes some of my favorite lyrics in his native tongue band Det Vackra Livet, he's doing great videos (Amanda Mair, Acid House Kings, his own bands) and he's a terrific producer (his own bands, Amanda Mair) too. He's a multitalent and genuinely great in every field.




Interview with Henrik Ekström, bassist in The Mary Onettes:

Thanks for your time! How do you feel Love Forever represents the band compared to your previous work? How does it differ?

The main difference is probably that we had a producer for it. We usually never let anyone interfere in our creative process and as you can hear the result became more naked and more organic. It sounds more like The Mary Onettes when we're in our rehearsal studio and playing together. More close and dynamic. More like a band actually. So I guess Love Forever just represent how we sound when we're more stripped and just ourselves.

 

You worked with Dan Lissvik on two of the ep’s four tracks, how did that affect the end-product?

He did affect much of the outcome. From rhythm ideas to choice of instruments. But strove constantly to maintain the essence of what we are. The Mary Onettes has always been about the melodies and the kind of dark vibe we create when we play. That's still there if you search. But it's all sewed in a little Dan Lissvik suit. Which was great for the songs we picked. And what also is great with Dan is that he has no creative limitations when he works. The result was therefore very inspiring for us! 

What are your current plans for the future?

Well the main plan is to record the new album. We're all thrilled to make it happen. Feels like we have something good going on. We also plan to do some touring when the album is finished. With a few shows booked in Sweden this spring. 

Any plans for further releases with Det Vackra Livet (ed. Mary Onettes side-project in Swedish)?

God only knows!

   

You’re signed to Labrador along with many other great Swedish artists, and the Nordic region in general seems to be having a lot of amazing artists, why do you think that is?

I don't really have good answer for that. Maybe we're good at creating an output for emotions thru music.  We've always had good music coming out of Sweden so we're probably eager to carry the legacy further. And it seems like we're a bit stubborn as well. We just won't give up until we've done the most amazing music!