Though we’re almost on the cusp of wall to walls renditions of “Deck the Halls”, “We Three Kings” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” – all of which by the way is fine with me, the Christmas Addict – there’s still time for some funky, cutting edge pop music to set the inner indie ear worm a-groovin’.
This time there’s a strong Scandinavian flavour which speaks to how much of an influence this wonderful part of the world is having on music worldwide and a nice balance between laid out chillin’ and upbeat hit-the-dancefloor fun.
So dance up, power down and repeat and enjoy the music …
“What Happens on the Dancefloor (Stays on the Dancefloor)” by JONAS OAKLAND
I have been following the career of Jonas Oakland, an independent singer/songwriter from Sweden with a knack for crafting devastatingly good dance floor tunes for quite some time now (see here, here and here).
Not only does he have an ear for the perfect beat-thumping get-you-up-dancing beat, he is able to fold it into a perfect danceable pop package of hook-laden melodies, and bright, bouncy meaningful lyrics (a rarity in dance music generally), all delivered with a stellar voice more than suited to the task.
While he hasn’t broken out worldwide just yet, it can only be a matter of time before he does so given the quality of previous singles like “Where Were You Last Night?”, “Stay” and “Beat of My Heart” and his latest release “What Happens on the Dancefloor (Stays on the Dancefloor)”, which could be the song to give him that much deserved global attention.
It’s a high energy, naturally dancefloor-friendly song, which was designed to extend his sound beyond its usual boundaries as he explained in a statement accompanying the release:
“My idea was to create a more rough sound, like Ke$ha’s “Blow” or Lady Gaga’s “Sheiße”, something I haven’t done before. The song is about letting loose and not caring about the consequences. It’s like a free haven where everything goes and when all is back to normal you all have this pact that whatever happened out there, stays out there.”
Mission accomplished as far as I am concerned and I can’t wait till I am next at a club and “What Happens on the Dancefloor (Stays on the Dancefloor)” comes on and gets the crowd up and dancing.
Of course, true to the spirit of the song, I won’t be able to tell you what happens while I am out there.
“Yellow Circles” by Layla
I love my quirky British female pop singers.
Usually possessed of a powerfully pitch perfect voice strong enough to rouse the gods, an utterly unique sense of self, and the ability to write deeply impacting songs rich in lyrical intent and melodic beauty, they are authentic music artists who care not for the whims and vagaries of the current pop look or sound, a sensibility that wins them legions of loyal, endlessly devoted fans.
Now to the ranks of singer-songwriters like Adele, Laura Mvula and Florence and the Machine, you can add Layla (formerly Jose Vanders), a woman who has all the attributes described above and then some.
She is a talented artist and “Yellow Circles” is a beautiful slice of perfect indie pop, displaying her bluesy voice to perfection, its insistent beat making you stop, pay attention and instantly fall in love with this beguiling song.
It’s a change from her previous releases which tended to fall on the emotionally-searing folk pop side of the spectrum, proof positive that Layla, who clearly has a penchant for using ingeniously placed, unusual sound effects and vocal acrobats in her music, isn’t one of those artists happy to creatively tread water release after release.
She is one of those singers you really should be paying a huge amount of attention to and if she keeps releasing songs like “Yellow Circles”, and the remarkable collection of tunes on her EP New Year, then is every chance you will be and adoring every moment of it.
“I Found Her” by Ida Corr
I can’t believe I haven’t discovered a talent as towering as Danish singer Ida Corr before this.
She has a purringly powerful, distinctive voice, eminently catchy beat-laden songs which you love after just one listen replete with meaning heaped upon meaning and a danceable sound all her own that is captivating and beguiling beyond all reason.
” I Found Her” which comes growling out of the starting blocks with a pounding melodic urgency encapsulates her artistry perfectly.
It’s unlike any other dance song you’ve heard before, replete with hauntingly beautiful electronic beats and a story of self-discovery and pride in who she really is, an appealing mix of beats and message that I loved from the word go.
Taking my place as a savior,
taking my place as a goddess,
taking my doubts to the graveyard
hoping that nobody will find them
But I found her
hiding in my heartaches
tears in her eyes and smiling
An angel of love, she sang “child of mine
I’m yours to find”
I’m so glad i found her
Finding an artist who doesn’t feel the need to dumb down what she wants to say to find an audience is so refreshing – that she has a found a large and growing audience is evidenced by her crazily busy schedule – and there are plenty of other factory line pop starlets who should take a leaf out of this talented lady’s book.
It is possible to get people up dancing with insanely alluring electronic dance music and not have them leave their brains at the bar for the duration and Ida Corr deserves all the success in the world for realising that and acting upon it with songs as rich and rewarding as “I Found Her”.
“Heartbreaker” by Kele
Kele, lead singer for über-successful British indie rock band Bloc Party, is a man of many talents and pleasingly diverse musical tastes.
Active as a successful solo artist as well, with compelling releases like the album The Boxer (2010) and EP The Hunter (2011), as well as one of my favourite songs of all time the head spinningly good “Tenderoni”, he has ranged across an eclectic musical landscape, active in genres such as indie rock, dance punk and full on electronic dance, and happily at home in all of them.
His latest release “Heartbreaker” finds him heading in another musical direction, embracing house with enthusiasm and as you’d expect from some one with the musical vision and talent he possesses, doing it very well indeed.
His excitement about his latest release is palpable in this statement which accompanied the song’s release:
“I’ve always loved the inclusive and spiritual nature of house music, so the opportunity to make music for the most iconic and influential house music label in the UK is a dream come true for me.”
The song itself is one of the most sublime pieces of house I have ever heard, its insistent beat growing and growing throughout but never dominating, its late night dancing in the bar vibe augmented by Kele’s deliciously understated vocal delivery.
It’s an exciting next step for this multi-talented artist who can seemingly do no musical wrong.
“Blank Project” by Neneh Cherry
Neneh Cherry and I go way back.
When I first arrived in Sydney in January 1990, one of the Swedish artist’s most recognised albums Raw Like Sushi had just been released the year before and was dominating the charts with one song in particular, the hypnotically beat heavy “Buffalo Stance” garnering the most attention.
She was very much her own musical creature, an artist who sang, rapped and even DJ’d at times, as individual a singer-songwriter as you could find at the time, and all the more appealing because of that.
And while she’s hardly been inactive since, releasing follow up album Homebrew, and Man (1996), with a jazz-influences album The Cherry Thing coming out in 2011, the release of the Four Tet-produced new album Blank Project marks a comeback of sorts for the popular artist.
The lead single, title track “Blank Project”, is a slow burning beat-heavy jam of a song, it’s winningly hauntingly dark sound a paean to the duality of relationships where love and hate both have a home.
It’s a gritty, melodically stripped back track with Cherry’s vocals front and centre, ridiculously wonderfully catchy and unlike anything you’ve heard lately, which is just what you want when an artist re-emerges from semi-obscurity (at least as far as the mainstream public is concerned)
It’s everything I have ever loved about her work and I can’t wait to hear the album, which includes a track containing guest vocals from another great Swedish talent Robyn, when it lands with a great acclaim early next year.
* Love them? Hate them? Please switch to carols?