by:Larm Showcases the Best Nordic Newbies | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 25th, 2021  

Miriam Bryant

by:Larm Showcases the Best Nordic Newbies

Mar 09, 2015 Photography by Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share

Oslo, Norway-based festival by:Larm prides itself on presenting the best in upcoming artists from Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Denmark before the rest of us catch on. (El Perro Del Mar, NONONO, Tove Lo, Sondre Lerche, and Ólafur Arnalds—their success rate in showcasing artists before they go “big” is impressive, to say the least.) It also plays host to the Nordic Music Prize—an award similar to The Mercury Prize, which honors the best Nordic album of the year.

Given that entry-level friendly ethos, it perhaps the results of the Thursday night Nordic Prize ceremony shouldn’t have come as much of surprise. In the past, the award (and cash prize) was given to The Knife and First Aid Kit. The commercial bent lead many to name Lykke Li as a potential winner. Or perhaps Todd Terje, who had been shut out of the Norwegian Grammy race. Or even MØ who seems to be everywhere lately. Instead, the honor was given to Finnish folk singer Mirel Wagner for her delicate, under appreciated debut, When Cellar Children See the Light of Day. Cue gasps.

The take-away: Journalists are easily shocked. And should probably not make any bets after the first glass of champagne. (Also, viva newbies!)

The weekend followed in a similar fashion, where bands with little more than an album and a few thousand Facebook likes to their name prove time and time again that they deserve a spot at the grown-up table. The bar was set high, and nearly every band I saw managed to clear it. It would almost be considered monotonous, you know—if it weren’t for all the great music being presented.

As per usual, the real winners of the festival were pop—thus further perpetrating the stereotype that the region excels in the genre. (Yes, I am aware that they are also known as the land of Black Metal—but having once almost sat on the couch where a member of Mayhem committed suicide, I am uniquely unqualified to discuss the subject.) Preternaturally posed Swedish singer Miriam Bryant seems positioned to follow a similar path as Tove Lo, who started out last year as a festival as a relative unknown and finished the year touring with Katy Perry. Kid Astray threw one of the best parties of the fest, their effervescent tunes scratching the Passion Pit itch. Tellef Raabe mixed pop with ennui that wouldn’t be out of place at a Morrissey concert. (But is he vegan?) Karin Park, one of the few scene veterans to perform, worked keytar into her Apocalypse Pop-heavy set—thus proving once and for all that the instrument can have sex appeal.

But few performers evoked such an audience response as AURORA. Having only released a handful of singles, the eighteen-year-old packed a 2000 person room, many starry-eyed teenagers who hung on every note. (It probably didn’t hurt that Katy Perry had tweeted about her earlier that day.) It wasn’t hard to see the appeal. With a sweet soprano, and fairytale-evoking lyrics, the Bergen-based musician mades a strong case against cynicism.

In an unusual move, for the first time the festival also welcomed non-Nordic bands. I made it a goal to avoid most of them (for no other reason than a desire to actually see what I came to the country to witness), but failed when I couldn’t bring myself to leave after Kid Astray’s strong set. With just a vocalist and a producer running the electronics, Sylvan Esso proved just how little is need to give a dynamic performance. In addition to showcasing songs from their self-titled debut, frontwoman Amelia Meath asked the question every non-local was dying to know. “Is everyone here hot?”


I ran into my usual issue at by:Larm, the phrase which will probably will one day double as my epitaph. Too many bands, too little time. Coming to my rescue was a slate of early radio performances hosted by Nordic Playlist. Among the standouts playing the event were AV AV AV (dance music from Denmark), Redder (a Finnish band that combined folk and trip-hop with some delightfully weird results), and Vök (Icelandic, saxophone-laced electro grooves.) While a show in the daylight may seemingly lack the sex appeal of some of the nighttime venues, it did succeed thanks to one all-important fact. Radio quality sound. (SXSW, please take note.) 

One of the unspoken benefits of being at a festival where everyone is an emerging artist? The sense that we’re all in it together. Joie de vivre—or whatever its Norwegian equivalent might be. For four days, I felt like I had been let in on a delicious secret. Good news, I have seen the Nordic future of music…and it’s bright.



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