Beautiful Things of 2011: Scandipop goddesses
By Lucy Cage
2011 was a wonderful year for music. For listening to music, dancing to music, thinking about music, writing about, watching, falling in love with, dropping what you were doing, grabbing your keys and running full pelt after music.
It was for me, anyway. And I haven’t heard a fraction of what was released last year; I don’t know a quarter of the records mentioned in the big intermag end-of-year lists, and the ever-tiddlier sub-genre lists of The Wire etc. send me into a vertiginous panic. There’s simply not enough days in the week or weeks in the year to listen to enough of this stuff to make any kind of coherent omniscient pronouncement on ‘music in 2011’. Given that we can only ever experience music subjectively, personally, partially, through our own skewed and faulty ears, I might as well just tell you what I heard this year and why it made me happy.
And it was mostly pop. Girls making pop. Very few of the bands I loved this year consisted of four white boys with guitars, although that template has been responsible for some fairly monumental things over the last four or five decades. Maybe it’s finally as redundant as it ought to be, that kind of monolithically gendered/racialised noise. The world is busier, brighter, cleverer, oh yeah, far too clever for that particular shape to be a likely mouthpiece for any kind of zeitgeisty blurt. Is that what they mean when they lament The End of Rock? Well, sod that, rock can, if it must, go on and on and it can mutate itself quite happily thank you very much. Rock’s not dying. And as time rolls onwards in its capriciously non-linear way, rock is ultimately as unpindownable as any musical genre; try to draw definite lines and it squirms away from you by throwing up EMAs and Planningtorocks and PJ Harveys all over the place.
If I were going to draw what I listened to this year into rough circles of scribbly convergence, I’d go further than the “pop, mostly girls” and say “pop, mostly girls, of Scandinavian origin”. Make of that what you will. Make a new mask for Karin Dreijer Andersson out of it or a big red cloudwig for Bjork. I’ve no great socio-cultural analysis of why that might be to offer and no particular knowledge of the pop histories of the countries involved: this is going to have to be a pick’n’mix type affair, as flawed, simplistic and unfair as any such grouping of disparate acts tends to be.
I’ve already written about Lykke Li’s wounded rhymes so here’s a rundown of those other Scandi-pop goddesses that have blasted sodastream bubbles through my 2011.
Stockholm’s Those Dancing Days started the year with a bounce but sadly their frenetic, giggly, day-glo puppy-scrap of a second album turned out to be their last, as they split up to do other things (including going to university) with 2011 hardly begun. It’s worth checking out not only Daydreams And Nightmares but also their first gem of a single, ‘Those Dancing Days’, recorded in 2007 when they were still at school. It is teenage thrill embodied in sequins and squelchy keyboards and barely manages to hold itself together in its headlong rush to the finish. It’s a song continually on the verge of being wrong – out of tune, out of time – but finds absolute joy on that brink. There’s maniacal drumming (courtesy of the pretty much the cutest drummer of all time, Cissi, who pounds her kit with all the messy verve of a toddler launching itself at chocolate cake) and lyrics that chirrup with the delight of being “high on life, high on love… living for music, living in a dance”. How much more pop could you want?
‘Fuckarias’, their first single of 2011, finds TDD stomping on solider ground, four years (and not just any four years but those which bump one painfully, wonderfully, from child to adult) older, wiser, more proficient but thankfully just as ferocious and which, whether through youthful gawky genius or second-language-itis, has lyrics as magnificently wrong as you like: “You’re an uninvited clown/A foolish puppy with a too long tongue/You stumble and fall, you’re the worst of them all/You’re in my space, get out of my face”. Fuck what’s right, let’s dance.
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