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Shit I never thought I’d live to see happen. Number one. There’s an R.E.M. song I like

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Frida Hyvonen

OK, so it’s a cover. But wait. It’s a cover of the one R.E.M. song I hate above all others. As my earthier followers on Twitter would put it: WTF?!

(From Hugs and Kisses 64: Frida Hyvonen’s Silence Is Wild, printed in Village Voice, 16/10/08)

My three-year-old son Isaac’s pretty fussy about his music.

I mean, for starters, it took us a few weeks before he got over the idea we could listen to it in the house. “No!” he’d scream. “No! Not in the house! In the car!” And you best believe that he mastered the remote months ago, and that it’s damn near impossible to sing along with The Ronettes or Herman Düne first thing in the morning with a child screaming at your side. We finally managed to win him over, though—I say we, but it was actually my wife Charlotte that managed it. And it was through the relatively simple device of interaction.

You see, every time we put on Swedish singer Frida Hyvönen’s gorgeous new albumSilence Is Wild—and we haven’t actually gotten past being allowed only to put on Frida Hyvönen’s gorgeous new album—Isaac immediately flicks to track one (“Dirty Dancing”), or track nine (“Birds”). The first is allowed, with its touching portrait of an early schoolgirl crush (“We used to dance the afternoons away with Kylie/Back when the ‘90s were dawning”), because mummy sings along with the words, loves singing along with the words—all the high-pitched, opulent ‘70’s-style “ah-uh’s” and echoed cadences—and Isaac loves mummy loving singing along with the words. Indeed, he loves it so much, he’ll sometimes pause the music and demand that she sings it solo: fortunately, Charlotte has a much better memory for words than I do. (“Well then I became a singer and he became a chimney sweep and a hunter and a father of two—so far.”)

The second song is preferred, however: simply because it’s got a supercharged madrigal beat, a constant tap-tap-tap on the snare propelling the song forward—and, even more importantly, it contains the playful yet earnest lines, “Please call the boys. Please call the boys/Tell them to put on their dancing shoes now,” which precede Frida’s war-cry of “Go go go go go go go,” before she returns to the song’s main swirl of aviary intoxication. This is taken as a cue for Isaac to do his ‘crazy feet’ dance—a trick learned via cross-breeding a Madeleine video with a free line-dance lesson—before someone, I’m not saying who, but he’s a lot smaller than me and his name starts with ‘I’, hits ‘repeat’ and the song starts over again.

There isn’t a look-in for some of my favourites—the vaguely histrionic, impassioned “Highway 2 U” (which I like to think is how Thom Yorke could sound if he could sing); the deftly sardonic “London” (which contains the killer line, “London! The way you want to get rid of me/Makes me weak at the knees,” and boasts a chorus that should be introducing every Mama Mia karaoke-fest for the next decade); the full-on pout and cut’n’thrust of “Scandinavian Blonde”; “December” (a disconcerting, wry tale of unwanted pregnancy that could’ve been written for a rock opera but is probably deeply personal)…

Somehow, though, this doesn’t bother me.

I can always retreat to the car, and listen to Frida Hyvönen to my heart’s content as I drive down Waterworks Road in the evening: weirdly, she makes me miss the UK more than almost any other. And right now, it just makes me so happy that she makes Isaac and Charlotte so happy.

I believe there’s a new Frida Hyvönen album out. Yes, I’m excited.

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