Beautiful Things of 2011: Scandipop goddesses
Icona Pop, in contrast to TDD, have just left the starting line, are on the B of the bang, with no physical product at all yet as far as I can see, just a handful of perfect synth-pop digital darlings, bristling with smart and sass and tunes. Never mind about albums, ‘Nights Like This’ and ‘Manners’ are ace on their own. There’s some of TDD’s sheer enjoyment of sound, particularly in the way they revel in the parps and stabs and swoops of aged synthesisers, but considerably less of the speed. “Manners!” they chorus “Take a second look and you’ll see / There is no-one like me!”, a mixture of threat and promise in a perfectly adroit pop package: “You’d better reconsider/You will never do better!”
I saw Robyn at Bestival, wowing a hillside of festival partyers with peculiarly solipsistic takes on her icy pop songs; she has that trick of throwing such awkwardly heartfelt shapes – the kind you’d usually keep behind teenage bedroom doors – that you don’t know whether to cringe or cheer on her courage in laying her heartbreak out, stadium-huge, for us all to gawp at. I’m going for cheer, because she’s such a remarkable performer and her songs slot so neatly and fittingly into canonical synth pop that you’d think she was already the global megastar she dances as if she were. Both ‘Dancing On My Own’ and ‘Call Your Boyfriend’ have jaw-dropping videos, controlled desperation writ large in spikily dramatic narratives of the kind that swamped the charts in the 80s.
I also saw Björk at Bestival. Lucky me. It was a contrary thing; she didn’t use the huge video screens at the side of the stage to relay her performance to the back of the enormous crowd, instead filling them with Biophiliac squiggles which, while disconnective in some ways (it meant most of the thousands gathered to watch her couldn’t see her flamboyantly peculiar outfit or the skittery dances of her massed female chorus or the strange, custom-built instruments the music was blossoming from) also had the effect of making the experience less gawp-at-the-popstar and more lose-yourself-in-the-music. If you could do that and stop pining for the hits – which it was apparent not everyone could – then the show was an incredible, immersive, gorgeous thing to be part of, a sweeping up of people and notes and colours and patterns and grassy hillsides on the Isle of Wight into a big wowy beauty. A synaesthetic, meterological trip of a show. It certainly had me believing that ‘Crystalline’ (whose pretty icicle showers shatter into THE most remarkable Aphexy percussion coda: complexity and order and counterintiutive marvels measured out in rattling beats) was the most beautiful music in the universe. And oh my god! ‘Declare Indepence’! One of the few non-Biophilia tracks of the set and the best grimy distorto-bass line since ‘Dr Buck’s Letter’, thumping up from the stage in fat curls across the crowd, sending visible shockwaves up through the dancing bodies. A song to make you open your throat and howl. Fucking wow.