Around this time every year, I start missing Austin deeply. Why so? Because one of things I enjoyed there during my three years in the city was the diverse and laid back music scene (and we aren't just talking about 6th Street here).
And early March, Austin hosts the premier music festival in the World (as far as I am concerned) - a little get together called SxSW (March 7 to 16) that becomes a media monster but retains its grassroots flavor.
Every year this time I go over the list of artists that will play and make imaginary plans to go see them. And this year, curiosity over the Nordic music scene overwhelms me and if I had made it down this year, my curiosity would have been well rewarded.
And for this reason, I've recently found myself listening a lot to one of my favorite pop bands - which happens to Sweden's very own Cardigans (their Best of came out last month)
Here is the thing that is special about Cardigans. For one, they make delicious pop songs but they aren't always radio-friendly tight. Often their melodies wander, probably causing record company execs to gnash their teeth over the radio-unfriendliness of it all. And while they craft melodies and hooks that are lilting and appear to be happy, their singer Nina Perrson does something funky over it all.
I would describe Perrson as the love child of Rani Mukherjee and M. M. Kreem. Allow me to explain. Perrson has delightfully deep indigo eyes that retain a certain air of inaccessibility like say Rani. And like M. M. Kreem she does raundu stuff magnificently. And all through, Perrson is constantly elongating or snipping her vocals bringing small, interesting variations to the song. Try singing along with her and you'll realize how much she likes to play around with words.
In 1996, their MTV-bait Lovefool was a huge hit in the US. Two years later, they delivered the richly gloomy Gran Turismo, which I would recommend as an introduction. Gran Turismo contains a terrific song called Erase/Rewind but the song best to start with is My Favorite Game which was a bit of a stateside hit.
On the song, Persson has a line that goes "Coz I'm losing my baby" which when heard can be the difference between the song being suicidal, liberating or plain schizo. And in the Michael Bay-like video a rather ratty looking Persson takes an old American convertible and drives suicidally over Route 66, leaving flying debris in her wake. Its an emotionally scary song with a startling conclusion. And like most of stuff from Cardigans, its gorgeous.
You can explore SxSW music on Last.fm