Scandinavian music can get really stark: nihilistic black metal, lonely folk tunes, epic Sibelius symphonies. But so often, especially these days, they turn out some of the sweetest pop music you’ve ever heard. “I KNOW we live in a tree-bound land of wintry dark, but let’s drink some gløgg and hold hands!” For my money Norway’s Cold Mailman is one of the most exciting acts in European music. The synths here run intricate and deep, complementing the thought-provoking (if heavily accented) lyrics from Ivar Borwitz. It’s all laid over a solid modern rock backbone that keeps your head bobbing; the effect is happily reminiscent of mid-era Beatles and ambitious-yet-accessible 70s arena rock. They don’t seem to have made much of a splash yet here in the States, but with singles like this that should soon change. Fans of Maia Hirasawa, the Field Mice, Kings of Convenience, or Mates of State should check these guys out. Everything Aflutter is out now on Beyond Music records.
The Reigning Monarchs
There’s a new album out that should be getting more love. The Regining Monarchs play 60s-style instrumental rock at its most fun and confident on their debut album Black Sweater Massacre. The dominant sound is frenetic surf guitar à la Dick Dale, but strains of ska, exotica, and rockabilly make their way in as well. “Tanya Donnelly” sounds like the alt-rock goddess herself jamming with an invigorated Herb Alpert; the ska-flecked single “Murder Your Summer” deserves to be the titular song of a grindhouse movie; and the slow-burning “Steakhouse” is a slow-burning dreampop noir tune that makes great use of tension and unexpected turns. The band’s pedigree is interesting. One guitarist, Greg Behrendt, is a successful stand-up comedian; the other, Michael Eisenstein, was in archetypal 90s rock band Letters to Cleo. The L.A. band funded the album through Indie Go Go and hasn’t been together that long; you’d never know it to listen. Very solid stuff and I think I’ll be turning to it a lot in the coming months. Listen to the whole album for free here.