The Best of 2015

Yes - I am doing in this in 2016. And, in the middle of second month of 2016 too. I get it. Its late. Really late. Really really really late. But better to have done it than not. And, this madame has way too much on his plate than to do things when I'm supposed to. After much consideration, cups of tea and marshmallows these contributions to pop are the ones I toot the most from last year....enjoy....(I hope).

Justin Bieber - What Do You Mean



Justin finally arrives on DontStopThePop with his first good song. He's had okay pop mingles that give you shingles. But with What Do You Mean, and its parent album, Justin finally created a pop product that was worth the immense buzz that surrounds him. Well done. Quite catchy indeed. 

Molly Sanden - Satellites 



I loved everything Molly did this year. Her E.P Like No One's Watching was one of my most treasured possessions of 2015. She has a big voice and stunning pop songs. Very good. 

Chinook - Dancing In Flames



Amazing. Speechless. I love Chinook. It is very early days yet for this Norwegian star. I'm not sure its totally safe to mix water and electricity as she does in the video for the brilliant Dancing In Flames but who cares! The minute I heard Chinook early last year I was hooked. And, Dancing In Flames has made a home in my ear-drums. It refuses to leave. Thankfully.

Cilia - Silhouettes in Slow Motion


Another Scandinavian appearance here with Cilia who has constantly released brilliant music this year. Silhouettes clearly stated her intentions to win over my heart. In an extremely busy market place concerning Swedish pop stars Cilia has managed strike through and mark out her identity by creating absolutely stunning pop music. Thank you Cilia. Cannot wait for you 2016 and 2017. P.S please do some gigs in London. Tack. 

Carly Rae Jepsen - Run Away With Me/Emotion


Gosh, my heart hurts for Carly Rae Jepsen. Her album Emotion was amazing. And, it is my my album of 2015! But what an bittersweet experience. Such a well-produced album loaded with so many good pop songs and yet, nowt seemed to stick. Chart success aside, Emotion and all its beautiful gems it contained glisten bright like a super-nova in my heart. I love it always. Pop album of the year

Noonie - Noonia 



And, now Noonie! Someone who actually contributed to the brilliance of Carly's album! Yes, Noonie co-wrote Run Away With Me. Her EP Noonia was a fantastic follow-up to her 2012 debut album which was my album of that year. I was smitten the very first time I heard the singles Pyramids and I'm In Love. Adorable. 

Danny Saucedo - Dör För Dig


A song about growing up in Stockholm, friendship and the first glimpse of a bit of boob made my summer theme of 2015. My Swedish ain't so good but Danny's Dör för dig is pretty absolutely brilliant. I love every note, word and shuffle. A warm and cosy single.

Adam Lambert - Ghost Town


Everything on The Original High was very good and if it wasn't for Carly Rae Jepsen's album Lambert would've easily snatched the DontStopThePop's album of the year title. I'd love to celebrate the fact that Adam and Carly proudly highlight the multi-faceted international list of 2015 but that is totally bollocks as most of my song's hail from Scandinavia. Sorry (but not sorry - its just the way it was last year). Illustrating the power of Sweden at the moment BOTH Adam and Carly's excellent albums last year featured the immense writing talent of Max Martin. On Ghost Town Adam managed to explore the darker aspects of Martin's pop wall of of sound by infusing club synths throughout the record making the single bloody hot rampant pop song and the best in Lambert's career.

Kastrup - Come and Get Me





Returning to Sweden, the boys of Kastrup released not one but two amazing songs in 2015 but Come & Get Me eclipsed their debut single Thieves. While they remain unsigned now don't expect to last. They are good. Very VERY good. I simply love their brazen bold ability to embrace utter epicness.
Zara Larsson - Lush Life



Zara Larsson's first album is amazing. Get it on import if you can. It is well worth it. She is gonna be so big this year. Last year she had hits with Lush Life and with MNEK. Yay! She's been in the studio in-between a year of promoting her hits so expected a re-worked album and confluent global domination. Oyster. Is. Hers!
Aurora - Murder Song (5,4,3,2,1)



Melt my heart. Aurora has had an amazing year and golly how quick have the stars aligned for the Norwegian artist. Her music is outer-wordly. And, she is amazing live too. One of the best performers you'll see this year (if you can grab tickets). Everything Aurora released last year was stunning but for me it was the Murder Song that had me enraptured. Her album is out in March and is amazing. 

LEON - Tired of Talking



Bouncing back over to Sweden now, Leon came right out of the blue and gave us one of the most promising debut singles of 2015. Perhaps the best debut single of 2015. With its fantastic baseline and sharp lyrics, I'm not entirely convinced that Leon is unsigned but I can't say for sure that she's with a label. Suffice to say there's probably a production deal in place that will most likely upgrade to a big ole 360 deal sooner or later. Her music thick with brilliant pop tunage that promises to see her score big at next year's Polar Prize. Welcome, Leon. Your time has started and buckle up for the very excited ride. Ready to dance my heart out to your 2016.

Sophia Somajo - Klein Blue


To the pirate of pop: Sophia Somajo (SOSO). Everything Sophia does turns to the most violent and outrageous shade of gold its actually unbelievable. Not one of her songs is ever a dud, alright or meh. Sophia will not put out something lesser. Her high standards are stratospheric and I love that about her. Amazing amazing amazing pop song of 2015: I can't wait for more from her this year. 

Harriet - Love Will Burn



Ok, I am totally biased for sure but when I first heard Love Will Burn my heart raced, I was shaken, stirred and I couldn't believe how Sam Smith's 007 theme tune could've flown the nest when epic polemics such as Harriet's Love Will Burn and Thom Yorke's/Radiohead's Spectre (listen here)exist in the world. Thing is, I know that Harriet, and Thom, will one day perform the James Bond theme. This time round the stars simply aligned for Smith....
 



SOPHIA SOMAJO - Klein Blue - BOOM! The song of 2015/2016!


And, boom in the flickering embers of the year Sophia drops the song of 2015. And, maybe 2016. What the hell Sophia? Talk about pulling the rug from under our feet. Klein Blue is deliciously electric resplendent in gorgeous choruses and feverish middle eight draped with power-house vocals. The song is THE song. It is an optimistic song - of passion, of knowingness and if's&maybes. Watch and you'll see sort of thing. Which is great. Sophia keeps everyone on notice. She's not this. She's not that. Stop putting her in that box. Stop with labelling.

We've written about Sophia quite a lot - first appearing on Dontstopthepop back in 2009 in our INTRODUCING SOPHIA SOMAJO feature which really felt like a MOMENT! A moment of discovery that I treasure. Listening to her first E.P back then I was rendered speechless - gosh I can recall how fucking difficult it was to write a review about Somajo even now. And, today? The same again. Somajo pushes herself, her music, her image, the norm, and the listener. I love it. Any album you can find of Sophia's get it. They're journeys. Polemics! Sophia always brings a sense of berserk attitude to her pop stylings that carry me on every slick beat and synth snare. She provides - I consume. Thank you.



The EP comes out in February 

KASTRUP - Come and Get Me



Sadly not a tribute to Rachel Stevens second album but don't allow that to hold you back. My favourite Malmo duo are back after their immense debut Thieves with the mighty Come & Get Me. And, its a monster of a song. If you like Oh Fibes, Alphabeat, The Cure and The Ark you'll like Come & Get Me. Its a bombastic song that borrows shades of those big power rock anthems that plastered the soundscape of films like The Breakfast Club and with adorable synths that smash against delectable drum-roles making Come and Get Me one heck of a pop cocktail. I want your album Kastrup. I want it now.


AURORA Q&A


Aurora - Love your new video. How did you get into writing music and singing in the first place?

Thank you!!! I never got into singing really, but I got into writing music when I was around 6. Didn't add any lyrics before I was 9! I remember writing music always made me very happy. It's a nice thing to have in your life.


What international artists inspired you the most and how were you introduced to them?

Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Both introduced by my mom and dad! But it was not before I was around 9 I learnt to appreciate the lyrics and the stories they managed to tell through their songs. I'm really inspired by that! 

What Scandanavian musicians influence you when writing?

Hm.. I don't really know! I'm more inspired by the Scandinavian people than the musicians. But I guess we all have a certain darkness in our music. But I think that's because of our dark winters. I love our dark winters.

 
You’ve had an incredible 18 months. You’ve just completed your NYC/LA shows. What stands out as being the most memorable occasion?

Everything. Just traveling with my amazing band and wonderful manager. And to actually have people coming to my shows and singing along to my songs. It moves me more than anything. I don't even know how do describe it. It's lovely.

I would be terrified of performing - how do you source that…rawness of laying yourself bare into positive energy when taking to the stage?

I'm always terrified!! I never thought I would ever stand on a stage, it's a very strange thing. But it got easier when I changed the focus from me - to the audience. When you think about it it's quite a lovely thing! That these people actually came here to listen to me, and my job is to make them feel it was worth it.

The album - tell us about that! How many songs will it contain?

11. My favorite number. 


Your cover of Nature Boy is immense - how it was picked to be a cover?

I just really love the song. It's so magical. And I wouldn't miss the chance to tell that story my own way! 

Will you release a recorded version soon? Maybe as a bonus track?

Maybeeeeeeeeeeeee...!

How does it feel to have such strong and positive reaction to her your music so early on? Especially online.

It's wonderful. Very scary, and strange. But I'm glad to see how many good and supporting people there are in the world. I couldn't have done this without supporters, so I'm very grateful. 

It feels to me that your songs are very much stories. Narrative based....

Absolutely. I like to write songs that can satisfy the people listening to the melodies and the people listening to the lyrics.

If you could collaborate with one major artist...

Bob Dylan or Chemical brothers! 

Are you still in the experimental stage with regards to the sounds of the album or have the songs pretty much taken form and shape?

The songs have pretty much taken form now. And live it's mostly about spreading the energy and making each song sound like a soup foul of energy and emotions! Maybe not a soup. Maybe a bowl. 
 
How much does Bergen inspire you?

In many ways, the lovely people and the lovely nature. I'm very inspired by nature, my house is in the middle of the forest. It's lovely. 

Could you envisage a time recording elsewhere? LA or London?

I don't think so! I like being home.

So - Aurora thank you for this interview - but before you go a question for laughs...If you were to put together a 4 track covers EP….from the top of your head, which songs/artists immediately come to mind?

Maybe "Forever" by dePresno, "The brothel" by Susanne sundför, "tambourine man" by Bob Dylan, and "Tomorrow never knows" by the Beatles! Thank you:) lovely questions! 

***

KASTRUP INTERVIEW



So, Kastrup - why name yourself after the Danish airport?

For us, the residents of Malmö, Kastrup is much more than just an airport. It is the train station that you’re passing by, drunk and hungry on your way home from a wet night in Copenhagen, saying "Why don’t we just do it? Let’s get off here and take the first cheapest plane away from here. We just do it! Run away from everything”. Kastrup is also the node that we need to take us to to get out in the the world. It represents so much more than just an airport. There's also something exciting about airports, it is always a very special atmosphere, it's a no man's land, the definitive border between something new and something old.

You’re both from Sweden - Malmö to be precise. What was it like when Eurovision came to town?

Timmie: That's right, Eurovision 2013 huh? I don’t remember actually. I recall that there were very many bewildered tourists, a lot of different music stages around the town. A good vibe!

Puppe: Remember seeing it on big screen in “Folkets park” with Timmie actually. A lot of people and a good vibe!


Now - you both met at the Malmö academy of music. Did you immediately hit it off?

Timmie: It is becoming more and more blurred to me, how it actually happened. I know that we did some school assignments together. I remember that I thought that Puppe had something special, and above all something I had not. I wanted to be near him, to learn more, but also to get the opportunity to work more together in the future. Then we became friends during the time outside of the school, so the step was not that far.

Puppe: Same thing here. I don’t remember the start of it. But I guess we had some school assignment, started talking about music and I could tell Timmie had a great sense of music and songwriting. I remember us going to his rehearsal room, (which I got in on later), brought beer and started jammin’ with two keyboards and microphones, and I thought it was great! Later we booked one of the schools' studios to just “record something”, and we ended up with a nice ballad, not so Kastrup-ish though, but nice! I guess that was a bit like a start for something but we didn't know it was the start of Kastrup. 



You are one of my favourite unsigned Swedish acts of 2015 thanks to Thieves. It is bloody immense. Where did the song come from?

Timmie: It's a very old song. I think I wrote it around 2008/2009 when I studied theatre in the middle of nowhere in Skåne. There were pianos everywhere in the school. I always used to sit down and play something. Thieves was that kind of song that just came to me. It’s hard to say how. It’s always like that. I think the class rehearsed a play and during the break I went away to be by myself for awhile, sat down at a piano and sang the song that years later would become “Thieves”. It has been sprouting for a long time, but I have refused to let it go. I have always known that it is a very good song. I just needed to figure out how to do it.

Despite its BIGNESS I could totally envisage an awesome naked acoustic version as a b-side/download….it is a brilliant song. Can that happen?

A few weeks ago we actually did an extremely naked version of Thieves, live on Swedish radio. Don’t know if it's possible to hear now, will check on it! But we have some plans to make an acoustic version, live video or something like that. Hold on!


Its a bit different to more rockier Lydia. Your first single. Can you tell me something about the genesis of Lydia and why its a different shade of pop to Thieves…

It's really not that much difference. It is all about the mix. There are at least as many synths in Lydia as in Thieves, but right there and then we gave the guitars a bigger role and decided to go in the indie-pop / rock direction.

The biggest difference is probably that in the genesis of Lydia we were a band. We were five musicians who jammed until the arrangement sounded good live, right the in the rehearsal room. That’s also why Lydia is an extremely good live song, the arrangement is written to sound good with loud drums and distorted guitars directly in the room.

Thieves contains some seriously sexy synths - please tell me we are gonna hear some more from them.

You will certainly hear more synths! That we can promise. But it's not that fun to head in to the studio and choose "The Epic Thieves preset" on every song we write. We are constantly trying to find new and interesting sounds.


You’re both rather nice looking chaps - so why aint you in the Thieves Video?! 

Haha, thank you! Actually, we had an idea about having us in the video. But Christopher (the man who came up with the idea and then did it all, director, photographer and producer) thought it would be "too messy" and that it would ruin the whole vibe. We trusted him. We will certainly appear in some video in the future :)

Are you thinking of performing soon and any time in London?

Of course! That is absolutely our plan. Maybe this fall, but more realistic is that you’ll see us in early 2016!

Will you be releasing new material soon? To consolidate on Thieves? Want more. 

We are working with about five to ten songs right now, two of them are candidates to be the next single. However, it is just a waste to release any of them during the summer, there is hardly no one who listens to what you say then. The plan is to be release the next Kastrup single in early September. Hold on!

If you could a covers EP of Swedish Hits - which 5 songs would you pick and why.

Wow, erhm. Tough question. Not that we think that we could do it better than the original, but...

  1. Duvchi - Turtleduvs
  2. Thomas Stenström - Fåglar
  3. Amason - Ålen
  4. Axwell^Ingrosso - On my way
  5. Me and my army - The only one

What acts from Sweden inspire you the most?

Seinabo Sey, Frida Sundemo, Silvana Imam, Jonathan Johansson, Kent, Vincent Pontare & Salem Al Fakir (mostly as songwriters and producers to Avicii, Seinabo, Veronica Maggio, Axwell & Ingrosso.) 

What are the biggest challenges being an unsigned act?

The time. To get the time to suffice. We do everything ourselves. We write, record, manage public relations and do the marketing activities. We’re booking our, we’re networking, e-mailing, update our social media, keep in touch with fans and audience and so on and so on. Then of course, channels. It takes time to build up such large channels and that kind of network that an established record company has.

So would you like to stay unsigned - or rather what I mean is, be somewhat like Robyn, Konichiwa Records and have arrangements with the majors)

That is something that we’re thinking about very much nowadays. The Robyn arrangement with Konichiwa is almost becoming a standard now among more established artists. If we will do the same, don’t really know yet, we'll see. Again, it is something we are discussing right now. One step at a time.

Do you think its still important to have that larger representation - would you like to get that support from a big label?

You're on to something that the entire industry discusses very much right now, what should one have a major label for? Really? Now that there are so many tools for the individual creator to do everything yourself. Being signed to a Major also means to compete with the world's greatest artists. You get a tiny little attention in a big, big bank with already very established artists. It's all about visions and approaches. If we find someone who thinks like us and the chemistry is there, then you never know what can happen :)

You’ve majored in pop production at MAM. What other Swedish producers would you love to work the most?

Timmie: Wow, hard question. So many! I’m a big fan of the Danish producer Jon "Joshua" Schumann (Kashmir, Mew, Kent, Carpark North), but yeah, he’s Danish, haha. Would be cool to do something with Magnus Lidehäll (Mapei, Seinabo Sey, Veronica Maggio) or Joel Humlén (Frida Sundemo).

Puppe: Magnus Lidhäll would have been fun maybe! But, yeah hard question!

Please say the follow-up is gonna be soon! Whats next for Kastrup - are there songs shortlisted as potential singles yet? Or do you guys wanna keep it an open field and see what happens?

There’s two potential singles right now. Their working titles are “Come and get me” and “You and I”, but you’ll never know. We’ll spend the summer in our new studio. Maybe the next single is not even written yet. Who knows. But the plan is to release it in September! Stay tuned.

***
Buy the single here: Thieves
Kastrup: Facebook

LCMDF - Fooled


Wow. Its been two years since LCMDF gave us a lick tip of their attitude - in the form of their brilliant and iconic #haters which of course was the theme for that years Helsinki Pride. They're back and with an amazing thriller single - Fooled. It's been too long! Don't leave it that long Emma+Mia again! Pop missed you!!! Fooled is a chunky, bouncy, cocky synth 80's rebellious pop song. If you like Sophia Somajo and Rebecca & Fiona you'll love Fooled. LCMDF thank you so much for returning!


Michael Cragg at GuardianMusic hits the nail on the head when he describes LCMDF purveyors of excellent big pop music that 'could bring about a mild panic attack in a more unsuspecting listener.' Which is one of the reasons why I've always love them and Fooled refuses to let the ball drop - they spin their distinctive disruptive electro beats all over the place, decorate the chorus with trippy messy chaotic boom-claps that wrap around sonic explosive rhythms that recall the very best moments of J-pop. Every beat feels like a mini-fizzle explosion in the ears and I love love love every single moment of it!  Kiitos Paljon

KASTRUP - THIEVES


Speechless. My heart raced a million beats when first hearing Thieves. Rendered Speechless. Discovering Kastrup was like an electric bolt hitting water - absolutely terrifying but beautiful. Revitalising. Big shout out to you to Musikguiden i P3 for the heads-up. Tack, Tack, Tack. Thieves is their second single (check out the glorious Lydia on their soundcloud). Perhaps named after the Danish Airport - I don't know. Amazing. The band are my favourite act to come out of Sweden this year. Rarely do I throw out hyperbolic slogans - but I can't get enough of Thieves


The sexy synth throbs around the beloved, yet vulnerable, voice have me doing a locomotion of happy feels. There are Kleerup/Robyn aspects to this. Throw-in shades of Brandon Flowers, Cure, Oh Fibes, The Ark and Eric Hassle and you may steal a little idea of what Kastrup are about. And yet, there is something evocative and explosive about Thieves that has me right around their Kastrups fingers. They've sparkled into my heart. I can't get enough of them. Swedish duo of the year. I may be rejoicing their arrival quite a lot on this blog this year so apologises beforehand.

Awa - Obvious


Sweden's only ever X Factor winner Awa is back! And, with a supercool track. Co-written by Marlene & the Trinity team, Obvious is her follow up to Not Ready To Say Goodbye. With the ever fashionable 90's house pace, the single is remarkably on-trend though refuses to be gimmicky or try-too-hard. Awa has taken her time with material. Not rushing with her debut single was a remarkable move - Goodbye was a huge hit for her. Finding the right follow-up has taken her team over a year but the fact that this song is perhaps the best to come out of Sweden this side of 2015 shows the AnR team were wise to dig for that straw amongst a tremendous hay-stack. Sweden produces so many great songs and with this - Awa's got herself an amazing one. Cannot wait for the eventual album.