Music

Discover the Best Scandinavian Bands of 2018

The Scandinavian music industry has enjoyed a momentous year in 2018. Following an eight-year hiatus, Swedish dance-pop sensation Robyn made a triumphant return with her album Honey; rising Norwegian star Sigrid released a second EP, Raw, and Danish electronic legend Trentemøller quietly put out a new mix record, Harbour Boat Trips Vol. 2.

But among these eminent names, a variety of emerging Scandinavian acts showcased fresh material. To wrap up the year, we’ve curated a list of the breakthrough artists who should be on your radar – from future stadium fillers to subtle indie crooners:

Denmark

mono mono

Two years ago, mono mono’s Jakob Franck and Karoline Elsig put out “Helium Balloon” and “City Lights” – singles that teased their personal brand of minimalist, ambient electronica. On their 2018 debut EP, Natural, the duo once again pair Elsig’s delicate vocals with various samples and effects, conjuring up dreamy sonic vistas in the process. Fans of Norwegian techno act Smerz will find kinship with this act.

Photo credit: Malthe Behr

 
 

Aloo

Following a move to Berlin, Aloo dropped “Peel it” – a pulsating single that mixed industrial baselines with shimmering synth melodies. She later released Før, an EP that further displayed her arresting vocals and versatility as a songwriter. “Hiding in The Woods” is a track that reverberates with cinematic intrigue, whilst “Sail” oozes with solo clarinet sections. We’re looking forward to more from Aloo in 2019.

 
 
 

Iceage

From 2011 to 2014, Copenhagen outfit Iceage released three separate full-lengths, each of which gently evolved their angsty, post-punk sound towards greater commercial success. After a hiatus, the band found form on their critically acclaimed 2018 album, Beyondless. Comprising both hit singles and a collaboration with US superstar Sky Ferreira, Iceage has clearly transcended their tempestuous DIY roots.


 

Upcoming Scandinavian Shows

– March 1, 2019; Vega, Copenhagen

 
 

Hôy la

Danish singer-songwriter Hôy la has been hailed as one to watch since 2018 commenced, and she hasn’t disappointed, releasing two EPs this year that demonstrate how she expertly straddles the acoustic and electronic sound, melding them into something hypnotic and powerful.


 

 
 

Sweden

La Lusid

After the release of their EP Legends last year, La Lusid came back with a new self-titled full-length album in 2018. The album is a laid-back medley of tender indie tunes anchored by lead singer Paulina Palmgren’s soulful vocal performance. Garnering regular airplay in Sweden – especially among student radio station – the band’s reputation is set to rise both across Scandinavia and beyond through 2019.


 

 
 

Marlene and Ji Nilsson

Swedish duo Marlene and Ji Nilsson are both notable recording artists in their own right. As soloists, they each released separate albums in 2017 (Sweet & Scandinavian Pain, respectively). But their decision to resurrect the collaboration they first founded four years ago produced two standout singles this year. “There” and “Ear Candy” both echo with nineties house vibes; ideal dance floor-fillers.

Photo credit: Adrian Wigerdal

 
 

Viagra Boys

After a string of limited releases from 2016 onward, Viagra Boys put out their debut album, Street Worms, in September. The punk outfit’s compelling record mixes grunting baselines with a range of strangled saxophone solos. Lead singer Sebastien Murphy’s satire-laced lyrics further complement the band’s no-holds-barred approach. Fans of both Iggy Pop and The Velvet Underground will savor this sound.

Upcoming Scandinavian Shows

– February 28th; Voxhall, Aarhus

 
 

Norway

Amanda Tenfjord

First Impressions is an upbeat, finger-clicking debut EP from Amanda Tenfjord, often discussed in the same breath as hit-making contemporaries Maggie Rogers (US) and Sigrid (NO). At just 21, her songs mostly reference coming-of-age experiences. On “Let Me Think”, Tenfjord questions the longevity of a relationship, whilst through “Pick a Card” she debates finding work and leaving home. Based on what we’ve heard, 2019 may well be a pivotal year in her development.

Photo credit: Thomas Rosser

Upcoming Scandinavian Shows

– January 31st – February 3rd; Trondheim Calling, Norway
– February 28th – March 3rd: by:Larm, Norway
– March 7th: Stormen Konserthus, Bodø, Norway
– July 25th – July 28th; Trollrock, Norway

 
 

Farida

Farida first came to prominence with her 2016 debut single “Solo Ride.” But the Norwegian-Algerian singer-songwriter has enjoyed her most prolific year in 2018, putting out four new tracks. While her music comfortably sits within the genre of Scandinavian pop, Farida shows her musical flair across these new releases – rapping on “Rob the Bank” and exhibiting soaring vocals on “You”. With abundant talent, Farida is one to watch.


 

 
 

Boy Pablo

Boy Pablo announced himself in 2017 with his debut album, Roy Pablo. In 2018, he provided further evidence of his abilities (and wit) through a second full-length, Soy Pablo. Following in the footsteps of indie king Mac Demarco, the record’s minimalist guitar songs invariably twang with a heavy dose of variable pitch. Accompanied by his charming lyrics and vocal assurance, there are signs this artist is here to stay.


 

Upcoming Scandinavian Shows

– January 17th; Pumpehuset, Copenhagen
– January 18th; Train Live, Aarhus
– February 9th; USF Verflet, Bergen
– February 14th; Veka, Volda
– February 15th; Rockefeller, Oslo

 
 

Iceland

Indriði

In 2016, Indriði released his ethereal debut album, Makril. Two years later, he advanced his deconstructed, experimental style with a new full-length record, Ding Ding. Rewarded with a first-time appearance at Iceland Airwaves Festival in November, Indriði’s mercurial new work sits at the musical cross-section of Nick Drake, Father John Misty and Jeff Buckley.


 

 
 

Ari Árelíus

Combining both brass and electronic instrumentation, Ari Árelíus offered us an alluring entry into his musical universe on his 2018 debut EP, Emperor Nothing. The record juxtaposes sixties inspired rock ‘n roll with effervescent indie-pop. Sharing similarities with Alex Turner’s dulcet tones, Árelíus’ commanding vocal performance anchors the impressive six-track volume.


 

 
 

Bríet

At only 19, Bríet had a big year in 2018. The release of her four-track EP, 22.03.99, initially touted her talents as an emerging singer-songwriter. But two separate singles, “Feimin(n)” and “Carousel (feat. Steiner)”, later confirmed she was one of Scandinavia’s breakout acts of the year. If Bríet maintains this run of form through 2019, it won’t be long before she’s garnering global acclaim.


 

 
 

Finland

Jesse Markin

Jesse Markin, born in Libera and based in Helsinki, blessed us with new solo material in 2018. Previously recognized for his excellent work as a producer, Markin manages to infuse jazz, soul, and rap elements amid this collection of dance tracks. “Blood” is a heartfelt rumination on US gun violence, whilst “Treat” is an upbeat, hip-swaying single. With a broad musical range, it’ll be exciting to see where Markin goes next.


 

 
 

Vesta

In 2015, Vesta put out six separate singles, working within the Finnish folk-electronic genre. In 2018, she dropped Lohtulauseita, a full-length album that showcased a diverse swathe of new songs produced in this signature style. Accompanied by collaborative releases with compatriots Töölön Ketterä and Pyhimys, this was the year when the young producer made a statement.


 

 
 

Lac Belot

Lac Belot came to our attention with his swooning 2018 debut album, Abracadabra. The record, which includes harp, piano, and flute instrumentation, is a compilation of tender lullabies. Belot’s unobtrusive vocal performance provides the subtle narration to each track’s gentle rocking rhythms. Abracadabra is the perfect soundtrack to accompany a cozy winter’s evening.


 

Want more great Scandi music? Check out our Scandinavian women musicians playlist and the best of Swedish pop icon Robyn!


 

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Douglas Whitbread

Originally from Britain, Douglas has made Copenhagen his home since coming to the city to study in 2015. His writing predominantly reflects his interest in the lives and activities of local people.