Why are Swedish bands so great?

ARTS HUB UK — The Knife, The Sounds, Soundtrack of Our Lives, Jose Gonzalez, Crazy Frog, the list goes on. It's striking how many successful bands have come out of Sweden, a country with a population of only nine million, in the past few years. Hannah Forbes Black checks out why it's more than just the legacy of ABBA.
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ARTS HUB UK — In recent years, bands like Peter Bjorn & John and The Knife and independent labels like Labrador and Hybridism have made Sweden synonymous with a certain literate, open-minded, not-entirely-chart-unfriendly indie music. The kind of music, a recent article in the Guardian implied, that once made the British indie scene great.

Articles about Sweden’s recent surge of successful indie bands are tinged with a kind of English bewilderment: wasn’t that once us? Exporting fiercely independent, genre-bending music to a grateful and admiring world? Swedish pop star Robyn told an interviewer, “It seems to me like you have Westlife and guitar bands, and nothing in between.” It’s a pretty crushing analysis, and not entirely fair – staunchly “in between” British band Hot Chip get a lot of radio play in Sweden, for example – but perhaps it conveys something of the nature of the British music scene’s interest in Swedish music. There may be some kind of gap to be plugged, some kind of suspicion on the part of Brits that, between new rave and Oasis ‘best of’ albums, all is not as it should be.

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Hannah Forbes Black
About the Author
Hannah Forbes Black is a freelance writer based in London.