Swede Charity

4.7.2008

By Jason Lamphier

(5) The Tough Alliance, 'A New Chance'
Electro-pop punks Eric Bergland and Henning F'rst (a.k.a. the Tough Alliance) are not lovers, but this video allows you to craft your own homo-romantic fantasy about them. The duo -- Jens Lekman's favorite Swedish band -- cruises blithely through a verdant landscape on a motor scooter, one embracing the other as they head to 'a place where diamonds never fade away,' as the vocals declare. At one point they even stop to pick up a blossoming potted plant, while sparkling '80s keyboards, catchy bass lines, and animal hoots propel them on their carefree journey. Not since Andy Bell and Vince Clarke have two blokes created such heartfelt, harmonious pop. Give these boys a little respect.

(6) Sally Shapiro, 'Jackie Jackie'
The new queen of the Italo Disco movement -- by way of Sweden -- is actually a duo featuring Shapiro (not her real name) on vocals and Johan Agebj'rn on production. Though the singer has been fairly press shy, she has no problem slamming her whispery vocals all over Agebj'rn's mesmerizing euro-beats. 'Hold Me So Tight' brings to mind spring break at sunset; 'He Keeps Me Alive' is electro-charged with unrequited longing; and the video for 'Jackie Jackie' (below) features a muppet of a boy so swept up in Sally that he turns a mop into a wig and runs wild with his wannabe fantasies. We've all been there.

(7) The Embassy, 'It Never Entered My Mind'
In this clip the Embassy try to get all elusive and creepy (e.g., lurking behind doors; caressing carpet beneath a couch; hiding in kitchen drawers and trunks), but the handsome Gothenburg duo's plinky, self-described 'underclass disco' is instantly inviting. You quickly get past the video's Japanese horror flick ambience because you're too busy telling yourself how frickin' much this song reminds you of New Order's '1963.' It's no wonder their debut, Futile Crimes, was voted the third best record of the 21st century by 100 Swedish people. Much like the great music of their aforesaid forbears, this is perfect synth-pop suffused with tension and melancholy.

(8) The Honeydrips, '(Lack of Love) Will Tear Us Apart'
Yep, that's a blatant nod to Joy Division, but Gothenburg-based songwriter Mikael Carlsson (who released his latest album, Here Comes the Future, under the moniker the Honeydrips) actually relies on the recipe for success that worked for more danceable pop-rock acts like, well, New Order: aching guitars, emphatic bass, and a healthy, strangely charming dose of despair and death. There's something so refreshingly 1990 about this video that you'll want to hunt down those scratchy old Soul II Soul and Jesus Jones LPs you'd forgotten about. Irresistible euro-house programming and a grilling "Under Pressure"-like riff introduce the song, and when Hanna G'ranson's gossamer vocals arrive ('Are you even listening?' she coos sadly to her drifting lover), you're locked in for the rapturous two and a half minutes that follow.

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