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Sweden

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JJ, V

JJ, V

By Sam Lefebvre, ContributorThe Swedish duo JJ arrived in 2009 with an air of cultivated mystery, withholding their identities and releasing a slew of suitably cryptic, reference-laden pop records. Scrupulous listeners found specific melodies and lyrics liberally lifted from dance music and hip-hop hits like Lil Wayne's "Lollipop." JJ was eventually outed as Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander. Now, the pair's third album, V, appears in a musical climate where stylistic synthesis doesn't feel so novel. Since they're a well-known quantity, we're free to engage with JJ's songs, rather than their references. V is resplendent with lush reverb, synth washes and impeccably balanced electronic percussion, but unlike the 1990s pop vocals, R&B and Balearic dance that V's surface qualities evoke, JJ's beats are fleeting and fickle. The instrumentation drops out repeatedly, leaving little more than Kastlander's opulent vocal melodies to bridge separate sections. "Fagelsangen" sets strings and Auto-Tuned vocals to ambient house flourishes, but… more »

Tags: JJ, Sweden
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First Aid Kit, Stay Gold

First Aid Kit, Stay Gold

By Dan Hyman, ContributorThough the sister-act of Klara and Johanna Söderberg are quite young — both are in their early 20s — it's hard not to picture them as weathered, yarn-spinning old American women, so wise are the characters that populate their songs. Their lyrics often scan as proverbs, lessons learned from a life battling dusty storms and rotten men. With their major-label debut Stay Gold, First Aid Kit have created an album as rich and detailed as the songs' protagonists. Building on the steely vocal interplay that characterized 2012's The Lion's Roar, on Gold the duo reach for a grander sound, employing a 13-piece backing orchestra, tighter harmonies, bigger choruses and mountains more emotional heft. The duo shines brightest when they use beatific country melodies to mask somber sentiments. On the opening "My Silver Lining," the Söderbergs are "tired of looking for answers," but counter that weariness with the catchiest riff they've yet… more »

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Holograms, Forever

Holograms, Forever

By Annie Zaleski, ContributorOn their 2012 self-titled debut, Holograms drew comparisons to the gloomiest corners of the original post-punk scene. On their second album, Forever, the Swedish quartet build on those influences while focusing and refining their songwriting,… more »

Tags: Holograms, Sweden
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Alternate-Universe Eurovision

CHVRCHES

By Laura Studarus, ContributorThe Eurovision Song Contest was established as way to bring European countries together after World War II. The first competition was held in the town of Lugano, Switzerland, on May 24, 1956. Since then, it's… more »