This is the third and last in a trilogy of reviews of Swedish bands with new albums or EPs out in February, and is different again from the other two.
You know you could be in for a hard time trying to place a band in the greater scheme of things when their ‘Inspiration’ playlist on Spotify runs to 30 songs and covers artists as diverse as Nick Drake, Imogen Heap, Martha Wainwright (and, in particular, “Bloody Motherf*****g Asshole”), P J Harvey (in particular, The Pocket Knife), Sharon Van Etten, Nina Simone, Antony & the Johnsons and FKA Twigs’ Two Weeks. As Spotify observes there are at least two ‘explicit’ tracks in there and a suspicion starts to form that perhaps these women aren’t quite as sweet and innocent as the PR photos suggest.
But if push came to shove I’d opt for something simpler; Twiggy Frostbite is a cross between Sleater Kinney and fellow countrywomen First Aid Kit, if you can imagine such a thing, with an occasional dash of the dreamy wanderings of Björk. However, the SK analogy arises solely out of the fact it is an all girl band (currently four strong with two stand-ins when needed) that has recently got back together following a lengthy (six-year) hiatus to record their second album, TWF, and in the wake of a comeback tour of China! The interval was the result of other musical projects and commitments although the band members do admit they were “in limbo” after the 2009 album Through Fire. The impetus to record a second one arose out of an email from a Hong Kong university to play there, which ‘shocked’ the band into working together again.
While they can rock, that’s where that similarity with SK ends though; the music is more poppy and there is much less Grrrl, let alone Riot. But you can hear the sweet melodies and harmonies of the Söderbergs in much of their work. Throw into the mix occasional episodes of what looks like Scandic Noir in some of their videos and the result is a pretty distinctive cocktail.
If Twiggy Frostbite has a ‘leader’ it is Elin Lindfors (blonde, on the right), who also features in the two-man band Deer Tracks along with David Lehnberg, and which is notable for its energetic live performances. Sadly for us, they are very popular in mainland Europe, the US and Asia, so we hardly ever get a look-in.
The other ‘regular’ Twiggy Frostbite band members Anne-Karin Berglund (red hair – keyboards) and Emma Sjöberg (bass and percussion) are supplemented this time out by Sofia Stolpe (vocals, ukulele and percussion) to produce a more comprehensive sound. The versatile Lindfors, fundamentally a notably angelic vocalist and – yes, percussionist – for both bands, actually gets to play a saw on TWF (with a bow). Meanwhile her voice contrasts nicely with that of new-girl Stolpe’s slightly coarser one, perhaps in a similar manner to that of Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdóttir and Raggi Thórhallsson in Of Monsters and Men.
The 10-track album kicks off with We belong in a movie in which an early soporific instrumental section erupts into a mighty atmospheric bash verging on anthem status. The beautiful Seashore follows a similar pattern while featuring some attractive bow/bass work from Emma Sjöberg. The First Aid Kit influence is evident for the first time on third track, Curtain Call, again with some great bass bowing. The ukelele makes its first appearance in Up a Tree (the next single), which starts off with Elin sounding like Regina Spektor and ends, via another stirring chorus, on a sustained organ note that Arcade Fire would be proud of.
Ahai (see video below) has a slightly more light-hearted feel to it while the simple poetry of In Darkness Lights Are Out erupts into a crescendo of synth and piano. A pattern is emerging that is confirmed in Against the Rocks, in which Elin’s falsetto tones are supplanted by a tsunami of electronic waves. Feather is dominated by a mesmeric amalgam of bells and drumbeat. Mary is the album’s ballad while Messy Star – which I misread as Mazzy Star, should have gone to Specsavers – rounded off my listening. I could easily imagine Hope Sandoval singing it as I wallowed in the dreamlike quality of Elin’s voice.
Regular readers of Too Many Blogs will know I’m a fan of the output of bands from this part of the world but I have to say this is one of the best albums I’ve heard from one that is virtually unknown in the UK and, essentially, ‘part-time.’
It looks like there’s no chance of seeing them in the UK just yet but I’ll certainly be encouraging them via their FB page.
TWF was recorded in Korsa, a country retreat near the small industrial town of Hofors in central Sweden in 2014 and is released through Despotz Records. Also available on Spotify, Soundcloud and iTunes.