Dolores Haze - The Haze is Forever


Let's give one of my favourite By:Larm bands a post of their own, Dolores Haze soon crop back on my conscious with a newly released video for "The Haze is Forever", the title track to their debut LP (of the same name and which I still cannot seem to find in the UK).

I saw the Swedish quartet twice during the festival in Oslo (which is already almost three weeks behind us) and the track is a great summation of those shows, filled with a feisty energy and enthusiasm that is unpredictable and furious. It packs its punch from first to last filled with snarling vocals and the hard hitting drums, amongst a biting grungy guitar assault and sinister bass-line, it's like the 90's never left us.

Dolores Haze are set to play in the UK at The Great Escape festival in May (and perhaps some more shows to). Don't miss 'em.

By:Larm 2016 - Friday Review

After a late morning breakfast I spend much of the day sightseeing and manage to find a curry house that is very nice before heading out for the evening music session.

Friday starts with a special Sofar Sounds show, the picture might make it look like it's in someone's house but in realitiy it's the basement of a hotel. I listen to a hip-hop artist who isn't really my thing and am very happy after about ten seconds of Ida Stein is introduced as the second act...

Friday. Ida Stein. Sofar Sounds


I'm not sure the stripped back setup that she employs here is one that Ida Stein had played with before but that doesn't matter, the pared-down, acoustic nature of the set suits her voice to the ground, allowing her ethereal whispers to silence the crowd with its blissful melancholy and intimate longing (there’s a track called “Melancholia” which sums it up).

The recorded sound I hear for the first time on my return to the UK is more electro pop in its nature but still resonates around her soft vocals and flickering synths. A new fan is found.

Sea Lion. St Edmunds Church


For someone I first wrote about on this blog as long ago as September 2012 it’s incredibly the first time I’ve seen Sea Lion perform live and the setting, the beautiful St Edmunds Church is perfect (it’s reminiscent of St Pancras Old Church which can only be a good thing).

A short, sweet and satisfying set follows over the next twenty five minutes with tracks taken from last year’s Desolate Stars leading the way. The acoustics and the silent crowd help to bring out Linn's fragile vocal, intoxicating around naked acoustic strums and haunting melodies. 

Pale Honey. Rockefeller


Another band I've blogged about multiple times here and finally managed to break the live duck of at By:Larm are Pale Honey, the sets a cracker too. Perfectly suited to the big Rockefeller stage the trio produce a set of punchy beats and tight guitar and the result is explosive and energetic. The highlights are arguably the tightest tracks from last year’s debut LP Youth, the title track and the propulsive “Over Your Head” and by the time it ends I’m humming the infectious riffs on the way out. 

Tina Refsnes. Crossroad Club


This show wasn’t actually on my agenda before the festival and it wasn’t even part of the main schedule but I bumped into Tina Refsnes the day before at Siv Jakobsen’s gig and actually said hello (I’m absolutely the worst at saying hello to people, I tend not to want to impede on people’s own life – hence me walking past Jarvis Cocker earlier in the day!) and Tina then told me about the gig and I gladly tweaked my schedule to take it in.

The set is delicious and another treat, it’s great to see people like Tina, Unnveig Aas and Siv in their native country because they are playing with their traditional setups, backed by a full band of familiar musicians instead of the usual touring solo / session musician set. The full band sound here truly helps and I’m very happy with the set, a combination of twanging country blues, heartfelt ballads and stomping rockier moments that takes in all of my favourites from last year’s No One Knows That You're Lost. “I Don’t Know” and “Alaska” particuarly impress with the familiarity and association as my discovery song tingling my senses.

I don’t stop around after to say hello!


Julia Adams. Verkstedet


I think this is the first time I'd ever stood through an entire set in a foreign language, one that I don't even speak a word of.

Swedish artist Julia Adams is worth it though, an engaging performance of strong, shimmering electro-pop melodies and bittersweet vocals. There’s a couple of slower songs where Julia moves to a keys and these are probably my highlights although the swaggering “0400am” runs in close in this live setting.

I don’t understand the in-between song banter either and as sad as I am, I find it amusing to hear the odd English word or saying filter through. 

Pixx. St Edmunds Church


Even though Pixx is the first UK artist I see here in Oslo, I’ve actually never heard of her before and arrive purely because of the ‘buzz’ surrounding the new 4AD signing. The church settings are certainly suited to the atmospheric blend of exotic rhythms, subtle guitars and minimal electronics and the delicious haunting vocals weave an enticing proposition. I’m not familiar with any of the tracks but I’m absorbed by the seductive combination of unhurried instrumentation and soft, hushed voice. A mental note to listen to more on my return is made.

It’s incredibly been a week since my flight already, so I have of course listened to more since, I love the floating, dreaming nature of “A Way to Say Goodbye”. The buzz seems to be justified. 

Sara Hartman. Drømmeteltet


I think this was Sara Hartman's second show of the night, fresh from supporting Ellie Goulding somewhere else in Oslo. You can immediately tell she’s used to sharing bigger stages. An engaging lead performance from a young artist who belies her age, swaggering back and forth with gusto and armed with chorus after chorus and track after track that seems to hint at a stadium bound career.

Quite incredibly Sara starts with ‘the hit’, “Monster Guide Me Home” immediately gets the crowd going and the elation doesn’t drop throughout the half hour set.

Dolores Haze. John Dee


Round two for Dolores Haze and it’s immediately apparent that my ‘love-in’ of yesterday was not made by alcohol intoxication. Dolores Haze are absolutely brilliant again.

At the start there’s two girls on stage with them, a Shampoo meets Clueless pairing who add even more enthusiasm to the first track, as if that was possible. Their half hour set disappears, once more, in an instant, a blur of gritty power, grungy guitars, handclaps and boundless fun. I grab a t-shirt shortly after. It costs the same price as a beer.

The Prettiots. Rockefeller


The t-shirt buying means I arrive upstairs at Rockefeller as The Prettiots are playing but soon another new band to follow is found. I should have probably checked out the American trio before as they released a record very recently via Rough Trade. That record Funs Cool is where most of the tracks are sourced from – although a set highlight “Blow It” – which I wrongly think is called “Blow Him” until I catch the band again the next day (which changes the meaning of the track somewhat!!) is not.

I imagine The Prettiots are a bit of a Marmite band, love them or hate them, songs about adolescent boy-chasing, boy-dissing, moving to LA and so on all wrapped up in sugary harmonies, strong bass rhyhtms, ukulele and incredibly funny anecdotes. I love it.

By:Larm 2016 - Wednesday & Thursday Review

Over the next couple of blog posts I will write about the favourite acts I saw during the four-day festival By:Larm held annually in Oslo, Norway. This was my first trip to Norway and obviously the festival and I'm already hooked.

I'll briefly start at the end by saying By:Larm was an absolutely fantastic way to experience new Scandinavian music and that Oslo was a fantastic city (bloody expensive mind, everything you hear about it is true – 7 pound beers – ouch to my wallet!). Thankfully the flights and accommodation were relatively cheap. 

My friend, who I talked into coming with me last October/November when I had the urge to book tickets after seeing the initial line-up, said it reminded him of The Great Escape about five or six years ago and that analogy is spot on. It's smaller, more compact, less commercial, less crowded (over the weekend there was only one show I wanted to get into that I didn't and that was in a 95 person capacity venue that I turned up-to just as it was starting, so it's hardly surprising) and incredibly high in quality, diverse artists. There's no male-centric lines-up here and By:Larm revels in its buzzing, positive atmosphere and its focus on exciting new music (although, boy, Norwegian men are tall!). 

Wednesday. Virgin Suicide. Pokalen


For me at least, Virgin Suicide were head and shoulders above are any other act playing on Wednesday evening, the launch event for the festival held at Vulkan and its neighbouring Pokalen.

It's impossible for me to write about the Copenhagen band without referring immediately to Suede, the unmistakable tone of the vocal, the shimmering, jangling guitars, that blight sing-along choruses, it all reminds me of them in their swaggering pomp. Clear, energetic pop that brought a smile and dance to all listening down the front.

I'd not heard of the band before but the UK, it seems, is already taking notice of the band with them receiving The Guardian new band of the week (and an amusing review which said very much what I said last Wednesday) just days later. don't be surprised to hear a lot more from this promising young band.

Thursday. Siv Jakobsen. Mono


I have to be careful here, I'm probably posting about Siv Jakobsen more than is justifiably allowed and I wouldn't be surprised if I received a knock at my door from the police with a restraining order any time soon! That said however, oh my fucking god, this show is incredible. What a way to start the festival officially. 

I'd seen Siv play before last year at The Great Escape in Brighton (twice in fact) playing solo acoustically and that was beautiful but the addition of a gorgeous string quartet and impeccable keys add a dimension to the tracks, primarily taken from last year's The Lingering EP that simply took my breath away. 

I'll be honest and say I was worried when I walked inside the venue and saw a darkened spit and sawdust sort of place, the sort you'd expect to be hosting rock acts but the second Siv and band start playing I forget all about that and am instantly transported to somewhere magical. The sensation was similar to that I had when I saw Broken Twin in Copenhagen a fortnight ago, it makes you want to close your eyes, soak in every emotion and hug the person nearest. You will be glad to know I managed to restrain myself!

The half-hour set disappears almost in the blink of an eye and I'm left longing so much more (I do see Siv again on Saturday -  so that will be me writing about her again soon then!).  Highlights are difficult to pick, "Bullet" is one of my favourites from the release and the strings here were especially well-placed, swooning and seductive it pulls on every heartstring and "How We Used To Love" will remain one of those songs that touches me every time I hear it. There's a new track and it stands up brilliantly with a stronger, more forceful vocal that is reminiscent of Laura Marling on Once I Was An Eagle, it hints at even more exciting future ahead, as if we needed that.

Unnveig Aas. Verkstedet


I've heard the name said a handful of times now and I still have absolutely zero idea how to pronounce Unnveig Aas but I can safely say that I was blown away by their set and this coming directly after the incredible show I'd seen at Mono just before.

I obviously have blogged about Unnveig Aas so I was familiar with her material but still, I wasn't expecting her live sound to be quite so vast and grand, with a pedal steel, a super tight band and a completely unexpected commanding stage presence I was truly reminded of the Country gallop of Caitlin Rose and you should know how much I love Caitlin... 

The music fluctuated from bounce to croon giving plenty of time for toe-tapping rhythms before soothing with gorgeous ballads as Unnveig stared wide-eyed into the crowd and danced in unison with her exemplary band. It was something to saviour and sitting back here in the UK now and knowing what I know about what I saw, I regret not seeing her other show on the Saturday. For sure, those that did were in for a treat.

Ary. Rockefeller


I keep thinking Ary is one of the hyped Scandinavian artists at the minute and this years Aurora, well after seeing her twice live over the weekend in By:Larm I'm removing the Aurora comparisons. The sound really isn't that similar...

Ary is more experimental and exotic, the synths and beats are firmly placed high in the mix (perhaps too high at times) and she comes backed by two male backing singers - the first time I've seen them since Hurts years ago (do they still have a solo male backing singer?). Anyway, the result, especially on the incredible "Telescope" is nothing short of exceptional and the crowd in the packed venue respond accordingly as Ary shows herself to be a natural in front of a huge audience, swaying and smiling in equal measures as her tracks show why she's destined to spend much more time in the limelight during 2016.

Dagny. Rockefeller


If I was unsure how good Dagny was after hearing just one track, now I know for sure, she is set to be an absolute star. Sure the familiarity of "Backbeat" is undoubtedly the set highlight but the material played during her half-hour set stands firm around it and I, for one, am fully appreciative of the tight backing band she employs around her. A traditional four piece set up that adds sheen and gloss to her ready made pop aesthetics.

Track after track is filled with glistening pop melody complete with a clever, infectious style and lyrics and it's apparent to all in the room, even more so after "Backbeat" sends the crowd in rapturous applause that Dagny will soon have room after room singing along to her every word (once further tracks are released of course).

Dolores Haze. Verkstedet


The undisputed never heard before highlight of Thursday and probably the entire festival are Swedish quartet Dolores Haze. It wasn't until after their set that I turn into their Facebook and see that nine my friends already like them, clearly I'm just late to the party. But what a party it is.

The set is filled with hard hitting drums, grungy riffs, punchy bass-lines and brattish vocals that hiss and delight in equal measure. Sure it's punky attitude that we've all heard before but something sets the quartet apart. The feisty energy and enthusiasm throughout the well rehearsed set is the sort that you can only get soaked up within and soon I'm nodding my head in agreement to each distorted guitar line and squealing vocal yelp.

There's more mellow moments too but the cover of Peaches "Fuck the Pain Away" sums up the set, growling with intensity that is raw and certainly divisive but for those who sign-up it guarantees a fun, frenetic experience. I'm completely sold and plans are made to see them again the next day. 

As you can tell, Thursday at By:Larm was really quite spectacular.