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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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Julia Adams. Verkstedet

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Tina Refsnes #3 - I Don't Know

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From one Oslo based singer-songwriter to another (I'm very excited to have booked tickets/flights/hotel for By:Larm 2016 in your fine City next March) and another artist I've featured here a couple of times before. 

Tina Refsnes is gearing up to the release of her debut album No One Knows That You're Lost on November 6th via Vestkyst Records and the newly released "I Don't Know" is a taster of that album. It exemplifies the character and charm of Tina's songcraft to date, a relaxed, unrushed style of folk which glows around an achingly pure melody and transforms amongst a vocal that is both soothing and dynamic in all of the right places, a track just about perfect for a Sunday afternoon then...

Tina Refsnes #2 - Alaska

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I first posted about Oslo based singer-songwriter Tina Refsnes back in May with her debut single "A Million Things". She returns with this absolutely beautiful new track called "Alaska" that will have you holding back the tears.

A simple, mournful lament accompanied by a live acoustic video that will bring out all manner of heartfelt emotion over its course. It sounds as human as any track I've heard in recent time as it aches and soothes with a pure, longing quality. The sort of track you'll be playing on repeat all afternoon whilst drinking a warming drink and reflecting on whatever it maybe.

I've also included a live version of the aforementioned "A Million Things" below, played by a river with nothing more than a lone acoustic, Tina's voice and the perfect backdrop for company. Her natural voice floats with loveliest, haunting sound and is just gorgeous. You can thank me (and Tina of course) for making your Sunday all the better after.


Tina Refsnes - New Music "Introducing"

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I've mentioned LIPA here quite a few times and acts that have graduated from their even more so, my latest discovery to previously tread the Liverpool school's heady halls is Tina Refsnes, whom like fellow past LIPA attendees's Anna Lena & The Orchids and Farao hails from Norway. Tina returned to Oslo after study and this track "A Million Things" is her debut single.

It's vulnerable, aching and gorgeous from the moment her acoustic picking and rich, warming vocals wrap themselves around you, accompanied by brushed drums and subtle instrumentation the gently meandering melody is raw, touching and beautiful. "A Million Things" combines a real individual quality and sense of intimacy to distinctive, swoonsome results.

The track is available now via iTunes.