Gig Review: Tove Lo and Urban Cone at Melkweg

Tove Lo Melkweg Amsterdam

Sex, drugs and electronic pop with Tove Lo in Amsterdam
About a year ago, not many people in the Netherlands would know who Tove Lo is, but after the huge success of her single ‘Habits (Stay High)’, the Swedish singer gained quite a following. Her first gig in Amsterdam was planned for January, but after doctors discovered a polyp on her vocal chords, she had to rest for a while. Meanwhile, her new show was upgraded from the smaller ‘Oude Zaal’ to the ‘Max’ because of the raising popularity of this pop phenomenon. So what did we get in the Melkweg? Loads of sex, drugs and electronic pop.

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EP Review: Tove Lo – Truth Serum

Tove Lo Truth Serum EP Cover

Tove Lo launches strong debut EP

People who take a look at my blog frequently, already know that I foresee a great future for Swedish pop artist Tove Lo. I wrote an article about her when she released the great single ‘Out Of Mind’ and she was at the top of my list of most promising acts of 2014. Now is the time for her to prove that she is indeed one of the most exciting new artists out there. Last week, she released her first EP, called Truth Serum. It is an impressive collection of well written catchy pop tunes.

Tove Lo first got noticed on the web when she released her official debut single ‘Habits’. The combination of heartbreaking lyrics and an undeniably strong and catchy melody in the chorus turned out to be gold. ‘Habits’ was absolutely one of the best songs released last year. Tove showed how she was able to turn pure emotion into raw and honest lyrics. The follow up ‘Out Of Mind’ was a little less subtle and somewhat more of an in your face pop moment. The chorus is great and powerful and hits you in the face immediately. A week before the EP release, she launched a third single called ‘Not On Drugs’. Stylistically, this song is quite similar to ‘Out Of Mind’ as it has te same kind of powerful and catchy chorus. The verses however, are also very interesting and melodically captivating. The lyrics are once again great and Tove shows she is not a one-day-fly at all.

Other than these three singles, there are two more tracks on the EP, called ‘Paradise’ and ‘Over’. The first out of these two is her most uptempo moment so far. The rhythm of ‘Paradise’ is somewhat inspired by drum & bass and although it is not her best song to date, it definitely is a welcome change of pace. On ‘Over’ the big, soaring choruses and lyrics full of emotion are back. The chorus mostly consists of repeating the words ‘over’ and ‘sober’, but the best parts of the song are the pre-chorus where she asks herself the question if this is the part where she parts ways with her love interest forever and the middle eight, where she admits she would hate her partner too if he did to her what she just did to him. These very moments show Tove Lo’s biggest strengths: the ability to write great melodies and lyrics and being able to convincingly get across the story with her impressive vocals.

The 10 most promising new artists in 2014

As 2014 already started, it is time to take a look at new artists that stand a good chance of having their big breakthrough this year. Of course some artists already started to gain some successes, but these new(ish) artists have in common that 2014 will have to be their year. Check out the 10 most promising new artists that will make 2014 an exciting year in pop!

10. Mapei
Mapei is what you call an international artist. Her father is American, her mother is Liberian and when she was ten she moved to Sweden where she grew up. She has lived in Portugal, Brazil and Tunesia for a while and these different cultural backgrounds are apparent in her music as well. Mapei was mostly active as a rapper in the Swedish underground scene, but with the single ‘Don’t Wait’, released in October, her style changed. The song is soulful, driven by great beats and a guitar riff, and features some baile funk drums. The lyrics about trying not to ruin a friendship or love affair are from the heart. Mapei’s voice sounds warm and a little raspy at times. She is working on an album in a similar style to ‘Don’t Wait’ and I for one cannot wait to hear it!

09. ALECS
ALECS, a young new London based artist, will release his debut EP The Fulham Tapes later this month. In December, he already posted the tracks on his Soundcloud page and this sounds surprisingly good. Inspired by artists like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, ALECS created his own sound, which could be described as electronic, synth heavy, dark R&B mixed with pop. He mixes this sound with great hooks in his choruses which make the tracks somewhat more accessible. He has a great and distinctive sound of voice to top it all off and here’s hoping that we will hear more from him in 2014.

08. Saint Raymond
Saint Raymond had a great year in 2013. Young singer-songwriter Callum Burrows and his band mates released the EP Escapade and toured through Europe with Gabrielle Aplin and Haim. 2014 is off to a good start as well as the single ‘Young Blood’ is released. It is the best Saint Raymond song so far in all its uplifting catchiness. The song has got more than one great hook and it takes the catchy pop/rock they produced on the first EP to another level. The Young Blood EP will be out the 21st of January and it could well be that an album follows later this year.

07. BANKS
There is a lot of hype around American electro pop artist BANKS lately. She finished third in the BBC Sound Of 2014 Poll. The Los Angeles born and London based singer gained attention by releasing two EP’s in 2013. In March, she released Fall Over and in September her London EP came out. The singer went on tour with The Weeknd and there are some stylistic similarities in both artists’ music. BANKS’ music can be described as a mix of dark R&B and pop with a heavily electronic twist. Her distinctive vocal style might not be suited for mainstream radio, but it works perfectly on refreshing tracks like ‘Fall Over’ and ‘Waiting Game’. Her style is cohesive, but does not bore at the same time, so a full album could be potentially great!

06. Foxes
Foxes has been working her way up in music for a few years now and in 2013 she had her first international hit with ‘Clarity’, a song by producer and DJ Zedd on which she features. The big dance anthem showcases her beautiful vocals and the singer went on to have another hit in the UK with ‘Youth’, a slightly more alternative and electronic sort of pop song. Foxes will release her debut album Glorious in March and although half of the tracks have already been released (great pop song ‘Echo’ was used as a single, ‘Holding Onto Heaven’ and ‘Shaking Heads’ are already released on iTunes), there is still more to come. She released the video for single ‘Let Go For Tonight’ earlier this week and this huge, catchy, carefree straightforward pop song might bring her the big success she deserves.

05. Hozier
Hozier managed to catch a lot of attention in October last year when he released his single ‘Take Me To Church’ and an accompanying video with a strong message against homophobic violence. The 23-year-old Irish musician released a free EP on his website including the single and three other songs. ‘Take Me To Church’ is a dark song with an ominous atmosphere, but with a big and bright in-your-face chorus at the same time. Hozier impresses with his deep tone of voice that works perfectly with the style of his songs. An album this year would be very much appreciated, thank you very much.

04. Chlöe Howl
The 18-year-old British singer Chlöe Howl is set to release her debut album in 2014. The BBC included her in their long list for The Sound of 2014. Based on the three singles she has released so far she could become one of the most exciting new artists this year. ‘No Strings’, ‘Paper Heart’ and ‘Rumour’ are all catchy up tempo pop tracks with killer choruses. Chlöe’s voice sounds very strong and mature, considering her age and her ability to write songs with sharp and smart lyrics is impressive. In the first months of 2014, Howl will be touring with Ellie Goulding and in June it is time for her to launch her first album!

03. Lea Michele
Although Lea Michele is not really a new face in the entertainment industry, I included her in this list because she is just starting a solo career as a pop artist. Many of you may know her as Rachel in the series Glee, but Michele decided to focus on a music career as well. The singer released the Sia-penned single ‘Cannonball’ in December and that was quite a brilliant power ballad. Along with the pre-orders of her debut album Louder, that will be released on the 4th of March, she premiered the track ‘Battlefield’, also written by Sia. Once again a beautiful ballad. The album features a co-write by Christina Perri as well and I have faith this record will be very, very good.

02. Say Lou Lou
The Swedish/Australian twin sisters of Say Lou Lou (formerly known as Saint Lou Lou) are expected to have a big breakthrough this year. They already made the long list of BBC’s The Sound of 2014. 2013 has been a great year musically for the girls as they released the singles ‘Julian’, ‘Better In The Dark’ and ‘Beloved’. Although ‘Beloved’ is my favourite, it has to be said that all three songs are exceptionally well-written and beautiful. An album full of their dreamy and melodic pop would be great, now wouldn’t it?

01. Tove Lo
Frequent readers of my blog might already realize I am a fan of this Swedish girl and I predict big things for her in the near future. 2014 has to be the year of Tove Lo. She gave us the singles ‘Habits’ and ‘Out Of Mind’ in 2013, which are both no less than brilliant pop songs. With these tracks, she shows she knows how to write great pop choruses and her lyrics are powerful and heartbreaking at the same time. Recently, she announced on Twitter that her new EP is in final stages, so that should see the light of day soon enough. Fun fact: she also co-wrote the track ‘Thousand Needles’ for Lea Michele’s debut album. I am desperate for new Tove Lo songs in my life and so should you!

The best pop singles of 2013

It is time for the last list of 2013. It was a good year of music. Here are my favourite pop singles of the year.

25. Karise Eden – Threads Of Silence
Karise Eden won The Voice Australia last year and launched her first self-written single ‘Threads Of Silence’ a while later. The song is a heartfelt piano ballad where she shows the strength of her vocals in the big chorus. It kind of reminds a bit of Adele’s more stripped down tracks, which is obviously a compliment. Impressive debut!

24. Tom Odell – Another Love
Tom Odell launched his career successfully with the beautiful and heartbreaking single ‘Another Love’. The lyrics are touching and definitely relatable and Odell’s delivery is heartfelt. The moment where the second verse kicks in, always gives me goose bumps. Those lyrics are so honest and powerful. What a song people, what a song!

23. Laleh – Colors
Laleh had to follow up the huge success of ‘Some Die Young’ and the album Sjung. She came back with a single and album called Colors. The single is not miles away from the sound ‘Some Die Young’ has, but it is even more catchy and a little bit more uplifting. Her style of both her voice and her writing are distinctive and ‘Colors’ is a typical Laleh track in that sense. Absolutely nothing wrong with that!


22. Céline Dion – Loved Me Back To Life

I have never been a big fan of Céline Dion, but in collaboration with Sia, she managed to create on of the best singles of the year. ‘Loved Me Back To Life’ is a ballad with a modern sound and of course Céline’s voice sounds strong and emotional. For Sia, it was one of the many successful jobs as a writer for other artists. They should work together more often, because Celine’s voice fits this type of songs perfectly.

21. Lorde – Tennis Court
Lorde, the young singer from New Zealand, was one of the biggest discoveries of the year. While her song ‘Royals’ turned out to be a worldwide hit, I still think ‘Tennis Court’ is her best track. Everything is so on point here: her distinctive vocals, the fresh production, the honest lyrics and that undeniably catchy melody. Such a smash!

20. Tove Lo – Habits
This Swedish young woman came seemingly out of nowhere with one of the best pop tracks of the year. ‘Habits’ was her first single, but the heartbreaking character of the lyrics in combination with that immensely strong chorus is such an event to listen to. She showed she has more up her sleeve with single ‘Out Of Mind’ that almost made this list as well. Welcome Tove, you are one of my favourite pop stars from now on.

19. Cassadee Pope – Wasting All These Tears
Cassadee Pope won The Voice USA last year and followed her mentor Blake Shelton’s path and started to make country music. Her first single ‘Wasting All These Tears’ is a big pop/country belter, that you could expect from the likes of Carrie Underwood as well. It is a brilliant song with a huge chorus and strong lyrics. Cassadee has such a beautiful tone to her voice which makes this song all the more special.

18. Marco Mengoni – L’Essenziale
Famous Italian pop star Marco Mengoni won the San Remo Festival and represented Italy in Eurovision with the beautiful ballad ‘L’Essenziale’. The lyrics are touching, the melody is beautiful and Mengoni has got a distinctive and incredible sound of voice. Who does not melt when he sings in Italian about how he would create new places for you when your world falls apart? Lovely!

17. Birdy – Wings
Birdy came back swinging this year. She left behind the piano covers and presented a different sound with the single ‘Wings’. It is such a good song with a melancholic atmosphere, beautiful lyrics and one hell of a strong chorus. Birdy’s soaring vocals top it all off. This single definitely shows her potential as an interesting pop star.

16. Agnetha Fältskog – When You Really Loved Someone
ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog made a comeback with new original material. She released the beautiful song ‘When You Really Loved Someone’ as the first single. It is a traditional pop ballad with a quite modern production. The lyrics about losing the love of your life are simple, but really effective and Agnetha gives them more meaning with her fragile delivery. She shows that she has still got it vocally as well.

15. Lady Gaga – Applause
All eyes were on Lady Gaga to make a big comeback. The opinions differed a lot when she first premiered lead single ‘Applause’, but the strong pop song turned out to be a success in the charts and on the radio. It is not the best thing she has done so far, but the chorus is great and the lyrics are sharp as ever. Gaga one again showed she is still relevant in the pop world.

14. Florence + The Machine – Over The Love
Florence + The Machine took a break from recording, but still found time to create a song for the soundtrack of the fantastic movie, The Great Gatsby. It is a beautiful song with touching lyrics and of course Florence makes it even better with her impressive powerhouse vocals. The build-up towards the last chorus is very well executed. One more The Great Gatsby track to come in this list!

13. Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)
This was one of the biggest hits of the year and probably one of the catchiest hooks that I’ve heard in quite a while. This pop banger works very well on the dance floor and it is hard to resist screaming along to the chorus. It’s is a great track to let off some steam and frustration. Such a deserved worldwide hit for these girls.

12. AlunaGeorge – Your Drums, Your Love
AlunaGeorge’s first official single is still their best song to date. ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ is a song that is built completely around an immense chorus that gets to you every time you hear it. Aluna’s soft vocals work brilliantly in combination with George’s productions. This song shows off their lovely style best.

11. Charli XCX – You (Ha Ha Ha)
Pumping beats, screaming synths, smooth vocals and feisty lyrics. These are the four elements that make Charli XCX’s ‘You (Ha Ha Ha)’ into a geat track. The production sounds great and it is so hard to resist singing along to that ‘in your face’ chorus. It still sounds fresh every time I hear it.

10. Amanda Fondell – Dumb
It is a shame Amanda Fondell did not get far in Melodifestivalen, because ‘Dumb’ is such a great pop song. The verses are even better than the chorus, but the repetition of ‘done/gone’ etcetera, works haunting as well. The middle-eight that almost feels like an emotional breakdown is stunning and her delivery is convincing. I don’t care what the Swedish people voted, this remains a fantastic pop song.

09. Veronica Maggio – Sergels Torg
Swedish singer Veronica Maggio made a big comeback with her single ‘Sergels Torg’. The lyrics are sad and heartbreaking, but the melody is quite catchy and uplifting at the same time. You do not have to understand a word of what she sings in order to feel the emotion in the last part where she almost screams her frustration and desperation away. Such a heartfelt track, I love it.

08. Anouk – Birds
Anouk gave The Netherlands a spot in the final, and even a top 10 position, for the first time in years at the Eurovision Song Contest. She performed her heartbreaking, cinematic, melancholic and above all gorgeous ballad ‘Birds’. The orchestral sound works well with her voice and the track is grand, moving and captivating.

07. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
2013 was a huge year for Miley Cyrus, who transformed into the most talked about pop star with her controversial performances and outfits. However, miss Cyrus has the material to back it up, because ‘We Can’t Stop’ is a brilliant party track. It is insanely catchy and the production is great. Wouldn’t we all like to twerk a bit to this track? I thought so!

06. Haim – Forever
The girls of Haim broke through in 2013 and their first single ‘Forever’ is definitely one of the best things this year in pop had to offer. The production is perfect, their voices sound wonderful together and that chorus is just undeniable. The track swings and it immediately showed the sisters already found their own style and sound with their first single. Impressive, indeed!

05. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
With ‘We Can’t Stop’, Miley Cyrus showed she knows how to party, but she also showed her even better emotional side on ‘Wrecking Ball’. This is one of the best pop ballads released in recent years. Miley’s delivery is heartbreaking, especially in the bridge where she sounds fragile and completely honest. The chorus literally hits like a wrecking ball and this all results in one huge pop ballad.

04. Emmelie De Forest – Only Teardrops
Emmelie De Forest managed to win the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013 with her song ‘Only Teardrops’. Although the song sounds tailor made for Eurovision, it has something fresh and contemporary at the same time. Above all, the melody is just irresistibly catchy. The flute, her voice and the drums all complement the strong melody and it made ‘Only Teardrops’ a deserving winner in Eurovision and one of the best tracks of the year.

03. Laura Jansen – Queen Of Elba
Laura Jansen surprised me with her fantastic single ‘Queen Of Elba’. From the moment I heard this song for the first time, I knew there was something special about it. The lyrics about crowning herself the queen of Elba and coming to terms with a life on her own are brilliant. The melody is lush and her voice is enchanting as always. More of this please!

02. Lana Del Rey – Young & Beautiful
‘Young & Beautiful’ was the only new single by Lana this year, but it is once again an incredible song. The melancholy in the lyrics fit the sound of the song very well and the movie The Great Gatsby could not have wished for a better soundtrack than this. Lana sounds beautiful and her delivery of the lines “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” sounds honest and fragile. What an utterly gorgeous song!

01. Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love
The best song of the year for me is ‘I Feed You My Love’, the song that represented Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest. From the first seconds on I am captivated by it. It sounds dark and fresh at the same time and the heavy beats and production are definitely ‘in your face’. The lyrics of the song (‘You put a knife against my back and you dare me to face the attack’) fit the dark atmosphere very well and it just sounds so effortlessly cool. Margaret’s voice is perfect on ‘I Feed You My Love’ and I really need her to release a new album soon.

Introducing: Tove Lo / Single Review: Out Of Mind

ToveLoOutOfMind

Swedish newcomer releases brilliant new single

Just when you think Sweden cannot export any more great (indie)pop artists, they present you another one. After the successes of Robyn, Lykke Li and Icona Pop, Tove Lo might be the next pop act with an edge from this Nordic country to make it big. Tove Lo is a relatively new artist, who released her debut single ‘Habits’ earlier this year. This week she premiered her new single ‘Out Of Mind’, which is brilliant in every way.

Although Tove Lo only released two official singles so far, she is not a completely unknown name in the music industry. She worked with other artists as a songwriter. For example, she co-wrote with the girls of Icona Pop on the tracks ‘Ready For The Weekend’ en ‘We Got The World’. These songs are featured both on the Swedish and the international edition of Icona Pop’s album. Her own single ‘Habits’ proved she can be a good pop star herself as well. The combination of a great pop tune and heartbreakingly sad lyrics in which she constantly stays ‘high’ to forget she misses a former lover, is pure gold.

With her new single she surprisingly proves she can do even better than that. Sonically and lyrically, the two singles are not miles away from each other, as both are dark (indie)pop tracks and deal with the same sad and emotional theme of not being able to function after a break-up. ‘Out Of Mind’ has an immense chorus that blows you away immediately. The way she sings, “you’re out of your mind, to think that I could keep you out of mine”, is full of power, anger and desperation. In the middle-eight she asks her ex: “How could you say I’ll be alright? What makes you think that I’ll be just fine? Baby you have to be completely out of your mind!” Tove’s intense vocals make the lyrics even more meaningful.

The music video for ‘Out Of Mind’ fits perfectly with the theme of the song. We see Tove leave her bed to wander around town and end up in the woods, literally haunted by her demons. It is a beautiful, dark video that complements the song in a substantial way. The release of ‘Out Of Mind’ could be a very important moment in the career of Tove Lo. If this song was given to an artist like Katy Perry or Rihanna, it would have easily been a worldwide smash hit. It is a good thing this did not happen as Tove perfects the song with her emotional delivery. This song should be her big breakthrough.

In case you have not heard ‘Habits’ yet:

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Zweedse nieuwkomer verrast met briljante nieuwe single

Net als je denkt dat Zweden niet nog meer goede (indie)popzangeressen in huis heeft, komen ze er weer met één op de proppen. Na de successen van Robyn, Lykke Li en Icona Pop, zou Tove Lo zomaar eens de volgende edgy popartiest uit dit land kunnen worden, die een grote doorbraak forceert. Tove Lo is een relatief nieuwe artieste, die eerder dit jaar haar debuutsingle ‘Habits’ uitbracht. Deze week kwam haar compleet briljante nieuwe single ‘Out Of Mind’ uit.

Hoewel Tove Lo pas twee officiële singles heeft uitgebracht, is ze ook geen compleet onbekende naam in de muziekindustrie. De zangeres werkte namelijk ook als songwriter voor andere artiesten. Zo schreef ze samen met de dames van Icona Pop aan de songs ‘Ready For The Weekend’ en ‘We Got The World’. Beide tracks kregen een plaatsje op zowel de Zweedse als de internationale versie van het debuutalbum van het duo. Haar eigen single ‘Habits’ bewijst dat ze zelf ook een goede popster kan zijn. De combinatie van een sterke pop-productie en een hartbrekende tekst waarin ze constant ‘high’ is om maar niet aan haar ex te hoeven denken, bleek perfect te werken.

Op haar nieuwe single laat ze verrassend genoeg zien dat ze nog beter kan. Zowel qua sound als tekst, liggen de twee singles niet mijlenver uit elkaar. Beide zijn donkere (indie)poptracks die gaan over de moeite met het verwerken van een net verbroken relatie. ‘Out Of Mind’ heeft een ijzersterk refrein dat je meteen omver blaast. De manier waarop ze zingt, “you’re out of your mind, to think that I could keep you out of mine”, is enorm krachtig en vol woede en wanhoop. Tijdens de bridge vraagt ze haar ex: “How could you say I’ll be alright? What makes you think that I’ll be just fine? Baby you have to be completely out of your mind!” Tove’s intense vocalen laten de tekst nog harder binnenkomen.

‘Out Of Mind’ heeft een video gekregen die perfect bij het thema van de song past. We zien Tove haar bed verlaten en door de stad struinen waarna ze een bos invlucht, letterlijk achtervolgd door haar demonen. Het is een mooie, donkere video geworden, die visueel goed bijdraagt aan de beleving van het lied. Het uitbrengen van ‘Out Of Mind’ zou zomaar een zeer belangrijk moment in de carrière van Lo kunnen worden. Als deze track aan een superster als Katy Perry of Rihanna was gegeven, was het met gemak een wereldhit geworden. Het is echter maar goed dat dit niet is gebeurd, want Tove’s emotionele vertolking maakt het lied alleen maar sterker. Dit zou haar grote doorbraak moeten worden.