Thursday, 19 December 2013

2013 Top 20: 16- Oh you'll get yours when I get mine...

The Blue Van- There Goes My Love

And here we have a song from 2008... I think everyone knows by now how brilliant,life-changing and bloody good fun my trip to northern Denmark in June was.This is a song I heard on the Friday night at the Aalborg Regatta,a 3 day event which turned out to be pretty damn excellent (more about that later).
(Nothing like a late sunset on the Limfjord.This picture's from the band's Facebook page...)

Much like Veto,I'd never heard of The Blue Van before,but they really were one of the highlights of my trip.The band are from Brønderslev,a little bit north of Aalborg,and actually you might have heard their music before.This song was used in an advert for the iPad, Love Shot (another of my favourites) was used in Magic Mike,and I'm A Man (also brilliant) was used in one of the American Pie films.Which is pretty cool. Anyway,There Goes My Love is pure filth,which is basically the main reason why I love it :)

2013 Top 20: 17- I kiss you,I miss you,for you I adore

Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir- Cobwebs My countdown,my rules,remember? So with that in mind,my 17th best song from 2013 is 2009's Söngvakeppni Sjónvarpsins entry,Cobwebs.It was also in Eurovicious' Almost Eurovision 2009 compilation,hence the reason why I heard it for the first time this year.I'm a connoisseur of sad love songs,and this one ticks all my boxes! I think "wistful" is probably the word to describe it.She doesn't sound so heartbroken as nostalgic.And the lines "I kiss you,I miss you,for you I adore/ I love you,I leave you,I'll see you no more" are some of my favourite lyrics that I've heard this year.That,combined with the wonderfully Nordic-indie sounding strings make for a brilliant song.Something about the rhythm reminds me of the sea too,which made this the perfect song to walk along the Limfjord to on four grey evenings in Aalborg back in June.
2009 Iceland - Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir (SF 4) by Galiza

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

2013 Top 20: 18- No one knows exactly what is going on

Teitur- Antonio And His Mobile Phones I'll never get bored of this story... One night when I was in hospital, my dad came in saying one of my aunts had called him to say that she'd been in touch with Teitur, my ultimate musical hero. I mention him quite a lot on Facebook, and (I didn't even know my aunt went on there that much) she'd picked up on that and emailed him to tell him about my car accident/operation. His response? "Sounds tough." :) He asked for my details so he could send me Story Music, the new album I'd seen him perform in full, two weeks previously in Copenhagen. She missed a number out of our postcode, so when this huge packet arrived the day after I was discharged from hospital, with the wrong postcode and writing I recognised from the signed copy of Four Songs that I'd acquired after a show in Ghent last year, I did a small squeal. It wasn't just Story Music, it was this...
...and all this!
Some of those are promo albums with a few songs that I've never heard before as they've never been properly released. It's funny though, for 10 years, I've loved Teitur's lyrics, and quote them all the time. Never did I think that "let the dog drive home" would be good advice though :D Anyway, for number 18 in the countdown, I chose Antonio And His Mobile Phones, which is track 3 on the new album.I chose it because for me,it really encapsulates the idea of Story Music. Descriptive lyrics painting a picture of a mysterious market trader in Addis Abbaba, set to simple, cheerful music. Bonus points for using recorders and making them sound good. Mum always said they're "horrible, tuneless things." Not so in this case. But while this is the standout track for me, I do love the whole album. Every song is completely different, but they all fit the Story Music theme brilliantly. There isn't any audio/video of Antonio on its own, but here's a video that you should really watch. It has bits of each song and gorgeous, gorgeous shots of the beautiful Faroe Islands.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

2013 Top 20: 19- You have to remember you cannot hide

 My Body Has Legs- 30 Days and 30 Nights

I said in the previous post that I don't usually like electro music. Maybe that's not strictly true...

At number 19, it's the wonderful (and rather attractive) Swiss boys Martin and Benedikt from My Body Has Legs. Any Eurovision fan worth their reputation will remember them from last year's SRF musical free-for-all, in which their song Flagstaff Paradise was the 500 carat diamond in a sea of cubic zirconia. But as is all too often the way with Eurovision national finals, it didn't get a look in. Fast forward to 2013 and they're back with the excellent 30 Days and 30 Nights, which is every bit as catchy and contemporary as Flagstaff Paradise, and arguably an even better choice for Eurovision. Alas, it isn't to be, and Switzerland will once again probably struggle to get through the semi final... But whatever. What's Eurovision's loss is our gain, and hopefully we'll be hearing a lot more from these guys in the very near future.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

2013 Top 20: 20- We don't need to be silent anymore

Veto- Take It Outside

As previously mentioned, not all of the songs in this countdown of 2013 greatness are actually from 2013. This is one. I nipped over to Copenhagen back in September to see Teitur perform at the Glassalen in Tivoli. Throughout summer in Tivoli, there's a load of open-air concerts by (mostly Danish) bands and artists on Friday nights, called Fredagsrock. I'd not been to one before and nor did I plan to go to this one, but when Teitur's show finished, I was drawn to this electro music going on on the stage 20 metres away. It's not normally my type of music, but the utterly gorgeous voice of singer Troels Abrahamsen and the- what I can only describe as- dirty, sexy bass lines kept me there for the whole set. And there, my love for Veto was born... The band are from Aarhus and have been around for nearly 10 years with their electro-rock and rather brilliant lyrics. I can't actually remember whether they did this song (from 2011 album Everything Is Amplified) at Tivoli or not, but it's subsequently become one of my favourites, and my most-listened to of this year*

*Until my car got written off and scrapped with that album still in the CD player :(

2013 Top 20

I have much, much blogging to do. Yet I've been off work for nearly 3 months now and done "nothing but zero" as Ani Lorak might say. So I'm going to put this right, starting from now, with my top 20 songs of 2013. As descriptions go, that's quite tenuous to be honest. There will indeed be 20 songs, but they weren't all released this year. I've been particularly slow on the uptake as far as new music is concerned, since I moved back home from university to our goddamn awful internet connection, so there are a few entries which might be quite old but which I heard for the first time this year. But they all mean something to me. My countdown, my rules, yeah?

On with the show...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

20th June: Skagen

Mind (and stomach) completely refreshed, I’m really hungry. Salvation is a Danish hot dog, resplendent with ristede løg (dried onions...), gherkins and... what’s this? A lack of remoulade. Oh well. It’s delicious anyway, and sets me up perfectly for the long walk back into Skagen. 

The sun’s out in force by now, and my iPod is obviously just as inspired by Grenen as I am, as it’s throwing up some brilliantly appropriate songs on shuffle (Für Keine Kohle Dieser Welt by Philipp Poisel in particular). The blue sky over the yellow houses is just gorgeous, and makes me long for a summer house here where I can sit in a garden full of roses, drinking lemonade and listening to the sound of nothing all day. Actually, I’m reminded of this sign that I saw in Capri a few years ago.

 "Cleanliness and silence are civil responsibilities- let's respect them." They’re certainly respected in northern Denmark...

I go to the Skagen Museum which is housed in what was Brøndums Hotel- a favourite place for the Skagen painters, some of whom lived in the neighbouring buildings. I don’t think there’s a painting here that I don’t like (there’s even one called Stormy Weather!) , but my favourite is probably Summer Evening at Skagen by P.S Krøyer- a painting of his wife Marie on South Beach where I was this morning. I like the Krøyer’s story, being the fan of doomed love stories that I am. P.S Krøyer was susceptible to bouts of mental illness (though I’m still not sure exactly what this means...) and he was often hospitalised due to it. This took its toll on Marie, who went travelling alone to Italy in the early 1900s (scandalous!) where she had an affair with Hugo Alfvén, a Swedish composer. Krøyer refused to divorce her, believing the affair was just a phase she was going through, and even painted her and Alfvén together in one of his most famous works, St John's Eve Bonfire on Skagen's Beach. He eventually gave in when Marie became pregnant with Alfvén’s baby, but died 4 years later. Marie also divorced Alfvén in 1936, which leads me to the conclusion that these arty types never really know what they want.

I buy a postcard of the little girl in Krøyer’s Summer’s Day on Skagen Beach. I find her particularly touching- the way she’s standing there all lonely and clearly sulking while watching the other kids have a good time. I think we’ve all been that girl at some point.

I start to walk back to the station. There are more people about now, and the shops (also yellow buildings with terracotta rooves) look inviting, as does a walk down to the harbour. But it’s so hot and if I miss the next train, I probably won’t be back in Aalborg til late. 

At the station, two old women are having a moan about the Rejsekort, as (it seems) is the whole of Denmark at the minute. It’s basically a glorified Oyster card which you should be able to use on any Danish public transport. Seems like a good idea to me, but it’s been massively expensive to implement, it’s currently full of technical glitches, and people are generally confused about it. Some reckon it won’t last. I sort of hope it does. I’m so getting one next time I’m here.

Back in Aalborg after a *very* leisurely journey in which I basically have an entire carriage to myself the whole way, I kind of regret not looking around Skagen a bit more this afternoon. But, it’s not like I won’t come back. Like Teitur says in You Never Leave L.A- “part of me remains, I’m forever changed.”

I go for my nightly walk along the fjord. There are quite a few people out tonight and a cool atmosphere as everyone's getting ready for the regatta tomorrow. I hope it'll be good...

Sunday, 30 June 2013

20th June: the edge of Denmark

Alarm goes off at 6.30 after I’ve had about 4 hours sleep. I’m so not in the mood for a 2 hour train trip and long walk, especially when I see thick white cloud again. Also, I’ve not been feeling well since last night, so don’t want to risk eating anything, which makes me even more miserable. I get back in bed and put the telly on. Neighbours. Again. They’re talking about Facebook and Twitter. Sod this, i’m going to Skagen.

It takes just over an hour to get to Frederikshavn where I get off and switch to a much smaller blue Nordjyske Jernbaner train to Skagen. It has huge, full length windows, which is most welcome on a trip like this, as about 10 minutes outside of Skagen, the landscape turns utterly beautiful, even if the clouds are still hanging about. There are deer running around, birds of prey swooping up and down, it’s bleak and beautiful, in a typical Scandinavian way.

Like Aalborg airport, Skagen station is absolutely silent.  Granted, it’s only 9.15, but still. Apart from a solitary taxi outside, and a few cyclists, there’s nobody about. I need to get to Grenen, which may or may not be the northernmost point of Denmark, depending on what you read. But either way, it’s where the North Sea and the Baltic Sea meet, and that’s what I’ve come to North Jutland to see. I’d fussed a lot before I came here about how I was going to make my way there from the station, as I have a rubbish sense of direction, but just outside the station, there’s a sign pointing left saying “Grenen 3km”. So I decide to walk. The air is so sticky and stormy, but I’ve got my umbrella so sure I’ll be fine.

The houses in Skagen are mostly yellow with terracotta rooves and many have red and pink roses growing up them or in their perfect front gardens. It’s a lovely place, which I imagine is gorgeous in summer, yet also really cosy (or should that be “hygge”?) in winter. I keep walking and eventually see what I recognise as the Vippefyr in the distance. This is off the path to Grenen, but I cross the park to have a look. The Vippefyr is a special type of lighthouse which was apparently popular in Denmark several centuries ago. This one at Skagen is a reconstruction (from 1958) of the original which dates back to 1627. Apparently they weren’t very effective. Not surprising really given the tiny little basket. Anyway, I walk around the otherside of the hill (Fyrbakken- a nice romantic, Viking sounding word I think), and am greeted with this view...

There’s yet more silence, apart from the gentle waves. I admit my first thought is “it looks just like the Skagen watch adverts.” But this is quickly followed by “I’ve never seen anywhere as beautiful as this.” I later find out that this is South Beach, and was a favourite spot for the Skagen painters. I’d heard many times before that the light in this part of Denmark is very special, and it is. It’s difficult to describe, and I don’t think photos do it justice (mine certainly don’t) but somehow the painters captured it perfectly. It’s easy to see how this place can inspire people- to be honest I could sit on the dunes and write for the rest of the morning, but I can’t because I need to find Grenen. So I go back to the road. Two women are walking their dogs in the field around Fyrbakken, and I’m suddenly struck with immense envy. I really want this life! 

I come out of the Skagen town limits and walk down Route 40, with only the occasional cyclist, caravan and lorry whizzing past me. It’s a straight line until you get to another lighthouse, and at times it seems neverending. You can’t see the coast until you’re right on top of it (literally, as you have to go up a hill at the end). If you need time to clear your head, you’re definitely in the right place, luckily for me.
There’s a little car park in Grenen, and a kiosk, both of which are swarming with people. Where did they all come from?! Sweden seems to be the answer. Although there are Norwegian, Finnish and German cars in the car park too. I go up the hill and look out at this...

For an all too brief moment, I’m the only person there. And after taking in the view as much as I can, I’ve got a little ritual I need to do. Out comes the iPod and on goes Stormy Weather by Teitur. It seems fitting given the current climate, but that song has always reminded me of what it’s like to go through an anxiety attack as well. I’ve had a rough time the last couple of months, arguably a lot of it self-inflicted, but now, right at the end of my favourite country in such amazing surroundings, now’s the time to let it go. I sit there listening to Teitur for a good half an hour at least, in which time I’ve been joined by a hoarde of Swedes. They don’t stay long though, just pass comment and move on. I find this a bit odd. I know I’m very sentimental, but I can’t understand how you can fail to be moved by this place. 

I’ve still got to get right to the tip of Grenen though, because I know for a fact that it’ll be even more amazing than this. The Sandworm bus is just down the hill in the car park, but it doesn’t look too far to walk from here, so that’s what I do. There’s an Oriental man in a suit walking the other way, which makes me think my jeans and leather jacket weren’t the most mental idea after all. In fact, the sand is the same colour as my shoes, so they won’t even get stained like I was worried they would. Win!

I finally reach the end of Grenen, and the end of Denmark. It’s very unassuming. Rather like everything in Denmark, it’s beautiful but doesn’t make a big deal of it. On first sight, it’s like any other sand spit. But it isn’t. Because this is where the North Sea (Skagerrak) and the Baltic Sea (Kattegat) meet. It’s a calm day, so the effect isn’t huge today, but I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. (I’ve had to borrow someone else’s video, as I was interrupted by more Swedes before I could do my own) 

5 years ago, en route to Esbjerg I got off a train in Padborg, which is about as far south in Jutland as you can get. And now I'm right at the top. I am such a Jylland girl now. Copenhagen really has nothing on the mainland :) 

The light here is even better than it was at the top of the hill, and the clouds have started to break up so you can see some blue and some sun. It seems even more fitting to be letting go of past problems! I write a quick note regarding the stuff that’s happened this year, tear it in half, throw half in the North Sea and half in the Baltic, and make my way back to Skagen. I put my iPod away, and am yet again blown away by the silence. There are loads of people on the spit and along the shore, yet once you’re a little bit inland, you can’t hear a thing, not even the waves. This is such a special place, and such a magical day, I’ll never forget it.

The final thing I see on the beach is an apparently washed up Paris metro ticket. I'm going to Paris at the end of July for the last day of the Tour de France, a dream I've had for ages. Talk about looking to the future!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

19th June- Aalborg

Wake up to clouds. Oh well. By the way, I’m staying at Cabinn Hotel, which is like 50 metres from the Limfjord. It couldn’t be in a better location. There are 8 Cabinn hotels in Denmark, and I’m quite excited to say that I’ve now stayed in half of them. Only Odense and 3 of the Copenhagen ones left to try. They’re cheap and cheerful and have free wifi. The beds are a bit small, and you can usually hear everything going on in the rooms next to you, above and below you, but not in Aalborg thankfully.
I’ve not planned on doing much today, just shopping and a bit of general looking around. The hotel is right nextdoor to Friis shopping centre, and indeed my room is right opposite the staffroom. At some point, someone will see me dancing around in my pants to In and Out of Love, I’m sure. Friis doesn’t open til 10 (like many shops in Jutland, I’ve noticed), but thankfully Føtex supermarket just across the road is already open. They’re selling the Eurovision 2013 album, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I don’t get anything to eat at the hotel, so I buy this- the breakfast of kings...

Mmmm. I can never afford to eat properly in Denmark, but when their sandwiches are this good, who cares? I sit and watch the telly til 10 o clock (Søren, my Danish friend told me before I left that there’s nothing on telly these days, as all the stations are already in holiday mode- he was right), and then I pay Friis a visit, then cross Nytorv in search of other shops. Someone up above is obviously looking down on me, as there are great sales on *everywhere*. First purchase of the day though is an umbrella from H&M, as it’s pissing down with rain and I’ve only got my little leather jacket with me. I also nip into Stereo Studio and buy Emmelie de Forest’s album (the lyrics are all very good, I’ve not actually listened to the music yet though) and Christian Hjelm’s album (more about him later).  This is an extraordinary show of restraint for me in a European music shop. 

On the way back home, this cute guy in a suit outside a shop is literally jumping up and down trying to get my attention. I’m sort of purposefully ignoring him as I still feel ashamed that I can’t speak Danish. I give in though and he starts going on about “see, I knew you saw me...” and when I tell him I don’t speak Danish, he says “oh, but you live in Denmark, right?” (I think he’s selling phone contracts by the way). I tell him no, but I wish I did.

“Why?” is his puzzled response.
“Because it’s lovely here.”
“Oh...I wish I lived in England. I love football you see.”

That’s as good enough a reason as any I suppose.
I’m going to Skagen early tomorrow, but first I need to find the train station so I don’t wander around lost in the morning. Turns out it’s not too far away. Well I don’t fancy going home yet, so decide a walk along the fjord is in order. It’s not the prettiest of fjords, quite industrial. But water always has a calming effect on me, and when my iPod shuffles and plays Olsen Olsen by Sigur Ros, the whole scene is just perfect.

I walk along a bit more and stop outside the Utzon Centre, an arts centre designed by local man Jørn Utzon, the architect responsible for the Sydney Opera House. I write a few things down and watch the sun start to set. Like everywhere else I’ve seen in Aalborg so far, it’s really peaceful here, but I know that’ll change in a few days when the Regatta comes to town.

(That picture of the Utzon Centre is from Wikipedia by the way. I'm not that good at photos...)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

18th June: LGW-AAL

Usually when I go away, I’m on the plane by 7am at the very latest. Not today though, the flight’s not til 17.45, but as no one’s around to take me to the airport and I’m not paying 40 quid for parking, I get the train up from Ashford. Ashford-Tonbridge-Redhill-Gatwick. It’s pretty painless and only costs £15. The joys of not having to go through London.

I’ve only flown Norwegian once before (to CPH a couple of years ago), but they’ve quickly become my new favourite airline. I won’t hear a word said against the world’s leading orange low-cost outfit, but Norwegian have a much more relaxed atmosphere about them, you can take more hand luggage with you (great for me, as a strictly no suitcase person), and I swear there’s more leg room than on EasyJet. Anyway, we’re about half an hour late taking off, but within around 75 minutes, at just before 9pm local time, we’re in Aalborg, greeted with brilliant sunshine, blue skies and the most silent airport I’ve ever experienced (even Vágar was louder than this). I forgot my map, and only knew that my hotel was about a kilometre from the bus terminal in town, so I opt for a taxi. And am I glad I did! 

It might cost £19 for the 5 minute trip (good old Scandinavia), but the driver is the coolest guy I’ve met in a long time! “Welcome to Aalborg,” he says as I put my bags in the boot, before adding “you look nervous...don’t be nervous.” From then on, we chat like I’ve known him for ages. I tell him about my Danish (Jutlander) friend who’s moving to Copenhagen, “poor bastard,” he commiserates. I know enough about this country to understand the relationship between the capital and the “mainland.” Before I went to Aarhus and my only experiences of Jutland were a dull weekendin Esbjerg (my first Teitur gig excepted) and an even duller morning in Tønder, I would definitely have called myself a Copenhagen girl. But now, (and as this week goes on), I really think that Jutland could be my place on earth.

We move on to talking about cars. I’ll never understand the concept of importing cars to Denmark, other than that it’s ridiculously expensive and is a very lengthy process. He has a Chrysler New Yorker (of course he does, he’s cool), and I tell him about my Honda Jazz. Diplomatically (of course, he’s Danish) he says they’re good and that with the right engine they can really go some. I say I’d been very angry the night before so I’d driven home somewhat faster than I should have, and yes, they can go some. This inevitably leads to discussion of my man problems. I feel so comfortable around this guy that I probably tell him more than I should do. But as he says “it takes a lot more than that to shock us Danes, I’m afraid.” He gives me some good advice. The same advice my friends have been giving me all year, but sometimes you need to hear it from a stranger. Then he drops me off right outside the hotel, assuring me that “there are plenty of great guys in Aalborg.” “I bet there are,” I say. After nearly falling over the welcome mat (I do like to make an entrance) I check in and go up to my room feeling genuinely happy and chilled out. It’s going to be a good week, I know it.