The term “Swedish Invasion” may not be on anybody’s lips quite yet, and it probably won’t be anytime soon. There is no imminent threat of Jens Lekman or Acid House Kings having to hold off throngs of screaming teenage girls as they invade the field at Shea Stadium. No, these are the wartime neutrality guys, the country known for a hot bikini team. They’re not fools, they don’t rush in; they’re going about this one slowly.
Whether you know it or not, your Swedish indie rock indoctrination has begun already. Stockholm’s Peter Bjorn and John – whose drum-and-whistle song “Young Folks” has been needle-dropped into so many TV shows and commercials that it has its own Wikipedia page – have already made it into the American subconscious. The Sofia Coppola stamp of cool was applied to Lund tweesters the Radio Dept. last year when they were part of the controversially anachronistic soundtrack for Coppola’s Versailles-meets–high-school quasi-biopic Marie Antoinette. The Pitchfork hype machine was working overtime for Lekman this year for Night Falls Over Kortedala, and he was also named Stereogum’s “Mr. Indie Rock.” Your kid is probably in her room right now bopping her head to Göteborg’s Laurel Music and reading Swedesplease.net.
You didn’t notice? It’s because they all sing in English, and they do it mo’ better than most Americans do. Swedish pop doesn’t quite have a scene to export in the traditional sense – there is no Athens or Seattle sound to hype – but there are little clusters of local creativity outside the big cities of Stockholm and Göteborg. I’m From Barcelona are not actually from Barcelona. They’re from Jönköping, a city in south Sweden that is also home to Sub Pop’s Loney, Dear and those love-fools the Cardigans, as well as Agnetha Fältskog, one of the A’s from ABBA. We might as well call it the Swedish Omaha.
We can look at labels as a scene from over here because of the relatively small size of the country (their population is only slightly bigger than New York City), but that size actually demands a wider catchment area for labels like Labrador and Service to pull from to keep their high-quality output going.
Stockholm’s Labrador Records leads the way in turning out the kind of indie pop that’s become the 21st century’s go-to genre for critical-darling status. They celebrated their 10th birthday this year by putting out a four-disc, 100-track box set to commemorate the occasion. Labrador 100: A Complete History of Popular Music is not quite that, but it’s about as close as you can get without also raiding Apple Records and 4AD’s catalogues. It’s a perfect primer if there ever was one, and as far as bandwagons go, it’s a pretty comfortable firstname.lastname@example.org