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30 Great Scandinavian Music Groups You Need to Know

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Wardruna - Kvitravn (White Raven), Music Video

Wardruna - Kvitravn (White Raven), Music Video

The Songs of the Nordic Lands

My ears often hunger for the sounds of Scandinavian music: from the folkloric tunes, to the pleas to Nordic gods, or the electronic symphonies giving praise to fairy forests and floating ice castles.

I wanted to bring you a contemporary list of musical leaders hailing from the Great North, the tundra, the forever winter land. I'm sure there are many ABBA and A-Ha fans here, but I'm trying to bring us a little closer to the 2000s and up. (Sorry Ace of Base, Roxette, and Blue Swede fans.)

It should also be mentioned Björk is a queen in Iceland. Many of the singers on this list have her to thank for their pathway to success. If you're not already acquainted with Björk then you have been living under a rock or are a spring chicken.

This is a love letter to some of my favorite songs, artists, and lyrics. Along the way we'll learn more about Europe, the female singers with the pipes to lure us to Valhalla, and the DJs with the creative skills to dominate any nightclub on the planet.

Take it as a top 30 list of the artists you should know, not the top 30 list of the best of the best.

  • We'll see what reigns in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
  • Some of the music is carefree and appropriate for children. Some of the music is gothic, sensual, and disturbing for people of any age.
  • There are far more than 30 musical groups you should know from Scandinavia.

Scandinavian Music Artists You Should Know

1. Röyksopp

Norway

2. Sigur Rós

Iceland

3. Aurora

Norway

4. Wardruna

Norway

5. Susanne Sundfør

Norway

6. Robyn

Sweden

7. The Knife

Sweden

8. Fever Ray

Sweden

9. Ane Brun

Norway

10. Emilíana Torrini

Iceland

11. Eivør Pálsdóttir

Faroe Islands

12. Swedish Mafia House

Sweden

13. Avicii

Sweden

14. Of Monsters and Men

Iceland

15. Lykke Li

Sweden

16. Anna Ternheim

Sweden

17. Jenny Hval

Norway

18. Trentemøller

Denmark

19. Apocalyptica

Finland

20. The Rasmus

Finland

21. First Aid Kit

Sweden

22. Highasakite

Norway

23. MØ

Denmark

24. Sigurd

Norway

25. Little Dragon

Sweden

26. Lido

Norway

27. Zara Larsson

Sweden

28. Tingsek

Sweden

29. Alphabeat

Denmark

30. Emmelie de Forest

Denmark

1. Röyksopp

Tromsø, Norway

The electronic duo hailing from Tromsø, Norway should be just as much of a household name as Daft Punk. They bring to the foreground an imaginative kind of synth pop: sometimes it makes you want to dance... other times it's brooding and meditative.

The band formed way back in 1998. The duo includes Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland. They've performed around the world, topping charts in multiple countries, and winning the biggest prize in Norway: the Spellemannprisen (7 times at this point).

They wear eccentric outfits and perform synth like it's still the '80s. They rock spooky tunes, create artistic and memorable music videos, and pay homage to electronica artists from the 1970s: Tangerine Dream, Krautrock, and Vangelis.

Their live performances are futuristic and out of this world. They're not afraid to throw in some lights and synth pops. They've collaborated with some of the biggest names in Scandinavia: Robyn, Lykke Li, Susanne Sundfør, The Knife, and Bjørn Torske.

The duo met when they were only 12 and 13 years old. They often site Norway's landscapes as their biggest inspiration and influence. Their music started out in the underground scene in Bergen, Norway.

Röyksopp or røyksopp means puffball mushroom. The band says the name also evokes the mushroom cloud that's released from an atomic blast.

The band's first single "So Easy" was used in a UK T-Mobile advertisement, this caused the song to be popular in the UK market and brought the band international attention.

  • They prefer analogue synthesizers over digital ones.
  • Their songs often feature a guest vocalist including: Kate Havnevik, Chelonis R. Jones, and Anneli Drecker.

The duo enjoys remixing songs. They have remixes of the following songs:

  • "My Head Sounds Like That", Peter Gabriel
  • "Judas", Lady Gaga
  • "The Immortals", Kings of Leon
  • "Clocks", Coldplay
  • "Still Missing", Beck
  • "Puppets", Depeche Mode.

It was me on that road

But you couldn't see me

Too many lights out, but nowhere near here

It was me on that road

Still you couldn't see me

And then flashlights and explosions

Roads end getting nearer

We cover distance but not together

I am the storm I am the wonder

And the flashlights nightmares

And sudden explosions

— Röyksopp | What Else Is There? Album: The Understanding

Röyksopp Discography

AlbumYear

Melody A.M.

2001

The Understanding

2005

Junior

2009

Senior

2010

The Inevitable End

2014

2. Sigur Rós

Reykjavík, Iceland

Do you even listen to Scandinavian music if you don't know the group Sigur Rós? The band formed all the way back in 1994 in Reykjavík, Iceland. Considered alternative rock, the group's icy tunes have landed them platinum albums and chart-toppers in their home county and abroad.

Sigur Rós translates to victory rose. The original members were: Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson on guitar and vocals; Georg Hólm on bass; and Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson on the drums. The band has rotated people in and out during its history. Jón and Georg have been consistent players.

Ágætis byrjun is considered their breakout album, all the way back in 1999. All the songs on their Grammy nominated album () are sung in a made-up language. That album was released in 2002. The language is called Vonlenska. It's up to the listeners to interpret the words.

Fun fact: in 2014, they appeared as minstrels in an episode of Game of Thrones. They performed a version of The Rains of Castamere.

The band has released 7 studio albums from 1997-2013. They also have remix albums, two soundtrack albums to Hlemmur and Odin's Raven Magic, and a splurge of singles.

If I had to describe the band's sound it would be pure Icelandic meditation tracks with occasional hints of poignant Nordic raven magic.

Shia LaBeouf in the Sigur Rós music video Fjögur píanó. The video is more than 8 minutes long. It's about a romantic relationship turning dysfunctional. Denna Thomsen also stars in the video. Two music videos were released for this song.

Shia LaBeouf in the Sigur Rós music video Fjögur píanó. The video is more than 8 minutes long. It's about a romantic relationship turning dysfunctional. Denna Thomsen also stars in the video. Two music videos were released for this song.

The Sigur Rós Language

Vonlenska is a term coined by the band. It's a fabricated language sung in the songs in lieu of Icelandic or English. It takes its names from the album Von. The band describes it as gibberish vocals to fit the music. It is similar to scat in jazz. Vonlenska is a string of syllables with no grammatical relation. It uses rhythmic and melodic elements to convey meaning. Not every Sigur Rós song uses this language.

3. AURORA

Stavenger, Norway

Born Aurora Aksnes in Stavenger, Norway. She began writing music and lyrics as a child. She debuted her first single Awakening at the age of 17.

The singer gained popularity as a vocalist in the mega Disney sequel Frozen II. She lent her voice to the track "Into the Unknown" with Idina Menzel.

Aurora's mother is a midwife and her father is a garage door salesman. She did not grow up with a leg up in the entertainment industry. Her rise to fame came from the oddest places: two videos went viral, one from a high school ceremony another that was a Christmas present to her parents.

Made Management saw these videos and got a hold of her. She's been under multiple labels and a part of several associated acts: Wardruna, The Chemical Brothers, Kölsch.

As a child she taught herself how to play the piano. She would try to figure out the melodies of songs she loved. Her sisters were worried about her attending school at a young age because of her personality and weird style of clothing. Aurora says she was diagnosed with autism as a young child.

She is a prolific writer and creative. Before her career took off, she wrote thousands of poems and songs. She will likely keep pouring into her cup of creativity until she literally can't.

Go row the boat to safer grounds

But don't you know we're stronger now

My heart still beats and my skin still feels

My lungs still breathe, my mind still fears

— Aurora | Running with Wolves, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend

Awards AURORA Has Won

OrganizationAwardWork

EBBA Awards '16 by Eurosonic Noorderslag

Album of the Year: Norway

Running with the Wolves

Spellemannprisen '15

Årets Nykommer (Newcomer of the Year)

AURORA

Spellemannprisen '15

Gramo scholarship

AURORA

YouTube Creator Awards

Silver Creator Awards

AURORA

GAFFA-Prisen

Årets Norske Album

All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend

Spellemannprisen '16

Popsolist (Pop Solo Artist)

All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend

Spellemannprisen '16

Årets Musikkvideo (Music Video of the Year)

"I Went Too Far"

4. Wardruna

Bergen, Norway

If you want to escape into a world of Old Nordic traditions, look no further than Wardruna. The band has composed much of the music for the popular History drama Vikings.

Ex-Gorgoroth drummer Einar "Kvtrafn" Selvik founded the music project. The songs are dark, haunting, beautiful, immersive, and rely on ancient instruments: deer-hide frame drums, flutes, kraviklyr, jouhikko, goat horns.

The group formed in 2003. They've released albums that were based on ancient runes. Selvik is fascinated with the Elder Futhark, the Old Norse alphabet. You likely won't understand the lyrics from this group, but you will be swept off to a magical land deep in tundra.

The group has had several members over the years. It's debut album was released in 2009, Runalijod. It was the first of a trilogy that when taken altogether covers 24 letters of the ancient alphabet. The other albums in the trilogy are Yggdrasil and Ragnarok.

Selvik worked with composer Trevor Morris for the music for Vikings. Selvik also appeared as an actor on the show.

The music group — like many during the pandemic — had to delay their plans. They released the album Kvitravn, which means White Raven, on January 22, 2021.

The music group has had their music appear on the Billboard's World Albums chart.

Wardruna Discography

AlbumYear

Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga

2009

Runaljod – Yggdrasil

2013

Runaljod – Ragnarok

2016

Skald

2018

Kvitravn

2021

5. Susanne Sundfør

Haugesund, Norway

One of the greatest singers of our time. Susanne Sundfør should be a household name throughout the world. She has composed some of the most haunting songs that have ever been created. Her lyrics will touch a place in your soul that you might not have known existed. She writes of stars as stains, hunger as sin, and the silicone veil we use as a mask.

Susanne's voice has a certain quality to it that is distinct and unprecedented. Listening to her music is an absolute treat. Her vibrato has a mesmerizing quality to it. She can be as gentle as a whisper or as powerful as a surging waterfall. There have been rumors that when she performs in Norway, other musicians weep out of a mix of jealously and amazement.

She has a wonderful vocal range. Her style includes everything from folk, alternative rock, ballads, electronic, pop, and icy dance music. She sounds like the love child of Tori Amos and Radiohead.

Ten Love Songs is one of the most important albums of the Scandinavian scene from 2010-2019. The album has incredibly smooth transitions from track to track. Whole thesis papers could be written about the transition from "Accelerate" to "Fade Away".

If you have never heard of this woman or her music, you need to look her up immediately. Spend a weekend with her lyrics. Read about her and how she believes voting against capitalism is the most humane choice. She is rich with poetry and philosophy.

Susanne was born in Haugesund, Norway. She was born March 19, 1986.

White Foxes

You gave me my very first gun

I'll go out and hunt the hidden dome

With white foxes

Freeze

Hunger, hunger

Is the purest sin, it is an

Empty church in a crowded bin

— Susanne Sundfør | White Foxes, The Silicone Veil

6. Robyn

Stockholm, Sweden

Singer, song-writer, producer, and DJ: she is a household name throughout the world. The pop singer is a big part of the Scandinavian music scene, especially in Sweden.

Robyn has worked with many big names: Röyksopp, The Knife, Roxette, Snoop Dogg, Rye Rye, and The Lonely Island.

She started working in entertainment as a child. She voiced Miranda in the Swedish-Norwegian animated film The Journey to Melonia. It's loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest.

She began her pop music career at the age of 15, with RCA Records. That was 1994. When she turned down Jive Records' attempt to sign her in the United States, the company turned its efforts to Britney Spears. Britney was considered the American Robyn. Britney was considered easier to control than the Swedish teen pop star.

Robyn has transformed her musical image several times. She was placed in the bubble-gum pop category, but she broke out opting for a more authentic and personal approach. She is forceful; she doesn't bow to expectations or put herself in a box. She goes with her own look and doesn't compromise.

Her voice is clean, pure, attractive, friendly, and smooth. She dots around R&B and electronica with grace. Her vocals remind me of a skilled ballerina or ice skater.

The liberating dance moves of Robyn in the music video "Call Your Girlfriend". It's a cold as ice love anthem, and she rocks to it in a warehouse.

The liberating dance moves of Robyn in the music video "Call Your Girlfriend". It's a cold as ice love anthem, and she rocks to it in a warehouse.

Tell her not to get upset

Second-guessing everything you said and done

And then when she gets upset

Tell her how you never meant to hurt no one

— Robyn | Call Your Girlfriend, Body Talk

Robyn Discography

AlbumYear

Robyn Is Here

1995

My Truth

1999

Don't Stop the Music

2002

Robyn

2005

Body Talk Pt. 1

2010

Body Talk Pt. 2

2010

Honey

2018

7. The Knife

Gothenburg, Sweden

Music duo siblings Karin Elisabeth Dreijer and her brother Olof Dreijer. The title track that's known throughout the world is: "Heartbeats". If you're unfamiliar with the song, take five minutes now and listen to it. The song will forever sound fresh. It's one of those perfect tunes that will grab people's ears unsuspectingly.

The band was active from 1994-2014. Karin broke off to form her own solo project. Olof is a professional DJ who travels to nightclubs throughout Europe.

The duo began playing music together after Karin's band, Honey Is Cool, stopped working together. The Dreijer siblings have had success in various directions. In 2009, they collaborated with artists to help create an Opera for the Danish group Hotel Pro Forma. The opera Tomorrow, In a Year is about Charles Darwin's discoveries.

The duo didn't care to cooperate with the media during their run. They won the Swedish Grammy Award for best Pop Group of the Year in 2003, but they boycotted the ceremony. They sent in two representatives from the Guerrilla Girls with the number 50 written on their backs. They were protesting against the male dominance of the music industry.

The duo sites the following as influences: David Lynch, Donnie Darko, Korean cinema, Aki Kaurismäki, and Trailer Park Boys.

One night to be confused

One night to speed up truth

We had a promise made

Four hands and then away

— The Knife | Heartbeats, Deep Cuts

8. Fever Ray

Stockholm, Sweden

One half of the band The Knife. Karin Elisabeth Dreijer released their debut solo album in 2009 under their stage name, Fever Ray. The singer prefers the pronouns their / they / them.

Their second album, Plunge, came out in 2017. The artist received international attention for their song "If I Had a Heart", which is the theme song to the opening credits of The Vikings. The song has also been used on the series Breaking Bad, Wentworth, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Person of Interest.

Karin has worked with Röyksopp on the tracks "What Else Is There?", "This Must Be It", and "Tricky Tricky".

Fever Ray's style can be explained as electronica, ambient, trip hop, experimental, and house. Karin has a distinct voice — it switches from mature to childlike on a dime. Karin has a high pitched voice. The singer doesn't always sound in tune. It reminds me of a menacing bird.

The arrangements for their songs range from groovy, to ominous and ancient, to repetitive and attack-like. They're not shy with their lyrics: pain is brought out with a few choice words and some constrained noises. Karin is one of many Scandinavian artists who isn't afraid to experiment with their voice. They're not trying to sound perfect and beautiful; they're tapping into other emotions. Karin doesn't try to masquerade as an angel.

Fever Ray doesn't shy away from imagery in their music videos. They come up with some striking and original images, like in this video, "Seven".

Fever Ray doesn't shy away from imagery in their music videos. They come up with some striking and original images, like in this video, "Seven".

If I had a heart I could love you

If I had a voice I would sing

After the night when I wake up

I'll see what tomorrow brings

— Fever Ray | If I Had a Heart, Fever Ray

9. Ane Brun

Molde, Norway

Norweigan songwriter, folk star, and of Sami origin. She made her international debut with the album Spending Time with Morgan in 2003. She topped the charts in Norway the following year with the album A Temporary Dive.

Her music regularly appears in the Norway and Sweden charts. She has lived in Stockholm, Sweden since 2001 where she writes, produces and manages her own label, Balloon Ranger Recordings.

  • She has won some of the biggest awards in music.
  • Some of her albums have gone platinum.
  • She has worked with big names like Peter Gabriel.

My personal favorite album of hers: It All Starts with One. The music videos for the album are about a man with dementia or Alzheimer's and a community's approach to interact with him.

Ane is a big believer in climate justice. Back in 2009, she assembled 24 well known Swedish music groups to take part in a live music event to mark the International Day of Climate Action.

Ane has done a long list of covers from other artists including Radiohead, Nick Cave, Mariah Carey, and Beyoncé. The album Leave Me Breathless is all about covers.

She was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 27. Issues with the illness have caused her to cancel or rearrange plans.

The "Do You Remember" music video has everything. Ane Brun singing, dancers in whimsical clothes, people banging drums, and a very confused man in a bed.

The "Do You Remember" music video has everything. Ane Brun singing, dancers in whimsical clothes, people banging drums, and a very confused man in a bed.

Do you remember the scars I showed you

The stories I told you

How I always said forever

When you asked me to stay true

— Ane Brun | Do You Remember, It All Starts with One

10. Emilíana Torrini

Reykjavik, Iceland

A voice with a mystical appeal. The fairy magic in her brought her to work with Peter Jackson's team on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Björk was originally supposed to sing "Gollum's Song", and was credited for it in the film. She backed out because of her pregnancy. Emilíana was credited in the DVD. The track is also titled "Long Ways to Go Yet."

Emilíana joined a choir as a soprano at the age of seven. She went to opera school at the age of 15. She was discovered singing in a restaurant in Iceland by Derek Birkett, the owner of One Little Indian Records.

She is a member of the group GusGus. She co-wrote Kylie Minogue's songs "Slow" and "Someday" from her Body Language album.

The singer works in the styles of folk, alternative rock, trip hop, and electronica. She is similar to Jem, Björk, Tori Amos, Feist, Emily Jane White, Dido, Joan As Police Woman, Zero 7, and Sia.

She has worked with the Colorist Orchestra from Belgium. They worked on recomposing her songs from her back catalog.

She has released six studio albums:

  • Crouçie d'où là (1995)
  • Merman (1996)
  • Love in the Time of Science (1999)
  • Fisherman's Woman (2005)
  • Me and Armini (2008)
  • Tookah (2013)

She has three collaboration albums:

  • Spoon (1994) - with Spoon
  • The Colorist & Emilíana Torrini (2016) – a semi-live album with The Colorist Orchestra
  • Music To Draw To: Satellite (2017) – Kid Koala

11. Eivør Pálsdóttir

Syðrugøta, Faroe Islands

Hailing from the Faroe Islands, Eivør's music is incredibly ethereal, assertive, and folksy. She experiments with jazz, pop, rock, the avant garde, and country. She enjoyed regional success for a long time. Then she was recognized internationally in 2015 thanks to her striking music for the BBC historical drama series The Last Kingdom.

Two of her most successful albums are: the English version of Slør and Segl. She has worked with Faroe Islands composer Tróndur Bogason, the Icelandic string quartet Kaputt, the Faroese choir Mpiri, and a children's choir from Gøta.

Eivør began her music career at just 13 years old. She won a national singing contest on TV. At 15, she formed her first band, Chickhaze, and at 16 she released her debut solo album.

Her music has been used on Homeland and Game of Thrones. Also, you can find her work in the video games God of War and Metal Gear Survive.

Eivør's strength is her versatility and long range. Her voice sounds like a spirit or ghost. She commands authority in her music while also remaining enigmatic. She is a truly enchanting voice, and her catalog is fascinating as it dives through different genres and gains a kind of epic feel due to the work with all the television shows and video games.

Can anyone command the color black like this singer? Her usage of darkness and yin energy is perfection, like here in the video "Only Love".

Can anyone command the color black like this singer? Her usage of darkness and yin energy is perfection, like here in the video "Only Love".

Eivør Pálsdóttir | Honors

AwardsYears

Faroese Female of the Year

2004

Planet Awards – Best female singer (Faroese music awards)

2006

Planet Awards – Best female singer

2009

Best Danish female folk from Jylland (Årets danske Folk Vokalist)

2006

Planet Awards – Best female singer / Best artist / Best album for Room

2012

Nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize

2013

DJBFA (Danish Jazz, Beat and Folkmusic Authors) Award

2013

12. Swedish Mafia House

Stockholm, Sweden

A music supergroup consisting of: Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso. They are the literal definition of house music, and should be listed under the dictionary for this reason.

The artists have been working together off and on since 2008. If you need something to keep you going in the middle of the night because you have a big project to finish — or you're driving late into the night into the unknown — play Swedish Mafia House. They'll keep you alert, dancing, moving, and bopping. If music could be compared in yin and yang — this would be extreme yang. It's repetitive, it's loud, it's noisy, it makes you move. It's perfect for cardio.

Before the formation of the house, the three artists performed as DJs in the late 1990s to 2000s. Their name came about as the DJs played more and more shows together; their friends and fans gave them the name.

The supergroup is all about collaboration. Swedish DJ Eric Prydz joined them for many of their shows, but he didn't want to commit to the official house name. They inspired several other DJs including Swedish DJs Alesso and Avicii.

Swedish Mafia House helped house music take the reigns internationally along with Calvin Harris, Tiësto, and Carl Cox.

13. Avicii

Stockholm, Sweden

My friends, this one is a sucker punch to the heart. Trigger warning for this one if you're struggling with depression.

Avicii was an incredibly bright light in the world of DJs. He was an amazing producer and musician. He sadly struggled with his mental health and committed suicide in 2018. He was only 28 years old.

His mixes were genius. They have a profound quality to them that resonate with his signature. The track "Wake Me Up" reached heights around the world that most art never will.

His real name: Tim Bergling. He started mixing in his room at the ripe age of 8. He began making his own music at the age of 16. By 2009, he was releasing his music at an incredibly fast pace.

The name Avicii means the lowest level of hell in Buddhism. He chose the moniker because his name was already taken on Myspace.

Bergling struggled with substance abuse. Excessive alcohol use led to acute pancreatitis. His appendix and gallbladder were removed. His health wasn't in good shape, so he retired from live performances: this created angst for his management team and his fans.

He was sensitive to the flood of hate mail he received after canceling live performances.

My readers, we've got to treat our artists and each other better. People should be allowed to express themselves and give of themselves without threat. Don't send hate mail just because someone doesn't live up to your expectations. Have a heart.

Avicii's Discography

  • True (2013)
  • Stories (2015)
  • Tim (2019)

14. Of Monsters and Men

Reykjavík, Iceland

In 2010, the band won the Músíktilraunir — a fancy word for the annual battle of the bands event in Iceland.

The band's 2011 debut album My Head Is an Animal topped the alternative rock charts in Iceland, Australia, Ireland, and the United States.

Current members include:

  • Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir
  • Ragnar Þórhallsson
  • Brynjar Leifsson
  • Kristján Páll Kristjánsson
  • Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson

The band reminds me of Arcade Fire, The Lumineers, and The Strumbellas. Of Monsters and Men incorporates a variety of instruments in their songs: piano, guitar, bass, accordion, trumpet, trombone, glockenspiel.

The band is one of many that was supported by an indie folk renaissance in the 2010s. Some refer to it as a golden age for the genre. The band may be Icelanders, but they have perfected nu-Americana.

Their songs inspire you to run to the woods to find foxes, to stumble into the tundra for the ice crystals, and to gather around campfires for the strangers.

Over the past decade, the band has experimented with their sound, keeping it alive, spicing it up with electricity. They're not afraid to reinvent themselves to survive. Some of their more recent music might seem unrecognizable to their hippie bohemian roots, but that doesn't mean they don't groove or speak to the soul any less.

The band has three studio albums. Their debut album has gone multi-platinum.

  • My Head Is an Animal (2011)
  • Beneath the Skin (2015)
  • Fever Dream (2019)

I don't like walking around this old and empty house

So hold my hand, I'll walk with you my dear

The stairs creak as I sleep

It's keeping me awake

It's the house telling you to close your eyes

— Of Monsters and Men | Little Talks, My Head Is an Animal

Thinking about Of Mice and Men?

Of Mice and Men is a novella written by John Steinbeck in 1937. It is about two displaced migrant ranch workers. They move from place to place in California in hopes of finding stable work. The book is a common staple of high school literature in the United States.

15. Lykke Li

Ystad, Skåne County, Sweden

Dreampop singer-songwriter and model. She is the daughter of Johan Zachrisson, a member of the Swedish punk-reggae band Dag Vag. Her mother, Kärsti Stiege, was a photographer.

Lykke Li released her first EP in 2007, Little Bit. She has continued plugging out songs and albums since then. One of the first things that happened that gave her wider recognition was writing the song "Possibility" for The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The Twilight series was a powerhouse franchise back in its hay day.

The soprano sings songs that are chill, repetitive, catchy, and could fit a house party or an introverted day indoors. She has mentioned the Beatles, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, This Mortal Coil, Leonard Cohen, and Beach House as influences on her work.

  • Lykke Li practices transcendental meditation to help her write her songs.
  • She says it helps her open the gates to her creativity.

The singer has released 4 albums:

  • Youth Novels (2008)
  • Wounded Rhymes (2011)
  • I Never Learn (2014)
  • So Sad So Sexy (2018)

Lykke Li wrote her last album So Sad So Sexy shortly after her son Dion was born and her mother died. The album was born out of her grief of losing her mother and the difficulties of new motherhood.

She is a world traveler having lived in Portugal, Morocco, Nepal, India, and New York City. Many of these places she spent time in as a child.

Oh I beg you, can I follow?

Oh I ask you, why not always?

Be the ocean, where I unravel

Be my only, be the water where I'm wading

— Lykke Li | I Follow Rivers, Wounded Rhymes

16. Anna Ternheim

Stockholm, Sweden

Enter a world of meditative, folksy fairy magic. Anna Ternheim is a singer-songwriter with a smooth, gentle voice. She seems to give a nod to Coldplay and Dido.

At the age of ten, she began writing songs and performing.

Anna plays both the piano and guitar. The piano is often subtle, the guitar plucking is often gentle. Her songs are usually simplistic: they have a rural, rustic feel. Occasionally, she hearkens to the time of the blues. Listening to her sometimes feels like I'm traveling back in time to the '60s or '70s.

My personal favorite song of hers is "What Have I Done". Anna has 8 albums to her name:

  • Somebody Outside (2004)
  • Separation Road (2006)
  • Halfway to Fivepoints (US only) (2008)
  • Leaving on a Mayday (2008)
  • The Night Visitor (2011)
  • For the Young (2015)
  • All the Way to Rio (2017)
  • A Space for Lost Time (2019)

Her songs have appeared on shows like Grey's Anatomy, Wallander, One Tree Hill, and Dollhouse. Her music has also been featured on the video games Silent Hill: Downpour and Alan Wake.

Anna won Swedish Grammy Awards as a newcomer. Leaving on a Mayday won Album of the Year in 2009.

Need something more toned down and mature? Anna Ternheim relies on her good voice and musical composition to appeal to your ears, like in this track "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely".

Need something more toned down and mature? Anna Ternheim relies on her good voice and musical composition to appeal to your ears, like in this track "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely".

You are my everything

My head, my heart, my mind, my wing

I can give all again

I'm never short of anything with you

— Anna Ternheim | What Have I Done, Leaving on a Mayday

17. Jenny Hval

Oslo, Norway

If somehow David Lynch and David Bowie had a secret love child, it might be this singer.

Jenny Hval isn't for the faint of heart. She is experimental, avant garde, dark, questionable, and brooding. All of her music videos are shocking. She embraces the cringe factor. Part of her soul is tinged with the scent of Halloween.

Some of her songs are full of people shouting. Some tracks last for several minutes. It's kinky. It's weird. It's not easy and comforting listening.

Jenny throws in spoken word poetry, combinations of folk, jazz, and unusual sounds. She dives deeply into the unconventional. Some of the songs come off like a migraine aura. It's unpredictable, wild, uncanny, and all her own. She has found a kind of justice in her rebellion against the typical and formulated.

Some of her music is inspired by vampires and horror movies from the 1970s. She has been in the music circuit since 2003. She is also known as Rockettothesky. The singer is comfortable on the piano and guitar. Jenny has 10 albums to her name, 2 as Rockettothesky, 7 as Hval, and 1 with the group Nude on Sand.

She studied literature and wrote as a freelance columnist. Jenny published her novel Perlebryggeriet (Pearl Brewery) in 2009. An English translation called Paradise Rot: A Novel was released in 2018. She has published two other books, Inn i ansiktet (Into the Face) and Å hate Gud (To Hate God).

Many praise her songs for bringing about new artistic perspectives, and for challenging conventions on feminism and sexuality. She takes a primal look at what it means to be a woman.

Jenny Hval is bound to creep you out in her music videos. You may want to watch them alone where people can't watch your reactions. "That Battle Is Over" is primal female energy.

Jenny Hval is bound to creep you out in her music videos. You may want to watch them alone where people can't watch your reactions. "That Battle Is Over" is primal female energy.

She had this dream about a song

She was certain that it was about a burial

The ritual, beautifully written

Even the groove was filled with sadness

Every beat went all the way down

Into the two holes in the ground

— Jenny Hval | Ashes to Ashes, The Practice of Love

18. Trentemøller

Vordingborg, Denmark

The overlord of Danish electronic indie music. He also is under the influence of David Lynch.

Trentemøller is a music composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer living in Copenhagen, Denmark. He plays music in the style of rock, electronica, synthwave, goth, ambient, Kraut, indietronica, and alternative rock. He has been in the music industry since 1997.

He also goes by the names: Businessman, P.O.Q, and Run Jeremy. He got his start in the late '90s working on rock indie projects. He released his first album The Last Resort in 2006. He has worked with big act names including: Röyksopp, Moby, and The Knife.

His music is mostly instrumental. He has a long list of remixes to his name. He has won several big awards in Denmark for his remixes, his skills as a producer, and as a composer.

Trentemøller's style is futuristic, tech-heavy, fast paced, mysterious, and ominous. It sounds like music meant for dystopian movies with people all in leather and agent like sunglasses. Many of his songs come off cinematic.

If he ever appeared at a party as a DJ, the event would be graced by an electronic god. He has a long list of influences including: Siouxsie and the Banshees, My Bloody Valentine, and Depeche Mode.

You could easily spend a whole afternoon watching his music videos on YouTube. "Moan" is arguably his most popular work — I couldn't bare to watch it again because it's about Russian experimentation with dogs in space. It always makes me a little sad, even if it is a tribute to Laika.

Thinking about you

Constantly thinking about you

Thinking about you

— Trentemøller | Moan, The Last Resort

19. Apocalyptica

Helsinki, Finland

Turn to Finland for heavy metal, for grandeur, and intensity. Apocalyptica is what happens when classically trained artists meet metal. They've been blasting tunes since 1993.

A trio of cellists and a jazz drummer currently helm the band. The trio: Eicca Toppine, Perttu Kivilaakso, Paavo Lötjönen + the drummer: Mikko Sirén.

Max Lilja and Antero Manninen are past members. The band's first album consisted only of Metallica covers. They would later cover the metal bands Faith No More, Sepultura, and Pantera.

The band's third album Cult featured 10 original songs and three covers. They've released nine albums altogether.

  • Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (1996)
  • Inquisition Symphony (1998)
  • Cult (2000)
  • Reflections (2003)
  • Apocalyptica (2005)
  • Worlds Collide (2007)
  • 7th Symphony (2010)
  • Shadowmaker (2015)
  • Cell-0 (2020)

Apocalyptica performed live with Metallica on three songs in celebration of the band's 30th anniversary on December 5th, 2011.

The track "I Don't Care" was featured on the TV series Smallville. Apocalyptica is the first Finnish band to top the US charts.

In 2012, the band took a break. They worked on a musical project titled Wagner Reloaded. It included and revamped Richard Wagner's music to celebrate the German composer's 200th birthday. The band occasionally connects with chamber orchestras.

20. The Rasmus

Helsinki, Finland

You may know The Rasmus for their internationally recognized song "In the Shadows". The track is their most popular single, dating back to 2003.

They've been actively playing music since 1994. As high schoolers, Lauri Ylönen, Eero Heinonen, Pauli Rantasalmi, and Jarno Lahti formed the band. Lauri is the lead singer-songwriter, Eero plays the bass, Pauli on guitar, and Jarno played the drums.

Jarno left the band and was replaced by Janne Heiskanen in 1995. Heiskanen quit the band in 1998. Aki Hakala then became the drummer and has stayed with the group.

The band mixes elements of metal, goth, and rock. The American emo-scene kids picked up on the band in the early 2000s. I would argue The Rasmus is like a Scandinavian Muse. (I can hear the Muse in them, maybe I'm crazy.)

They have released a total of nine studio albums:

  • Peep (1996)
  • Playboys (1997)
  • Hell of a Tester (1998)
  • Into (2001)
  • Dead Letters (2003)
  • Hide from the Sun (2005)
  • Black Roses (2008)
  • The Rasmus (2012)
  • Dark Matters (2017)

The band is big on touring. They're not afraid to get on stage. They've won numerous awards, domestically and internationally.

The Rasmus are part of a brotherhood of Finnish bands known as "Dynasty." This also includes the hip-hop band Kwan and the now-separated modern rock band Killer.

Lauri Ylönen has also worked for the group Apocalyptica. He has also released a solo album, New World.

Sometimes I feel that I should go and play with the thunder

Somehow I just don't want to stay and wait for a wonder

— The Rasmus | In the Shadows, Pahat pojat

21. First Aid Kit

Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish sisters singing folksy music. Johanna and Klara Söderberg became popular in 2007. They bring a rare quality to country music: it reminds me of the old days, it's pure, it isn't honky tonk.

The sisters have worked with the recording labels Columbia, Wichita, and Rabid. They grew up in Enskede, in the outskirts of Stockholm. Born in the early '90s, the sisters represent the Millennial generation.

They're fans of Johnny Cash (a noticeable influence), Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris. The popular movie adaptation of the epic poem The Odyssey, that rare and perfect film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? — that George Clooney film it was their catalyst.

It inspired the sisters to play "Down in the River to Pray". From there, they started singing at home, then they moved into the streets and sang outside pubs. Their father admitted he was jealous that they came up with top-notch music with ease. His advise for them was to sing loud enough that someone could hear them through the wall of a bar.

The sisters uploaded their self-made songs to MySpace if only it were that easy today. They sent a demo of their song "Tangerine" to the Swedish radio. It immediately went on air and was listed as one of the best songs of 2007.

I wish I could write on and on about the Söderberg sisters, but we have some other artists on this list who deserve your attention. (They have 4 studio albums, by the way.)

Looking all kinds of Midsommar here, First Aid Kit is rich with folkloric roots. Their videos are a nice refrain with friendship and female solidarity. Watch "Wolf" for some creature comfort.

Looking all kinds of Midsommar here, First Aid Kit is rich with folkloric roots. Their videos are a nice refrain with friendship and female solidarity. Watch "Wolf" for some creature comfort.

I'll be your Emmylou and I'll be your June

If you'll be my Gram and my Johnny too

No, I'm not asking much of you

Just sing little darling, sing with me

— First Aid Kit | Emmylou, The Lion's Roar

22. Highasakite

Norway

The band first came together in 2012. They're a mix of folk, icy synths, gypsy style, and progressive rock. The band achieved widespread success with their 2014 album, Silent Treatment. The album topped the Norwegian charts and remained in the Top 40 for not one, but two years.

Their music is perfect for relaxing while at home, while driving on a cloudy or snowy day, and while walking through a forest. They have memorable lyrics around a host of ideas: Darth Vader, Mexico, Iran, egomaniacs, God, heaven, samurai swords, Chernobyl, and drugs.

Highasakite is addictive. Once you add them into your music playlist, you'll find yourself wanting to listen to more of their tracks. The lyrics, the melodies, and the harmonies are earworms. They'll live inside your head.

In 2012, they released the album All That Floats Will.

In 2016, they released Camp Echo. In 2019, Uranium Heart.

Ingrid Helene Håvik met drummer Trond Bersu while studying jazz at Trondheim Jazz Conservatory. They added producer Thomas Dahl to help on guitar and bass. Øystein Skar plays piano; he is a past member of the crew.

The band has won two Spellemannprisen, that's the Norwegian parallel to the Grammy Award. They were nominated for two more. One is pending due to the pandemic.

You tried to tell me how to love

But it's like walking on a treadmill on the road

Yeah, it's like walking on a treadmill on the road

Going nowhere, like a treadmill on the road

— Highasakite | Uranium Heart

23. MØ

Funen, Denmark

Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen as a teenager was fascinated by punk music and anti-fascist movements. She spent her youth listening to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Sonic Youth. She grew up in Ejlstrup on the island of Funen.

Her music uses EDM drops, rap, dance beats, and electronica synth. She teamed up with Australian rapper Iggy Azalea for the track "Beg for It". She has also worked with Major Lazer, Diplo, Charli XCX, and Justin Bieber. She has toured with Sia and Panic! at the Disco.

Her songs have a kind of street vibe to them, a mix of R&B, dreampop, and punk. Her music is fluid and goes through multiple styles, which is keen to the present day styles of Post Malone, Billie Eilish, and Grimes.

It's a mix of youth culture with older '90s influence. Most of her songs are energetic. It makes you want to sway back and forth.

MØ says her grandfather, Mogens Ørsted, used to sign his paintings with his initials. She decided to do the same thing with her initials, using the names Marie and Ørsted.

MØ has two studio albums so far:

  • No Mythologies to Follow (2014)
  • Forever Neverland (2018)

24. Sigrid

Ålesund, Norway

Scandipop singer Sigrid came onto the scene at the age of 16. I like to call her "The Pants" because how I remember her is from her music video "High Five", where she is doing typical teenage fun things, wandering around high school halls, and rocking a red jacket and some thrift store jeans. I have those jeans and dance moves burned into my brain. That denim is more memorable than any jeans ad from the past five years. The video for "Strangers" is similar.

Sigrid is everything post-millenial. The mom jeans, the natural look, the hair part down the middle, and the awkward dance moves.

Back to Sigrid and her career — her older brother challenged her to write an original song and perform it at one of his gigs. It took just one month for her song "Don't Kill My Vibe" to rack up 10 million digital streams. Her song is featured on the video game Sims 4, but it's in a Simlish version (the language of the game).

Sigrid's first full-length album was released in 2018 — Sucker Punch. It climbed to the number one spot in her country, Norway.

At the age of 16, Sigrid and her sister Johanne formed the band Sala Says Mhyp — it was named after their late cat.

The singer has won multiple Spellemannprisens. She earned her first one back in 2017.

Can we please start calling Sigrid — The Pants? Does anyone rock denim like this soul? She makes jeans look natural and transcendent all at once. "Strangers" is all about that natural, happy, and free look.

Can we please start calling Sigrid — The Pants? Does anyone rock denim like this soul? She makes jeans look natural and transcendent all at once. "Strangers" is all about that natural, happy, and free look.

Just like in the movies

It starts to rain and we

We're the broken beauties

Blindfolded minds collide and we fall

— Sigrid | Strangers

25. Little Dragon

Gothenburg, Sweden

I was sold on this band when I was playing Pandora and came across the unparalleled track: "Ritual Union". This band reminds me of Zero 7. They play in the style of trip hop, downtempo, soul, dream-pop, and R&B.

The band has played together since 1996. Yukimi Nagano sings and does percussion, Erik Bodin is on the drums, Fredrik Wallin wields the bass, and Håkan Wirenstrand jams on the keyboards.

The band's first release was in 2006, a vinyl called "Twice" / "Test" — the next year they would get picked up by the British recording label Peacefrog Records.

Little Dragon has worked with the Gorillaz. They appeared on the album Plastic Beach, the tracks "Empire Ants" and "To Binge". They ended up touring with the Gorillaz.

Little Dragon has had six studio album releases:

  • Little Dragon (2006)
  • Machine Dreams (2009)
  • Ritual Union (2011)
  • Nabuma Rubberband (2014)
  • Season High (2017)
  • New Me, Same Us (2020)

They've changed labels a handful of times. Little Dragon will set a vibrant mood for a bar. Some of their songs have the perfect dance beat. Yukimi's voice offers maturity and spunk to the music. She sweeps people away into jazz and that '70s groove feel. Her vocals are smooth and righteous.

Ritual union's got me in trouble again

I was wonderin' of a white dress

And the mistress

And a spirit holding my hand!

— Little Dragon | Ritual Union

26. Lido

Tysvær, Norway

A singer-songwriter with an extensive record producing background. He has worked with Mariah Carey, Jaden Smith, Ariana Grande, and BANKS. He has extensively worked with Halsey. He was the executive producer on her album Badlands.

His real name is Peder Losnegård. He also goes by the names Lil'P and Trippy Turtle. He specializes in EDM, electronica, R&B, trap, and funk. He first started out as the rapper: LidoLido.

Peder developed his musical abilities at a young age. He is the son of a gospel choir director. He spent his youth playing the drums, piano, and composing music.

At the age of 16, he self-released his Good Guy Mixtape. He signed with Universal Music Norway under the name LidoLido. His first big single was the track "Different" in 2011. This man essentially breathes in music and eats it for breakfast while also collaborating with some of the biggest names in the industry.

Lido has released 5 studio album:

  • Pretty Girls & Grey Sweaters (2012)
  • Battle Poetry (2013)
  • Everything (2016)
  • Everything Remixed (2017)
  • PEDER (2020)

The artist was involved in the music production for the anime Carole & Tuesday. Peder composed the songs "Move Mountains" and "Not Afraid".

He has produced several songs for Chance the Rapper, including on the album Coloring Book.

27. Zara Larsson

Solna, Sweden

One of the youngest people on this list, born December 16, 1997, Zara is taking over the airwaves with vocal arrangements and a style similar to Ariana Grande.

Her first single "Uncover" topped charts throughout Scandinavia. In July 2013, Introducing was certified 3× Platinum in Sweden. She signed a 3 year contract deal with Epic Records in the United States in April 2013.

Zara has worked with Clean Bandit, Wizkid, Fedez, Kygo, Sabrina Carpenter, and Young Thug.

Zara is socially conscientious. She has made many stances in favor of feminists and pushing back on women-haters. She is trying to use her platform for music to create change — anything from helping the LGBT+ community to gain representation to pushing back on fears of incontinence. (She did have a short controversial deal with Huawei.)

Zara is heavily influenced by R&B singers. Her music is pop and dance based. She cites Beyoncé as her biggest influence. She is also a fan of Robyn, Rihanna, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Celine Dion.

The singer studied ballet in her youth. She went to the Royal Swedish Ballet School and studied until she was 15. She also went to an art school, Kulturama, which she credits as making her first real critical impressions on gender norms and social issues. She was accepted into Adolf Fredrik's Music School, but she declined because she didn't want to sing in a choir.

28. Tingsek

Södra Sandby, Sweden

Tingsek is one of the best kept music secrets. He is a mix of reggae, soul, folk, jazz, and alternative. He is a musician who can play a variety of instruments, and he works as a producer.

His voice is smooth, he can sing fairly high, and it has a unique sexy quality to it. He plays guitar, bass, drums, piano, and whatever brings his heart content.

He is like the Bob Marley of Sweden. Tingsek has released 6 albums:

  • Tingsek (2005)
  • World of Its Own (2006)
  • Too Many Feelings at the Same Time (2008)
  • Restless Soul (2009)
  • Tingsek & Vindla String Quartet feat. Måns Mernsten (2011)
  • Amygdala (2016)

Tingsek has songs that are perfect for a slow dance, for a romantic candlelit dinner, a retreat in a rustic cabin, or a solitary walk through the neighborhood. I have found myself coming back to his music over the past 15 years or so. I enjoy the way the songs are arranged, the passion in Tingsek's voice, and the fact that most of my friends have never heard of this man, so I can show-off a little.

Tingsek is a big believer in collaborating with others. This includes: Loosegoats, Ane Brun, Allen Stone, Fjärde Världen, Slakah the Beatchild, Gaby and The Guns, and Emily King.

Oh we're the fiddlers of your conscience

Trying to tell you what to do

With the utmost confidence

We tell you to stop and re-value

— Tingsek | The Fiddlers, Amygdala

29. Alphabeat

Silkeborg, Denmark

A blast of bubble gum pop. Alphabeat is rainbows, kittens, glitter, and essentially Kawaii. Alphabeat is perfect for a young audience, for cute animations, and darling bakery hideouts.

The pop sensation formed all the way back in 2003. The band includes:

  • Anders SG
  • Stine Bramsen
  • Anders B
  • Rasmus Nagel
  • Anders Reinholdt
  • Troels Møller

They were first called Sodastar. They changed their name in 2006, so as not to create confusion with a German band. They've remained favorites in Europe.

They are sugar coated candy, almost-too-corny-to-believe-it pop, and something that seems like the dreams of Lady Rainicorn from Adventure Time. They're influenced by David Bowie, The B-52's, Wham!, and The Pointer Sisters.

If you're looking for some kid friendly Scandinavian music, this would be my pick. It might be somewhat cloying for those of you looking for something more soulful, metal, or scintillating.

Alphabeat is the definition of wonky pop. Their manager owns the brand name. Wonky pop is a loose group of musical acts playing quirky, catchy, and sugary pop songs. They're reminiscent of the 1980s. Mika — the British singer who kind of sounds like Freddy Mercury — would be considered part of wonky pop.

30. Emmelie de Forest

Randers, Denmark

The possible great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Emmelie de Forest won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013 in Malmö, Sweden. She won the contest with her song "Only Teardrops", she was only 18 years old.

She began singing at the age of nine. She sang with her mom in the Steve Cameron Gospel Choir. At 14, she started singing at music festivals. Following her big win at Eurovision, she toured the continent, released her debut album, and wrote more songs.

The singer's style is chill, folksy, smooth, elegant, and icy. She's like the Scandinavian version of Taylor Swift. Her songs can be gentle, like a whisper, and occasionally she finds her way to some pleasant high notes. She has a pure voice, clean lyrics, and a Virgo like perfectionism. The singer has stated she wants to come off both sexy and elegant in her work.

She's like a futuristic lady of the lake from King Arthur lore. Her dress from her Eurovision performance also makes me think she may have escaped legend to come and hang out with us mortals, to share her expertise, to sing her songs, and bring us back to the fairy tales we may have forgotten.

Emmelie de Forest is magic. She has put out two albums so far:

  • Only Teardrops (2013)
  • History (2018)

Album Picks

AlbumArtist

"Ten Love Songs"

Susanne Sundfør

"The Inevitable End"

Röyksopp

"True"

Avicii

"Slør"

Eivør Pálsdóttir

"Takk..."

Sigur Rós

"It All Starts with One"

Ane Brun

"Silent Treatment"

Highasakite

"Body Talk Pt. 1"

Robyn

"All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend"

Aurora

"World of Its Own"

Tingsek

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence