Reaching Placebo is available at:
Their album The Haze is Forever is available at:
Reaching Placebo– 9.6
The Haze is Forever– 9.5
On Purpose– 9.5
Crazy About Me– 9.4
Touch Me– 9.5
I Got My Gun– 9.6
The Garden– 9.6
Reaching Placebo; The Haze is Forever; I Got My Gun; The Garden
MUSIC throws up all sorts of right angles and tangents…
so that one week you could be looking at a Pop act from London- the next you are investigating a Rock band from the U.S. It is always pleasing to see what various parts of the world are producing. For today I get to discover great music from a very prosperous musical centre: Sweden and the magic being made there. Before I get down to my featured act I wanted to talk about Swedish music- Stockholm in particularly- in addition to girl bands and sub-genres. Sweden is another one of those nations (like Australia and Canada) you would not normally think of when assessing new music- I had the same thought with regards Scotland too. So much attention is paid to obvious musical nations- the U.S. and U.K. really- few eyes tend to gaze in other directions. It is a real shame we have become so rigid and lazy when it comes to seeking new music out. Critics and the media are always a little to blame in this regard- few actually offering insight into nations like Sweden. When you consider Sweden there are so many great acts emerging last year. In 2015 the likes of The Hanged Man, 1987 and Hey Elbow were names to watch and herald- exciting critics with their variation and quality. Whilst there is some fantastic music emerging all across Sweden; Stockholm is probably the most note-worthy when it comes to bands at the moment. Historically the city has produced the likes of Niki and the Dove, Dirty Loops and Zeitgeist (not forgetting ABBA)- quite a rich heritage here. With bands such as The Amazing promising good things- other new and fresh bands coming through- I reckon we should look towards Sweden when it comes to new music. Its capital is amazing me with the various types of acts and musicians playing- more varied than most other cities across the globe. In the past few months I have taken my mind outside the U.K. and expanded my horizons somewhat. When reviewing music from L.A. and New York; I was blown away by the depth and range of the music here- such a vast array on the musical menu; not just one particular sound or genre. I find that a lot of new British acts are not as ambitious and original as they could be- Stockholm is producing some of music’s most original and striking new acts. I am not sure whether it is the musical community there or the country itself- the lifestyle and pace is conducive to creative brilliance- but I would be interested to know. There seems to be a resurgence happening here; 2016 will see a lot of Stockholm musicians make their way into the mainstream- and nestle alongside Britain’s best for the year. It would be good for someone- a music website or search engine- to make it easier to discover Swedish music and the best the country has now- no music website is disciplined enough; search engines are too broad and unreliable. This time- and as usual when it comes to Swedish goodies- I have been via Mystic Sons- a London-based P.R. company- to discover one of their finest clients. Before I raise a couple of new points; let me introduce Dolores Haze to you:
Groovy Nickz: vocals, bass/Groovy Fuck: rhythm guitar/Lucky Lollo: lead guitar/Foxy Sagz: drums
The Swedish girl group is another act that has little biography and insight- preferring their music made up for it. It would be nice to see (in future) a little bit of backstory and history for the band- where they came from and the acts that have inspired them. The quartet are as much a fashion brand as a group- a mix of sounds and styles that goes into the incredible music. In addition to being the heroine in Lolita- perhaps appropriate given the juvenile and girlish energy you get from the band- the girls have ‘charming’ pseudonyms- humorous and cartoon-like monikers that gives you a window into their mindsets and attitudes. Here is a band with plenty of attitude and spunk: rebellious and purveyors of Punk spirits; channeling anger and passion through ‘Noise-Rock’ sounds- a sub-genre they are very comfortable in. If you look at the band market at the moment; there are not really that many all-girl groups coming out. There are mixed-gender bands- that usually have a girl lead- but when it comes to all-female; they seem to be a rarer breed. Away from your Pop-only groups- that are variable in quality- there are some fantastic Rock/Punk girl groups around. From Denmark’s Nelson Can to England’s The Tuts; there are some gems to be found. I like the all-male bands we have now- they make up the majority- but is always more fascinating to hear from the girls and what they can offer. I find the best Punk-inspired sounds come from girl groups- they tend to have that necessary attitude and vocal to truly do it justice. Dolores Haze are one of the most impressive and talked-about acts coming from Stockholm right now- having enjoyed a wonderful past year. It is hard to pin their sound down; the girls claim to be a Noise-Rock band- a genre/sub-genre that dates back to the ‘80s. Back in the 1980s the likes of Scratch Acid (Texas) and Dinosaur Jr. (Massachusetts) helped to popularise the sound- influencing the likes of Nirvana and their Grunge peers. In this decade acts such as Dope Body, Dumb Numbers and Roomrunner have kept the genre alive- all three are American groups. Outside the U.S. there are not that many notable examples- unless I am missing something- so Dolores Haze have a real opportunity. With so many bands becoming boring and predictable; these live-wire and explosive girls are conquering territory and ensuring the world hears their music. Last year they released their album/mini-album The Haze is Forever: an eight-track collection that saw them at their peak. This year the four-piece will capitalise on that success with no material- although their album is still gaining huge plaudits- and take their sounds across the world. It would be great to see the girls come to London and the U.K. – there is a definite market gap and demand for their music here. Let’s hope the Swedes do pop over here and electrify our crowds; in the meantime, they will be planning new moves and endeavours. It is a testament to their individuality and ambition so many critics and reviewers have latched onto their music- the social media ranks for the girls is expanding impressively too.
Accidental E.P. was released last year and one of the first chances for the world to hear the girls in full flight. Whereas their latest album/mini-album shows them at their moist adventurous and complete; their previous record saw plenty of promise and quality. Opener The Haze shows bulldozing riffs come together backing a raw and ecstatic vocal. Our heroine wants her man to take her in his arms- a song that has made its way onto their debut album- and shows that anthemic quality. More accessible than a lot of their songs it is a foot-stomping and crowd-uniting jam. A stunning band performance drives that vocal which is at its defiant and proclamation best. A developed and evolving track; it snakes and mutates- almost the anthem and mission statement from Dolores Haze. Kaleido is a building and intriguing thing to begin. Dark and building strings give impressions a Western mixed with a horror film- something emerging from the shadows. The vocal is more restrained (than previous cuts) and shows our heroine in apologetic mood. Having stolen the boy’s heart- something she is sorry for- all she wanted was a kiss. Before long the song explodes in a haze of Garage-Rock riff-age that sees the band unite in the explosion. Accelerating and rampaging as it goes, we get a wordless vocal that leads to a delirious and drugged-addled (in its effect) vocal- one of the most raw and primeval tracks from the band. Fuck the Pain Away leaves little room for ambiguity and misinterpretation. One of the longer songs from the E.P.; it is one of the most lyrically-vivid and bold songs. Quite proactive and detailed in its sexual descriptions- the soft-core rendez vous between the two is ascribed- you get a ragged and breathless encounter. Rough and ready in its charm; dogged and explicit- the song is one of the most memorable for sure. It is not to say the track is just an excuse to be controversial and lewd- it shows the heroine at her most alive and reckless. Propaganda Goth Club opens with sirens and a sense of urgency. Riding a hard and heavy riff, the heroine lets her voice wail and bite at every turn. A short closer; it is an immediate and bracing track that is a bucket of ice water- after the hot and heavy proceedings of the previous number.
Whereas The Haze is Forever is a longer and more complete work; you can hear those early sparks of potential in Accidental E.P. Perhaps not quite as accessible as their new release; some of the songs are hard to decipher and understand. The vocal can get buried under the rabble and fury of the composition; sometimes that near-petulant scream can overwhelm and jar occasionally- some of the songs run a little too long. It is understandable the girls would want to throw everything into the mix on the E.P. – it is a bold and brilliant statement of intent. What you get are largely positive shades; lots to recommend. Stunning riffs and exhilarant vocals; pulsating percussion and memorable lyrics- the Stockholm band was certainly memorable here. Their latest collection expands on their early promise and smooths the rough edges out. The songs now are more decipherable and balanced; the vocals not quite as overwhelmed and rushing- more emotionally-rounded and varied. The girls sound tighter and more compelling now; they have grown and matured- more disciplined and nuanced than early recordings. This all bodes well for their future releases. Improving and evolving with every step; the girls are finding their voice and feet- not long before a full-length album is released. What you have at the moment is a band with plenty of energy and compelling music; plenty more to say- one of the most explosive and memorable acts around today.
I was keen to focus upon The Haze is Forever’s opening track Reaching Placebo. One of the most listened-to tracks on their album; it is a fantastic and highly addictive track. The vocal gets down to work right away; the girls are determined to make this song an immediate and urgent thing- not giving the listener time to bed-in and reflect. The opening lines mix with a Garage-Rock-inspired riff- that reminds me of early-The White Stripes- and has a dirty grunginess to it. Our heroine speaks the lines: “I’m no friend of the sun/Not since she killed my brother”. I was wondering what the inspiration behind these words was. It is quite an oblique and intriguing sentiment that gets you thinking and imagining. Maybe the song looks at something distant and intangible. Perhaps not referring to a sibling or human; it might be directed at a spirit or feeling. It is one of those couplets that get you reaching into the imagination-bag for truth and meaning. Even early-on the song changes course and direction to elicit and emotional slam. From the scratched and frantic early riff; the song demure slightly when our lady talks of a “pastel cab with seats of leather”- a cab she stole in revenge for the death- and the need to “Drive, drive drive”. Even at the infant stages you get some vivid images and a wonderful story-line. From early interpretations you start to re-imagine and speculate. Whilst not attesting literal murder and deceit; the lyrics look at our heroine being brighter than the sun- something that is jealous of her. In retaliation to this jealousy; the cab has been stolen and driven away- although she returned the same person. It is at this point I was starting to look at personal heartache and dissatisfaction. That lyric that said (our heroine) “came back the same”- maybe she retreated to find purity and sense; wanted to escape and take time out. It seems whatever compelled this flight- and her subsequent return- has not given her answers and guidance.
When delivering that end-of-verse assessment; you get a stomping and tight performance that brings those words to the fore- it is impossible not to be intoxicated and drawn into that emotion and dissatisfaction. Changing vocal course once more- the next lines are syncopated and fast-flowing- it gives the song new dynamic and shape. By contrasting the vocal it makes the song fresh and unpredictable- meaning its nuance and sense of repeatability is near-endless. Now the wind is being accused and spotlighted. The wind is jealous of her heroine’s high nature and superiority- calling her up drunk from time-to-time. At this stage I back-tracked and saw the meteorological figures as embodiments of companions/friends. Maybe the sun is a friend or former lover; the wind certainly sounds like a sweetheart- someone who wants their way whenever the mood strikes- jealousy and envy at every stage. Whereas most bands would go for obvious and literal lyrics; you get oblique and fascinating choice of words- that makes the song such a layered and glistening thing. This time our heroine retreats and glides- “Fly, fly, fly, fly away”- without getting satisfaction and answers. This pattern of self-destruction and recklessness has come from an emotional place- that need to find solace and guidance throughout drink and crime. Never revealing the origin and true nature of the song; you get a verse that attests the streets and their relationship. Having walked the streets since the age of seven; it seems the heroine’s feet are leaving her- she has “killed a few” and will go to Heaven. You get more fascinated to find out what has caused these events and revelations; the lyrics are quite stark and vivid- you cannot help but picture the scenery and images being spun. Perhaps the truth and real meaning is known only to the band- I may have to press them at some point- but that anger and urgency is very real. The girls create their most complete and compelling compositions of the album. Mixing Grunge and Hard-Rock; Noise-Rock and Gothic undertones- it all comes together with authority. At every stage- when it comes to running away and escaping- everything remains the same; there is no change in mood or fortune. Completely together and in-line; Dolores Haze are at their most exhilarating and determined here. A song that is sure to be a live favourite; it also has mainstream/radio appeal- I could see it being spun across stations in the U.K. Backed by a squirting, buzzed riff; our heroine stands questioning: has her friends and subjects changed? Has she changed? It seems that everything is the same and as bad. There is clear regret and unease at the outcomes- as our heroine declares it’s “such a shame”- and you always empathise with her plight. As the final notes ring in, the vocal is complete and you are compelled to re-investigate and see if you can shed light on the song- exactly what has caused this attack.
Congratulations must be given to the band that has come on leaps-and-bounds since their earlier days. Their album The Haze is Forever is a stunning record that demands a memorable opening number. Reaching Placebo gets to work immediately and shows the Stockholm girls in fine voice- one of their most intriguing and immediate songs. The vocal is not quite as rampaging and rushed as on previous numbers; more developed and considered, you get emotional depth and pace- making the song much more appealing and nuanced. Time and consideration has gone into the writing and recording. The song sounds well-rehearsed without being too polished and lacking spark. The production allows the raw and vibrant nature of the song to be exposed and flourish. One of the most rounded and addictive voices in music; Groovy Nickz is a force to be reckoned with. Her bass leads the song and makes sure the story progresses and the music hangs together- whilst summoning plenty of emotion and edginess into proceedings. Groovy Fuck lets the rhythm guitar add huge spark and memorability to the song; blending perfectly with the band and eliciting wonderful moments along the way. Lucky Lollo’s lead guitar is an attacking and savage thing that adds bite; propelling the vocal and creating tonnes of story and contours. Foxy Sagz lets her drums propel and strike; keep the backbone straight and true- pummeling and dangerous when needed; more restrained and level-headed at others. The entire band is wonderfully tight and alive throughout the track; it is clearly a favourite of them- a song that is sure to find patronage and appeal in the live area. A perfect lead-off for The Haze is Forever; Reaching Placebo is the finest song from the Swedish quartet.
The Haze is Forever is an album that brims with confidence and memorability from the very first notes. Consider the title track that begins with a chugging and Punk-influenced riff. Our heroine wants (the hero) to take her in his arms. This haze is forever it seems; there is a huge declaration and gauntlet laid down. Repeating the song title; you get caught in a hypnotic swirl and energy- something that is unforgettable. Skewed and spiked strings mix with burbling bass; our heroine longs for glory days and something better- knowing it probably will never come. Mixing in Garage-Rock guitars and drive, you have one of the most immediate songs on the album. On Purpose begins somewhat softly before mutating into a building and atmospheric number- with little embers of Pixies at stages. It is one of the most gentle and restrained cuts on the records; showing a more subtle side to the girls. Touch Me is one of the most vibrant and attacking tracks on the album. The guitars are relentlessly exhilarating and buzzing; continuously pressing and rampaging- backing a dreamy and sonorous vocal. I Got My Gun is one of the most unique cuts across the album. Mixing electronics and video game-type sound effects; you get remembrance of ‘80s Dance and something retro. and brilliant- a happy and charming jump that gives the track such heart. One of the most gripping and stunning tracks the girls have produced; it shows yet another side to their artistry. Finishing off with the stunning The Garden– where they go fully on the attack- and you have a brilliant swansong. One of the most exhilarating vocals on the album; there are shrieks and spits; an impassioned and determined drive- bringing proceedings to a close.
Throughout The Haze is Forever you get so many different angles, stories and personalities. The songs deal with sex and relations; you have girls that are not embarrassed to be forward and open- sex toys and outdoors nookie sit alongside something more conventional and demure. They are not a band that wants to shock or rebel- in a juvenile and teenage way- instead inspire other bands to follow their lead. As it stands, the Stockholm band seems in a class-of-one: I have not encountered any other bands with the same firepower and songbook; something as special as this. You cannot overlook just how much work has gone into the album and its brilliance. The girls have stated how much hard graft and craft went into its creation; the songs were long-awaited love-children (their own words) and this wait and patience has resulted in their finest work. Straying away from the limitations of their previous work- that perhaps appealed more to the homegrown audience- they are more cosmopolitan and all-inclusive here. Setting their sights around the world- they are entitled to now- the music is more universal without being truly accessible. So many bands are watered-down and safe; they miss that necessary panache and gutsiness- no issues from Dolores Haze! Perhaps they still employ some of that pre-teen shriek at times- it actually adds to the music rather than detracting- but they are a maturing and developed brand that gets more assured with every release. Their latest incarnation sees tight and focused songs sit alongside one another. There are plenty of fun and witty moments- revolver-shaped dildos and faux-arrogance- in addition to some bite and verve. The girls are always compelling and memorable; their music stands up to multiple batterings- you need time for the songs to sink it and do their work. Before tying this all together, I wanted to circle back to my original points- the music of Sweden; girl bands at the moment and sub-genres in music. The ‘60s cool and eye-catching fashion- see publicity photos of the girls- mixes with terrific Noise-Rock diamonds; songs that recall the ‘80s birth- giving the genre a contemporary energy and twist. Sweden is showing just how innovative and original their musicians are. Away from Dolores Haze; I have been amazed by some of the Pop acts that play here- including NONONO and Kate Boy; Miike Snow and Say Lou- and with the likes of Icona Pop and Beatrice Eli big names in the country- there is so much quality and potential to be found. Whilst its best and brightest are not the most radio-friendly- in a very good way in fact- this does not mean they should be overlooked. The musicians of Sweden are more bracing and daring; they are experimental but are able to keep things relatable- few artists in the U.K. do this as deftly. I love the British acts emerging; it seems like Sweden is producing exciting and stunning acts that need to be embraced. Stockholm seems to be at the forefront of this charge and assault. Over recent years Niki & the Dove are aming Stockholm’s most prodigious acts; Elliphant is a gutsy and multi-genre artist that recalls M.I.A. (although she is very much her own boss).
Tove Lo and Nervous Nellie have broken through in the last few years; The Knife has also emerged proud and victorious. That is just the tip of the iceberg; there is so much more to be discovered when you dig deep- it is a pity the mainstream media here is not recongising the influx and burgeoning rise of Swedish music- with Stockholm particularly fervent and stand-out. One of my most frequently-appearing concerns- and the last time I shall introduce this for a while- is the lack of comprehensive music website- one that does everything a music-lover could want. So many are hung-up with Internet radio and promoting home-grown acts- how many are authoritative and comprehensive? If I wanted to discover the upcoming Swedish acts of 2016 where would I go? I could type it into Google- which I did do- but the search engine is so wide and vague; it is near-impossible to get good results. All you need is a website that organises by country/town; a user can go in and search by country- get a list of the artists and acts emerging here (drawing in blogs and music websites’ Information). It seems a shame so much good music is going unnoticed. Thankfully Dolores Haze have cemented their reputation in Sweden; they have translated across the globe and struck ears here (including Mystic Sons) – not long before they are a worldwide name. With the boys dominating the band market, I am always glad and proud to put the girls up front- they are actually producing more interesting and nuanced sounds. When it comes to Pop groups, I have assessed the likes of IV Rox- a British act that recall the likes of TLC and En Vogue. If you think of male-equivalent Pop acts, you do not get that sass and attitude; the authority and quality- they are much more sugary and commercial. Same can be applied to other types of bands in fact- the girls of music have much more drive and confidence. Perhaps it would seem uncouth having men talk of sexual indiscretions and putting the boot into the opposite sex- their subject matter is sourced elsewhere; as a result they seem more limited and less enticing. Who knows, but what I do know is that more attention should be paid to the girls and the bands they are forming. Too much attention has been paid to the all-male bands- the likes of Dolores Haze are showing just what can be achieved; a sound few of their male peers can achieve and own. The Stockholm girls mix sexual abandon with rebellious shout-out and even-the-score f***-you jams. They are bringing about a sound that will see other bands follow in their footsteps. Noise-Rock is a genre that was born in the ‘80s; over the last few decades it has seen a slight rise in popularity- still considered a niche sound; something that has not yet truly struck the mainstream attention. Let’s hope in years to come we see more Noise-Rock bands emerge. Dolores Haze are on the rise and will be big names to watch. If you have not encountered The Haze is Forever then make sure you do. It is a confident proclamation that is rightfully justified and astute. The eight-track album spills-over with memorable moments and stunning songs. Reaching Placebo is its finest moment yet not the only smasher on the record. Take time to discover one of Sweden’s best and brightest new acts; girls that have…
AN extraordinary future ahead of them.
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