Pop Goes The World: Meet NONONO, Say Lou Lou, Laura Jansen, Ginny Blackmore & Astrid Smeplass
It’s another week and another round of Pop Goes the World, where I bring you the freshest pop from around the world. (When I say “fresh,” I often mean “tracks I was sent a month ago and am finally just now getting around to writing about.” Sorry! But better late than never, right?)
This week, as per usual, we’re leaning heavy on the Europeans — an Australian-Swedish pop duo, a singer-songwriter from the Netherlands, a Swedish alt trio and a Norwegian Idol — plus a pretty cool girl from New Zealand thrown in for good measure. Jump on this plane: I’m taking you all around the world (that is, to a select number of primarily English-speaking countries). Woot!
Say Lou Lou — “Fool of Me”
I’m doubling up on international clout with Say Lou Lou, a duo who split their time between Australia (home of great pop) and Sweden (home of great pop). It’s no surprise, then, that their new song “Fool of Me” is, well, great pop, sad and beautiful: It’s dreamy and soaked in ambient noise, but the melody is sweet and clear, with Australian singer Chet Faker‘s crisp vocals providing a nice counterpart to the girls’ lush harmonizing. Most notably, there’s a note of anguish in the girls’ chorus that’s just perfectly realized. Job well done.
Laura Jansen — “Golden”
There’s shades of a certain type of croaky Lana Del Rey bummer-pop style in the verses of Laura Jansen‘s excellent “Golden,” but the chorus is, frankly, some next-level shit: A soaring, pummeling earworm with choirs of backing vocals that makes her sound like Kate Havnevik as produced by Empire of the Sun. Jansen is already a star in her native Holland, and it’s likely she’ll meet with success here, too, since “Golden,” off her recently released LP Elba, sounds tailor-made for some kind of heartbreaking primetime TV montage.
NONONO — “Pumpin Blood”
Don’t be surprised if this song from Swedish trio NONONO crosses over in a big way, globally: The hook is as catchy as The Lumineers‘ “Ho Hey,” even if the androgynous vocal production leaves the overall feeling a little twee. But oh man, that chorus! There’s a whistling hook that puts Dr. Luke‘s best to shame and big strings and the whole thing is just enormous — the producers, Astma & Rocwell, worked with Icona Pop if that’s any indication of their sound. Trust this: If and when “Pumpin Blood” blows up, it’ll be 100% deserved. It’s simply too big for the blogs.
Ginny Blackmore — “Bones”
Ginny Blackmore‘s “Bones” has been kicking around my iTunes for a few months but it’s grown on me to the point of near-obsession: The New Zealand native’s powerful vocals, coupled with her gift as a songwriter — “It sucks being a woman in love with an unkind man” is one of my favorite pop lyrics of the year — make “Bones” a luminously sad and lovely plea for intimacy that walks a tightrope between a contemporary R&B sound and a singer-songwriter vibe. Unusual, a little bit eerie, and grippingly modern. The video’s rad, too.
Astrid Smeplass — “Shattered”
Sounding like the sort of the thing that RaeLynn might have released if she’d stuck around The Voice (or maybe still will!), but with a pop sweetness that’s distinctively Scandinavian, “Shattered” is the debut single from 16-year-old Norwegian Idol finalist Astrid Smeplass (who was recently kicked off the show). There’s a twang to her voice and a kicky aerobic beat, and even if the production feels a little pedestrian, there’s no denying that tremor in her voice, emotive and genuine.