We’ve reached the final stages of the earthings! World Cup of Music. Has anyone been with us from the start of this reckless adventure?? Congratulations, you get a free prize, please mail the editor for more information!*
The semi-finals | There is no denying that sport is a powerful way of bringing different nations together, and that actually (despite all the pre-competition concerns) this tournament has been generally played, aside from Ronaldo’s and Neymar’s antics, in a lovely spirit. So for my semi-final there are no boundaries; I’ve tried to select four tracks that represent a massive variation in musical styles – something for all readers, I hope.
We’ll start off in England, who sadly didn’t make it through to the final – but they seem to have gained a lot of respect along the way. My choice for them is a much underrated indie band called the Crimea who first came to prominence thanks to the legendary John Peel, and have a huge selection of great indie guitar tracks that I think everyone will like: check out “Baby Boom” and “Lottery Winners on Acid”. But it’s the lyrics that I love: singer Davey MacManus is a brilliant poetic writer, and the words to “Last Plane out of Saigon” are particularly lovely. Keep traveling East so it never gets dark. Follow your heart, wherever the damn thing goes. He has a lovely way of expressing things.
Pitched against England are Iran, and who’d have thought they’d reach the semi-final? After featuring some really interesting music from the likes of Black Dog Howl and Kavus Torabi, my selection for them this time is a band who really do fuse together musical styles in an extraordinary way. Navá are a band who bring together the music of Ireland and Iran, through two Irish folk musicians and the Iranian-born brothers Shahab and Shayan Coohe. The result is really interesting music. This is “Chahar Par”.
To be honest, I’ve been fairly spoilt for choice with Sweden in the last few rounds, and still feel that the last rounds selections 1900 and the School Book Depository should get far more coverage back in their home country, aside from abroad. My Swedish selection for the semi-finals is the Tallest Man on Earth, who is a more established name in Europe, but may not have reached the earthings! readership yet. I have a huge amount of time for Kristian Mattsson (aka Mr Tallest Man) and his songwriting – and this track “Little Nowhere Towns” is a great example of his simple melodic writing.
Okay, so this is supposed to be a “something for everybod” semi-finals – and we’ve had an indie band, an instrumental folk fusion project and a singer-songwriter, so it’s about time I chose selection who turn the volume up slightly. Our remaining semi-finalist is Iceland and I’ve chosen Agent Fresco, a band who have really made an impression in the last couple of years, and their album Destrier is really recommended. Singer Arnor Dan has such a distinctive voice, and they mix big guitars with moving vocals and lyrics.
So progressing through to the final are Iceland and England, whilst Sweden (somewhat surprisingly) and Iran are left to battle it out for that vitally important third-place play-off position.
The final! | So we’ll go straight on to the final of the earthings! World Cup of Music, where I’ll sum up by assessing the range of music that finalists Iceland and England have offered in the rounds so far.
I’ve tried to demonstrate the wide range of musical talent that England has to offer. Clearly they have an incredible history and a vast selection of great indie bands and songwriters to reference. The list of indie bands I haven’t referenced is clearly almost infinite, from big names such as the Cure to Oasis, but instead I’ve tried to show you some of the lesser known acts, from Clearlake through to the Crimea, as well as new talents such as Mahalia. The sheer range of new music coming out of the country remains impressive, and maybe I should make a pledge to write about it more regularly and send it in your direction.
But I’m awarding the earthings! World Cup of Music to Iceland, which for country with such a tiny population (just 300,000 people) they have the most phenomenal range of musical outputs, from the composition based Ólafur Arnalds through to the heavier rock anthems of the likes of Agent Fresco – and I don’t think I even mentioned incredible bands such as Mammut, or Bang Gang – and did Sigur Rós get a namecheck either?
And the thing I love about Iceland is that their music continues to develop and throw new talent at the world all the time – the way their hip-hop scene has developed is worthy of a feature at some point. So I’ll leave you with an Icelandic duo that you certainly won’t have heard of: Katla Vigdísi Vernharðsdóttur and Ásrósu Helgu Guðmundsdóttur are just 15 and 17 years old (if my maths are correct), and their songwriting is already just lovely. The duo is called Between Mountains, and this is them performing live.
Thank you for reading! We hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ll be back in winter for the Ski Cross-Country World Cup of Music, just so that I have an excuse to write about Norway… [AW]
[* There are no free prizes actually, but please feel free the mail the editor anyway; I’m sure he’d love to hear from you.]
Based in Stoke, Andy Worsey is the editor of the Nordic Music Review, a blog dedicated to the best music from the Nordic countries. Before partaking in this World Cup, he wrapped up our series on Nordic music last year.