International Music: John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen

Don’t you just love it when the most random things can introduce you to your new favorite song or band? That happened to me the other day with the Norwegian group John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen (translated as John Olav Nilsen & Company).

Here’s the story: Eirik Lande is an excellent music photographer. I found his work through Pitchfork and wanted to see what else he had done. (He’s also taken great photos of Jim Reid…what can I say, Reid is/was a babe. One of these days I will write a blog post that doesn’t reference the Chain, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. XD)

Anyways, I was browsing Lande’s Flickr portfolio and noticed that he had several pictures of a group called John Olav Nilsen & Gjengen. I’m always one for new music recommendations, so I immediately hit YouTube to see what they were like.

This one is called “Nesten som eg lever” (“Almost as I live”). It starts out with a guitar line reminiscent of “1901” by Phoenix. Yet there’s a sparseness here that lets you know you’re in Scandinavia, where everything, even the music, feels cold and empty. Then the drums kick in and Nilsen sings with an energy equal to any indie pop band that you’d find Stateside: your Foster the Peoples, your Passion Pits.

The music video is worth a watch as well. It involves a lot of hijinks in abandoned buildings, including setting things on fire and wearing plastic bags. Norway itself seems to become a parallel for the relationship: in the video, Norway is shown as cold, rainy, and slightly detached.

It’s always fun to make a new musical discovery. What have been some of your favorite finds recently?