Hyundai Nordic Music Prize

February 22 2019

Hyundai Nordic Music Prize,, is an annual award for the Best Nordic Album Of The Year.

Inspired by the British & Irish Mercury Prize, the prize was introduced in 2010. It was initiated by the by:Larm conference in Norway, the most important conference and showcase event for the wider Nordic music industry.

In setting up The Hyundai Nordic Music Prize, by:Larm had several aims: first, to create even stronger unity across the regions industry; second, to further increase international interest and awareness of what the region has to offer musically; and, last but not least, to refocus on the full length album as an art form.

Previous winners have included Jónsi, Goran Kafjes, First Aid Kit, The Knife, Mirel Wagner, Band of Gold, Jenny Hval and Susanne Sundfør.

The Nordic jury, comprising Audun Vinger (NO), Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen (IS), Ilkka Mattila (FI), Annah Björk (SE) og Anna Ullman (DK), have collectively prepared a shortlist of 12 nominees for this year’s Hyundai Nordic Music Prize. Now it’s up to an international jury – consisting of Jeanette Lee (Rough Trade), Jude Rogers (The Guardian), Eric Deines (Jagjaguwar) and Stuart Maconie (BBC) to decide which one will end up as this year’s winner.

This year’s nominees are the following:

Denmark

Astrid Sonne - Human Lines

(Escho)
This exercise in abstraction is the work of a a young classically trained musician turned experimental electronic artist. Astrid Sonne has played the viola since the age of six but skipped the conservatory in favour of the computer. Her debut album featuring beautifully minimal soundscapes with a strong machinic tension is a great example of the flourishing electronic scene in Copenhagen right now. Gracefully and thoughtfully, Human Lines combines architectural sharpness with experimental playfulness that makes for a crystalline yet ushakable listening experience.

Bisse - Tanmaurk

(Showbisse Inc.)
A unique and eccentric figure in Danish music, Bisse has won many hearts since his 2016 breakthrough album, Højlandet. Tanmaurk – ’Denmark’ spelled in the Old Danish runic alphabet – is the ninth album from this intensely productive human volcano. It concludes his so-called ’Trilogy of Denmark’, examining the mental and geographical flatness of his home country, from flat screens to low-lifes. This time Bisse aka Thorbjørn Radisch Bredkjær has joined forces with the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra, opening new musical terrains for the troubadour and dramatically setting the stage for his unparalleled lyrical skills.

Soho Rezanejad - Six Archetypes

(Silicone Records)
This Danish-Iranian electro pop artist released her debut album this year to wide acclaim. Since her 2015 debut ep she has demonstrated a singular aesthetic vision and a triumphantly theatrical vocal style. Part of the Copenhagen post-punk underground scene and a part-time member of synth pop outfit Lust for Youth, she is known for her mesmerizing stage presence. In a musical language of dark, towering synths and staggering vocal heights, Soho Rezanejad stirs up a storm, dramatically demanding freedom from oppressive authorities.

Finland

Jori Hulkkonen - Simple Music for Complicated People

(My Favorite Robot)
Jori Hulkkonen, originally from small northern town of Kemi next to Swedish border, has been a key figure in Finnish electronic music for more than 25 years. Jori was signed to Laurent Garnier’s F Communications label already in mid 90’s and he has recorded together with various artists like John Foxx, Tiga, José González and Chris Lowe of Pet Shop Boys. His musical style is mixed from various sources from early house music to experimental electronics and 1980’s synth pop. Simple Music for Complicated People is a wonderful dance record with vintage style beats and pop melodies, some of then sung by Jori himself, this time also in Finnish.

Karina - Karina

(Playground Music)
Karina is the debut album by Helsinki-based band led by singer and songwriter Karin Mäkiranta. They first got attention with lo-fi neo-folk songs in 2015 and came up finally with this more complex and matured music. Sweet harmonies of the songs can turn into gloomy and oppressive soundstorm and the lyrics tell you stories about everyday life but they also go deep into your mind and down to the edge of depression. Karina’s album has been one of the most acclaimed releases of 2018 in Finland.

Iceland

GDRN - Hvað ef

(Alda)
Iceland has lagged behind it’s Scandinavian sisters and brothers in terms of smooth, modern R&B, preferably performed by icy “hipper than thou” songstresses. GDRN promises to flip this over, releasing a sturdy and assured debut album, where the beats are bass-heavy and all encompassing, the mood bleak and glum, and the lyrics (all in Icelandic) detailing want and emotional upheavals. GDRN’s husky and seducing voice seals the package with style.

GYDA - Evolution

(Figureight)
Gyða Valtýsdóttir came to prominence with electronic experimentalists múm, the lauded Icelandic group leading the charge in the country’s fertile underground scene in the early 00s. In 2017 Gyða released the album Epicycle, where she infused classical pieces and modern compositions with her indelible, unique stamp. Evolution, her second solo album, contains original compositions, and co-workers were e.g. Alex Somers (Jónsi) and Brooklynite Shahzad Ismaily. The flow of the album is exquisite and almost otherworldly. Strings swirl, electronics hum, voices enter – and then exit – gracefully. Delicate album, yet powerful at the same time.

Norway

Lil Halima - love songs for bad lovers

(Def Jam Recordings Norway)
Short and sweet debut album from a young singer, originally discovered by Universal Music by way of incidentally seeing clips of her singing on Instagram. And suddenly she became a Def Jam recording artist. The songwriter and painter Lil Halima, or Lillian Halima Anderssen, comes from the very small town called Bardu, in the far north of Norway, but has already gotten a lot of international attention for her bitter sweet and off kilter combination of R&B, electronic pop and nu-soul. A personal and original take on modern musical traditions.

Marja Mortensson - Mojhtestasse

(Vuelie)
Sami culture is going through a period of new recognition in Norwegian popular culture and contemporary music, with lots of interest in native culture, and also because of a lot of new and exciting young performers breaking new ground. The truly spellbinding and unique vocals of Marja Mortensson, representing the samis of the south, really gets under your skin. She is joined by artful performances on tuba by Daniel Herskedal and percussion by Jakop Jansson, but just her voice alone is fascinatingly beautiful. The joik singing tradition is unique in that sense that each joik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place. But everyone with ears, wherever in the world, can still feel and enjoy Marja Mortenssons songs.

Sweden

Jenny Wilson - EXORCISM

(Gold Medal Recordings)
Jenny Wilsons trademark is the playfully produced synth-pop. Vulnerable vocals along with lyrical themes such as womanhood, motherhood and also her own, and the world’s, sickness. Jenny Wilson’s 5th album takes her artistic and political ambitions several steps further. The album, called EXORCISM, is her very personal and dark story about being raped. Using explicit lyrics about the rape, unheard in popular music today, but also dealing with aftermaths such as shame, pain and other consequences of the sexual assault. As brutal as that sounds, the synth pop music is still fit and ready for the dance floor. And the theatre! During winter 2018 Jenny Wilson and Balettakademien turned the album into the performance ‘Who’s afraid of Jenny Wilson’? on Dramaten.

Robyn - Honey

(Konichiwa Records)
Robyns comeback to the charts is a declaration of love for 90’s house music. With a modern take on the music that the international pop star grew up with, Honey is a perfectly shaped album of electronic sounds. For the first time, Robyn herself has been involved in the important producing part of the album. It is however mostly produced and written by long time collaborator Klas Åhlund, but also consists of work by Joseph Mount, Mr. Tophat, Adam Bainbridge (Kindness). On her 8th, 40 minutes short, album Robyn presents an intimate, vulnerable and warm progress of her musical universe. Smooth, experimental and exquisite pop music that lands just between the future and now.

Sarah Klang - Love in the Milky Way

(Pangur Records)
Sarah Klang is a young debutant from the Swedish west coast with a spellbinding Lana Del Rey-esque mood and a voice as immense as Adele. It was a matter of immediate love when Sarah Klang and her producer, high school-friend Kevin Andersson, introduced their warm and soulful, nostalgic Americana to the national audience. In a time when hit-music are mostly built on urban rhymes and electronic beats, success for Sarah Klangs old school-ballads should be impossible. But her sad tunes touch hearts and souls – apparently this vintage, deep and organic pop music is still very required.