Wednesday, December 6


Years ago, when I was still writing fiction, I wrote a story called "Terminus" about an average, sad-sack American who awakes in bed one day and decides right then and there that he doesn't want to die -- not that day, not ever. Subsequently, he sets about trying to arrange his life in such a way as to absolutely maximize his own longevity. His very first thought is that he will move to Sweden. Sweden, he thinks, is very probably the greatest and safest place on the planet. Even the cars are highly safety-conscious [this message brought to you by the good people of Saab]. In the end, though, our protagonist begins to question the health benefits of a national diet consisting solely of meatballs and salted fish, while simultaneously worrying over Sweden's reputation for suicides (this last after subjecting himself to an Ingmar Bergman movie marathon).

Anyway, all of this is my long way of proving my on-going obsession with the Kingdom of Sweden. As most any regular MP3-blog visitor already knows, pop and indie artists have been crawling out of that country's woodwork for years now. I don't know what they're putting in the water (or vodka) over there, but I wish they'd start exporting more of it to the U.S. Maybe then we wouldn't be stuck with such bland, Budweiser-bred, alt-rock Neanderthals as Nickelback and Hinder (with apologies to my brother, Steve, who has an ear for just such Neanderthals).

My latest Swedish crush comes courtesy of the Gothenburg band
Pinto. I was introduced to them through a very unassuming and self-deprecating e-mail by band leader Andreas Magnusson, who had apparently just learned that "pinto" means "penis" in Portugeuse. How very "punk rock," thought I (and so much better to be named for the male member than for the pencil-dicked Ford car of yesteryear that had the unfortunate habit of bursting into flames when bumped from behind).

Now, Pinto's name may be "punk rock," but their music is anything but. In fact, their sound has been said to suggest a "weird Tom Petty, an insane Ben Lee, or a Swedish R.E.M." Or, as Andreas himself put it: "ABBA crossed with Nick Drake -- which pretty much comes out Evan Dando" (though I think he was at least half-kidding about that one). Overall, though, Pinto specialize in short indie-pop tunes -- bright, bittersweet, and buoyed by some thoroughly charming vocals. For me, those vocals put me strongly in mind of a young Lloyd Cole (as conjoined with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard).

Finally, the four members (not THOSE kind of members; we've moved on from that now) of Pinto have a highly strange and un-American sense when it comes to the capitalist system. You see, these particular Swedes don't like to sell their music; they prefer to give it away. All of it. As soon as they're done recording it. Crazy-ass socialists.

So, be sure to go to Pinto's
website and/or MySpace page and download the generous assortment of songs that you'll find there. Also, look for their full-length debut (with any luck) in early 2007.

[MP3] "Armchair Anthropologist"

[MP3] "Never Leave"

[MP3] "I Belong to You"

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