Pop hits with a dark edge: for some, that might be a tired old cliché applicable only to bands who think they’re being more intense or intellectual than they really are. If you look to Scandinavia, however, you’ll find that a whole clutch of up-and-coming bands who take this mantra and take it to new heights. Among them is Masquer, made up of duo Kicki Helmos and Pelle Lundqvist.
Their debut single ‘Happiness’ is at first a haunting indie-rock lament that brings to mind the likes of Metric, but it throws in a curveball at the 1:30 mark, with the guitars temporarily ditched in favour of Kicki’s increasingly soaring vocals. Oh and just to top it off, like all good pop songs it has a defiantly catchy chorus and lyrics that are a little bit more enigmatic than they first seem. Add to the blend Per Egland and Björn Hansell – who has previously worked with Fever Ray, the influence of which can be heard in the insular, echoing nature that envelops most of ‘Happiness’ – and Masquer seem set to be the next big Swedish breakthrough.
It isn’t just the fact that they can put together a good tune though. In a recent interview with Dazed Digital, the pair were genuinely warm and unpretentious. In a world where bands often get sucked into the idea that having ‘big’ personalities is the key to success ahead of genuinely good song-craft, it’s refreshing to see an honest band like Masquer coming out of the woodwork and having the same dislikes as we do; how many bands honestly complain about the state of public transport? Their list of bands they’re currently listening to – including Austra, Warpaint and Sonic Youth – is fitting, yet wonderfully unpretentious. They don’t pretend to be listening to some out-of-the-way unsigned act but instead are more connected to their fans through their accessible choices.
Masquer’s own claim that they create their songs without trying to fit a specific mould has paid off. Their range of influences, skill at putting together a great off-kilter pop song as well as their winning personalities makes them an exciting prospect. We can expect big things from their debut album, released in September.
Words by Eugenie Johnson