Oh Land @ Havana Social Club 02.07.11

February 8, 2011

I came upon Oh Land by way of radio of all things. People constantly write off commercial radio as a place for music discovery, even I spend most of my day surfing the web looking for new things for us to play. But during an off period, while practicing my golf putt in the broadcast studio, Harms' discovery of the day came on introducing "Sun of a Gun", the first single from Danish pop group Oh Land. Instantly intrigued by the "ooh ooh ooh" hook, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the band would be making their Seattle debut a few days later.

As Oh Land sneak onto the scene, the show in question will no doubt become a thing lost in the lore of indie cred stories. "...Oh yeah? Well I saw Oh Land play at the Havana and there wasn't even a stage, they just set up their equipment on the floor inside of this big booth and played a whole set, beat that". Is that to say Oh Land is the next Lady Gaga? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Their music, despite its catchy pretenses is far too legitimate to ever truly explode on a scale to reach simple minds everywhere, but that's not to say they won't carve out a niche in the headphones of many.

Singer Nanna twists and turns, seductively channeling the sounds, captivating the crowd with much more than poppy hooks as "Voodoo" begins with the rubber band repetition of an arpeggiator, her vocals sprinkled over the top like frosting. Behind her, balloons illuminated with projections of her face sing along to a backing track, a simple trick but none the less unique enough to nourish your hopes that Oh Land aren't just another major label pop act presented under the guise of "alternative". Other aesthetic excitements come from her drum sticks which glow red with each strike of the trigger pad, not to mention the much understated fact in this article that Nanna herself is gorgeous.

The thing that separates Oh Land from most pop packages is the eerie edge that comes with hailing from a part of the world which finds itself swallowed in darkness for 24 hours a day in certain seasons. Not to suggest anything sinister, just a cocktail of icey synths mixed with electronic clicks and pops easily identified with post-arctic place they come from, pairing them with predecessors Bjork, The Knife and I'm sure many more.

The set tumbles between tracks off the forthcoming album and already released ep as the crowd seems surprisingly familiar with the lyrics to "Sun of a Gun" and most definitely familiar with the lyrics of White Winter Hymnal, a Fleet Foxes cover executed beautifully if not all too briefly. Things wind down to the parade drums of "We Turn It Up" who's chorus chants with a youthful enthusiasm "we turn it up, we don't care what you say" more optimistic than defiant in nature. The crowd throw up their arms and jump as she crosses the imaginary line, now one of them, she dances along until the beat dies.

What will become of Oh Land in the long run? Only time will tell. But for now they seem to fit in with the best of electropop's young faces. Nanna's adorable adolescent enthusiasm is obvious in her performance. Not jaded by years in a van, or playing to half empty clubs. For now the Hype is here and it will be interesting to see who bites. Look for the album in stores in april.

Oh Land - Sun Of A Gun
01 Sun of a Gun (Original)