Northern Portrait - Pretty Decent Swimmers EP

matinée 086  /  January 2013
Northern Portrait - Pretty Decent Swimmers EP
10" blue vinyl   $10.00

digital   $4.00

other digital:   Apple Music     Amazon     Spotify

Northern Portrait - Pretty Decent Swimmers EP

matinée 086  /  January 2013

Highly anticipated new release from adored Danish indie purists Northern Portrait!

The band debuted in 2008 with two very well received EPs—‘The Fallen Aristocracy’ and ‘Napoleon Sweetheart’—both of which sold out almost instantly upon release. The band’s consummate debut album ‘Criminal Art Lovers’ enjoyed widespread international acclaim in 2010 including numerous appearances on year-end favorite lists, and the ‘Life Returns To Normal’ 7” single on elegant clear vinyl was released later that same year.

Northern Portrait has charmed live audiences in Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and USA over the years, including performances at the prestigious Indietracks Festival and popfests in Copenhagen, Limoges, Madrid and San Francisco.

The fantastic new ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers’ EP is available on deluxe 10” color vinyl and digital formats, and features the first new recordings from the band in over two years.

Lead track ‘Happy Nice Day’ is three and a half minutes of straightforward power pop inspired by Swedish pop idols The Wannadies. It is an ode to the joys of traveling and casual meetings in hotels, airports and pen friend sections from Tokyo to Stockholm to Hamburg to Nice and beyond.

Meanwhile, ‘Greetings From Paris’ explores the difficulty in admitting when reality doesn't exactly match expectations and ambitions. It’s a superb slice of Nordic guitar pop that builds to an especially melodic conclusion.

Side two opens with the playful and jaunty ‘Bon Voyage!’, a song about short term holiday attractions gone wrong … but with a slight twist. Musically sunny and shimmering, the song is a guitar driven sunbath and pool dive all in one. Bon voyage indeed!

Powerful and jangly, closing track ‘I Feel Even Better’ is an escapist's dream come true. Lyrical elements from the Cheers theme song in reverse accentuate the desire to get away, while autoharp and 12-string guitar add a bright sparkle to the general bounciness of the song.

‘Pretty Decent Swimmers’ is pressed on transparent swimming pool blue vinyl and limited to 1000 hand-numbered copies in a luxurious sleeve featuring fashionable Los Angeles water ballet troupe Aqualillies on the cover.

A very welcome return for one of the most esteemed bands in indie music today.

  1. Happy Nice Day
  2. Greetings From Paris
  3. Bon Voyage!
  4. I Feel Even Better


It seems like an age since Northern Portrait swaggered on by and stole our hearts, but none of that matters any more, because they're back with a single that isn't so much confident as downright cocky. You better watch out, because 'Pretty Decent Swimmers' is as likely to snog your heart right the back of the bikesheds as much as steal it. Opener, 'Happy Nice Day' jingles and a-jangles in trademark Northern Portrait way before reaching an almost falsetto crescendo. It's as strong a song as the band have written, and blasts its way into your brain. 'Greetings From Paris' is, by comparison, almost bashful, with its "la-las", but Stefan gives a virtuoso vocal performance. My favourite is 'Bon Voyage', a kind of Velvet Underground-meets-Orange Juice romp through a holiday romance ripped asunder by a lack of bravado, which reminds me of 'Queen is Dead'-era Smiths. It's also got a piano solo which you'll fall for instantly. This remarkably self-assured ep ends the same as it began, with the power pop of 'I Feel Even Better', a sort of antidote to 'Bon Voyage'. Stefan is back on form, his pecker is up, and he's not afraid to tell his detractors how it is. This one's a proper earworm too, with its Marr-esque guitar refrain and flourishes. There's dirty talk of Northern Portrait coming over to the UK to play some shows this summer. On this evidence we should all start getting excited right about now.   --A Layer of Chips
The winter may not have hit hard - not yet - but the branches remain bare, the sky startlingly bleak. We won't fret, because there are always consolations. Still beautiful birdsong in January midnight, from the London planes that rise above these Georgian townhouses. Still the little tempests of the FA Cup Third Round, the brightest day of the domestic football calendar. Oh, and from Denmark via Santa Barbara, the first classic single of the year. In April 2008, when Northern Portrait's first EP, "The Fallen Aristocracy" appeared, we punned on Northern Uproar, invoked One Thousand Violins and first fell for this great pop band and their "breezy, lush instrumentation with debonair vocal". A few months later came a second EP "Napoleon Sweetheart", which also had us *completely* sold (and raging incoherently at the vicissitudes of history): "one's tempted to ask where the bloody hell they were in the late 80s, when we were all crying out for the new Smiths and being fobbed off instead with a plethora of anaemic, uber-ropey carbons." The "pop deluxe" of tunes like "I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me" made us long for Northern Portrait on wax: "As we get all wrapped up in glistening, intertwining guitars we picture a dark sky suddenly picked through by the gleam of thousands of tiny stars, and wish the world hadn't changed so much that we can't revisit our own Lambrusco days when records like this came on vinyl, when we could gently drop the needle and watch it spin serenely through the grooves." That prayer would be answered, but first came the album we'd looked forward to, "Criminal Art Lovers", an "ever-effervescing froth of guitars... approaching tidal wave momentum". While you may justly counter that the real gushing was coming from us, not the band, we don't feel remotely guilty for spilling words of praise over them so, because two full years later "Criminal Art Lovers" remains a mature, impressive album, one that blends sparkling music with languid narrative tones over the course of ten unflaggingly pure pop songs. Our excitement was only intensified by the sheer joy of seeing the band in London N1, where their onstage smiles and shapely Scandinavian grooves captured our hearts with somewhat disturbing ease: little wonder we hailed the LP "a patchwork quilt of mesmeric jangle, of lyrical ache and longing, of masterly song arrangement sugared with generous dabs of knowingly Mozza-esque vox". Perhaps the most Smithsish song from "Art Lovers", "Life Returns To Normal", "another clever, slick, melodic, smart piece of poppermost post-J. Marr jangle from this terrific discovery of a band" then became "the needle drop": that first, treasured slab of NP vinyl, part of a new wave of Matinée 7"s that brought our memory scampering back to the exciting days of discovering "Dry Land" or "360 Degrees" in (two different shops on) Berwick Street, Soho. But that, for a while, was that. Now comes their newest, a four-track fifth release going by the handle of "Pretty Decent Swimmers". The gossip down our local, months ago, suggested that it might be a further 7", but in the event, connoisseurs of imperial measurement will note that this gem (on Highbury Pool-blue vinyl), has a ten-inch diameter, snugly ensconced in a water ballet-depicting sleeve. We've "done" some of our favourite 10" singles before, I know. "English Electric Lightning", "Two Kan Guru", "Darklands", "Slates", "So Said Kay". Last year's Red Shoe Diaries EP. But this is up amongst the best of them. Much Northern Portrait critique to date has focussed on the ever-imposing shadow of the Smiths (and to our, incidentally unrepentant, ears, the more modest silhouette of the Violins) but such influences are no longer overt, suggesting that Northern Portrait have continued to evolve. Theirs is still *not*a groundbreaking sound: despite the group's relative youth, to those of us of a certain age this EP is incontestably rooted in the tune-led guitar-pop sensibilities of those sadly lost 80s / 90s British bands who ended up too slick for the indies, yet too hard for the major labels to package effectively (we're reminded of our friend Nick's comparison of the band, after that Buffalo Bars gig, with the Trashcan Sinatras). But "Pretty Decent Swimmers" proves once again that it's the arrangement and execution of the songs, not the mere style of them, that sets Northern Portrait apart. The opening "Happy Nice Day" is instant: it's a tumbling travelogue, high-velocity jangle ringing out from every pore, dripping with a sweetness somewhere between sherbet fountain and champagne fountain (and just as fizzing). On vivid display is just what makes Northern Portrait click: Stefan Larsen's rich voice rising and falling as an elegant introduction elides into towering bursts and powering rushes of shimmering guitars. It's quite a way to start the new year, quite a soundtrack to taking down the tree. The second and third numbers, "Greetings From Paris" and "Bon Voyage!", while just as refined, are chatteringly Parisienne, a touch more whimsical: a further sign of growing away from the templates set by earlier recordings. The former concludes with Stefan leading a "la la la" singalong, while the latter - launched by a brief *sample*, of all things - triumphantly pivots on spring-in-step shufflebeat and looped chords, coming on like the Sugargliders covering Brighter's "Next Summer" (and deserving of every ovation that suggests). It also contains Northern Portrait's first waterbed reference. "I kind of like it", Stefan riffs near the end, and we do too, we really do. In many ways, though, the standout of the whole EP is its denouement, "I Feel Even Better". In amongst the lilting, flitting, flirting, flickering Rickenbacker strings, it introduces a brittle layer of keyboard to underline a lyric full of yearning: when Stefan sings "I'm tired of standard life, so tired of this uninspiring life" it could almost be Harper Lee at their most heart-tanglingly dastardly (and uptempo). "I Feel Even Better" might not quite boast the same, thumping *presence* of "Happy Nice Day", but it lingers long in your head after listening. Yes, "Pretty Decent Swimmers" is a tonic for these long dark evenings, some compensation for Christmas tidings having faded away with Twelfth Night. But this EP is not *just* a winter warmer: it alternately teems with the vim of spring, swirls with the sizzle of summer and - especially on that last track - drapes before us a melodic palette of the purest autumnal hues. A band for all seasons.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
If you haven't heard the Danish pop outfit Northern Portrait, the 10" EP 'Pretty Decent Swimmers,' out this week via Matinée Recordings, is a great place to take the plunge. I should dive right into the music, but I would be remiss if I didn't take a second to proclaim this one of the most physically beautiful pieces of vinyl to ever hit a turntable. The record itself is transparent swimming pool blue, and the limited-edition hand-numbered copies are housed in a sleeve featuring Los Angeles water ballet troupe Aqualillies on the cover. The color and photography are stunning. Now on to the tunes. All four songs are absolute keepers (and these days you're lucky to get that many on a full-length album!), but I especially like the jangle of "Happy Nice Day" and "I Feel Even Better." I was a big fan of 'Criminal Art Lovers,' the band's debut album, but these new songs are the real masterpieces. Buy it straight from the label for $8. It's going to be a great year.   --Linear Tracking Lives
It was a welcome Christmas treat getting a new track from Danish indiepop band Northern Portrait back in December, and that song, 'Happy Nice Day', came with the promise of a new EP to follow in the new year. Including the aforementioned track, 'Pretty Decent Swimmers' is set for release on January 22nd and does indeed come with more poppy guitar goodness. The other three songs don't see any slump in quality either; it wasn't a case of putting their best foot forward first. 'Happy Nice Day' still sounds warm, familiar and full of wholesome melodies, and what accompanies it is similarly snuggly indie of the kind that you feel like you've known all your life. Although these are brand new songs they take direct influence from plenty of your guitar-pop favourites, and it's this that makes 'Greetings From Paris' seem like an old friend rather than a new acquaintance. Clever and reflective lyrics mix with jangly guitars on the even more accessible 'Bon Voyage!'; it all feels a bit like a daydream thanks to the cosy production and lack of sharp edges. It's a tough call but we'll say they've saved the best for last. The jangle-ometer is pushed up a couple of notches and the melody-meter registers its highest point on 'I Feel Even Better', a track that feels like a classic right from first listen. In terms of style there are no surprises, but in terms of quality you'd have to say that pretty decent is an understatement.   --Sounds XP
Understatements or modesty are frequently virtues when we are talking about music (usually musicians or critics have serious problems of incontinence, delusions of grandeur or extra-huge ambitions). But I do have to complain here. Our favourite Danish band (along with The Raveonettes), Northern Portrait, is happily back with a new EP (a new record on the horizon too) entitled "Pretty Decent Swimmers", already available on the amazing Matinée Recordings. What an inappropriate, bad title this is! Because if we are using the swimming reference with indiepop, they are nothing but Olympic Swimmers, not just pretty decent ones. They are the responsible of an incredible, mind-blowing debut album, "Criminal Art Lovers", plus a little collection of delicious EPs. And after hearing their new gorgeous four songs, they should be nicknamed the "Michael Phelps of jangle-pop"! Come on, how many bands could return to action after three years with such a shimmering, joyful tune like opener "Happy Nice Day"? It starts unremarkable, but after 30 seconds the real song unleashes into n irresistible jangle-pop "beast". Stefan Larsen romantic voice, guitars ringing, a pulse that slows and rises like your heartbeat, a disarming chorus... all the essence of Northern Portrait summarized and perfected into a pop gem. Sure it will be up there among the best songs of the year (and I know we haven't finished January yet). With such a great initial song, “Greetings From Paris”, pales by comparison on first listening. But that's a very unfair judgement for a subtler, more oblique and intimate number. Give the tune it's time and space, and it will show all its wonders: Larsen's graceful vocals, that guitar breaking in its middle section before the singer strikes back, that ridiculously simple end turning into a ridiculously affecting climax... “Bon Voyage!” accelerates the tempo a bit, helped by ever-present guitars (this is jangle-pop folks) and looks, smells and of course sounds like a pop classic. What made The Smiths so immortal was that passion they brought to all of his parts: Morrissey's drama, melodies so unforgettable, guitars chiming or evoking known situations. Northern Portrait are capable of injecting that sort of magic to their tunes. Hear how they close the song. That piano... We reach the end of the EP with “I Feel Even Better”, on which Larsen seems to step back a bit to let the music be on the forefront of the tune. Melody, together with the delicate arrangements are the guide here. With lyrics that are somewhere in between melancholy and the "first day of a new era", it might be the less the surprising of the lot, but it leaves the listener longing for me. Which is exactly what the best bands do. Northern Portrait add another unmissable reference to an immaculate career so far, could we be in front of the champions of jangle-pop? Have to see them live at the Madrid PopFest!!   --Bloodbuzzed
Was it really 2010 when Dutch band Northern Portrait released their debut album Criminal Art Lovers? How can it have been that long? Time goes by way too fast, but at least they are back and they started out 2013 with this beautiful ‘swimming pool blue’ colored 10” vinyl EP – ensuring that no matter what, this year would be a good year for music. No, Northern Portrait has not lost their similarities to the Smiths, but you know what? I’m glad. I miss that energetic effortless sound they created, and NP come as close as one can get to such excellence! They also bring to mind the pop explosion in Sweden from the early 90s from bands like Popsicle, Wannadies This Perfect Day, Happydeadmen and Easy, with their seeming limitless tunefulness. These guys are so good at writing catchy tunes with lighter than air guitar intricacies and downtrodden lyrics that still exhibit a sense of flair and wit. “Happy Nice Day” opens the EP perfectly with what sounds at first glance like an honest to God ode to the beginning of a happy nice day until we hear vocalist Stefan Larsen ask “Is that a possibility?” all while listing off a literal travelogue worth of lonely lost moments around the globe (“I lost my heart in Hamburg and then my breath in Nice”). It’s a fantastic piece of pure pop filled with “oohs and aahs” and “la la la las” that cannot avoid improving my day. The travels continue with “Greetings from Paris,” which weaves a fascinating snapshot story of lost souls trying to find meaning from dashed dreams. The opening refrain “Delayed by an opportunity to cause a firm and effective mess” gives a hint at the quality storytelling within. “Bon Voyage!” kicks off side two with a dancey shuffle beat and some sharp guitar strums atop some tasteful organ and occasional piano interludes and another travel tale (“destination: good time”). Finally (and sadly it has to end), the EP closes with “I Feel Even Better,” which absolutely glides with a sparkling and yet somehow purely melancholic sound. This one seeks solace in escape instead of familiarity (nice play off of the old Cheers TV theme: “Sometimes I want to go where nobody knows my name and they couldn’t care less if I came”) and I’m not so sure any hope is found by the end (“I’m so tired of this uninspiring life”). It is damn refreshing to hear this band’s music and to be allowed to wallow in the superbly told stories of real sadness and disappointment.   --This Wreckage (Top Releases of 2013)
It’s been almost three entire years since we’ve heard anything new from Northern Portrait, but this four song affair will make us forgive the gap between releases, as this is some of the most accomplished music the band has crafted to date. The Pretty Decent Swimmers EP may only be a short little stop gap until a full-length comes our way, but fans old and new will surely find solace in the well-manicured pop of these Danes. It’s early in the year, but you’re going to have to try real hard to find such a splendid piece of pop musical openings for the rest of the year. There’s a casual entrance, building the listener’s internal tension, and then unleashing enchanting bliss at the 36 second mark. You can sing along to the chorus of “Happy Nice Day,” aided by the perfect vocal control of singer Stefan, which never hurts the audience’s ability to attach themselves to the music. “Greetings From Paris” is an eternally satisfying track, full of literary allusions and a ringing guitar line that infects any pop lovers soul. It’d be easy to take Stefan Larsen’s voice and make Morrissey comparisons, but this song demonstrates the softer quality of the vocals, stripped of the over-bearing sexuality. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for monosyllabic lyrics sung in repetition like the “la la la las” that close out this little gem. If you were wondering if Northern Portrait was going to pick up a little bit of the energy, then wait until you get to “Bon Voyage.” The cutting guitar lines are extremely sharp, which provides a natural bit of pacing to the song…almost a dance floor shuffle. But, like other pop classicists, The Lodger, there’s a bit of restraint, focusing instead on the harmony within the tune rather than force you to stomp your feet. Closing out the song is a soaring bit of vocal melody and a tinkering it of piano…you don’t get better than that. And it all comes to a grand close with the longest track, “I Feel Even Better.” Larsen here seems to express a bit of solemnity, if only in the way he delivers his vocals. Sure, the lyrics guide one to think there’s a bit of a reawakening, but you can hear the distant pain that the narrator had to live with at one point. For me, the attached arrangements present in the background reinforce the pristine sound of twanging guitars that seek out your heart. A perfect bookend to the whole listening experience. If you aim to be frustrated about anything on Pretty Decent Swimmers then you’re going to find difficulty in that search. There’s not a single misstep or faltering moment, but rather a complete collection of four songs exemplifying pop writing at its very finest. Cheers to you Northern Portrait: and welcome back!   --Austin Town Hall
How is it that great music has been around for so long, yet it doesn’t get the proper recognition? Northern Portrait must be the best kept secret of Copenhagen. Yes, Copenhagen, Denmark. I don’t know why being foreign gives them that extra sensation that makes you want to run and tell everyone you possibly know about the ‘new’ music you’ve just discovered. These indie pop musicians were first recognized back in 2007. They were an instant sensation on MySpace (you can’t deny how big that used to be), but thankfully not done up and overexposed. They hit a lucky break when Matinée Records picked them up for their first EP, The Fallen Aristocracy. Another EP was release in ’08 before their official album came out in 2010. And as great as I’m sure these other ones are, my main focus is Pretty Decent Swimmers. Setting aside the fact that there is numerous mentions of cities and countries worldwide, they make me want to travel. Their sound is captivating and memorable; the kind of music you’d bring with you while exploring. ‘Happy Nice Day,’ the first song on Pretty Decent Swimmers, is the perfect way to start out an audio trip around the globe. Tokyo and Stockholm get the instant recognition, followed by the catchy chorus of la-la-las. It’s as if Michael, Stefan, Casper and Jesper are personally inviting you to join them in Hamburg and Nice. The titles on this EP capture your curiosity and that alone should make you want to check them out. For instance, ‘Bon Voyage!’ Where are they leaving? Why? Which leads me to questions the lyrics in ‘I Feel Even Better’ and ask, “when did he feel worse?” It is very possible that I’m reading extensively into something simple, like a song title, but that’s what music is about. Finding something personal into the same thing that hundreds of others find different feelings. Stefan Larsen, who has been identified as the singing front man, sings, “sometimes I want to go/where no one knows my name/and they couldn’t care less.” As an angsty girl, itching to go somewhere unknown, how could I not relate to them? Maybe think about it this way: you know the scene of a movie when the main character, someone you’ve already attached yourself to, steps into an unknown place and that really inspiring music swells and you can feel with every fiber of your being that there is potential here and greatness is bound to happen? This is what I felt the instant I pressed play… 9/10   --Violent Success
A bunch of dandy Danes today, who I raved about a few years ago but too few others bought in. They’re called Northern Portrait and their 2007 single, ‘Crazy’, stands as one of the last decade’s defining songs for me. Well life has been getting in the way of things for too long for them, so it’s wondrous to report that they have just released an EP with four new songs on it. Hopefully, a new album is also in the mixer. Track of the Day.   --God Is In The TV
One of the undeniable joys of an obsession with music is the first listen to a new gem by one of your favorite bands. It is fresh but familiar, exciting and every note confirms your wisdom in taste in choosing them as a favorite. But perhaps an even better feeling is your first exposure to a band which, while previously unknown to you, immediately becomes an inseparable musical companion. Such is my feeling about my new musical friends, Northern Portrait. The Copenhagen, Denmark, trio of Michael Sorensen, Stefan Larsen, and Rune Reholt play a jangly, hyper-melodic indie pop with soulful vocals that will remind the knowing listener of The Housemartins. And the knowing listener knows that vocal similarity with The Housemartins is a very, very good thing. The occasion for meeting Northern Portrait is Pretty Decent Swimmers, a four-track EP available digitally and in 10" vinyl from Matinee Recordings. In my opinion, all four tracks are instant pop classics, and are perfect for lightening your mood during the cold, dreary winter. But you don't need to take my word for it, take a quarter of an hour and listen below. Northern Portrait's previous work includes a couple of EPs, an LP, and a 7". I regret that they weren't on my radar in the past, but I don't intend to let them out of my sights.   --When You Motor Away
The prettiest record of all-time used to be that fancy blue copy of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here that I got from Paul when he sold off his record collection. Well, it finally lost the title to a Northern Portrait 10″ that arrived in the mail this week. The record is called Pretty Decent Swimmers and comes on aqua blue vinyl. Adding to the fun is the center label which features the synchronized swimmers in flowery swim-caps from the album’s cover art.   --Outgoing Signals
The Danes used to be dogged by accusations they cleaved rather too closely to the Smiths model, but their new ‘Pretty Decent Swimmers’ EP takes them in one bound into the upper echelons of the Scandoindiepop model. Admittedly you could easily make the same note about at least one of these four songs, but elsewhere the liquid jangle and vocals that come across with cocksure swagger but harbour thoughts of self-questioning and things going wrong, here diverted by ideas of escape and the travails of holiday romance, exhibit a confidence and swing of their own.   --Sweeping The Nation
Scandinavia has always been famous for their indie pop, the guitar heavy melodically consonant music have wooed listeners for years. This Danish four piece band are not different, and after a three year absence, I am extremely happy to see they came back with a new EP, Pretty Decent Swimmers. While still holding on to their distinct “Smiths-like” sound, this new EP has shown that Northern Portrait are developing a more refined sound. The drums are more pronounced, it’s not as melancholic as their previous EPs and their debut LP, Criminal Art Lovers. In fact, it’s just pure sweetness. It surely will bring a happy smile to your face.   --WRGW Music Blog
Det har taget lang tid...alt for lang endelig, endelig er det muligt at bestille den nye Northern Portrait EP Pretty Decent Swimmers via Matinée Recordings' hjemmeside. Modtog et lille (men yderst effektivt) promo link i sidste uge og jeg har siden haft det store privilegium at igen og igen at kunne lade mig forføre af EP'ens forventelige 4 brillante popsange. Fortæller jo næsten alt, at sangenes vanvittige høje kvalitet ikke kommer det mindste bag på een, men efter snart 5½ år venter jeg altså stadig på at høre bandet første dårlige nummer. Derfor alligevel voldsomt imponerende at kilden tilsyneladende nægter at tørre ud. Måske vil en kritiker (pedant) eller to savne lidt fornyelse, men når man nu som den største selvfølgelighed skriver verdens vel nok bedste guitar popsange, hvor stort er behovet så for at ændre noget som helst? Læser mere om de enkelte numre på Matinée siden og stream hele gøgemøget på SoundCloud...   --Hits In The Car
El lunes nos desayunábamos con un e-mail del sello californiano Matinée Recordings en el que nos anunciaban la disponibilidad a partir del día ocho del nuevo mini álbum de esta magnífica banda Danesa, al instante pensé que no había mejor manera de abrir los post de este 2013 que con “Pretty Decent Swimmers”. El cuarteto de Copenhague debutó en el 2008 con dos magníficos Eps, “The Fallen Aristocracy” y “Sweetheart Napoleon”, en el 2010 editaron “Criminals Arts Lovers”, el que fue disco del año para EDPMC, donde incluían la astuta y pegadiza “Crazy”, convertida ya toda una obra clásica de culto, sin duda para mí uno de los mejores álbumes de pop clásico del último lustro junto a “Seconds” (2010) de esos otros héroes del pop actual los suecos The Electric Pop Group. Los daneses nos mostraban en esos tres trabajos ese jangle pop de alta alcurnia, un pop sofisticado de guitarras perfectamente construido, siempre acompañado de la voz penetrante y temblorosa de Stefan Larsen situada a la diestra de la de Morrissey. Con “Pretty Decent Swimmers” retoman el rumbo en el punto exacto que lo dejaron en “Criminals Arts Lovers” (2010), álbum que encontrareis también en nuestro perfil de Facebook, siguen manteniendo un equilibrio perfecto entre el tintineo de las guitarras de Jhonny Marr y su visión del pop moderno actual, su música tiene ese brillo romántico y soñador que nos enamoró desde sus comienzos, un pop bien arraigado en memoria sentimental colectiva, herencia de los Smiths, y de tantas bandas del mítico sello de Bristol Sarah Records, las señales de ese indie pop británico melancólico empapa de nuevo todo el Ep, combinan la alegría de vivir con esa exquisita y adolescente melancolía smithiana, manejan a la perfección con ya lo hizo la banda de Manchester el difícil arte de capturar ese sentimiento de drama a través de la música. Stefan Larsen, Michael Sorensen, Caspar Bock Sorensen y Jesper Bonde han parido otro trabajo de pop sofisticado absolutamente adictivo y estimulante, gracias a una elegante sobriedad, a los complejos arreglos musicales y al exquisito tratamiento que le dan a la voz, a pesar de las evidentes referencias contiene un discurso propio y diferencial, un trabajo eufórico como el primer amor, pero repleto de drama como el primer desengaño adolescente. “Pretty Decent Swimmers” viene acompañado una vez más como ya es costumbre en los daneses de un perfecto artwork, una fotografía de tres chicas de natación sincronizada con atuendos muy retros acompañada del color de las clásicas películas de 35 mm Kodachrome, el álbum lo tienes disponible en un flamante vinilo 10” color azul acompañado de su versión en digital por 8,00 $ en la página de Matinée Recordinds, ahhh y mañana “Lost Sirens” la nueva entrega de New Order.   --Es Demasiado Para Mi Cabeza
Si è detto tutto dei Northern Portrait: di quanto possano essere una copia carbone, di quanto siano sfacciatamente ed estremamente “sweet” etc. Non si è detto però di quanto questi suoni siano dannatamente perfetti, o almeno non lo si è detto abbastanza. E questo nonostante la portata concettuale e la capacità di sublimazione poetica dei danesi sia su altri livelli rispetto a quel “Miserable” che noi tutti conosciamo. Lo riconferma il nuovo EP Pretty Decent Swimmers (disponibile su 10″ colorato e in versione digitale) uscito su Matinee, con le sue 4 canzoni che parlano ancora una volta la lingua degli Smiths, sia nell’uso della voce, sia nella leggerezza delle chitarre jangly, sia dalle melodie chiare e penetranti (Greetings From Paris, I Feel Even Better) e nelle atmosfere romantiche ed accorate di cui l’EP trabocca (prendete Bon Voyage!). Da ascoltare tutto d’un fiato, riascoltare, e riascoltare ancora…   --Frigopop!
È sufficiente l’affetto per la band danese, proprio e di tutti gli ascoltatori del genere (altro che hype), a giustificare la recensione di un’uscita di soli quattro brani? Beh, i Northern Portrait sono quella band che porti nel cuore ma che vorresti poter condividere con tutti, prima di tutto; inoltre, in “Pretty Decent Swimmers” giustificano ampiamente l’aspettativa spasmodica che circonda ogni loro nuova pubblicazione, non a caso sapientemente centellinata. Allora a raccolta, Smiths-iani di ogni dove! Subito i contorcimenti di un isolamento giapponese da “Lost In Translation” lasciano esplodere la malinconia, la solitudine in “un altro giorno di sole” (“Happy Nice Day”); si nota una produzione forse più risonante, un tiro quasi radiofonico, rispetto al precedente “Criminal Art Lovers” (il più grande disco indie-pop del terzo millennio?), come nella seguente “Greetings From Paris” che, tolta l’interpretazione sempre accorata e coinvolgente di Stefan Larsen, potrebbe ben figurare come singolo dei REM più pop - sarà per quell'accompagnamento arpeggiato dal leggerissimo riverbero. Tanto classica quanto vicina al movimento indie-pop scandinavo (Radio Dept.) è “Bon Voyage!”, col suo bel stoppato sulle corde più acute. Si chiude con la più convenzionale dell’Ep, “I Feel Even Better”, forse l’unica vera b-side di questo lavoro, che per il resto mostra, pur nella fedeltà ai canoni della band, un’ottima varietà interna e rispetto al passato. Una vera crudeltà farci sempre aspettare così tanto, però. Tre anni dall’ultimo - finora unico – Lp...   --Ondarock
Ci sono dei momenti in cui usare i superlativi assoluti è un dovere morale. Non ci si può limitare a semplici complimenti o elogi, no, bisogna puntare al massimo. Il nuovo Ep dei Northern Portrait, i nostri danesi preferiti, merita quello che ho appena detto. E' difficile, se non impossibile, non provare sentimenti di gioia assoluta e incondizionata ascoltando queste 4 canzoni, che arrivano come un vecchio amico che inaspettatamente bussa alla porta di casa nostra, che non sappiamo se abbracciarlo forte o restare a guardarlo ammirati pensando a tutto quello che lui ha significato per noi: in entrambi i casi sarà ad emergere sarà comuqnue il giubiulo e l'emozione forte. Una sensazione di calore, di radiosità e magnificenza guitar pop ci investe, mentre il mondo attorno a noi si ferma e passa letteralmente in secondo piano. Soprattutto mi viene da usare il termine famigliare, perchè quello che ascoltiamo ci riporta in mente sorrisi, sguardi, parole e suoni già vissuti in passato, ma che non ci stancheremo mai di riassaporare e rivivere. Non cambiano forma e sostanza i Northern Portrait, legati ad immaginari jangly pop di incantevole fattura, mentre echi "smithsiani" giocano a rincorrersi, nascondendosi in strofe e ritornelli, invitandoci ad afferrarli, gustandoli nota dopo nota. Se Happy Nice Day è stato il coinvolgente biglietto da visita dell'Ep, in quanto uscita prima delle altre come antipasto, la palma di vera perla è una battaglia durissima tra Greetings From Paris e I Feel Even Better. Se la prima è raffinatissima e melodicamente eccelsa la seconda rappresenta un vero e proprio volo sulle ali di un guitar pop che nel ritornello diventa sognante e memorabile. Appena appena un piccolo gradino sotto c'è Bon Voyage!, che se non è da 10 è comunque da 9 pieno. Siamo di fronte a qualcosa di favoloso!   --Troublezine
Han pasado tres años desde que Northern Portrait nos regalaron el maravilloso Criminal Art Lovers (Matineé Recordings, 2010), posiblemente uno de los mejores discos de POP, así con mayúsculas, de los últimos años. Precedido por EPs indiscutibles como The Fallen Aristocracy o Napoleon Sweetheart, que nos dejó una canción perfecta como I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me, muchos nos moríamos de ganas por una continuación a la altura. Y lo han conseguido con creces. Pretty Decent Swimmers vuelve a recorrer la senda pop de los anteriores trabajos de los daneses. Comienza con Happy Nice Day, pero igualmente podrían haber elegido cualquiera de los otros temas para presentarse; la canción estalla cuando llega el estribillo y la batería, y teclados y guitarra nos toman de la mano de paseo por una montaña rusa de acordes gloriosos, de alegrarte el día en tres minutos. Todo un hit automático que se te graba a fuego, un homenaje reconocido a los siempre reivindicables Wannadies. Greetings From Paris no baja la guardia y junto con la siguiente pista, Bon Voyage! demuestran el savor faire de los Portrait. Stefan encadena los lalalás y el Smithómetro alcanza su punto máximo, pero sin la vena gayer del tito Moz. Sublime ese puntillo de sofisticación que destila Bon Voyage!, con un irresistible riff de guitarra que dan ganas de levantarle la ceja a las mozas apoyado en la barra, sonriendo de lado, a lo Arturo Fernández. Con clase. Cerramos el recorrido por el prístino jangle de Pretty Decent Swimmers con I Feel Even Better, con un tono tal vez más triste y melancólico que en los anteriores temas, pero siempre navegando entre el optimismo y la esperanza. Un precioso final para un EP en el que es difícil encontrar alguna fisura. Nos reafirmamos: Northern Portrait continúan imparables su ascenso hacia las cumbres de la música pop. Cierto, los daneses no inventan nada nuevo y sus canciones tienen unas influencias más que obvias, pero huyendo del plagio descarado crean unos temazos instantáneos, acompañados de letras que hablan de amor, soledad y nostalgia y evitan caer en la parodia o sensiblería. Siguen siendo los putos amos a la hora de crear perfectas píldoras musicales para alejar el invierno de nuestra vida, y a pesar del tiempo transcurrido desde su último lanzamiento, son imbatibles en el terreno de las melodías matemáticamente perfectas. No me seáis pringuis y haceos con él, que está en la web de Matineé Recordings por cuatro perras. Os recordamos que podréis disfrutarlos en directo el 8 de marzo en el Madrid Popfest 2013. Allí nos vemos.   --Vanishing Point
La primera alegría del año nos la dan los daneses Northern Portrait con su admirable ep "Pretty Decent Swimmers", publicado como no, por el sello californiano Matinée Recordings. Su maestría a la hora de componer sencillas y, al mismo tiempo, sublimes canciones es inigualable. "Happy Nice Day", "Greetings From Paris", "Bon Voyage!" y "I Feel Even Better" son ejemplos rotundos de lo que son perfectas canciones pop. Northern Portrait nos invitan a escapar, a sumergirnos en aguas paradisíacas y a disfrutar de deslumbrantes paisajes gracias a unas canciones difícilmente superables.   --Avec La Participation De
In quanti stavate aspettando che battessero un colpo dopo più di due anni dall’uscita del loro ultimo (e primo lp)? Io sì di sicuro. Sì perché quando dici Northern Portrait pensi POP, tanto guitar pop, pensi Smiths, pensi giornate assolate, leggere, senza pensieri, tutti i problemi rimandati a data da stabilirsi, ora è ora e ora non si pensa a niente se non a riaccogliere i nostri cari e fidati amici danesi. E si parte subito forte ed in pieno stile NP con Happy Nice Day, o meglio, il pezzo parte in sordina per sprigionare poi luce, frizzantezza e diventare da subito esempio perfetto di un power pop sempre diretto e fresco. Con Greetings From Paris l’atmosfera si fa più calma e riflessiva ma rimane sempre la stessa coinvolgente interpretazione di Stefan Larsen con il suo cantato composto ma allo stesso tempo coinvolto e profondamente immerso nel pezzo, una perfetta trasposizione moderna dell’attitudine e del timbro morrissey-iani. L’ep continua con il piano-solo e con il delizioso “lalala” di Bon Voyage! Siamo ormai in dirittura d’arrivo con I Feel Even Better, un pop romantico ben reso dall’ausilio di un’autoharp e da chitarre che sembrano avere corde infinite per creare melodie così internamente variegate. Produzione quindi che rimane decisamente in linea con i precendenti lavori della band, niente sorprese dunque sul fronte stile, ancora melodie jangle, chiare e luminose, in definitiva ben fatte. Ci si aspetta però un pelino in più per un eventuale (e sperato) secondo lp.   --Benztrade
Tras 2 magníficos CD-EPs, un único LP y un 7″, todos ellos en Matinée, ahora nos sorprende este cuarteto danés liderado por Stefan Larsen con cuatro nuevas canciones de radiantes estribillos con sabor veraniego, melodías optimistas y atmósferas luminosas capaces de llenarte de energía para afrontar todo el día con la sonrisa dibujada en la cara. Son cuatro fantásticas canciones de pop elegante y sofisticado, editadas exclusivamente en vinilo 10” de edición limitada y numerada de 1000 copias, y de color celeste transparente (yo tengo la número 300). La temática hace referencia a la felicidad (“Happy nice day” y “I feel even better”), y a los viajes (“Greetings from Paris” y “Bon voyage!”). En definitiva, cuatro deliciosos temas de una belleza abrumadora que nos dejan con ganas de más.   --El Planeta Amarillo
Un indie-pop molto gradevole caratterizzato da melodie assai piacevoli e chitarre tintinnanti che ricordano quella di Johnny Marr: i richiami agli anni ’80 ci sono ancora ed è impossibile non vedere come la band di Copenhagen sia cresciuta ascoltando i dischi degli Smiths, ma la loro sensibilità e la loro visione moderna nello sviluppare i propri pezzi, li rende speciali per chi ascolta la loro musica. La loro musica è romantica, sognatrice, ma anche caratterizzata da un velo di malinconia di richiamo smithsiano: i Northern Portrait, pur essendo ancora parecchio giovani, hanno questa buona capacità di catturare i sentimenti e riproporli nella loro musica, come ben poche altre band indie-pop di oggi riescono. Il loro pop è coinvolgente, ed elegante, caratterizzato da buoni arrangiamenti e soprattutto dai vocals di Stefan Larsen, gestiti in maniera sapiente ed intelligente. ‘Happy Nice Day’ sembra il perfetto soundtrack per iniziare bene l’anno nuovo: un suono caldo e familiare, melodie dolci e delicate, un continuo tintinnio di felici chitarre e la voce elegante del frontman fanno sì che entri immediatamente in testa dell’ascoltatore e non riesca più ad uscirne. In ‘Greetings From Paris’ la performance di Larsen è molto buona e i tenui “lalala” del coretto sono irresistibili: senza dubbio una traccia molto soddisfacente per tutti gli amanti del pop. ‘Bon Voyage’ offre testi intelligenti e riflessivi insieme a chitarre jangly e ad un romantico piano che appare alla fine del pezzo, rendendo il tutto ancora più accessibile: sembra di trovarsi in mezzo ad un sogno ad occhi aperti, grazie anche ad un’ottima produzione. ‘I Feel Even Better’, altro brano di rara sensibilità, è un’ottima conclusione per questo breve EP (appena quattordici minuti); vi si può trovare malinconia nella sempre bella voce di Larsen e nel suono della chitarra che ricorda Marr. L’unico appunto che si può fare alla band danese è sulla non eccessiva originalità, anche se la loro visione musicale è senza dubbio moderna: la buona qualità dei pezzi e le dolci melodie pop presenti in ’Pretty Decent Swimmers’, fanno sì che questo EP diventi una specie di augurio per un felice anno nuovo.
Se devi suonare del pop smithsiano, lo devi fare bene fino in fondo, e non è affatto semplice. Mi vengono in mente pochi nomi, penso ai Cats On Fire quando non sono troppo folk, a volte i Wake the President o magari certi Holiday Crowd. Di sicuro i Northern Portrait sono nella lista dei migliori. Il nuovo EP Pretty Decent Swimmers uscito ieri per Matinée (in vinile 10 pollici azzurro trasparente) ha fatto istantaneamente il giro dei blog di mezzo mondo. Perché la band danese riesce a catturare lo spirito di questo suono in maniera spontanea e al tempo stesso precisa. E non è soltanto per quelle melodie distese e quel tocco di sofferenza che non abbandona mai la voce di Stefan Larsen, ma negli scintillanti giri di chitarra degni del migliore Johnny Marr. Tra citazioni dei Wannadies e di Cheers, un biglietto d'auguri natalizio e una cartolina da Parigi (trovate lo streaming integrale qui), la mia preferita è proprio la traccia che chiude la raccolta, in arrivo direttamente dalla Manchester di trent'anni fa.   --Polaroid
A banda dinamarquesa Northern Portrait, que faz um som calcado em guitarras smithianas, está com um novo trabalho na praça, o EP "Pretty Decent Swimmers", via Matinée Records. Quatros musiquinhas grudentas, lindas, prontinhas para embalar amores, tristezas, saudades e o que mais der na telha. Minha faixa preferida, ao menos por enquanto, é "I feel even better". Dedilhado de guitarra ensolarado, baixo, bateria e teclado acompanhando com classe e um vocal tão bem encaixado que fica difícil não esboçar um sorriso ao apertar o play... Ou o repeat, no meu caso. Quatro minutos e 16 segundos de puro deleite musical.   --Talk About The Passion
El Jangle-Pop goza de una estupenda buena salud. Una nueva prueba más de ello la constituye el último sencillo del grupo danés Northern Portrait, que publicará, a comienzos del próximo año este Happy nice day, un sencillo en el que la banda homenajea a sus queridos The Wannadies, un tema de esos que le levantan a uno el ánimo por muy alicaído que lo tenga. La canción es, además el tema central de un Ep titulado Pretty decent swimmers (Ep, 2013; Matinée 086), que, como decíamos, se publicará a comienzos del 2013 en el sello Matinée Recordings. “The song is three and a half minutes of straightforward power pop inspired by Swedish pop idols The Wannadies. It is an ode to the joys of traveling and casual meetings in hotels, airports and pen friend sections from Tokyo to Stockholm to Hamburg to Nice and beyond” (Matinée) Pues bien, Pretty Decent Swimmers ya está aquí. Se trata de la primera referencia de Matinée Recordings en este 2013,y el debut no podía ser más esperanzador. Una auténtica bocanada de aire fresco para este año que se presenta difícil, aunque esperanzador. Algo así a la sensación que desprende Pretty decent Swimmers, un estallido del mejor Jangle-Pop interpretado a la manera nórdica: guitarras cristalinas, letras animosas, voces en un plano destacado, estribillos y versos de chicle, y por supuesto, ese característico sello Smithiano que inunda todo el sonido de este disco que se nos antoja demasiado corto, porque nos quedamos con ganas de mucho mucho más. Un disco absolutamente contagioso y lleno de ese sentimiento tan simple como vital: la belleza.   --The Janglebox