Northern Portrait - The Swiss Army
Northern Portrait - The Swiss Army
‘The Swiss Army’ is the highly anticipated second album from distinguished Danish band Northern Portrait! It has been 12 long years since the celebrated debut album ‘Criminal Art Lovers’ was released, and the new album is another masterpiece undeniably worthy of the wait.
The album begins with lead single 'At Attention'—an absolutely brilliant three-minute pop song with jangling guitars, soaring vocals, and harmonica. It is a confident burst of jangle pop that sits perfectly alongside any of Northern Portrait’s previous hits and leaves no question that the band are back in especially prime form.
‘Nineties Survivor’ is a dramatic mid-tempo track that recalls Suede or perhaps Jarvis Cocker’s first solo album, and ‘Long Live Tonight’ is another upbeat, pristine pop song with ace vocals, jangling guitars, and a playful organ that should appeal to fans of The Housemartins or Paul Weller.
'Sisters’ features strummed guitars, hypnotic vocals, a ukulele, and a soaring chorus, while ‘From Here Our World Extends’ closes side one with a slow burning classic inspired by Pulp with dramatic cymbal crashes and a mesmerizing ending.
Side two opens with the wonderful second single ‘Once Upon A Bombshell’, a sophisticated, mid-tempo ode to an aging bombshell reminiscent of The Kinks or The Smiths with organ and mellotron embellishments adding to its moody vibe.
‘Business Class Hero’ is a Billy Bragg-inspired tale of a frequent flyer with possibly questionable morals accompanied by sweeping strings and harmonica, and ‘World History part I and II’ recalls Blur at their very best with multiple guitars, organs, autoharp, saxophone, driving percussion, and one of the catchiest choruses on the album.
‘The Soft Revolution’ is a refined tale of horoscopes, oysters, and lotteries with twinkling keyboards, piano, and a harmonica rich ending perfect for fans of Gene, David Bowie, or Pulp, and album closer ‘Pool Cue Vigilante’ lives up to its magnificent title layering multiple guitars and organs with superb vocals and a bit of Stone Roses inspiration.
Available on sea blue or black vinyl, plus CD and digital formats, ‘The Swiss Army’ is another outstanding long-player from Northern Portrait and a certain album of the year contender for 2022.
- At Attention
- Nineties Survivor
- Long Live Tonight
- From Here Our World Extends
- Once Upon A Bombshell
- Business Class Hero
- World History part I and II
- The Soft Revolution
- Pool Cue Vigilante
A few weeks ago, I premiered a new single from Denmark's Northern Portrait. A taster of The Swiss Army, the group's new record on Matinée Recordings, that single was just a hint of what was coming, because this is a super record, folks! "At Attention" opens things with a sharp hook, part Gene, part Smiths, while "Long Live Tonight" and "Nineties Survivor" are smartly observed ruminations on love and life, with a dash of Marr and his peers. The slow-burn of "Sisters" was one of my favorite things on The Swiss Army, a track with a hint of C86 efforts, but there's also a quick sprinkling of Britpop melodic heft propelling this one, even as "World History Part I and II" adds in a beefy, near-shoegaze vibe to the jangle-pop of the other tracks. There are flashes here that recall bands from The Bluetones to The Divine Comedy, and even Belle & Sebastian, but Northern Portrait make this all sound unique. There are certainly lots of portions of The Swiss Army that are going to appeal to a wide swath of indie fans, and that speaks to the breadth of this band's sound. This is robust stuff, deftly played, with a lot of heart, and nearly every selection on this album is catchy and reminiscent of the best things you grew up listening to. Plug this into whatever genre or sub-genre you want, but it's fantastic pop at its core. The Swiss Army is out on Matinée Recordings on Friday. —A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed
It has been a long time since Northern Portrait's excellent debut album, 12 years in fact. The Danish quartet's second album is just as great as you would expect, but they had better bring a note from their mum to explain their absence. The Swiss Army inhabits a world somewhere between the UK Indie Pop of the second half of the Eighties and the Poppier end of Brit Pop. The band are not gonna overload you with big jangling riffs, relying on the depth of the songwriting and the masterful atmospheric arrangements. This is great Pop, at times a little melancholic with a mass of thought put into all. Nothing contained inside is throwaway. A song like Business Class Hero is very close to Folk Pop, particularly with the harmonica addition. But the string arrangement rounds off the song beautifully. World Part History Part I and II is far more jaunty, hypnotic even and the music box has really been raided. The first part of the song is a little bit Pavement, a little bit Blur but the second part has the drum drive of The Doves. You can see why the Glasgow Guitar Pop of At Attention was chosen as a single, but I suggest that Once Upon A Bombshell, the second single, was an even better choice. It is simply magnificent with a killer riff, the sweet vocals contradicted by that Peaky Blinders Riff and rounded around with some splendid organ. Nineties Survivor is lyrically ace and reminds me of something out of Dunedin in the 90s. From Here Our World Extends has a fantastic arrangement and sounds a bit latter day Blur when the oompah had been left behind. Beautifully produced, beautifully arranged and beautifully sung, The Swiss Army is a triumph. Highly Recommended! The album can be bought on vinyl, CD or as a download from the Matinée Recordings shop. A special mention should be given to the label who constantly deliver excellence in unexpected guises. —I Don't Hear A Single
One of the most anticipated albums this year for me is “The Swiss Army” by the one and only Northern Portrait. The Danish band is back after years of silence with 10 songs that Matinée is releasing on vinyl and CD on August 5! Wow! If you want to preview some songs, head to Soundcloud where you’ll find “At Attention” and “Once Upon a Bombshell”. This is jangle glory. Pure class. Oh! How I wish I could see the Copenhagenites live again! —Cloudberry Cake Proselytism
Let's start the week with a Nordic gem. In this case our ears are drawn to The Swiss Army, which despite its name, is the work of Danish pop masters Northern Portrait. It is only the band's second album in over a decade, but it effortlessly spans various styles with infectious melodies, ear-worm hooks and warmly presented melancholy. Northern Portrait are equally adept at slow burners, mid-tempo guitar pop and harder-edged rocking songs and this album contains well constructed examples of all of them. The rhythm section is high in the mix and the guitars jangle and chime, infusing the album with a driving energy throughout its ten-song run. Each song stands well alone, although "At Attention", "Business Class Hero", "Once Upon A Bombshell". "Pool Cue Vigilante" and "The Soft Revolution" attracted our immediate attention. We expect this album to be on some year-end lists -- it is looking good for ours. The Swiss Army is out now in vinyl, digital and CD formats via Matinée Recordings. —When You Motor Away
Finally the wait is over! Today, Danish indie darlings Northern Portrait released their new album "The Swiss Army" through Matinée Recordings, twelve years after their celebrated debut album "Criminal Art Lovers". We are so excited that we haven't stopped listening to it since this morning! It's so good to hear that they still have the jangling guitars, soaring vocals, and beautiful melodies we once fell in love with. Awesome! —Eleven Pop Songs
It’s a shame that beyond the insular indie pop scene that Danish band Northern Portrait aren’t more well known in this country (I guess you could say that about most of the bands on the Matinée label). Vocalist Stefan Larsen has a powerful, commanding voice and guitarist Michael Sorensen knows thing or two about slinging his axe (that’s what we writers call a guitar). This quartet have released a few terrific records (their previous full length, Criminal Art Lovers, was released on 2010 and they’ve put out a few EPs since then) and The Swiss Army is no exception. Right from the first song, “At Attention” you can tell that Morrissey/The Smiths are a big influence on the band and it’s a very fine opener while the more acoustic “Nineties Survivor” again shows off the band’s many strengths. “Sisters” is a pop rollercoaster, swinging and swaying while “Business Class Hero,” another stellar pop number with acoustic guitar up front, is one of the band’s best cuts yet. I’ll say it again, the band is way too good to be so unknown. I’m not even sure if the deeper indie pop community is aware of this band and they really should be. Criminal Art Lovers was a very good record, but this one towers over it. This record is like a big brother giving advice to the younger brother (the previous record)..The Swiss Army has flair, panache and most of all, great songs! —Dagger Zine
From The Smiths to Copenhagen's Smiths. Danish band The Northern Portrait return with their second album and it's a proper throwback to the decade that formed me. Most obviously in terms of the reminders it throws up of The Smiths, above all, both in terms of singer Stefan Larsen's melancholic lyrical twists and turns but also the Marr guitar flourishes. The Smiths are not always the best influence if fandom becomes mimicry. Northern Portrait avoid indictment because their songs are so consistently good. Although it may not be a record I go back to, hey I've got Meat is Murder and The Queen is Dead on my shelves, this is all rather lovely. The band's press release is slightly disingenuous, listing a whole series of other reference points. Pulp, Suede, The Stone Roses. No, not really. This is pure and simply a record that could not have come into place without Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce. You might as well come out and say it. Still as far as tributes come this is a pretty sparkling one. —It Starts With A Birthstone
Dopo una lunghissima pausa, tornano proprio oggi i nostri danesi del cuore, e lo fanno con un disco denso di contenuti e di emozioni. “The Swiss Army” è un lavoro con il quale i Northern Portrait declinano il proprio riconoscibilissimo stile con fantasia, varietà e cura dei dettagli. Sono canzoni di grande intensità e di alto profilo, con le quali il quartetto ha affrontato volentieri nuove sfide, anche dal punto di vista vocale, ma senza mai snaturarsi, e, semplicemente, riuscendo a mettere meglio in evidenza rispetto al passato l’ampiezza delle proprie influenze e del proprio gusto musicale. In definitiva, per ispirazione compositiva e qualità interpretativa e produttiva, questo disco merita di essere considerato tra i migliori di questo già ottimo 2022, e ha tutte le carte in regola per superare la prova del tempo ed essere ricordato negli anni a venire. —Indie for Bunnies
La storia dei Northern Portrait è piuttosto inusuale per almeno due aspetti: la totale aderenza stilistica al pop britannico pur essendo, loro, nati e cresciuti a Copenaghen, e la grande sporadicità con cui pubblicano le loro canzoni. Il loro album d’esordio, ‘Criminal Art Lovers‘ (2009) è vintage come MySpace, piattaforma oggi non più in auge ma che allora consentì alla Matinée Recordings, etichetta californiana storicamente specializzata in un certo tipo di pop indipendente, di metterli sotto contratto. Non si aspettavano neanche loro, probabilmente, che sarebbero passati quasi 13 anni per riuscire a sentirne il seguito. Ma, come probabilmente si dice sia a Santa Barbara che in Selandia, “meglio tardi che mai”. Eppure, potrebbero essere trascorsi soltanto pochi mesi da un disco che divenne un culto tra i nostalgici del brit-pop. ‘The Swiss Army‘ riprende dove Michael Sørensen, Stefan Larsen, Caspar Bock Sørensen e Jesper Bonde avevano lasciato, ossia tra la seconda metà degli ’80 e la prima dei ’90 (non a caso c’è un brano che si intitola ‘Nineties Survivor‘), tra Pulp, Kinks, Smiths, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg, Blur, Gene, David Bowie e Stone Roses, tutti citati dalla press-release che presenta questo lavoro. Si tratta dunque di un disco totalmente derivativo, ma ancora una volta realizzato con una devotissima passione per i propri riferimenti che si sprigiona da ogni nota. E qui entra in causa il terzo aspetto dell’atipicità dei Northern Portrait: ovvero, fare due dischi in quasi 13 anni ed entrambi molto belli. ‘The Swiss Army’ è formalmente perfetto, ma anche sostanzialmente accattivante e tanto empatico. Ricchissimo di chitarrine jangle appiccicosissime, oltre che di ritornelli che non si scordano facilmente. ‘At Attention‘, ‘Long Live Tonight‘ e ‘Pool Cue Vigilante‘ muovono anche una certa energia, mentre tracce come la succitata ‘Nineties Survivor‘, ‘Sisters‘ e ‘Once Upon A Bombshell‘ avvolgono come un caldo abbraccio. Sono tutte Canzoni con la C maiuscola, perfetti esempi di genere e ricostituenti per chi non ha più trovato la piena forma dopo la fine degli anni ’90. Non cambiano il mondo, ma lo rendono, almeno per 38 minuti, un posto migliore. —Indie-rock.it