Does the actual language that a song is sung in actually matter when assessing whether you like a piece of music or not? How would Bob Dylan seem if you didn’t speak English and couldn’t follow his beautifully twisted tales of the world? Would it miss a major part of what makes it so magic? What if Conor Oberst’s stories were just noise to a non-English-speaking listener, or is that his melodies are still powerful enough? The issue of language occurred to us recently, when our attention was brought upon this Danish quartet who sing in their native language. Of course when the words are so styled, as they can be with some Scandinavian pop, they can be undecipherable, or if the language is entirely made up, such as with Sigur Ros, then it’s of no consequence when judging the music. However, with Ulige Numre we’ve been reliably informed by a Danish speaker that the words are indeed pretty marvellous, causing us to perhaps miss out on some of the magic.
Its surely a statement of just how awesome their music is if they’ve still impressed us enough to earn a place on our very-English blog without even understanding a word of their lyrics. Even when you remove the mouth you’re still left with a body of melodies so attractive that you’ll be humming along whether you speak Danish or not. If you look back over recent weeks here on The Recommender you will have noticed that we’ve been running through a series of artists from Denmark, for no other reason that there seems to be a particularly awesome batch of them of recent, and all have been wafted under our noses in the last month or so. It’s a fantastic pool of talent, particularly in Copenhagen, and it’s brought us some truly special music, covering a relatively broad range of styles, albeit mostly what you might describe as alternative pop, a genre that you could argue is mastered more by Scandinavians than anywhere else in the world.
Ulige Numre, which apparently means “Odd Numbers“, are right up there with the others, producing immediate, smart, pop music. They have an Autumnal songsmith quality that is perhaps best on show with their tune, København, which you won’t be surprised to learn means Copenhagen – perhaps this whole Danish language thing isn’t that hard after all. They recently informed us that this song has caused them the most hype in Denmark. The buzz was strengthened when they did an apparently impressive live performance of the song on the television show, ‘The New Talkshow‘ (a sort of Scandinavian equivalent of The Jonathan Ross Show or The Late Show) back in November. It’s a wonderful lament to the city and although it often wonders close to collapse, threatening to go all middle-aged, it shifts its key and puts little lifts in all the right places. All songs are written by the talented singer Carl Emil Petersen, who just turned 21, but he’s already adept at turning over rich tunes, each one producing melodies as purest profit.
The track Hænder, which means “Hands” in English, (this language barrier is getting smaller and smaller all the time!), is another tidy turn. It contains elements of 90s REM, or that retro tone Razorlight once played, before they adorned stupid hats and annoyed everybody. It’s an altogether fuzzier concoction, but just as charming. They released their debut EP last year, which should be available digitally worldwide, on the independent label Auditorium. They’ve informed us that their full debut album is expected later on in 2012. They’re holding off touring the UK for the time being, as they’ve suggested the language could prove a barrier, but clearly it’s not stopped us from sinking comfortably into it. Whether something would be lost in their magic, should they try and write songs tailored to an English language, which would only really be known should they try it, but we quite like taking it in it’s purest musical form, following the vocals melody, rather than the words. What we lose in language we seem to gain with an anonymity to the story. Perhaps we’d hate it if we understood it all? Only one way to find out – we’re off to dig our noses into the Danish dictionary for the next few weeks. (MB)
ULIGE NUMRE – KOBENHAVN
ULIGE NUMRE – HAENDER