A few years ago, I asked Stockholm post-punk act Holograms about the current state of underground pop music in Sweden, a country I suspected was soundtracked by more than just Robyn and Dr. Luke. In unison, they told me the best young band in Sweden is Makthaverskan — a dream-pop quartet from Gothenberg with a name that loosely translates to “powerful woman.” Unlike the dismal prospects of Stockholm (the Holograms boys all worked in a book factory before signing to Captured Tracks,) Gothenberg is friendlier. At the very least, there are more rock bands.
Makthaverskan’s story is a familiar one. Starting out in squats in the Gamlestaden section of Gothenberg, Makthaverskan were frustrated with the music that was coming out of their town, so they sought to make what is, essentially (but not trivially) non-boring indie pop. They have a secret weapon in Maja Milner, a vocalist with a powerful range who sings elegant melodies with the intensity of screaming. The group isn’t shy about experimenting with sexual taboos. The lyrics to the hard-charging “Inside of Me” are, “I want to touch you, so take off your shirt,” and they place Milner in a decided position of sexual dominance. Explicitness is her friend; “No Mercy,” the best song off their recent sophomore LP, goes, “Fuck you for fucking me when I was 17.” Someone treated her poorly, and the song is her way of taking back what’s hers.
A punk-rock attitude in even the poppiest genres seems to almost commonplace in the Gothenberg indie scene. Makthaverskan is at its heart, but sister acts like Westkust are close behind. Featuring Matkhaverskan guitarists Gustav Data Andersson and Hugo Randulv, Westkust (“West Coast” in English,) worship dream pop, but they speed it up and add guitar loops. In an interview with Swedish publication The Youth Collective, drummer Philip Söderlind said that many of the band’s lyrics are about alcohol and the anxiety that occurs “the day after.” They don’t need to be more complicated — neuroses makes for good noise pop.