Jonathan JohanssonView in iTunes
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Jonathan Johansson writes his lyrics in Swedish, and delivers them in a dreamy croon (frequently doubling himself in falsetto) that's marked by the accent of his native Scania region at the country's southern tip. But his lush, highly melodic pop is both striking and familiar enough to easily transcend language barriers. A social worker by profession, originally hailing from Malmö and later based out of Stockholm, Johansson made his debut in 2005 with OK, Ge Mig Timmarna ("OK, Give Me Hours.") Released under the name Jonathan Och Hjältar ("Jonathan and Heroes"), with a band that included Emil Svanängen of Loney Dear. The album's guitar-based indie pop garnered some favorable comparisons to Håkan Hellström, but little attention overall. After several years of tinkering with and refining his sound, trying out different configurations of musicians and approaches to recording, he hit on a style he liked in the Uppsala basement studio of drummer/producer Johan Eckeborn. Making prominent use of an old Yamaha DX7 synthesizer, their recordings -- like those of many of Johansson's contemporaries -- were highly reminiscent of early-'80s synth pop and New Romantic music (as emphasized by a Swedish-language cover of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World"), although not excessively electronic, and with a spacious, gently anthemic quality redolent of bands like U2 and the Arcade Fire. In 2008 he signed with Hybris Records (home to like-minded artists including Juvelen, Montt Mardié, and Vapnet) and releasing the well-received single "En Hand I Himelen" ("A Hand in the Heavens") under his rather pedestrian given name. A full-length CD, En Hand I Himelen, followed early in 2009. ~ K. Ross Hoffman