“[Sketch] is immediate proof why the return of Ex Norwegian is one of the most important moments in indie music this year and those to come.” – RingMaster Reviews
Compact Disc, Digital Download
Released November 15, 2011 on Dying Van Gogh Records (DVG005). Originally released on June 22, 2010 by Dippy Records (DR239) with the song “Tired of Dancing” instead of “Girl With The Moustache.”
- Jet Lag
- Smashing Time
- Mind Down
- Sky Diving
- You’re Elastic Over Me
- Upper Hand
- Turn Left
- Acting On An Island
- Girl With The Moustache
- Produced by Ex Norwegian
- Mixed by Keith Fruend or Zach Ziskin
- Stream on Spotify, YouTube.
- Digital from Google Play, iTunes.
- Physical from Bandcamp (CD); KoolKat Music (CD/DVD); Amazon (CD).
Roger Houdaille: Guitars, Vocals
Nina Souto: Bass, Vocals
Arturo Garcia: Drums, Vocals
Michelle Grand: Vocals on “Girl With The Moustache”
Lucas Queiroz: Guitar on “Girl With The Moustacahe”
Ex Norwegian is easily one of the best pop bands of the twenty-first century. We played these folks’ debut album (Standby) completely into the ground over the past couple of years…and we’re still spinning and loving it (!). We’re pleased to report that the band is showing no signs of a typical sophomore slump. Sketch is every bit as good…if not even better…than the first album. And that’s saying A LOT. So if these folks are just a pop band playing pop/rock music…what’s the big deal? Well, in a word…SONGS. These folks have songs that are light years beyond what we normally hear. They’re smart…they’re catchy…they’re just slightly different…and…most importantly…they keep getting better the more you hear ’em. Songs that initially sound kinda cool sound absolutely INCREDIBLE ten, twenty, thirty, or a hundred spins later. The subtle nuances inherent in the band’s songs slowly creep into your subconsciousness. And, if you’re like us, once you get hooked on this band’s sound you will be totally ADDICTED. Yes,this band is indeed that good. Sketch has been out for awhile now via downloads and a run of CD-Rs…but now sees a proper release (i.e., a “real” official pressed CD). We’ve only listened to this one a couple of times thus far…but we’re already getting incredible chills from the sheer brilliance of these tunes. Ten captivating magical cuts here including “Jet Lag,” “Smashing Time,” “Sky Diving,” “Seconds,” “Turn Left,” “Girl With The Moustache”… Hell, every track is killer. Easily one of THE BEST albums of 2011. Can’t recommend this one highly enough… TOP PICK.
Last year the Miami band Ex-Norwegian produced a pretty good pop album that touched many bases and had lots of influences. On it’s latest LP Sketch it takes a big step forward musically. Opening with “Jet Lag” it almost goes retro-grunge here, but Alice In Chains never had a horn section. The band has solidified it’s sound with the late 90’s and 60’s as basic touch points, and the crunchy riffs of “Smashing Time” showcases the energy and great potential. With singer Roger Houdaille improving his game we get to the best track here,”Sky Diving” with Shazam-like catchy guitars, and grand choruses similar to Sloan. I wish the whole album took this approach – but it then switches to a lo-fi “You’re Elastic Over Me” with bassist Nina Souto doing her best Liz Phair. The melodic gems pop up in spots here, “Seconds” and “Acting On An Island” are excellent psyche-pop tunes and the bleak “Upper Hand” is a proper counterbalance to the raucous Who-styled “Turn Left.” This is a band that is on the cusp of greatness, but they aren’t helped by the throwaway lyrics of “Girl With The Moustache.” But still… this is very worthy of your playlist. Fans of Weezer, Greg Pope and other guitar heavy power pop will definitely want to add this album to the collection.
Ex Norwegian have released their second album, Sketch, and it stands up as a pretty good listen even for first time listeners such as myself. What’s interesting about this project is that the album was originally self-released back in the summer of 2010 and has now been re-released nationally through Dying Van Gogh records.
Right off the bat, what captures the ears is the album’s catchy melodies and lyrics. Opening track “Jet Lag” has been on heavy rotation in my head for a good week, and as you listen, you find most of the songs on the album tend to have that same lasting effect. There are several moments throughout the album, like in the smooth and sunny “Seconds” where everything just easily sticks.
The band, led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Roger Houdaille, plan to release a new EP early in 2012, so if you happened to find this project a good listen, as well as their debut, Stand By (2009), you’ll be sure to enjoy what’s still to come.
Source: http://spillmagazine.com/html/album_reviews.HTM#ExNorwegian (defunct)
EXCLAIM.CA (in Canadian)
Miami, FL’s Ex Norwegian return with second full-length Sketch. On this release, Ex-Norwegian show off their pop prowess. Interestingly, each member of the band takes a turn as lead vocalist, which allows for peculiar dynamics to develop. “Seconds” is an exquisite example of pop composition; it features the orchestral tendencies of ’60s pop music, multiple vocal harmonies and layers of horns supporting its delicate melody. Sketch comes into its own during the back-end of the album. Early tracks like “Jet Lag” and “Mind Down” focus too much on heavy rock tropes like thundering bass and aggressive guitar, qualities the group don’t pull off well. On Sketch, Ex Norwegian show their true colours when they’re acting less serious, when a sense of fun and excitement comes through their songwriting. A prime example is “Girl with the Moustache,” which is the album highlight. The tongue-in-cheek nature of the track allows Ex Norwegian to focus on just playing a good song, which harkens back to the heydays of power pop bands like Sloan.
NOW THIS ROCKS
“Sketch” aims to propel indie rock band Ex Norwegian to greater heights. “Standby” helped the band attain national exposure with appearances on TV and radio shows, in addition to being critically acclaimed. “Sketch” delivers ten more doses of their brand of fanciful and sonically surprising rock.
A thumping bass line draws us in to climb aboard the ride that is “Jet Lag”, a slow burning tune that creeps up to a sticky chorus that gets better with each flight through your ears (video below). “Jet Lag” finds Ex Norwegian sounding very much like a highly evolved version of Weezer. “Smashing Time” lends support to this comparison with its groovy verses and hook laden chorus. Other highlights include the near Lennon-esque “Seconds” and the rumbling “Turn Left”. There are a handful of fillers, like the quirky “You’re Elastic Over Me” and “Girl With A Moustache”, but overall “Sketch” is well fleshed out.
Taking advantage of both their male and female vocal strengths, the band often incorporates delightful harmonies making them sound like the Mamas and Papas of the modern indie rock scene. With an effective mix of clever lyrics, tasty licks, and groovy rhythms, Ex Norwegian is one of the more commercial-ready indie bands I’ve heard this year.
Solid pop that has a fine rock kicker. Ex Norwegian hasn’t quite mastered the fine art of anglophile pop, but this is a good start. The boys just need to tighten up the ship and sharped [sic] the hooks just a bit.
THE AQUARIAN WEEKLY
Ex Norwegian is re-releasing their album Sketch on Dying Van Gogh Records. One noticeable change about the re-release is that the final track, “Tired Of Dancing,” has been replaced with a new tune, titled “Girl With The Moustache.”
Starting off Sketch is “Jet Lag.” The indie pop tune begins with a funky bass groove mixed in with a slick guitar solo and some hand claps to ignite the spark for the album. The good times start to roll out in “Smashing Time.” The interesting pace and spoken verses matched with the sung choruses make this song a unique catch on the album. The third cut, “Mind Down,” has a retro, robotic feel to it, but with added cowbell. Nina Suoto starts off “You’re Elastic Over Me,” the shortest tune on the album. The acoustic piece features beautiful harmonies between Houdaille and Suoto as well as light and fluffy key tones. Switching things up for a bit, “Upper Hand,” is a slower piece that stresses the principal of self-worth.
Sketch gets a taste of the islands with “Acting On An Island.” Houdaille’s vocals mixed with ska-like guitar tones and jazzy bass makes this number one of the darkest on the release. Spirits are lifted back up with the new final song on Sketch, “Girl With The Moustache.” It starts with two females speaking about seeing a girl with a moustache. The band cuts off the conversation and jumps in with their retro-pop jam. The only downside to the track is some of the high-pitched vocals that add a very harsh sound to the tune. However, the spacey guitar riff makes up for the discomfort to end the album on the right foot.
Where to start with Ex Norwegian, for a band relatively unknown to the UK market, there probably wasn’t many tears shed when founding member Roger Houdaille announced in March 2011 that the band had ceased to be. However, without the need to nail it to the proverbial perch, Ex Norwegian have reformed and come together to re-release their Sketch album on 5 December 2011.
The thought of a band redefining ‘indie rock’ (as described in the news coverage Grumpyrocker ran back in October) doesn’t really do justice to the quirky pop that is on offer through Sketch. Featuring Roger on vocals, Arturo Garcia on drums, Lucas Queiroz on guitar, Nina Souto on bass and Michelle Grand providing additional and lead vocals at times, Ex Norwegian celebrate great American indie pop rock, call it what you will, music with sufficient trans-Atlantic references to draw in a more global audience.
What Ex Norwegian excel at is the construction of good quality rock / pop music, no better showcased that an opening track Jet Lag. The dirty bass line gives way to vocals, drums and guitars as pop takes over, before the wonderful vocal harmonies hark at Beach Boys, before the sampled sax allows the pop to shine once again. The sun of Florida just shines straight out of Jet Lag and even allows Lucas a soaring guitar solo as the track happily rains onto its conclusion.
Seconds and Smashing Time are so radio friendly and catchy that after one listen the chorus is hooked into the psyche, whilst the emergence of Roger and Michelle’s joint vocals on Mind Down draws out memories of They Might Be Giants, before they ended up writing music for Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse amongst other Children’s TV Shows.
For the listener adverse to American music, then Sky Diving is surely aimed at the British market. It is impossible to think that Ex Norwegian haven’t spent some time listening to early Beatles as it cries out all over Sky Diving, although the underlying bass and drums allow it not to be a pastiche. The concluding acceleration in speed carries a real swing beat along with the moment for the guitar to hint at the intro chorus to McCartney’s Live and Let Die before quickly changing direction. You don’t like early Beatles? Then their psychedelic phase shines through on Upper Hand.
You’re Elastic Over Me allows Michelle to demonstrate her softer vocal side, initially supported with acoustic guitar, before xylophone, bass and eventually strings build the track up as Michelle’s vocals are effected away into another dimension and are replaced by the joint response of “You’re elastic over me”. It does demonstrate another side to Ex Norwegian and to some degree it’s a shame there isn’t more of these moments on Sketch.
If none of what has gone before has been quirky enough for you then final track Girl With the Moustache should suffice. In fact as Movember closes it is an apt finale for all mo-sisters out there.
Undeniably successful in the States, Ex Norwegian’s reformation is enough to bring happiness from the otherside of the pond, however, for a UK audience, not only does Sketch provide some Florida sunshine, but that quirky indie pop rock that you’ve been waiting for.
Source: http://www.grumpyrocker.co.uk/ex-norwegian-sketch-review (defunct)
This is Ex Norwegian’s second album release and it is a reminder that there are a lot of good pop bands out there. The group consists of Roger Houdaille (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Arturo Garcia (drums), Lucas Queiroz (guitar), Nina Souto (bass) and Michelle Grand (vocals). The music takes on a slightly MOD sound on tracks such as the flighty “Turn Left, 1960s pop on “Acting On An Island” and then tongue-in-cheek on the strange “Girl With The Moustache” with a sound a little like the Who. Interesting pop CD from a group who could well end up having chart success.
IRISH TIMES (in Irish)
Who says geography doesn’t matter? Take away the south Florida accents and the way in which Ex Norwegian (named after a Monty Python skit – respect!) delve into the back catalogue of cool American pop/rock bands, and you just might have a post-Christmas turkey on your hands. Simply put, there are some countries (and territories within those countries) that do certain types of music better than others, and if you’re up for virtually irresistible, hook-driven tunes that reference life, love, clear skies, sex and bitchiness, then Sketch is right up your palm-tree-planted drive. Songs such as Smashing Time, Sky Divingand You’re Elastic Over Meadhere to the same jangling modus operandi as Fountains of Wayne ,while the insinuating Secondsruns rings around Cheap Trick’s entire output. Florida sunshine? Ex Norwegian bring us some.
MUSIKANSICH (in German)
Sketch ist das zweite Werk der Band Ex Norwegian, deren Bandname auf Monty Python zurückgeht. Ursprünglich wurde das Album im letzten Jahr im Eigenverlag aufgelegt, erscheint jetzt allerdings noch einmal über Dying Van Gogh Records. Die amerikanische Band um Hauptsongschreiber Roger Houdaille spielt einen poppig-rockigen Sound, der ziemlich britisch geprägt ist. Nicht gerade der Sound, den man von einer Band aus Miami erwaret, aber ausgesprochen gut umgesetzt.
Alle 10 Songs besitzen ein angenehm eingängiges Flair, ohne belanglos zu wirken. Natürlich erfindet man die Musik hier nicht neu, aber clever arrangiert und produziert kommt hier die Musik aus den Lautsprechern. Und spieltechnisch ist man auf hohem Niveau unterwegs. Die Rhythmusfraktion kann jederzeit überzeugen, ohne durch unnötige Spielereien aufzufallen. Die Gitarrenfraktion spielt songdienlich und bietet einige interessante Riffs und Soli. Man fühlt sich auf angenehme Art an Bands wie z.B. The Who, die Kinks und Konsorten erinnert.
Einen Innovationspreis werden Ex Norwegian wohl nicht gelingen, wer aber auf gutklassigen zeitlosen Pop und Rock britischer Prägung steht, sollte unbedingt einmal in Sketch hinein hören.
ROOTSHIGHWAY (in Italian)
ROOTSTIME (in Dutch or is it Flemish?)
‘Ex Norwegian’ is een Amerikaanse pop- en rockgroep uit Miami Beach, geformeerd rond zanger-gitarist Roger Houdaille, bassiste Nina Souto, drummer Arturo Garcia, Lucas Queiroz op gitaar en zangeres Michelle Grand. Het ontstaan van deze formatie dateert uit 2008 en hun debuutplaat “Standby” kreeg in 2009 lokaal al meteen een zeer goede feedback in de pers.
“Sketch” is de titel van plaat nummer twee van dit kwintet, dat zich vooral in de sferen van Beatlesque pop- en rock ophoudt. Het album is een verzameling van tien frisse deuntjes die allen door de bandleden werden gecomponeerd. De eerste keer dat we onder de indruk komen is bij de song “Smashing Time” waarin de diverse instrumenten voor het eerst behoorlijk hard tekeer gaan. “Mind Down” dat daarna volgt heeft een catchy deuntje en leuke harmony vocals tussen Roger Houdaille en Michelle Grand.
De gitaarsound domineert nadien ook in “Sky Diving” en “Turn Left” maar opvallend bij deze cd is de terugval in tempo bij een viertal nummers die allen een plaatsje kregen in het midden van de tracklist. Het door Michelle Grand gezongen tussendoortje “You’re Elastic Over Me” wordt in een akoestisch kleedje gestoken maar is wel een bittere song over de dokter die Michael Jackson heeft laten sterven. Het nummer “Seconds” werd ook van alle powerpopklanken ontdaan en wordt gezongen alsof Paul McCartney achter de microfoon stond, net als bij het modern swingende popliedje “Upper Hand”.
De Beatles lijken trouwens eveneens goedkeurend toe te kijken als ‘Ex Norwegian’ de twee laatste songs op dit album brengen: “Acting On An Island” en de grappige internethit “Girl With The Moustache” hebben meerdere elementen in zich die hun oorsprong vonden in de muziek van de populaire sixties-groepen. “Sketch” is naar onze mening vooral een album voor de liefhebbers van hedendaagse, complexloze pop- en rockdeuntjes die beschikken over een duidelijk sixties-randje.
MUSICIENZ (in French)
Venus de Miami, voilà un groupe au nom curieux et son deuxième album. Même s’il ne révolutionne pas le rock électrique, « Sketch » , l’album d’ex Norwegian apporte une fraîcheur bienvenue. Il révèle une influence Beatles au fil des titres, notamment sur « Turn left » . On pense à Blur sur « Smashing time ». Mais il serait faux de considérer cet album comme un album « à la manière de » tant il use de ressources différentes et séduit par sa diversité. On se prend vite à siffloter quelques mélodies (« seconds » par exemple, avec sa trompette discrète). Ex Norwegian démontre une certaine agilité mélodique sur des rythmes enlevés sur un disque à l’allure classique, qui finalement sera difficile à dater dans quelques années car il puise aussi bien dans les sixties (harmonies vocales), la fin des seventies (le son) ou le college rock des nineties.
BLUES AGAIN (in French)
Quand on pense groupe de Floride, les images d’Épinal affluent: salsa, Cuba, déhanchés, robes courtes et chapeaux bas … Né des cendres de l’ancien groupe du guitariste et chanteur, Roger Houdaille, Father Bloopy (auquel participa également la bassiste Carolina Souto), Ex-Nowegian est un groupe de Floride, et au plus proche des influences latino de l’île enfermée de Cuba, puisqu’ils sont bien installés dans le sud de la péninsule, à Miami. pourtant eux c’est le rock qui les fait vibrer. Après le succès de leur premier single Something Unreal, rythmé par les bonnes trouvailles de leur batteur Arturo Garcia, ils naissent à la scène en 2008 au festival du « College Music Journal » à New York. Suit leur premier album, Standby. Sketch, nouvel album de nos anciens Norvégiens, est une espèce de présentation de quelques pans de la culture musicale anglo-saxonne, un patchwork de chansons. Il s’ouvre avec deux chansons punk-rock, baguettes lourdes sur la caisse claire et guitare jouée au niveau des genoux, que ne renieraient pas les Greenday des débuts. On passe ensuite à un style plus couler, avec des mélodies plus rondes, en référence parfois aux Beach boys. On continue en se rapprochant des chansons folks à la Devendra Banhart, puis une chanson où on peut parfois entendre quelques influences des quatre de Liverpool… Non là, pas de rythme latino ; dans leur dernier opus, très peu de rappels à la musique ambiante dans laquelle ils évoluent, à peine quelques notes en toute fin d’album comme un hommage. Album varié, agréable à écouter.
MUSIC IS WHAT FEELINGS HAPPEN (UK Blog)
THE SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND
Ex-Norwegian will be having a CD Release party June 19th at Sweat Records (5505 NE 2nd Ave)
There are few better indicators to the passing of time than the return of a trend. It’s been a short time coming, but since it seems like 80’s revival is entering it’s awkward phase (i.e. the return of fat girls in spandex and ultra high waisted jeans), it’s inevitable that the 90’s will soon be back.
The 90’s represented the amazingly fast cycle of major record labels attempting to hijack underground music (early 90s), and getting it so completely wrong that, I would argue, it is now putting them out of business.
While the dive into indie music may have destroyed labels, it did lead to a boon in the underground, bringing along smart and heartfelt music like Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring, Christie Front Drive, The Get Up Kids, and the growth of genres like lo-fi, emo, indie folk, shoegaze, and a rainbow of various underground sounds.
If the 60’s were the root of establishing American rock music, the 90’s were the explosion of it.
I write so fondly of the 90’s because living in Miami we are fortunate to be a city the lives in the front of trends. While other cities are inundated with bands that sound like they are trying their hardest to copy 93.1 Rock (just cross our northern county border), or, at best, sound like The Killers and Kings of Leon, we are fortunate to be the home of a trend forward band like Ex-Norwegian, who are masterfully grabbing hold of that 90’s sound and making it their own.
Last year Ex-Norwegian released their first album, Standby, to huge critical acclaim. A visit over to the press section on their website shows just how much they’ve been covered over the past year.
A lot of the attention was focused on their viral single, Something Unreal, a song so perfectly indie it couldn’t help but be found out by radio stations and music fans.
Coming off last year’s success Ex-Norwegian releases their second effort Sketch, a 10-song LP, on June 22.
Through first listen, the album screams that underground 90’s sound, particularly as a combination of a shoegaze sound with an emo feel; like a cross-pollination of Autolux and Sunny Day Real Estate.
The songs creep and crawl over a variety of themes, but Ex-Norwegian’s libertarian beliefs are felt across the album. Such as the second track Smashing Time, which ironically urges people to live it up until the hammer comes crashing down, which can be taken as either the impending great war or dictator (as outlined in FA Hayek’s Road to Serfdom), or the collapse of the United States’ economic viability.
My favorite line comes from Upper Hand, a hollowing and slow-paced song with another libertarian theme of the “power elite”. Halfway through the song, lead singer Roger Houdaille sings, “left, right, then wrong.” Take that two party system!
I truthfully wish I had more time to listen to the album so that I can get a better grasp of the lyrics. As opposed to shallower musicians, Ex Norwegian’s songs are formed in part imagery, part allegory, part straight-forward lyrics, and part metaphor. I probably need at month of listening to get the gist of their meaning — and I mean that in the best way possible (don’t be afraid to use your brains kids).
There were several other highlights to the album, such as Sky Diving and Turn Left, both of which feel similar to two of my favorite bands: Weezer and Jets to Brazil. In the middle of Turn Left, it falls into an organ part that flirts with something similar to King Crimson.
But for all the little things there are to love about Sketch something just doesn’t feel right, and it’s driving me crazy trying to put my finger on it, especially because I can fully admit that this is a great album and I’m just not getting it.
Listening all the way through there definitely is a slow pace to it, which plays into the 90’s feel of it, so maybe that’s not it. A lot of the songs are sung really straight forward and tend to drone, but then again, that’s the shoegaze influence, so maybe that’s not it either. Maybe it is the complicated lyrics, but then again, I think that’s a good thing.
Comparing this album to a couple of songs on their last album a couple of things stick out. There isn’t a single song on Sketch that matches the energy of Something Unreal. Whether it’s the pop vibe or the pace, Sketch just isn’t able to match. Then listening to Sudeki Lover, a slower paced song similar to the songs on Sketch, somehow Sketch doesn’t match the heartfelt and emotional feeling of that song.
Maybe I’m just being overcritical or maybe I’m just trying to rationalize my opinion, but don’t be mislead, Ex Norwegian is a band whose music should be heard. While it may seem like I’m not giving Sketch a glowing review, I think it’s more like a group of friend’s discussing the different albums of their favorite band, and Sketch may not be my favorite but I’m fairly confident I’m going to be in the minority.
Easily the best band to be named after a Monty Python sketch — Toad the Wet Sprocket being a distant second — Miami’s Ex Norwegian takes an evolutionary leap forward with its latest album, following an already sterling debut, Standby. The harmonies are tighter, the production level is higher. At first, Sketch doesn’t seem to be much of a departure from Standby, but rather a fine-tuned improvement of that album’s sound, best witnessed in the gorgeous harmonizing in tunes such as “Mind Down,” which also boasts some wailing guitar work.
But the brash rock of the album’s first half, a sound that had so many music journalists comparing Standby to Talking Heads or 1980s-era Lou Reed, gives way to a slow, psychedelic groove on fifth track “You’re Elastic Over Me.” And like an acidhead who has dosed one too many times, the album never quite returns to reality — or in this case, the straight-ahead rock of the album’s first half. Instead, it remains in a lush, layered sound that would pair well with a paisley kaleidoscope and a fistful of mushrooms, all swirling guitars and reverbed vocals. “Seconds” and “Upper Hand” both follow this pattern, with the guitar on the latter even taking on a sitarlike quality. This delving into acid-rock reaches its zenith on “Acting on an Island,” which ends with a weird, half-minute-long cacophony of whispering and muted music.
Finally, the band returns to what one expects of Ex Norwegian on the final track, “Tired of Dancing,” which despite the title may be the most danceable track on the album. Sketch, then, represents both a perfection of the band’s previous effort and an exploration of new directions. It doesn’t offer anything as instantly catchy as Standby’s “Something Unreal,” which would be a megahit if there were any justice in the world. But taken as a whole, Sketch performs a neat trick — it improves on something that, before the release of this album, didn’t seem to need improving.
Source: http://www.citylinkmix.com/music/review-ex-norwegians-sketch (defunct)
BROWARD/PALM BEACH NEW TIMES
Only two albums in, the band that evolved out of the unlikely named Father Bloopy has struck the mother lode with an effort that ranks as a genuinely substantial early accomplishment. In fact, let’s be so bold as to suggest it brings to mind another disc produced by a multi-tasking trio, namely, Band on the Run, the product of Paul McCartney and the remnants of Wings. Granted, that’s a bold assessment and perhaps a bit verbose, but it’s a comparison that’s also nudged along by the fact that the group – Roger Houdaille (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Nina Souto (bass, vocals), Arturo Garcia (drums, percussion, vocals, guitar) – clearly take their cue not from McCartney and company, along with a legion of Brit pop players in general – the Kinks, the Move, and, naturally, the Beatles among them. They swathe their sound with broad strokes, applying group harmonies, rich instrumental overlays and a vibrant undertow to songs that benefit immeasurably from a giddy and unabashedly effusive approach.
That knowing attitude serves the album well – from the riveting delivery of the boldly dubbed “Smashing Time” and the propulsive sway of “Mind Down” to the lofty airs of “Upper Hand” and the chirpy final entry, “Tired of Dancing.” “Sky Dancing” best sums up their strengths, a churning, tuneful rocker that bobs and weaves its way towards a stubborn refrain and a breezy rocking coda that keeps its grip on the listener even as its final notes fade away.
Which all goes back to that original comparison. Boasting only three players in their ranks, it’s clear the band worked overtime to stack these playful sounds. It’s impressive too that Ex Norwegian’s adherence to such strict democratic principles allows each member to contribute to the songwriting mix while still maintaining a seamless flow. Consequently, Sketch belies its title. In truth, it’s more a masterpiece.
EAT SLEEP DRINK MUSIC
Proof positive in the existence of parallel universes. Sketch, the sophomore effort from Miami trio Ex Norwegian, is an otherworldly slab of catchy pop rock song after catchy pop rock song, conceived in some fantastic place where the ’90s power pop bubble never burst. (Lucky bastards never had to suffer through nu metal and emo. We want to go there, now.) Some of the songs bear the markings of a grunge influence – opening track “Jet Lag” opens with a D-tuned bass and chord sequence that would not have been out of place on Alice in Chains’ Dirt – and then when the chorus hits, it morphs into the best song Sloan never wrote, all sunny harmonies and ringing guitars. “Sky Diving” is a gorgeous slice of melancholic pop (likewise “Upper Hand”), and “Acting on an Island” deftly shifts time signatures around an unforgettable climbing melody. As comfortable with upbeat sing-a-longs as they are with darker, more introspective material – with the added bonus of having three musicians who can sing lead – Sketch is the sound of a band with limitless potential. Here’s hoping that bubble in which they’re living remains intact.
THE FIRE NOTE
While the name might throw you off, Ex Norwegian is one of Miami’s own. This band, not even two years old (launched at the CMJ Festival October 2008 in New York City), has already released is sophomore effort with Sketch.
The trio consists of Roger Houdaille (vocals and guitar), Nina Souto (bass guitar and vocals), and Arturo Garcia (drums and vocals). Releasing their debut album Standby in March 2009 after the single “Something Unreal”, Ex Norwegian gained recognition and popularity as an indie-rock band.
Having just finished their second East coast tour (you might have heard them at quite a few local places like Vagabond back in January, Titanic in February, Bardot in March, or Churchills in April/May) the band released Sketch a couple weeks ago at the end of June. Still fresh out of the wrapper, this 10-song album is an easy listen. The catchy guitar chorus and strong ballads on tracks like “Turn Left” are something I’d jam to in the car with friends, giving it a 90s rock kind of feel. Then there are some slower-paced tunes for hanging out at home, and the soothing, feminine voice of Souto is a nice change on “You’re Elastic To Me”.
The band falls in a similar category as (new style) Kings Of Leon (obviously not as mainstream, yet), but with a softer, woman’s touch that makes it more hipster than rock. And let’s not forget the coolest reason to like them- they’re from Miami! Bringing this sound to a national level with two albums and a following from time spent on the road, they’ve got a lot more to boast than some of Miami’s smaller, local bands can compete with. Not to mention a feature in last month’s issue of 944.
Ex Norwegian had us on Standby in 2009, now getting a pretty good Sketch in 2010… hoping for a masterpiece in 2011?
Source: http://www.fabrikalink.com/index.php/music/cd-reviews/857-ex-norwegian-sketch (defunct)
THE JANGLE BOX (in Spanish)
Probablemente no tendrá la repercusión que debería, pero este segundo trabajo del trío de Miami Ex Norwegian, Sketch (2010) es un disco con letras mayúsculas. Como lo fue su primer álbum, Standby (2009), ya reseñado en The JangleBox. Para este segundo álbum, Sketch (2010), el trío no se baja de sus presupuestos iniciales: Power-Pop y guitarras potentes, como base de inspiración de su música. Este segundo trabajo (sophomore, me encanta esta palabra inglesa) es incluso algo más potente que el anterior, su producción es más limpia pero realza las virtudes del grupo, ese Power-Pop de alto quilataje y esa potencia a la hora de ejecutar sus temas, que parece que están facturados en la burbuja de tiempo que durante los noventa rescató al mejor Pop de guitarras de siempre, pero ejecutados con la energía vitaminada del Grunge: Jet Lag, Smashing time (los mejores temas del disco), Sky diving. Al tiempo, Sketch parece beber de fuentes más clásicas retrotrayéndose al estilo neopsicodélico de Ray Davies en temas como Seconds, Upper hands o You´re elastic over me, gemas introspectivas del mejor lirismo Pop. En otros temas se recupera la mejor tradición del Power-Pop contemporáneo, al estilo de The Posies: Turn left, Mind down, un temazo con unas armonías vocales y un trabajo de guitarras impecable al servicio de unas letras ingeniosas. El último tema del disco, Tired of Dancing, es el único al que no le encuentro un sitio real, si acaso lo relacionaría con Dance Trance Pants, canción que tiene la misma temática bailonga y que realmente tampoco pegaba demasiado en su primer álbum. En cualquier caso, con este Tired of Dancing, Ex Norwegian realizan una especie de tributo a The Talking Heads bastante pasable. Si no fuera por este tema, el resto del disco es de auténtico notable alto: Power-Pop del mejor hecho a la manera de la soleada Florida. Seguro que a Horatio Caine le gustará.
FIRDAPOSTEN (in Norwegian)
Plate nummer to frå Florida-bandet som blei noko av ein favoritt etter debuten som kom i fjor.
Til liks med den plata får vi her ei rad sterke låtar, gitarorientert, plassert i streit rock og pop med ein orientering mot powerpop.
Dei kan denne gongen verke noko tyngre i lyden utan at det går ut over dynamikken, dei tar også i bruk blåsarar på nokre av låtane. Som også fører til betre variasjon og dynamikk.
Bandet sin leiar, Roger Houdaille, er involvert som komponist på alle låtar så nær som ein.
Og som førre gongen har han lånt frå andre komponistar, og som då klarer eg ikkje no heller å sette fingeren på kvar. Om det kan kallast tjuveri skal eg ikkje påstå, men det er elegant utført. Dei gode låtane kjem trillande, eg nemner i fleng: “Jet Lag”, “Smashing Time”, “Mind Down” og “Turn Left”. Og denne gongen har eg funnet noko som dette minner meg om, ein favoritt frå 80-talet, Atlanta-bandet The Swimmingpool Q’s. Men det gjør deg nok ikkje noko klokare. Men begge er uansett to glimrande band.