For those of you that aren’t familiar with this wonderful Swedish popstar, allow me to set the scene. Our Erik attended the same musical school in Stockholm as Robyn (pop royalty) before releasing his debut album Hassle in 2009 to mixed reviews: it hit the #2 mark in his native country and wouldn’t leave the charts until an impressive ten weeks later. His international debut came in the form of “Pieces”, a renewed and recycled version of his earlier release which was met with lukewarm reviews but a lot of well deserved attention. It performed relatively well considering his low key status and earned him the titles “Newcomer of the Year” (Puld Gala) and “Hot New Act” (Guardian).
With his foot firmly in the doorway of the UK charts, Hassle collaborated with our own Ellie Goulding who, at the time, was very much “up and coming” herself, to cover Swedish star Robyn’s ‘Be Mine‘ (which is wonderful and still available for free download guys, hop to it). Later in 2010, his song “Hurtful” was featured as iTunes single of the week and he released a criminally unappreciated covers EP: The Hassle Sessions: Volume One. And then, just like that, he disappeared.
I left that like an Eastenders cliffhanger, sorry. He’s not dead (as far as I’m aware) but his Facebook updates and tweets became sparse, almost non-existent. Artists who utilise social media effectively benefit in the long run, just look at the likes of Gaga, Perry, Bieber, even Lily Allen (thanks MySpace). Those who do not cannot expect such a loyal following. Then suddenly, a few months ago, a Facebook update – “I’m a bit bad at posting here I realise, I’m gunna get better, but follow me on Instagram. erikhassle is ma name. xx” Oh Erik, you charming blighter you. Of course, I went ahead and stalked his preferred social media outlet to find abstract pictures of friends, Swedish signs and… Hang on. Is that a microphone?
The underdog had only gone and written, recorded and released an album exclusive to Sweden. As of July 2012, that lucky country had been treated to the dulcet tones of Hassle’s “We Dance”, a rather modern take on his signature sound. And for the loyal UK fans? Sweet F A
not that I’m bitter. The 11 new tracks aren’t even available on Spotify premium, a rather heart-wrenching realisation. However, one YouTube diamond has taken it upon himself to upload the new songs for the world to hear – and what excellent songs they are. It’s quite the quiet return from Erik if I do say so myself.
Hassle’s music isn’t pop by numbers but it’s still very radio friendly. It manages to be quirky without being Gaga, but what it lacks in commercialism, it makes up for in thoughtfulness and personality. Any of his new efforts wouldn’t be out of place in the top 40 and, honestly, they would seem quite refreshing against the backdrop of so much mindless production. Think Vampire Weekend by way of Two Door Cinema Club with a splash of Frankmusik and some Ellie Goulding thrown in for good measure: it’s riddled with tasteful synth, wiry eclectic guitar and silky smooth vocals crying out some wonderful words. Describing him as the love-child of several artists seems fitting, but he succeeds in coming across as fresh and unique still, a real stand-out artist.
‘We Dance’ is a brilliant record, one full of spiky melodies and vulnerable confessions. Like the rest of the world, Hassle takes inspiration from the spectrum of emotions you feel when in love – happiness, insecurity, anxiety, fury, contentment, euphoria and sadness amongst so many others. His voice, which jumps from a breathless whisper to a bold battle cry in seconds, is honest and encapsulating, a perfect addition to the timbre of the songs. The 24 year old’s songwriting ability is superior to too many successful artists: “I walk streets of suffocation: a detour out of pure frustration” from ‘Back Under Water‘, a song that juxtaposes its bounciness with lyrics of fictional closure and unrequited love.
With my detective work finished for this case, I return to Hassle’s Instagram – checking dates and perusing the finer details. Recent uploads hint at a music video for a song as well as brand new recordings, but at the rate Erik works at, perhaps this is further work for “We Dance” rather than a new EP altogether. His official website documents his previous releases, many unpromoted, but offers no news on tour dates or a worldwide release of new music. However, there is a contact page, one which I have utilised wholeheartedly. And so, whilst we wait to hear back from any human who is vaguely affiliated with this ginger deity, let us indulge in the beautiful music he’s offered up previously. I won’t be letting this one go under my radar again; Erik Hassle was, is, and will continue to be, the one to watch.