Karin Park – Thousand Loaded Guns
I have a predilection for a dramatic synth pop song and if it originates from Scandinavia, all the better. Their frigid production married to intense lyrics has produced some of the finest pop; taking the best of the 80s synth acts and combining it with the production flourishes of electronic dance music.
As such, it’s to my enduring frustration that Karin Park hasn’t broken in the UK. On paper she has everything: astonishing looks, startling vocals, big choruses and a brilliant live show. The fact she co-wrote Norway’s 2013 Eurovision entry, the wonderful I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger – it finished a respectable fourth, but should have won – gives a good indication of her pop credentials.
I first saw her play live in 2014 at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London (ooh, that’s where I saw Avec Sans – Ed.) Playing to a tiny crowd and with no expectations going in, I was stunned to see an electro-punk vision take to a dry ice wreathed stage – the 80s were my formative music years, so dry ice always increases my gig enjoyment tenfold. Standing six-foot-two (or six-foot-three depending on source, but hey, what’s an inch amongst friends), Karin was wearing glittery hot pants AND playing keytar – gosh!
Born in Sweden but based in Norway, her vocal style is reminiscent of both Björk and Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife, and while her music is poppier than both those acts, it still falls squarely into the sharper edged, slightly darker end of the electro pop spectrum. It has, rather unhelpfully, been described as electro-goth, which suggests her music is in some way morose. It is anything but.
Her unique style is perfectly shown in her 2012 single Thousand Loaded Guns, lifted from her Highwire Poetry album. Set against a propulsive beat (provided by her drummer brother David, who brilliantly looks like Chris Hemsworth playing Thor), it’s her vocal that stands out – Karin doesn’t indulge in grandiose show-boating and the resulting brittleness of her delivery in this track, set against the colossal production, conveys both the hurt and ultimate defiance within the lyrics. It has to be said this is more emotionally engaging than many artists who mistake vocal technique for sincerity. Add in synths that sound like they’ve been lifted directly from a forgotten 80s sci-fi film, and a production that brings to mind both Depeche Mode and Ladytron, and you have a brilliant pop single.
A decade into her career and with a string of great releases, Karin has yet to have a charting single in the UK. I had high hopes she would garner a wider audience when she competed in the Melodi Grand Prix 2015 (the Norwegian Eurovision qualification show), with the song Human Beings. Sadly, despite it being an exquisite song with a positive message, it surprisingly failed to reach the final.
Her latest album Apocalypse Pop is one of the great overlooked gems of 2015, so if you have any love of electro-pop, I suggest you give Karin a listen and see just what you’ve been missing.
Entered chart: Did not chart
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Any number of acts could potentially score a hit with this today, but Karin deserves the success, so let’s campaign for a re-release.