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Ellie Goulding - "Anything Could Happen"
In the "Huge Hits that Stayed Mainly Overseas" category, Ellie Goulding may have finally finished the near decade it's taken to fully work The Knife's uncanny valley synth-pop sound into the mainstream. Its lyrics are odd enough to sound very strange coming out of the comically bow-ed heads of contestants on The X-Factor, its vocal arrangements rad enough that even said contestants couldn't really fuck them up. It's a little clearer, more optimistic than the Dreijers would ever be, and it even goes to that big show-stealing Adele bridge for extra measure, before returning to its cool, precise digi-coos. Close-to-my-heart influence aside, it's just a great pop single that was slightly too cool to top U.S. charts.
Purity Ring - "Fineshrine"
That bleak Swedish sound continued to reverberate through the underground as well, and more so with every passing year. Purity Ring's much-hyped debut Shrines was practically all melodic drum bits and spookily warped vocals. Listening to its fairly similar songs in row, sitting through its dumber witch house trappings and shitty rap bits, was a bit of a chore, though. But in a single serving, packed into their neatest container? They had some great success pushing devotional lyrics into an icky David Cronenberg daydream.
Crystal Castles - "Child I Will Hurt You"
Crystal Castles go even bleakier than that, always, even in their dreamiest moments. This song, about people being shitty to vulnerable kids, hurts a lot at this particular moment in time. But it's beautiful also, and too true for sure.
Icona Pop - "I Love It"
Meanwhile, back in actual Sweden, they were fighting their sad feelings by burning ex-lovers' furniture in the streets, making shadow puppets from the glow, giggling 'til they puked.