Sure, they have distinct national identities, but we ugly Americans at EW like to think of Scandinavia simply as the Blond Countries. And, boy, do these blonds know how to have fun. In the shadow of their homelands' better-known exports ABBA, IKEA, lutefisk these artists are producing some of the most unique and just plain addictive pop music this side of the equator.
Home Base Smaland, Sweden
Why We Love Him It's hard to believe a sound so deliciously dense is the product of a single man one Gustav Ejstes. The 24-year-old's third release, Ta det lugnt (Subliminal Sounds), is a loopy Candy Land psych-rock trip, a burst of shimmery retro confetti we can't stop listening to, even if we have no idea what he's going on about.
Blond Highlight? It doesn't get more epic (or awesome) than Ta det lugnt's ''Du E För Fin För Mig.''
Home Base Bergen, Norway
Why We Love Her The aural equivalent of pink champagne, Annie Berge-Strand's debut, Anniemal (679 Recordings), has already seduced scores of ornery rock critics, and music fans who can afford the $30 Import price (ouch) will see why airy, girlish vocals, silky synths, and mile-wide hooks never sounded so sweet.
Blond Highlight? The dizzy dance-floor anthem ''Chewing Gum.''
Home Base Gothenburg, Sweden
Why We Love Him Last year's Jonathan Richman-esque When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (Secretly Canadian) won him accolades, but we still prefer his three preceding EPs. Either way, the winsome troubador's wry, gentle vocals, clever wordplay (In his second language, no less!), and lilting Instrumentation are utterly enchanting.
Blond Highlight? The jingle-jangly retro beauty of ''Black Cab,'' from 2004's Maple Leaves EP (Secretly Canadian).
Home Base Berlin, via Bergen, Norway
Why We Love Him He's a true Renaissance man, turning out both lovely, whispery folk ballads (as Kings of Convenience, with partner Eirik Glambek Boe) and stellar DJ mixes, most recently and excellently for the prestigious DJ-Kicks series. Undoubtedly, he also knits and makes a great omelet.
Blond Highlights? The whole first third of 2004's DJ-Kicks (Studio K7); Kings of Con's buoyant, honey-sweet plea ''I'd Rather Dance With You,'' from 2004's Riot on an Empty Street (Astralwerks).