Birds are Better (Stian Fjelldal) was here last October with the single ‘Marigold’ and with which he managed to astonish everyone when he revealed that he’d only recently taken up writing in English and only “as the result of a writer’s block and a fair amount of frustration struggling to find my place in the Norwegian singer/songwriter landscape writing songs and singing in my distinct southern Norwegian dialect.”
Well, prepare to be astonished again.
Releases are coming thick and fast right now, as everyone makes up for lost Covid time but the easiest decision I’ve made in ages was to select this one for review tonight.
It helps that only a couple of nights ago I trotted along to watch Iceland’s Vök, a band that knows how to strike up an anthem or two and ‘Super Highway’ is just that.
He’s one of few who can write what is on the surface a regular pop song with all the required attributes – short, concise, tuneful with a hook – and yet at the same time one that will appeal to those who like to consider songs and their meaning over a pint, while stroking their beard.
‘Super Highway’ is simply about ‘coming home’; “whether it’s an end or a new beginning”, with all that can mean. And interpretations of homecoming can vary from something as simple as Chris Rea’s ‘Driving home for Christmas’ in which he does what it says on the tin, to Highasakite’s ‘Can I come home’, the plea at the end of their complex concept album ‘Mother’.
Here the lyrics suggest that the journey down the super highway and above the clouds might not end with the desired result. He sings that the wind will carry him home but at the same time he’s merely “hoping” to find some love waiting for him.
There’s a wonderful double entendre when he notes that “The time is now/I’m on my way/to you somehow/the sky is grey” which can be interpreted as a meteorological observation or that the person awaiting him is despondent at the prospect of doing so depending on where you put the accent (as in the name of the English duo, Let’s eat Grandma). If it was intended that’s very clever for someone who only just began writing in English.
And that dichotomy is enhanced by the following lines – “And the wind/will carry me home/and the love/I’m hoping for some.”
The realisation that he can’t even get through (only to an answering machine) and that everything is going too fast seems to put the lid on the prospect of a happy reconciliation.
And that prospect is offset by a gloriously melodic climax, while the stringy keyboard outro suggests ‘to be continued…’
An album is scheduled for May. Judging from the first couple of tracks that I’ve heard I reckon its well worth watching out for.
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