Nordic Music Central Viking Hero

Hilding (Sweden) – Bone Dry (single)

Hilding (Halding Karlsson) is a Swedish songwriter based in Berlin. His music he says is a blend of modern pop and classic rock, filtered through a bedroom studio.

He says “Having grown up religious in Sweden, I ended up in Berlin after quitting medical school (also in Sweden) and drifting around northern Europe. “ That’s an interesting variation on a theme for sure. Most people bum around first and then find Jesus and do something useful, which makes him worthy of further investigation. I like anti-role models.

I’ve never been to Berlin (Ich bin ein Hamburger, to paraphrase JFK) but from what I’ve seen of it in photos and videos it lives in a netherworld somewhere between the debauchery you associate with the pre-war days and an unattractive concrete jungle where the ‘east’ somehow manages to linger on and the Wall still stands.

Many Nordic artists, never mind big names like Bowie, have decamped out there, at least for a while, and I’m often intrigued as to why.

Does Hilding shed any light on it in his song? He says that in its own way, Berlin features as a character in his songs generally, replete with “broken people who can only stand to be beautiful for one night.” You should try Oldham, mate. No beauty here, even for a minute.

So ‘Bone Dry’ is a ballad, about being burnt out and looking back on your life. It is a song about exhaustion and loneliness, inspired by a period of depressed introspection he had while working a dead-end job. A lot of people from my part of the world will resonate with that and many songs evolved out of it.

And hey, that’s always a good place to start anyway. The guy who wrote Martha and the Muffins’ ‘Echo Beach’, Mark Gane,was in exactly the same position and look what he came up with. No beaches in Brandenburg though, I guess.

Hilding says there is an element of hope in the song, but it flickers, since the future is always uncertain. In the face of this, the song tells us to get a headache off of some cheap wine, and to feel free for a single night. Tomorrow is another day. Que sera, sera.

It is structured around a heavily synthicated (my word) backdrop which evokes the sense of slipping into an intoxicated haze or even of seeing that beguiling light at the moment of death. It could be Dylan Thomas sliding into an alcoholic coma before being transported to St Vincent’s hospital. I’m reminded of the slightly eerie noise that Of Monsters and Men came up with in their song ‘Yellow Light’.

Yet at the same time the potent vocals, aided by some excellent production, manage to be upbeat.

Readers might remember I waxed lyrical in 2022 about Ljug Aldrig’s ‘Seashells’, which became a ‘Song of the Year’. The more I listen to Hilding, the more I get the same high quality vibe, especially in the refrain “suck my brain dry.”

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