Josefin Winther (Norway) – If I were you (album)
Josefin Winther’s new album ‘If I were you’ is, she says, “a collection of songs that have been created over the past years, which I have taken care of while I have been busy publishing music in Norwegian. It’s been so nice to take the time to let this album take shape as new songs have been added.”
A random collection perhaps, but one that in a way could be interpreted as a ‘concept’ work, or at least the story of a journey, whether that was the intention or not. And one that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride.
This time out two of her siblings turn up on vocals. Jennifer Angelica Winther sings on opening track ‘I got lost’ and Jonathan Winther sings on ‘Something is different’. It is their debut, and she says it’s something she’s dreamed of doing for a long time, those siblings having been too modest to believe they had enough to offer. They do.
It is her first English-language release since the album ‘Righteously wrong’ in 2017, since when she has consistently made her mark at home with Norwegian language albums, EPs and singles.
‘I got lost’ (ft. Jennifer Winther) is marked out by lovely harmonies right from the get-go, a ballad which is also, later, an upbeat pop song with a riveting guitar line.
I’m not clear why she’s lost but the album title suggests she’s talking to her younger self – who did do – somewhere along the way?
‘Walking home’ is a track that came to our attention as a single last year. It seems to concern regret and missed opportunities. Delivered at a measured pace with no surprises and to a simple ear pleasing melody (how can just two piano chords be so satisfying?), it’s a delightful little ballad, of the type I often observe should really be in a film score. A Disney princess film. Frozen III, perhaps.
Let me put it another way. It is plain gorgeous.
Josefin moves back to her usual guitar for ‘There was more’, a balladin which she recounts how opportunities were lost to save a relationship, perhaps because both parties underestimated their attractiveness to the other. It’s a scenario that will resonate with many listeners.
‘Something is different’ features brother Jonathan (again, pleasant harmonies) and it’s a change of scene as it shifts the tempo upwards, considerably, and demonstrates greater optimism. As one door closes, another opens. And when it does, you take the High Road and I’ll take the Low Road…and I’ll be in Bergen afore ye…
The title track, ‘If I were you’, comes in halfway through and it’s the shortest. But dropping back into solemn minor keys it says a lot in its 2 minutes 38 seconds. And it is grammatically correct. Bravo. Were, not was.
It seems to echo the sentiments of ‘There was more’, and you do get the feeling that she’s recounting a particularly poignant moment in her life.
Again it’s pure Disney or Pixar. Idina Menzel, eat your heart out.
‘Prayer’ is just that and in such a format; an entreaty to the elicitation of help to see a way forward. It contains an impressive collection of internal rhyming that yer average rapper would do well to study.
“Come forth, comfort…come by, blue sky…come down, calming sound…be still restless thoughts/I’ve paid my dues to you…let go, all time low, let me dare to be…be strong, doubtful song…don’t fight with blurred site…”and “stand clear, deepest fear”, which is repeated several times and which seems to be the principal message.
A clever song.
‘Silent Storm’ is famously her own version, one that took many years to record because she simply never thought if it, of the song she wrote for her cousin, Carl Espen in 2014. He won the Norwegian Melodi Grand Prix (MGP) final with it, which is the competition that selects Norway’s Eurovision Song Contest entry, and in that event he then went on to place eighth.
The original Espen version was, and still is, a piano-based, fully orchestrated power ballad and you can easily understand why it did well at Eurovision.
What Josefin has done is to replace the piano with acoustic guitar, the orchestration with very subtle synthesisers, slowed it down a little and Americana-ised it. Then she’s added supporting and ever so sophisticated electric guitar to play the main theme.
It’s a shame we won’t be hearing it in Liverpool this time round. It might just have won.
‘Haunting’ and ‘ethereal’ are words often overused by reviewers but ‘Show your wounds’ is both. It occurred to me part-way through that that the sentiment is similar to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t give up’, as one half of a partnership offers moral support to the other, but on this occasion it is as a solo rather than a duet. Which then makes me think that it might have been a duet, with Jonathan…?
And Josefin’s vocal on this track is sublime.
There’s a bonus track, ‘We’re the same’ which might have been written as a ‘post Covid’ song as notes are compared about circumstances then and now between two people who have been an item previously. I don’t think that is its real meaning but it could be interpreted that way.
I’ll cut to the chase. Every time I hear Josefin Winther she gets better and better. While keeping to a theme throughout she also manages to offer up loads of variety on this album. Her song writing skills are as good as it gets and don’t forget that lyrically she’s doing this is in a language that isn’t her native one. And her vocal ability gets you in the feels, every time.
NMC rating: 8/10
She has some of the balladic style of her compatriot Sol Heilo and I mention that deliberately so I can comment on her crew, which includes Ronny Yttrehus on guitar, who also works with Heilo and who is responsible for most of the evocative guitar sound that caresses the songs as much as it accompanies them.
Other members are:
Reidar Frugård Opdal – keys
Marius Mathisen – drums
Jonas Kroon – recording and mixing
Björn Engelmann – mastering
I can only hope that someone, somewhere, with the means to get Josefin Winther heard in the UK reads this.
Josefin tours a lot in Norway and has done so internationally. But I’m not aware of any recent shows in the UK.
She is known for her poignant presence and power-intense live performances, where she literally shares her thoughts and feelings. Come and share them with us, Josefin.