NMC Spotify Playlist #12 – Dec 22/Jan23
Woah, we’re getting behind with these and it’s necessary to run two months at the same time again (with a little overspill into Feb-2023 as well as there is included the studio version of a live track I saw/heard the other night.
Again, not all songs/albums reviewed can make it into here; playlists need to be fairly concise!
A quick overview, with some of the original comments.
Elsa Åborg (Sweden) – Nico’s song
Vocally, I thought Elsa was merely ‘ok’ the first time I heard it but on the second hearing…then the third…the fact she has real quality quickly dawned on me. The way she sings “Oh no, I can’t take it back/don’t go, I’m no good alone” has all the hallmarks of top class vocalists of previous eras and Elizabeth Fraser in particular came to mind.
Josefin Winther (Norway) – If I were you
The title track from her album, ‘If I were you’, dropping back into solemn minor keys, says a lot in its 2 minutes 38 seconds. 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.
Rikke Normann (Norway) – Circles
Observing astutely that “a circle has nowhere to go” the part spoken-part sung piece, embellished with copious strings and her own multiplied voice, puts me again in mind of the style of Regina Spektor. It cleverly changes direction and pace, from a funereal speed early on to a frantic, almost anthemic power ballad at the end, which more than adequately conveys the image of unsuccessfully trying to square her personal circle.
She’s a classy artist who never fails to deliver top quality work.
Siv Jakobsen (Norway) title track from album Gardening
The title track, ‘Gardening’, is so replete with allegory it should be played over the tannoy at the Chelsea Flower Show. Her attempts to weed him out, again and again, are so obsessive that she alternately prays for flood and drought; anything to get him out of her hair.
He “floats out from the depths, from the deep”, like one of Stephen King’s drain-inhabiting clowns, “just to prove that I’ll never be free from you,” and when she looks over her shoulder, “You’re still over my shoulder.”
It’s all a little eerie but played spryly and in a slightly distracting fashion.
Red Cell (Sweden) – We will be birds tonight
The final product is both listenable and danceable – a combination not easily achieved – and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t turn up in coastal vacation clubs across the Mediterranean this summer.
I’ve also said previously that it wasn’t difficult to identify ‘elements’ of a host of 1980s synth pop bands apart from Erasure in their work but with this song they’ve shifted much closer to nailing their own unique sound, one which I’m sure will become more recognisable still as time goes on.
Ivan Blomqvist (Sweden/Norway) – Jonas
You will make of ‘Jonas’ what you will. But there’s no arguing that the Grammy-nominated Mr Blomqvist continues to establish himself as an important, and innovative writer in the nebulous, fluid crossover jazz, fusion, synth, pop fields where Norway continues to establish a global reputation.
Tiny Hawk and Bizzarro (Finland) – Yorokobi
I’m not sure what to make of it. There’s so much experimentation going on that it switches between a Japanese sound, a Caribbean feel and what could be something from The Tornados or The Shadows in the 1960s and that’s just in the opening bars. As it settles down the 60’s theme is cemented and in fact there’s a bass/drum riff about halfway through from that era that I just can’t place but you’ll just know it when you hear it.
‘Yorokobi’ translates as ‘joy’ in Japanese and that’s pretty much what it amounts to, unadulterated delight. A very pleasant tail end of the year surprise.
Among Lynx (Sweden) – Lola Luna
The guitar riffs from Eva-mi Ringqvist are mean and moody as if Uma Thurman just drove into town with only Bill on her mind while Elin Öberg’s harmonica, which sounds like a second guitar at times, wouldn’t have been out of place in ‘Rawhide.’ (You’ll have to Google that).
What really stands out though is when Eva-mi launches into a mini vocal solo. She really does soar, up there with the eagles, never mind the lynx.
Dig Valley (Norway) – I had you
Musically and vocally, it’s dreamy in nature and there is still a sense of the 1980s about it again, especially in the expressively whispered vocal and multi-tracking, but that dreaminess plays second fiddle to an air of anxiety that is there from the start.
Eirik is a skilful songwriter and has racked up over five million streams in total on Spotify from his previous collaborations, several of them ending up on New Music Friday Norway and Indielista this year.
That quality shows here.
Felisia Westberg (Sweden) – Hymn
The album requires deeper study than World Cup Quarter Finals permit me to bestow on it. I selected ‘Hymn’ as the sample track simply because it was the one which caught my attention even more than the others. It’s a sumptuous piece, seven minutes long and replete with a melange of stringed instrumentation, built around a beguiling vocal.
It may not be particularly religious but the ending, which features a wandering synthesiser melody, is a heavenly transport of delight.
Jonas Sjøvaag (Norway) – NINETEEN
It’s straight out of a 1950s Hollywood epic, starring Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly. And classy. Very classy.
And then to top it all there’s a stonking sax/piano duet in the middle that’s worth the admission money on its own.
Ljug Aldrig (Sweden) – Seashells
I often say this but it is a song that requires much more than a casual listen. I suggest you give it the once over, then ponder on philosophical dualities for a while why you have a smoke, and then come back to it again. There’s a lot going on here and you’ll appreciate it much more the second time around. And subsequently.
Oh, and as a bonus, the strings are provided by the excellent Hanna Ekström, who has appeared a couple of times in NMC this year (with Vera Vinter).
And the bonus – The Golden Chamber from Tarja (Turunen), from her latest (although now three years old) album ‘In the Raw’ who recently appeared in Manchester on the delayed album tour and sang a solo/piano version of this wonderful composition.