Sunday, June 19, 2011

Galvanic Elephants

You remember that drunken night in Feburary in Genialistide Club? Yes, probably I wouldn't remember too if I hadn't hear the sound of the new band called Galvanic Elephants. They started in late August 2010. Their first single came out in December 2010 called "Rum Rumble" which made them famous in the underground music fanatics (which you all, I'm sure, are so you know who I'm talking about) who did not need a long time to hear from them again. As then, in May, they released their first effort "B Side" EP where are five songs.

Well, you know the feeling while walking in the dull metropolis which seems to be dead until you enter to the abandoned factory where is the silent disco. This is the feeling. As music gives the opportunity to enjoy the party alone you don't need the music to connect you all. No. This is so 5 minutes ago. Now we have i-pads, which let us enjoy music everywhere. Then, please, lets not be surprised when somebody starts dancing or waving heads in the street, maybe in Rüütli street, or even worse, in Ülikooli street, as I probably would do the same while listening them.

Although, at the same time, it's not the classy old-school dance music as Galvanic Elephants have the pulse of electronical music, sense of futuristic sound and can be heard influences from Holy Fuck and Liars. Their music is very masculine but can be as gentle as men while drinking beer which emphases their dominating. Despite their youth (they are all under 25) their music is very wide-ranging and strong. Soloist's (Taavi-Peeter Liiv) voice gives an interesting tinge as it is used only occasionally. I usually prefer sounds instead of singing so they get the point for that.

They have said out loudly that their first video for the song "Moonstruck" can be seen in the beginning of July as they don't take a minute to breathe. So it means that much patience is not needed. It seems that these four boys (Kaido Paapstel, Gert Look, Taavi-Peeter Liiv, Mihkel Ronk) are about to catch the cloud they're following and beginning to ride on it. They will not have a minute to take a walk back to their old life as thay need to get contact with the cloud they are on by making a hard work.

Now, it's time to look (or why not to listen?) all the songs. Firstly, looking them all together their variety is notable as all the songs have different breathing and can feel totally complex-free approach to the sound. On the one hand it can be the cause of their youth as they haven't the certain face to keep alive yet or they have very wide bailiwick of their musical expression. We'll see. They mix fragments together very naturally as in manufactory people add pieces to get something new. New it surely is, but also sounds very familiar while hearing a song for the first time.

Rum Rumble by Galvanic Elephants

Nevertheless, it is cool to see that boys are brave to experiment with their ideas of music and following the ideals from above not from the world they are living in. Although they speak the language of their epoch as it can be seen the logical evolution of their music, it can be seen as the superior way to speak about the certain epoch people are living in by creating new relations between fragments that are used. Through these pieces world become one among many which all are the results of expressing their understanding of music and life.

They have the futuristic feeling inside and have left us with the few songs which teases people to wait for more songs of their. So don't be sad if you missed their first concert in Genialistide Club as they will have them more in the nearer future. But until then you need to be patient, which is easy, ofcourse.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Foo Fighters “Wasting Light“ by K. F. Felt

The first news on Foo Fighters releasing a new album this year did not get any decent reaction from me – probably a few new pop-rock tunes to hear from “alternative“ radio stations and surely a nominee for the next MTV awards, but nothing more, thought I, shrugging my shoulders and closing the newsletter. As someone once quite fitly said about the Foo Fighters: seeking a thrill from their album is like trying to find the artistic value of “Desperate Housewives“ – you do not turn it off when it’s playing on the background, as it does not exceed to annoy you; you sometimes, when it’s on and you’re bored to death, even watch an episode or two but you would never imagine yourself dashing to the cinema to see the new movie or be willing to sacrifice hours of standing in line to get the collectors’ DVD. Well, that’s what I thought of FF before „Wasting Light“ as well.

There are numerous true gems on the Foos’ seventh album, ranging from ripping thrash-punk tunes to gloomy ballads which are all neatly delivered to the eager ear. The neatness, perhaps, being usually a turn-off considering mainstream alternative rock groups, seems to be the key element bringing this album to a whole. Despite the lability of style, the guys know how to master their instruments and yet again, less being more, as they carry the album perfectly out by keeping it professional and -- simple.

White Limo, being an absolute favourite of mine, shocks the listener with rampant killer punk-metal riffs and amazing screamo-vocals from Grohl, backed with Hawkins’ blastbeatish pulse and nearly squealing guitar riffs. Not to mention the ingenious video shot up looking like a 90s home video / an over-the-top “Jackass” sketch, where the clearly intoxicated Lemmy from Motörhead drives the band round LA with a white limo.

Offering some serious competition for the best track on the album is the tear-breaker I Should Have Known, a heavyweight confessional piece dedicated to Grohl’s suicidal friend (sidenote: not Cobain!). The murky jam with Krist Novoselic on bass and accordion takes you somewhere cold and damp, into hoplessness and solitude through a magnificent hypnotic play of notes and rythm.

The chart-conquering Rope performs well over expectations as well. There are no signs of a boring 4-chord Foo Fighters’ sample hit, as the track has more to it than the headliners of their previous albums have all together. Rope starts out with a brilliant minimalistic intro (with late downbeat drop-in – something you’d expect from e.g Incubus) and a catchy combo of verse and pre-chorus with a clever funk to it, combining it all to a cute energetic chorus perfectly suitable for a love song as the lyrics tell. Followed by a ravishing drum solo, the song has it all to make waves among an avid Fighters’ fan as well as any other melomaniac.

But then there’s a whole bunch of songs that are kinda a bore. Back And Forth, for instance, succeeds horribly well in mimicking Jon Bon Jovi and highly-praised Alandria brings me the shivers – clearly not the good ones – as the chorus associates to me only with Õllesummer and Jaagup Kreem. But hey, no good without bad, right?

Yet another disappointment strikes when I realise that in addition to the good and the bad that tend to go hand-in-hand there are several other tracks that have received comments such as “typical FF”, “Times Like These vol.2”, “standard crowd-pleaser” and “stadium material”. Counting the pros and cons, it vaguely starts to show that the not-that-pleasant songs drub the gems by far, making them more like the rarities of the album than the overall look to discribe Wasting Light as a whole.

So is it true that I’ve been brainwashed by the media in the most obvious sense? Seems so, for hearing that FF is recording an album with Nirvana’s producer Buch Vig (Nevermind) and guest appearances such as Novoselic and Bob Mould (Hüsker Dü) plus the fact that the whole album is recorded in Grohl’s garage on analog tape got my dribble running and imagination afloat. Nevertheless, the album is definitely a step for the better when keeping the fact that we’re talking about Foo Fighters in mind. Let’s just hope the next LP will keep a similar upwards line and in a few years, Grohl & co will have the label “pop rock” shaken off of them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bombillaz “Uus usk” (Superbandiit Records) by Saara-Nette Tõugjas

When on a sunny summer day I ended up listening to Bombillaz` concert, I was quite amazed by the performance. I had heard them before - from the radio. It was quite random "reggae stuff" for me and it did not touch my soul in any way.... but in front of the stage I felt somehow connected with the music, lyrics - the general positive vibe they had- and I started to really listen.

In the music of Bombillaz one can find elements of folk, reggae, ska and dub — everything from African tribal styles to Oriental pop. To broaden their musical horizons and obtain new inspiration several of the musicians visit regularly various exotic cultures. The band consists of talented musicians - vocalist Kill Kaare aka Kill Baba (also plays exotic drums) , the master of Indian tablas, the drummer Arno Kalbus aka Ornu Maharaj, vocalist Silver Sepp (also plays mandolin and clarinet) , percussionist Allan Prooso, bassguitarist Tanel „Kass“ Liiberg and guitarist Martin Matt.

The tracks are full of cheerful, entertaining and relaxed mood. The oriental feeling is created with the mandolin, clarinet, exotic drums and of course with the very eastern way of singing.

I really enjoyed the "Vaigust nukk" where slow movement is created by a groovy leading bass line and enjoyable drums. This track also holds a deeper and stronger message if you start to listen. They say "Do not get stuck in things you don`t need because life is too short!". The other track I also love is "Halileela" because of its almost meditative vocal part (at least for me) which gave me a ... feeling.

"Siit mina tulen" is the only track I do not like from the album. Okey, I can listen to it. For a little bit. But too happy, too energetic, too ska for me. This too-happy-sounding tires me out. Although lyrics again carrie a strong positive message which we all can relate to, I think.

All in all I can say that it is nice to hear world music in our estonian language. The rhythms and vibe of this kind of music are great! It is a bit unbelievable to see that some of the Nordic men have the same vibe and rhythm in their blood. A strong side of their music is a deep, a bit hidden and layered message which is accompanied by groovy music. They have made a hole album full of nice, relaxed, professional and positive music. Although I have to say the album in my cd player is good... it is even better when it`s performed live.

Linkin Park "A Thousand Suns" by Madli Sepp

Linkin Park is an American rock band from California, USA, which was formed in 1996. The band has released four albums and has had tremendous success with each one of them. The first album went Diamond and multi-platinum in several countries followed by three more albums that all topped the Billboard charts. The last album A Thousand Suns was released in September 2010 and was no exception when it comes to success.
Linkin Park plays alternative rock/metal, mixed with rap and hip-hop and has succeeded to adapt these genres to a radio-friendly style.

A Thousand Suns can be classified among those certain kind of albums that follow a specific theme throughout the album and carry a deep message. Although it received great feedback, many long-time fans were not so eager to listen to it, because the band had done something totally new and less conventional. The theme of the album is strongly political and talks about the human kind’s biggest danger – nuclear war. It is an album that must be listened as a wholesome packet, so to treat every song individually is somewhat pointless. Although, the album does contain tracks that can be listened separately, the full effect still forms when they are listened in the given context.

The lyrics from the first introductory song: "God save us, everyone, we will burn inside the fires of a thousand suns" make a dramatic start. The second song, being only 3 seconds longer (2:01), is an interview with J. Robert Oppenheimer. This pattern of speeches occurs also in Wisdom, Justice, and Love with a speech of Martin Luther King, Jr and in Wretches and Kings where the speech belongs to Mario Savio.

The third song Burning in the Skies is a first full-length song that carries a mellow mood and nice piano sound. Fourth song, Empty Spaces is again a sequel with 18 seconds of chirping grasshoppers, gun shots and distant shouts. Fifth song, When They Come For Me, is the most Linkin-Park-like-song with pristine drum sounds and rap that truly kick-starts the war theme and sets the right mood. It is followed by Robot Boy, with stunning piano intro; and although all these amazing sounds take you instantly somewhere else, one should still not forget that alongside these fearsome tunes, the lyrics are definitely worth listening to for they have truly gone the whole way when writing them.

The sixth song Waiting for the End is probably the most famous one from the album, for it has been played on our radio stations for months and is apparently the most radio-friendly song, with catchy music and lyrics. What distinguishes it from other songs is also this fake impression that it’s a positive song when it actually talks about, as the title itself says, – the end.

However, this positive impression does not last, because the gloomy sounds, combined with speech sequels are back to stay. It’s also nice to hear Chester Bennington’s famous scream in Blackout and see that their old style is still remained. So: “Fuck it Are you listening?”

The culmination of the album is definitely The Catalyst. Here the epic lyrics from the first intro song are heard again, but with the most effective electronic sounds. And just as the emotions are in the highest point the album suddenly ends with the last song The Messenger which light guitar sounds leave you kind of uneasy and...waiting for the end.

A Thousand Suns is definitely not an album full of fa-la-la-fa-la-la songs that you can listen to make your car drive more fun or sleep more peaceful. Linkin Park has made something remarkably different and REAL. This mixture of genres accompanied by deep lyrics may not suit for everyone, but if you want to gain something more from music than just a background sound, than this album is certainly worth listening to.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

8in8 "Nighty Night" by Kristi Kaldmäe

What do you get when you put Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Ben Folds and Damian Kulash from OK Go into one studio for 12 hours? A brilliant six song album.

Their idea was to try and create eight songs in eight hours with the help of prompts from Twitter and to stream the whole creative process online. Thus 8in8 was born. The experiment was prompted by them all agreeing to appear at a conference discussing the impact of internet on the music industry called ReThink Music. Suffice to say, even if they did not reach their goal of eight songs it still is a testament to the major role of networks like Twitter, YouTube and Bandcamp as opposed to labels and high and mighty corporate people like it was a decade go.

Obviously because the whole writing and mixing process took only 12 hours the songs are not perfect but they are all charming in their own simplistic way. With a professional writer aboard, and the god of fantasy at that, you can at least expect a slightly macabre quality to the lyrics and Gaiman does not fail to deliver. Although they have stressed that all the songs were a collaborative effort there is a distinct feel to some songs.

Nighty Night starts with the slightly aggressive Nikola Tesla sung by Amanda Palmer. It is very reminiscent of The Dresden Dolls, carrying the same punk cabaret feel. Making a song about a scientist is always a good move to get into my graces and making it a love song about Tesla, everybody’s favourite mad scientist, that is definitely a winner.

From physics and love the mood moves to the parental ballad Because the Origami. With the release of the album there was a call out to people to make their own music videos for the songs and this track so far has had a video with the most controversial response. I admit the lyrics can be understood in different ways and, as it later turned out even the performers had different visions of the meaning.

The tantalising One Tiny Thing is very distinctly OK Go. The claps and the chord progression in the verse are almost hypnotic, on the one hand, lulling you into a sort of a trance yet the heartbeat of the song gives it a slow groove-like feel going through every cell of your body. Topped off with a blues piano it is every bit the contemplative answer to the prompt “A way that Love goes Wrong?”

Fortunately the whole album is not just full of sad tracks. The up-beat yet slightly macabre Twelve Line Song also known for the theme as The Squirrel Song is rather cheerful for a song that starts I saw a squirrel kill himself, he drowned in my bath. The backing vocals show that they obviously were having fun while recording and it carries, making you at least tap a foot if not manically dance around to room singing along. A bit terrible to say it but that squirrel’s death was definitely not in vain.

I’ll Be My Mirror is something of a black sheep of the album because it is the only track not written with the help of the fans on Twitter. A true story about a Chinese woman who is shouting at her reflection in the mirror, apparently a quite famous person in an area of Boston and at the same time a slight tribute to the Velvet Underground song I’ll Be Your Mirror.

Finishing the album is my personal favourite for several reasons, The Problem With Saints. It is a brilliantly witty and macabre tune sung by Neil Gaiman himself. He seems to be channelling Eric Idle with the recitative singing or perhaps it is just the lyrics giving that impression. Either way, we have to thank his rhyming skills that provided him with the word ‘hols’, forcing him to sing it himself.

For an album full of demos, as they said themselves about the songs, it is rather brilliant and to imagine how it would only sound if they had more time to mix them!

Hugh Laurie" Let them talk" by E. Paalberg

Hugh Laurie is mostly known as doctor House but already  in the serial we can see him playing the  piano and singing to himself. From the age of six Laurie took piano lessons with a Mrs Hare. He plays the piano, guitar, drums, harmonica and saxophone.  He is a man of many talents.

Now he has made a record and he is singing for all of us. His album „ Let them talk“ is smooth and simple yet interesting. His vocal is very good and it sounds that he is truly enjoying himself-he should because music suits him.And it's a bit weird that it doesn't feel like Doctor House is singing ,I mean it actually should feel like that to me because I'm not really seen a lot of his other movies or serials but when he sings it is easy to forget who is singing.Just listening some good blues that also suits rainy weather that we have here in Estonia.“Let Them Talk” is the first album to be recorded by Hugh Laurie after signing to Warner Bros Records in 2010. Produced by Joe Henry and recorded in Los Angeles and New Orleans, the album is a celebration of New Orleans blues.

All of his songs have some sort of similarity,some line that goes through them.Hugh himself thinks that it tells a story. Hugh Laurie is probably your best friend when you want a glass of wine. Song called „Buddy Bolden’s Blues“ is mellow and makes you feel like Hugh is singing next to you. Hugh makes you feel like you are not alone. Even though all the songs are covers it made me feel like they are fresh and first.

The album is quite instrumental and a lot of jamming is going on so there is something for friends of improvisation. For example the fifth song „ Battle of Jericho“ where the melody is simple, but what goes on between the lyrics makes you listen to it.
Some of the songs are collaborations with well known artists such as Tom Jones, Irma Thomas and Dr. John. Laurie plays piano and guitar on the album in addition to providing lead vocals.

The mournful "The Whale Has Swallowed Me," with its spare acoustic guitar accompaniment, is another chance for Laurie to shine as the lost, frightened narrator. A backdrop of shuddering fiddle and dobro gives the song an even more ominous tone.

Quite dramatical is the song called „Swenee River“ and dramatical in a good way. There is a strong deep start and then the party will begin but it is not the sort of party where you want to dance,it still makes you want to sit down and listen to jolly music.

So Hugh Laurie can relax your mind and take some pressure off and is a good friend from the start. He sings about everything-whales, church, friends, dancing. There is this one song „Police Dog Blues“  that just tells a honest story. It feels like everything is so real and simple so Hugh doesn’t have to make a big effort. Another good song is „Tipitana“ with a little twist that makes you love Hugh. It somehow shows his personality. But the song called“ The’re Red Hot“ is a bit too country for this album.
The last song in this album is a nice ending. It kind a refers to the name of the album and it makes you think:

“ Let them talk I’m just gonna listen to some music“.

Ellie Goulding "Lights" by Kadri Sibrits

Elena Jane Goulding was a student at the University of Kent, who one evening entered the university’s talent contest. Next thing she knows, she becomes the recipient of the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards and her debut album Lights is number one in the UK Album Chart. Quite an impressive turn of events, isn’t it?

There are many reasons for Ellie’s sudden rise to fame. First of all, a producer called Starsmith must be named, he is the one responsible for adding infectious electronic beats to Goulding’s music and thereby turning simple acoustic songs into universal hits.

However, the fact that Ellie is a genuine singer-songwriter is equally important. Each and every track on the album was initially an acoustic melody on Ellie’s guitar. Folk music is something very close to her heart, and it is good to see that she has managed to stay true to herself while creating her sound, which has been categorized as ‘folktronic’ by some music critics. What is more, Ellie has said that she is the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She finds it impossible to sing about something that she does not believe in. Indeed, underneath the dancey beats, nice lyrics can be found. Not the most exceptional examples of poetry, but they definitely strike a chord with their sincerity and authenticity. Another, and perhaps the most distinctive reason why Ellie’s songs have been attracting the attention of the music world, is her unique voice, which is naively innocent, yet has a sense of soulfulness to it. Considering the above, it’s safe to say that Ellie Goulding isn’t your typical manufactured pop princess. She has a lot more substance than that, and Lights does a pretty good job showcasing it.

All ten tracks on Lights similarly consist of a simple yet haunting melody, catchy beats and a mix of subtle nuances. At times, however, the blend seems a bit too mechanical, making the end result sound somewhat artificial. Frankly, some songs would be better in their original acoustic version, without the interference of the producers. That being said, on most tracks the concept works. The opening track of the album, Guns and Horses, kind of epitomizes Ellie’s style: it’s a wonderfully folky song that begins with simple guitar and then gradually unfolds into a classic example of electro-pop. The eclectic Starry Eyed is one of the most captivating tracks, once its echoing harmonies start replaying in your mind, they are bound to stay there for days. Under the Sheets is another standout track in which the combination of infectious beats, a haunting melody and Ellie’s mesmerizing vocals is at its best, creating a distinctively Ellie-esque bittersweet atmosphere. In the lovely ballad The Writer, elements of folk music are strongly noticeable and the dreamy vocals beautifully capture the longing in the lyrics.

Lights is, with a few exceptions, refreshing and enjoyable. Not an album from where to look for a deeply moving musical experience, yet perfect for less refined listeners who allow themselves the simple pleasure of getting carried away by a catchy pop song. It’s definitely worth to give it a go, if nothing more, you might find yourself starry eyed for a while, and when you come to think of it, what’s so bad about that?

Borges goes to Rakvere

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Dagö “Plaan Delta” by Kristiina Viinapuu

Dagö is the name of a band that every Estonian knows or, at least, has heard of. Two and a half years ago they went on a well-deserved break after having released 5 albums and a concert dvd+cd and performed on numerous festivals and summer tours in the past 10 years. But now they are back with new members expect for the backbones of the band - Lauri Saatpalu and Peeter Rebane. The fresh formation has brought with itself a fresh Dagö, which seems well rested and eager to show another side of their music without forgetting their beloved hits. The music seems to differ from the previous Dagö mainly because of different musicians playing it. Although, Saatpalu and Rebane are the same, the changes in the rest of the group have had a great influence on them. There have been constant changes in the members of the band and co-operated with other musicians like Kristiina Piperal from the Superstar Show and actresses Hele Kõrve and Eveling Pang, in the past. But what distinguishes Dagö from the others, is the duo Saatpalu-Rebane and the rest of the band contribute to their talent. Dagö at its best is by themselves doing their own thing and that is what can be found from their latest album Plaan Delta.

The album was released in the spring of 2011 but the new songs were already tested on their audience almost six months before with concerts in Tartu, Tallinn and Viljandi. I was lucky enough to see them in Tallinn, six meters underground in Hell Theatre – a venue of Tallinn City Theatre – and with those few months they have come a long way, as in December it was clear that they had been only in the studio for quite a while and their performance was greatly affected by it, especially when they started to play the older songs. But by April the new members had learned all the necessary pieces and perfected themselves to a point where the performance was complete.

The 12 tracks on Plaan Delta are all separate pieces that have blended into one unity, which makes listening to it a time well spent. I would rather to start with my least favourite track – Migreen – it is just one of those songs I have a hard time relating to. Most probably it is because I do not suffer under horrific migraines and therefore, I do not know if you do feel as if “a punch of guys trample on the attic of my asylum and they shout me into a corner, me inside my own head”. But like many songs by Dagö, this one also ends up focusing on social problems – the migraine of our society where everyone and everything seems sick from certain angles.

The title song of the album captured my attention with the masculine background vocals. It is something I have not noticed about them before, but I guess this is the first time they realised to skilfully use their musicians’ voices. The same is done in a few other songs, such as Klaipeda and Veneetsia. The focus on different geographical places is something new in comparison to the ‘old Dagö’. In addition to connecting their music to Klaipeda and Venice, they introduce Corfu and Estonia in songs Korfu and Minu Eesti. The latter seems to be influenced by the patriotism that has widely spread in the last few years. But all these place-related songs deal actually with the human nature and the different aspects of it. It is something very characteristic of Dagö, but as mentioned before they express it somewhat differently than before. Of course it would not be Dagö if they did not manage to connect the individual to the society and they find that connection by observing other people in their songs.

The most socially critical song seems to be Kultuuripealinn, which clearly refers to Tallinn being the European Capital of Culture for 2011 and it lively describes how the culture is only on the outside so that everyone can see how cultural we are. In my point of view this song justifies itself, as a great deal of this has been blown out of proposition. Festival is another critical song that is approached from a rather sarcastic angle. It is a situation that they have found themselves in for several times and likely will find again. But among all the sarcasm, there is sweetness introduced by a young girl in the front row. She is the one who lightly sways to the music and cannot take her dazzled eyes of the lead singer – a scene I have witnessed during most concerts I have been to.

The most memorable song on the album is Hakkaja as it truly binds together the masterful guitar skills of Rebane and the simple but meaningful lyrics of Saatpalu. At first hearing it at a live concert, it impressed me so much that it stayed with me for months and luckily the studio version did not disappoint at all.

Dagö – an island from where the Sun raises aka Hiiumaa. And truly the Sun has risen again with Dagö and brought new light to them. Although much seems different, it is still quite the same, but it is delivered in a different package. The album Plaan Delta clearly shows that they have not been twiddling their thumbs for the past two years, but have added new values to their renowned quality. It is interesting to see how they will continue from this point on and the first opportunity to compare the new and the old is this July when they go on the tour Plaan D with Bonzo and Tõun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Agnes Obel "Philharmonics" by Gerda Jürimäe

The Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel’s debut album Philharmonics was released in October 2010 and certified double platinum by February 2011. The record contains eleven titles of Obel’s own creation, three of which are purely instrumental, and a more rhythmic or perhaps even more dramatic and temperamental cover of John Cale’s I Keep a Close Watch, shortened to just Close Watch on Obel’s record. The length of the songs, ranging from a minute and a half to a few seconds over four minutes, is nothing unusual.

After choosing this record for my review already weeks ago, I kept postponing and procrastinating, partly because other things kept coming up, but mostly because it seemed very hard to put my thoughts about it into words. So, having had the twelve tunes on repeat for several days (and they did NOT end up making me flinch every time the first track started again – and still don’t, actually, so that’s high praise from my part), I finally decided to take Obel’s own advice and go listen to them down by the riverside.

As seems to be the case with most of my music, I found Obel via Grey’s Anatomy. When I first heard Agnes Obel, the thing that came to mind was that she is kind of the rural to Regina Spektor’s urban. And indeed, her simple and charming melodies that are dominated by the piano – for example the lovely Just So

- make me think about summer and poppy fields and – for some reason – wild strawberries. Although, this connection might have something to do with this outrageously good weather we have here right now… In any case, this is the perfect record – at least for me – to listen to on a summer day too hot to do anything else than lie around and ponder upon life.

The record starts with the shortest tune, the instrumental Falling, Catching which, with its trilling and somehow also languid piano, sort of sets the mood for the entire collection as dreamy and nostalgic. This is quite smoothly carried on by Riverside, the first “proper” song on the album. 

Having put this video here, I just have to say something about it. To put it simply, this is easily the most remarkable music video I have seen all year; my compliments to whoever came up with the idea of producing a clip that creates the air of times and summers long passed for this song. The song and video together seem to tell us of just a fragment of a story – but whatever that story is, I’ll leave for each of you to find out for yourselves.

The two following songs, Brother Sparrow and Just So, that tell of concrete, blue sky, sparrows, lemonade, the break of the day and half-awake moments really turn up the summeriness of the record. In Avenue – one of my favourite pieces on the record – Obel says in her mellow voice but, hey, we need to be somewhat foolish, feeble-minded, wrong and senseless again confirming my thought that this is a very summery album.

And if I was unsure of the fairytale-like air of the album before, then Beast definitely – with its lyrics talking of beans and beasts – made me more certain. Obel herself has said that she gets part of her inspiration from folklore and that can quite easily be heard when listening to the album; however, it is not the classic princess-and-prince-live-happily-ever-after fairytale Obel tells us, but a bit more complicated: Over the Hill speaks of longing, Close Watch of being careful and of the similarity of right and wrong, as does Avenue.

Although her melodies seem gentle and breezy, Louretta, for example, an instrumental piece – carries certain bitterness. The title track Philharmonics has the same feel to it; it has quite grim lyrics – like most original folk tales before Disney got to them – and the melody is mysterious and haunting, as if the piano passages told us something more than the lyrics. The last song, On Powdered Ground is somewhat melancholic, and if I had to pick the angriest tune from these twelve calm angel-voiced and piano-accompanied tunes, I would pick this one.

After sitting by the riverside and almost being devoured by mosquitoes, these are some of my thoughts on Agnes Obel’s first record. To those of you into the genre I call angel-voiced-ladies-with-pianos-and-or-guitars, Philharmonics is a worthy addition to your music collections. And considering that this is only her first record, I cannot even imagine what more is on the way.