A release from late this summer that may be grossly overlooked is ‘ocean’ by Yaeger. A dreamish debut single she wrote while feeling tired of Instagram. Tired of how we strive to mimic the perfect facades people build. ‘ocean’ is Hanna Jägers vehicle to tell us about how glamour and fame do not have to equal happiness.
Tripping Through Time is a blog series where I *mostly* follow the book ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’ by Robert Dimery. This is my experience listening to most of these albums for the first time, and my reflections upon them as a Scandinavian millennial.
Being a Swede, I don’t think I’ve been exposed to Frank Sinatra outside of the Christmas compilations my parents used to be playing during the holidays. Though his voice is so distinct I feel like I’ve been listening to him sing all my life, and I very much have, but through movie soundtracks. The latest instance of this being twice in Blade Runner 2049.
Listening to this album is quite exciting for me as I’m just scratching the surface of the Great American Songbook. ‘In The Wee Small Hours’ is also one of the first concept albums, focusing on lost love, depression and introspection. In an era where albums tended to behave more as collections of singles.
I instantly fell for the album art, the way it conveys the overall feeling and mood of the album by illustrating Frank holding a cigarette while contemplating the very things he’s woefully singing about.
Not having actively listened to any music from the 50s before, I’m definitely surprised to how timeless these tracks really are. Sinatra’s ability to portray emotions may be unparalleled by anything I’ve ever heard before. It seems these songs are often called ‘Ava Songs’, as the album came about shortly after his separation with actor Ava Gardner.
It’s late October, and as I’m listening to the rain outside trickle against my windowpane I’ve begun pouring myself a drink. I sit myself down comfortably in a room lit only by my computer screen. I remind myself of the fact that it is October and I still haven’t listened to the Maggie Rogers EP. I press play and the chirping of crickets fill my room. I realize there is no better setting for listening to this music than the one I am currently in.
I’m transported as I close my eyes. Taken to the hiking trails where Maggie has exercised this song effortlessly so many times. As the sun sets, her ethereal voice fills the void and the sky burns in a warm tint illuminating the landscape.
After spending time abroad in France, the eyes of Maggie Rogers opened to the fire and passion of dance music. This sparked the interest of incorporating the upbeat and catchy dance rhythms into her own music while staying true to her roots. The product is ‘Now That The Light Is Fading’, which is a lovely tale of change.
Listening to this EP in its entirety is a wholesome experience, it’s a summarization of where Maggie starts off and where the last few years have led her. The introductory track ‘Color Song’ is about the light transition and color shifts that occur naturally in the wild. To us, the track also serves as an introduction to Maggie and her background of having released two full albums independently as a folk singer.
“I wanted to make dance music, or pop music, feel as human as possible.” – Maggie to Alex Siber
As you progress through the release, Rogers find creative ways of making the music she previously had trouble connecting with, very much her own. By capturing samples of birds and noises during her hikes and making a place for them in her songs. They add a deeper layer to a genre that would otherwise be separated from the world from which she stems.
What I adore about this entire EP are the lyrics, each track tells an individual story which together makes up an important story arc of Rogers life. This is to me, the greatest gift a singer-songwriter can bring to pop music. Lyrics which are of personal importance to the writer are so much more endearing to listen to and take in.
Maggie has this September completed the story arc with a previously unreleased song, releasing it as a single. After a crazy year with tons of touring, ‘Split Stones’ is her parting gift. To give herself time to reflect upon who these experiences have shaped her into, to then be able to create music based on the result of her musings.
I feel like ‘Split Stones’ is the culmination and endgame of the story she began telling us in that studio session with Pharell at NYU. Even while being a dance track to its core, it’s filled with samplings from an Oregon hiking trip. Among them a sample of her exhaling which helps create a sense of buildup throughout the piece.
Stylistically Maggie Rogers has carved her own unique niche within the dance and R&B genre. Given her initial success, I’m excited to see what kind of influence she’ll have over the genre as a whole going forward.
Even though she is due for an upcoming Spotlight article once her debut EP hits on the 27th of October, I thought we’d take a sneak peek. So who is Lilla Vargen?
Looking at the name you’d expect her to be Swedish or at least Scandinavian. But to my surprise, she is actually based out of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Though like others have stated, the name which translates to ‘Little Wolf’ manages to flawlessly capture the essence of her voice. And how her vulnerability and sincerity shines through.
Lilla Vargen was a mere blip on my radar two years ago when she released two demos in quick succession. Among them, her own take on Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘Don’t Forget Me’, along with an original over piano called ‘This Is Love’ found here.
At the end of last month, I felt blessed to hear her voice once again in a brand new production. ‘Hold On’ is a single and the title-track off of her debut EP, surfacing this Friday the 27th of Oct. The song tells the story of one of her close friends falling in love only to be let down. It’s about investing too much of yourself in another person without seeing any returns.
While reading into the lyrics, I find the longing for love, the hopefulness of having a fling flourish and blossom. How easy it is to cling onto the likable pieces of someone, and realizing there’s nothing there once the initial spark has faded away.
A staggered instrumental that starts us off with some ever so gentle acoustic plucking accompanied by Vargens tender voice. It works its way up to a powerful last verse by adding piano and drums. It succeeds in creating a very familiar setting for its narrative.
Knowing more Lilla Vargen is to come, I’m super excited for this week’s New Music Friday.
Some of the greatest and most moving pieces of music have come in the wake of tragedy. Washington based songwriter Phil Elverum began Mount Eerie as a solo project in 2003, and nearly a decade and a half later, Phil is still dedicated to the project, releasing the eighth studio album of his storied discography. Earlier this year, ‘A Crow Looked At Me’ shook critics and fans alike, it set a new bar for how music can connect with its listeners. All in the wake of the most traumatic event of Elverum’s life.
‘A Crow Looked at Me’ is a concept album that ponders and reflects on the death of Phil Elverum’s wife, Geneviève. Facing emotionally tearing obstacles involving his wife’s passing, Phil shows us his heartwrenching and honest perspective on facing death while reflecting on life without her. A Crow Looked at Me is an immaculate processing of the emotions Phil went through and is conveyed beautifully with acoustic and often skeletal background atmospheres. Phil’s ability to weave metaphors into a narrative that is painstakingly real garners my respect to a great degree.
‘Real Death’ was the first single to the album, and woefully throws a wave of sorrow over the listeners. The track, ‘Ravens’ is a song about memory and trauma, and the way they change in the wake of unthinkable sadness, something relatable throughout the rest of the project. A Crow Looked at Me is truly one of the most touching albums I know and is a contender for one of the best albums of the year.
This year has breathed life into quite a few interesting pop acts, but a personal favorite is definitely Sigrid. As she has shown incredible versatility on her debut EP release ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe‘. And continues to impress live with her radiant energy and passion. Just check out her performance on the Norwegian radio station NRK P3 below.
The title-track ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is an anthem for anyone who has been looked down upon or treated wrongly, something everyone can undoubtedly relate to. The track drags you along for the ride in one fell swoop, empowering the listener. The hype of hitting shuffle and having this come on is real.
“I find it easier to write about stuff that is frustrating”
– Sigrid to The Guardian
In ‘Plot Twist’ Sigrid tells us about getting over someone who couldn’t live up to the hype built up around them. It’s an interesting track that flaunts more playful vocals – even rapping in the chorus, all over a dirtier instrumental. As she also tells The Guardian she is impressed by Stormzys fast rapping and how she tries to integrate this into her own tracks. I won’t be surprised if we see some Sigrid x Rapper collaborations in the future as a result.
“‘Plot Twist’ is about finally getting over someone. I wrote it with Oceaán, consisting of twins Henry and George. They came all the way to Bergen, and we had so much fun!”
– Sigrid to DIY
I am super excited to see what Sigrid gets up to next, it’s certainly difficult to not get swooned by her positivity. If she continues to act and expand upon her interest in rap she’ll definitely have earned herself a diehard fan right here.
It might be hard to keep track of all the new acts coming out of Scandinavia at the moment, as Sigrid is only the tip of the iceberg of talent I aim to shine a light upon in this blog series. She is definitely someone to look out for though.