❉ The magic is right here, in the Norwegian duo’s clever, esoteric and eccentric second album.
Forget the Freda Payne connections, this is a band that sounds distinctly and freshly modern. Even the 1920’s reverbed track Into The Void has a distinctly post-millennial feel to it, fresh, hip, electronically antiquated, Nina Mortvedt’s vocals as cathartic as they are fatalistic.
The Norwegian duo’s newest piece is an album that takes the forms of pop and throws them away with laconic beats, gentle dynamics, but potent songs of eerie and threatening content. Their self-titled debut made astonishing noises at the Nordic Music Prize (winning the coveted prize, while being nominated for a Norwegian Grammy in the process, a critical darling across the music presses) and while Where’s The Magic can’t quite compete with its superb predecessor, it does feature enough moments of pop pleasure to merit buying.
“I could spot you at a 100 miles” Mortvedt cries on namesake track, more warning than longing. Chic-inspired Where’s The Music is distinctly lonely in sound, however uplifting the pseudo-nineties backbeat dresses up the optimism. Well Who Am I, however existentially titled, still sounds poppy, a stadium Debbie Harry track for keyboards. Nikolai Eilertsen brings a distorted semi-motif that sounds austere and accentuated on a tune Mortvedt described to PopMatters as “a quick look at how the brain works when in an obsession, making the smallest of details significant and amazing. It’s the yearning and irrational passion that you never get to live out.” It really is that cerebral in sound.
Look At Me has a more traditional structure, a song Mortvedt sings from the bottom of her gut, the self-revelatory tones of chanteuses Nico and France Gall here. It’s Mortvedt’s finest performance on the record, naked to the waspy sounds of the microphone as she sings of fading into the floor, as jazzy as Dusty Springfield, as desperately sincere as Marianne Faithfull. Incredible singing.
The album has an occasional entry into the portentous and pretentious, Away With You especially guilty of too many ideas in a track too short to bring justice to them, while synth opener Bring Back suffers from gross over length. There’s also no denying that there’s a little too much of what sounds like auto-tune on Mortvedt’s voice (she’s strong enough to hold a melody without the aid!). But when ideas work, they work beautifully, none less so than on the gorgeously eighties sounding I Wanna Dance With You Again, a pleasant return to the aura of classic eighties 45’s (Since Yesterday, Moonlight Shadow, Bette Davis Eyes, Little Lies), though graced with a sheen distinctly modern sounding, Eilertsen’s zenith as producer on the album (Eilertsen is a fine musician, previous studio credits include Todd Terje, Elephant9, and Susanne Sundfør). “There’s a hand around my heart and it’s tearing me apart,” Mortvedt sings, as haunting as anything Stevie Nicks ever concocted.
It’s clever, esoteric and eccentric; much as music should be. This is an album that oozes in sound, saddens in lyrical content. Take a rest from Freda Payne’s soulful longings; give this a shot.
❉ Band Of Gold’s new album ‘Where’s The Magic’ out March 23rd via Jansen.
❉ Eoghan Lyng is a writer, part-time English teacher and full-time lover of life.