Review Summary: For every verse, a painting is made and for every chorus, the production is drained.
What is ‘Indie Pop’?
Is it stimulated from the lack of air time on radio play, resulting in the recently butchered word ‘indie’? Or perhaps it’s popular music that is independent... This is neither. It’s Denmark’s Oh Land! The stage name of Nanna Øland Fabricius and this is her new, self titled album ‘Oh Land’.
The album begins with ‘Perfection’, which swims like brushes of air into your ear and nests itself comfortably in your head. The lyricism, though simple is vivid in compiling a passionate love story with either self or perhaps another.
‘Who would've known that I could conquer your heart
by reflecting in someone else
And who would've thought that I could
comfort your heart, when I can't recognize myself. ‘
It appears Oh Land has taken refuge within someone else and this entire song swells against this story with a beautiful production with powerful drums and harps that float alongside, which eventually crumbles into a short breakdown before once again; hitting the chorus before the song ends with a sunset of violins.
The song is humble enough never to speak to you as the opener of the album. It’s a short coming however as it sets a rather limp opening with little to offer other than angelic ambience.
‘Break the Chain’ takes its title and hammers it to pieces with clichés that reflect the very imagery you would expect; lack of movement, restrain and pain. It’s all too familiar, though vocals are appreciatively emotional; how they scurry like mice in your mind but never leave any hooks.
Which is quite the first thing that struck me with Oh Land’s self titled album, it lacks any real impact. Even though I’m a firm believer that subtlety brings greatness to songs, too much of it can make one feel empty that is exactly how this album is concluded: empty, it enters your mind for the time you take to listen to it and once it is over, leaves nothing in return.
This conclusion is a shame as Oh Land is a wonderfully produced album with a terrific vocalist and beautiful, aesthetic music that paints gentle pictures in your mind. However, these pictures melt once the music stops.
The song ‘Human’ is a perfect example of these unfortunate blemishes. It powerfully intrudes your mind with courageous beats and a playful keyboard that stammer within oceans of violins against Oh Land’s vocals and then a powerful raining guitar slams onto the chorus but above a verse chorus structure, we have no genuine impression left. The hook is drenched behind all the production. Either that; or was simply never made. This is evident in Oh Land’s song writing in general. It’s almost a safe comparison to say that this is evident in modern pop music. It is loud but when hushed and stripped down to make any valid point; comes up speechless.
‘We Turn it Up’ is by the book with this example, opens with the howling of the song title, then simmers down to a rather habitual representation of the original statement. As playful and charming as it is, nothing emitting from this song can protect it from the lack of any genuine point. So to speak, ‘We Turn it Up’, along with almost every song on the album seem to exist just to make an album. In this track’s case; this is the happy one, to make the tense tracks that little bit more suffocating.
The exception from this ‘by the book’ pop record is the ending ‘Rainbow’; it’s a rather quirky number that trots along like a psychotic rabbit on a rainbow. Dressed with chimes and handsome vocals croons with a trickling cringe of the words
‘You can make it click, making me pop’
Oh Land shows her vocal stylistics off perfectly in this track. Never forcing it but at least making them evident. Though songs of such genuine solid structure and writing are too few in numbers, in fact almost non existent with this exception. It makes the track a pure stand out both musically and writing capabilities, not one or the other.
To sum up Oh Land; The album is a constant tug of war full of shyness and insecurity. At one moment the production will silence Oh Land from speaking and leaving a vocal impression; be it in the form of hooks or in the form of quality lyricism and at other times, when Oh Land is ready to speak; she struggles to leave an impression, where the music sits in anxiety waiting for its turn.
I can't really say much else that hasn't been said about numerous records that fall flat from the same problems, what I will say is: Though the production and musical performances are beautiful and picturesque, it is simply not enough to shake off the blotches of paint that the song structure and writing produces. With such a distinctive vocal talent; comes song writing that never lets it grow and though Oh Land’s self titled album opens the colouring book for a possibly wonderful career, for now ; the hooks are far too few and the songs are far too empty to justify colouring those wonderful pictures.