I don’t know how Scandinavian countries do it, but they seem to be producing artists that, not only have something that is emotionally engaging and entertaining, but also have the musicality to bring these sounds to life in a way that audiences from other countries can relate to. Having a voice as crisp and clear as a Scandinavian stream doesn’t harm your chances of appealing to a wider audience either and this is what Norwegian singer Anne Marie Almedal has.
Her latest album, Lightshadow, is a collection of strong songs with good musicians and on repeat listen constructs a world of fantasy, of misty lakes, dense forests and the atmosphere of a Brothers Grimm tale. I don’t know what it is about the current crop of artists from Northern Europe, but their music seems to reflect the landscape, the wide expanses of land and bodies of water is somehow soaked into the music giving the feeling of space and calmness but with an undercurrent of danger and darkness.
The album starts cold, simply Almedal’s haunting voice reaching out to the listener, but soon we take a slight change in direction and you’re greeted with a full band, drums and percussion building a drama that carries on throughout the album.
On the surface her brilliantly ambient reworking of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ is a woman declaring her love but, beneath the surface, is a story of an intense love, of possession with a side order of obsession, the music is always dramatic but always engaging, strengthening this feeling that all is not well in the forest.
‘Sheltering Sky’ is possibly the stand out track, its undoubtedly the most accessible and wouldn’t seem out of place on any commercial radio station, clever rhythms by the bass sets up the song wonderfully and is worth a listen even if the album isn’t tempting you. ‘Travelling’ has hints of Christine McVey’s songs for Fleetwood Mac with it’s blend of strength and fragility all controlled by that haunting voice that guides the music like a torch through the darkness.
If you want something a little more atmospheric than a straight forward folk album, an album that pushes at the borders of what the image of a female singer/songwriter is, then grab a warm coat and take a walk through the dramatic audio landscape that has been crafted here.