I doubt there are many people reading this who have heard of Icelandic solo artist Sóley Stefánsdóttir, so allow me to introduce her music to you. Known simply as Sóley, she is a multi-instrumentalist and talented vocalist who is also a member of the Icelandic indie-folk seven-piece called Seabear.
‘We Sink’ is Sóley’s first full length record away from her natural Seabear habitat (pun intended) and is essentially an experimental take on the ‘anti-pop’ genre, which combines elements of art rock and also avant garde (think The XX without the electronic beats and bass lines).
The album starts off with a collection of the more accessible songs on the album. ‘I’ll Drown’ is predominately played on piano, whilst percussive loops drive underneath Sóley’s quiet and beautiful voice. For ‘Smashed Birds’ she switches to the guitar, creating easily the most commercial orientated song on the album, with traditional pop song structures and melodies, whilst ‘Pretty Face’ adds swells of atmospherics and snare drum rolls to the formula.
The bizarre storytelling in the acoustic ‘Bad Dream’ is layered with echo effects and is the first of the more experimental tracks. Most of the tracks on ‘We Sink’ are fairly minimalistic; Sóley’s dreamy words and sounds in ‘And Leave’ are supported mainly by a sparse drum beat and a series of droning keyboards, whilst ‘Blue Leaves’ and ‘Kill The Clown’ are essentially duets between Sóley’s vocals and her accomplished piano playing.
Her lyrics are polar-opposites from the all too usual chart-topping themes of love and sex, instead she opts to write about fantastical stories including an imaginary evil rabbit featuring in ‘Bad Dream’, defeating a rampaging clown in the aptly named ‘Kill the Clown’ and a strange house on fire in ‘Theater Island’.
The trilogy of ‘Fight Them Soft’, ‘About Your Funeral’ and ‘The Sun Is Going Down I’ are the three weirdest tracks on the album, each making heavy use of eerie sounds, atmospheric noises (reminiscent of Steven Wilson’s Bass Communion side project) and vocal effects. The first and last of the mentioned songs are essentially strange musical interludes and although they provide interesting listening, they are not really necessary and if anything they break up the flow of the album, instead of improving it.
Regardless of these flaws, both ‘Dance’ and ‘The Sun is Going Down II’ are fantastic songs, both built around supremely memorable chorus melodies, supported appropriately with moody atmospherics, piano motifs and more of her rough percussive loops. ‘Theater Island’ concludes an altogether excellent and highly experimental effort, which despite the frequent indulgence in bizarre (sometimes absent) musicality, Sóley still manages to form an album of charming and ultimately successful cuts. I look forward to her future releases.
- ‘I’ll Drown’ from ‘We Sink’
- ‘Dance’ from ‘We Sink’
- ‘The Sun Is Going Down’ from We Sink’
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