In The Silence
One Little Indian
You know, I shouldn’t really like this at all – for, straight away, my ears took this in as if some cosmic trickery where Jonsi had ditched the Hopelandic nonsense, borrowed Ed Bagley Jr’s version of a Scandinavian accent and recorded his own version of that first Bon Iver album.
It feels odd to write that and want to use it as a positive – a compliment; that’s the sort of reaching-for-smart-ass comment I’d trot out in a 200-worder dismissing something. It should be the sort of sound I’d run a mile from too – but it remains an accurate description of much of the sound of In The Silence, the second album from Iceland’s biggest-selling new artist. Yes, sales of this record have outstripped Bjork. Madness, in a way, for there’s nothing all that exciting about this record – it doesn’t have the artiness that a Bjork or Sigur Ros album (for both better and worse) seem to always have embroidered into the soul of the album. This is, essentially, a fairly straight little pop album with that stretched-into-falsetto male voice that brings people on big-time, whether it be Mr Bon Iver/Vernon, a bit of James Blake or the Thom Yorke of Atoms and that other little combo he’s known to knock about with.
Asgeir is Asgeir Trausti Einarsson, he’s in his early 20s and he started making waves – reaching a wider audience – when he toured with singer/songwriter John Grant. It seems Grant, wasn’t busy enough making one of the best albums of 2013 – he also had some hobby-translation on the cards and so this second album from Asgeir is actually the debut record he made in Iceland but with Grant’s English-language lyric translations.
There’s something in the way Asgeir approaches these songs – the rawness and vitality of the early Kate Bush records, the surprises, the idea of magic floating just above and around the tune.
And he handles that folk-bursting-out-into-anthem shtick with aplomb, where Mumford’s lads and the fleet of Foxes over-egg and sound false there’s a wholly believable energy here. There’s also lovely twists and changes in the shading, in the push and pull, the surge and then the falling away into a softness. Torrent might even sound a bit like Mumford and Sons, but, somehow it works. In part that might be because, immediately after, Going Home, feels like Jose Gonzalez and James Blake fashioning a pop song from the last vestiges of modern folk music.
Head In The Snow is like Bon Iver fronting The Album Leaf, and then songs like In Harmony show a pureness of thought, a vitality in the aim of a simple goal, to communicate sweet melodies, to mean no harm, to seek for the heart of a song.
I probably still should hate Asgeir – or rather dislike In The Silence. But I find myself reaching for it. To break up the silence. To add a little magic to some moments in the day. I love the feeling of jubilation that seems to come stamped into the very essence of this album. It’s curbed my cynicism, anyway.