Much has been written about Briana Marela‘s sophomore album, All Around Us, mostly about the Seattle native heading to Iceland and working with Sigur Rós producer Alex Somers. There’s no question that Somers’ imprint can be heard on the album, as the post-rock/electro-pop is glacial in pace yet absolutely stunning. It is a sound that is truly Icelandic, recalling the beauty of Björk, newcomer Axel Flovent, and, of course, Sigur Rós.
But lost in the commotion and excitement of this collaboration is the dichotomy and fantasy that is heard on the album. On the one hand, there is a sense of excitement about the unexpected – about a person traveling to new destinations, new experiences, and falling in love. It could be Marela reflecting on her experiences or those of others, but the serenity with which she sings on “Everything Is New” is unmistakably autobiographical while the stuttering pop opener “Follow It” is a yearning for adventure.
It is on “Friend Tonight”, however, where the appeal of a new beginnings and taking chances comes out most clearly. Within the song’s first few notes, Marela sings about breaking away from the solitude that has governed her life, “I force myself to go out tonight / Get on my bike and go outside / To leave the safety of my room / To take a chance on what could be new“. The sparkling and lush “Surrender” is the outcome of opening one’s mind to her new surroundings. It is finding unexpected and unconditional love, and the song’s lyrics are fueled by the sensual beats and Marela’s voice looped in the background to add another texture.
At the same time, there is a longing for the familiar, of places lived and people loved. The hymnal ballad, “Dani”, accentuates the feelings of loneliness and lost. “Take Care of Me” may sound romantic, but it is a calling out to someone dear who is not near. “Further”, with its distant quality in sound, is the emotional roller coaster of being away from home, torn between what was and what is.
Tying these two competing feelings is the album’s title track. “All Around Us” speaks of love and hope, two things that unify us all. On this track, Marela is at her most innocent and idealistic, clinging to feelings spoken in storybooks and myths. The elongation of each note on the song adds to the enchantment, drawing the listener in to Marela’s fable. It is this through this prism that Marela takes us for nearly forty minutes, traveling down the rabbit hole and into a world that is lush, gorgeous, and brilliant to behold. Even in the most loneliest moments there is a light that Marela shines, one of opportunity and memory.
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