Despite much of popular music focusing on creating catchy tunes with standard arrangements and repetitive choruses, I’m still convinced that we are in the midst of a great era of not just songwriting but storytelling. The emergence of artists like Courtney Barnett and Natalie Prass, are evidence of this, and the past week we bare witness to some of the great songwriting albums of the year. Whereas Mothers crafted gripping, haunting stories, Quilt took us on a lifelong journey, and School of Seven Bells wrote the most extravagant love letter you will ever hear, Norwegian singer-songwriter Anne Lise Frøkedal – or simply Frøkedal – has done something different. She has essentially created her own fairy tale with her splendid debut album, Hold On Dreamer.
Hold On Dreamer in a word is enchanting. With the surreal, ethereal grace of Enya, the engaging pop overtures akin to Cat Power, and one of the most stunning and captivating voices around, Frøkedal weaves a magic spell through each of the album’s ten songs. We are left in a state of hypnosis, feeling like we’re drifting in space and completely lose any sense of where we are. Despite these drifting feeling and the slight loss of consciousness, there is an understated sense of urgency felt in the music, as if we’re chasing someone or something.
This enchantment, as well as the chase, begins immediately with the breathtaking anthem, “W.O.Y”. It is a song that feels like a memory, one that we are trying to recapture but the moment is fleeting and disappearing from our grasp. On the soaring “Cherry Trees”, which is filled with some terrific strings, the chase intensifies, with Frøkedal emphatically proclaiming, “I’m going to get you”.
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Just as the plot thickens, a sense of hope comes rushing in. “The Sign” exudes this epiphany with its booming percussion and horns, the striking of the piano keys, and Frøkedal’s roaring voice, which takes on a Florence Welch quality. It’s the album’s most emphatic song, a symphonic-pop tune that reflects those of the aforementioned Chan Marshall (Cat Power). But like all great fairy tales, there is fear and even terror (“Misery”), which are later followed by a glimmer of hope (“Dream”). All choices, though, are mixed with exhilaration and regret, and the soothing “Don’t Look Back” brilliantly captures the internal strife.
Every adventure has a time of reflection. The majestic “Kid” sees Frøkedal slightly change things up, moving more towards an electronic-driven tune and away from the traditional, classical instruments. It is Frøkedal’s clever way of telling us to embrace the past but to always look forward for the future is rife with possibilities. Time is fleeting, so, as she proclaims, “Who cares what you did?”
And by the time the closer “Eclipse” arrives, we are left with that satisfying feeling every great story leaves us. While this may be a fairy tale and even fantasy, Hold On Dreamer feels immensely real. But then again, like every great storyteller, Frøkedal’s hero isn’t Cinderella or Pinocchio, it is us.
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