A powerhouse is emerging in Norway, and its name is Sløtface. While the band formed five years ago, these indie stars began to truly shine in the spring of 2016. That rise made them one of our artists to watch in 2017. This year, they’ve seen their popularity extend across Europe and slowly trickle across the pond. Outside of Highasakite, Sløtface are Norway’s biggest things, and their debut album will only add to the buzz.
Try Not To Freak Out is an unstoppable force, and it’s one of the year’s most exuberant albums. Eleven songs are packed into a tight 32 minutes of exhilarating indie rock and power pop-rock, leaving few moments to catch our breaths. As great as the boisterous, addictive music is, front woman Haley Shea’s songwriting is the star attraction, and she’s firmly established herself as one of the industry’s great storytellers. Every single song is an adventure, referencing ’70s and ’80s pop culture, or is a trip down memory lane. In some cases, it’s all of the above, such as on the album’s blazing and anthemic opener, “Magazine”.
As her bandmates – Lasse Lokøy (bass), Tor-Arne Vikingstad (guitar), and Halvard Skeie Wiencke (drums) – blast vintage ’90s alt-rock riffs and rhythms along with the “woo woos” in the background, Shea unleashes her inner Liz Phair and takes on how women are often viewed as sex objects by men and mainstream media. “What the hell is an IT girl anyway”, she asks before stating how “Patti Smith would never put up with this shit!”
A coming-of-age, early ’90s vibe emanates from “Galaxies” as Shea shares her desire to find stability and to start a new life. She lushly sings:
“I’m craving the normalcy of discussing banality and craving a new routine
I love hearing your voice on the phone
This is taking its toll.”
Sløtface show their ingenuity on “Pitted”. The song is an exhilarating ride that combines late ’90s alternative indie rock with ’50s-era jitterbug pop. The blast of horns are infectious while the guitar and rhythms blast from the speakers with fiery intensity. Involuntary jumping and dancing is surely to ensue on this anthem for a generation of young women who want to be themselves. On “Sun Bleached”, which is one of the rare catch-your-breath songs on the album, the band break out a Wolf Alice-like tune. Like Ellie Rowsell, Shea provides a number that restless souls (and those looking for a new start to their lives) will find relatable.
The mid-tempo and rambunctious “Pools” is a fantastic analogy of how people have no concept of personal space and privacy and how being considerate is now a pastime. Throughout the song, Shea shares clever vignettes (“In my pool someone is always swimming in my lane“) and later describes people’s recklessness, “In my pool someone is always bumping their head in the shallow end, running with glass and doing flips where they should stand”. In many respects, the song is a Darwin Awards account brought to music.
The groovy “Try” is akin to the knee-bouncing indie pop-rock of Black Honey and Anteros, and Shea’s storyline is out of a John Hughes movie. Speaking of pop culture icons, “Nancy Drew” is the inspiration on this edgy tune that blazes with ’90s post-punk. Shea captures the spirit, intelligence, and courage of the popular female sleuth – but instead of going after criminals, she’s breaking down the walls of the male-dominated music industry.
The melodic “Slumber” is a surprisingly intimate affair that has the entire band recounting their friends of past and present. They reflect on late-night sleepovers and watching movies like Pretty in Pink, The Ring, and Grease. The lines that stick out the most, however, are: “Even as a child I know that I’ll never have friends like these again.”
The album closes with the riotous “Backyard”. Check that; the song is an absolute party and also extremely funny in a Pavement kind of way. Channeling her inner Stephen Malkmus, Shea describes some of the band’s crazy antics at home. They’re mischievous, sly, and even a bit reckless. The track, however, is more than just a bunch of young people enjoying themselves. It is also a celebration of life in general. Shea hollers, “We are adventuring in our backyard”, to demonstrate that there is more to life than our cellphones. More importantly, memorable moments are just around the corner with great friends. For Sløtface, they’ve created another memory in Try Not To Freak Out, but it is one that we get to enjoy and cherish.
Sløtface are Haley Shea (vocals), Lasse Lokøy (bass), Tor-Arne Vikingstad (guitar), and Halvard Skeie Wiencke (drums). Their European tour is underway, with dates and information available here. Hopefully they will make their way overseas very soon.
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