On his debut album, ‘Nicotine Bunker’, Swedish-Icelandic singer-songwriter Freyr delivers a somber awakening with his radiant indie folk. 

The best albums share one common trait regardless of genre or year or the artist’s nationality: the songs elicit an emotional response. This explains the lasting global appeal of The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, and Bob Dylan. Their timeless messages – from All You Need Is Love to What’s Going On – resonate with listeners as much today as when the songs were written. Music fans return to emotionally rewarding albums because the artists are not simply entertainers. They are guides whose lyrics and melodies comfort our hearts and enrich our minds.

As we emerge from a year of uncertainty, music feels especially important. The artists who help us navigate our post-pandemic world with revived optimism are likely to join the ranks of those icons. The best albums of this era will help replace anxiety with hope. One new release from a rising Scandinavian star does just that, offering exactly what listeners need now.

The debut LP from Swedish-Icelandic indie folk artist Freyr matches this time of awakening. Nicotine Bunker delivers the renewal of spring with the radiance of summer. These eight songs showcase the talents displayed on his 2020 debut EP, I’m Sorry, and firmly establish Freyr Flodgren as a voice for these times.

Nicotine Bunker casts its hypnotic spell with the downtempo opener, “Avalon”. Between the mellow rhythms and the hushed vocals, listeners have little choice but to sway along. This track was one of the album’s earliest singles, so longtime fans have had time to absorb its exquisitely crafted layers. New fans may be surprised at how quickly they become entranced with Freyr’s sound.

That state of bliss flows into the tender ballad, “Surveilling Sky.” Here the spirit of Nick Drake provides the compass by which Freyr explores themes of nature and love. It is perhaps the most romantic track on the album, marked by gentle acoustic guitar throughout. The minimal production captures the intimacy of this celestial serenade that delivers more than just a reminder to breathe. Serenity permeates every note as he sings “Under amazing stars, here we are” and continues on the title track.

“Nicotine Bunker” evokes warm summer breezes fragrant with night-blooming jasmine. This is what separates Freyr from most singer-songwriters who take a straightforward lyrical approach. His songwriting style brings listeners into the moment with him, directing their focus not to the obvious but to the ethereal. Where ordinary artists might sing about a campfire, Freyr captures the crackle of burning embers with his guitar and conveys its warmth with his voice. His music steers your gaze towards the beauty of nature – the lushness of forests and the canopy of stars above. His inspiration from the outdoors translates to peacefulness in any language. 

The track “You Want Love” will tug at your heartstrings with its stirring instrumentation while the cheery tones of “Modern Ages” brighten every landscape. Freyr has a talent for creating catchy hooks that linger with you long after the song ends. “I’m the soundtrack of your gaze” is one of many smile-inducing refrains from this album. Even the instrumental album closer “Departure” prompts an appreciative sigh. These songs pay tribute to the beauty in the world and all who seek it. Nicotine Bunker is a refreshing experience from a remarkable artist worth knowing.

Nicotine Bunker is out on Nettwerk Records and available from these links.

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