The Nordic Mellow (Caroline)
Yeah, I know. “The Nordic Mellow”? What is this, a chill out compilation featuring Scandi soft pop hippies and acoustic-toting hairies packaged for the Mothers’ Day market? Next week, Nordic Pissed: beer drinking songs of the renaissance.
Maybe the name was chosen to obscure the fact that rather than “mellow” songs, this is actually an album of folk or at the very least folk-leaning music. Egads, folk music? No one buys “folk” music. No one under 50 anyway.
Well, Laura Marling might disagree. And that’s not a name chosen at random as the Norwegian Siv Jakobsen at times here sounds unnervingly like the English Marling, vocally and structurally.
There’s Crazy, with its closely-miked acoustic, resonant upright bass and high, fluting voice emerging from deeper-voiced verses; Berry & Whythe, conversational but lightly tripping vocals and a melody almost in counterpoint to the rhythm; and the urgency and momentum of Shallow Digger alongside the steady dispassion, despite the circumstances, of Not Alone.
But there’s also a less worn Karen Dalton in the free-formed vocalising over strings in To Leave You and Change, something more in the about-to-fly-off Joan Baez camp in Like I Used To,and even a touch of the oddly-shaped turns of the McGarrigles in We Are Not In Love and the spooky Space.
Just as it is worth setting aside the awful album name, it is worth letting go the Marling comparisons as any kind of criticism because Jakobsen is a genuinely interesting young writer with the promise of more and better to come.
This holds as much for her lyrics as her music and phrasing. She offers metaphor-laden lines such as “But now you’ve dug yourself a hollow in my garden/So you can swim in darkness/And I’ve placed myself beside it/To hold your hand if you come out” as well as direct ones such as “I hate you now, but I am silent/Hoping that you’ll change”. And both ends seem drawn from personal roots.
Whether they are or not personal doesn’t matter; that they feel driven from within is what counts. As is the fact that whatever it says on the packet, Jakobsen is not offering anything merely mellow here; there’s a bit more going on in the shadows.
You know, Nordic-style.