Seasons in a Day
Seasons in a Day is available at:
November 20th, 2013
IT is not often I get to look at serious issues when it comes to musicians…
When reviewing acts, I spend a lot of time investigating the artists themselves- rarely does anything away from music come to mind. Today, and with regards my featured artist, it raises new themes and something important. In addition to looking at transgenderism and how it addressed (in the music world) I wanted to look at inspiration and how the voice can change everything- finishing things by looking at musical transformations and developments. Over the course of several years- the length of writing this blog- I have always just reviewed a band/act and left it at that. Even if the music has been great- which it often is- that is where it is left. I never look at anything deeper or discuss social themes at all. Yui Karlberg is a transgender artist that has had to fight to get her voice heard. In a world where it is difficult enough getting the music heard and favoured: Talking about subjects like transgenderism is even more challenging. In a so-called ‘modern world’ there are still conversation points that are seen as taboo or awkward. People are not nearly as open-minded and accepting as they should be (not everyone, but a lot) and it can create a lot of anxiety and upset (for those affected). When it comes to transgenderism, a lot of people tend to skirt around the subject. It is always really depressing and angering watching people close their minds and not embracing humans the way they should. It baffles me why areas such as transgenderism, race and sexual orientation still have to fight stigma and repression in 2016. We have come a long way in some respects- with regards technology and science- but when it comes to emotions, human development and awareness: Are we as ‘human’ as we could be? Far from being unusual or strange, transgenderism should not be an issue at all. If a person wants to change their gender and become who they are supposed to: Why should there be any problem with that? Perhaps the general population are scared by something that is slightly different or foreign to them. Maybe we all get used to a perspective of ‘normality’- or what we define it to be. Anything hat rests outside of that definition scares us. It is a problem of human-kind that we are not as accepting and loving as we should be. Whether transgenderism is wholly accepted and embraced in society- unfortunately, we may have to push a lot harder- I am not sure. Where it shouldn’t be a problem- and should actually be seen as a massive positive- is when it comes to music. My featured artist has shown bravery and a lot of courage in her life. Looking at transgenderism, it is not something that is being addressed by music media and the press. While there are quite a few artists in new music who are transgender: The only mainstream role model we have is Antony Hegarty. We should valorise musicians who are transgender and not see it as an embarrassing thing to discuss. It is hard enough having to live and succeed in life as it is: If you have to fight against people’s narrow-mindedness and prejudices, it makes things a whole league worse. Hegarty is an artist who has come out in the press and stated he is a transgender artist. In early interviews and features, Hegarty started how she struggled to identify herself and has wrestled with demons. Hegarty is a female artist that has a distinctly male voice: This is something that scares people and they cannot understand it. Maybe it asking too much for humans to fully change their perceptions and ideals of normality: I plea that in years to come we will see transgenderism addressed and discussed in very positive tones. With the likes of Hegarty inspiring legions of musicians coming out, we have something terrifically starting. By talking about the topic (transgendrism) it is seeing other musicians come through and talk about it. Yui Karlberg is someone inspired by Hegarty and his fight. Not only compelled by her (Hegarty) amazing voice and distinct sound: The way Hegarty has embraced and realised who she is has motivated Karlberg to talk more widely about transgenderism and how important it is. I shall not labour the point too much- we are here to talk about the music, alas- but I am pleased something other than music comes to my attention. Before I move onto new topics, let me introduce Yui Karlberg:
“Sometime way before March 2012, Yui had heard ‘Skinny Love’. A song written and produced by Justin Vernon aka. Bon Iver. She then purchased his debut album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ and she was hooked…
She had been playing songs and performing under the stage name of Miss Interpreted for about a year and then in January 2012, she thought she wasn’t getting anywhere and called it quits.
For 2 months, she was mentally somewhere else…in a zone searching for the ‘new sound’ referring to an episode of hit UK comedy ‘The Mighty Boosh’.
She was tired of singing in a voice that everyone else around her seemed to be doing. She was tired of playing guitar like most other people do too. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
Then she remembered a song of hers called ‘Unspoken’ that she wrote back in 2005 in DADGBE tuning (standard tuning is EADGBE).
For those of you who don’t know and it’s not such a big deal , but it is relevant for this biography…is that Yui is a transwoman…which means she was born male but lives, talks and does anything else that most women of her own age do.
So bearing that in mind, she remembered about Bon Iver’s vocals and used that as an inpiration to sing ‘Unspoken’ in a falsetto/high voice.
After a few singing lessons, she tried it out at a local open mic and people wanted to hear more.
She was astonished!
Shortly after, she worked out how to play chords in that tuning and wrote ‘Endless Journey’ ….
Her debut album ‘YUI’ was released mid 2012 via iTunes. It has sold over 200+ copies.
Since then, she has recorded a second album ‘Beauty Within the Beast’ which is by far her most popular yet and this is what transformed her from an ambient folk artist to the electro-pop artist she is today”.
As Karlberg is inspired by Antony Hegarty; it brings to mind the relevance of having a stand-out voice. The voice is not just an audible representation of your music: It is the dynamic, personality and spirit of the music you are performing. While lyrics and composition hold a great cache: The voice, to me at least, is the most vital aspect of music. A lot of musicians still undervalue the vocal and do not give it enough originality and power. Karlberg has been compelled by a range of artists but Hegarty is someone very important to her. By that same token, Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) has also been vital with regards moulding her sound and music. If you consider those two musicians, you have deeply atmospheric and bold vocals. Hegarty has that operatic and transcendent low: Capable of rising to a delicate high, it has enormous grace and peculiar allure. Hegarty is seen as one of most singular voices in music history: Karlberg possesses some of Hegarty’s wonder and etherealness. When I Am a Bird Now as released- the 2nd album from Antony and the Johnsons in 2005- critics noted how metaphysical and otherworldly the record was. The multi-octave vibrato tackled themes like love and loneliness with new life and light: Few artists before have made these themes sound so new and heartbreaking. Karlberg has that ability- to turn everyday themes inside out with a powerful voice- but plenty of beauty and tenderness too. With Bon Iver’s lead being an idol- and that unescapable voice defining every song- you get themes of isolation and struggle being addressed. Whilst the aforementioned artists address darker themes and battling the odds; they do so with unique beauty and wonderfully rich and engrossing songs. Karlberg is perhaps a little less haunted than some of her idols: The songbooks contain a little more celebration and positivity. That said, she is keen to make the songs stand out and get inside the head. The voice can make any song sound essential if you get the blend right. A lot of artists either come off too powerful and wayward- those Pop idols whose force of nature approach can fatigue quickly- or ridiculously slight and passionless. Karlberg is one of those musicians that has a perfect blend of sky-scraping and intimate. Having begun as a Folk artist in the early days- no doubt enforced by the likes of Bon Iver and the sound of For Emma, Forever Ago– Karlberg is playing Electro.-Pop with less introversion and more layers to it. While those early years showcased songs with intense emotion and a stunning originality: What we have now is perhaps something more layered, accessible and uplifted. That is not saying the music has taken its heart away from beauty to embrace something commercial and insincere: Seasons in a Day is perhaps Karlberg most arresting statement and demonstrates a songwriter with an arresting voice and plenty of years yet to come.
Having spoken about how Karlberg has developed and changed as an artist; it is worth looking back at the early sounds and how the music has come on. Yui is a song released a couple of years back- when Karlberg was starting to make her first impressions- and showcases a wonderful musicianship and tones. You get a mix of deep and beautiful vocals- that come together beautifully and purely- and a song that has plenty of punch and drive. A personal statement and summation of musical influences- Thai sounds and Pop music alongside Folk- you have a performance that is engrossing and stunning. Personally open and with some familiar tones- you get a bit of Antony Hegarty’s wonderful timbres- it is a solid and confident song.
The Ghost of Love is one of Karlberg’s most celebrated songs- the debut single from her- and demonstrates new direction and purpose. The vocal has a huskiness and depth that gives the subject and lyrics the emotion and relevance required. Needing instruction and guidance- how to love and be “your lover”- there is that calling-out. Whilst friends are procrastinating and not helping; our heroine sings to Romeo and puts her heart out there. The track has an addictiveness and catchiness- that Pop energy with a chorus that cannot be ignored- and you have a song that is short but very sweet. It is no surprise the track has gained popularity and a cult status among fans: It draws genres together but its central themes of desire and acceptance are relatable and very human. It is an honest and heartfelt song from a musician that shows a step forward and natural evolution.
Restless Mind is another track that shows a jump forward and sea change. Whilst Karlberg has always been an artist with innovation and quality in spades: Here, we get a song that seems to be one of the most urgent and direct tracks to date. Released last year, the song’s title is repeated over hard beats and a Dance-cum-Electro.-Pop composition. While earlier numbers have been more Folk/Pop-driven: On Restless Mind, we get something that could be destined for the club dancefloors. It has that pounding and relentless energy that gets people united in dance and voice. A pumping and daring- bangin’ and hard-hitting- you get drawn into the vibrated and echoed vocals. Tender piano notes mix inside quivering electronics- a daring mix of ideas and sounds- to create a song that has so many layers and nuances. A bona fide club classic- something that has the drive and ambition from ‘90s Dance music- it is a song that stunned me upon first listen. Such an authoritative and confident song- Karlberg sounds completely lost in the beauty and headiness of the music- you have a song that demands multiple listens. The quirky-cum-accessible composition drives a vocal that documents a restless young woman who is struggling to overthrow anxiety and troubles. Perhaps my favourite song from Karlberg- one of those that just hits you and does not escape attentions- it proves what a varied and stunning artist she is.
That range and forward-thinking approach will make any future E.P. a tantilising proposition. It would be great to see songs like Restless Mind kick things off; a bit of The Ghost of Love with Seasons in a Day. With those three songs you get a varied lyrical bent- love and anxiety sits with uplift and hope- whilst the compositions switch between tender introspection and out-and-out swagger. I cannot wait to see Karlberg release a solo effort this year- I know she is busy with band music and performances- but there is so much promise and variation. The music has universality and it would be wonderful to hear the songs played more widely across radio. Tracks like Seasons in a Day and Restless Mind could alternately play across Radio 1 and 2- the former being suited for that audience; the latter for theirs- but the truth is, the music could easily slot into any radio station. There are no walls and divisions in the messages and compositions. Seasons in a Day is one of Karlberg’s proudest achievements and one of the most personal statements from an artist with a clear sense of identity and strength.
Seasons in a Day has gained a few listens across SoundCloud and YouTube- to my mind, it deserves more attention and views- but the social media crowds have been keen to highlight a track with a terrific consistency. From the early notes you get recollections of a young Nick Drake and his haunting refrains. The acoustic guitar finger-picking and notes put me in mind of Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later. With its pastoral/Folk elements, there is a nod to Karlberg’s earliest days and her love of acts such as Bon Iver. Without a word being evoked, you are transformed somewhere scenic and befitting of the song’s title. The seasonal and changing sound- the introduction gives impressions of summer’s warmth and the grace of autumn- puts your mind in a better place and makes you smile. Not only is the guitar playing exceptional and original- few guitarists give new ideas and room when it comes to acoustic introductions- but it is impressive to hear Karlberg completely in control and lost in her music. There are doubts and questions in the early stages of Seasons in a Day. The central character- whether Karlberg is using herself as the heroine in the song- has been walking road for years and trying to find who she is. Filled with doubts and concerns- her mind struggling to find truth and happiness- there is that quest to overthrow negativities and discover happiness and truth. With friends around her- who are meant to eradicate the doubts and fears- there seems to be a lot of confusion and fear early on. Perhaps Seasons in a Day refers to the way a single day can go through various stages- the cold and uncertain to the positive and light-baring- and that balance of beauty and heartache is perfectly represented early on. Karlberg has said- when she began music in 2012 and had doubts about it- the need to break away and show a voice that differed from the masses- she grew tired of singers sounding like everyone else and not being original.
That passion for individuality and personality shows itself in a vocal that has enchanted beauty and wonderfully rich harmonies. Whilst the elliptical and arpeggio guitars have Folk tones- and can be easily compared with masters like Nick Drake- the vocals draw in the Chamber-Pop of Antony and the Johnsons with the intrinsic transcendence of Bon Iver. The mix of sweet and low notes fuse together naturally and augment and emphasise the lyrics. You get swept inside the wave-crashing harmonies and the stillborn beauty they contain. At every turn, I get the impression the song is autobiographical- or at least has a lot of Yui in it. The girl- the central figure of uncertainty- is trying to find a voice and a sense of satisfaction. Seemingly a “bit distant”- perhaps struggling to find acceptance with some and fighting hard- there is that heart and determination that comes through. Ascribing some loneliness and soul fallowness- a heart that is not beating as fast as it should- it is an emotional performance that compels the listener to surrender themselves to its purity. That mix of low and higher notes creates an odd sort of beauty: You do not hear many singers with such a range, so as such, it may take a few listens for the vocal to truly resonate and seem natural. Karlberg is a singer that can inject the soulful beauty- everyone from Antony Hegarty to Jimmy Helms- whilst having that sweet and agile side to the vocal. If you take away preconceptions and embrace the vocal in all its wonder: You will find so much joy inside Seasons in a Day and what it offers. As the song progresses, more insight and storyline is revealed. The heroine- in spite of the distance and aloofness at times- is okay and doing fine. The song seems to look at the way some people can change moods and attitudes within a day. Some days can throw so many obstacles and unexpectedness: We all have to face uncertainty and difficult times. At the end, everything will be okay in spite of the troubles and strife. With that calming and trance-like vocal swimming and calm against the ocean; the consistently impressive guitar work keeps the heart beating and the soul enriched. The blend of fast and consistent strings- against the slower and more emotive vocal- gives Seasons in a Day a wonderful contrast and identity. That sense of not knowing whether “she’s coming or going” is reintroduced and highlights the confusion the heroine feels. Perhaps some friends have not been supportive as they should- some people not truly understanding- but it is those that are loyal and loving that eradicates the confusions and loneliness. Seasons in a Day has a lot of Karlberg in it- that desire for acceptance and belonging- but has such a universal and open-ended potential. So many of us feel distance and struggle- whether depression or anxiety or feeling lost- and we all seem to go through a rigour of emotions. The track assesses and highlights the desire for comfort and safety: Overthrowing those negative people/thoughts and finding a more assured and safe tableaux. The breath-defying beauty of the song keeps pervading until the final notes. Such gentility and softness partners with a deep and conscious song that wants you to think deeply and understand what is being said. Whether I am off the mark- with regards the origins and true nature of the song- it struck a chord with me and really seemed to speak for me. With that heroine in the spotlight- whether it is Karlberg herself or a friend- you look at someone that has some bad times and shadows- in the end, she will be okay and find her way.
When Crowded House addressed similar themes- in their track Four Seasons in One Day– they address how contradictions can occur within a day. The bed could feel cold while the blood can run hot. Whether personal relationship- or struggles with the self- are in the fore: You can go from elation to sorrow; change to numb and angered over a single day. Karlberg’s seasons-of-uncertainty track has more personal relevance to it yet has an openness and need to connect with the listeners. Looking back at Karlberg’s tracks- her early recordings and head-rush anthems- you have an artist that is always moving and has a restlessness. Karlberg has released some tremendous albums over the years- including YUI and Beauty Within the Beast– and seems at her most assured and stunning here. Whilst I love other songs she has done- Restless Mind is a song that deserves huge acclaim- Seasons in a Day seems to tie together Karlberg’s past and present together with her musical passions and ideals. On a lyrical basis, you get insights into a human that is on a path to discovery and seeks happiness. Whilst a day can see seasons change- friendships and support capricious and nights cold- there’s a well-being and security to be found. When we look at the vocal, you have the inter-gender range and beauty of Antony Hegarty. The hit-you-in-the-gut lower notes elicit different responses to those high-pitched and angelic notes. When blending together, you get a mixture of debut album-era Antony and the Johnsons with more current and contemporary Pop sounds. Bon Iver is an idol of Karlberg and you get that intimacy and frozen beauty that can be heard across For Emma, Forever Ago. Whilst Seasons in a Day is not as isolated and hermetically sealed as Bon Iver- the oblique lyrics and little concern for personal insight and narrative- Yui Karlberg is more direct with the lyrics and a more confessional musician. With 2016 promising productiveness and new music: Seasons in a Day is a confident and memorable song from one of music’s most important stars.
It has been a good review for me, because I get to look at things besides music. While Yui Karlberg is a great artist with a big future, she has made me connect more deeply with transgenderism and how important it is. Not many people talk about it and it is not one of those areas that is addressed in the media. Whilst others fight to have transgenderism discussed and accepted- in should already be; such is the way of the modern world- the music media needs to do more. I shall bring Antony Hegarty back in- she seems the most relevant artist with regards this point- and how transgenderism is being fought and highlighted. Back in 2012, Hegarty was interviewed by The Independent and explained his shock with regard’s the attitude of the press. She stated how interviewers talked (euphemistically, in her words) about the anatomy and were very forward and insensitive. Whilst it is great to hear about the person behind the music: Hegarty feels the media does not take golden opportunities to address bigger issues and talk about transgenderism in a positive and human way. That de-humanisation and (often, degrading) way of speaking seems callous and hugely immature. Like schoolboys snickering in the playground: It is shocking that such normality is seen as taboo and abnormal. While it may not be widespread- with regards the amount of transgender people in the country- that does not mean to say it should be overlooked and derided. Hegarty explained how she had become accepted- not the case with a lot of peers and friends- and how there is confusion between transgenderism and transsexuality. With terminology and definition being muddled and confused: Is it any wonder transgender artists feel such anger and alienation. Hegarty explained how that alienation (for her at least) can lead to positives: Make you a stronger person and that growth-through-pain experience leads to great things. Karlberg has brought transgenderism to my mind and given me a platform- however small or under-subscribed- to address this point and ensure other people open their minds. There are over 10 million transgender persons on the planet- that number is growing as communities and countries become more accepting- and it is vital musicians promote transgenderism and transfeminism to de-stigmatise it. In a later interview- recorded in 2014 by Flavorwire- Hegarty spoke candidly about how the word ‘he’ was an invisible pronoun.
By calling (Hegarty) ‘she’ it gave validation and identity: Something that is lacking and shows ignorance in some people. Yui Karlberg is an upcoming musician that is keen to keep the topic burning and ensure it is discussed. Not just having the words ‘transgender’ and ‘transfeminism’ on her bio; she promotes it and compels other to discuss it too. That is a brave and noble move from a musician that wants people to think deeply about something that is important and very personal. There is still that reluctance to ‘accept’ transgenderism: Karlberg is going a long way to ensuring attitudes change and we all become more open-minded and human. When we look at the music; there is so much to recommend and point to. Whilst Karlberg has been performing a string of intimate gigs- smaller venues and crowds- that is not to say she has niche appeal and a small fan-base. Those fan numbers are growing and spreading by the week. That loyal core promotes her music whilst new appreciators are coming in and discovering a rare artist with a definite future. Seasons in a Day is a perfect representation of what Karlberg is about and how effective she is. I am not sure what the plans are for 2016: Whether there will be a new E.P. or a string of singles will be unveiled. Inspired by Thai music- not surprising given Karlberg’s heritage- and modern artists like Sanitgold and Rhianna: You have an artist that is very unique and should inspire many others. That central voice has the depth and glorious power of Antony Hegarty and Justin Vernon but is capable of a special intimacy and universal passion. Those distinct contrasts and blends feed into music that is affecting a lot of listeners. Based in Bournemouth, it would be great to see Karlberg perform a few gigs in London- and travel around Britain- and amaze the crowds here. I feel Karlberg will have a prosperous year and showcase a lot of great songs. Before completing it is worth readdressing the importance of evolution and vocals in music. If you have a very special and powerful voice- which Karlberg does- you are much more capable of reaching a wider audience and ensuring your music is remembered. The mainstream has too few genuine singers who stick in the memory. There is too much disposability and featherweight vocalists around so it is always pleasing discovering a singer with a lot more depth and ability. Karlberg is a musician that wants to get people talking and ensure the music is allowed exposure and consideration. An artist that is difficult to compare with anyone else- one of the most unique I have encountered- that success and evolution is no happy accident. From the early days as a Folk artist- and compelled by heroes such as Bon Iver- the music has transformed and grow into stunning Electro.-Pop moments. Those Folk elements still remain: The songs are broader and more urgent; the vocals more assured and affecting- everything has improved and grown. That growth may have resulted from confidence and acceptance- lots of fans and supporters embracing Karlberg and the subject of transgenderism- but I feel like she wants to get more people converted and talking. Take some time to discover a musician that possesses a fantastic sound a consistent songbook. The pleasures and moments you can take from Yui Karlberg make it all worthwhile. She is an artist that addresses the wider world- universal subjects come into the music- but is keen to look at personal growth and feelings. In a world where there are still too many narrow and close-minded people; we all need to do more to ensure attitudes change and acceptance reigns. Whilst transgenderism may be a subject that will take more time (so it is properly accepted) one thing you cannot ignore…
IS the power of Yui Karlberg’s music.
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