PHOTO CREDIT: Sigga Ella
Surrender is available at:
Copenhagen, Denmark; Syðrugøta, Faroe Islands
24th March, 2017
EVERY time a new artist infiltrates my brain…
I am keen to find out where they come from and how their music connects. One of my biggest gripes, of the last few days, is when musicians give little information on their social media pages. I conduct so many interviews and review that require a certain degree of image and professionalism. If there are only a couple of photos on your websites then what am I supposed to do with that?! Usually, the photos are low-resolution and can be grainy. I know shooting photos can cost a bit – getting someone decent to take some good shots – but it is an essential part of an artist’s toolkit. Same goes with social media links and information: put ALL your sites (social media and music-sharing) in one place and give us some basic background – where you are based; what your music is about and who your influences are, perhaps. Get all that right – and so few are doing right now – and you are much more likely to snare interested minds. Fortunately, with Eivør, there is no need to chase and tut. She has a great P.R. company behind her and, whilst they insist on specific images for various campaigns, there is an arsenal of great photos on her Facebook page. The same due attention is paid to personal information. Not only have I interviewed her recently (LINK) but found a lot about her. I will come to her more specifically very soon but, barring a few of her characteristics in mind, wanted to look at a few other things. Eivør is based in Denmark but heritage in the Faroe Islands. Not only that but she has seen her music used in Martin Scorsese’s Silence and Game of Thrones; has a sound that has been compared to some of the most evocative and stunning female artists of the last few decades. She is, as with all great female acts, someone who deserves more opportunities and has a long career ahead of her.
In terms of the music scene in Denmark right now, not too many people know about it. When we think about that area of the world; we often consider Sweden and Iceland, perhaps. In terms of those nations, Iceland – perhaps because of its landscape and peculiar beauty – tends to foster that cool and icy Electronic sounds; inventiveness and a sound few other countries possess. John Grant is based in Iceland and inspired by the people and landscape around him. There are some great, mainstream acts coming through Iceland but something unique, mystical and peculiar seems to define the music. Sweden has a bit of that – epic, transcendent acts like Anna von Hausswolff highlight that – but still has those great Electro.-Pop acts and sunny Pop. Not the fact they are the polar-opposite of Iceland but they do sunnier and more uplifting music in Sweden. Maybe sounds correspond to the climate and people of the country: we would assume Sweden is more vibrant whilst Iceland a little more experimental and strange. Denmark is sort of in the middle of both nations. There are classic acts like Alphabeat and The Ravonettes; great Metal beats like Volbeat and all sorts of things happening there. In terms of modern music, Eivør has pointed to general sounds coming out of Denmark but there is a great scene forming right now. In The last couple of years, there has been a real explosion of terrific Danish female artists emerging; Mew brought out their L.P., Club Night and acts like Chinah and Iceage approached the scene with intent. Last year, I was pleased to see the likes of Soleima get kudos from online sites like Ja Ja Ja. She was part of the Hip-Hop collective Flødeklinikken and has reworked songs like Young Thug’s Check. Her take on Electro.-Pop is brilliantly original and bold. She is one of the hordes of female artists emanating from Denmark that have the promise to be big international acts. Liss are an Aarhus-based group setting tongues wagging in Denmark. They are synth-based but recalls sounds of the past – they effortlessly tease the present with older-days sounds. There is nothing colloquial or insincere about their music: experimentation and fragmented sounds provide something modern and forward-thinking. They are an act you want to keep your eyes peeled for.
Think of Kwamie Liv and you have a dreamy, stunning artist who has been making waves since 2014. She has been making national impressions since her earliest days but has grown and flourished the last year-or-so. Tracks like Higher and Pleasure This Pain reached over a million streams on Spotify. Through last year, she increased her fanbase and collaborated with others: more attention came her way and that all-important international acclaim. She is someone putting Danish music in the forefront and another great female artist to watch. Look at intrepid twosome Jørck and you might recall some sartorial connection with The White Stripes. The sadly-bygone husband-white-brother-sister-who-knows-either-way Garage legends decked in white, red and black – the duo keen to enforce that ‘rule of three’ and have that defined colour scheme. Although there is less rigidity among Jørck; they have similar attire and feel which puts me in mind of Jack and Meg White. Although they play Dream-Pop; they have that edge and nature that recalls the U.S. duo. Smerz is another band that have been captivating crowds with their quiet-soft dynamic: the quiet, enticing vocals and heavy production sounds. Velvet Volume, by virtue of their name alone, is an all-female trio from Aarhus that kicking up a Rock storm. Their raw vocals/guitars and attitude-laden songs have been compared with Blondie and The Strokes, Three Lachmi sisters – twins Noah and Naomi and Nataja – are still in their teens (or barely out) and have been performing around the country through 2016. This year, they are turning up the heat and making new moves. It is hardly surprising to hear Eivør sit effortlessly aside her red-hot peers. When it comes to the Scandinavian nations, I always get drawn to the female artists. The boys are good but there is something about the girls that really resounds. Not only in terms of quality and variation but backstory. Eivør is based in Denmark and feeding on a very busy and productive scene. It might not be as packed and prominent as here in the U.K. but, as the above names show, it does not mean Denmark is dormant right now.
I will come to look at the heroine very soon but will, briefer than last review (of a female artist), nod to the way changes and progression might occur this year. I have pitched an all-female music festival (The Single Voice Festival) that could be based in London – but attract foreign talent to the city. It is vital, because so many big festivals still headline male artists, to have an event that brings together women in music. It is a controversial area and one I am not going to tread on too much again. What I wanted to underline was the fantastic quality and ambition from many female artists right now. We all know the fantastic female musicians in Brain and America but that really extends to the mainstream. In terms of the new talent, there is a world of wonderful music and future stars. Media sources in Denmark have been keen to celebrate the best female talent there but (the nation) has not got too much focus from international areas. I have not seen many British magazines and sites throw some love towards Denmark – hopefully, something that will change in the coming months. What the nation proves is what an extraordinary base of artists they have. The female acts will always have to shout louder to be heard and overlooked on the basis of gender alone. Eivør has made her own opportunities and success but still deserves a lot more than she has. I know she would be welcomed here – I shall explain and expand in the conclusion. I will move on to a new subject soon but think we cannot overlook the merit and spectrum of female talent in the world of music. Ambassadorial figures like Laura Marling champion women’s rights and have spoken at length on the subject. I, as a boy, might not seem like a natural choice to protest and fight their corner but, in truth, every person needs to do their part and try and change the way things are.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sigga Ella
I have been struggling to find a reason why the big festivals are so reluctant to put women in the headline slots. It is not such as big a problem with the smaller festivals but that is not good enough. Perhaps sexism has always been part of the music industry and it is hard to improve things that quickly. To my mind, there are not really any concentrated attempts at transforming the landscape and ensuring there is not an imbalance. Maybe I am seeing it from the wrong angle but festival bookings are done on the basis of success and potential: those artists that can draw the big crowds and create a lot of hype. Here, we have Glastonbury and Reading that have some huge names on the bill. Sure, the likes of Muse will get people in but it seems like we are seeing the same artists perform time and time again. Many festivals have got into a habit of going for the obvious and commercial. If you are going to send out a positive message and prove music is equal and concerned with quality then you cannot keep making the same poor decisions every year. I mooted the like of Laura Marling would make for a perfect headline act. One feels Eivør has the armoury and songs (in years to come) to top a festival over here. Maybe her music does not have that raw urgency and hands-aloft quality but has so much power, energy and beauty. If one looks further down the poster for Glastonbury, there is more balance and some great artists. It seems a shame the big, bold type belongs to a largely male musical demographic. I will not dwell more on it and feel there are no quick solutions. Maybe it will take a few years for sexism to abate or perhaps there is an inherent stubbornness that will prevent any common sense. Let’s hope wonderful artists like Eivør are not prohibited from topping festivals bills because they are female. If we are judging on potential, talent and promise than few would argue against Eivør having her say on one of the larger festival stages.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sigga Ella
One of the reasons I would bat for Eivør is the way her music has been utilised by T.V. drama and films. I have mentioned Scorsese used her music for one of his dramas; Game of Thrones have jumped all over her. Eivør’s voice can be heard on the BBC/Netflix series, The Last Kingdom. She has already established herself as one of the most promising artists in Denmark and is being picked up by huge dramas in the U.K. and U.S. Time will tell just how far she can go. I can see many more film-makers come to her and ask to use her music. There is something cinematic and lush about her songs: you are transported into scenes and landscapes; your mind is carried away somewhere. No shock she has proved a very popular option for producers and directors. I am curious whether Eivør’s music can go even further than it has at the moment. It is obvious there is that filmic aspect to it. Maybe more of the big Hollywood productions would consider using some of her songs to score some epic scenes? Perhaps that is not something she is interested in but I can see definite room for negotiations. If one sees the video for Into the Mist – one of the reasons I was excited about reviewing the track – then you not only see where she came from (Faroe Islands) but a visual representation of her music. That video looks like a small film or Indie scene. In a sly way, Eivør is showing how her songs can be transplanted into dramas and the sort of visuals that can accompany them. Slør, which I shall talk about more later, is blessed with similar songs that have the senses tumbling and conspiring. All of this brings me to artists who recognise the natural world and atmosphere to build a musical environment like no other. I guess, if you had to select a near-neighbour equivalent then you might think of Björk. The Icelandic continues to release music – her latest video has just come out – and shows she is one of the most innovative and genius-like artists in all of music.
PHOTO CREDIT: Wolfgang Schmitt
Some of her earlier albums – Post and Debut, for instance – looked at love and a peculiar side of the world. It was not until 2001’s Vespertine that we discovered something more in touch with the natural world is such a brilliant way. Hidden Place, Cocoon and Frosti are their own little worlds: gorgeous compositions and the sound of the heroine taken us outside. Many of Björk’s tracks have taken us through tundra, forests and lakes but here, throughout that album, it was more vivid and vast. The sheer scope and views one experienced in that record continued into Medúlla and welcomed a new creative phase for the Icelandic artist. Perhaps Eivør counts Björk as an idol and connects with the way she writes and what she talks about. I am surprised few artists outside of Iceland have really taken the same approach as her. Maybe you have a few examples around the world but there is something singular about Björk. Maybe it is the way she projects or that voice: the strange and gorgeous worlds she creates are very much hers. I feel as Eivør shows, you do not have a copyright when it comes to the world around you and the natural horizon. The previous single Into the Mist has that extraordinary vista and beautiful look: investigate Eivør’s music and one can hear a connection with the Faroe Islands and the gorgeous sites and climate. That is what I wanted to talk about – went off on a bit of a tangent! I feel, as I have said, writing exclusively about love and relationships has limited interest and potential. If you get out the front door and write about the land, sea and horizon; that does not mean you cannot connect with the listener. Not all of us have somewhere like the Faroe Islands on our doorsteps but most of us can take inspiration from what is around us. Although Eivør’s new album – reworking of her Faroe-sung record in 2015 – is about her roots and where she came from; there is a lot of exposure given to nature and the land. Many here might turn their nose up at that: perhaps it is not the ‘coolest’ subject to write about. The connection to home and beginnings is and something more musicians should be addressing. Surrender builds on that and keeps its head very much in the open air – listening to the song there are raw emotions at play but you can hear a sense of space and the outdoors. It might sound strange but you need to listen to the song for it to make sense.
Away from your lovelorn and heartbroken; there are few discussing anything with real emotional depth and pioneering spirit. That is something else that really needs to change in music – it is refreshing having artists like Eivør that compel thought and need for progressions. Whatever you take away from her music, it is wonderful hearing an artist put the Faroe Islands under the microscope. Obviously, there is not a big music scene there but a few artist have gone from there and onto better things. It is a small island group that might seem detached from anywhere else but has Denmark very close by. I can understand the need to go to somewhere like Denmark and a larger, more attractive area of the world. Here, Eivør has found success and managed to grow her music. In the back of her mind, she always had that affection for the Faroe Islands and the influence it has on her songs. That decision to return home and explore where she started is quite a brave move from an artist. It is one I would like to see replicated and covered more by other artists. There is still a narrowness in terms of songwriting inspiration that means a lot of new artists emerging are all writing about the same things – usually relationships and some form of a break-up. Into the Mist, as the title implies, recalls a time when the heroine, as a young girl, was lost in the mountains and enveloped by the thick fog. She was M.i.A. for hours and was unsure she would make her way home. Not that the song recounts the full trauma and distress of that situation: it is more a representation of the misty cloak and sudden unpredictability of the weather. I will go into a lot more detail about the song soon but find inspiration like this fantastic. So few artists are actually pushing themselves and writing about something as personal and unexpected. Every songwriter will have similar stories in their arsenal – why are they not committing them to tape? It does make you wonder whether expectations and homogenisation instantly push new artists in one direction. Those who garner the most always go the extra mile and subvert the predictable. If the mountain of Støðlafjall provided inspiration for Eivør on her previous track then something closer to the heart comes to the fore in Surrender. Again, it is never conventional and always the product of a fine and exceptional songwriter. Even when penning lines about commitment, trust and love, she sounds like nobody else out there. She is, in a strange way, always that small girl in the mountains: wandering and traversing the land in search of adventure; subject and vulnerable to the dangers of the altitude and climate.
I will get down to looking at Surrender soon (after looking at Eivør’s previous material) but wanted to hint at artists who genuinely can make changes to music with international touring and a fascinating persona. I have mentioned a certain Icelandic icon who has, over the past two-and-a-bit-decades entranced the music world. Few have come along like her: it is debatable whether we will see anyone quite like her again. I know there are thousands of musicians out there but how many actual stand out in the mind as being unique and unexpected? We see so few artists that have a distinct personality/look without faking it. Given her Faroe background; the way Eivør and her sound has a blend of mystic and dreamy. One hears and sees someone born to the mountains and islands: a rare creature who can bond the isolated nature of the Faroe Islands with big production and Danish influence. In a way, Eivør is someone who could only really be based in Scandinavia. We have some ethereal, preternatural musicians in Britain but nobody quite like Eivør. I will have been interested in her music for a little while now and always struck by the way she performs, pronounces – the effect she has and the way her music remains. By that, I mean there is a power and primal urge that sticks in the bone and remains in the blood for a long time. Let’s hope songs like Into the Mist inspire other artists to castigate the ordinary and dull and actually create a persona/music that we have not seen before. Eivør is a special artist that has a long future ahead: an innovative and captivating personality who has created a large fanbase around the world.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sigga Ella
Surrender is the latest track taken from her album, Slør. It is a fantastic track and one that builds off the reputation of Into the Mist. Already gathering acclaim across social media; I am excited to see what other songs are released from the album. It is clear Eivør has a lot of confidence and ability right now. She has progressed from her earliest recordings and is comfortable with her material. She was always astonishing and different. As time progresses, that talent strengthens and the intuition grows. Eivør has taken her Faroese-sung album and translated it into English. It gives new listeners a chance to discover a brilliant and rare artist. It is interesting putting the two albums alongside one another and seeing the difference between them. In its English version, it is easier to understand and has accessibility. In Faroese, it is more romantic and pure: a record directly from Faroese Islands; something very intriguing and different. I am pleased there are two versions of the album as it allows the music to translate across the globe and reach new people. Coming to Surrender and one is instantly struck and invested. The opening moments have an ’80s feel to them. The synths. and beats remind me of the classic Pop from the time – maybe something by Madonna at her peak. In fact, it melts with modern-day Electro.-Pop to create something cross-generational and evocative. I was entranced by the dizzying, racing notes that summon starlight, dreams and a panoramic view. The heroine is in the open and surrendering to the starlight. She will give herself to the waves and submit. Although she is drowning and falling; our heroine forgets there is beauty all around her. It is a sentiment and sobering reality that is bringing her back from the brink.
PHOTO CREDIT: Sigga Ella
Although the song might suggest something morbid and fatigued; it is a moment of clarity and complexity that defies easy categorisation. In a way, I look at the early lines as a representation of love and life. Maybe there is a particular person in mind: a man that has captured her heart or perhaps she is looking at life in a different way. Whatever your interpretation, you transport your mind to the Faroese Islands and that spellbinding environment. I see Eivør looking at life in general and trying to make sense of things. Perhaps there is a dark moment that is surfacing in her mind: that need to hold on and recognise all there is to live for. Surrender is never hopeless or depressive: the track challenges the listener to immerse themselves in the song and draw their own conclusion. I felt there was a hopefulness and strength that arrived from the song. You never feel like the heroine is giving in or letting life wash over her. That is enforced by a composition that, once again, mixes genres and periods. I have said Surrender has a touch of the 1980s about it. I hear embers of Björk (not just in the composition but vocals) and modern-day Electro. artists like Shura. It is a wonderful blend that sounds original and a woman who is like nobody else. I feel Surrender is a song that will compel others and force them to improve their game and become more experimental. Nobody can love the hero like our heroine. She is in the throes of love it seems – making the song’s meaning clearer at this stage. The mood lifts and the vocal are more optimistic and strengthened. The early phases saw Eivør looking into nature and, maybe, wrestling with some doubts. It seems her love and intentions are clear. Perhaps there are obstacles or someone else is in the frame. That proclamation of desire and love cannot be misread or understated. It is a bold and emphatic statement from someone who wants to be enriched and fulfilled.
One speculates whether that desire is aimed at solely a persona or whether somewhere like her homeland is being assessed. On initial listen, one would assume another is being ascribed but you reevaluate later on – perhaps a paen to the Faroe Islands and the beauty they hold? If one looks at previous albums like Room (2012) and Bridges (2015) and you see similarities in Slør. The compositions have that inventive and magical sound but, if anything, the vocal and production quality are more defined and stronger. There is that confidence in Surrender that shows Eivør is getting better with every release. As Surrender progresses, it seems the heroine resounds in the heart chambers of the man – she is under his skin and in his head. Their hearts resound to the beat of one another and, it appears, there is a sense of inevitability. Again, one speculates whether they are together now or about to get together. There seems to be some distance between them or something keeping them apart. That composition keeps persisting and impressing. Lighter than the chorus (in the verses) it provides metronomic tics and emotive resonance: blood-rush, ocean-wave and tenderness too. The heroine’s voice has that smoothness and playfulness that sits with command and assertiveness. It is a rare combination that, like the song, will inspire other songwriters. The final stages are a reassertion of the chorus and that mantra: nobody can love the man like Eivør. Again, I keep thinking whether it is aimed at a person or her home nation. Certainly, one can see the appeal and draw of Faroe Islands and why they would inspire a song like Surrender. It is good having that openness and oblique manner. Everyone can get what they want from the song and come to their own decisions. Whatever your interpretation, Surrender is one of the strongest songs of Eivør’s career so far and another astonishing song from Slør.
I will look back at my opening topics very soon but want to look at Surrender and how it follows from Into the Mist. I have gone into a lot of detail about the latter because, for me, it was an extraordinary introduction to Slør. The album is, rather incredibly, the first commercial release from Eivør in the U.K. It comes out on 26th May and is sure to delight and fascinate the wide fanbase she has here. I am not sure whether a Danish release will coincide and what the release schedule looks like in other countries. I was captivated by Into the Mist and that spectacular video. Watching, and hearing the track alongside it, you feel like you are in the Faroe Islands alongside the young heroine. Surrender is just as evocative and scenic but goes away from the mountains and into the trenches. It is a sheer drop that shows the polemics and subjective shifts in Eivør’s music – all tied together with her patented blend of rhythms, electronics and vocals. Critics have noted comparisons to Bat for Lashes and Depeche Mode – I guess that is a fair pairing that, if you can imagine it, does justice to her talent. I guess the dark and intriguing world of the Faroe Islands would directly impact the sound of Eivør’s music. You get an aural insight into the place and people most of us will never have contact with. Surrender keeps its soul in the locale but takes its heart and body somewhere else. If the aural scent and perfume of Into the Mist makes its way into a new brew – the aftereffects and intentions are a little different. It shows the different sides to an album that is when sung in English – very different to its original. I must confess I have not heard the original Faroese-sung record. I can imagine the songs have a very different pattern and nuance compared to the forthcoming release.
Eivør, in Slør, navigates her homeland and matters of the heart but goes much deeper than that. The album-word breaks down as ‘blurriness’ or ‘veils’. That is quite apt when you consider the emotional and environmental capriciousness and unpredictability. One moment, there is the panorama and escape of the rolling hills: thick fog the next and aches that bite at the heart – genuine love and affection mixed inside it all. If the album looks at a young woman wanting to go home, there is no sense of reverse wanderlust. The Denmark-based performer is revisited the Faroe Islands to get a sense of where she came from – although, she has hinted she may return there one day. I hope, before any decisions are made, Eivør spends lot more time in the U.K. She will come play a U.K. headline tour at London’s St. Pancras Old Church from 31st May. Bringing her ominous beats and bewitching synths. to the capital folk; it will be a terrific experience for anyone lucky enough to witness it. I will try and see her soon but feel lucky to assess a musician who is only just beginning. I have mentioned how there is a little geographical uncertainty. Denmark, being so close to the Faroe Islands, seemed the most natural destination for someone seeking something bigger than where she was raised. The nation, as I will revisit in a minute, is producing some sensational acts at the moment. There is a very underrated music scene in Denmark: their work ethic and happier folk; the way the Danes so things is very appealing for someone seeking a solid base. That said, Eivør longs for the quiet and wild breeze of her island lust. Maybe the U.K. would be another country she could reside in at some point. Certainly, there are few here quite like Eivør but a gigantic music scene and culture that could elevate her music. There is a lot of love for Eivør here already. The fact she has her music used on The Last Kingdom.
Eivør will be busy performing this year. She has that upcoming headline commitment here and will be playing Nordic Matters too. I know there will be other tour dates that will take her all around the world. There are other countries and areas to conquer: so many people who, at this moment, might not be aware of Eivør’s brilliant music. I hope finance and time allows her the chance to go far and wide promoting Slør. Denmark might not be the most recognisable countries for great music but that is not to say it lacks quality and weight. Mainstream, established artists like Lukas Graham and Phlake sit alongside newcomers like CTM. That is Cæcilie Trier, who has been making music for a long time now – various different forms; with various different people. Her mini-album was released last year and amazed fans and new followers with its unexpectedness and instant appeal. There are so many great Danish artists around now but, as I said, it is the female acts that stick in the mind. The same can be said of Sweden and Finland, to an extent. The fact these nations have a load of great young artists emerging but it is it female acts that seem the strongest and most appealing. I am not sure why this is but brings me back to my earlier point about equality. Maybe it is difficult making changes necessary so festivals (or headliners at least) are not to male-heavy. There is a certain sense of commercial turnaround and experience the organisers look for. Taking a chance on someone who has not headlined might seem like a gamble but is needed so we can progress music in the right direction. I shall leave this year’s festivals to play out and sport their headline acts. I think, in years to follow, there needs to be an overhaul of the big festivals and the way the main acts are booked. I mention because Eivør seems perfect for a festival like Glastonbury. The nature of her songs suggests theatrics and dynamic sets: big performances and visuals; huge percussion and all sorts of backdrops. It has that amphitheatre potential that could reach the farthest blades of grass imaginable. Whether that happens, or it takes a long time for things to change, I live in hope artists like Eivør will start something revolutionary.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ragnheiður Arngrímsdóttir
Let us finish this up by recognising the merits of Surrender and the effect it is already having. I have seen reviews and feedback that is almost as impassioned as it was last time around – when Into the Mist was unveiled to the public. Both songs are distinctly Eivør but walk in different directions. These songs are just a small portion of an album that will flower many treasures and wonderful aromas. It is almost impossible unpicking Eivør and what makes her so special. There are any number of things. Those looks and fashion remind me of a heroine in a Nordic drama – perhaps something older and classic. She mixes literary goddess and mysterious songstress. That music has heart and submission but comes with a bright and pummelling heartbeat. So many contradictions and aspects in one person! The way Eivør writes, creates and performs is rare: you get a young woman who has had an interesting background. From the young-girl-on-the-mountain of Into the Mist to the powerful and immediate women of Surrender – one of the strongest female voices in modern music. I will watch closely and see where her career takes her. When she has played the U.K., there is going to be demand back in Denmark. Following that, I am sure new music will form and follow. I am not sure but am curious to find out none the less. Surrender is the latest cut from an album that is shaping up to be one of 2017’s most original and immersive. There are few genuine characters and innovators in the current climate. Most of those who have made an impact have been performing for many years now. The new breed, for the most part, are a mixed bunch: you get some world-class artists and those not really up for the challenges – many more which are merely average and unspectacular. Eivør has that potential to be world-class and has that wonderful and rich biography to boot. When you put all this together, it summons something heady and alluring. Consider that and Eivør’s importance and impact…
CANNOT be understated.