Norway - Full Moon 234 - 09/28/15
When I'm Free
Balloon Ranger Recordings
Ane Brun has become the queen of decent Norwegian pop music over the last years. Challenged only by Susanne Sundfør. Four years ago, Brun put
out her fourth album proper, the masterly It All Starts With One. This autumn she returned with a new album to defend her champion throne.
When I'm Free is Brun's fifth studio album (not counting 2005's Duets and 2008's Sketches), and again she unveils songs of grace and passion. Ten songs, stretching
over some 45 minutes. As was It All Starts With One: ten songs, stretching over some 45 minutes. Well, this new album is 24 seconds longer: 45'24" vs. 45'49".... Well, things is, I
don't get in the same mood as earlier when listening to Ane's music, I'm not as pleased with her songs as I used to be. Hmmm, maybe her songs are too long. For the statistics department, just
to prove that her songs are longer than before: Spending Time with Morgan (2003) had 12 songs on it, clocking in at 46'51"; A Temporary Dive (2005) held 10 songs, lasting 38'00";
Changing of the Seasons (2008) had 12 songs, over 45'54". Standard, original releases - no bonus tracks. The orchestration is richer, bigger and stronger, more punchy and bass-bubbly.
Well, her first three albums saw a (folk-)singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar. Then came It All Starts..., and some things changed. Well, Peter Gabriel had 'happened', as he chose
Ane to step into Kate Bush's 'role' when singing on the re-recorded version of "Don't Give Up" for his 2011 album, New Blood) plus the tour in prior to the album, the year before (from the spring of 2010). Anyway, When I'm Free starts fine with "Hanging" and "Black Notebook". Brun seeks further with her songs of love, lost love and life's hard knocks (the sound of the breaking of hearts and love's loneliness). 'Though the shape of a heart is always the same / You can never be sure it fits your frame', as she sings in "Shape of a Heart", the album's second "single", which followed the early, first taster from the album, "Directions" (with a video that's sees Ane Brun in a choreographed solo dance - which is quite cool). The Björkish (not the vocals, of course, but the arrangement and especially the rhythms - think "Human Behaviour") "Directions", didn't quite get to me, even though I find it better than both "You Lit My Fire" (where Brun tries to be an R'n'B soul singer) and the exotic sound of "Shape of a Heart". "Miss You More" feels a bit flat and boring (dare I say so?). "All We Want Is Love" is better, being a stripped down and simple ballad, nodding backwards to her past as an artist. "Still Waters" pass by, but "Better Than This" is a better song. Yet, this feels somewhat... predictable? Dull? Lackluster? Something is missing. The closing "Signing Off" is more of a stripped ballad, like with "All We Want Is Love". Well, it's maybe not a ballad, but the arrangements and the instrumentation is discreet and laidback. Hmmm, maybe I should go back to Spending Time With Morgan once more. It's not that this album, these songs are not good - or bad. They are not bad. The album is quite good. Yet, it's maybe too much. Maybe it should have been simpler. It should have been a little less. Like in 'less is more'. Still, I am quite a big fan of Ane Brun. Her voice is really great, yes remarkable, striking and wonderful. Her songs are at times very good. But maybe not this time. Not all of them. She is still the Queen, though. Alongside Sundfør. They are both Queens, on parallel thrones.
Ane Brun has had a good studio staff/musical friends over the years, from her Stockholm base. In fact, she has had some of the best Swedish studio musicians around. For the last two album
Swedish band Tonbruket has been her backing tour band as well as her tour support band. Tonbruket are Johan Lindström (guitar, pedal steel), Dan Berglund (bass - Berglund used to be a
member of the acclaimed jazz combo Esbjörn Svensson Trio), Martin Hederos (piano, keyboard), and Andreas Werliin (drums, percussion). Hederos, who's also a founding member of The Soundtrack
of Our Lives (TSOOL), has worked with Ane Brun since Changing of the Seasons. The last couple of players practising with Brun now (going on tour as members of her backing band) are
Josefin Runsteen (violin, backing vocals) and Ola Hultgren (drums, percussion -- Hultgren has worked with numerous artists: First Aid Kit, Loney Dear, Anna Ternheim, Tonbruket, Merit Hemmingson,
TSOOL's Ebbot Lundberg, to name but a few), plus special guest Mariam The Believer, AKA Mariam Wallentin. (Wallentin and Werliin makes the duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums). The Directions Tour 2015 kicks off in Helsinki
on October 2nd. It's probably a show worth going to.
What I want next? I want to see Ane Brun in a project collaboration with her sister, Mari Kvien Brunvoll (of Building Instrument). Yes, please.
Copyright © 2015 Håvard Oppøyen