Review: Alexander’s Swedish Smörgåsbord

With a musical output of one album a year, there is a certain danger in some cases that quantity will forego quality. After a lukewarm reception and ditto sales figures for his last album No Boundaries, Alexander Rybak has ventured into the studio once more with a rather fetching new project.

Visa Vid Vindens Ängar is, I suppose you could say, an hommage to the talent that is Swedish folk musician Mats Paulson. But what we also get here is to see a side of Alexander that we haven’t seen previously. The album is a delightful hotchpotch of musical styles, naturally the fiddle features heavily, but don’t let that perturb you! It’s also quite unnerving to hear Alexander sing in Swedish – you can clearly hear his Norwegian accent, but we’ll let that pass.

The opener Träden i Villa Borghese (The Trees of Borghese Villa) is a soft, acoustic led ballad with poetic lyrics that should melt the hardest of hearts and even if you don’t speak Swedish, there’s still immense joy to be had from the track. Somehow takes me back to the elegant 30’s and 40’s. Following on with the dreamy, romantic theme is Din Första Kyss (Your First Kiss), but this time we’re transported to Provence or maybe the streets of Paris with a song laced with accordion and Gallic charm and a gorgeous sound placing somewhere between a tango and a waltz.

The albums’s lead single Resan Till Dig (The Journey to You) is perhaps the song with the most immediate commercial appeal – bright and breezy with a summery vibe and a delightful melody with lyrics full of longing. It’s such a simple song and therein is its strength and charm. Visa Vid Vindens Ängar (Ballad of the Meadows of the Wind) keeps up the good work, with a subtle, gentle almost fragile sound accompanied by Alexander’s vocals which all of a sudden sound altogether more adult in this lullaby number.

The pace quickens with En Katt på Min Kudde (A Cat on My Pillow), again featuring the accordion, with Alexander spouting racy lyrics of wishing he was a casanova able to tend to ten or more women a night. Chauvinistic it may be, but the general lyrics are sung very much tongue in cheek. A beautiful intermezzo of violin and accordion heighten the enjoyment of this playful number. Den Lyssnande Blomman (The Flower that Listened) is a gust from the past – an old fashioned, dreamy song that captivates as well as enraptures with its understated elegance. An ode to summer, this should appeal to all romantics everywhere.

Continuing with Maria, we get a change of scenery, with a big band sound taking us back to pre-war times. You can practically see Alexander standing before you in a tuxedo, bow tie undone, casually slouched against a piano singing this number. The big band instruments work a treat here, on this classy little number, a tribute to a lucky lady named Maria. The tempo slows down once again on the sleepy I Ditt Sommarhus (In Your Summer Cottage), which is no bad thing; another aural treat with a fetching melody that builds very nicely, thank you very much.

Till En Vildmarkspoet (To the Poet of the Wilderness) takes on a more dramatic opening, with lush, sweeping strings and vocals that practically sound as if young Alexander is reciting poetry. The air of melancholy about this penultimate track is simply beautiful. The album is brought to a close with Jag Föddes Ur Havet (I Came from the Sea), a gently wistful sounding piano number, one of the few tracks where Mats Paulson contributes vocally, giving a recital of part of the text. Extremely atmospheric, Jag Föddes Ur Havet is a fitting end to this well-crafted album.  

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