By Phil Scarisbrick
Combined with a more expansive sound, Siv Jakobsen takes on her relationship with fear for her second album, producing something really special in the process.
On her 2017 debut, The Nordic Mellow, Siv Jakobsen gave us a collection of folk songs that took genre-saturated themes such as travel and heartbreak, and transformed them into illuminating yarns that were anything but conventional. Her innate ability to turn these subjects into captivating fairy tales was set against delicate, raw guitar lines to create an accomplished debut. Returning after a three-year gap with its follow-up, A Temporary Soothing, she continues to explore the basic essence of these themes, but has taken a huge leap forward both musically and as a storyteller.
When people use the term ‘cinematic’ to describe music, it is usually a shorthand way of describing a track that has had a string section thrown at it. At its core though, cinema is about creating a multi-sensory experience that moves its viewer in whichever emotional direction the creator desires. That description is one that absolutely could be used to describe what Jakobsen has created with her sophomore offering. The opening notes of Fear the Fear are familiar ground for existing fans, but, as the strings build, these subtle flourishes and increasingly layered vocals accentuate an added urgency to her mood. By the time you get to the rich horns and expansive percussion, you’re lost in the same anguish that Jakobsen feels, as she sings ‘But shake it off I can’t, I won’t/Cause what would I write about if I don’t.’ Describing the intense duality her relationship with fear has, the song is a beautiful and mature introduction to A Temporary Soothing.
Fight or Flight has a real urgency to it, driven by a frenetic drumbeat that matches the peril that the theme of choosing between the title’s two extreme options suggests, albeit within an unspecified relationship. ‘To lose, to love, to leave, to stay,’ she sings suggesting a romantic entanglement, but later adds, ‘I am a poet, I breathe for the tension, the release,’ which may point to a more internal conflict. The album’s title track is an achingly beautiful instrumental piece that segues into one of the record’s real highlights in Anywhere Else. The verse and chorus melodies are two equally gorgeous hooks that disguise another unambiguous look at Jakobsen’s relationship with fear. As she laments, ‘It takes me so long to get anywhere else but here,’ for a final time, the track seeps away into A Temporary Soothing’s instrumental, returning us to where we began with little resolved.
Island takes a big left turn sonically, as a drum machine drives an energetic pop song that explodes into a chorus that fellow Scandinavian Robyn would be proud of, while the album’s closer – I Call It Love – brings us full circle to return to the same sense of cinema that the album’s opener instils. This time, the message is much more positive, although still guarded. The piano ballad is punctuated by a myriad of sounds, building to a closing crescendo that itself has a sense of restraint. The theme of being reluctant to jump in with both feet that is interwoven into the album’s narrative permeats its way into the music, creating a truly evocative experience.
To say that Jakobsen has expanded her sound with this record isn’t to merely suggest that she has thrown more instruments into the mix to give it a ‘bigger’ sound. There is no fat in need of trimming here. Every stroke of guitar, every tap of a drum, every exhale, every syllable, every note all feel considered and measured. A Temporary Soothing is a completed jigsaw puzzle, with each oddly shaped piece in sync to create a final, exquisite piece of art for us to marvel at.
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