Forgettable Scandi folk – heavy on atmosphere, light on memorable tunes.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Hanna Enlöf is one half of the Swedish duo Good Harvest, who apparently owe their successful career to a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, which went viral. For her solo debut album, ‘Bare Bones’, she’s teamed up with lyricist Craig Stanton Thomas and producer Erik Berglund.
Opening song, ‘Follow You Down’, is a melancholy and atmospheric folktronica ballad – Enlöf’s soulful vocals are cocooned in a sparse arrangement of cinematic, burbling synths and haunting slide guitar. It sounds like Adele doing a theme for a Scandi noir TV drama and sets the scene for most of what’s to follow.
‘Silver Tragedies’ comes from a similar place, although it ups the tempo and throws in some acoustic strumming and a few proggy keyboard sounds, while the eco-issues song ‘Three Degree World’ doesn’t stray too far from that blueprint either – except it’s more overwrought, has some bombastic rock guitar on it and features guest vocals from Stanton Thomas.
Enlöf’s original idea was to record a simple album with just voice and guitar, hence the title, ‘Bare Bones’, but the plan changed when she went in the studio with Berglund, who embellished the songs with more built-up arrangements.
He has added some drama to the proceedings and created some occasionally pleasing and interesting touches – like the subtle beats, electronic effects, and slightly unsettling sounds on ‘Sifted Like Chaff’, which gives the track a moody, filmic quality, and the echoey, twangy guitar on the pretty ‘Hymn For The Night’, but, sadly, moments like this are far and few between on the record, which is heavy with ethereal, yet forgettable, folky ballads. It does make you wonder whether a stripped-down album would’ve made for even more hard work on the part of the listener.
With 13 songs and clocking in at almost 54 minutes, ‘Bare Bones’ overstays its welcome, which is ironic because the song ‘Tick Tick Tock’ laments the march of time and how life slips away from us. It’s yet another folk ballad, but luckily a nice pastoral string arrangement makes it mildly diverting.
‘Booted Paces’ stands out because it deals with the dark subject matter of the rise of Neo-Nazism in Sweden and has some wintry and dramatic piano, but most of the album simply fails to hold your attention – it’s mid-paced, tasteful, yet bland background music, rather than a smorgasbord of styles.
Apparently these songs were written around Enlöf and Stanton Thomas’s old kitchen table, which has now been replaced with a new one that’s made of teak. ‘Bare Bones’ is aural wallpaper and should blend in well with the furniture.