The Northern Belle “Bats In The Attic”

DWYBO Records, 2024

The best of nordicana and Scandinavian pop summed up on Norwegians’ fifth long player.

It’s only just over 30 years ago that writing a letter was the only affordable way to communicate with loved ones in far-flung places. Those days are long gone, but although there are now a myriad of methods to convey our feelings to our nearest and dearest, it’s arguable as to whether the thoughtfulness of a heartfelt letter can be bettered.

The consideration given to writing a good letter is what Stine Andreassen, The Northern Belle’s lead singer and songwriter, has brought to this record. She took her inspiration for this album from a hoard of 60 year old letters she found in her grandmother’s attic. They’d been written by her grandparents when her grandfather had been stationed overseas and his wife was left at home in northern Norway. The record also draws on Andreassen’s experiences of becoming a first time mother and the loss of close friends.

There’s a number of influences running through this album including fellow Scandinavians, The Cardigans and First Aid Kit. One thing that this album has in common with these groups is the clarity and quality of the vocals, and the close harmonies which are provided by Ole-André Sjøgren.

Treat Yourself Better’ opens with chiming guitars and provides advice to a women on her unreliable lover who, ‘Loves to quote Dylan, Like it’s his religion, But he’s a rolling stone’. ‘Merchant Navy Hotel’ features Pete Buck-like jangling guitars, as Andreassen sings of one her grandfather’s sojourns overseas. The haunting vocals of ‘Stargazer’ weave in and out of some wonderful guitar playing, as Andreassen sings an ode to her new-born.

Fresh Drippin Dew‘ may well be the most Cardiganesque track on the album, featuring a guitar wig out at the end. Bjørnar Ekse Brandseth’s pedal steel guitar playing on ‘Our Own Frequency‘, together with Andreassen’s crystal clear vocals are testament to why The Northern Belle are at the apotheosis of the nordicana scene.

Japanese‘ was inspired by one of the 379 letters Andreassen unearthed in the loft, with her grandmother writing to her seafaring husband, ‘When you get this letter, I’m writing a new one, And waiting for the ink to dry’. It’s a gentle, acoustic song yearning for a missing partner but trying to be upbeat about it at the same time, as Andreassen sings, ‘It feels like I’m getting to know you all over again, Maybe that’s the best recipe for a long loving marriage, And keeping the mystery alive’.

The album ends with the gentle ‘Grow Up’ looking back at carefree days. It’s an appropriate way to draw everything to a close comprising just vocals, an acoustic guitar and Johanne Flottorp’s mournful fiddle. It’s a fine record which ranges from the poppy to melancholy side of Americana.


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