I was head over heels in love with Dear John when it came out a couple of years ago, there was something about the sub-orchestral style, the haunting Scandinavian vocal qualities, the songs that got right under your skin to be on repeat over and over.
So when at long last Hall Music appeared I was was full of hope and anticipation, perhaps just expecting a Dear John II. Straight from store to player I was left feeling a little underwhelmed if I am honest, I didn’t get that punch, that lift. It sounded just fine but nothing more. It sounded like Loney, Dear but almost like at half power.
I persisted and played it over a few times. For sure it has much less of the upbeat flavour to it, and so it is more like chamber music than full orchestra. But it is an album to be listened to, whose sonic qualities need to be uncovered. Perhaps surprisingly, given the shift from basement recording to a grown up studio, I had expected a bigger sound rather than this more parred back approach. This is altogether more introspective stuff when Dear John threw out suggestions of filmic aspirations, Hall Music is more intimate on the whole.
There is a spaciousness to the whole sound, leaving Svanängen’s vocals sounding even more vulnerable than before, less polished but even more endearing. The album seems to grow in confidence as it progresses, from the sensitive openers like Name and My Heart, through to the held-back grandeur of Young Hearts and onto Durmoll (Major/Minor muscial keys) and the final What Have I Become where vocal duties are handed to Malin Ståhlberg. The final track feels like the culmination of the rest of the album, the track where the vocals ride atop the strings and brass, the rhythmic percussion and the swelling end to the album.
It feels to me that actually Hall Music may well be one of those slower-burners that lodge themselves into your consciousness. Not what I thought on first play, and I am more than happy to have been proved mistaken with my first impressions.