Still quiet night. Such a setting is where Anna Ternheim's American debut, Halfway to Fivepoints, undoubtedly reached its' upmost, emotional potential. Its' craft, its' composition, its' damaged heart...in times of panic, Fivepoints would be a record I would turn to, sweeping through hollow, lonely nights like a warm glass of milk....frothy sweet, with a hint of bitter in its' thick textures and wounded words.
So with the world packing it in for the night, its' Ternheim's latest, Leaving on a Mayday (Verve Forecast), I consider for a good while. It's a different sort of record, with a new sonic twist, though I'm not sure that's entirely Ternheim's doing. No, I suspect Mayday's new approach comes (mostly) courtesy of hit maker extraordinaire Bjorn Yttling; a producer who, along with his band Peter, Bjorn, and John, just might be nurturing an entire crop of stark, moody, Swedish pop (see Shout Out Louds, Lykke Li, Sahara Hotnights) under his guidance and general knob turning. Here Fivepoints' stay at home song craft gets traded in for a different sort of nocturnal activity. Dancing.
From its' onset Mayday struts its' stuff in a brand new way. Take opener, "What Have I Done", for example. With it Ternheim calls her listener to attention with a fit and funky bass line, complete with disco dandy strings, and a four on the floor percussive thump. Its sleek and polished, sounding something like hurling handfuls of glitter into the midnight air. Not only that, but Ternheim's chalky rich vocals also make quite the comfortable home in this hot flash of minimal, disco pop. Dial down the tempo just a touch for "Damaged Ones", though dribbles of glitchy bass, syrupy strings, and various rhythmic cadences remain. On "Let it Rain" Ternheim turns to a more soulful chorus to cleanse her troubled soul ("Let it rain on me/Let it rain"). And "No I Don't Remember" might be the best of the glammy bunch, cracking along to a steady pulse of brushes on a hot tin snare drum.
It's an obvious new aesthetic, and I do admit, it works well. But it's late Monday evening where I sit, and it's the brooding, mellow melodies of Fivepoints I have on my mind. For that "Terrifed" - a song aglow in an aura of tender, orchestral touches, a gentle tambourine rattle, and drums that explode like bombs far off over the horizon - does the trick. Singing "You see me like no one saw me before/This part terrifies me so", Ternheim sets familiar vulnerabilities to the kind of affected melodies that rival the very best moments of Fivepoints. So too does the graceful twirl of "My Heart Still Beats For You"; a song made of wooden, acoustic guitar, and the now familiar Yttling, instrumental make up. Simple, striking, utterly doomed; it's this tune my midnight heart most closely relates with. It's Ternheim's devastating admission, "My heart still beats for you/it's always you" that I had come to Mayday looking for all along. - David Pitz