On Anna Ternheim’s American debut Halfway to Fivepoints (Decca), fans with discerning musical tastes may notice a couple immediate objections upon first inspection. 1) There is a rather major kind of record label staring back at you from the cover; a definite red flag for many fans of independent rock. 2) These songs could very easily end up on an episode of One Tree Hill. That’s right…I said One Tree Hill!
But a funny thing happens to those who are resilient enough to overlook such “offenses”, and give Halfway to Fivepoints a proper play through. Such high falutin’ ideals quickly drift away. In their place, the Swedish Grammy winner offers a listening experience plump full of just the right amount of mystery and wonder…and not because Ternheim’s somewhat of a newcomer to American audiences. No, she’s a skilled practitioner, embedding just enough subtle, temperamental moods in her songs to leave listeners slightly on edge. Opener “Girl Laying Down”, for example, rides a familiar, cascading piano line throughout the chorus. But where the moment might recall the same piano line that infects Coldplay’s “Clocks”, the buildup during the verse is surely more theatric than anything Chris Martin has ever pulled off.
So goes the story of Fivepoints. Songs seem somewhat simple on the surface. But through impressive production and slightly skewed song-writing efforts, they’re pressed into exciting, unexpected places. “Bridges” nibbles on a variety of sonic trestles throughout its’ slow burning build, offering a little something for everyone who hears it. Honky tonk guitar twangs, glockenspiel, cartoonish piano plunks; a variety of instrumentation comes and goes, each playing their own unique role before trailing off into the void. “The Ones to Blame” is a strangely nocturnal affair, quietly tip toeing along the story line of a girl who can’t quite get over the man who’s no more (Sample lyric: “She likes to call him, wake him, at night when he’s in bed. She’s oh so quiet, hangs up when he says his name”). And isolated, acoustic strummer “Little Lies” – enhanced only by a quivering harmonica – is so finale, so fragile, it probably would have broke Ternheim’s heart to write it. Good thing Fleetwood Mac handled that responsibility.
In the end, Halfway to Fivepoints is as rewarding a listening experience as anything that has come before it this year. In fact, the album may very well be the finest recorded effort this side of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. A bold statement I know, but one I’m sure you’ll be prepared to make after fetching the record from your discard pile. - david pitz