Otto Niklasson Elmerås - 'We Fell Asleep When We Were Young' EP
We’re on a roll with new Swedish music – here’s another one, and this is as equally an impressive debut release to ‘Oxen’, albeit in a completely different way. Otto Niklasson Elmerås has been working on his debut EP for 3 years, and I guess its been worth the wait, as ‘We Fell Asleep When We Were Young’ is a powerful EP, with a real attention to detail and some great 60’s style influenced tunes.
The EP has a sense of authority from the opening instrumental chords of the title track, and the subtle chord changes in those opening 30 seconds have a dramatic feel to them too, as well as a precision and a feeling of nostalgia - similar perhaps to the unbelievably powerful way that ‘1900’ was able to utilise clever instrumentation to paint a powerful picture too.
And that is the key to Otto Niklasson Elmerås writing, it is all in the detail – authoritative lyrics that never feel ‘forced’, the subtle changes in the way instruments are utilized, different shades of darkness and light, variations in pace and all underpinned by soft Beatles influenced vocals and melodies, that are genuinely lovely to listen to.
That title track is a real highlight, but so is ‘I Know I Never Get It Right’ – such a simple theme lyrically, ‘I try to fix what I broke, for you to want me again’. I know these themes have been written about many times before, but the way that musically he’s able to change the mood – take a listen to ‘and when love becomes regret, there is no-one who can save us’, but with a huge sweeping uplift to the last 2 words as if somehow the whole thing is ecstatic as well as tragic.
‘When You Drown’ is even more complex, has hints of Sufjan Stevens at the start, and rather than badly trying to explain it myself, will instead quote the songwriter who based it on the idea of ‘the brain slowing down the perception of time to a level where time appears to cease, where it exhausts its last endorphins in an external rush’. Now this might sound overly multifarious, but listen to the track and you’ll understand that he’s actually managed to write a song exactly about that, which is fairly extraordinary. Otto Niklasson Elmerås concludes with a lovely upbeat tempo track about a relationship breaking up called ‘Johanna’ – again its really well thought through, and full of interesting contradictions, as well as offering a lovely tune.
Of course, the reality is that if you don’t like music written and sung with a fairly significant 60’s influence, you probably won’t like this EP. But to me this is wonderfully original, distinct and poetic songwriting, with a dark comic edge (i think...), and lovely and very precise use of musical instrumentation right to the very last glockenspiel…'ting’…..