Einar Stray Orchestra - 'Dear Bigotry'
The year has definitely started well for some really strong and substantial Nordic album releases, and from bands / artists that I have a huge amount of respect for too. After Koria Kitten Riots charming 'Songs of Hope and Science', it's been a huge pleasure to get to know the the 3rd Album from Norwegian band Einar Stray Orchestra. Their last album 'Politricks' was a huge favourite, but 'Dear Bigotry' seems to have far more depth, and a more consistent selection of really good tracks.
Hopefully most of you will be aware of Einar Stray Orchestra, a Norwegian outfit that I definitely won't describe as Chamber Pop (because I dislike the phrase immensely), but which cleverly combine Folk, Orchestral and Indie Rock influences. This is the 3rd album from the band, and interestingly it's produced by Team Me front man Marius Hagen, a band still missed by many, and who were never afraid to 'throw the kitchen sink' at their complex songwriting arrangements.
'Dear Bigotry' begins with the intensity of the 'Last Lie', a lovely piano opening and it's the lyrics that I'm immediately attracted to - 'Who would ever think the pretty little boy could have such a dirty mind'? Already the little details in the instrumentation fascinate me, pizzicato strings carry the track forward at one point, and wind instruments do their best to peek through the noise. These are arrangements on a pretty vast scale. Title track 'Dear Bigotry' sounds like a more conventional 'Einar Stray' track, with a stirring chorus, whilst pre album release single 'Penny for Your Thoughts' is an obvious highlight, rhythmically brilliant (possibly helped by an unusual time signature, but I'm known to be wrong on these things) and with a collection of great tunes linking the track together.
The album backs off the full on orchestral arrangements by offering 'Caravelle', before 'Glossolalia', an intense track which fascinates me, seemingly written about their feelings over Oslo using religious imagery, it's clever and slightly dark. Einar Stray's piano virtuosity is demonstrated in 'Seen You Sin', I loved watching him playing keyboards when he played in Manchester last year, whilst the quirky 'Somersaulting' almost reaches the level of the single releases. And whilst '20,000 Nights' appeals to me less, 'Synthesis' works well, with a gradual crescendo of instruments building up to a huge climax.
I guess with influences listed such as Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire I'm always going to feel at home with the Einar Stray Orchestra, but their complex musical arrangements lean even towards Bror Forsgren, and that appeals to be even further. 'Dear Bigotry' is actually a far more harder hitting release than 'Politricks', the tracks have an 'edge' to them, and whilst there is not the anger on the scale we've witnessed from bands such as The Culture in Memoriam, the lyrics have hit home far more than I noticed on the last album. And I think the music benefits from that enormously, as do the ramped up musical arrangements which are bold and complex. There are those whose musical judgement I normally respect who've never warmed to Einar Stray's vocals, but I'd never even considered that to be an issue until it was mentioned. This is a hugely successful album, which exceeded my high expectations and I really hope that we will at some point get to see the full Einar Stray Orchestra experience here in the UK sometime soon.
Nordic Music Review 8.5/10
Dear Bigotry is released through Norwegian label Toothfairy and Berlin based Sinnbus Records. The CD is available in the UK on Amazon, but you can also purchase it via the bands website.
Please also today check out our short feature on the new video by young Norwegian musician Øyvind Weiseth.