Svavar Knútur - 'Ahoy! Side A' (album)
Similarly to Sara Forslund, we last wrote about Svavar Knútur a few years back - in 2015 when he released his album ‘Brot (The Breaking)'. The Icelandic singer songwriter from the Westernfjords has such a good reputation in his homeland, sadly (to our knowledge) he's yet to venture to the UK but we'll keep writing about him until some kindly UK festival promoter reads our ramblings and gives him a gig.
Anyway his latest release is entitled 'Ahoy! Side A' and it contains 5 brand new releases, as well as 4 older songs, which he quaintly calls 'repainted', which I rather like. The new songs have a more 'developed' sound than previous tracks I've listened to, but like the songs written in 'Brot (The Breaking)' he still maintains that personal individual touch. And after a few days of quite intense intricate Sara Forslund folk, the clean indie rock sounds on some of the songs were very welcomed too - even if lyrically there are similarities, as it deals with 'pain, fear, beautiful relationships with nature and the struggle of the human condition'.
It opens with the 'The Hurting', and the relatively hard hitting style came as somewhat of a surprise to me, but it is distinctly 'catchy', melodic and the collective musicians simply make a really good sound. 'Lady Winter' has a very different feel to it, Indie Folk influenced with a softness in texture and an 'ever so easy on the ear' melody. 'Morgunn' turns back to the Indie Rock sound, with a clean rhythmic drive, and I like in particular the instrumental contributions which carries the track along - synths, strings, guitars and maybe a hint of a glockenspiel somewhere - it's probably the highlight of the album for me.
'Haustvindar' opens in a stripped back style, before an explosion of sound 2 minutes in which will take you surprise, but I like the contrasts in sound - the result is an intense song, emotional and really powerful, and I love the way it keeps building to the end. Svavar Knútur could write a darn good Post Rock album if he put his mind to it. 'Cheap Imitations' is different again, with synths weaving sounds and images that create a hazy effect, it may not have the catchy melodic feel of the other new tracks, but it is very clever and it has grown on me over a few listens. Meanwhile his 'repainted' tracks are a delightful mix of indie folk / pop, amongst the highlights being the cute melodies and string arrangements in 'Undir Birkitré' with a gradual crescendo of sound before it cuts to vocal harmonies repeating the key refrain - it's possibly my favourite 60 seconds of the album. Again in 'Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir' the mix of strings and heavier 'indie band' sounds are carefully intertwined and balanced, whilst the album concludes with 'Tiger and bear', a 'simple' easy listening pop song, and a positive sounding conclusion to the album.
Svavar Knútur is a true Indie musician, and his versatility is demonstrated in an album which offers indie pop, folk and rock influences. But the common theme is that 'Ahoy! Side A' is packed full of well written melodic songs and the collective musicians and vocalists offer a warm, interesting instrumental backdrop. As the name of the album suggests, 'Ahoy! Side A' is the first part of a double album and we will always happily feature his songwriting - hopefully the next instalment won't take quite as long to be released, and we'll still be around to write about it.
Nordic Music Review 8/10