Album of the Week: 'Monalia'- 'So Much Better'
I keep hearing that the popularity of albums is on the decline, but sometimes only an album can really define a band, and only through a collection of tracks are they really able to capture our attention - I guess it's the reason we keep on stating that we'll always give priority to albums at Nordic Music Review. Norwegian band 'Monalia' are a great example, I've heard a few individual tracks over the past year and been interested enough to write their album release date down, but it's only by hearing the album a few times that I've suddenly really understood them, and I'd urge everyone to give their debut album 'So Much Better' a listen.
So 'Monalia' are from 'Oslo', but they have roots deep in the mountains of Telemark (not quite literally, this isn't the 'Lord of the Rings'...), and their music is inspired by those surroundings and also a sense of wanting to escape from the stresses and disappointments from every day life to aspire towards the real passions of life, and a bit like the Eli Gauden track we featured earlier this week, simply 'try to do better'. But if this sounds like a band who write quaint indie folk, you'd be mistaken, because their music (which they describe as 'mountain surf') actually appears to be influenced by a mix of British shoegaze bands from the early 90's and some gothic inspirations (in particular some that combined those two genres such as 'Curve'), and even some psychedelic and stoner rock. It's an interesting blend that takes some getting into, but is well worth the investment.
'So Much Better' opens with 'Don't Really Know', and immediately I'm struck by the 'earthy' sound of the band, particularly from the guitars, whilst the percussive elements add interesting rhythms and downplayed vocals offer a melody of sorts, whilst in title track 'So Much Better' it's the repetitive guitar riffs that lead the track, and already it's the instrumental sections that start to appeal as much as anything, and the song builds gradually to a conclusion that's somewhere between blissful and brutal. There's a contrast in 'Want to Be a Star' (is that a hint of 'Teenage Fanclub' I hear?), with lush harmonised vocals and an attractive melody that represents a change in direction from the heavier guitars of the earlier tracks, whilst 'When You Shouldn't Stop' has a similar feel, and the highlight is the quite brilliant ending - I'm left wanting more.
'Get Away' is slightly less appealing musically, but accompanied by the hypnotic beat the words get inside my mind and the hint of a cello at the end of the track adds a different texture. But I love 'Htlt' so much, dark and mysterious it swells and builds with a mix of swirling gothic vocals and guitars, and a melody which might remind me of a Nirvana track just a little, but I'm totally bought into the result. 'Drank the Rain' tells of the contrasts between both good and bad feelings in a relationship, and comes to the conclusion that the challenging things will make you and your feelings stronger - it's an evocative and expressive track, and again I like those percussive rhythms that carry the track forward. The album concludes with 'Coming Home', which builds gradually until a sustained full band climax that really shows 'Monalia' at the best, melodic vocals with dynamic intense instrumental support.
I absolutely realise that the style of music, and the range of influences behind them, will not be to everyone's taste, nor will the dreamy languid vocals and the pace of the tracks, which aren't necessarily fist pumping festival anthems. But I've been totally immersed in 'So Much Better' by 'Monalia', with melodies that have got under my skin, solid sounding guitars (I could listen to them all day) and these amazing mesmerizing rhythms, and they have this great ability to use the full force of the band to build to big intense climaxes that are so powerful and effective that I would just love to see this band live. In the meantime I'm happily content to keep listening to their album, because 'So Much Better' is some achievement, and 'Monalia' have demonstrated fairly categorically the power that an album can have.
Nordic Music Review 8.5/10