Annasara - 'Songs from Sälshög'
There’s been so many good albums out in the last couple of weeks that I don’t quite know where to start, from the infections lo-fi guitar noise of Dog Paper Submarine to the ‘classic’ indie strains of Dear Moon, but Annasara has caught my attention most immediately with her lovely reflective album entitled ‘’Songs from Sälshög”.
We have featured Annasara before, back in April last year when she released ‘Tell me before I leave’, which isn’t on this album, a sign maybe that she’s always looking forward and writing. She initially trained classically as a violinist (although interestingly her music is predominantly piano based), and latterly studied composition at Österlens folkhögskola in Tomelilla.
It’s clearly her time at Tomelilla that was so influential on the album, because she found herself living in Sälshög, just 15 minutes away by bike from the school. She had friends living there who had a big empty house sitting in their estate, and after a difficult period in Malmö, where she struggled and took an admin job that wasn't for her, Sälshög seemed to the perfect ‘new start’.
The album opens with ‘Impressions from Sälshög’, 1st movement’, which continues later in the album with 2 more parts and which could easily have been released as a complete composition in its own right. The backdrop seems to involve early 20th century classical influences (Debussy, Satie etc), and immediately it sets a tone which continues throughout the album – free flowing, relaxed, with chord progressions that are easy on the ear. ‘Find Me Time’ is simple enough in its construction, but opens up with a big melancholy melody that I liked on 1st listen.
I’m loathe to comment too much on ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, given the only time I seem to have upset a reader in the last 6 years is when I wrote about a cover. I guess whilst I’ve never been a fan of U2, at least the message in the song helps paint the picture of why Annasara went to Sälshög. ‘To the Child’ has a particularly beautiful chorus and the string arrangements are sensitive and sparing in their contribution - she doesn't automatically go straight for the strings and plaster every track with a thick texture of sumptuous cello and violin. The piano in 'Sälshög 2nd Movement' cascades with a waterfall effect, and it feels a little more uplifting than the 1st movement, whilst I like the discordant opening to 'Katten', which maybe hints at more modern classical influences, before it settles down to a simpler form.
In 'I Wish I Knew' Annasara manages to generate some intensity with the piano having more urgency, and the string arrangements creating tension, whilst after the haunting vocal qualities of 'All Min Tid', we're offered the final movement of 'Impressions from Sälshög’, a really genuinely fitting conclusion led by trumpet, and it's nice to have an instrumental end, because whilst her vocals are perfectly nice, I do think it's the piano, strings (and in this case trumpet) combinations that make this so appealing.
I’m sure there’s more complex classically influenced albums out there, and there isn’t much variation in style - the piano does take the lead - but ’Songs from Sälshög;’ has really resonated firstly because it is so easy to listen to, and also because it mixes melancholy and a fair amount of personal contemplation with a feeling of optimism -it's perfect for these dark times. It’s clear that the period of Annasara’s life will always mean so much to her, and with such natural, free flowing compositions, I'm sure 'Songs from Sälshög' will appeal to many others too.
Nordic Music Review 7.5/10