Axel Flóvent (Iceland) - ‘You Stay by the Sea’ (album)
We’ve written about Axel Flóvent numerous times over recent years, but as Dan pointed out in his Artists to Watch in 2021 feature, he’s never actually released an album. So the arrival of his debut ‘You Stay by the Sea’ is particularly welcome, and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, it’s about time too.
But the reason that it’s taken so long is quite important, because ultimately that’s shaped the album, as well as the title. After the success of his 1st EP he headed off to Amsterdam to live and write music, and subsequently on to Brighton, but he never really settled and his return to Reykjavík in 2018 seems to have provided him with an understanding of what was really important to him, and maybe that impetus to complete an album.
As he explains “When I moved back in late 2018, I felt settled. I wasn’t looking for anything anymore. I finally appreciate home and see the beauty in it.”
‘You Stay by the Sea’ to an extent is a mixture of the old and new, it sounds like it is the story of the last few years of his life whilst he travelled and what he left behind, yet has the production and composure of an artist now happy in his life back in Iceland. For sure at times it is sad, but there’s also a clarity of thought that suggests he recognises what he’s been through.
Opening track ‘Tonight’ is a pretty good demonstration of what’s to come, polished and mature indie folk, whilst lyrically it provides the title for the album - “you stay by the sea, keeps you calm and quiet”. ’Driving Hours’ offers the most melancholy of melodies, but delivered with typically assured and convincing vocals. ‘December Traffic’ picks up the pace, always welcomed amongst so much reflective songwriting – ‘Blood’, for example, drifts a little too much for my liking.
‘Fall Asleep’ however is a blissfully beautiful track, supported by a gorgeous trumpet solo, a real album highlight, and after the single ‘Indefinite’, which has always been a favourite, the brass and vocals again combine wistfully on ‘How Can I’, with Flovent’s plaintive cry “I wanna be there for you, but how can I be when I’m never there for myself” – followed by the key line ”I wasted all my time believing I should be someone else”.
The album finishes on some real highs, in particular with ‘Haunted’ gently building to a swell of instrumental climaxes, again thanks to the brass support, whilst ‘Fireworks’ has a particularly lovely and gentle melodic chorus, followed by a beautiful trumpet solo that echoes away into the distance.
This is an album with a reassuring warmth, a comfort blanket of noise to keep out cold nights and dark thoughts, and it does feel like ‘You Stay by the Sea’ in some ways concludes a big chapter of his life. Maybe we will see a reinvented Axel Flovent going forward and whilst I’m not expecting a complete change in direction (no ‘Songs from the Musicals’), it’s pretty evident he has a clear sense of purpose, a group of excellent musicians and producers around him, and he's in exactly the right place geographically.
Nordic Music Review 7.5 /10