Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekend Music Roundup (North by Norway Edition)y

I've spent the last week in Switzerland, visiting friends and family and babies and photographing street art (some of which I hope to share in coming posts). But one of the more exciting things that I'm doing is seeing Sivert Hoyem play an open air festival. For those of you unfamiliar with him, Sivert Hoyem is one of my favorite song writers of the past decade, first as part of the influential Oslo band Madrugada, then as a solo artist after the untimely death of Madrugada's guitarist a few years ago. The band's music is a sound that is hard to pin down, but for me the best description I can think of is that they sound like a more spiritual version of Joy Division. Sivert's voice is unforgettable and one that truly grabs hold of the soul. I thought it would be a good idea to briefly write about his entire catalog, especially since I purchased nearly all of these albums during different visits to Switzerland. Enjoy.

Madrugada - Industrial Silence: Released in 1999, the band's debut sounds very unlike anything that was coming out at the time and the imagery in the words was definitely an influence on some of my earlier novels. Last year, a Deluxe Edition was released with an entire album of demos that for the most part are equal to the album.

Madrugada - The Nightly Disease: Released in 2001, this is my favorite album by the band. It's one of those albums that is perfect from beginning to end. It has such a dark atmosphere, yet manages to be uplifting at the same time. This was just re-released in a Deluxe Edition, again with another album of demos. While in Switzerland, I picked it up on 180 gram vinyl (knowing that it would be nearly impossible to find in the U.S.). It's four records that I can't wait to listen to when I get back to my fuzzy warble player. Easily one of my Top 50 favorite albums of all time.

Madrugada - Grit: Released in 2002, Grit is an album that builds from some of the more solidly rock tracks from the previous album. It's a sound the band does well, and includes some exceptional songs, but I must admit that I miss the spiritual nature. That said, I know some people who hold this as the band's best album.

Madrugada - The Deep End: Released in 2005, this album is closest to The Nightly Disease and contains the track "Running Out of Time" which I first heard live and is among my favorites. Many fans were disappointed, but I don't understand why. This is a wonderful and dynamic album.

Madrugada - Madrugada: Released in 2008, shortly after the death of their guitarist, this was to become the band's swan song, ending the album with a song sung by their fallen member. It's an album that plays with a heavy heart, but is also quite good and worthy of listening to. "Look Away Lucifer" is an amazing track.

Sivert Hoyem - Ladies and Gentleman of the Opposition: This first solo album was released in 2004 as a side-project, but feels very much like a Madrugada record. It has the same depth and emotion as the band's early albums is simply stunning. "North Wind" is one of my favorite songs of all time.

Sivert Hoyem & the Volunteers - Exiles: Released in 2006, still mainly as a side-project, this album was a bit of disappointment for me upon first listening to it (on a train between Zurich and Aarau in 2006). But it has since grown on me and I absolutely love it now. It's quieter and the songs are more spacious, exactly the things that I at first objected to but are now the very reason I find myself listening to it more and more with every year that passes.

Sivert Hoyem - Moon Landing: This is the third solo album from the frontman of one of this decades best bands (Madrugada). His voice sounds like it rose up from the icy depths of the Scandinavian landscape . . one of those voices that you feel in your bones. This collection of songs is very good. But it does feel like a collection of songs. Worth it for fans, but if you don't his work, I'd still recommend picking up his fist solo album and the first few Madrugada albums. (THIS IS MY WEEKEND MUSIC ROUNDUP REVIEW FROM 10/19/2009)

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