On Swedish songstress Frida Hyvönen’s debut, Until Death Comes, the piano playing was unkempt. Hyvönen took the angle practiced by Regina Spektor or Soap&Skin, preferring to etch a song from chaos rather than let it develop organically.
Two years on, Hyvönen has markedly changed. Gone is the awkward sense of evaporating melody; in its place Silence Is Wild showcases an eccentric, wildly sexual and over-the-top singer armed with poignant, forceful piano pop. What Hyvönen once restrained is this time let loose to roam, and curvaceous songs emerge. It may not be entirely serious, nor politically correct, but this is fun to listen to.
Right away, Hyvönen asserts her vocal range and piano prowess. Dirty Dancing is built on ’80s sensibilities, a messy ode to feigning responsibility whilst growing up. Hyvönen sings for an old crush who shoots birds to impress her, all atop a simple piano round that wouldn’t be out of place in Little Shop Of Horrors. It’s dark, theatrical and clever, asserting the deathly musical as the dominant theme, 30 seconds in.
Next Hyvönen moves onto London!, criticizing city workers and life in our town, all the while dreaming of a life within its walls, claiming the way London “hates me is better than love”. And like London, the track is loud and boisterous. Circus-like keyboard phrases ebb and flow through a thin veil of cabaret hints, creating a sensual paean to the city that engenders beauty and squalor simultaneously. It’s as if she’s singing on top of a piano, in a negligee, with a bleeding wound exposed.
But the star throughout is Hyvönen’s voice. Whether it is crowded in bustling instrumentation or silk screened through a simple piano melody, it dominates. Take Scandinavian Blonde and its follow-up, December, as examples. The former is, as the theme goes, written for a musical, as Hyvönen criticizes the truth behind the stereotypes shrouding Scandinavian blondes through frenetic piano triplets and pounding percussion. In its core this is a rock song from Rent, poetic and political, a trip that takes the sarcastic route towards hypothesis.
The latter, and the showstopper here, is a monologue about abortion, walking the listener (in this case a man) through the procedure that “rids us (the woman) of our little trouble”. And it is devastating. This time her muse lies in a down-tempo number from A Chorus Line. She sings caustically, showering pain on the man responsible for inseminating her for three minutes, before becoming apologetic. At the end she giggles, claiming the procedure brought forth “a relief in the grief”.
Silence Is Wild is heart wrenching, brutally honest and, at times, difficult to listen to. It is also forceful, confident and mature. Hyvönen chuckles from time to time, but from casual sex to terminating pregnancies, urban trepidation to the fear of feeling foreign, she sings with ardor, knowing full well that in every laugh or sob she is pouring everything she has into the open. How rewarding.