Album Reviews

Feldberg – Don’t Be A Stranger

(Smalltown America) UK release date: 11 April 2011

Iceland punches above its weight in the pop stakes. A volcanic rock home to just 320,000 hardy souls, it has lately spawned the likes of Jónsi, múm, Sigur Rós and the inimitable Björk; artists whose output is flavoured with an irresistible, unmistakable Icelandic essence.

Multitalented dream popper Eberg is firm fixture of that prestigious collective, having three acclaimed albums to his credit, and his musical nous, it would seem, stretches to include talent spotting; Feldberg came into existence when Eberg met Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld, jazz session vocalist and friend-of-a-friend.

The fruit of the pairing is Don’t Be A Stranger, an album that has been kicking around for a some time before securing an official UK release. It was an inevitability, really: here is a collection of authentic and accomplished tracks bearing all the hallmarks of his songcrafting and her gorgeous voice.

The voice, indeed, is the LP’s pièce de résistance, sitting as it does on the enchantment scale somewhere between Beth Gibbons and Emily Haines. Portishead-esque opener In Your Arms is a jaw-dropping, spotlight-stealing number on Rósa’s merits alone; the deft musicianship is a bonus.

Not that Don’t Be A Stranger is all pants and no trousers. Feldberg dip their toes into the waters of various styles – from Farewell’s cutesy alt-folk to Dreamin’s award winningly fabulous call-and-response pop duet. Comparisons with She & Him are fair, but Eberg and Ísfeld exhibit far more diversity than their retrospective American counterparts.

A change of tack is offered as the album starts to build up a head of steam, Running Around slowing affairs to a luxurious pace to afford space for leisurely vocals and even Feist-style banjo flourishes. House Of Fun the quickens the heart, its simple progression blossoming into a threatening-yet-flavoursome chorus.

Eberg’s dream pop credentials are never set aside completely, but instead provide the occasional shade from their beaming folk-pop: Eleven evokes faded glamour, sounding as Air‘s Virgin Suicides soundtrack would have had the Gallic pair enlisted the services of a knowing chanteuse.

Not ones to rest on their laurels, Feldberg continue to plug away. You & Me’s acoustic tapestry paves the way for Eberg’s infrequent harmonies – soaring over glockenspiel licks like Stars at their tuneful best – while Sleepy’s patchwork constitution emerges into glorious progressions more akin to soft rock’s guilty pleasures. The pair tamper rather than overhaul, but the results speak for themselves.

Creeping from good to great, the album saves the best for last: Don’t Be A Stranger, already a homeland hit, is Feldberg in a nutshell – and the reason behind their emergence – and closer Love Me Tomorrow signs off with a bang rather than a whisper, its dark, Cardigans-esque sensuality grabbing one by the lapels for one last smooch.

This is an LP that coaxes the listener’s ear back time and again, its gifted creators having crafted an stable of tracks that provide immediate gratification and reasons to return. A handy knack, and perhaps the soundtrack to more than one hazy summer’s night.

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Feldberg – Don’t Be A Stranger