Nanna Øland Fabricius is 28-year-old Dane who’s been making music under the name of Oh Land since 2008. Her last album, 2011’s self-titled effort, reached the Top 5 in her native Denmark but made little impact elsewhere, despite the presence of two stellar singles in the form of Son Of A Gun and White Nights.
If its follow-up, Wish Bone, is designed for sure-fire commercial success, it does a very good job of concealing it. Eight of its 13 tracks are produced by TV On The Radio’s David Sitek – a brilliant producer but not one who’s known for readying songs for radio playlists. Sitek’s arrangements rarely take the path of least resistance and, accordingly, these songs are awash with strange, clattering and often unidentifiable instrumentation.
For the most part, it works. Renaissance Girls’ intricate arrangement matches its serpentine melody perfectly; Bird In An Aeroplane and Love A Man Dead might have been forgettable MOR numbers were it not for the surrounding buzzes and drones, while Cherry On Top’s finger-clicking R&B is sumptuous. (Fabricius’s promise that “you can have it all with a cherry on top” is hard to resist.) At times, though, Sitek’s production style seems inimical to the songs’ pop potential. Next Summer, in particular, is hamstrung by its sludgy backing track.
Production duties on the remaining five tracks are split between M.I.A. and Bat For Lashes cohort Dan Carey, up-and-coming DJ/producer WNDRBRD and Fabricius herself. Carey’s effort, My Boxer, finds Fabricius speak-singing pugilistic lyrics in a haughty voice. It ends with Fabricius saying the word “horrible”. It is not, in all honesty, a great fit for her.
WNDRBRD’s tracks fare little better: Green Card is an overly dramatic power ballad featuring an ill-fitting immigration metaphor; Kill My Darling, meanwhile, is undone by a harsh-sounding electro squiggle that’s at odds with the rest of the song. Fabricius’s pair of self-produced tracks, 3 Chances and Love You Better are acoustic, folky and very pretty, but they belong on a different album altogether.
It all adds up to an unfocused and unsatisfying album. Wish Bone isn’t lacking in hooks, but even its best songs – Bird In An Aeroplane, Pyromaniac, Cherry On Top – can’t match Son Of A Gun or White Nights for sheer, irresistible catchiness. Fabricius is clearly talented, but Wish Bone probably won’t be the album to deliver the breakthrough she deserves.