Album Reviews

Silje Nes – Ames Room

(Fat Cat) UK release date: 3 December 2007

Silje Nes - Ames Room The first song just isn’t very good. The playful discord, boring lyrics, and (bad) choice of instrumentation do not work, and renders Over All, the opener to Ames Room, an amateurish sounding, and rather annoying mistake. But hang on. I’m getting ahead of myself.

Silje Nes is a Norwegian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, her story a romantic one. Silje began writing her own music in 2001, and four years later, sent a demo to Brighton based FatCat. They heartily approved, and stayed in touch, talking regularly with the budding Norwegian star, listening to new tracks and helping piece together this debut album.

Ames Room exudes the kind of stripped down, breathy vocal folk pop that has become the stock Scandinavian export of the last five years or so. With many fellow contenders jostling for the limelight among her peers, how does Silje Nes fare?

Well, Ames Room, with the notable exception of the opening track, is pretty bloody nice. And the initial blunder is quickly, and beautifully recompensed by the stunning Drown. Haunting, desolate guitar riffs (reminiscent of Gravenhurst) the only accompaniment to a vocal that will break your heart, both melodically and in its achingly beautiful, fragile delivery. Best song on the album.

Throughout Ames Room, Nes’ voice is beautiful, and certainly noteworthy. This is perhaps exemplified best with the fragile falsetto of Giant Disguise, and the melodic weirdness of Bright Night Morning. But, there’s plenty of artists/bands all exponents of the breathy, fragile vocal, Sia, The Radio Dept., and Frida Orhn to name three – if Ames Room is to cut through the mix, so to speak, it needs an angle, something different.

That would be smatterings of electronica then…the way synthesised drum patterns and hefty basslines are laced into her songs (creditably on Dizzy Street) gives Ames Room something to make it more unique and intriguing listen, and at times makes it sound like the baby sister of Thom Yorke‘s The Eraser.

Diverse instrumentation too, gives the listener more of a journey to travel with Ames Room. With xylophones, glass bottles, cellos, guitar, bass, synths, melodicas, there is plenty to entertain. The fragile guitar work of Drown can be juxtaposed with the huge bassline and hefty drums of Searching, White, and again with the lonely cello of Bright Night Morning – there are numerous examples.

That’s not to say that these electronic, multi-instrumental ramblings don’t sometimes venture into territory they shouldn’t. Shapes Electric, and Long Shadows Left Around are examples of half baked ‘look-how-many-weird-and-unique-sounds-I’m-making-aren’t-I-clever’ moments where Silje should really be concerning herself with throwing these sounds into the beautiful sounds she can unquestionably write.

As debut albums fair however, this is pretty good. What’s nice is how balanced Ames Room is. Yes it has diverse instrumentation, yes it has electronica, yes, it has some challenging points, but these these elements are sewn into the songs subtly so as not to compromise on the lazy, chilled out beauty that popularises the genre. And this craftsmanship demonstrates a songwriting wisdom which belies that of a debut album.

Oh yeah, and that opener? It’s the only song on the album that Silje Nes didn’t write herself, and is co-wrote by Kristian Stockhaus from Ungdomskulen – she’s better of sticking to her own material I think.

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Silje Nes – Ames Room