NBHAP Rating: 4,7/5
Ask The Deep
Label: Morr Music
03. One Eyed Lady
06. Follow Me Down
08. I Will Never
10. Lost Ship
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Can we skip the clichés about Iceland in this record review at least? You know, all those fairytale-like connections between the artists and the impressive nature of their home country, the natural love for melancholia and sadness. We’ve heard it enough. Yes, artists like Sóley Stefánsdóttir might be a bit weird and moody but they are impressively talented. Whoever doubted that will find another proof in Ask The Deep, the second full-length release by the Icelandic singer/songwriter. Way more than on her 2011 debut We Sink SÓLEY emancipates herself from her main band SEABEAR (who might be gone for good anyway) and unfolds her full talent with a heart-wrenching piece of noir pop that takes its listener on a journey into the heart of darkness. No, this is not a record about the streets of Reykjavík or gushers, it’s a one that reflects on the dark thoughts within its protagonist.
Last year’s Krómantik EP already saw SÓLEY heading for a much darker path than her debut, Ask The Deep continues this direction and sees the songwriter revealing her introspective inner life with a boost of confidence and strong songs, from start to finish. Devil opens the record with a gentle piano coming out of the dark. ‘You must face your fairytale’ sings Stefánsdóttir in the following Ævintýr that comes along with a hypnotic beat. One Eyed Lady, one of the most morbid tracks on the album, reduces SÓLEY‘s idea of dark pop to its core. Just a beat (that literally feels like a heart-beat), a piano and her fragile but present voice on top of it. That’s all she needs to create that haunting atmosphere. And who wouldn’t answer ‘Yes’ when she asks the listener ‘Would you kill for love?’ in that track?
Ask The Deep became a captivating and diversified piece of ambitious dark songwriter pop. Still, despite its sinister premise there is always space for moments of hope on the album. Just take the dreamy guitars of Halloween or the harmonic and almost uplifting synthesizer moments in Dreamers. But, of course, most of the time there is no room for feel-good vibes on this adventure. I Will Never starts with an impressive epic organ, almost like a sign of impending doom before Stefánsdóttir and her gentle voice calm the listener down to say that it’ll eventually all be right in the end. Still, the solution will leave you hanging in their air as the closing Lost Ship feels like a distance lullaby from the other side of the room; one final song before SÓLEY vanishes in the dark again. Yes, that record is one of the rare occasions when more would have actually been more… we wouldn’t mind one or two additional songs.
Ask The Deep is a deeply personal and honest album, one that gives an insight into the fragile and sometimes even morbid thoughts of the songwriter. You have to have the guts to do this. The second SÓLEY record doesn’t sound like another pretentious ‘folk-girl gone dark’ album; its melancholic undertone isn’t staged, its words don’t feel like shallow phrases. There’s substance in every note and honesty in all of these ten melodies. And if not, the singer is playing that role pretty well, we must say. Ask The Deep has become a challenging and satisfying listening experience for all lovers of gloomy pop alternative drafts. It’s a great journey into the mind of an exceptional songwriter. And that, indeed, is a speciality of this small country in the North.
Haunting, honest and ambitious – SÓLEY’s second album Ask The Deep is an enjoyable introspective journey into the gloomy mind of the crafted songwriter.