Silje Nergaard – Houses

Here is another album which proves that those long lockdowns we were all facing since spring of last year, also led to some very positive, creatively effective outcomes. Norwegian singer Silje Nergaard explains on her website that she had to clear her head through daily walks around her neighborhood and that she started to “fantasize about the kind of stories which were occurring in these houses. Who lived there – what kind of lives did they lead?”. The result of those fantasies is a 14-track collection of beautifully told stories, wrapped in a subtle and vulnerable production with lots of little things to explore, like her amazing vocal arrangements.

Silje Nergaard "Houses"

The album is full of exceptionally wonderful melodies. “The Ballet Boy” is worth the trip alone. With her backing vocals, harp, and an opulent string backing by the Budapest Art Orchestra, this is certainly one of her most consummate songs she has ever recorded. And there is so much more to find here: violinist Adam Baldych graces the sweet opening track “His House”, another amazingly strong track by Silje which will surely stand the test of time. Legendary guitarist Toninho Horta duets with her on the very supple “I Knew That I Loved You”. Bugge Wesseltoft can be heard on warm Rhodes on the haunting “Night Street”, which also features saxophonist Trygve Seim.

Vince Mendoza arranged the strings on “A Crying Shame”, where Silje is accompanied by Kurt Elling who seems to be the perfect match. “Candle In The Window” is a perfect pop song. They don’t write them like this anymore. It’s a pretty refreshing and attractive tune where Silje and singer Mike Hartung share vocal duties on this brilliantly crafted piece. There is a lot of melancholy on “Velvet Curtains”, another longing piece and another strong story, written by her longtime lyricist Mike McGurk, responsible for all of the lyrics on this album. Superb short sax spot on this one by Håkon Kornstad. Elsewhere, the tabla induced “Window Bird” once again features superb vocals and such a strong melody which won’t leave your ears for a while. Her jazz background comes to the fore on “My Neighbour’s Cat” and she gets relatively wild on the only real uptempo tune here: “My Crowded House” comes across as a discofied number, with a phat bass and soulful keys.

But she’s back to the overall quiet and soothing mood of the album for “A Long Winter”, another string-laden beauty, and the album’s final piece, the brooding, dark and melancholic “One Year” featuring Sinikka Langeland playing the kantele, a Finnish plucked string instrument sounding like a zither, and a heavenly trumpet by Arve Henriksen. I’m more than thrilled that this golden 14-tracker, this whimsical collection of true gems, is also available on vinyl.

Check her out for some select dates in Germany this fall:

10/29 Erlangen – E-Werk
10/30 Mainz – Frankfurter Hof
10/31 Freiburg – Jazzhaus
11/01 Heidelberg – Karlstorbahnhof
11/02 Kaiserslautern – Kammgarn
11/05 Leverkusen – Scala

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