By Rathan Paul Harshavardan
Released Friday October 3rd - Bubbles Records
When I chose Erlend Øye's album Legao, little did I realise that I will learn to love this album with time. Released as a product of the Øye's independently owned record label Bubbles Records, this gem of an album by the nerdy poster boy of what I really consider indie music, blew my mind away.
Øye is a Norwegian musical genius, that's how i would introduce him to an audience that hasn't heard him before. A composer, musician, producer, singer and songwriter in his own right, the bespectacled genius was once a part of the indie folk duo Kings of Convenience, and the leader of his own band, The Whitest Boy Alive. His work with fellow Norwegian musical stalwarts Röyksopp, influenced his interest in electronic music, although, unlike his earlier work this album is inspired by his time with the Kings of Convenience andThe Whitest Boy Alive. Recorded in Reykjavík, Iceland with Keflavík reggae group Hjálmar, this gem of an album is Øye's route to return to his indie roots. With an Icelandic reggae assembly backing a Norwegian indie artist based in Italy and recorded in Berlin, Legao sounds non-viable on paper, but in reality, the international influence only adds to the melancholic aura surrounding this record.
Fence Me In, the first track off Legao does have tinges of lyrical inspiration from a genius in his own right,Leonard Cohen. Fence Me In, and Garota, are not really reggae material, nonetheless the melodies are pensive and leave listeners in rapt nostalgia. The tropical guitars on these songs remind you of Jamaica, but it is the Icelandic touch that avoids you taking a mental trip to the Caribbean paradise. The syncopated rhythms on Fence Me In and Garota are not reggae basics either, but the influence is stronger in Could You Be Loved, although it fades on the jaunty Super Furry Animals, inspired by neo-pyschedelic bands from the 80s.
Bob Marley's signature reggae influence is all over a very lyrically contrite Peng Pong, the outro reminiscent of all the heartbreak and if it were not for the track listing, undeservedly needs to be the cynosure of Legao, in its entirety. Peng Pong, is a song for anyone who has been in and out of love. Here is where Øye's lyrics of being loved or the lack of it, remind you of Cohen's Chelsea Hotel, cementing his position with the hallowed Mr. Cohen himself.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the breakdown of a relationship is pure musical gold. Bad Guy Now, isn't nice but, as a narrative of being amidst a breakup, the song does a very good job at being one third of an arresting trio made up of Who Do You Report To and Whistler. Øye's lyrical genius comes again to the fore on this trinity of songs that explore love from his view.
Unrepressed to say the least, Save Some Loving is a selfish ode of love to the most important person in the world -yourself. For those who are aware of Øye's previous work, it is disappointing to know that he has disrobed Legao of any electronic music influences. Rainman is as colourful lyrically as it is in its accompanying video, illustrated by a fan, Clara Cebrian. Reggae reigns supreme in a rather wistful and broody Lies Become Part of Who You Are. The bespectacled Scandinavian modern day Cohen, may not be visually appealing but, its his musical genius that makes Legao an absolute stand out and worth the time he set apart on his début and sophomore albums.
Heavily autobiographical and tastefully wistful, the effortless musical scores, elegantly articulated lyrics and a caressing voice,prove that Øye's Legao is a testament to his balladeering skills. Fence Me In's chorus has him crooning, "There's poetry in every moment of the day/ Tell it to my face, if you ever hear me say/ ‘My well is empty; I am done/ My inspiration has dried up, and the spark has gone", although, Legao is a paradox to those very lines. Just like the fans who waited to hear him after the début, I will definitely wait for the blasé style in Øye's work to return in due time, since and I quote Rainman's arresting chorus, "Loving you is like waiting for the rain to come," to prove that his music is most appreciated.
As international as Øye's video for Garota filmed in Seoul, the album is a must have for people who love indie music. A Norwegian electronic artist playing reggae infused tunes with a band from Iceland may not be interesting on paper, but listen to it and you will realise why music cannot be limited any more.
4.5 / 5