My Boxer – Oh Land
47:42 min • Federal Prism • September 24, 2013
John Preston reviews
Since recording her occasionally twee but consistently charming self-titled debut from 2011, Danish electronic pop singer-songwriter Oh Land has been listening to a lot of rap and the influences of this genre can be heard all over the tight and tough follow up, Wish Bone. The stark, attention seeking cover portrait alone projects enough star power to confirm that Nanna Ohland Fabricius means business this time, just try not to stare at it. Along with the recruitment of David Sitek, TV on the Radio member and fast becoming the most inspired alt-pop producer to emerge after the last couple of years (Beck, Beady Eye, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and CSS), the promise of something both unexpected and immediately compelling is met almost without exception.
Wish Bone is Oh Land’s declaration of change and the strength required to achieve it. Many of the songs use fighting or violent metaphors to get the message across, which are then off set against lush, warm restorative retreats. Album opener ‘Bird in An Aeroplane’ is a strange, weary sounding minor key, synth pile up; it’s also a very good pop song but not fully realised on first listen. Like some of Sitek’s other productions, the fun is unravelling and exposing a song’s real intentions, which can sometimes take time. At the other end of the spectrum, ’Renaissance Girl’ furiously changes the tone with its scatty mania and staccato melody, Oh Land dazzling with exuberant vocals. It’s surely one of the most self-possessed pop songs of the year.
‘Love A Dead Man’, ‘Kill My Darling’ and, in particular, ‘The Boxer’, which sees Oh Land reunite with producer Dan Carey (MIA, Bat For Lashes and Kylie), form a trilogy of sorts of part rapped, part sung concise muscular electro pop tracks. David Sitek again changing musical tact with ‘Pyromaniac’ which is loose and funky and with its celebratory woo-hoo’s is The Cardigan’s classic ‘Lovefool”s older sister. The twinkling ‘Sleepy Town’ and doomy, two note piano chime of ‘Next Summer’ –
Put me to sleep and don’t wake me up,
Until time has changed please let’s fast forward the clock –
– both topped with deceptively sweet vocals, successfully take the theme of small town resentment and boredom into mid tempo territory along with the finger snapping R ‘n’ B of ‘Cherry On Top’.
‘Green Card’ is a majestic, rolling Sia co-write and is a success of proportion and restraint; trumpets swell and Oh Land’s elaborate vocals demonstrate the skill and versatility of her vision and talent. The wheezy and dilapidated electronics on album closer ‘First to Say Goodnight’ mimic more than anywhere else here the overall sonic atmosphere of Sitek’s successful collaboration with Scarlett Johansson on her album of Tom Waits covers ‘Anywhere I Lay My Head’. Where Johansson’s voice was never much more than a remote smudge or drawl, Oh Land’s clear and intimate vocals pull you much closer to the sentiment and sound beautiful alongside the ornate, drunken music box soundtrack.
Robyn, Lykke Li, Dragonette and Annie make vivid, revered, (and to many) cultish pop music of various shades. Oh Land, like several similar acts, has been on the periphery of this greatness for a little while now but Wish Bone sees her nudge her way into this very special group with an album that, in addition to cementing her own unique identity, is a delirious and thoughtful collection of pop beauty.