Saturday, 14 December 2013

Stina Nordenstam

My first dose of Swedish singer-songwriter Stina Nordenstam came via MTV as a teenager, when the network still played a valuable role in introducing new talent to the masses. The music video for Little Star filled me with intrigue. Here was an artist communicating something unique, mysterious and haunting. Her voice sounded fragile and angelic to my ears. I felt compelled to discover more. There was no easy method to achieve this back then, no internet, no streaming or downloading - a bus ride to the nearest record store was the only way. 

I remember the half-hour bus journey home, studying the artwork for her second album And She Closed Her Eyes (Eastwest Records, 1994), wondering how it would sound - hoping I'd like it. I spent all my leftover pocket money on it, saved from working a part-time job maintaining guitars at a local music store on the weekends. I remember taping it and listening to it on my Walkman on my way to and from school. It grew on me. I learnt to love it - still do.

Dynamite (Eastwest Records, 1996), a raw and cathartic recording brimming with fuzzy, industrial sounding guitars/drums and sweeping, emotive string arrangements came a few years later when I was in college. An abrasive and stark sounding reaction to the embellished, jazz-tinged textures of And She Closed Her Eyes,  it's an album that reveals itself slowly, rewarding you with each listen. Stina's vocal delivery is intimate and sounds kinda sexy in places - a real treat for your ears. It's well worth investigating.

A weird and wonderful covers record People Are Strange (Eastwest Records, 1998) followed before she returned with This Is Stina Nordenstam (Independiente, 2001), an album of originals that finds Stina re-imagining herself and her sound at every turn - where processed beats combine with haunting and catchy melodies to hypnotic effect. Lead track Everyone Else In The World is one of the most beautiful and sad songs you'll ever hear.

Stina's last album, The World Is Saved (V2 Records, 2004) is imaginative, enigmatic and as strong as anything she's released - a joyous collection opening with the quirky groove of Get On With Your Life - rich with eccentric lyrics it fittingly marks her withdrawal into silenceShe appears to have little interest in making records these days, pursuing a love of photography instead. Maybe she feels she's communicated everything she needed to, exhausted her muse, grown tired of the pressures of the music industry - or perhaps her desire for privacy eventually won out? She is after all an artist who never performed live beyond her first album tour, who disguised and reinvented herself at every opportunity, who rarely gave interviews to the press. I hope she's happy but I would love nothing more than to wake up to news of her musical return. I'm as intrigued by her now as I was as a teenager watching MTV. Her silence remains a mystery.

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