Ephemera | Monolove (Ephemera Records/Tuba)

ephemeramono.jpegEphemera are an intimate band; they write sweet, honest, personal songs that contain universal sentiments about love and life, but the emotional nuances in their girlish voices and the melancholy undercurrent in even the peppiest tunes make everything sound like important secrets being shared with close friends.

Ephemera: Monolove

I’ve got a secret. It’s fun to have secrets—to be in possession of valuable information that you just know would be of interest to other people. But there’s a dilemma: do you selfishly keep mum, giddy from the rush that comes from knowing something other people don’t? Or do you spill the beans, purely for the greater good of humanity? Well, my dear readers, I care about you. I care about your music library. So I’m gonna share this particular secret. Ready? Okay, there’s this pop group in Norway, see—a female trio called Ephemera. They happen to be one of the most divinely talented bands in the world. They’re stars in their native country and they’ve already released four albums containing some of the most blissful, melodic music ever made. And their new one, Monolove, is just off-the-dial fabulous. But most people in the U.S. have never heard this group. The reason has absolutely nothing to do with Ephemera’s phenomenal talent, more to do with the marketing machinery (and considerable expense) needed to bring foreign groups to our soil. Plus, there’s already a glut of bands from the U.K. and Scandinavia scrambling for our attention here.

How would three soft-voiced young Norwegian gals find their niche amidst all this craziness? All I can say to that is, great music should be heard. Somehow, some way. And Ephemera should charm the daylights out of anyone except punks and metalheads. You like pretty voices? Christine Sandtorv, Ingerlise Storksen and Jannicke Larsen have very pretty voices, indeed—voices that, when harmonizing together, are simply exquisite. Into strong melodies? Every Ephemera record is full of ‘em–haunting, timeless melodies that lodge themselves into your mind and heart. Sound quality important to you? This band has a genius producer, the amazing Yngve Leidulv Saetre, a man who adds a wealth of fascinating sonic details to the records and injects the proceedings with such warmth and vibrancy that the music sounds like it was conjured just for you. In a sense, it was.

Ephemera are an intimate band; they write sweet, honest, personal songs that contain universal sentiments about love and life, but the emotional nuances in their girlish voices and the melancholy undercurrent in even the peppiest tunes make everything sound like important secrets being shared with close friends. (One of their biggest hits, interestingly, is called “Girls Keep Secrets in the Strangest Ways.”) It’s a thoroughly captivating vibe, one that’s easy to fall in love with. Consider me a hopeless victim. Rarely have I been so moved, time and time again, by what would appear, on the surface, to be simple pop music. Speaking of “On the Surface,” that’s the title of one of the finest songs on Monolove—a Storksen tune showcasing delicate acoustic guitar, a breezy arrangement and Storksen’s sweetly sensual voice, which does this little “Hmm” thing after certain lines that is undeniably alluring.

Another of her songs, “Thank You,” is again largely acoustic, but with flawless soft orchestration. It’s spine-tinglingly lovely. “You left your footprints in the snow/A guideline for me so I will know/The day I get lost which way to go,” Storksen sings over the delicate backing, followed by her bandmates’ breathtaking harmonies). Larsen pens a couple of her all-time finest songs as well: the atmospheric “City Lights”—which has one of the most harmonically pleasing two-line choruses I’ve ever heard (in addition to the song’s rich melancholy)—and one of the album’s true showcases, “Paint Your Sky,” a luminous, brilliantly arranged soft rock tune just made for a favorite mix tape. The deceptively simple lyrics convey worlds of emotion: “Those you rely on/They seem to be pretending/You’re in denial/Go out and hold your banner high/Painting your own sky.” But no mere description can convey the enthralling beauty of this song. And it’s followed by another knockout, “Dead Against the Plan,” a Sandtorv/Storksen collaboration that is so quirkily catchy and ingeniously arranged that it could only have been made in Scandinavia. Honestly, the combination of those two songs made me want to bow down and kiss the feet of everyone involved in this recording. It’s brilliant, infectious pop music.

And I haven’t even gotten to Sandtorv’s straightforwardly melodic “Put-on Smile” or rousing “End,” two tunes which you’ll find yourself humming frequently when the awe from the more immediately captivating songs subsides. Obviously, I have no interest in being objective about Ephemera. Reviewers have a tendency to think they should keep their enthusiasm in check, and qualify an otherwise positive assessment. But I totally adore these girls and am thrilled to share this planet with them. They represent everything wonderful about music, creativity and life itself. “I’m a flower in the snow,” they sing on the haunting opener “Chaos,” which features one of the most gorgeous flurries of dreamy keyboard ever recorded. The lyric provides an apt image to associate with Ephemera. For no matter how cold and bleak the cultural landscape may seem at times, the beauty and colorful music created by this band can easily renew a sense of wonder in the attentive listener. Ephemera CDs can be ordered as imports through www.tubarec.com | Kevin Renick

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