Frida Hyvönen | Until Death Comes (Secretly Canadian)

Standout track "Drive My Friend" is the most irresistible one here, and it's as good a case for the beauty of the minor third interval that I've ever heard.


cd_fridaThis debut release by Swedish singer/songwriter Frida Hyvönen has been out for about a year in her native country, but has just gotten a U.S. release. There's been a plethora of female singers from Scandinavia emerging in the past couple of years; one can hardly keep up with them all. Hyvönen is by no means the most talented or distinguished, but what's somewhat unique about her is that all her compositions are piano-based, and only one or two songs on Until Death Comes feature any added instrumentation. That gives the ten songs here a very intimate feel, and Hyvönen 's lyrical concerns are also so personal at times that you may not quite believe what you're hearing (assuming you're paying attention).

"Once I Was a Serene Teenaged Child" was the most talked-about song upon this CD's release overseas, and with good reason. With matter-of-fact bluntness, it describes a young girl's first sexual encounter with a hapless, manipulative male, and the dawning sense of power that results. "You said a girl like me was torture for you/I didn't know what to do about it and/Somehow it made me feel proud/The feeling of pride and the loneliness to it…" sings Hyvönen , after calmly delivering a much more blunt line. This is a potent composition, rendered more so by the relative sweetness of the tune itself. Standout track "Drive My Friend" is the most irresistible one here, and it's as good a case for the beauty of the minor third interval that I've ever heard. Hyvönen 's self-harmonizing and bouncy piano playing make for a truly ear-pleasing number.

The word "bouncy" would also apply to such songs as "You Never Got Me Right" (which employs sudden stops and starts to dramatic effect), "Djuna," and "The Modern"—Hyvönen 's insistently rhythmic chording is very simple, some might even say simplistic. But it's kinda refreshing to hear such stripped-down arrangements when another artist might go overboard with production tricks. "Come Another Night" is the tune that features an actual band, but it's really not that good of a song and draws too much attention to itself. Much more effective are the sparse chords and minimal harmonies of "Today, Tuesday," which is reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell on several levels, and the genuinely poignant "N.Y." On this track, the delicacy of Hyvönen 's playing and her sincere vocal grip your emotions in a way that other songs sometimes fail to do.

And the singer's reflections on being in New York in wintertime have real bite: "In silent houses quiet Christmas trees/Stand sadly wrapped in electricity/The smell of winter makes me sick for love/It brings back memories of another world." Moments like this can induce shivers, and show Hyvönen to be a thoughtful, self-aware songwriter. If she can figure out a way to fill her future albums with more such moments, this talented gal may live up to the hype/acclaim that has preceded her to these shores. B

RIYL: Laura Nyro, Carole King, early Joni Mitchell

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