So what is it about Stina Nordenstam?

Well a few days ago kroker gave a detailed list of good Swedish artists and neglected to mention THE greatest Swedish artist of all time: Stina Nordenstam. Below is my review of Stina and her work…

Queen of lo-fi, queen of kooky; Stina Nordenstam, is, without doubt, Sweden’s most interesting musical artist. Beginning in 1991 with ‘memories of a color’, an album not without its flaws, Stina announced herself onto the Swedish (and world) scene with barely a whisper.

As is so often the way with talented artists, Stina built up a cult following which eagerly awaited her second (and best) offering ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’, in 1994. It was here that Stina married her unique voice to incredible, haunting music coupled with those lyrics…

Stina, like other Swedish artists, has been criticised for singing in English rather than her native tongue, yet I, for one, am thankful that she has chosen to express herself in my language as her lyrics hit a chord in me much stronger than I believe they would had she written and sung in Swedish.

After ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’, expectation was high and this inspired Nordenstam to a change in direction. The haunting voice was still there, the lyrics still amazing, yet the music had taken a darker edge. Although ‘Dynamite’ (1997) doesn’t match the completeness of her previous release, it showed a maturing, developing artist, one who was interested in varying ideas within music. Those that had followed this picture-shy diva with interest were now hooked.

1998 saw Stina release an album that, for me, is typically her, a cover album of thirty odd minutes long. A cover album in itself is nothing new yet what if it was a cover album containing songs that Stina had not heard the original of or indeed had not liked upon hearing them? This was indeed an interesting approach to cover versions.

The result? Some extremely intriguing covers, culminating in the best track of all eleven, the title track ‘People are Strange’, which manages to be infinitely better than The Doors’ original (which I also love).

Then came the glitch in the system, the blot on the cv; after successful albums and a keen following, Stina left the creative freedom of East/West and joined Sony Records, resulting in a ‘re-birth’ unrequired and by far her weakest album so far. 2001 saw wonderful tracks such as ‘The Diver’, ‘Welcome to Happiness’ and ‘Clothe Yourself For The World’ surrounded by non-Stina tracks: ‘Keen Yellow Planet’ and ‘Lori Glory’ and it seemed as if we had lost the lo-fi queen we had come to love as she was engulfed by the Sony Hi-Fi commercial machine.

Yet all was not lost; 2004 saw Stina return with the aptly titled ‘The World is Saved’, a behemoth of an album, written, performed and produced by Nordenstam on her own label ‘A Walk in the Park’. It is a dark, brooding, powerful album that is the nearest to ‘And She Closed Her Eyes’ in quality and completeness and was also this reviewer’s album of the year for 2004.

The world is truly saved.

Recommended listening:
And She Closed Her Eyes – 1994
The World is Saved – 2004

Avoid:
This is Stina Nordenstam – 2001

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About Mark S. Deniz

English Teacher, writer, editor, publisher, reviewer and blogger. Founder of publishing company Morrigan Books and imprint Gilgamesh Press and editor-in-chief for review site Beyond Fiction. Also cycles, plays floorball, listens to lots and lots of music, reads a ton of books and tries to fit in some TV, film and writing too. View all posts by Mark S. Deniz

6 responses to “So what is it about Stina Nordenstam?

  • pocket_unv

    The sound of an oddball
    You tell them! Down with the big record companies who from time to time supply us with great music! Boo!
    Can’t believe that you left out all the wonderful tracks that she has done with other artists (“To the sea” with Yello for instance). Also I’ve heard a rumor (don’t we all love rumors) that she turned down R.E.M. when they asked her to do a track with them and a litte later she said yes to Yello. It does fit quite well with her “photo-shyness” syndrome.

  • markdeniz

    Wouldn’t you turn down R.E.M. too?
    There is a very good reason for not mentioning the tracks as that is a question for an upcoming musical party I have been invited to… shhh!

  • pocket_unv

    A musical party, eh? Does that mean that people are required to start singing for no reason and spontaneously do advanced coreography? Sure sounds like one gay party ;-)

  • markdeniz

    Oh now who’s upset they haven’t been invited? I’m going to send you the official invite just to twist that knife even more… muhahahaha

  • kateyschultz

    wow mark. this is a great entry. it makes me wish you had an online music review column. heck, you could do that for your blog (among other things). your tone is excellent and informed – and honest. i wish i had the extra dough to buy the recommended albums but i just don’t these days. anyway, your entry was inspiring – i love writing and reading about music. well done.
    ~katey

  • markdeniz

    Sounds like a Stina compilation will be making its way over then, doesn’t it?

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