(note: this was actually written a few years ago and I am editing it to go with the other twelve entries coming soon)
Queen of lo-fi, queen of kooky; Stina Nordenstam, is, without doubt, Sweden’s most interesting musical artist. Starting out 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 resulting in by far her weakest album to date. 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.
And She Closed Her Eyes – 1994
The World is Saved – 2004
This is Stina Nordenstam – 2001