Stina Nordenstam : This Is Stina Nordenstam

Is anyone, anywhere having any fun?..

A few years back, Swedish chanteuse Stina Nordenstam left her

long-term retreat on a secluded island off Stockholm, popped over to see her family and informed them that she never wanted to see them again. She never has.

If, four albums into her career, that was her way of breaking free of the ties that bind, it has done little to remove the weight of the world from her tiny shoulders. There are no laughs on ‘This Is…’. This is the sound of a lady metaphorically slamming her head against a brick wall while early-’70s jazz-rockers The Soft Machine play in a nearby swimming pool.

There’s none of the self-aggrandising grief of nu-metal

in Nordenstam’s icy, ickle-girl voice, but an unrelieved, all-encompassing dread which even the fortifying presence of Suede’s Brett Anderson on a couple of tracks can do little to suppress.

Forbidding stuff, then, but a certain playful grace winks through the gloom. ‘Everyone Else In The World’ is a beautifully constructed slice of – Cardigans-noir, and there’s plenty of ‘Pink Moon’-era Nick Drake gothic elsewhere.

It’s pop music as a D-grade alternative to therapy but, for all that, pretty good.

Jim Wirth