Danish singer is great at borrowing from modern pop, though less so at being herself.
Fraser McAlpine 2011-11-14
It’s a rogue’s trick to try and brutishly nail together every new female singer to every other female artist in the field of popular song, as if a higher vocal register and lack of testosterone is the hallmark of a shared identity. That said, the musical reference points on this, the re-released second album from Danish songwriter/producer Oh Land aka Nanna Øland Fabricius, stick out as clearly and as densely as the quills on a porcupine, and it doesn’t take a chauvinist to spot that they’re all modern, and they’re all women.
And they’re great women, nowadays women, strong, confident, talented women – each one with a clear signature sound that Nanna has taken a small fragment of in order to create her own mosaic sound. Human is widescreen Robyn, an emo-disco barnstormer, and Sun of a Gun appropriates some of the primal chanting and hollering of tUnE-YaRdS, but brings in a big pop chorus.
Later, Voodoo treads the same line between inspired and irritating as Marina and the Diamonds – the "it’s voodoo you do" refrain at its heart is going to get under a lot more skins than it is welcome to. We Turn It Up is even perky enough to have served as a replacement for that Shakira World Cup song, had they lost it on the way to the recording studio; while Wolf & I pitches itself somewhere between Florence Welch and Katy B, being part airy myth and part earthy bass throb.
The most obvious sonic appropriation (and sole exception to the girls-of-today rule) is Lean, which is effectively Teardrop by Massive Attack held up to a mirror, with added harmonies: a doomy piano over mournful strings, clockwork drums and an artfully-scraped guitar throughout. All of which should not be misinterpreted as suggesting this isn’t good pop music in and of itself – far from it, in fact. It’s just that there’s a bit of an identity void at the heart of the thing, a lack of personality. It might just be that Oh Land is more skilled at getting songs to sound current than she is at expressing herself.