Bror Forsgren: Narcissus (Jansen Plateproduksjon)

Norwegian alt. pop auteur debuts promising first solo album

Released Oct 12th, 2015 via Jansenplateproduksjon / By Norman Miller
Bror Forsgren: Narcissus (Jansen Plateproduksjon) Norway is probably the richest country in Europe, and its musical offerings are pretty rich too for a country of so few people, extending way beyond A-ha and Royskopp – particular big-up to the wonderful Susanna And The Magical Orchestra and fine Sami star Mari Boine.

Jaga Jazzist too, though ex-collaborator Bror Forsgren serves up something very different on this debut solo album. “I've always dreamed of making an album with grand orchestration,” says Bror, before name-checking Scott Walker and a desire to combine “velvety pop music and modern composition”.

He certainly makes a fair stab at it on the nine tracks here, though he misses the dark beauty that underpins the great Mr Walker's sound. Instead, he comes up with a template that nods more to an idiosyncratic mix of The Beach Boys, Scritti Politti and 'Rubber Bullets'-era 10CC. Maybe even a dash of Sufjan Stevens in his wackier Age of Adz phase.

The high register Forsgren uses distances him totally from Scott Walker – he often sounds like he's trying to channel Jon Anderson, Green Gartside and Brian Wilson at once. But that isn't criticism – once you get used to it, it has a certain charm as Bror dishes up a raft of songs in a new genre called Bubblegum Shoegaze.

At the heart of the album, though, is the magnificent 11-minute 'Tired Of The Sun', which unifies much of what crops up in part elsewhere – a grand sweeping three-minute strings and brass orchestral intro that could be the opening of 'Forsgren's Symphony No. 1', a section contrasting crunchy guitars with sweeping strings, a choral bit, a jangly acoustic bit... It sweeps along like nothing else you'll hear this year - epic pop of beguiling grandeur.

Elsewhere, the orchestral tropes work well on the opener 'Waiting For The Holy Music', while chopping/chugging guitar add a bit of welcome grit to counteract the fey vocals on 'I Need Something New'. Offbeat joyful pop is the best way to describe 'In A Time When God Was One' and excellent 'Any Day Now'.

Some of the tracks feel disjointed as Forsgren tries to cram in a hotch-potch of stylistic devices. But he also manages to sound interestingly unlike anyone else, and in an age of way too much identikit music, that's worth listening to.