Few albums in 2021 have been as exquisite as this fragile, minimalist masterpiece. Like porcelain, there is a sense that the slightest pressure could crush it.
Released in March on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, A Lantern And A Bell is a collection of nine beautifully crafted songs, delivered by a falsetto that would break your heart. It is the ninth album of Stockholm’s Emil Svanängen and is undoubtedly his least complex. But sometimes the simplest route is most effective.
Recorded in a remote studio on Stockholm’s Södermalm peninsula, water is everywhere. These are songs inspired by the freezing cold, cruel sea. They feel glacial. The highlight is the stunning Go Easy On Me Now. In my piece on this album for Louder Than War, I described it as “a stripped back composition built upon a gorgeous descending arpeggio that is reminiscent of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Svanängen’s stunning falsetto surfs atop. The sheer anguish in his voice as he pleadingly sings “emergencies, I don’t know what to do” is devastatingly impactful.”
Frankly, as I scour the end-of-year lists in various publications, I’m astonished by the absence of this album. Really, it deserves considerably more attention and, trust me, your lives would be better for it.