Introducing… / Would You Let Me Play This EP 10 Times a Day?
Razzia / It’s a Trap
2005 / 2006
A- / A-
iterally hundreds of articles published in 2006 have clamored to tell us about how Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, or Sandi Thom have used the internet in their rise to fame. But while the media can drop as much pseudo-science about “MySpaces” or “web casts” as they want, these acts have actually followed fairly conventional routes into the public consciousness: PR companies, street teams, money. The end result? No.1 singles and hit albums. Meet the new biz. Same as the old biz. The 21 songs so far recorded by the Swedish act Hello Saferide, on the other hand, truly seem shaped by these new technological frontiers. They’re catchy, quirky, and interesting—the kind of thing you might download on a whim. It’s only a few listens later that some of the words or a musical phrasing hit home and these silly indie-pop songs blindside you with an unexpected poignancy. It’s schtick but it sticks.
“Highschool Stalker,” the song that first brought 24 year-old Annika Norlin and her varying band of instrumentalists and backup singers to wider attention, encapsulates Hello Saferide’s metier. Over guitar, handclaps, and trumpet Norlin details her amusing attempts to keep tabs on an unsuspecting beau. She steals dentist’s records and meets ex-girlfriends; she finds his yearbook; she’s “been on the Altavista… twice on the Yahoo.” You listen again to try and catch all the little gags and suddenly the naïveté cuts to the bone; she sings “It’s your birthday tomorrow, but I’m not supposed to know.” Over a muted trumpet her thin voice catches on the kamikaze optimism of every unrequited teenage crush. “The Quiz” plays a similar trick. It details the mundane particulars of a relationship, asking a number of questions seemingly designed to check her potential partner’s compatibility. Then the chorus turns serious, demanding the kind of commitment and care for which pop songs rarely prepare you.
As an album Introducing… doesn’t quite hang together. Collectively, however—the LP, the EP, and other recordings—in Norlin’s work there is an emotional and musical shiftiness akin to a series of diary entries. Intimacy and joie de vivre are the characteristics that most often come to mind here—the fact they have to be released as albums and EPs simply seem like a pleasant by-product of their creation. The production and arrangements, mainly undertaken by Andreas Söderlunds, are slight but effective, each instrumental or vocal part adding color and shade to these comparatively simple songs.
What makes these unassuming vignettes so special, however, is their boundless confidence. Norlin often chastises herself for her mistakes, but she rarely sounds guilt-ridden or self-pitying. It has been said that the human race can only progress by imagining better versions of itself and in these songs—“2006”’s list of resolutions, “My Best Friend”’s affirmation of companionship—there is an understated decency, a precious humanity. Her songs acknowledge a fact of life rarely acknowledged in music: that kissing, laughing, and crying can happen in the same three minutes.
Hello Saferide reminds us that even as the remnants of the counterculture stumble into history and the talismanic position of the classic album recedes, the hope of that generation was sound: that, quite simply, people would be better to one another. These songs from the digital hinterland are a quiet affirmation that music and, by extension, the best qualities of people will always slip round and through changes in technology.