Norwegian singer finds light in dark places in much-anticipated debut
This month saw the much anticipated release of 19-year- old Norwegian singer Aurora’s debut album. With the success of several releases last year, such as “Running With The Wolves,” and a quickly growing fan base, the silver- haired Aurora has already gained many expectations about where she could go with a full length album. While many of Aurora’s earlier- released songs do make an appearance on “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend”, listeners are also given a look into the darker side of her music, as this album showcases powerfully insightful themes that are both morbid and hopeful.
The album opens with “Runaway”, a song that exhibits Aurora’s tendency to shape the melodic structures of her songs around her lyrics. “Runaway” moves forward swiftly, guided by Aurora’s emotive voice and occasional small bits of percussive instrumentation. With complex lyrics such as “And I keep running / For a soft place to fall” and vivid lines like “I saw a piece of heaven / Waiting impatiently for me”, the simple theme of trying to return home in “Runaway” is not rudimentary in the slightest.
Moving on to the second track, “Conqueror” is about searching for self-empowerment set against a more commercial sounding, anthemic backdrop. With the hook “I’ve been looking for a conqueror / But you don’t seem to come my way” creating a tastefully catchy chorus, “Conqueror” again shines the spotlight heavily on Aurora’s pristine voice, with a multitude of percussive instrumentation including tambourines, shakers and a bold drum beat. “Running With The Wolves” will no doubt remind listeners of mystical winter winds which comes from the juxtaposition of the thumping drum and the terse, plucky electric guitar that the track opens to
Aurora’s lilting voice, which swirls and bends around lyrics such as “My heart still beats and my skin still feels / My lungs still breathe, my mind still fears.”
“Lucky” opens with the faint sounds of a solemn organ in the background and the thumping of a drum similar to that of a heartbeat. It sounds like an ode to death until the chorus breaks in, contrasting with the darker themes in the song and lifting the song up out of the darkness, thoughtfully creating a contrast between the despairs of the world and the simple beauty of being alive. “Winter Bird” is similar thematically to “Lucky,” as it surrounds serendipitous themes of being alive despite the more sorrowful moments in life. To demonstrate this theme, Aurora uses her skillful songwriting to paint pictures connecting listeners to nature, with lyrics like “Feel it as the wind strokes my skin” and “Lay me by the frozen river / where the bones have passed me by” giving the song a dark, folksy sound.
“I Went Too Far” is another track that seems to be on the album for commercial purposes, opening with simple piano chords before jumping into an easy, percussion-driven sound. Yet Aurora’s artful lyricism appears here as well, and one of the more striking lines, “I went too far and kissed the ground beneath your feet / Standing in my blood, it was a taste of bittersweet” makes a quick impression on the listener before jumping into the catchy pop chorus that takes over most of the track.
The second half of “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend” deviates from the commerciality and familiarity of the pre-released tracks in the first half and goes further into the territory of folk- inspired sounds. Of all the tracks on this album, “Through The Eyes Of A Child” stands out as the most raw and poignant. It acknowledges the cruelty of the world in simple and thoughtfully tender lyrics, wrapped around a wishful theme to see the world in a better light through the naive eyes of a child. The whole track is a spiritual experience, with quietly shimmery synths in the background and some piano work that only highlights Aurora’s voice. The second half of the song melts into a sweepingly beautiful chorus of “oohs” and “ahs,” demonstrating Aurora’s impressive, high-striving vocal range before dissipating, unresolved, into a dissonant mix of synths.
“Warrior” is a fiercely empowering track about being a “warrior of love” in a less-than-perfect world. Aurora sings with a loose confidence which is driven forward by a spirited beat and low bass chimes. The next track is “Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1),” which shows off Aurora’s ability to sound sweet and vulnerable before shifting to agitated melodic shrieking as the song climaxes. The song is chilling enough but the conviction Aurora puts into her singing makes it truly impressive. “Warrior” is also accompanied by some string instruments and a raging drum beat which ultimately increases in volume and intensity, adding to the emotion-driven side of the song before being replaced by simple piano, ending the song on a quiet and resolute note.
“Home” is a delectably weird track, with lyrics like “Wrapped inside a cocoon made of flesh and blood” and some bone-chilling layerings of Aurora’s voice on the chorus “We are not alive / We are surviving every time.” Production-wise, “Home” uses quiet synths and some guitar plucking so listeners can hone in on Aurora’s clear-voiced storytelling. The final tracks, “Under The Water” and “Black Water Lilies” return to the theme of death prevalent on this album. While “Under The Water” is an anguished, questioning song accompanied by the darkly heavy beating of a drum and a frightening vocal- chopped chord progression, “Black Water Lilies” is a serene, dreamy track about letting go peacefully, ending the album by guiding listeners with bright sounding piano before fading slowly into the distance, as if to lull the listeners to sleep.
Aurora’s masterful lyricism makes “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend” a unique standout in contemporary pop music. Despite the many dark themes and emphasis on death, “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend” is a uniquely beautiful work of music that will have listeners clamoring for more. It cannot be coincidence that the album artwork for “All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend” pictures Aurora as a moth-like creature. Moths are always seeking light, despite dwelling in dark places.
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.