Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: andrew bird, Burn The Flag, Choir of young believers, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, Kings of Convenience, Michael Bolton, Releases of the Week, Sigur Ros, This is for the White in Your Eyes
PREVIEW: Download Choir of Young Believers’ “Hollow Talk” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 14/20 Watts
The Vikings may have failed at world domination, but there is no doubt that “Nordic pop” is taking over the indie music scene. The wave of ambient soundscapes only started with the likes of Sigur Rós, tossing out acts like Kings of Convenience. This week, Jannis Noya Makrigiannis, the driving force behind one-man project Choir of Young Believers, will be revealing his own contribution to the genre. He made a stir with his debut EP Burn the Flag, and now he’s back with full album This Is for the White in Your Eyes.
Makrigiannis definitely has something fresh to bring to the table. Most of his melodies have that eerie quality that the Scandinavian mainstream is so fond of, however he reworks the material in a much more dramatic direction.
“Hollow Talk,” is not only the best track on the album, but arguably the most purposeful opening track we’ve heard in a while. It reflects the overall approach Makrigiannis explores with this album. It starts with an unhurried, incredibly melodic piano paired only with the artist’s voice, which is very reminiscent of Andrew Bird (in this track in particular). Slowly he introduces a cello, gradually adding more instruments, eventually escalating into a massive orchestral climax. The track has a strange celestial feel to it that overpowers the listener by its finale, leading into an ambitious second track “Next Summer.”
In “Next Summer,” Makrigiannis turns towards stronger lyrics, which works magic for the track. The lyrics make the melody so much more memorable and unexpected. Even the contents behind the lyrics stand out. “Next summer / I will return / I’ll be back / I’ll break your heart”- sounds a whole lot like an update to a Michael Bolton love ballad the new generation can spend sleepless nights to. Though “Next Summer” has a touch of wrist-cutter darkness, it is charged with inescapably captivating emotions.
There is a pretty abrupt change in the album’s pace with track four “Action/Reaction.” It flows faster, though sticks to the structure used in the rest of the tracks. Makrigiannis introduces new instruments, producing a sound reminiscent of tribal drumming. The beat has a movement and dimension so engulfing, you can’t help but tap along. Makrigiannis’s voice blends with the melody in such a way that his voice becomes another instrument.
The hyper melody of “Action/Reaction” rapidly dissolves into “Under the Moon,” the melancholy tune you would never expect out of this release. Strangely, it can hardly be considered a flaw; if anything the track adds to the eeriness of the album.
Unfortunately, this venture is far from flawless. “Wintertime Love” is completely unnecessary. It doesn’t particularly take anything from the album, but it is painfully bland, and almost monotone. Quite a shocker considering the range Makrigiannis demonstrates with the album overall. He has the voice, and the rhythm, so it’s a mystery why he can’t breath life into “Wintertime Love,” which definitely had potential.
“Why Must It Always Be This Way” and “Claustrophobia” bring back the range seen in previous tracks. “Why Must It Always Be This Way” is indeed quite a unique find. It is dementedly melodious. Reminiscent of vintage tunes, it has a folksy feel to it.
Sadly, This Is for the White in Your Eyes makes one crucial mistake. It has no appropriate conclusion. “Yamagata” is not nearly strong enough, let alone memorable enough, to conclude this album. Both the acoustics and the vocals are so low they are barely distinct from a murmur. There is none of the variety of the previous songs and no evidence that the same artist could have produced this song. The mere necessity of this final track is questionable.
Still, despite the singular flaws, the album deserves much respect for the pinnacles it does surmount. Makrigiannis reiterates the importance of classical instruments and the collective strengths of an orchestral performance in pop music.
— Irina Dvalidze