10. Silje Nes

(Until the end of the week I’ll be counting down the list of my 20 favorite albums of 2008. Obviously I didn’t hear every album that came out–although I did hear quite a lot of them–and obviously personal taste factors into this quite a bit, so I can tell you now that if you’re looking for gospel or metal recommendations this isn’t the list for you. But let’s not squabble, let’s just appreciate all the nice music that folks are making. I’ll be posting about two albums a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, from now until Friday. Although yes, now I’m behind. Damn it anyway.)

Silje Nes
Ames Room
FatCat Records

Silje Nes was born on the largest fjord in Norway, though Ames Room, her debut album, was recorded after she moved to the rainy city of Bergen. A trained drummer, Nes played more or less every instrument she could find to record her album, with everything from guitars and cello to programmed electronics and effects pedals combining cautiously to make spare, pretty songs that seem capable of floating away if you’re not careful.

Nes’s voice is what I really like about the album; it’s high and breathy without being cutesy or annoying. On Giant Disguise she almost sounds like an airier Hope Sandoval, while on Shapes, Electric she coos like an excited newborn. And in Recurring Dream she sounds almost breathy, at least up until the point where she starts half-whistling.

Straightforward songs like Dizzy Street are mixed with incidental pieces like opener Over All, the only track that was co-written with someone else (and the only one I don’t really like.) The instrumental Long Shadows Left Around sounds like someone trying to improvise a country song around a campfire but not actually knowing how to play anything. That is, until the horns slowly come in.

Ames Room was recorded with the microphone on Nes’ laptop, though it doesn’t sound quite as lo-fi as you’d think. Made over a period of three-and-a-half years in her home the album is a labor of love, something tinkered over for a long time, perfected piece by piece. And you might not be able to understand the lyrics, but that’s not the point, either.

Listen! Silje Nes, Recurring Dream

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