This afternoon we’ve had the genuinely quite intense pleasure of multiple listens, in full, of what’s surely one of the most anticipated Scandinavian pop albums of the last DECADE, never mind the last year! It’s ‘Heal’ – the debut album from Loreen.
We had been anticipating this one with caution, actually. On the one hand there were lots of signs pointing towards a very large likelihood and probability that ‘Heal’ could and would easily end up being one of the best albums of 2012. The first three singles, the fact it’s LOREEN, the way they seemed to be spending so much time on it, etc. But then on the other hand, Loreen herself had given a few worrying indications in various interviews, that the album wasn’t going to be what people were expecting. That if people were looking for an album of 12 ‘Euphoria’s, they would be disappointed. She’d actually even said to us personally in an interview we did with her for a magazine, that it was going to be half dance and half acoustic. Erm…….
Thankfully though, either something changed somewhere down the line, or perhaps her idea of acoustic is a little bit different to ours. In truth – yes it’s half dance and half balladry. But that latter half is lush, electronic, epic balladry, at that. So all is well – we’re happy campers.
It goes without saying that those dance tracks are still our favourite parts though. The first three singles, and brand new single ‘Crying Out Your Name’ don’t ever dip below being a 9.5 out of 10 moment, not even for a second (despite the two of those from 2011 – ‘My Heart Is Refusing Me’ and ‘Sober’ – having been remixed for the new album). Then there’s ‘In My Head’ which seems like the no brainer to be the next single after ‘Crying Out Your Name’ (we actually heard that Warner Music AGONISED for quite some time between two songs in particular to be the follow-up to ‘Euphoria’, so we’re guessing this was the other one). It’s big on the strings and big on the drama – two hallmarks of our heroine Loreen. Those who miss the original version of ‘My Heart Is Refusing Me’ on the album, should take a lot of solace from ‘In My Head’. The frantic piano middle eight is pure beauty. Also of note is ‘See You Again’, which is probably the most commercial thing on here aside from ‘Euphoria’ and the brand new version of ‘My Heart Is Refusing Me’. It’s on its own on here though, in that it’s the sort of song that you could imagine anyone singing, not just Loreen. It’s very good, but it’s also quite generic in comparison to the other tracks on here. But we’re the first to the dance floor when we hear a bit of generic pop, so we’re liking it probably a lot more than the Loreen purists will.
Then there’s the more down-tempo side of the album – in places also a star in its own right. Take ‘Sidewalk’. A third-album-era-Björk-esque production (amazing) that builds and builds into an electrifying crescendo, coupled with a topline that’s on a par with the gut wrenching, classic Loreen melodies that we all know and love from her singles. If she wants to release something a little bit different (in terms of tempo) as the next single, this would be a good choice. It’s the best showcase of the other side to her sound. Other highlights from that other sound are ‘Everytime’ (foregoing a standard song structure in order to tell its story in its own way), and ‘Do We Even Matter’ (the sparsest of productions on the album, paired with one of the most captivating melodies).
Hooray and hurrah – Loreen has genuinely delivered here. We suspected she probably would, we feared she might not – but trust us, she has.
The album is released in Sweden on October 24th. However, if you live outside of Sweden you can already pre-order it on CD from our online store here. And wherever you are in the world, you can listen to snippets of each of the tracks right here – although we wouldn’t recommend judging the album too much on what you hear in these, they’re really not the best representation of any of the songs.