Nyheter Skiver

Savoy | Under

Eleventeen Records

Pål Waaktaar-Savoy has explained that much of the atmosphere and the lyrical themes of Savoy’s seventh album “Under” are drawn from his move with his fellow songwriter and wife Lauren Savoy to Los Angeles, where they found themselves surrounded by loneliness.

Waaktaar-Savoy is one of the most prolific and impressive songwriters of the twentieth century and beyond, and having been working at the very top of the music industry for as long as he has, it is no surprise that the record is well-crafted. The production is good, with careful arrangements and instrumentation. Every instrument’s voice is given room and there is space in the mix. Only occasionally does this slip over into over-production, as with the treated strings on the opening track “Lonely Surfer” or the treatment of Lauren’s vocals, which sound overly processed.

It is also true that the record exhibits a fair measure of melancholy. The chords and melody lines are dark in places, and there is a hint of sadness in the lyrics, many of which have a retrospective quality, describing moments in the past. However, beyond this, the understated feel of the record is just that – understated. Many of songs feel a few RPM too slow and the delivery of the vocal lines too underplayed to give them any emotional authority.  At times, it also seems like the arrangement has to step in to bolster the songwriting or lyrics, by filling space with strings or brass, or the counterpoint of the instrumentation on “Camden Palace Chronicles” which distracts from some fairly mediocre words. It is important to emphasise that this is a joint songwriting exercise for Pål and Lauren, so we should not compare the output to the work of a-ha, but still, the themes lean in the direction of suburban banality, far from Pål’s more oblique or allegorical writing.

There are other moments of real quality beyond the production and arrangement.  The title track has an excellent Bowie-esque chorus (and there are echoes of his work and sound throughout, along with Beatles and Beck), “The Life and Times of a Wannabe” has some first-rate guitar work on it, edgy riffs and some good textures. Likewise, “Coming Down”, which also exemplifies Frode Unneland’s drumming on the record, which is generally prominent in the mix, and with good reason, as it carries the record along well.

The most melancholy motif on the record is saved for the final track, “Lonesome Alone”, a beautiful, lyrical piano riff which is probably the strongest piece of composition on the record, but as before, the delivery and the words undercut it and bring the record to a rather unsatisfying ending.

All in all, a very polished and attractive record in its sound, but disappointing in the songs themselves.

3.5/6 | Alex Maines

Release date: 2 February 2024