Rasmus Fynbo – The Azure Sea – Album Review
It was back in March of last year that I had my first experience with Danish singer/songwriter Rasmus Fynbo and the music he makes, via the single/video he’d put out for his song “The Freedom To,” which came off his album The Greater Good from last year. Good ol’ Rasmus has been plenty busy since then from what I can tell – The Azure Sea is actually the second record that he’s put out this year in 2021.
Which, according to what I’ve read, makes it his eighth in total – so rest assured, you can take it to heart before even pushing play, that Rasmus is well-familiar with how to make an album at this point in his career. In fact, it seems like just gettin’ in the studio to make a record might not even be enough of a challenge for him anymore…so for the making of The Azure Sea, he ended up reaching out around the globe for musicians & talent to enlist from all over the map; and as a result, what you’ll hear on the eleven songs on this new Rasmus Fynbo album contains twenty-two different musicians from fourteen countries in total. How cool is that? That’s amazing! I barely even talk to my next-door neighbors.
There are many things you can infer from details like these, and they’ll all be true. First & foremost, you’re rarely, if ever, going to find an album where twenty-two separate individuals just stopped by to jam and waste some time – no folks…you see this kind of widespread involvement, and you can certainly conclude there’s substantial material to be found. Secondly, you could look at it from the other side of the coin entirely – there are twenty-two musicians out there that are inspired by what Rasmus Fynbo is creating with his tunes and willing to lend their time & talents – that should tell ya the man’s got a real connection with his creativity that is strong enough to pull other people in to assist. Lastly (and keep in mind, I could have totally kept this list going on all day, but for the sake of brevity…) you can definitely assume that in a lineup of eleven songs, with this many players, from that many countries, is going to have all kinds of character & uniqueness to it. Like I said from the get-go – all of these things are true; Rasmus and his crew have done an absolutely sensational job on this entire album from start to finish.
Like this talented collaboration drifts in on the wind, “Prelude” opens The Azure Sea, and reveals a curious & beautiful instrumental melody that should instantly have you engaged & interested. If you’re looking for color & character & charm in the music you’re listening to, “Prelude” is really nothing BUT enticing to the ears, subtle as it may be. You can hear the depth in the instrumentation and the sweet selection of sounds combined to create this quaint little minute-long intro-tune, and above all things, “Prelude” should immediately establish that what you’re about to listen to, will be much different than the rest of so much that you’ll find out there in the music-scene – mainstream, or independent. Not just different, but different in all the right ways…you know from “Prelude” you’ll be in for a real experience.
That being said, there are comparable ‘different’ sounds as well – for example, something like “Above The Sea” will likely bear a resemblance to the adventurous & culture-laden sounds of Beirut…the artist, not the place. Normally I wouldn’t clarify, but given there are so many countries involved in the making of this record, I figured I better be sure to make that clear. Anyhow. The main point is that there really isn’t gonna be too much that you would compare Rasmus Fynbo’s music to…he’s doin’ his own thing, with a whole lot of artists alongside him, but nonetheless, still largely his own thing all the same. Love the brass section in the music of “Above The Sea” without question…that’s just incredible stuff goin’ on right there is what that is…pure perfection for the vibe of this first cut. Vocals are strong, the melodic twist in transition to the chorus is stellar, the bass-lines, drums, and background vocals are all strong assets to “Above The Sea” as well…it’s kind of a whole smorgasbord of stuff to love if I’m being honest with ya. Fynbo’s imagery is vivid, evocative, and thought-provoking…all the right ingredients are in the mix straight away…”Above The Sea” is every bit as genuinely interesting to listen to as it is entertaining.
“No matter how deep you’ll fall in, you can go deeper still” – Rasmus doles out some sage advice you might just wanna be paying attention to towards the very end of “The Rabbit Hole.” Here’s where I’m at – for myself personally, I think a track like “Above The Sea” is likely going to hold up longer over time for me upon repeat spins, but I certainly wouldn’t take anything away from the artistic dimension and depth that you’ll find within “The Rabbit Hole” either. Ultimately, I think it comes down to whether or not you dig that…I dunno even what you’d call it…it’s not Celtic so much as it is classic…like the romantic era’s music where all the people are dancing & weird formations & stuff…you know the kind of sound I’m talkin’ about. So don’t get me wrong, it’s executed impeccably well – like, LISTEN to the solo around the 2:20 mark and it’ll blow your mind…and the hooks of the chorus, same thing, I’d never deny that they’re effective, memorable, and suited to the song. All I’m saying is that for me, I’m probably gonna run into moods where “The Rabbit Hole” might be outside of what I’m looking for occasionally, but by that same token, if I chose to put this album on, chances are I was seeking out this exact kind of vibe specifically. I’ll say this…Rasmus has a genuine gift when it comes to his compositions & songwriting, and the variety he adds into his music ensures there’s something for everyone to love in some way, shape, or form. “The Rabbit Hole” he’s so happily dove headfirst into has yielded music with a highly adventurous & spirited sound that’s refreshingly unique, cleverly artistic, and cunningly composed…pretty hard to complain about that…so I’m not gonna be the guy to do that. I like it; “The Rabbit Hole” is still every bit as well produced & played as the rest of this lineup is, I just found other songs connected to me more. All that being said – bonus points for an absolutely stellar video paired along with it – I love the visuals for this track.
Case in-point, from the moment the title-track of this album began, I knew there was a massive chance I’d continue to love everything I was hearing in this tune, which is exactly what happened. Rasmus actually sounds quite a bit like that dude from Semisonic when it comes right down to it…what’s that guy’s name again…he’s done a whole bunch of killer solo stuff too…starts with a D… Dan Wilson – that dude! So like, combine that kind of sweet melodic vocal sound, with say…something like Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” in the distant background…and then throw in a whole lot of Fynbo’s natural creativity to give this song its own uniqueness from the music to the microphone…and voila – “The Azure Sea” exists. Alright…there’s probably a lot more to it than that – but what I can tell ya for sure, is that you’ll find he’s got a genuinely strong title-track to center this record around on “The Azure Sea.” Romantic to a large degree…you could look at “The Azure Sea” as being a song about wanting to stand out to the person you love…to not get lost within the sea of noise that is this world we live in, and be seen, and appreciated. I felt like there was more than enough to love about the detail in the verses & instrumentation within this song to begin with, but I gotta say – Rasmus has found an exceptionally stellar chorus to add into “The Azure Sea,” and the more you spin through this title-track, the more enticing and beautiful it becomes. It’s one of those real us-against-the-world type love songs, which may or may not be a tragedy of sorts – you could probably take it either way…either a love setting out for adventure in a new place after a long voyage…or it could potentially even be the final voyage – I suppose it depends on who you are, how you think and how you absorb the details in the lyricism; I suspect you could make a case for either scenario.
“Feel The Summer Breeze” would be almost the exact opposite – it’s much more direct, unambiguous, and less interpretive – you’ll know exactly what you’re listening to when it comes to the theme, vibe, and spirit of this track – this is the magic of music & message combined. There are songs in this world that contain the very blueprint to enjoying this life of ours, and you can consider this to be one of them. While “Feel The Summer Breeze” is still a Fynbo track in the sense that you’ll always find contrasting lyricism in the mix – the final results of this track are as refreshing as the title would imply. Essentially, from what I’m gathering, Rasmus is tackling social media and our indoor habits on this tune…what it is we’re looking for in our online interaction, and what we actually receive in return; and if I’m following him correctly here, his advice is to get out there in the fresh air and remember what this life is really all about…what’s actually important…to ”breathe it in – and be whole again,” as he’s so eloquently put it. There’s so much to love about this tune…it’s meditative, hypnotic, and outright fascinating at points as well. I love the main melody…which is supplied by some kind of saxophone – I think? The background vocals are equally essential, and the lead-vocals from Rasmus is a real highlight in the first half of this set-list. He gets the absolute maximum potential out of the chorus hooks – and it’s because of his performance that we really feel the sense of urgency & emotion that come with his words in that moment. Even before that though, you’ll find tons of insightful & inspirational lyricism fueling the heart of this song…overall, you’ll realize it’s a song with nothing but the most sincere & beautiful intentions of providing a map to catharsis, confidence, and personal empowerment. “Don’t get struck by fear – you have a voice that everyone should hear” is such a stunning line…comforting to the nth degree, and just as truthful…”Feel The Summer Breeze” is about reminding you about all the reasons you’re as special as you truly are – and I freakin’ love it. It’s not about the likes, subscribers, and followers – life’s a heck of a lot more incredible than that, and deep down, you all know it – so “breathe it in – and be whole again.”
“Golden Mirage” is another example of a perfectly well-crafted & highly focused tune with a ton to offer your ears while it makes the wheels in your head turn & consider the words Rasmus is layin’ down here. If I’m not mistaken, he’s taking on…well…kind of the entire capitalistic society we’re living in to a degree, but almost more specifically, the currencies of our modern day times. Whether it’s phantom money that we can’t even see like Bitcoins & whatnot, or the very idea that there’s no end to the model of exponential growth we keep patterning our economies after without regard for the reality that it can’t continue in that direction forever – Rasmus has a lot to say here, and he’s come up with a very smart cut that gets to the heart of the matter through its celebrity sound & the irony of that offered up within the colorful chorus in this song. More or less, the chorus of “Golden Mirage” is the sound of being comfortable with watching the world burn around you, knowing there’s still a profit to be made in there somewhere. Fynbo’s a lyrical genius on “Golden Mirage” if you ask me – I think this is an exceptional cut by every conceivable measure & definition – and once again, I felt like he got the maximum return on his investment in the talent surrounding him. From the backing vocals to the brass, the piano, drums, bass, hand-claps & all – the stunning array of sound would almost be overwhelming were it not for being so incredibly well structured, organized, arranged, and played. Credit where credit is seriously due – Rasmus has found all the right players to involve on this new album of his – you couldn’t ask for more out of a song than what you’ll find on “Golden Mirage” – and the trumpet finale was the cherry on top.
“Down The Rabbit Hole” is somewhat of a reprise/new-spin on what you heard earlier through “The Rabbit Hole” earlier on – this time with Rasmus taking a break from the lead-vocals, and we get what I’d imagine is one of the former backing vocalist stepping up to take over. With a female-led direction and a more mellow, atmospheric & artistic twist on this tune…I suppose I’d be inclined to say that it gave this song a bit of an advantage of the other version earlier on…it’s subtle, but a real spellbinding moment that’s full of character & charm. All kinds of stellar instrumentation here…absolutely fantastic mix on the vocals…and all-in-all, “Down The Rabbit Hole” seems to capture that curious & mysterious theme at work just that much more than its predecessor did for me with “The Rabbit Hole” earlier on in the set. In any event, I love the inclusion of tracks like these for the mere fact that it’ll always separate who is really listening from those that are just letting it play in the background; if you’re paying attention, you’ll instantly notice the theme & hooks resurface on “Down The Rabbit Hole” for sure. I dig what’s been done here though…you won’t often find me recommending a song appear twice in whatever context, unless some significant changes have been made between the two versions to justify the inclusion – and that’s exactly what you get here – “Down The Rabbit Hole” plays like its own unique experience for sure.
I kind of had to laugh out loud in realizing that I was going back & forth about how I felt about “Into The Night” and whether it fully measured up to the rest of this record – you gotta understand, Rasmus is only competing with his own creativity at this point – on any other album, “Into The Night” is an instant A-side, no question. Don’t get it twisted either – like I said, I went back & forth on it, which inherently implies that sometimes, I’d spin through The Azure Sea and it felt like just as perfect of a fit as the rest did…but occasionally, I’ll admit, some of the vocal melody/lyricism of this track seemed to also pale a bit in comparison to the rest of what we experience on this particular record. I’ll say this much, the personality you’re looking for is always gonna be found within the music on this album, that never quits – and when it comes to the quality of the performances, same thing – they’re all top notch. Some hooks in music connect right away, some don’t, or just take a while to build; I appreciate the artistic dimension of the verses on this song more than I probably dig the sound overall, but in contrast, I also felt like the “la la la” style chorus actually got the best out of what’s probably the record’s most simplistic moment. Love the way the guitar chimes in throughout this song around the two-minute mark…the brass & backing vocals are as stunning as ever…and I guarantee you’ll be singing the chorus hooks around the house for the next week – I know firsthand, because I’ve been doin’ it myself. “Into The Night” might not have been my favorite cut on this record, but I’d absolutely vouch for its lasting effects on ya, 100% – there are parts of this song that will certainly stand out & be just as much of a highlight for many of ya.
I am realistic about this record – I think it’d be a bit of an illusion to think it’s necessarily always the easiest album for the masses to get into – but if you’re anything of an audiophile like I am, or the artistic/creative-type yourself, you’re pretty much bound to love everything you’ll find in this whole lineup of songs. For example – I’d imagine the push/pull energy & mid-tempo nature of “No Place Among Stars” will be a challenge for some…but for myself, I think I found what was my favorite vocal performance from Rasmus on this very tune – and I felt like the chorus had one of the most memorable hooks in any track on this album. While I’m not entirely sure, I’d imagine this track is somewhat of a comment on our recent exploratory ways and thinking about a second planet as a solution to the problems we’re facing right now here on Earth, but I’d suppose there could be a couple theories on what this tune could ultimately be about. I get like…a real underlying Bowie vibe outta this one at the roots of its swagger & melody…perhaps that’s just the cosmos tying the two entities together, Rasmus & David…each spinning out there in their tin cans, respectively. All-in-all, I’m probably just as much of a fan of the design of the melody in the verses of this song as I am in the chorus – I just felt like the consistency of “No Place Among Stars” and the balance it had overall was completely spot-on from beginning to end. It’s a genuinely interesting tune…entertaining for sure…but even more interesting; “No Place Among Stars” really plays like a great story is told – I hang onto every second of this song.
Musically, as much as I’ve loved this whole record, there are definitely moments like “Below The Waves” that speak just as strongly on behalf of subtle & spare ingredients, as opposed to how remarkably full & colorful the majority of the lineup has been. The reality is, Rasmus has an incredible grip on how to give a song what it’s calling out for – and for the most part, he’s got extremely ambitious ideas where it really does take practically a modest musical army to pull them all off – but on “Below The Waves,” Fynbo takes a sincere moment to dial things back brilliantly…and as a result, what’s probably the most isolated & intimate song on the entire record in terms of close-up sound…this really hits the mark. The switch in vocalists should cue you in much the same as “The Rabbit Hole” and “Down The Rabbit Hole” did earlier on – “Below The Waves” is the other half of the pairing to how the album began with “Above The Sea” earlier on. And honestly? This was a really, really clever move on Fynbo’s part…this was a great decision to have made all said & done, and gives this entire album its own distinguishable, unique characteristics as a result…you won’t find too many records out there that have taken a similar approach. Sometimes you’ll get extra versions & remixes & whatnot on an album…but the way Rasmus has these songs working on The Azure Sea is more closely related to a call & response…or two perspectives brought to one scenario…that kind of thing. It adds a genuinely cool layer of familiarity to the lineup of songs – and each time we’re presented with that second half, you’ll find the resurfacing of the melody you know is more than welcome in its return. Personally, I love the vocals and the violins leading our way through “Below The Waves” – I’d have a tough time choosing between the two related tracks, because I really felt like Rasmus got great results on “Above The Sea” earlier too…so truly, I’m glad I get both & don’t have to go about doing that. The bottom line is, it’s because Rasmus and his crew full of talent didn’t shy away from adding in multiple differences to make this second experience with one melody stand out just as strongly as the first time we heard the idea, that we welcome back these moments without any hesitation at all…in fact, most of ya will likely roll the red carpet out that leads from your stereo to your soul and let this tune stroll right into your ears all over again for the exquisite second helping it offers ya.
There really has been an extraordinary effort made here on The Azure Sea, and it stands out on every single track, every single time you listen. By the time I got to “For Others To Shine,” on that initial spin through the new Rasmus Fynbo album, I was practically convinced that there couldn’t be anything else that would top what I’d already heard so far – right? Oh how wrong I was folks! There’s a very excellent chance that Fynbo and his talented crew of amazing musicians, saved the very best for last – I’d listen to that argument if anyone wants to make it, and I’d probably be inclined to agree. The most you’d find me conceding to ya is that “For Others To Shine” is ONE of the album’s best songs…but I’m still tellin’ ya – be prepared…this might very well end up becoming your favorite of the entire bunch within a few spins. The melodic hook…and the WRITING of Fynbo leaves a resounding final impact when you hit lines like “someone must fail, so others can shine – and that one has to be you” – I mean…I ain’t gonna lie to you – this specific line repeats around my head all day now that I’ve heard it…almost like Rasmus found a way to describe something I’ve suspected and been feeling all along in relationship to my own life and what I do here at SBS. I’ve failed in so many spectacular ways that most people would look at the blueprint I’ve left behind and just laugh at the route I’ve taken to get here today…but it’s always been my hope that, pass or fail, someone else will see the path I’ve chosen & walk it better than I ever could. “Don’t try to stand…the weight of your life would break all of your bones” – if I’m not mistaken, “For Others To Shine” is really about going with the natural flow and direction of life in the moment…and that the fact that sometimes things aren’t going to work out perfectly for as individuals, still serves a much, much larger purpose in the grand scheme of things, and how our lives relate & connect to each other. It’s as much of a call to embrace your destiny and be the captain of your own ship as it is a song that creates a genuine awareness to how what we do, relates to the others around us & the world we’re living in…we blaze our own trails, yes – but the reality is there are always others in the wake of the example we leave behind. The uplifting main hook of “For Others To Shine” and the way it’s sung from the background to the lead, is one of the best moments I’ve heard in any song this year without question – it gives you the complete opposite in contrast…creating this triumphant finale that is built just as much on incredible altruistic values as it is resilience…almost as if Rasmus is telling you to not be afraid…to rise up, test that weight in spectacular defiance, and embrace what comes…to accept, that pass or fail, that you always play a significant role in this lifetime, because of how special you truly are.
Listen, stream, and download The Azure Sea by Rasmus Fynbo here: https://orcd.co/albumtheazuresea
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