Stig Gustu Larsen – Lifelines + Echoes – EP Review
The melancholy piano and raindrops that begin Stig Gustu Larsen’s new EP instantly provide an isolated, intimate and haunting atmosphere. I’ve read the background of Lifelines + Echoes and know that much of the album has heavy themes that dominate the tone, mood and lyrics of each song…much of it surrounds the subject of losing loved ones and the tough emotions that hit hardest in life. “City Of Ember” is written in an ambiguous way that allows for multiple-meanings to be taken from the lyrics…but from the expression you’ll find in Stig’s vocals, you know these are intensely personal tunes. “City Of Ember” goes on to build and really release that expression…I dig the passion I can hear in Larsen’s voice, even if it’s occasionally a little bit on the wild-side. In a sense, “City Of Ember” is akin to a rock-ballad for sure…you can hear the rock-edge to the rasp that breaks through in Stig’s vocals, the range is impressive and in my opinion the control is there. I have no doubt that each and every take that Stig might make in an attempt to record these tunes would potentially sound unique and different from the one before it…there’s a real feeling that the material is alive in that sense and that Larsen really gets right into the moment to make his music. Powerful piano & vocal performance on the opening tune for sure though…he comes out of the gate strong in atmosphere & emotion through “City Of Ember.”
“Come Home” was a bit more my speed personally when it came to the melody and overall idea. I liked the performance of “City Of Ember” but I felt like Stig’s style suited the gentle build and evolution of “Come Home” even more by comparison. Good ideas in the backing vocals, piano and guitar combination to open this tune…it’s sad…but there’s beauty in the sadness for certain. I love the added atmosphere in moments like around the ninety-second mark where you can hear the production takes an organic but subtle turn…and I absolutely loved the power of the build-up coming to a boil around the 2:30 mark. Stig hits the chorus with strength and emotion and really lets the melody come out…and then re-ups himself with the final minute-or-so of this track heading straight soaring into the atmosphere. Keeping the backing vocals going through this part was an excellent idea…simple & subtle to add but highly effective when you hear how well the end of “Come Home” works out.
I like that you can hear the real songwriter in Stig Gustu Larsen. You can hear it in his music, his vocals and of course, in the way he writes the material…you can hear he’s going after some big emotions, big ideas and ambitions and really giving it his all. If you check out the latest episode of the SBS Podcast, you’ll hear “Lifeline” in the lineup…because I found this to be an incredibly powerful tune. Not only does the piano have an incredible, memorable hook that’s played passionately, but I also felt like Stig really rose to the occasion presented in the music of this song like we’d yet to hear in terms of real focus and control over each and every tone. He still retains the passionate delivery he’s made a signature staple of his sound, but he’s also put in an additional smoothness and sincerity that I felt was noticeable on “Lifeline” – it’s quite a beautiful moment overall. Loved the drum sounds in this tune as well…the music of this tune plays as gorgeously & beautifully as rain falls and moments like around 2:45 have Stig sounding at his very best.
“Next Year” has a lot of appeal in the melody and performance…there’s a lot of sweetness on this tune. Production-wise, it sounded a bit mixed for me here…some of the atmospheric elements worked well but a few sounded a little peaked or crowded as a result. Hard to not notice it by comparison to the rest…you can definitely hear the difference in the approach, but again, most importantly is that the idea and writing are there for Stig once again. It sounds like he set up his amp and vocal monitor at the water’s edge and recorded this one…and for some reason, there’s something about it that remains very innocent in the way it sounds overall. Maybe it is a little bit peaked…maybe it’s not…but what it IS for certain is the most honest representation of the man behind the music you’ll find on the record. I thought the lyricism and personal reflection in the writing had great imagery and the energy matched the music spot-on. As to the recording itself…I think some people ‘get this’ more than others…for some people out there like myself, I definitely salute the pursuit of the ambition here pass or fail…but for the record, I think it works. It’s an innocent & intimate, well-written tune and the ending is perfect.
Larsen ends the record on arguably his strongest cut with “Walk It Off.” I felt like this tune was the one that would most likely resonate the most strongly with the people out there and a really solid way to end the EP. I really appreciate the way he’s put a lot of these tunes together with the added atmosphere & natural elements in the music and the way his songs build. “Walk It Off” has a tremendous evolution to it and swells into some real highlight moments on the Lifelines + Echoes EP – and just past the three-minute mark, Stig truly lets it all out, once & for all in one final fireworks-display of an ending where the expression of emotion reigns supreme. It’s been an entire song built on strong ideas and hooks the entire way through – but the final burst of Stig breaking free is a truly inspiring sound to have ended the EP on. For everything we’ve heard and know he’s been through in the experience of making these tunes and recording this EP…there’s no doubt that it’s been tough on him – but an inspired ending like “Walk It Off” has somehow leaves us feeling like he’s gonna be OK. The final notes from the vocals seriously let all the emotion come out boldly…and Stig Gustu Larsen exits the record confidently on his way to the next part of his adventure.
Find out more about Stig Gustu Larsen at his official page at: http://www.gustu.no/
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