Stig Gustu Larsen – Love Breathe Repeat – Album Review
I’m loving the vibrant energy that starts this record out…like within ten-seconds or less, the snappy start to ”In The Beginning” was a solid confirmation that it was indeed, great to have artist Stig Gustu Larsen back on our pages and coming through our speakers once again. On pure sound-selection and passion alone, this first cut immediately comes out bouncing with colorful vibes and powerful vocal expression combined…”In The Beginning” is the kind of cut that instantly has ya paying full attention & completely engaged right away. The neon synth-sounds and digital effects that roam through this first track brings in a whole other dimension of appeal & spark to the inspired energy you’ll find. The verses are right on the money, and the chorus takes it to that next-level you wanna hear – the breakdown is a short & subtle dose of magic…and your ears will recognize the classic approach to the songwriter’s craft through the way it ramps right back into the hooks for one last dose of its most memorable moments once more before the end. Well-designed & well-played – Stig comes out with a radiant bounce in his step as he kicks off the celebratory sound that starts out his new album Love Breathe Repeat, “In The Beginning.”
This guy! I tell ya…I know it’s been quite a while since we last had Larsen on our pages in review – it was actually back in 2016 when we checked out his Lifelines + Echoes EP – but truthfully, I’ve never forgotten the name, and what you’ll hear from him on these first two cuts alone is all the proof your ears should need as to the reason why that is. LISTEN to the amount of passion this dude pours into the mic will ya? He’s got all the right ingredients working in his favor on “We (This Is My Home)” – and if I was him, I’d definitely be looking at this cut as a lead-single to put out as the gateway into this record…the accessibility & hooks in this song are genuinely staggering. I have made many trips & tours through the lineup of Love Breathe Repeat…I can vouch firsthand for the fact that it’d be nearly impossible to wear this song out…with as many times as I’ve personally spun “We (This Is My Home)” myself, believe me when I say, if it would have somehow dulled with repeat spins, I’d have clued into that by now. Facts are the facts, Gustu Larsen has tapped into an undeniably special hook here that’s got a spectacularly universal appeal to its shiny sound. When it comes to the music & instrumentation you’ll find here in this tune, you’ll discover an abundance of sweetness & clever sound combined…in many ways, “We (This Is My Home)” is built from just about the most anti-typical combination you’d expect to find in such an accessible sound – but these are results that absolutely speak for themselves. If you can get to the chorus of “We (This Is My Home)” and somehow come out not feeling like you wanna turn it right up to the rafters and sing along with every moment, then you’re made out of a kind of steel ya probably shouldn’t be. You’d have to be made of pure stone to somehow resist this song’s welcoming vibe and its bulletproof chorus hooks…surrender is inevitable here in my opinion; this is a tune everyone will love.
The crisp beat & rhythm of “Last Day Of June” has instant appeal as well. Overall, you’ll find a track like this exists somewhere in between what really made the most massive hits of 80’s Rock gigantic and the endearing sincerity you find in modern-day Indie…the results of which, become quite accessible to a widespread audience. Sometimes a moment can define the way we feel about a song, and “Last Day Of June” was a bit like that for me personally…I’d be the last to complain about anything I experienced in the execution, but as big as this cut became – and believe me, it gets BIG – it was actually the subtle sounds in the breakdown that seemed to grab me the hardest. I’m definitely a huge fan of the way these songs are sounding on this record in the execution, performance, & production…and I’d say that “Last Day Of June” definitely keeps the quality in those departments flowing with perfect balance & bold strengths on display. Stig’s crushin’ it from the mic once again, amped-up and HUGE in the song’s biggest moments and smartly dialing-back his energy when the moment calls for it to suit the dynamics of “Last Day Of June” and get the most out of every moment it offers ya. I’ll pose this question…does this particular cut have one of the hardest spots to fill in between the all-access sound of “We (This Is My Home)” and the endearing tones of “All I Am” right afterwards? Spoiler alert – I think the answer is yes – but like all records & albums you’ll listen to, we all have our personal preferences when it comes to our own playlists & musical-taste. The most crucial and important aspect has been taken care of – and that’s the fact that the execution is there from beginning to end on “Last Day Of June” just as much as any other track on Love Breathe Repeat – ultimately, that gives any song on this record the potential, possibility, and opportunity to become someone’s favorite out there. And of course that’s a great thing!
Speaking of! I think that “All I Am” stands a great chance of becoming a real fan favorite out there with the people listening…Stig’s latched onto some extremely uplifting vibes in the energy & aura of these tunes and this cut certainly has that inexplicable something special we’re all looking for. Well, I say inexplicable, but of course I’ll try to explain as best I can. I’ll say this much for sure, for as subtle as they are, the sparkle in the guitars at the beginning of “All I Am” will have you listening close from the very moment they start. Gustu Larsen has written a beautiful tune that reflects on everything from his most confident moments to his most fragile…”All I Am” examines that feeling that we get when we’re in the throes of love perfectly…how we feel that completeness as a result of discovering that true companion. And I’ll say this folks…”All I Am” could have likely been twice as long and you’d never get bored; I honestly don’t know if having the chorus of this song only come around at its peak intensity the one time is gonna be enough for anyone out there! No lie – when you hit the climax of “All I Am” and you hear just how amazing this moment becomes as the song transitions around the 1:45 mark…if your ears are anything like mine are, you’ll practically be BEGGING for this song to keep on going further in that direction. Is “All I Am” too short at less than three-minutes long? YES! Good lord, YES. But does this serve the repeat value of this record to have such an addictive energy flaring up for about a minute straight towards the middle of this lineup of songs? For sure! Every time you come back around to “All I Am” you can feel the song building up to its most magical moments in that wave of uplifting energy that floods your speakers in this cut…this track could very well contain the record’s most engaging highlights.
Part of me loved “Hurricane” for the sheer fact that I feel like I haven’t heard anything that reminds me of Soul Asylum at their best ever since Soul Asylum did it themselves back in the heyday of the 90’s. Listening to Stig start through the verses – tell me he’s not a dead-ringer for Dave Pirner in his prime right there! Chorus-wise, I think Larsen deserves an award for what he’s pulled off here yet again – “Hurricane” is one of those songs you hear that you can’t deny goes from good to great as it shifts from part to part – this is what taking a track to the next-level sounds like folks. Stig’s versatility has been all-out remarkable throughout this lineup of songs…the diversity in sound & style is one thing to begin with, but how he’s found the right energy, tone, and gear to suit each cut has revealed just how insightful he is & the connection he has to the material. If you read the press release on Love Breathe Repeat, you’ll learn he’s been on quite the journey (15 years!) to get to his debut album – and it’s songs that blossom with an explosion of colorful sound & passion from the lefts to the rights that’ll have you coming to the conclusion that this was all well worth the waiting. Every single thing you’ll hear on “Hurricane” and every other tune throughout this record is ALL written, recorded, and produced by the main man himself – and Stig Gustu Larsen deserves a MASSIVE amount of credit for how incredible these cuts have come out. He should be mighty proud of this album after hearing the stunning results of his efforts.
Stig has been out there playing live all over the world for many years as he’s built himself into the artist he now is today – and once we’re through this whole pandemic we’re stuck in, believe me when I say he’s gonna be back on those stages out there with a vengeance, armed with a whole album’s worth of songs that are bound to connect to the audience in front of him. I hear a song like “The Way I Love You” and it sounds like such a memorable moment in time that would likely work even more brilliantly in a live setting with everyone out in the audience singing along & dancing to this tune. I’m definitely not complaining about this studio-version here…don’t get me wrong – quite the opposite in fact, I think you absolutely feel like Larsen has managed to capture that oh-so-elusive live-sound everyone wants on their recordings right here in the magic of the energy that rushes through “The Way I Love You.” Everything comes out so incredibly well-rounded here; again, when you’re considering that every single thing you’re hearing comes from ONE MAN alone, you’ve really gotta admire just how much strength & confidence that Stig holds his own with on every instrument involved, and indisputably on the microphone. While I probably wouldn’t go as far as to say a track like “The Way I Love You” has that one defining hook or moment of memorable magic you’ll never forget in comparison to other cuts on this record like “We (This Is My Home),” “All I Am,” or even “Hurricane” right beforehand – I still felt like “The Way I Love You” was cohesive with the set and a song you could always rely on to satisfy your ears.
Strippin’ it all back for a tenderized tune in the lineup called “Jupiter & Mars” – this cut would be another highlight example of the strengths in Stig’s songwriting. When you listen, you’ll instantly connect to the distance in the melody & music coming along with Larsen’s thoughts…it literally sounds like he’s out there underneath the stars looking up, singing & whistling to the sky above, wherever “Jupiter & Mars” are currently floating, and we’re lucky enough to feel like we’re right there with him. All in all you’ll find “Jupiter & Mars” is one of the most subtle & delicate tracks in the set-list on Love Breathe Repeat – but don’t underestimate the amount of allure & appeal you’ll find when it comes around. Quaintly addictive and sweetly humble, Stig creates a beautiful moment in time that earns your attention through the authentic amount of care put into crafting this gentle gem; all the detail is right there for ya in both the music & the words, and you’ll find the intimate way this song is played is fully mesmerizing. The way the guitars sparkle & dance in your speakers as “Jupiter & Mars” plays on is equally fantastic…great ideas on display throughout this whole song, and personally I dig that this cut doesn’t need to shift into a second gear to gain your approval. Stig sticks closely to the initial sweetness in the song’s beginning, showing tremendous professional restraint & brilliant results by the end, remaining right with the moment in time he’s created with the confidence that it’s where he belongs. He could have shifted this one with a transition & design akin to something like how “All I Am” reveals that even-bigger hook by the end – which certainly worked before, unquestionably. I think Gustu Larsen played this really smart by preserving the humble sweetness in this melody without risking the magic he created by doing too much with it. He sticks to what’s most important to suit the song; and again, not to beat on the point too much here, but when you’re doing everything on your own, that ain’t easy to do! Self-editing is one of the hardest parts of going the solo-route; and in the end, when we hear how Stig’s instincts have led him in every possible right direction on Love Breathe Repeat, his professionalism stands out. The best way I can put it, is that you’re way more likely to run into what you’d consider to be a hit song in any of the tunes on this lineup, than feel like you didn’t – he’s done an exceptional job.
That being said, I probably feel similar to “Old With You” as I do about “The Way I Love You” – it’s another solid, reliable track on this record that you’ll always be able to count on to entertain ya thoroughly. Sentiment-wise…and when it comes to the amount of heart & soul that Stig has poured into every line of this love-song, I mean, you gotta appreciate the stunning level of sweetness he’s put on display here. He gets a bit…oh man…he’s testing my brain here…is it David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? How about this…he’s bound to remind ya of at least one if not both of the infamous Van Halen singers at some point or another along the journey throughout this cut. So if you’re a VH fan, jump on in here – that’s never really been my jam personally, but I do appreciate the high-levels of dedication, talent, and showmanship they provided. Ultimately, the design & sound of “Old With You” is far, far removed from the sound of a Van Halen cut, I’m just making a comment of the edge & rasp that continues to creep into Stig’s vocals from about the 1:50 mark on-forward. Like c’mon now…if you can’t hear the similarities around the 2:30 mark when Gustu Larsen goes after one of his biggest moments on “Old With You” then you need to go back and listen to more Van Halen than I’ll ever need to…that’s all I’m saying. What I do really like about “Old With You” and that I think a lot of other listeners out there will really appreciate is the brilliant musicianship on display from every instrument he’s got included in this song. You’ll notice the complexity & energy in the bass-lines right away, you’ll hear really impressive ideas from the guitars, and the drums get their own deserved moment in the spotlight throughout this song as well. Stig’s vocals are as reliable and on-point as we know him to be when it comes to “Old With You,” but I love how he’s also found a way to enhance the shine of the instrumentation you’ll find on this song as well.
He’ll have many moments where Stig will likely remind you of artists like Bon Jovi or bands like U2 – the man’s got an impressive grip on how to write an effective ballad, which he’ll prove to ya once again in the atmospherically-inclined vibes of “The Light.” If by “The Light” he’s implying a lighters-up moment in time, then mission fully accomplished…you can visually see a stadium’s worth of fans all holding up their iphones & lighters illuminate the room for a song like this. Structured to deliver, Stig continually summons more power into his performance throughout this song as it plays on, authentically providing “The Light” and the spark you wanna hear through the relentlessly passionate singing we’ve come to know & love him for. An impeccable balance of subtle strengths stack up to a massively memorable highlight on Love Breathe Repeat right here…the guitars are spectacularly engaging, and pivotal moments where Stig will hit his falsetto notes in the melody come out magnificently strong. At this point of the record, it’s already been made completely clear that Stig Gustu Larsen is a lover, not a fighter – but even in knowing that, you’ve gotta admire the sheen of beauty these songs contain through the empowering vibes of hope, love, positivity, and possibility that run throughout his music. It’d be hard to choose just one cut that really represents the artist behind the album, but I’d be pretty willing to go to bat for “The Light” to being the closest to a full representation in a single song. You get the heart, you get the passion, you get the sincerity, you get the melody, structure, and certainly, the results. Definitely one of my favorites for the way Stig sings this song…”The Light” feels like an epic moment & timeless approach combined; it might be a slow-jam for the majority of its length, but make no mistake, this cut will climb its way to incredible heights and deliver fully on the power in its finale.
“Goodnight” plays like many a last tune on a record does, stripping it back to the most minimalistic & bare bones ingredients to end the album on what’s arguably its most isolated & intimate moment. I’ll say this…I’m not opposed to its appearance in this lineup, but I’m also not 100% convinced the album really needed it either. When I think about the strengths of a song like “The Light” and the effect that ending the album on that cut could potentially have on people instantly reaching for repeat…that’s when I start to question the inclusion of “Goodnight” a little bit. On the one hand, it brings the album to a definitive conclusion and close that the delicate nature of this last song immediately cues your ears to – but the question becomes, does that gentle descent to the end induce as much of a reach for repeat as a track with more involved hooks & a fuller sound like “The Light” might have, know what I mean? It’s hard to argue anything against any cut on this album, because Stig never backs down or puts anything less than his best into each song you’ll hear…”Goodnight” is no exception to the high standards he’s set for execution. It might sound smaller…and it IS smaller…but in terms of performance, Gustu Larsen puts just as much into this quaint last cut as he had with any other song on the record – and again, I think you’ve gotta admire that. Consider the tiny observations & critiques I’ve made along the way and how I’ve had to scratch for anything at all to say other than how well done this set of songs has been…we’re talking about complaining about how a song might not have been long enough, or a hook that I only got one dose of instead of two or three…if that’s the best I can come up with, Stig’s in plenty good shape if you ask me. “Goodnight” sets you down gently after what’s been a completely colorful, diverse, and impressively versatile debut record; Gustu Larsen may have taken his time to get to this point in his career, but there’s zero doubt that what you’ll hear proves he’s meant to be making music.
Find out more about Stig Gustu Larsen at his official homepage at: http://www.gustu.no
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