When I first heard Lykke Li back in 2008, I never would’ve guessed that six years later, I’d be using her as a reference point for so many new artists. It seems like a new woman or female-fronted band pops up every month that owes a debt of gratitude to Li for paving the way for the recent surge of soulful electro-pop.
It was only a few weeks ago that Highasakite was dominating my airwaves, and now one of their Norwegian brethren has taken their place in the form of Mr. Little Jeans. The name — which is an awesome reference to a bit character from the movie, Rushmore — is the moniker for Monica Birkenes, who left Scandinavia for Los Angeles, after an extended layover in London.
Last month, she dropped her debut full-length, Pocketknife, which is filled with catchy hooks and enough beats to get hips shakin’ and heads bobbin’.
That’s “Runaway”, probably the best song on the album. Just listen to that chorus, and you’ll immediately want to put it on repeat.
There is very little filler among the 12 tracks here, with each song conjuring up a different influence.
The solid opener, “Rescue Song” is reminiscent of Feist and Ingrid Michelson and others of that ilk. It’s followed by one of several sleeper hits on the album, “Mercy”, which is so sneaky that it isn’t until the song is over that you realize how great it was. And then you’re forced to play it again.
Then comes the aforementioned “Runaway”, which could easily hold its own against any of HAIM‘s recent hits.
That is followed by “Oh Sailor”, featuring the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Youth Chorale. If it brings to mind Dead Man’s Bones’ debut album, that’s because the entire thing was a collaboration with the same youth choir. Also, both albums were produced by Tim Anderson.
“Don’t Run” calls to mind both Li and Zola Jesus, but by the end it suffers from Anderson’s reliance on computer effects.
“Good Mistake”, which was the title track of an EP released in February, rounds out a strong first half to the album.
The back half of the disc is notably lacking in flair, but it never sinks too far. Track 9 is a cover of Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”, which helped Mr. Little Jeans earn some internet buzz a few years ago. It’s followed by another sleeper track, “Heaven Sent”, which seems like it should be higher up in the pecking order.
“Far From Home” is one of several songs in which Birkenes sounds like she could be related to Imogen Heap — or at least have the same auto-tune program as the former Frou Frou singer.