Words by Jamie Hallaman
Here’s a good one. Norway’s Eivind Kirkeby of Lonely Boy returns as “90% of” The Society Of Poor Academics with a brand new album. You may remember TSOPA as a GFP TOTD in 2012 with the brilliant “Your New Boyfriend Is Ugly” and if you fell for his lo-fi bedroom 8-bit misery pop the first time around then I advise you keep reading (or skip to the “buy” button).
Eivind is a bizarre character, he isn’t much of a singer and the bulk of his arrangements are simplistically minimal and suspiciously Sega sounding but his bilingual lyricism walks a perfect line between twee-ly naïve and savagely weathered. His perfect ear for sound and tempo, knowing where to give us more and where to give us less, combined with his unique narrative makes him something of a stand-out figure in the world of bedroom pop. His eclectic cocktail of Electro Pop, Cutesy Twee, Antifolk and Lo-Fi Indie offers a pleasingly varied canvas on which he tells his tales.
The first stumbling block of the album for a lot of people, particularly newcomers, will be its length. At 23 tracks this isn’t the breezy 30 minute LP that we’ve come to know and love, and unless you’re my dad, you probably don’t look for “value per-track” anymore (it’s 14p per song, if you’re curious…even cheaper than eMusic. Imagine that, Jemaine!). But with so much on offer, including a plethora of musical guests, including Jack Hayter (Hefner/Dollboy), Lisle Mitnik (Fireflies), Dennis Drisoll, Lara Mishler and many others; a combination of two languages (“Snø Er Ingen Garanti For Tilgivelse” for example is a Norwegian beauty) and constant changes in sound and style, this remains a curiously involving listen throughout. “Style” I say? “Like what?” you ask? Well, Junior…the synthacular “You Get What I Deserve” is reminiscent of ‘Closer’ period Joy Division (“Atmosphere” too, woowhey!); “Cost Efficient” is a stunning folk pop lament, perfectly passionate; “There’s A Tiger Underneath My Bed” is as silly and twee as they come but plenty charming for it; “Damnation” is dark and dour, offering none of the wry smiles that’s typical of Eivind’s work; “Moving Hands” is unashamed Power Pop that sees Eivind’s paper thin voice tackling a big hook, perhaps for the first time. TSOPA has limited tools and this certainly isn’t stadium sounding but this really is an inspired collection of songs, thoughtfully produced and earnestly performed – music from the heart for the heart.
This long and winding record appears to be a journey through the bewildered mind of Eivind Kirkeby. Eivind is a lot of things, he’s apologetic, he’s afraid, he’s confused, he’s disappointed and he’s disenchanted…he’s often the living embodiment of pessimism – but biting little lines like “I’ve been to hell and back and to hell again, Satan says ‘Hello!’” suggest that maybe he’s got just a wee bit of fight left in him in. And good for him, he deserves it.
The album’s title of ‘Vi overlever uten Eivind Kirkeby’ translates roughly into “We’ll survive without Eivind Kirkeby” and I think that about sums up this album’s message. A low-selling bedroom pop star kicking against the pricks with a series of CDRs and Bandcamp downloads, only too aware of the futile absurdity of it all… Give ‘em hell, kid. A recommended listen.
“Our love is like this song, it won’t go anywhere. This song is like our love, it won’t go anywhere.”