Norwegian newcomer has lullabies to soothe but leaves an itch that needs scratching
The pulling powers of this Magnet fellow?known back home in Bergen as Even Johansen?became evident during the last 18 months. His preceding EPs?Where Happiness Lives, Chasing Dreams and The Day We Left Town?left listeners scurrying for comparisons. Such names as Thom Yorke, the inevitable Jeff Buckley and Air meets Glen Campbell were polished and dropped.
But the old sounds-like parlour game doesn’t account for On Your Side’s delights. Scandinavian by design, Magnet is not sidetracked into any post-new acoustic genre. He specialises in space- and light-filled atmospheres that seldom quit dangerous middle-of-the-road ground. And Johansen doesn’t waver from his course. Ballads, lullabies and epiphanies are used with dynamic intelligence.
The stately “Everything’s Perfect” sets him up. Vocal strength lies buried among quivering trumpets. “Last Days Of Summer” increases the attack with a gentle touch. Vibraphonic chords and a careful use of echo maul you, drawing you to his method. It’s like being pawed and jawed by a drowsy country-loving cougar.
This sense of a velvet-clad mugging, strings courtesy of High Llama man Sean O’Hagan, continues whenever Magnet slips in his Moogs and Mellotrons. Celtic chanteuse Gemma Hayes adds counterpoint to a version of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” that is more subtle than sexist, as if those Air-men had entered into a non-aggression pact with Scritti Politti and Pierre Henry. Elsewhere, shadows of The Beach Boys flit across “Overjoyed” and “Smile To The World”, the deliciously understated finale offering wish fulfilment on an epic scale.
Forget that “quiet is the new loud” mantra and concentrate on Magnet’s less-is-more philosophy. He’s on your side, but he’s tapping you on the shoulder. It would be foolish, if not downright rude, to ignore the invitation.