“Eleven Something” by Ann Brita Nilsson
Beneath the weight of a striking arrangement, Ann Brita Nilsson croons poetic verse after verse in “Real Life,” one of my favorite songs from her new record Eleven Something, but as much as I find her interplay with the melody to be incredibly immersive, it’s just a sliver of the chills-inducing energy you’re going to unearth when listening to any of the five tracks included in this gem of an extended play.
Rather than spending all of her time crafting ballads like this one, Nilsson experiments with surrealism (“The Shelter of Thieves”), atmospheric pop, and stripped-down alternative rock themes (the title track and “Opening My Windows”), submitting layers of an artistic profile some might have thought they knew everything about. In reality, Eleven Something isn’t an abbreviated effort made to get new listeners into this singer/songwriter’s brand, but instead an extension of her soulful personality and the evolved form she’s taking with every piece of material she releases to the masses. There’s no abstract barrier between the artist and audience here, but instead the willful expressions of a poet and composer who is ready to be exposed before the world.
Nilsson isn’t using lyrical content alone to tell us a story in Eleven Something, but instead imposing elements of emotional subtext within everything from the melodic faceting beneath “Are You Really Gone” to the gritty, textural component of “The Shelter of Thieves,” the latter arguably being the most rustic work that this player could have recorded in this setting. The instruments in this record are never overstated beside the vocal; they’re allowed to compete for the spotlight next to the smoky pipes controlling the tempo from the eye of the storm, which is something that a lot of players in this one’s shoes just wouldn’t have the courage to try.
There’s just no need for the trivial virtuosities that other artists rely on when trying to make an extended play in this tracklist, because had it been included I don’t know that Nilsson’s passion would be presented with as much conciseness as it is in this incarnation of the EP. The production quality here clarifies rather than contributes, which works especially well when you’ve got a singer and songwriter who can go as freeform before the microphone as this one can and definitely should the next time she steps into the recording studio to make something new.
I wasn’t expecting to be as taken aback by the quality of Eleven Something as I was, but then again, I might have underestimated the skillset that Ann Brita Nilsson is bringing to the game ahead of hearing what her new five songs are all about. This is a performer who doesn’t care about the status quo or the pop model, which isn’t to say that she isn’t focusing on the details and intricacies that go into making any recorded work a true masterpiece; she’s finding her own way to the spotlight in Eleven Something and raising the bar for both herself and the scene that gave her career life along the way.
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