Ane Brun: It All Starts With One
On It All Starts With One, Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun has a lot to say, and chooses to say it with a soft, understated coolness. Brun, who runs her own label in Sweden, has become something of a sensation in Scandinavia, with this record marking her third to reach number one in her homeland. Being the sadly ignorant American I am, I must admit that I am not terribly familiar with this overseas sensation for the simple fact that she is overseas. Yet it’s no surprise that Brun’s work hasn’t translated in North America. There’s no sensationalism or sexuality on this record, a stark departure from the Rihanna-soaked US charts. Beyond that, Brun never resorts to any belting or diva swagger to elevate her music. While the temperance of her music is admirable, there are also no moments that really take your breath away and ascend the generally subdued vibe of this album. Brun is certainly more Enya than she is Gaga, and while there is something to be said for her bend toward sincerity rather than gimmicks, It All Starts With One fails to consistently produce anything that demands repeated listening.
Brun sings of love, loss, and loneliness, staying within territory that has certainly been trod before. The album opens with “These Days,” which thankfully isn’t a Nico cover. It has an eerie backdrop of organ music that gives the entire song a sorrowful tone. It’s a very promising opener that builds to a more hopeful place by its end. The song itself is merely quite good, but as a song meant to set the tone for the album, it’s just about perfect. Later in the album, “Worship” features a guest vocalist in Jose Gonzalez, who conspires with Brun’s smooth vocals and a rhythmic guitar strum to create a song that I assume would work great in a yoga class or some other meditative activity that I don’t have the time for. When the strings kick in, the track really finds a sweet spot and produces arguably the highlight of the album. On the next track, “Do You Remember,” Brun takes a more percussive route and the results are generally good. It’s the first song that ‒ in a wacky world where Florence Welch and Gotye are mainstream hits ‒ may actually have a place on American radios.
On the second half of the album, Brun continues to display a really impressive vocal range as the songs slow down a bit more. “What’s Happening With You and Him” walks a tightrope of staying reserved without seeming too air tight and restrained. Brun knows her place and, while she does have a fantastic voice, she knows that she doesn’t have the type of voice that can pull off Adele-like histrionics. The album continues this tone of placidity that is interrupted only occasionally by some furious strings or percussion. Overall, the album can drift into being a bit too subdued in parts. “The Light From One” is atmospheric and more complex than meets the eye, but it also lacks the intensity that its subject matter might deserve.
It All Starts With One presents a truly fascinating international contrast to the highly produced chart-toppers that North America and parts of Europe are accustomed to. There’s an artistry in Brun’s music and a comforting sense of peace. At the same time, the consistently even tone of the album makes its emotional impact somewhat fleeting and makes the album one to be enjoyed in the moment, but not ultimately remembered.
MP3: Ane Brun “Worship”
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Ane Brun: It All Starts With One