Frida Hyvönen

Until Death Comes

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Even though Frida Hyvönen sings in American English, with a voice like something between Laura Veirs' and Jenny Lewis', and plays sweet, poppy songs reminiscent of Laura Nyro or Burt Bacharach, there's something about her that reflects her native Sweden. Maybe it's the often sparse, straightforward piano, maybe it's her voice, crackling yet still strong, like spring ice on ponds, maybe it's the lines like "The smell of winter made me sick for love," from "N.Y," or maybe it's just an intangible quality that rests quietly within her phrasing and chord changes, sounding of fish and summer dusk that never really darkens into night. On her debut album, Until Death Comes, which was released in Scandanavia in 2005, Hyvönen turns happy songs into sad ones (for example, the airy progression of "I Drive My Friend" that contrasts with her singing "Now I'd never claim you but I'll want you 'til I'm gone," futilely trying to hide her sorrow), sad into happy, and writes abstractions with simple words ("See I have made him pregnant/Our child will be the word/The new word for the modern," she confesses in "The Modern"), exposing herself but also hiding behind the fence of her honesty. There's nuance in her imagery, contradiction in her chords, that gives them a greater depth than what initially comes through. Her key skills, while not extraordinary, fit well with her clean melodies, from the great '60s pop in "Come Another Night" -- complete with trumpet and crisp, Beach Boys drums -- to the sad, modern waltz of "Once I Was a Serene Teenaged Child." There's nothing particularly new or even original about Hyvönen's music, but she has a kind of naïve wisdom that comes through in her lack of pretense and complication and makes her very likable, and makes Until Death Comes a very compelling album, its strength lying in its plainness and truth.

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