Elise Vatsvaag

“After the Storm” – Elise Vatsvaag

This song was nearly featured last week, but it didn’t fit in the mix quite right so I put it aside for a week and now look.

Sparse and elegiac, “After the Storm” uses what sounds like a full-fledged string quartet to generate volume and intensity in a song that otherwise secures its power from restraint and sweetness. After the real-life storm that affected so many people in the Eastern U.S. last week, we can all use a bit of restraint and sweetness.

Nothing has ever been this clear before
After the storm I have no fear at all
No fear at all

Vatsvaag is Norwegian and while her lyrics occasionally betray a non-native-speaker’s tentative syntax, the overall effect, almost counter-intuitively, is one of poignant authenticity. She sings with a clear tone but also without much sustain (i.e., she doesn’t hold her sung notes for long), which lends a soft-spoken intimacy to her delivery. The song has a traditional structure—verse, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, repeat with bridge—but her tender, affecting melodies expand gently beyond the typical eight measures in the pre-chorus and again in the chorus, which then melts into the instrumental tumult provided by the strings. This shows yet again that a song cannot be reduced merely to its words, and that it’s almost always the subtle musical effects rather than simply a turn of phrase that sends the impact of a song from the head to the heart.

Vatsvaag has been releasing a series of free to download songs throughout 2012. The first four were then gathered, earlier this year, into an EP called This Is Not My Music #1; after the second four have been released (song number 8 arrives later this month), This Is Not My Music #2 will be released. “After the Storm” was the seventh song, released in October.

photo credit: Erik Sæter Jørgensen