Johanna Elina sings her stripped-back songs of bared souls and mystery to a soundtrack of sometimes gentle and minimal backing containing electronica and found sounds, alternating with more edgy palettes of modern rhythmic clatter and thrum.
Finnish by birth, she moved to Copenhagen in 2009 after studying jazz, both in Holland and in her home country, and had spells living in places as far apart geographically and culturally as New Zealand, Hungary, and Brazil. She brings her well-travelled life experiences to her lyrics, exploring observations of internalised and outward relationships in a never obvious fashion.
Some lovely marimba threads through Every Day, its introduction part-way into the song contrasting nicely with the icily swirling electronica washes that went before. The following Little Things illustrates Johanna’s way with an expressive minimalist arrangement, her intriguing lyrics hinting at regret in hindsight making for an eerie and compelling combination.
He Would contrasts a smoky jazz chanteuse and a descending stately organ melody, as the melancholy disappears in the wisps of cigarette smoke, the camera panning, following the tendrils to fade away. This is not a video, but it is playing in my head. This music does this thing where it plays with your imagination in unexpected but subtle ways.
As you can see above, Too Soon is an outwardly simple piano ballad, heavy on the minor chords, which focuses on Johanna’s quite alluring voice, one that sounds completely natural, her accented English adding another layer of mystery to the unfolding and impressionistic story of realisation and hope. Johanna has a good vocal range as the soaring ending shows to good effect.
She can do finger poppin’ jazz-infused foot tappers in odd time signatures too, as the Joni Mitchell influenced Somebody gives a new twist on verse/chorus/verse, another example of neat tempo contrasts.
The album ends with the longest song on the record, the almost hymnal sequences in These Places lending the song a contemplative quality. The change to rumbling menace halfway through, which fades back into the original tune, gives a feeling of disconnect, as if the song has had a head rush and is gently brought back down to Earth.
Comparisons are sometimes glib, but always useful for the uninitiated, and this whole album puts me in mind of Jo Hamilton’s Gown
which seems to have been an age ago now. You may never have heard of Ms Hamilton either, in which case, that was no help at all! That aside, Belonging is a quality release, and Johanna Elina is a definitely a name worth watching.
01. Waiting (6:11)
02. Every Day (3:16)
03. Little Things (4:18)
04. He Would (5:40)
05. High Or Low (5:37)
06. Too Soon (4:41)
07. Somebody (4:18)
08. These Places (6:26)
Total time – 40:30
Apart from Johanna, I have no idea, as I do not have a PR sheet!
Record Label: Eclipse Music/DME
Year Of Release: 2016