In typical fashion Norway’s mainline media largely ignored Simen Tangen’s Fall 1998 album (apart from some local papers and the curious chiefs at Gaffa and Furore I Harare). Choosing instead to immortalize in Norwegian musical etchings the outlines of Jonas Alaska and Michael Paskalev, neither could be argued to come close in terms of artistic integrity. Not taking anything away from the aforementioned artists and their accomplishments, but it’s been another case of looking in the wrong place for the ” X – Marks The Spot “.
Simen Tangen is the anti-hero. He huddles in corners thinking about mixes, plays because he has to, writes heartfelt songs because they rattle around in his brain if he doesn’t get them out. Tragically, this world hardly offers an outstretched hand to real artists. We seem fixated on glorifying those that seem larger than life, instead of seeking the secrets that lay in the bedroom recordings and demo tapes scattered around attics. These songs show us a true side of the human condition, of the songwriting process, of true music. Not the sleigh bell (pun intended) misery of gelled hair and gondola-shaped shoes. If only the world was interested in the genuine, and not the fleeting.
“Cold Feet” welcomes the winter in with its La Chanson De Prévert strumming, before turning altogether more sombre and melancholic. Like the stinging wind on a snow-swept lane, huddled under scarves looking out at the slow moon making its rounds. “There’s A Place” blows in with it’s sparse arrangements, lifting the record to make way for the first shared vocal duties.
Silje Høgvold’s voice acts as a majestic counter-weight to the melodies Simen spins. Lifting the hushed songs to new heights and providing genuine “goose-bump” moments (examples being the second chorus of “There’s A Place” where the vocals dip and dive upwards towards the end, or the fading melodies near the end of “Winters Night” that change the face of the song completely). “Boy” proves once again that as well as having an ear for melody and brittle songs, Simen also possesses a good amount of pop-sensibilities that do not tear away from the main fabric of the album.
“Windows” throws you back to those Disney moments you remembered as a child watching inside while the white streets glowed with the peeling lanterns, listening to “Walking In The Air” and picturing the landscapes beyond the trees. “Family Christmas” falls in just about the time everyone has already had a few brandies and the Christmas table looks like a massacre of cartilage and scraped bones. Granddad takes a pull on his cigar, rosy cheeked, and looks around the table laughing.
Music like this, though themed around the festive season of Christmas, is worth listening to just as much under an L.A. sun in June as it is looking out bleak windows at the darkness encroaching our town with evil intent, come December. These songs are lullabies for the soul. Not just for the baby Jesus’ birthday.
Check out footage from Simen’s show a few months ago on BSTV: