One of the things that heavily produced, mega-country music misses out on is the joy of something being a little scratched or worn around the edges. There is a beautiful Japanese tradition of Kintsugi where broken pottery is repaired with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. It not only makes it stronger but creates a perfect imperfection which adds a unique beauty to the object. Louien (the stage name of Miranda Solberg) has the slightly scuffed quality you get at the alt-end of country where there’s a little grit in the honey, something that elevates her music.
‘Better Woman’ is the first track released from a new EP, No Tomorrow, which comes out in June and has broadened the sound than was on her debut album None of My Words (one of my favourite albums of 2019) which drew from the pain of her Father’s death. In the press release Solberg talks about to wanting to “play around a bit more, not take myself or the songs too seriously as the debut was very heavy and took years to write. I mean, writing a thoroughly happy song might still be out of my reach, but I’m trying to get more than one perspective in there” and this track focuses on “an argument between a woman and her partner, someone she’s in love with, but she doesn’t know how to get through to” and how she starts to doubt herself, even beginning to wish she were a man. I did find this perspective a challenging listen as I kept thinking throughout ‘change for yourself, not for the man’.
Since I first heard her sing back in 2017, I’ve loved Solberg’s voice for its ability to illuminate even the darkest of long Norwegian nights. ‘Better Woman’ offers crunchy guitar as a counterpoint to the woozy strings and keyboard wash to support that incredible voice with its incredible quality and clarity, whether it’s laid back, as in the start of the song, soaring like the chorus or layered like all those glorious harmonies. My appetite is now considerably whetted for the release of No Tomorrow which you can pre-order from Louien’s Bandcamp page.
Review by Paul F Cook