Louien is the recording name of Live Miranda Solberg and the No Tomorrow EP is her first release since 2019’s None of My Words which I reviewed for Joyzine and was one of my favourite albums of that year. The singer-songwriter market is a fierce one and I couldn’t tell you how many tracks, EPs or album get released on a weekly basis but when you hear Live’s voice the rest fade away into the background. The combination of a voice that seems to come from another plane with the perfect instrumental arrangements on this EP and you get the kind of mesmerising effect that most artists can only dream of.
The opening track, ‘Deep Within’, is a gentle procession that feels like the sun rising on the EP. A lo-fi drum machine, acoustic guitar and a tickle of slide guitar before then the song swells with full drums and subtle harmonies. ‘Better Woman’ rides a wave of distorted guitar and washes of string arrangements that add a melancholy tone to this story of a woman who has had an argument with her partner and doesn’t know how to get through it. The song rises and falls, seeming to slip between positive and negative emotions and Live talks more about it in the Q&A below.
The title track, ‘No Tomorrow’, strips everything back to Live’s stunning voice and her natural ability to pull off the most delicious twists and turns with the chord sequences. This song also allows the string arrangements to truly shine as they wrap around everything like the softest, most comforting, blanket you can imagine. ‘Fire’ is the most dreamlike of the five tracks. It feels like a song that has appeared from a dream and is centred around its single chorus: “She has lit herself on fire, she’s a burning manikin, she’s lit herself on fire and now she burning”. The song seems to be trying to extinguish the flames, like a salve to ease the pain. The EP closes with ‘Woke Up from the Dead’ and this is closest to the Americana that Live often draws from in her writing. This metaphor of someone waking from the dead, having been “been gone so long” and has missed so much of the how the world changed is a great example of how Live is able to hold melancholy and joy together in a beautiful tension.
The legacy of Carole King, Joni Michell or, more recently, Gillian Welch is there in these songs and, like these greats, Live’s voice is a North Star that shines through every song. It can flex from a low, intimate tone that feels like she is only singing to you or it can fly high joined in a murmuration by the most divine harmonies. It’s easy to lose yourself in the biosphere that this EP creates, 17 minutes spent in a magical land before you have to return to the black and white reality of Kansas.
Live (Louien) was kind enough to answer some questions for Joyzine:
I first saw you at the Sørveiv 2017 Festival and you were singing in Silver Lining. I could hear the quality of your voice, but when I saw your solo set later that night, I really heard how special your voice was. What are your earliest memories of singing and were people always telling you your voice was so good?
Thank you so much for that! I’ve been singing all my life, literally for as long as I can remember. I think my earliest memory is from when I was two or three, and my dad taught me how to sing in a microphone – he’d bought one for our home stereo.
When did you realise you wanted to be a solo performer rather than the singer in a band?
I’m still in that band, so it’s not an either/or situation for me! I just always wanted to explore what it’s like to be in total control of the creative process as well as performing alone, but I was too shy to do it until I made my debut album.
Why Louien as stage name? Does it have a meaning not apparent to an English-speaking fan?
It’s my mother’s nickname from when she was a teenager! I’m very inspired by her, and I thought it sounded nice, so that’s why it’s my stage name now.
Can you explain a bit more about ‘Better Woman’ and the idea of a woman not thinking she is good enough and may even wish to be a man? What were you trying to explore with this idea?
Being a woman, I’ve often been told I’m too emotional, too fragile. Femininity was seen as a weakness in many of my circles. Not knowing this was not true, I strived to be less emotional, less fragile, thus suppressing important parts of myself. The song is not really about wanting to be a man, it’s more about wanting to reach through to the other and wondering if it would have been easier if one was more like a man, blaming the lack of connection on one’s femininity. I’m happy to say I know better now.
The album None of My Words was raw and very personal. Did it help you to put some of the pain of your Father’s death into the music and out into the world (like fixing it in time so that you could move on)?
I think so, yes. I haven’t tried not doing it like this, I sometimes wonder if things would have been easier if I didn’t share my story with so many people. But I don’t regret it one bit!
This EP feels less personal and more of a celebration of the music. How did you approach writing and recording the songs on this EP?
I wouldn’t say it’s less personal, but it’s definitely less heavy because I gave myself complete freedom to write whatever I wanted, and I’ve explored sides of myself and my life that didn’t fit in with the vision of the first record.
Any plans to play in the UK after COVID is in our rear-view mirror?
No concrete plans yet, but I’m working on it! It’s always been a dream of mine to tour the UK!
Review by Paul F Cook