Try and imagine a musical cross between Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Mary Hopkins’ Those Were The Days, then add some gypsy fiddle and a playful lyric and you’re getting close to More Than Ice Cream, a song that’s likely to become the Swedish singer-songwriter’s signature tune. It’s a catchy number, but it would be a shame if it became the one that defined her because, as this mostly self-penned (the two weaker tracks are by producer Henrik Astrom) album shows, she has a lot more to offer.
Discovering country through such artists as Parton, Cash, Harris, and Young, her influences have resolved into a predominantly Appalachian sound underscored by instrumentation that includes accordion, banjo, mandolin and fiddle in addition to her own acoustic guitar.
Pretty much recorded live, although there’s upbeat notes to Ice Cream and the lock and key meant to be relationship she sings about in Sweet Marianne, the overall lyrical tone is fairly dark. Piano waltzing ballad You Broke My Heart pretty much speaks for itself, death and the regret of things left unsaid are at the heart of the strings enfolded funeral farewell Goodnight while the poignant banjo accompanied Grace deals with a bullied girl who turns to self-harm to try and feel something.
The starkest though is Biggest Betrayal In the World which, built upon a military snare beat and piano and guitars that gradually swell to a climax and fade, is an unsettling story of a father’s participation in his daughter’s sexual abuse that easily stands comparison with Suzanne Vega’s Luka.
Over the past few years there’s been a steady stream of names emerging from Sweden to find critical acclaim - and often commercial success - on the indie folk/roots scene, First Aid Kit, Lykke Li, Yonder, Elin Ruth and Jose Gonzalez among them. It would be an injustice if Brander’s wasn’t added to the list.
Mike Davies October 2011 www.netrhythms.co.uk