I’ve always been a fan of artists and albums that try to do more.
Yeah, I know that that’s a really broad statement. Here’s what I mean:
I like when artists push up against the boundaries of convention in genre or song structure. I like when there’s intentionality behind work, when artists build on ideas instead of random sonic choices that are pulled from the last Chainsmokers song. I like music that’s cohesive internally while also fitting into a broader context. Basically, I like it when artists aim higher than pop imitation and end up with deeper meaning.
Plus I like it when music sounds good, too.
Just re-read all of that, and it seems like my expectations are way too high. Good thing there are artists like Ari.
Ari’s an Icelandic folk-pop artist who recently released Radikoj, the second in a trilogy of albums centered around growth. In other words, from the get-go, he’s pretty obviously an artist doing more. Radikoj (Esperanto for “roots”) is the follow-up to 2017’s Fræ (Icelandic for “seed”), and there’s one more album coming, so we’ll get to see the realization of growth over the course of the trilogy.
I love that.
But honestly, I wouldn’t care about the concepts behind the albums if the music didn’t sound good. It does. Ari blends eccentric instrumentation with pop melodies in a way that’s unique but catchy. Lyrically, a bent toward Morrissey’s rousing energy is evident, while the songs maintain a distinctive Icelandic instrumental and compositional flair.
While the album works really well as a whole, my favorite moment is probably its second track, “Crossfire”, which bridges the work toward more conventional pop sounds even as it maintains its eccentricities. Beginning with broken chords and mournful vocals, it feels lonely and foreign – until the bass in the chorus drops to fill out a modern pop melody worthy of crowd singalongs.
“Blue Neon Moon” is another standout. It’s a catchy folk tune that features banjo, a stepping double bass line, and a glassy falsetto that rises out of the chorus’ main lyrics – which, juxtapositionally to the track’s alt-country sound, deal with the cold strangeness of love in the modern, technologically-driven social media age.
But really, from top to bottom, the album makes sense. It checks all the boxes for me: intentional, boundary-bending, and beautiful as a standalone but best as part of a trilogy. Plus it’s catchy.
Give it a listen, and you’ll see what I mean: this album does more, and that’s a good thing.
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