“All a song needs is three chords and the truth.” It’s a common saying, usually referring to country or folk music, and it means that a song doesn’t have to be polished or complicated to be good. This is true enough, but as with most common sayings it’s overly reductive. A song needs musical or lyrical depth, ideally both, in order to be truly great. Bob Dylan didn’t just have “three chords and the truth”; he had some of the most evocative and poetic lyrics ever written, even before he added that infamous electric band. There’s no substitute for care and effort.
It’s something a lot of other singer-songwriters could stand to learn. There’s nothing inherently wrong with only using a guitar and a microphone, but there has been a recent glut of white-bread Sheeran-come-latelys who use that bare-bones setup as an excuse for their own laziness. They strum clumsily on their guitars and sing vague lyrics about a girl they either broke up with or are just about to break up with, alternating between “intimate” mumbling and faux-soulful belting.
Because listeners have been trained to associate that kind of performance with unvarnished honesty, and because Spotify has an unquenchable thirst for playlist filler, mediocrity ends up being rewarded. But there’s no need to dwell on the bad when you can celebrate the good, and that’s where “Sister Soul” comes in.
“Sister Soul”, a sweet, breezy song by the London-based singer-songwriter Karin Fransson, manages that tricky balancing act. It maintains an easy warmth and simplicity, the kind that reminds you of the best open mic performers at the coffee house. It never feels like it’s trying too hard, or that there’s too much going on. But there’s plenty of depth to the sound, from the acoustic strumming to the vibraphone chimes to Fransson’s rich, full-bodied voice. It’s chill, but it never quite sits still.
The lyrics, while not exactly unimportant, are secondary in “Sister Soul”. As the cliche goes, it’s less about what Fransson sings and more about the way she sings it: in a comforting sigh, a silvery falsetto, a melismatic hook. She’s addressing someone close with her lyrics, providing much-needed solace. “Feelings come and feelings go, Sister Soul,” she sings, promising that, even if it hurts now, it won’t hurt forever. It’s a tender, honest sentiment, and it’s something all of us could stand to hear once in a while.
“Sister Soul” fulfills its purpose with skill. Anyone can strum a guitar and end up on a “chill cafe vibes” playlist, but it takes talent to put a song together that soothes even more effectively, with more moving parts and a good message. We could all use a balm right now, and “Sister Soul” is it.
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