Ane Brun recently won the Scandinavian equivalent of the Grammy award for Best New Artist based on the strength of what’s poised to be her major breakthrough, the quiet and gentle It All Starts with One. The accolade should come as no surprise as the album is expertly crafted throughout and boasts a song that features the vocal talents of First Aid Kit and another that features José González. Those two names alone would’ve been cause for anyone to take notice. That neither over-shines Brun is both a testament to not only how well It All Starts with One is crafted but to how strong of an emerging voice Brun is.
However, as strong as It All Starts with One is, it definitely has moments where it falters and runs the risk of losing the listener by simply becoming too standard. Luckily, that point isn’t hit on the opening track, “These Days”, nor its follower, “Words”. Both serve as a wonderful introduction to both Brun and the record by being frail songs injected with her lilting heartfelt songs. They can simultaneously drag you in and break your heart, in keeping with the best quiet songs in the singer/songwriter vein. Of the two, “These Days” is the stronger track, bringing out more of Brun’s strength by underscoring her vocals with floor tom rolls and organ swirls. It’s a quietly seductive piece and one of the albums best moments. While “Words” doesn’t lose the pace of It All Starts with One it does serve as an early indicator that this might be a somewhat uneven album, despite being a perfectly fine track on its own.
Another standout is “Worship”, the track that immediately follows “Words”. This is thanks largely in part to the contribution from José González who turns out to be a perfect complement to Brun’s wistfulness. The way their two personas play off of each other is riveting to the point of distraction. It’s a contained moment that continues It All Starts with One‘s trend of being at its most gripping in its quietest moments. “Worship” is also notable for its beautiful minimal string arrangement and the gorgeous melody in the verses, which would’ve been enough to make the song a standout without the effort put in by González. Curiously, it’s followed by the other collaborative track on the album, “Do You Remember”. Once again, Brun’s style syncs up quite well with First Aid Kit’s although the results aren’t nearly as entrancing. “Do You Remember” is Brun’s first foray into an up-tempo number and while it functions well as a single, it feels disjointed in the context of the album.
The latter half of It All Starts with One follows suit of what was accomplished and established prior. What proves to be most gripping are the starkest moments and it can veer dangerously close to becoming too unnoticeable. One song that does differ from the formula, however, is “One”. It’s the quickest song on the album but one of the brightest moments. There’s a culmination of intriguing influences that adds up to a memorable whole. “One” is followed by one of the albums most devastating moments with “The Light From Love” which showcases Brun’s vocals and a haunting piano melody, punctuated at certain points with an eerie chime ring buried in the background. It’s a moment that goes unmatched until the stunner of a closing track, “Undertow”.
“Undertow” is, by a long shot, the track most indicative of Brun’s promise and talent. Every aspect that made her slow songs so memorable is ratcheted up a few levels here and brings the song to a level approaching masterpiece. Everything works perfectly, the crashing cymbals and floor tom rolls at the most chaotic moments, the evocation of personal wreckage, complementary backing vocals, a beautiful melody, smart structure, and strong songwriting. It doesn’t let its grip loosen once over the course of its six and a half minute run-time. “Undertow” nearly single-handedly destroys the memories of the albums weak points. However, while it does serve as a distraction from that fact for a while, they’re still evident on repeat listens. While It All Starts with One isn’t Ane Brun’s masterpiece, it should earn her a considerable amount of deserved acclaim and put everyone on notice. Her masterpiece may be here in the near future but for now she’s left us with a record very easy to digest and just as easy to enjoy.