Most of us have no idea what Anna Järvinen is singing about, but she gets her message across loud and clear.
For all the brilliant pop music we've gotten from Sweden in recent years, from such English-speaking standouts as Jens Lekman, Robyn, Lykke Li, Peter Bjorn and John, and Sambassadeur, hearing artists who actually sing in their own native language has its own strange appeal, especially if you don't know a lick of Swedish. The peculiar pronunciations and cadences have an otherworldly quality to North American ears, an odd musicality that sometimes manages to draw us in. We've been treated to plenty of fantastic Swedish-sung music in recent years especially, from the enthralling progressive rock of Dungen, to the ebullient electronic pop of Familjen, to the gentle indie pop of Säkert!, and the irresistible charm of the language itself has played a significant role in appealing to foreign audiences. Whether what they're actually singing about is profound or banal is of the least importance to the Swedish-illiterate. Like any other music from around the world, it's the melody and emotion that transcends language, and even though we might not have the slightest clue what the hell they're singing about, we get it.
After recording three albums as the lead singer for the band Granada, Finnish-born, Swedish-raised Anna Järvinen has emerged as one of the best singer-songwriter exports from Scandinavia with a drop-dead gorgeous solo debut. Ironically, after singing in English with Granada, Järvinen has attracted much more attention for her Swedish-sung compositions, and rightfully so, as Jag Fick Feeling ever so gently entrances us, setting us up for some devastating emotional moments as she lowers the boom when we least expect it.
Interestingly, it's the aforementioned Dungen, and Dungen producer Mattias Glavå, who plays a significant role on the album, as multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes, guitarist Reine Fiske, bassist Mattias Gustavsson, and drummer Fredrik Björling do a terrific job adding tasteful accompaniment to Järvinen's songs, which mine the gentler tones of 1970s AM radio pop. Wisely, the immensely talented Dungen plays a much more understated role than what we're used to hearing from them, allowing Järvinen's winsome singing voice to carry the entire record. Sounding like a sumptuous blend of the Sundays' Harriet Wheeler and Emmylou Harris, Järvinen's songwriting approach certainly isn't innovative by any stretch, and could easily be described as hopelessly retro, but like Dungen, Richard Hawley, and A Girl Called Eddy, she sounds perfectly suited for that style, and performs with the level of sincerity it demands.
Over the course of its 36 minutes, Jag Fick Feeling serves up enough variety to keep itself from slipping into repetitive soft rock. The country-tinged "Götgatan" thrums along at a lightly upbeat pace, strings accentuating the sunny arrangement, but after two and a half minutes the song comes to a screeching halt, launching into a beautiful, languid coda. The heartbreaking piano ballad "Nedgångslåten" and its forlorn whistling melody segue nicely into another whistled melody on the sprightly "Leena", the closest the album gets to ever sounding raucous. That is, if you consider Bread to be intense. Both the lovely "Svensktalande Bättre Folk" and "PS Tjörn" shamelessly pay homage to the saccharine early 1970s pop of the Carpenters, right down to Ejstes's brazenly unrironic flute solos, and speaking of uncool instrumentation, clarinet adds a certain sweetness to the tender waltz of "Koltrast".
These days, one could easily go through the trouble of loosely translating the lyrics and song titles from the album via web translators, but Anna Järvinen's tender singing delivers enough of a message. This is one deceptively powerful record, perfectly encapsulated by the shimmering closing ballad "Kom Hem", the echoing piano chords providing a dreamy backdrop to her equally dulcet voice and working so well that we honestly couldn't care what the song's about. But for the record, a quick web translation says "Kom Hem" means "arriving home". Yeah, that feels about right.