Sweden's Freja the Dragon Creates Compelling Art Pop on 'Long Gone Girl'
Sweden's Freja the Dragon has toured with Peter Björn and John, and on Long Gone Girl, she partners Björn Yttlin to craft her exemplary debut showcasing her mesmerizing brand of art pop.
Long Gone Girl EP
Freja the Dragon
8 May 2020
Freja Drakenberg is a Stockholm-based musician who has toured with Swedish band Peter Björn and John as a multi-instrumentalist. Long Gone Girl is her debut release, a six-song EP under the name Freja the Dragon. In her official bio, Drakenberg credits Björn Yttling with giving her the push she needed to put out her music, and Yttling is onboard this release as her creative partner, working on production, arrangements, and songwriting. So while Drakenberg is certainly the Freja of Freja the Dragon, she wants it to be known that Yttling is a vital part of the project.
As for the music, Long Gone Girl is a delightful, musically intriguing collection of songs. Drakenberg's singing voice is soft but intense, and the production keeps her vocals at the top of the mix. At the same time, the EP sports a big, expansive percussion sound reminiscent of follow Nordic musician Jonsí, with lots of drums and percussion but not much, if any, standard rock drumset. This sound is most apparent on "Target for Sadness", a song with quiet verses and a huge sing-along chorus. The verses mostly feature Drakenberg's voice, electronic clicks and pops, and a little bit of piano. But that chorus has booming background drums and a repeating xylophone melody, and it's quite distinctive.
"Cut Me Loose" shifts between simple, catchy pop verses and a chorus that has a bit of a swing to it, with a heavy backbeat. Barely-there guitar and subtle piano chords fill out the sound, but Drakenberg's strong vocal melody carries the song. "Tell Me I'm Wrong" is a relationship song that opens with Drakenberg lamenting that she didn't talk to her significant other in person when she had the chance, opting instead to text. It's a song with something of a story, where Freja repeatedly attempts to figure out if the two can be friends and lovers simultaneously. It's short, with relatively simple music that keeps the focus on the lyrics.
The title track, "Long Gone Girl", opens the EP with a handful of big drum hits before giving Drakenberg space to sing a capella. The simple beat of the chorus provides the song with something of a Scandinavian R&B feel, which in this case means it features more jingling percussion than in a typical R&B track. That gives it an exciting sound, as does the unexpected slowdown that precedes the track's fadeout. "Give It All Up" puts the big drum sound right upfront from the start, propelling the song along until it hits the heavy chorus. Crashing synth and guitar chords buttress Drakenberg's compelling minor-key melody, where she cites reasons to "Give it all up" (sadness, last goodbye, no reason) before asking the question, "Give it all up, but why?"
Long Gone Girl closes with "Give You All My Love", which is distinct from the rest of the release by being piano-based. No big drums here, just a mid-tempo piano ballad with an affecting melody and chorus. Particularly effective is the falsetto tag to the chorus, where Drakenberg soars while singing, "Always you on my mind." Interestingly, Freja the Dragon released this track as a single in mid-April, dedicating it to all the health care workers exposing themselves to COVID-19 every day to help the sick.
The beautiful thing about a six-song EP is that there's no fluff here. While I didn't love each of these songs, I found something to like about them all. Each one does something a bit different without straying too far from the low-key Swedish indie-pop template Freja the Dragon is working from. The melodies are strong, and the arrangements are ear-catching, and this is a release that is well worth a listen.