You know the night before Christmas and the night before that? When, as a child, your mind would run with dreams and possibilities. The taste of gold was close. So intoxicating that it was impossible to fall asleep. You were on the verge of something amazing. Then Christmas arrived and it was beautiful as expected. The album by Ghost vs Sanne is one of the finest releases of recent years and reminds me of those tender moments of Christmas. Emerging from a Swedish soundscape, the album, called “Hold This Girl”, is a smile from heaven that us lucky mortals have managed to get to hear through the power of music. Ghost consist of Ulf Lindström and Johan Ekhé who you might remember are the guys behind some of Robyn’s finest moments (nearly her entire first album, most of the 2nd and 3rd album including “Electric”, “Play”, “Keep This Fire Burning” and “Don’t Stop the Music”-the track that this very blog is named after!). They’ve also written the insanely catchy “Popstar” for Sita and Jon and “The Way I am” by Ana Johnsson. In short, Dontstopthepop legends. Indeed, check out Sanne's take on Keep This Fire Burning live in New York City last month!
Sanne and Ghost do their Keep This Fire Burning!
With Sanne Karlsson, they pool together all their brilliant discography and produce a very brilliant thing. Each track on the album is the next big thing. How dare they be so good? Sanne’s vocals are soothing and rival the likes of Mary J Blige. She refuses to scream the lyrics and allows the melody take control. The balance is perfect and as a result the album soars into DontStopthePop’s key album of the decade. This is the CD that Robyn could have released if the electro seductions of Klas Ahlund and The Knife hadn’t got to her. This is the CD that Amy Winehouse would, if she had the guts and tenacity, record. There’s a tremendous amount of soul on this album but don’t let that scare you. The set of songs cross genres. It can’t be too fused to RnB or pop however both fans of these crowds will be mightily impressed with the irresistible hooks and catchy baselines.
Portishead meets Robyn (circa third album)! This track is moody blues pop. Best way to describe it really. Gloriously rich with a brilliant polemic soundtrack. It really should have been the James Bond Theme tune. Seminal vocals from Sanne again. If you like Siobhan Donaghy and her Ghosts LP you’ll truly love this song and album.
This track is perfect. This is about stabbing in the middle of the night. Sanne tells of a story of a man who did a girl incredibly wrong. It suddenly twists and emerges as an epic ballad from the perspective of a best friend and what she does to help this girl leave her man. There is a Nick Cave-Kylie Minogue “Where The Wild Roses Grow” feel to this. Rather than being immediate, the tension builds into something dark and yet freakily gospel-like. You can imagine Sanne singing this in a church come Sunday. You forget that this song is about murder.
This begins with a throbbing electro baseline that reminds me somewhat of Robyn’s “Electric” and “Keep This Fire Burning”. Sanne informs the listener that the man upstairs bought a brand new suit and thus unfolds another provoking crusade about modernity. Once again, the chorus is epic without dripping in hyperbole. Sounds like a sinister version of Mary J Bliges “No More Drama”.
Wow! Very electro layered with a RnB baseline. Annie of Norway would kill for a track like this. When the chorus of “you're just a liar and a snitch” kicks off you know this album is very special. Backed up with the kind of strings that we’ve not heard since “Keep This Fire Burning”, this song is a middle finger to the massive arty-farty electro scene that’s emerged out of the ambers of Annie’s first album. Don’t get me wrong, parts of Annie’s and Roison's albums are quite good it's just me likey big fat pop songs. Robyn’s “Be Mine” was one. This is a bit like that song. Except it also has elements of Christine Milton's and Remee’s “Superstar” in there too. This is Ghost vs Sanne in their element. I love it!
Oh my indeed. This is incredibly catchy. It takes me back to the melodic progression of Robyn’s “Do You Really Want Me (Show Respect)”. A song previously written by Ulf and Johan! It comprises a perfect slice of Rnb and pop. While this a real sweet track Sanne’s voice ensures gravitas instead of the possible fluffiness that this song could have ended-up like in someone else's hands.
Ghost vs Sanne enter the gospel-uplifting territory here. “It Don’t Bother Me” rekindles the soaring elements of Christina’s second album (see “Soar” and “Beautiful”) and the earlier tracks on the album. Ghost’s wonderful tricks of production and songwriting can be heard on “It Don’t Bother Me”. The song is about the same abject citizens of our society of Christian Falk's “Dream On”. However, Ghost pay tribute to Craig Armstrong, DJ Shadow and William Orbit here and Sanne goes wild with her vocals. Soothing, dark and reflective: it’s a 5:51 minute opus to unity and freedom.
Another epic song about needing a bit of love. If you're down, this track magically picks you right up. In A Little Love, the hybrid sound of Motown Electronica seals the album's fate as an earth-shattering and revolutionary pop album. As such this is Ghost vs Sanne’s signature song. Dipped with dystopian dreams, Sanne explains the world as she sees it and wraps her solution for the broken dreams with her soulful voice. Ace!
The Queens Of The Stone Age song of 2002. Ghost vs Sanne unweave the original to ensure a sickly sweet sinister yet beautiful new song. I forget the original. I am taken to a world of Blade Runner and the future of Ripley and the Company of Weyland-Yutani, who rules the world in search of the monster alien, where humans are suddenly expendable. Sanne’s voice embodies a moment of hope amongst the terror of a dark universe created within.
Considering she’s on her 4th album I expected Anastacia to be doing a track like this. Still, Makes Me Suffer is perhaps the weakest track on the album. It refuses to mirror the groundbreaking mentality of the other songs on the cd. That doesn’t make it a bad song though. It is highly airtight, robust and recalls that 60’s girlband sound that made Phil Spector the man he is today. Its also a sound that Girls Aloud and the Sugababes are ramming home on their new releases. This makes “Make Me Suffer” the most commercial song Ghost vs Sanne produce and as such it would totally work on radio here in the UK. But it’s the sort of ground previously covered by the brilliant singer Ruby Amanfu and those aforementioned girlbands. I like this track, but it is not half as good as the other stuff.
Starting off like a James Horner track, Imaginary Friend is a track Grace Jones would love to have on her Cd. In fact, half the music industry would kill to have a song of this supreme quality in their discography. There are so many sounds going on in this track that it demands a win at the Grammy Awards. Imaginary Friend is amazing. Sinister, funky, poptastic and soulful, it is all over the place. So multi-disciplined, one doesn’t know what to make of this track. This has the slick beats of Mary J Blige, the thumping thuds of Lauryn Hills first solo album, a catchy chorus of a lost ABBA track and all backed-up by something that sounds like “Bishops Countdown” from Aliens by James Horner. Messy, amazing and very stunning.
Time To Say Goodbye
Here we have another pop moment that is irresistibly catchy and returns to the 1960s. Unlike “Make Me Suffer” though, this track actually clicks. Sanne sounds like an early Timi Yuro while the production recalls the guitars of Kelly Clarkson's collaborations with Max Martin and Ruby Amanfu’s "For Life". A tight pop gem to end the album.
In conclusion, this album is very very very good. Too strong for its own good. They must come over to the UK. I'd love to see them live. Check them out & the album through their myspace (here).