U Ok? Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Norway's Kai Gundelach has been busy since he released his debut EP in 2016 with relentless touring but still found time to lay down these tracks for his first album. A splendid listen where synth pop and falsetto vocals are in fine company with elegant and thoughtful songwriting, this Grammy-nominated artist really seems to come into his own on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Baltus.

After the slightly darker, ominous opener “Duck Hunting (Intro),” the album moves into the warm synth, minimal drum machine and '80s warm pop of “Duck Hunting.” “Iron” follows and expands on that '80s pop with soulful grooves and plenty of moody synth, before the wispy, calm “Control,” where Gundelach's falsetto is on full display and the landscape turns both tense and beautiful under busy instrumentation near the end.

The back half of the album is equally as memorable, with the hand clapping, late night feel of “Hurt” and Norwegian artist ARY contributing her breathy, sweet vocals on the electro-pop of “Games” and then later on with the more mysterious “Past The Building,” which draws inevitable and accurate comparisons to Bjork. The best tune here is the sleek, mystical “Night Sky,” where the echoes of loneliness seem at odds on a dance tune, but the strands of melancholy certainly aren't far away – here, or anywhere on the album.

Much of this album was written amid a bought of depression, and it's easy to detect this. However, when Gundelach revisited and reshaped the song,s he added some hope and some brightness to the despair. While this is mostly an album composed of '80s synthpop and '90 dance music, the soul, R&B, house and dream pop feelings are also just as important, and reportedly Bruce Springsteen's influence played a role in the impetus of the disc, too. Though there's little in the way of similarities in sound to Gundelach and The Boss, the working class spirit is evident and further cements the idea that the common person can write timeless, substantial music.

Rating: B+

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