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Choir of Young Believers “This is for the White in Your Eyes” Review

This is for the Whites in Your Eyes

Though the world’s economy may be going through rough times, Scandinavian exports of quirky romanticism seem to have been largely unaffected. Kristian Mattson (Tallest Man on Earth) recently released his well-received debut, the Kings of Convenience are expecting in October, and gentlemen like José González and Jens Lekman are still major forces in indie pop. Add Jannis Noya Makrigiannis to the list, the Dane behind one man project Choir of Young Believers. Makrigiannis’ debut This is for the White in Your Eyes, is getting its U.S. release in August, and like it’s forbearers it trades heavily in the currency of the sensitive young singer-songwriter from the Northlands.

That isn’t to say that This is for the White in Your Eyes is simply more of the same though (and though they share some similarities, most of the Scandinavian heavy hitters also are quite distinct from each other). He does take a path that is well worn by the feet of the earnest young men before him, but Makrigiannis does it in such a way that is anything but boring. His eerie melodies ebb and flow, building into symphonic climaxes of strings and horns, and his voice (which pitches somewhere between Chris Martin and José González) is beautiful and angelic. Lyrically Makrigiannis is all over the map, but where his words lack profundity the melody usually picks up the slack.

The record begins on a high note with “Hollow Talk,” a tune that begins sparsely with Makrigiannis warbling wistfully over a single repeated piano note. One by one cello, guitar, drums and violins are added, eventually building to a carefully orchestrated pinnacle. Interestingly Makrigiannis even loops his own vocals into his own background chorus—an otherworldly wail that sounds a bit like the vocals in Ennio Morricone’s famous score to Fistful of Dollars. “Next Summer” is a little less expansive; a ho-hum heartbreak jam that tries to lift itself up with a bouncy little rhythm section, but in the end never really gets anywhere. Similarly “Rituals of Mine” starts off going in the same direction, but then gets a huge lift from pounding drums and more spaghetti western violins. In “Rituals” Makrigiannis also branches out lyrically: “I cover and conceal/I prevent you from the real/you just rise above it all/you baptize me with your love.”The I/I/You/You structure is striking, as is the obtuse and esoteric language.

choir young believers
[photo via Ghostly]

The one track that really sticks out as markedly different from anything else on the record is “Action/Reaction,” an upbeat, almost danceable orchestra of dreamy vocals and tribal rhythms. As far as stickiness goes, the track has single potential all over it. The high spirits are immediately dampened next with “Under the Moon,” a melancholy slow burner. Under is almost two different songs in one. It starts out with some Nick Drake-ish acoustic guitar that slows almost to a stop mid-song, and then begins to crawl to the finish to an almost completely different melody. The track’s refrain of “Am I really losing you/Am I/Am I” is potently haunting, with Makrigiannis’s lonely voice paired with his voluminous one man choir.

While “Wintertime Love” is a bit of a dud, Makrigiannis makes up for it in the pairing of the next two songs “She Walks” and “Why Must it be this Way,” the former a shadowy piano dirge and the latter a lovely ballad that would be a dead ringer for early Coldplay if not for the diversity of the string arrangements. Either one of these could have made a better album finisher than “Yamagata,” a whispery tune that has its own sliver of beauty, but sends the record out with a whimper that doesn’t seem much in keeping with Makrigiannis’s traditional climactic builds. Overall though it does little to take a way from what is a very solid and very listenable effort from the young Dane. While This is for the White in Your Eyes, may have its weak points, it still deserves a high place amongst the growing canon of sincere Scandinavian pop.

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