Album: Magnet

On Your Side, Ultimate Dilemma

Do we really need another wounded soul with an acoustic guitar? Possibly not, but an exception should be made for the Norwegian singer-songwriter Even Johansen, aka Magnet. His debut, recorded in a pigeon-loft-cum-studio in the wilds of southern Scotland, is a work of sinister charm and beauty. Inevitable vocal comparisons will be made with Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke, although Johansen's voice is a considerably more gentle instrument, meandering across the rippling pedal steel, flugelhorns, trumpets, guitars and keyboards without ever trying to steal the show. There's a lyrical maturity in "Where Happiness Lives", a song about a relationship destroyed by drugs, and "Everything's Perfect", a tortured tale in which a man helps his lover to take her own life. On Your Side also reveals a more eclectic sensibility than many of his acoustic-guitar-wielding peers display. "The Day We Left Town" ("Let's get off this queen-sized bed/ Where far too many tears have been shed/ And dreams were left for dead") opens with the sounds of choirs and angels, while the title track comes with an Air-esque predilection for otherworldly bleeps and squelches. Elsewhere, "Smile to the World" arrives with an undercurrent of skittering beats and loopy electronica, and "Overjoyed" boasts a characteristically melancholy string arrangement courtesy of The High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan. There's also a heartfelt cover of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay", featuring a vocal turn from the criminally overlooked Irish singer Gemma Hayes. While the mood is low-key, the album is a work with a rich diversity of sounds and feelings. Recommended.

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