Album Review: Kate Havnevik, ‘You’

In an increasingly DIY music industry, artists are taking to new methods to produce and get the word out about their music. Social media and self-marketing has played a gigantic role in the music world as it evolves, and fundraising campaigns seem to be the norm with many independent artists.

Kate Havnevik is one of those artists who had to find new ways to deliver her music to the world, and while the process takes many steps, the final product feels heartfelt and genuine. Her new album, You, has been in the works for some time, preempted by the release of her Me EP, but it is now available on her website and will be out on iTunes in January.

You brings the Norwegian songstress’s style to new levels: while the mix features the sweeping strings and dramatic sounds of her debut, Melankton, You also acts as Havnevik’s long-awaited pop record, featuring songs about, as she says, “’you and I’ and relationships between people in general.”

Produced by Guy Sigsworth (Frou Frou, Madonna, Björk, Alanis Morissette…), You as a whole shows interesting musical growth on Havnevik’s part while staying close enough to her “epic stringy pieces” to keep her core fans in the loop. Of course, her dedicated fans, a.k.a. her “Havnevikings,” were lucky enough to have the album since October 10 if they took part in her PledgeMusic campaign, giving time to fully appreciate Havnevik’s latest work of art.

You opens with the sweet and upbeat “Krakowska,” fittingly titled since the album was recorded in Poland. “Krakowska” introduces the pop side of the album—the bright electronics are reminiscent of Melankton, but the track promises that You is an evolution in a positive direction. Those familiar with the a cappella version of her debut, “Unlike Me,” know that Havnevik is a pro at harmonies—and “Krakowska” features some beautiful harmonies during its climax.

Similarly pop-driven is “Mouth 2 Mouth,” which has a somewhat darker, slower vibe. Original fans may recognize the song from a sample on Havnevik’s website years ago, but now, the production is different—the beats and electronics are harder, and the song has more urgency and drama. Next is “Halo,” which was featured on Grey’s Anatomy (where it all began for Havnevik).

“Halo” previously appeared on iTunes as well as on the Me EP and is reminiscent of Melankton, with some added guitars.

“MYYM” (“My You Your Me”) combines a sharp string section with upbeat electronics perfectly, and it also stands out as a very well-written love song.

Meanwhile, “Disobey” gets down and dirty with the dance beats—which is a shocking turn, but somehow fitting. The most familiar track to fans, however, may wind up being “Castaway.” Picture riding a Viking ship across a stormy sea, through fjords of Norway, and you’ll pretty much get the idea—“Castaway” features epic strings and extremely dramatic percussion, which Havnevik has learned to perfect.

The album slows down again with “Think Again,” which was a standout track on “Me” about getting over a summer love. The sweetly melancholy track has been a staple at her acoustic gigs and never gets old. Havnevik then goes super-upbeat with “Show Me Love,” the official single, which is a carefree, cute-if-slightly-goofy track—it even features tweeting birds.

“Happy Sad” could easily be an anthem to fans, as Havnevik sings about finding happiness in feeling sad and accepting life’s twists and turns: “It’s a beautiful time for love and disappointment, hand in hand / Searching for answers, it’s a beautiful time to be happy sad.” She follows the hopeful vibe with a sweet track called “Soon,” about the anticipation of returning home.

While the album closes with “Grace” (written for Grey’s Anatomy—most fans know it well), the track that stood out live and translates amazingly to the studio is the haunting “Tears in Rain.” The song relies heavily on musical anticipation to get the point across—the dramatic stops and starts, as well as the emotive percussion, make this the most artistic piece on the album.

Overall, You is a great collection of new music from one of the indie scene’s most talented yet underrated artists.

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