Songs, songs and more songs #21: ONUKA, Storm, Agnes Obel, Russ, REYKO + #Eurovision 2020 update

If you’re going to do life properly, there’s a lot to navigate.

And which all that busyness can come a sense of being overwhelmed and subsumed, with things rushing at you far too fast to make any meaningful sense of them.

Which is why having these five artists along for the existential ride is such a welcome joy, providing perspective and a means of processing all kinds of life experiences that might otherwise leave us in a frazzled, bewildered mess.

The songs are beautiful, the insights enshrined within them make powerful sense and best yet, they can go with you wherever you go, meaning that no matter what life throws at you, you have someone to help you make sense of it all.

“Zenit” by ONUKA

ONUKA (image courtesy official ONUKA Facebook post)

Onuka, a Ukrainian electro-folk band formed in 2013 by Ukrainian musicians Yevhen Filatov and Nata Zhyzhchenko, create the kind of mystically-tinged music that make you sit up and take notice.

How can you not?

Songs like “Zenit”, which benefit from the extraordinarily diverse and expansive musician ship of Onuka – according to Wikipedia, their “instrumentation includes electronic drums, trombones, French horns and Ukrainian folk instruments bandura and sopilka.”

The song is an enchanting otherworldly song graced by ethereal, beautifully emotive vocals, a plethora of divergent, eclectic melodies and a sense of aural uniqueness that sets this song apart from so many other floating around the music blogosphere right now.

It’s little wonder that Onuka were selected as an interval act at the Eurovision Song Contest grand final in Kyiv in 2017 – their music is at once both quirky and yet exquisitely lush and immersive, the kind of songs that take you far from you are in the best of ways.

“Last Try” by STRØM

STRØM (image courtesy The Line of Best Fit / Photo credit: Oscar Olsson)

There’s a lilting softness to “Last Try” by the Värmdö, Sweden-born, now Berlin-resident artist that captivates from the first note.

The first song by the musician since “Mesmerize” almost three years ago – the delay may in part be the result of the talented multi-instrumentalist move to study music production and sound engineering (Line of Best Fit)- it is an appealingly lush piece of atmospherically-chilled, downtempo electronica.

So mesmerisingly gorgeous is it that you can well see how all of STRØM’s years of musicianship – according to pm studio, the artist “began experimenting with musical instruments around age 7 and later formed a string of bands through his teen years” – has come together in this arresting piece of music.

The good news is that the song is the lead single from his debut album which is expected to drop sometime in February.

“Broken Sleep” by Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel (image courtesy Agnes Obel)

Drawn from her forthcoming album, Myopia, which releases 21 February, “Broken Asleep”by Danish singer-songwriter-musician Agnes Obel is a hauntingly, delicately-expressed song that flows and wraps itself around you like a half-forgotten dream.

Anchored by vocals that are at once fey and emotionally robust, “Broken Sleep” came out of a period of the artist’s life where she was beset by the very thing of which she sings:

“This song was, surprisingly enough, written in a period where I was struggling with falling asleep. In the effort to find a cure I began to read about the science of sleep as well as the cultural history of sleep which led me to the ancient idea that sleep and death are familiar states and problems with sleep are linked to a fear of death. Relics of this idea are still to be found in our language today, in the way we describe both death and sleep.” (quote via Blue Note)

That’s some pretty intense lyrical musing going on there but in typically Scandinavian fashion, she has rested this philosophical intent in some lusciously entrancing music.

It is one of the things that makes music from that part of the world so captivating, the embedding of great truths inside music that carries it aloft to waiting ears, who might find grappling with the thoughts within the song much easier to deal with and contemplate.

“Broken Sleep” is certainly worth taking the time to listen to and ingest, a song that speaks to thee mind every bit as much as the heart.

“The Flute Song” by Russ

Russ (image courtesy official Russ Facebook page)

Introduced by mass flutes that are like a balm to the harried soul, Russ combines a divinely-inspired melody with some punchy rap that feels like poetry sprung mightily to life.

The American rapper-singer-songwriter-author-record producer, whose first album There’s Really A Wolf (followed by 2018’s Zoo, from which “The Flute Song” is taken), has delivered up a song that mixes some tough talking with delicacy to winning combination.

It’s 18 months since the song first saw the light of day but it’s as beguiling as ever, a short but directly intense track which puts the artist in some fine company, according to All Things Go:

“Following in the footsteps of Drake’s ‘Portland’ and Future’s ‘Mask Off’, Russ attempts to add to the pantheon of great rap songs built on flutes. As with most things he does, Russ is quite direct in his approach, with the name ‘The Flute Song’ not leaving any room for uncertainty.”

That’s actually pretty cool because Russ has deftly and winningly married directness with loveliness, never an easy undertaking but one which works perfectly here.

“Surrender” by REYKO

REYKO (image courtesy REYKO Facebook page)

So what kind of songs would an osteopath from Madrid (Soleil) and a former tennis player (Igor) from Barcelona create if they moved to London and pursued a joint electro-pop musical career?

Why, something like “Surrender”, a song so immersively chilled and melodic that it is impossible to be moved by it, both by its beauty and originality and freshness.

“The track operates in a chilly world of synth-driven soundscapes that are well paired with equally icy vocals that hit an emotional and lush chord that feels leagues and bounds more genuine than most of the stuff coming out on the radio here in the U.S.” (We All Want Someone)

Chilly as the song might be, and possessed of an ethereal remoteness that absolutely works within the music, “Surrender” is deeply, involvingly human, a track that feels rich and real and very much grounded in the day-to-day wonder of being with someone special who makes all the adventuring of life feel not just doable but something wondrous too.

SONGS, SONGS AND MORE SONGS EXTRA!

The Eurovision Song Contest has taken two big steps forward to hosting this year’s event in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

First up, Zippi Brand Frank, Deputy Mayor of Tel Aviv, handed over the Host City Insignia to Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, telling him:

“My first piece of advice is to start working! It is a huge project and you need to prepare. And Dare to Dream Rotterdam!”

The handover means that Rotterdam is now officially the host of this year’s contest!

The second major thing to take place was the Semi-Final Allocation Draw, hosted by Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley and Jan Smit (who will host the actual event come May) which firstly randomly decided which semi-final the Big 5 pre-qualified countries and the host country The Netherlands would vote in before allocating the 35 semi-finalists who must compete for a spot in the coveted grand final into either semi-final 1 (Tuesday 12 May) or semi final 2 (Thursday 14 May).

The results of the draw were as follows:

(image courtesy Eurovision.tv)
(image courtesy Eurovision.tv)
(image courtesy Eurovision.tv)

For full details about which countries vote in which semi-finals and in which half of each semi-final a country appears (final running order is determined closer to the event), go to eurovision.tv … and if you’d like some analysis on what it all means, go to Wiwibloggs

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