The very first thought I had about this album was that Ryan Adams had found his way to Sweden and somehow changed his mind about what sort of country music he likes to write and perform. The cause of that thought was the timbre, the aches and cracks of the voice of Johan Örjansson, who is the Swede behind Basko Believes and the creator of the new album Melancholic Melodies.
Ryan Adams has a distinctive voice, so it is slightly unsettling to hear someone singing in a similar way; it’s also a captivating, accomplished voice, so to compare Örjansson’s voice to it is a compliment of a fairly high order (at least, from me it is). And it is at the voice that the similarity ends, for Melancholic Melodies has an update feeing, tone and pace that Adams’s works tend not to.
Örjansson has produced an album influenced by country, pop, folk and blues that reminds me a bit of Brisbane singer-songwriter Timothy Carroll’s work in its poetry and whimsy (Örjansson has song titles that include ‘August Makes Me Cry’, ‘The Yellow Fields’ and ‘Bottles and Birds’) and its layers of musicality. I don’t know enough about folk to find any comparisons in that genre, but as far as country music goes the album sits under the umbrella of alt-country with a dash of Americana.
After several spins around the CD player I still haven’t uncovered everything there is to hear and know about the eleven songs on Melancholic Melodies, which is always a treat for a listener – an album like this calls us back, sometimes whispers to us to return and settle in, to pay attention, because it’s worth doing so. I think it’s time to press ‘play’ again.