(12 February 2012) Sofia Talvik has released her fifth complete studio album while embarked on an extensive tour of the United States. In 2011, the fiercely independent Swedish artist sequentially released a four EP set, funded through Pledgemusic, of her own music entitled L.O.V.E via Bandcamp that was a combination of reworked tracks and all new material. She was also involved with recordings of another EP set of metal covers of the songs in the L.O.V.E. suite entitled H.A.T.E. With a vast discography of special singles, EPs and remixes, she runs her own label, is very active on FaceBook, keeps after her own website and MySpace. Sofia is a very busy young woman, and is surely an inspiration to many independent artists.
The new studio album is a collection of twelve folky tunes and is entitled The Owls Are Not What They Seem (Makaki Music (Sweden), 2012). As with her former material, the album is available at the artists own Bandcamp page and other reputable online retailers. Physical copies of the album included Sofia's own craftwork and were distributed during her tour. Sofia's fans will recognize some of the songs on the new album from the L.O.V.E project.
Says Sofia, "For The Owls Are Not What They Seem I went back to basics. After having done an acoustic solo tour for my album Florida Acoustic in 2010 I felt I was in my best element when I was playing and singing at the same time without the restrains of headphones and click-tracks. So I decided to make an ablum that was the essence of that me. Just something I could record in my bedroom without the pressure of a big production, time and opinions from others."
The album was written, mixed produced and edited by Sofia with collaboration from others on only one or two tracks respectively. Sofia sings all of the tracks and also contributes guitar, piano except the final track where Martin Hederos plays, and various other instruments. The bass is played by Janne Manninen except two tracks where Sofia plays the instrument. Further contributions include Christian Hörgren (cello); Joakim Lundgren (percussion); Mattias Bååth (flute); Kristoffer Jonsson (trombone); Anders Pettersson (pedal steel guitar); Hanna Ekström (violin).
The guitar-based "Delusional" picks up where the acoustic version of Florida leaves off yet adds vocal layers and flute to brighten the arrangement. A more rocking track, "The Garden" is more richly arranged with prominent bass and guitar underscoring Sofia's layered vocal delivery. The lovely duet with Pontus Borg on "7 Miles Wide" delivers a lovely Americana-styled sound complete with pedal steel guitar echoing the primary melody and crisp percussion punctuating the sound.
Listen for Sofia's crystalline vocals and her lovely backing harmonies in "The War," a gentle folk number punctuated by a very crisp electric guitar part. "If I Had A Man" is stripped way back with only pedal steel guitar echoing Sofia's soaring vocal lead and gentle acoustic guitar backing. The artist builds the album with additional arrangements -- listen for the violin part -- and further vocal production in the catchy tune "Glow."
The additional reverb in the lead vocal production and flute-rich arrangements in "Circle of Friends" begins the turning point of, and adds significant depth to, the new album. The more powerful acoustic guitar-based arrangements and warm guitar-laden washes add depth to the album's short standout track "To Watch Bridges Burn." In addition to Sofia's stunning lead and warm backing harmonies, listen for the strings, especially the cello, here. The especially crisp acoustic guitar and string-based arrangements in "Everyone's Favorite Concubine" perfectly support the artist's crystalline lead vocal and add to harmones that contribute to the track's overall sound.
The final quarter of the album begins with the bluesy "Bittersweet Bliss." Sofia attains the sound by mixing her lead vocal way up and adding trombone to the downtempo arrangement. Her additional harmony layers and seaside sound effect combine with the flute part contribute a brightness that lightens the overall arrangement. "Awfully Aware" is a blues-folk crossover track. Listen for the bright vocal work and warm strings supporting it. The album concludes with Sofia's powerful vocal lead atop a gentle (real) piano melody in "Nothing Quite So Gentle." The lyrics are delivered alongside arrangements that build with Hammond- and string-washes to perfectly accompany Sofia's lead.
Sofia adds, "All the songs on The Owls Are Not What They Seem were recorded [with] Me - playing and singing at the same time, then sparsely adding other instruments to enhance and highlight where I thought it was needed. My goal was to keep it down and make an acoustic album with a live, organic feel to it. I had no interest in changing the world or inventing something new. I just wanted to make a beautiful acoustic album." Sofia has gotten the balance just right. It is amply- but neither under- or overly-produced. Vocal layering and instruments add just the right amount of texture to the material. Stunning.
Sofia Talvik's fifth studio album is a wonderful addition to the artist's discography and clearly delivers her intention for the project. The new album is also available as a CD through CDBaby. delivers her intention for the project. A very strong independent artist indeed, Sofia Talvik continues to delight her audiences worldwide. Bravo.