(01 November 2008) The long-awaited second full length album from Sweden's Sofia Loell is entitled Where I Belong (Pama Records (Sweden) 7 331510 107228, 2008). It is the followup to her debut Right Up Your Face (Curb Records (USA) 02-78739, 2002). While the stunning debut drew attention based on strong allusions to The Corrs, Sofia's new album was clearly worth the wait.
The new album was written and recorded during Sofia's mid-20s and clearly demonstrates the increased maturity from her debut, written when she was only 16 and recorded at age 18, as well as significant growth in singing, production and songwriting. The 13-track album is released in Sweden and worldwide on iTunes. A release on Curb Records should follow during 2009. Read more about Sofia in our exclusive and well-illustrated interview.
Sweden have produced outstanding female-fronted music for years and perhaps are most noted for the work of Abba, whose memorable songs have been renewed with the musical and now feature film Mamma Mia. Frequent visitors will recall our recent articles on Sofia Talvik and Theresa Andersson. Sofia Loell's music compliments the work of these women and other projects we have underway on other Swedish artists. Her debut album Right Up Your Face is a timeless work filled with incredible tunes and, still available, is clearly worth exploring further.
Sofia is backed on her new album by producer Johan Glossner (guitar, banjo, mandolin, ebow, hammond organ, organ, basss, keyboard, percussion, drums, piano and backing vocals); Christoffer Olsson (drums); Pascal Bjerrehus (bass); Tomas Pettersson (piano, Rhodes); Robert Engstrand (Rhodes) and others.
Where I Belong benefits from Sofia's personal and musical maturity. Songs are more highly varied across the album, and the album develops its depth as it plays from the bluesy opening ballad, "New Life," to the final song, "Story To Tell," a duet sung with Sven Zetterberg. "I Will Love You" is a more upbeat and accessible song contrasting Sofia's tender lead with the rich harmonies reminscent of her earlier work.
The emotional delivery of "Alive Alive" is enhanced by the sharp contrast between the melancholy verse and upbeat guitar-laden chorus. The album highlights include the stunning radio-friendly title track "Where I Belong" featuring Sofia's crystalline lead atop a crisp arrangement with very subdued backing harmonies. The guitar work and overall production are especially noteworthy.
About midway between her debut and the new album, Sofia released the "War Of Life" single, an upbeat pop song, her crystalline vocals gliding over a crisp guitar-based arrangement. The song appears on the new album as well. Sofia's two album favorites are the standouts that appear at the midpoint of the album. "On & On" features Sofia almost a capella and with band playing full on. "Shiver" is clearly the album standout. The vocal production, piano work and percussion are particularly outstanding. Frequent visitors will recall that Natalie Imbruglia's "Shiver"--a different song altogether--is the standout of the artist's third album Counting Down The Days. Like Natalie's song, Sofia's "Shiver" benefits from the tension that builds in the verse and release in the memorable chorus.
"Closer To Home" is a tenderly delivered ballad sung atop keyboard-biased arrangements. The notable reverb in the vocals of the "Love Is" ballad works well alongside the guitar backing arrangement. Harmonies work well alongside the instrumentals. In contrast, the arrangement in "I'm Leaving" is richly guitar-laced, Sofia's evocative crystalline vocal up there in the mix. The album begins to conclude with "I'll Be Gone," sung atop acoustic and electric guitar mixed to perfection. Vocal production is superb.
Sofia's duet with Sven Zetterberg "Story to Tell" is listed as a bonus track, likely because it is the only song where she is accompanied in a duet and notably by another singer. The number contrasts the others on the album in that it has more of a mainstream rock or country feel than the others. Sven's vocals are certainly more the latter than the former. Thick guitars drive the arrangement.
Where I Belong serves not only as a marked growth achievement for Sofia Loell but as an outstanding album overall. With widespread digital distribution by Apple
iTunes and a deal with Curb Records, Sofia is certain to draw additional attention from North American audiences in 2009. Sweden's Sofia Loell is one to watch.