music review and artist reflections
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Review, interview and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2005
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Last updated: 29 May 2005
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Aleena is Swedish singer-songwriter whose career is gaining tremendous momentum. We first made contact following our review of Kaipa's Keyholder album. Aleena's debut solo album entitled Aleena's Café (Lionheart International (Sweden) LHICD0024, 2005) was released on 04 May 2005 and it is a tremendous labour of love, following her two highly successful singles "Better Believe It" and "Me And Tommy."
We caught up with Aleena in the run up to the release of her debut album for an in-depth and exclusive interview. Read more about her background, the inspirations for her songwriting and her collaboration with Kaipa below.
Aleena's Café is an accessible and well-arranged album of female-fronted rock music certain to appeal to a broad range of enthusiasts. The fourteen tracks feature both solo performances and multi-layered harmonies have been produced in a radio-friendly format. Read our review for further details.
Musical Discoveries: Please tell us a bit more about your background.
Aleena: I was born and raised on the West coast of Sweden in the beautiful harbour town Gothenborg. My mother and father had a band and the music they listened to and taught me to love included Neil Young, Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, Mamas and the Papas, The Beatles, Chicago. I wrote my first songs at twelve and the first song I ever wrote was called "If I Was The President." I taught myself to play the guitar and also to sing.
I bought a guitar from an old boyfriend. It was a twelve-stringed Yamaha guitar and it was so exciting to play something that sounded so good eventhough I couldn't play that well. The reason I started writing songs was cause I loved to and had a strong urge to sing, writing for others came later.
I signed a couple of record deals one after the other so I had some hard experience fast. The second deal was signed and Patrik Lundström was my producer. Patrik contiues today to be my mentor in music. He helped me arrange my songs and and he recorded the demo with me that led to the record deal. I learned a lot from him. We had recorded almost a whole album when the record company told us they didn't like the sound; it was too loud or something.
They wanted me to work with other producers and I didn't want to work with anybody else since I liked the production so I decided not to record an album at that time and started writing full time for others. The publishing company I was signed to then didn't want me to be a recording solo artist.
So after a couple of years later decided it was time for me to pick up where I started and complete the project myself. I knew that I had to get out of that contract and find people who wanted to support me on that as well as being a song writer and I did. Today I have a fantastic team behind me.
Are you signed to a label?
I am signed to Lionheart International. This is an independent label in Sweden that has gone their own way and always managed to survive through any ups and downs in the music industry. They believe in their artists and they don't give up on them just because the first or second album doesn't do well. This is one reason I am signed there. And they have integrity and I admire that in this sometimes cold and harsh world of music.
How did you get involved with Blue Lemon International?
The director of Blue Lemon is a close friend of mine and we work together on different projects. My workshops are based on my own experiences from a career point of view and I also give tips and ideas on the construction of a song, lyrics, etc. I have had very positive rections, I think people like it. I certainly love holding them.
Who have been some of your musical influences?
My parents of course, but I actually fell in love with music when I first heard Freddy Mercury sing "Love Of My Life." Queen has been my greatest source of inspiration. But I've also listened to the Eagleas, Supertramp, 10 cc, I also had a period of White snake, AC/DC, Ozzy Osborn, Black Sabbath among other hard rock bands. Heart was and is one of my favorites; there are just so many.
And who have you found yourself listening to all the time?
I used to listen to Queen all the time, but since I started writing music myself there have been a couple of years, unfortunately, where I haven't listened so much since I am constantly in the studio creating music. So when I have a free moment I like no music or just radio in the back ground. I did start to listen to some old stuff recently though.
How did you get involved with Kaipa?
Patrik Lundström is a dear friend of mine. He produced my second album that unfortunately never got released. Patrik is a brilliant singer and an incredibly talanted musician. He is my first musical mentor and he taught me a lot on arranging and recording music. When Kaipa recorded Notes From The Past they wanted a female vocalist on one of the songs and Patrik recommended me. Kaipa is a great project and I am looking forward to work more with them.
Did you feel somewhat restrained with the role you were given?
Not at all. Kaipa is a musical experience created by Hans Lundin first of all. I am happy to be one of the instruments in his composition. Hans and I have decided to write something together in the future but I don't know if that will be for Kaipa or for something else. [Ed. Note. Aleena has a significantly larger part on Keyholder and even larger on Mindrevolutions, Kaipa's 2005 album.]
From my life, people I meet, love of course, my husband is a big source of inspiration. Pleasure and pain I guess.
Tell us some more about your songwriting.
The songs on my album all contain specific messages. "Modern Times" for example is a song about how insane the world really is and how one has to remember to keep ones head out of the madness. "Fading Away" was written to Mozart, I think I actually wrote it to all composers that have had a hard time out there. I have written very personal stuff that's been covered by pop artists. My main interest is with writing and performing myself though, if there are songs others wants to record its great.
Why did Kaipa give you a larger role on Keyholder?
Thank you for all your positiveness regarding my role in Kaipa. I think Kaipa had a positive response from fans and media on my contribution on Notes From The Past but from the begining they wanted a female voice and then they liked it so much they wanted more of it I guess. Patrik is the lead singer and I am the bonus one could say!
Are you singing with any other bands, progressive or other styles?
I am writing a science fiction musical saga that I will release singing partly myself but I can't give you any further details since it's under construction.
So are there a lot of recordings you've done that nobody outside a small local circle around you have heard?
Yes, there is my whole history in never released materials. Some of it is rerecorded though and is released on my Aleena's Café. I am already gathering material for my next album.
Does the material on the album combine in any way that our readers would find interesting?
All of the material is written by me or by me together with friends. I think one could understand what kind of person I am from listening to the album but it's not a story or concept album cleaverly put together with a thought behind it.
What sort of sound would you tell our readers to expect?
Female rock, some of the songs are very acoustic and some are more produced. My ambition is to inspire others somehow the same way I've been inspired by music myself. I hope my songs have the power to do that to people that would make me incredibly happy.
And what other snippets would you like our readers to know about the album?
Patrikplays the guitar and sings with me on "Fading Away." We made a video of our showcase in February and hopefully someday it will be available. I'm still planning some promotional gigs. A coffee shop tour is the idea, just me and the guitarr, sometimes a guest and I will definitely do a few performances with Patrik.
What is is like performing in front of a live audience for you?
It is the best feeling in the world. I played the first time for a large audience in March 2003, and the second I walked out on stage I realized that for me there is no greater love than that. It feels like falling in love only so much higher and larger. It's beautiful. I like performing for small audiences too, but arenas is a special thing.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge in a musical career so far?
To be a performing artist who also writes music for others despite the opposition I've had from certain individuals that didn't want me to do that. To stay true to my own goals and to fight for myself in those situations. I had to learn to play both sides of the game I guess.
And what would you say has been your biggest achievement?
Completing the recordings of my solo album.
What are your hopes, dreams and fantasies for 2004, in life and of course in music?
I want a lot of people to discover me as a singer song writer, buy my album and love it. On a broader basis I wish for more love in the world. That people who right now suffers very soon finds help and I want to do all I can to contribute to a better world.
We wish you all the best with the next stages of your musical career.
Thank you. I appreciate your interest and I hope to talk to you again in the future!
Aleena's Café (Lionheart Interational (Sweden) LHICD0024, 2005) is a stunning album of fourteen accessible female rock tracks. The well-produced album is accompanied by an equally stylish booklet with full lyrics and references to instrumental artists that have contributed to the release. Make no mistake about it--this is a female vocalist album and it rocks. Three of the album's songs have previously been released on Aleena's two singles "Better Believe It" and "Me And Tommy."
The album opens with the everso accessible "Milk In My Coffee." Layers of powerful vocals are contrasted with sounds from the lap steel guitar. The album features Aleena singing alone or providing her own backing harmonies. "Butt Naked" and "Me And Tommy" both illustrate the singer's versatility, most likely contributing to their selection as early singles from Aleena's collection. The first ballad of the album is entitled "Natural Power," and it features a tender vocal delivery atop gentle acoustic guitar musings.
Thick stadium-style rock best describes the instrumental backing of "Your Selfest Self." Aleena delivers tremdous power against the thrust of the electric guitars. The bluesy and softly rocking "Hey Now" derives its instrumental sound from the steel guitar and shows Aleena's music in another light. A lovely ballad introduction to "You Better Believe It" contrasts the rocking texture of the single release and the harder edged chorus within the recording.
Lush vocal harmonies contribute to the excellent sound of the well-produced "Love Is," a mid-tempo rock track certain to appeal to fans of The Corrs and similar artists. The lightest and most sensitively sung ballad of the album is the acoustic guitar-accompanied, "Fading Away," as home on this album as it would be in a major West End or Broadway production. Here listeners will find Aleena's vocals revealed in rawest form, evocatively searching while delivering the sensitive lyrical message.
"Modern Times" is a standup rhythmic rocker with almost spoken lyrical layers contrasted by thick electric guitars. Harmony vocals add tremendous texture, especially in the upbeat chorus. "Love Your Love" is an album standout, rhythmic rock instrumentals and powerful harmonies contributing to the excellent and most accessible sound. "Too Young To Know" continues with lush harmonies, rich instrumentation and crisp percussion. Orchestral keyboard washes produce a rich arrangement.
The final ballad of the album is entitled "Hello Warrior." Here Aleena's sensitive and evocatively delivered vocal is delivered against acoustic guitar accompaniment. Ulrika Bjorkman's flute part echoes the vocal melody enticing the overall sound. The album concludes with the alternative singer-songwriter track entitled "I Came To Say Goodbye."
Clearly Aleena's debut album demonstrates the tremendous talent of this rapidly emerging singer-songwriter. A wonderful contrast to her work with Kaipa, the fourteen tracks are well produced as they are accessible. Aleena's Café gets better with repeated listens, with the second half having more strength musically than the first. Interested readers should follow links from her website to order the album. Aleena speaks of gathering the tunes for her second album above--we are counting the days!
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