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Published on April 11th, 2006 | by Hans Fruck

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Maria Solheim — Frail

5035135109606Norwegian singer-songwriter Maria Solheim worked as a freelance journalist at the age of 16 and released her first album while still in her teens. Now, at the grand old age of 22, Solheim has released Frail.

At 36 minutes this 10-tracker is not only frail, but rather brief too. In fact, four of the first six tracks clock in at less than three minutes. This is short, too short – though when the tracks do lengthen towards the end of the album, you wish they hadn’t.

Frail opens swimmingly enough, however. Too Many Days is delicate and kinda nice. But just when you’re primed and ready to be won over, the CD plummets into The Snow Has Killed, which, despite its forbidding title, sounds like a Norwegian incarnation of Frente (and that’s not a good thing).

Of the other tracks, Take My Heart Away has catchy vocals, Natural Silences a coolish instrumental coda, and Restless Girl an uncharacteristic amount of oomph courtesy of trumpet and trombone. The remainder of Frail, however, meanders off into tuneless doodling.

Vocally, Solheim aims for delicate and fey, but only achieves girlish and annoying. True, there’s a Bjorkian intonation to the singing (obviously a Scandinavian thing), but that’s where the resemblance ends. Which is a problem, because with such gentle pacing and layerless instrumentation, strong vocals and killer melodies are prerequisites.

And the fact that Solheim’s not singing or writing in her native tongue makes matters worse, you fancy. This surfaces in lyrics that, at best, are odd and quirky and, at worst, plain risible.

Exhibit A: “I can smell vibrations from your face.” (Maybe this makes more sense in Norwegian?)

Exhibit B: “Logic failed/I am nailed.” This may be an allusion to Jesus or Jenna Jameson – who could tell? Either way, it doesn’t work.

Overall, Frail is a bit too pedestrian, a bit too wispy and insubstantial. Then again, perhaps you need more oestrogen to fully appreciate Maria Solheim?

— HANS FRUCK


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