So Long Desire will be the final release from Danish Trio Nelson Can. So far, their EPs and live performances have created the band’s reputation as one of the best live and recoded artists in Europe right now.
The album opens with ‘Ambitious’, a dark eighties inspired piece of synth pop which has nods towards the darker side of electronic music. The building musicianship elevates the haunting vocals which move from speaker to speaker, rounding the sound. As quickly as the track builds and creates interest, it stops with a sudden message of positivity: “Be ambitious” – which crackles as it echoes into silence. With this as an introduction, one of the early contenders for album of the year is born.
Throughout this release, there is a strangely futuristic look back to the 1980s. The genius here is as much as sections nod backwards towards bands like New Order, Justice, or Fischerspooner, they are combined with the creativity of modern production and nods towards current musical trends. This ability continues with haunting dark soundscapes, effortlessly underpinning infectious choruses and moments of pure joy. With these clever and seemingly incompatible links, Nelson Can have created something strikingly individual.
With an album that has been written with such intricacy, it is not uncommon for lyrical content to be neglected; this is certainly not the case. Amongst these delicately balanced soundscapes which intertwine darkness and an infectious need to dance along, are some hard-hitting lyrics. The introspective ‘Madness’ offers a look into the mindset of relationships, while ‘No Longer Afraid’ explores fearing someone you shouldn’t.
The darkest lyrics coincide expertly with the darkest musical moments through a combination of uncomfortable building tones and the sparsity of a single vocal. This is one of those releases that is so carefully considered that each moment oozes forethought, and the interlude at the halfway point is the perfect moment to consider the lyrical themes.
Musically, Nelson Can are a very special group of musicians. Vocally, there is an almost endless range, creating some of the most delightful harmonies and building gang vocals. These vocals convey such a spectrum of emotion, meaning every song implants feelings on the listener, and before long, you will find yourself eating emotion out of the palm of this release’s hand.
The vocal layering within ‘No Longer Afraid’ is a prime example – the balance between structural backing vocals, deep distortion, and a main vocal full of depth is a real emotional journey. ‘I Wanna be With You’ shows a huge vocal range in what has to be a stand out single contender, boasting an instant earworm of a chorus and emotive verses in front of a worldly combination of nightclubs and small venues to create an infectious moment of pure joy.
The musicianship continues to dazzle throughout this release with nods towards acts and genres that simply should not combine, but through outstanding songwriting, Nelson Can seem to be able to combine almost anything. The hip hop/G funk production style of deep angular bass and expansive, layered vocals of ‘So Long Desire (I’m Getting Over You)’ leave something between modern RnB and the smartest indie. The intro to ‘Akebono’ is deliciously dark, and the flawless transition into shrill keys creates a song that plays like a black and white movie.
The move between this and the sparsity of ‘Yeah, I Didn’t Think So’ is one of the most beautiful moments within this record. As this closes out the album, the wonky synths, delicate keys, and warming drums and bass lay down the perfect soundscape for vocals to float in and out of until, within a flash, it is all over.
The only bad thing is that this will be Nelson Can’s final release, and it’s probably going to be the album of the year.
Actual rating: 6/5
So Long Desire is out today. Stream it here or buy it at your local record store.