Nouela - Chants
Chants is one of those deeply personal-sounding albums that, through a combination of deeply intriguing lyrics and a degree of darkness, makes the listener want to find out as much about the artist as possible. However, despite careful research (read: extensive googling) the only information that I was only able to find was that Norwegian- Korean singer Nouela was born in Washington into a very musical family, her parents both being music professors, and her solo project used to be named People Eating People. Chants is an album is of a similar vein to the eponymous album from People Eating People, except that whereas People Eating People focuses more on dramatics, Chants combines this with personal touches and heart-on-sleeve lyrics that make the album seem like so much of a window into Nouela's mind that it is almost uncomfortable to listen to.
The opening track, 'Joke', is impressive because of the atmosphere that is created with only a piano, Nouela's drawn out vocals and a handful of deep, shuddering breaths. It's not single quality, but it accurately sets the tone for the rest of the album; haunting, ethereal and a little bit creepy. After this track comes 'Buckle Down', in which the drums keep things interesting but the repeated use of the word "you" and Nouela's penchant for the lower half of the piano remind the listener that she is not somebody to get on the wrong side of.
'Fight', the first single from Chants, is one of the highlights of the album. It's a song that again, perfectly balances on the thin line between dramatic and over the top. It's varied with distorted guitar sounds and jazzy claps at the beginning but really, it is the lyrics that steal the limelight in 'Fight'. As well as containing an incredibly catchy chorus, its layered vocals towards the end lend the song a confused tone as Nouela sings of two parallel lives, "she is chasing her dreams/ while I am chasing all the lines on my face." These lyrics could refer to lots of things; disillusionment, wrong or lost dreams, faded expectations; but whatever the listener takes away from this intense song, it won't be something that they forget quickly.
The latter half of the album is something of an emotional, impulsive journey. 'Home' is a simple, glimmering tune that is relatively cheerful in comparison to the rest of the tracks, but its happy impact is immediately crushed by the sense of impending doom generated by 'Suckers'. 'Chants' is a dark, paranoid babble of laughs and whispers, accompanied by the ominous thumping of piano keys. 'Doubts' is another strange track that starts with a shout, but at times, without the delicate tapping of cymbals and mask of piano notes, Nouela's voice, for the first time, sounds vulnerable rather than menacing as she cries "I can't be on my own." There is a definite mix of emotions in this album, but the themes of darkness and sadness are common to all of them.
Chants jumps about so much that by the time the listener gets to the final track, 'Regrets', they might feel slightly exhausted. However, this explosive and stunning end to the album is worth paying attention to. It is reminiscent of Amy Winehouse's 2007 single 'Back to Black', with its resigned tone and constant, steady drum beat that belies the soulful, broken hearted vocals above it. Again, Nouela's songwriting is key to the emotion of this song, and as the album draws to a close with the words "I will always remember your name," you would have to be a pretty emotionless individual not to at least feel something. p>