One of the more pleasant aspects of a COVID-19 recovery might be a renewed appetite for unapologetically beautiful music. I doubt that this is everyone’s idea of what a new Roaring ‘20s will sound like. But to the extent that more difficult music has served as a unique reflection of the last year or so, a shift to more commonly shared ideas of romantic music could in a similar way help us appreciate a pandemic-less world.
What a boon this could be for new classical composers like Iceland’s Eydís Evensen. Her debut Bylur – out Friday on Sony’s new XXIM Records – is a cool, gently shimmering success.
Just 27, Evensen says she has been writing music for two decades. The album includes the first piece she ever wrote, at age seven, “Vetur Genginn í Garð.” That title means “Winter Has Arrived” in English. “I had all of these emotions inside of me,” says Evensen. “I remember sitting down by a piano and this just came out.”
Except that music this moving never just comes out. Only the genuinely gifted describe creative experiences in those terms. The inspiration may be spontaneous, but the translation of those feelings into a piece of relatable art should not be taken for granted. It is genuinely difficult to imagine the seven-year-old Evensen reaching up for the piano keys and finding such a prodigious result.
She began composing the album’s opener “Deep Under” at the age of 12. (Still a year younger than Kate Bush, when she wrote the similarly tender “The Man With the Child in His Eyes.”) She completed the piece two years ago during what she describes as “a little bit of a negative patch in my life … It takes on this flowing state of acceptance for solving that negativity.”
Those who missed the album’s first single “Brotin” in January may be introduced to Evensen by this month’s release of “Midnight Moon.” Featuring a vocal by jazz-pop singer GDRN, it delivers cross-over potential while maintaining the album’s integrity. It is less representative of the album than other pieces, but then there’s no reason to begrudge Evensen’s efforts to build a wide audience.
The album’s title is Icelandic for snowstorm. Indeed, Evensen joins a long line of exceptional artists from that part of the world. But while Bylur feels like a work penned by someone who has grown up in a punishing, northern climate, it is more than that. Her compositions, and performance, come from a place all of us know. Her capacity for turning sadness into beautiful, widely appealing music affords her virtually unlimited potential.