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ALBUM REVIEW: Nelson Can – So Long Desire

Nelson Can 2020 Credit Sarah Buthmann

Photo Credit: Sarah Buthmann

Nelson Can are releasing their first album in six years – the trio’s second effort following a near-decade of intense touring, arts awards and funding, and even getting banned in China (yup). But have this experimental trio kept the momentum going all this time, or does So Long Desire fall short of the hype surrounding this band?

The album opens with the brief, introductory Be Ambitious, a song which really piques interest on the first listen, with intriguing lyrics and an electronic instrumentation which sets out the band’s musical intentions. As bassist Signe SigneSigne says, “making pop and rock music with only drums, bass and vocals really says it all; we have always done things differently, and this record is no exception.”

This is not strictly true – there are plenty of synthesisers, vocal layering and other electronic additions which pad out the sound, giving Nelson Can the honour of being compared to acts such as St Vincent and Lorde. Selina Gin’s vocals are consistently the highlight of the album, with enough spooky falsetto to remind of Kate Bush and layering to hint at the influence of Laurie Anderson.

Single I Used to Sleep Through Everything is an album standout. True to its title, the track is dreamy and melancholic in its beauty. The lyrics speak of lethargy and the frustrations that come with it. A relatable track which is both bleak and exquisite in its beauty.

Ballad Madness is another album highlight, which takes lyrical inspiration from the Shakespeare play King Lear. The vocal layering is truly haunting, and the track builds to a climax, which is much more satisfying than some of the other tracks.

The lead single of the album, Limelight, is actually quite disappointing. The band are let down lyrically by a very repetitive song and in general falls short of what they could really achieve. Frustration is felt upon listening to this track, and at various other points throughout the album – Nelson Can have a very strong sound which needs to be expanded on to write songs which are longer and more creative to match their deliciously weird and sparse instrumentation.

Overall, there are points of absolute genius on this album. The tracks mentioned here – I Used to Sleep… and Madness are truly compelling goth-electro perfection; but these moments are overshadowed by a feeling of frustration. Nelson Can have absolutely nailed their sound – it’s weird, sparse, electronic and gothic. But, for the most part, the songs on this record do not do it justice. They are repetitive, finish too soon and do not expand on the themes enough for us to fully appreciate the wonderful weirdness of their sound. A very mixed bag.


Stand Out Tracks: I Used to Sleep Through Everything, Madness

For Fans Of: St. Vincent, Kate Bush, Lorde

Written by: Rosie Esther Solomon

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