When we interviewed Frida Sundemo last week about her new album Flashbacks & Futures, there was a brief discussion about whether it’s difficult to stand out in a saturated Scandi-pop market. She admitted that she did indeed feel that pressure, and we’ll admit that at times it’s easy for her sound to get lost in that crowd.
But Frida Sundemo doesn’t need to worry about standing out in this record. From the opening Prelude seguing into the title track, Sundemo is crafting a neon futurescape of her own dreams and inviting us to live in it. There’s an immediate sense of the cinematic, of epic production galloping alongside her high-reaching melodies, creating pop that feels like it belongs to another world.
That’s all well and good, then. The trouble is that Frida Sundemo doggedly sticks to the template and creates a rich enough world to look at, but in all the crashing synth and swirling strings forgets to detail it with nuance. We’re talking more the Divergent series than The Fifth Element here, with songs like Islands and We Are Dreamers a sledgehammer, 100mph course through her city.
There is something about the woman holding it all together though, and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Frida Sundemo capturing the euphoria of Stay Young. In more vulnerable moments, It’s OK feels like an admission of being overwhelmed, but one that draws out compassion rather than a shrug; meanwhile Circles is a starlight ballad that brings out Sundemo’s tender side, and it’s one of the most refreshing pieces on the record.
It’s a shame that it borders on repetitive, then. Gold and Forever Us are more galloping-beat cut that the album could have done without, duets dull the lady’s own sheen, and in the final stretch of the album it’s clear that a bit of trimming could have made this a tight and fantastic record. But Frida Sundemo does herself a service finishing on the piano-driven Astronaut, making us realise one thing: she’s still acclimatising to this world she’s built as well as the wider landscape around her at the moment. Once she’s settled, the possibilities seem limitless.