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Oh Land: 'Wish Bone' Album Review

Jennifer Joh |
September 24, 2013 | 9:36 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

 Oh Land keeps it clever and real on "Wish Bone." (Photo via Wikimedia)
Oh Land keeps it clever and real on "Wish Bone." (Photo via Wikimedia)
Electro-alterna-pop fans have long been smitten with Danish singer-songwriter Oh Land, aka Nanna Oland Fabricius. Her much-anticipated self-titled third album "Wish Bone" has garnered high expectations and this charming, mellow and versatile collection of tracks doesn't disappoint. 

"Wish Bone" sees the influences of rap, synth and piano-lounge, all without overshadowing Oh Land's elaborate vocals and unique identity. It's a strange but convincing declaration of change while keeping consistent with her old classical and operatic sound. 

The opener, "Bird in an Aeroplane," is refreshing and everything that a good pop song should be. It's an easy listen, with swerving vocals reminiscent of an actual flight of a bird. Its actual merit isn't obvious on the first listen since it sounds repetitive after the second verse, but it's the perfect introduction for the mysterious, sweet and uncontrollably hummable album. 

The dazzling and exuberant "Renaissance Girls" was the first single, and the catchy hooks and staccato melody is perfect paired with the self-possessed, empowering lyrics. Strength is the message Oh Land wants to get across, starting with the lines "I can be an engine buzzing like a bee, I'm a real independent / Doing the laundry and planning for the future / It's the nature of a renaissance girl." It's a change of tone from the melodramatic 'Bird in an Aeroplane,' but purely charming nonetheless. 

The next two songs continue the ebb and flow that is the essence of this album. "Cherry on Top" and "3 Chances" showcase Oh Land's clean and seductive vocals, and it's a nice break from the usual high-tempo tone of her more popular songs. "Cherry on Top" is heavy with lyrical meaning: 'You can have it all but you never stop / 'Cause all you ever want is the cherry on top / And all you ever dreamed of, it ain't enough / You'll never fill that hole with the cherry on top." It's a message that's all too relatable, and the use of piano instrumentals and light background harmonies throughout add brilliant substance. 

"3 Chances" is the gem of the album. It's less synth and production-focused, and is purely Oh Land in all her gloriousness. From the purposeful footsteps intro to the gorgeous acoustic melody and harp riffs, the song is easily the most intimate, because it's so quiet and euphoric. Her voice is soft and honeyed, and is high without being piercing. There's no denying that Oh Land's vocals are strong and unique throughout the whole album, but this song just hits the point. 

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A reunion with producer Dan Carey is scattered around the next several songs, with "My Boxer," "Love a Dead Man," and "Kill My Darling." The part-rapped, part-sung "My Boxer" should be the anthem of "Wish Bone" in its entirety, because it encompasses the challenge Oh Land has taken on to make the album different and new.

What is so great about "Wish Bone" is that it avoids carbon-copies of the same songs, and it journeys into many different realms of rhythm and mood. "My Boxer" is playful, fierce, and has the insane and nonsensical lyrics that make Oh Land's music so fun to listen to. She asks, "I've Got a boxer / living in my ear / and he hits the drum /  Is that weird?" Precisely. 

Following the concise electro-pop melody, "Love a Dead Man" is big and melodramatic, and the chorus has Oh Land's signature multiple harmonies. The album slows down a little with "Next Summer" and "Sleepy Town," which are more haunting and mid-tempo than the other tracks. The vocals are sweet and syrupy, but the lyrics take it deeper, touching on themes of boredom and resentment.  

"Pyromaniac" is funky and has a groovy lead-in to the chorus, and while it's different and clearly inspired by more classic songs like The Cardigan's "Lovefool," it's also very quintessential Oh Land. The victorious "Woo-hoo's' injected into the song are a familiar characteristic of her previous singles. It has a deceptively sweet melody, but like the rest of "Wish Bone," the song has occasional minor-key twists and turns. 

"Green Card" is a mountainous and majestic co-write with Sia. Following the more mellow beats of the tracks before, swelling trumpets and the strength of Oh Land's voice triumph and really show off her versatility. "Green Card" alone holds up the album even as it's ending, unlike many indie-pop albums that start off strong and stray off into mediocrity towards the last few tracks.

The remaining tracks, "Kill My Darling" and "Love You Better" are also dark and calmly chaotic, with such satisfying harmonies that make one's head spin. 

"First to Say Goodnight" is an epic, almost folksy finale to "Wish Bone." It brings together the whole album full circle, and also serves as a teaser for the great music Oh Land (hopefully) brings to us in the future. The drawling and seductive verses make way into a punchy and nicely-paced chorus, cementing together all the themes and shades of music she explored throughout the album.

"Wish Bone" is certainly the investment worth making. The more you listen, the more you appreciate this thoughtful and deliriously enchanting collection of pop music that can also serve as dark, haunting lullabies. It's an eclectic mixture of sounds, but the ebb and flow of the album makes it that much more of an experience.

"Wish Bone" puts Oh Land in the ranks of the ever-so-revered pop cult favorites Lykke Li, Robyn, and Dragonette. There's a thing or two to be learned by her fellow counterparts, and we as an audience can gladly continue to enjoy this beautiful addition to the realm of electro-pop.

Read more of NT's album reviews here.

Reach Staff Reporter Jennifer Joh here.



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