wed 24/07/2024

Alice Boman, Union Chapel review - Swedish singer-songwriter confounds expectations | reviews, news & interviews

Alice Boman, Union Chapel review - Swedish singer-songwriter confounds expectations

Alice Boman, Union Chapel review - Swedish singer-songwriter confounds expectations

A bumpier ride than the recent debut album ‘Dream On’

Alice Boman. In person, she exudes friendlinessMärta Thisner

Judging by her debut album, Malmö singer-songwriter Alice Boman’s frosted-glass musical aesthetic has the odd hint of Mazzy Star and draws from the sound world created for Twin Peaks – a similar outlook to Gothenburg’s El Perro del Mar. Dream On is not the full story though.

Boman’s first record was released in 2013 and, since then, she has issued another EP and a few singles.

And judging by the wide-ranging dip into her catalogue at London’s Union Chapel, she’s keen to stress Dream On isn’t the full story. While all-but one track from the album was performed – “Mississippi” was omitted – “Over”, “Skiss 2” and “Waiting” from her debut EP cropped up. From the subsequent EP, “All Eyes on You” and "Burns” are played. The set opened with “Heartbeat”, which was heard in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

Alice Boman is no block of ice

The album was mostly produced by Patrik Berger, who’s done the same job for Charli XCX, Lana Del Ray, Robyn, Santigold and Sigrid. Cloaked in a unifying sheen, the result suggests she’s being nudged towards Del Ray territory. The live experience is less clinical, less cold and less samey.

In person, Boman exudes friendliness. She’s no block of ice. This is made clear as she lets her singing go on “Wish we Had More Time”, where genuine fire is brought forth. “Don't Forget About me” is a kinetic romp, and the evening’s only up-tempo moment. The set ends with a bracing run through the anthemic “This is Where it Ends”.

Those caught Boman at her most energised. “Over”, “Who Knows” and the encore’s solo-at-a-piano “Heart on Fire” were controlled, stately and underpinned with force. “All Eyes” and “Everybody Hurts” weren’t so gripping. Overall, things would have been more absorbing if the grandeur of “It's OK, It's Alright” had bled into the rest of the set.

Drummer Liam Amner's contortions distract

This tension between the reserved and the unrestrained defines the Union Chapel experience of Boman. Perhaps it’s inherent. Dream On is stuffed with lyrics implying a perpetual anxiety: “I am scared of dying but most of all I am scared of living never knowing love” (from “Who Knows”); “Where are you tonight…who are you holding now, is she everything that I am not” (“Everybody Hurts”); “For every minute, every second, we are further and further apart” (“This is Where it Ends”); “Don’t want to lose this illusion by saying something wrong” (“Don't Forget About me”).

Happily, there’s no tension between Boman and her band. Behind and beside her were the whole of the fantastic, idiosyncratic, jazz-inclined Malmö trio Hey Elbow. Their take on the album’s “The More I Cry” stripped out the recorded version's Twin Peaks feel to emphasise its roots in Fifties balladry, transforming it into a reverberation of “To Know Him is to Love Him”. Despite his extraordinary trip hop-style moves on “Everybody Hurts”, the contortions of drummer Liam Amner distract.

Added up, it all means the 55 minutes with Alice Boman weren’t seamless. There’s cautiousness and kinks, and she’s more wayward than last month’s debut album. Live, there’s more to her than Dream On but the peaks and troughs resulted in a bumpy ride. Nonetheless, with “Don't Forget About me”, “Heart on Fire”, “Over”, “This is Where it Ends” and “Who Knows” she hit the bull's eye.

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