Marie Dahlstrom - Gloom EP

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    The Scandinavian Soul chanteuse that became the tastemakers' delight just a few short months ago with a scintillating mix of originals and revamped covers on The Renditions is already back with a satiny set of relationship ballads. The third in a series of largely self-produced EPs that Marie Dahlstrom has self-released since 2011, Gloom is perhaps the most…well, glum of the Danish diva’s three projects to-date. Still, the results are a strong, if derivative neo-soul project in the vein of Gloria Ry’ann, Liv Warfield, and early N’Dambi.

    The Scandinavian Soul chanteuse that became the tastemakers' delight just a few short months ago with a scintillating mix of originals and revamped covers on The Renditions is already back with a satiny set of relationship ballads. The third in a series of largely self-produced EPs that Marie Dahlstrom has self-released since 2011, Gloom is perhaps the most…well, glum of the Danish diva’s three projects to-date. Still, the results are a strong, if derivative neo-soul project in the vein of Gloria Ry’ann, Liv Warfield, and early N’Dambi.

    Another Danish musical transplant to the London scene, Dahlstrom is now three for three in delivering confident jazzy soul with sultry warm vocals that are signature Philly soul circa 2000. On all three projects, the arrangements are structured to highlight the smooth ease of both Dahlstrom’s voice and the nu-jazz supper club compositions. Whether on “Perth” from The Renditions, “Feelings li” from 2011’s Feelings or “My Everything” from Gloom, songs are crafted to give the illusion of Dahlstrom’s voice melting into smoky, atmospheric compositions, where layered background vocals serve as choral echoes and keys and saxophones are noirish accent marks. With a penchant for moody, emotional ballads and phrasing reminiscent of every indie songstress from Choklate to Gloria Ry’ann, there is nothing particularly original about Dahlstrom on her debut or Gloom, but there also isn’t a single misstep in her entire young catalog. Every Dahlstrom project is flawlessly executed and while reverential of a certain sound, it consistently carries its own soulful timelessness that could have come from any decade since the late 1980s.

    Where Dahlstrom showed the most promise and received the most acclaim was on her self-produced and arranged (with some help from Tinashe Muyambo) middle project, The Renditions, where the singer flipped and reimagined the tempos, melody lines, and even the feel of famous pop songs like Rihanna’s “Loveeeee Song (featuring Future),” Phil Collins’ “In The Air,” Bon Iver’s “Perth,” John Mayer’s “Stop This Train” and the oft-covered Little Dragon classic, “Twice.” With a handful of exceptionally performed live versions of songs from her Feelings EP, Dahlstrom’s The Renditions was imaginative and dynamic in ways that the more melancholic Gloom doesn’t attempt to be. For fans following her progression, the results may be anticlimactic in that they feel like a step back has commenced rather than one forward in Dahlstrom’s artistry. 

    Nonetheless, Gloom is an unimpeachably beautiful, sinewy work about the pains, tensions and heartbreaks of an all-consuming love. Opening with acoustic guitar and dark keys, Marie Dahlstrom alto is lushly stacked in a series of harmonic cries, coos, and calls to be the heard. A reflective blues is sung in “My Everything” where a lover essentially offers a departing lover her carte blanche to change his mind, letting him “do anything” if he’ll stay. The duet, “I.O.T. (featuring Jamal Ross),” seems like the confrontation scene before “My Everything,” the moment before the levees of this relationship finally break. Already proving himself a worthy partner on “Nobody’s Business” from The Renditions, Jamal Ross’s resonance rich tenor embraces Dahlstrom’s alto again and again in a lover’s dance on “I.O.T.”  In the most rhythmic groove cuts of this six-track exercise, Kimba’s rap doesn’t distract from the easy glide of a intricately sung song whose instrumentals are classic neo-soul to the point of being derivative of an era. With the most memorable of hooks, “What’s It Gonna Be” is as confusing as the heartbreak of a newly lost love; part lonely lament in a break-up’s aftermath in its verses, part demanding invitation to come back in its hook, the song is no more sure of its intentions as any brokenhearted lover unable to let go.

    That Marie Dahlstrom is a beautiful and talented artist who knows how to deliver intimate, polished soul products is not in question. What might be under consideration is whether Dahlstrom’s works can standout from the indie R&B divas crowd enough to have the kind of musical catalog that others will want to cover as adroitly as she did in The Renditions. For Gloom the answers are as foggy and mixed as…well, a gloomy day. Recommended.

    By L. Michael Gipson