When we launched Radio Crème Brulee (the global online radio broadcast station that is blog is attached to), in early 2007, it was in response to American terrestrial radio’s increasingly overt ageist and geocentric bias. One of the glaring symptoms of this geocentric bias (which has continued until today) was just how conspicuous Scandinavian artists (with the exception of Bjork) were by their absence in the American mainstream by the mid-90s. This is despite the fact that Scandinavian acts such as Roxette, Europe, ABBA, and a-ha had a track record of success in the US in the 80s and early 90s. Yet, somehow in the last two decades, countries such as Norway and Sweden have become almost exclusively associated (in the context of the music industry) with the unsung heroes behind hits for American and British artists. Noteworthy examples of these unsung heroes include songwriter/producer Max Martin and production duo Stargate. There is a thriving tradition of high-quality songwriting, production, and musical performance in countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden that goes routinely ignored by the centralized programming of conglomerate-owned terrestrial radio in the US. We were conscious of this back when we launched our radio station and hence should not be particularly surprised that one of the brightest musical moments of this summer comes from Norwegian band D’Sound in the form of their new single “Good intentions”.
D’Sound’s history dates back to the early 90s in Oslo (Norway) with their debut album “Spice of Life” seeing the light of day in 1996. The trio of Jonny Sjo, Kim Ofstad, and vocalist Simone Eriksrud has been labeled as a neo-soul band. In reality, I think this label does them a disservice and does not adequately speak to how their sonic template has stretched wider with every subsequent full album release. They morphed from an acid jazz act (in a realm similar to that of bands such as the Brand New Heavies and Incognito) to a modern R&B act on their album “Talkin’ Talk” to a radio-friendly alternative rock act (in the vein of acts such as Sixpence None The Richer) on their albums “Doublehearted” (which features the single “Do I need a reason”) and “Starts and Ends”. In 2017, they reached a defining moment in their story with the departure of their lead singer Simone Eriksrud as she chose to focus on her family. Instead of disbanding or replacing Simone with a similar frontwoman, they made the audacious decision to go with a new female lead singer with a radically different vocal aesthetic (relative to Simone). If your first introduction to the new frontwoman Mirjam Omdal is purely in an audio context, you might mistakenly think she is an African American vocalist. Mirjam is also the lead singer of R&B group Bae Louie and was also featured on The Voice (Norway). The inclusion of Mirjam has also undoubtedly led to yet another stylistic inflection point in the musical trajectory of D’Sound. Their 2019 album “Unicorn” (featuring the guilty pleasure banger that is “Mr Unicorn”) is adorned with its fair share of ready-for-pop-radio ear candy all of which has an overarching funk factor propelled by Jonny Sjo’s prominent and memorable basslines.
“Good Intentions” builds on this newly found radio-friendly sensitivity (in a pop context) while unabashedly drawing inspiration from the band’s acid jazz and funk heritage. This mid-tempo jam, while fun and summery in its sonic treatment, paints a picture of a rather common and somewhat dysfunctional dynamic in many romantic relationships. In this dynamic, one partner, in his quest to fulfill his ambitions, takes his relationship for granted and leaves his significant other playing second fiddle to his burgeoning ambition. This pattern manifests itself as a waiting game that his partner plays as he goes out and about laying the foundation for his grand plan while marginalizing his romantic partner and justifying his actions with the spirit of his “Good Intentions”. This scenario is probably very common for those that are in relationships with hope-addicted young entrepreneurs and these individuals can probably relate to following lines from the song’s second bridge section:
But I, I don’t complain too much
You can’t see How the life you live affects us
You’re busy holding the world
And it’s heavy, heavy, too heavy
‘Cus you’re drowning in your words
And your dreaming just won’t help me
The song benefits from a hook-laden chorus and a euphoric Middle 8 that features bass guitarist Jonny Sjo scatting. To say it would make a worthy addition to your cocktail party playlist would be quite the understatement. The song is also a testament to the spirit of creativity and human adaptability in times of scarcity. The song was recorded post the onset of the devastating Covid19 pandemic forcing the band’s members to leverage video conferencing as they quarantined separately. Replicating the in-person band dynamic via video conferencing is non-trivial at best but Kim, Jonny, and Mirjam along with their producer Magnus Martinsen rose to the occasion and triumphed over what could have been a rather prolonged break from their combined creative process. Their approach is inspiring and truly challenges this notion of human limitations in a time of widespread adversity. At a time when people desperately need to be anchored by optimism, D’Sound truly puts possibilities into perspective with the sonic gift that is “Good Intentions”. One can only hope that this song is a precursor for more musical greatness to follow. Here is a full-length music video for “Good Intentions”:
STAR RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS
In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s and the 90s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Suede, The Corrs, Jamiroquai,Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.
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