Photo by Jan Stuhr
Maggie Bjorklund, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark, is releasing her sophomore album, Shaken
, tomorrow via Bloodshot Records
. The follow up to her 2011 debut, Coming Home
, is filled with compositions that feel nostalgic but sound fresh and compelling. The singer and composer's main instrument is the pedal steel guitar, at which she is so adept, she's landed a position in Jack White's touring band, as well as worked on his sophomore solo album, Lazaretto
From the opening notes of "Dark Side of the Heart," the lead off track from Shaken
, it's evident that this album was born of a heavy heart. Bjorklund's voice soars over a somber cello and wispy slide guitar as the snare drum sputters and the bass drum thuds. "Walking" evokes the mood of a long, contemplative drive down a back road. The slowly spinning Leslie speaker warbles as the slide guitar glistens beneath breathy vocals. "The Road to Samarkand" starts off slow, with dark, bluesy overtones. When the pace picks up, the guitar shifts to sharp, lounge lines, creating an eerie mood. The song slows to a crawl and a solo acoustic guitar tells a story of sorrow and reflection.
The album progresses with "Fro Fro Heart," Bjorklund's duet with Lambchop's Kurt Wagner. The music continues to present a sonic landscape. Wagner's vocals, however, warble delicately juxtaposed next to Bjorklund's, sultry and soulful vocal. Shaken
moves seamlessly from moody instrumental expression on "The Unlucky," to subdued pop on "Name in the Sand." "Missing at Sea" is an excellent example of Bjorklund's skill and innovative use of her instrument. At times, it's hard to choose which to prefer, when Bjorklund's vocals are on the track or when she lets her pedal steel do the singing.
Bjorklund revealed that most of Shaken
was written while visiting her mother in the hospital before her death. The dark lyrical content is attributed to go through the hardships of saying goodbye. The album's final track, "Teach Me How to Say Goodbye," is the heartbreaking opus that most accurately documents and conveys those feelings of pain and loss.
The weight of the album is too much for the unifying theme of spiritual perseverance to bare, causing the more superficial themes of depression and loss to win out. That being said, Shaken
is a delightfully tortured collection of songs. With heart-wrenching darkness lying directly on the surface, Bjorklund takes the role of pop siren to new territory.