The Simple Life
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2007, Volume 14, #5
Written by Melissa Stroh
Wed May 9, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Most artists fail to make one good album, let alone two or three. Those who do manage to accomplish this task are now either: a) in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or b) flying so far under the radar that no one even notices. Well, Even Johansen (a.k.a. Magnet) belongs to the second category. This Norway native has been crafting quality endeavors for years, but his most recent release The Simple Life manages to top them all.
Johansen, who obtained his nickname from a questionable tattoo that he received when he was younger, is the king of contradictions. Everything from The Simple Lifeís title to each songís subject matter is a lesson in how to properly use the vagaries ó that is, the dark and light, the loud and soft, and the dirty and clean ó of a situation to his advantage. Though the title indicates a lack of complexity, the lessons found inside Johansenís tales of drunken nights spent banging on loversí doors, finally finding true love, and remembering a friend that tragically was lost are not easy ones to absorb.
Aside from the deep issues that are embedded in The Simple Life, Magnet also does a superb job of intriguing the listener. The Simple Life begins with a mixture of upbeat clapping and beautifully orchestrated strings. The paradox that is established by the contrast between sounds that are sharp and loud and those that are smooth and languid beautifully showcases the lyrical situation that he describes.
The Simple Life oscillates between being frantically in love and recklessly withdrawing from a relationship. These songs generally are placed back to back; in this way, the contradiction is more boldly outlined. The most obvious example occurs with Sheís Gone and A Little Happier. The former features whistling, a sluggish guitar, and a reggae beat. Itís difficult to make the slow, island pace work, but Magnet does it flawlessly. The band also seamlessly assimilates it into the rest of the album, without a second thought. As for the latter, it features a lethargic banjo, soft drums, and Johansenís smooth vocals. With such a drastic change in music between the two songs, itís hard to imagine it flowing past so smoothly, but that is the magic of Magnet.
While other musicians are jumping on the symphonic bandwagon, Magnet takes it a step further by using unusual instruments of the orchestra, including a few handmade contraptions. The Simple Life, particularly its latter half, is filled with a diverse amalgamation of sounds, and the ensuing assortment of oboes, clarinets, and xylophones weaves together a fascinating tapestry. The eclectic collection of music found on the album is precisely what transforms The Simple Life into such a rich and rewarding endeavor, and without a doubt, it will live on for years to come.
The Simple Life is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box