Warm and Chilly Boredom
With Japanese precision and Nordic chilly sparseness, Sumie Nagano’s self-titled debut album is a demonstration of the two cultures she straddles. Born in Sweden of Japanese and Swedish parents, she has taken a different path to her music than her sister, lead singer of the electro-pop band Little Dragon. Sumie relies solely on her haunting voice and harp-like guitar finger picking style to deliver very personal songs that are often hard to distinguish from each other.
Let’s talk about the positives of Sumie-– her style is comforting, warm and refreshing. She writes slower tempo songs that are sparsely accompanied to allow her space to deliver her reflective poetry. Her voice is plain, resonant and reflective while delivering controlled emotion. Songs like “Spells You” and “Speed Into” reflect these positives at their best. They sound like they belong on the soundtracks of the best TV dramas available today.
Now, the negatives: all of these songs are mind-numbingly the same. If one doesn’t watch the player, one is hard pressed to tell when one song ends and the next begins. Perhaps this is the art of Sumie-– a whole new direction of the music album becoming a Kerouac-like stream of consciousness with pages but no chapters. And maybe that works on some level, but in the end it loses the listener’s attention. If these tracks were listened to one by one with plenty of time in between, or as part of a mix shuffled into other music, they would work amazingly well-– this music is different. But piled together in an album, they just tend to let the mind wander to other things as they drone on.
Sumie has talent. Her voice is haunting, her poetry personal and engaging and her guitar playing reminiscent of simpler things. The first impression of her music makes the listener want to hear more, but the more is disappointingly disappointing. Sumie needs to take the next step in her musical journey, realizing that half of storytelling is engaging the listener. We really hope she gets there.