There are few artists I hold in such reverence as Marit Larsen. I have been a fan of her unique voice since she was one half of the musical duet M2M with Marion Ravn, but have also had the unique privlage of growing up alongside her music. From her early days as a pop star, to her excellent solo cds (Under the Surface – 2005 and The Chase – 2008 respectfully) I have grown alongside her and her unique portrayals of love, loss and life. All this leads up to her latest, and in my opinion, her finest cd to date, “Spark” which was released this November.
“Spark” is a much different cd than her previous two. Marit Larsen has always been defined in my mind by a subtle, beautiful voice that was as poignant as it was exciting. Her lyrics almost always played in sharp contrast to her light and joyous melodies. In opposition to her bright, playful melodies, she arms her poignant lyrics with a sense of impenetrable optimism that seeps through every fabric of her writing.
In “Spark”, we see a more mature outlook on life. Marit sings of harsher realities, more troublesome problems, and all things considered speaks in a much more mature voice on more mature problems. While issues of love and life have been discussed in her previous albums, in “Spark” they contain a much more potent and bittersweet message. The songs this time are gentler, and have a much harsher, lived in quality to them. For the first time, Marit seems to embrace her pain and the heart aches of growing up. Her songs have a new haunting quality to them that is both shocking and cathartic.
In typical Marit Larsen tradition, upon my first play through of her cd, I was almost disappointed. “Spark” initially lacked the quick and easy catchy tunes of “Under the Surface” and initially I thought it lacked the complexities of “The Chase”, but as time went on and I spent more time with the cd, I realized that “Spark” could be her finest and most complex cd yet. The messages of the cd and the songs run much deeper than I could have initially anticipated and as a result, Marit has crafted her finest cd she has yet created.
Some of her finest songs on the cd deal with issues of past relationships, which is an issue that I feel rings particularly close to my life right now. The songs “I can't love you anymore” and “Last night” could be among “To and end”, “Fuel”, “Walls” and “Solid Ground” as the best songs in her repertoire. Her voice echoes more true when she sings with an air of mellancholia, and it's a tone that seeps through her album from the bittersweet opening of “Keeper of the keys”, to the reminiscent ending of “That day”. Her lyrics are reminiscent of Jewel, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks and Sarah Mclachlan all rolled into an etherial voice that carries the songs with such emotion that they become richer with each subsequent listen.
The cd is not without it's faults. Her first single “Coming home” initially lacks the killer hooks of “Don't save me” and “Only a fool”, but despite this the melodies are undeniably catchy, and the lyrics surprisingly sweet providing a nice contrast to the heavier lyrics of other songs on the album. “Have you ever” is a strange offering, pairing an undeniably peppy tune with a somewhat depressing subject matter in a way that is shockingly similar to some of her earlier songs, and “Me and the highway” and “Don't move” seem to be almost out of place on this album. At the same time, their levity is almost needed as the album would be almost depressingly heavy without their infectious hooks.
Overall, “Spark” provides a unique experience that is the logical next step for Marit Larsen. The lyrics are bolder and more personal, the package is more polished and the overall effect of the album is one of heavy emotional turmoil, wrapped in a beautiful package of excitement and bittersweet memories. I have often found emotional catharsis in Larsen's music, and am pleased to find myself continually enrapt in the soulful emotional bliss of her growth in “Spark”. If you are a fan of folk or haunting female voices, I cannot recommend this cd enough.