Since Aurora dropped the single “Exist for Love” nearly two years ago, I’ve patiently awaited the Norwegian pop star’s next album.
On Jan. 21, her LP “The Gods We Can Touch” finally arrived after the longest album roll-out ever.
Maybe I’ve been coddled by Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey, who each release high-quality albums at a break-neck pace, but 20 months from lead single to album seems a bit excessive.
Still, there I was Friday morning, completing my new album ritual and listening to Aurora’s newest offerings on a loop for three hours. Now that we’re on the other side of the process, my favorites playlist has had a bit of a shake-up.
“The Gods We Can Touch” offers everything Aurora has come to represent sonically, dialed up to new heights. An ethereal stage presence reminiscent of beings from another world, Aurora has married her aesthetic to her sound, with electronic beats, inspired instrumentation and otherworldly melodies with no words.
New this time around, however, are South American influences on “Cure For Me” and a concertina on “Artemis.”
The world tour doesn’t stop there. Icelandic anomaly Björk and Enya, the Queen of Ireland, are both clear influences on the album. While I don’t vibe with Björk (I tend to like listenable music), “Orinoco Flow” by Enya is a bop for the ages, and anything that sounds remotely similar is an immediate yes.
The Enya influence is clearest on “This Could Be A Dream,” a flowing melody over a slow beat with surprisingly tasteful trumpet. Aurora’s vocals shine through best on slow songs like this one.
“Exhale, Inhale,” also sees Aurora at her most vocally impressive, jumping back and forth between a high, airy “exhale” and a low, sonorous “inhale” accompanied only by a harp.
In a frustrating turn of events, though, my favorite songs from the Norwegian artists are those with clear American origins.
Aurora tries her hand at ragtime in “The Innocent,” a song based around a bouncy old piano that makes it impossible not to move to. On “A Temporary High,” she channels an 80s revival à la Miley Cyrus, with driving synths and an almost-shouted chorus.
“Blood In The Wine,” the album’s stand-out song, references Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” in both lyrics and construction. It’s a stunning departure from the weightless image and sound Aurora has worked so hard to cultivate, and it works.
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“Shout it for the ones who could never say / ‘I won’t feel ashamed, mother,’” Aurora yells with all the anger her tiny frame can muster over the chorus. “Can you break the chains off her? Shout it louder, not a sinner, she’s a lover.”
Just like that, we’ve reached my only problem with this new album.
Aurora has a talent for weaving natural imagery into her songs (see “The Seed,” “Apple Tree,” “Winter Bird,” “Running with the Wolves” … you get it), but here those images take a backseat to her new favorite word: Love.
Listen, I don’t hate songs about love. It would be practically impossible to enjoy music if I did. But this album is only 15 songs long and manages to feature variations of the literal word “love” 110 times.
For comparison, on Taylor Swift’s “Lover,” variations of the titular word show up 52 times over 18 songs.
Aurora even manages to set an unattainable standard in “Exist for Love,” a gorgeous and ethereal song, to be fair, featuring the chorus “Everything good in life seems to lead back to you / And every single time I run into your arms / I feel like I exist for love.”