Until Death Comes is the home recorded debut from a Swedish singer-songwriter held in sufficient esteem by the Concretes to merit domestic release on their own Licking Fingers label. Peers Jose Gonzales and Jens Lekman have also taken Hyvonen on tour. Dry introductions aside, I’m glad to proceed with a record that can bewitch amidst the tape hiss.
The opening “Drive My Friend” has Kathleen Edwards’ knowing lilt and metronomic piano. If “Djuna!” is inspired by Miss (Mrs?) Barnes, its celebration of “love until death comes” via Cat Power’s What Would the Community Think and Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry occupies Nightwood worthy headspace. “Valerie” reaches confused resignation like Liz Phair on Whip Smart, but stretches wearily in places familiar to Damon Gough and Rufus Wainwright.
Hyvonen moves the goalposts dramatically at the mid point. “Once I Was a Serene Teenaged Child” recalls one of Louise Werner’s more Algonquin pointed turns. Dealing with regret, a counterpart’s genitalia, and emotional manoeuvring from both sides, the song manages to bypass cringe worthiness. Instead it leaves the conclusion that “the feeling of power was intoxicating magic” hanging emphatically. “Come Another Night” utilizes Motown bounce and Morrissey ache as early Belle and Sebastian. Horns and keys jitter bop as a house “gets dark and falls apart.” “NY” cuts the heartstrings like Magnolia and the Mann soundtrack that accompanies. Yuletide trees “stand sadly wrapped in electricity.” New York’s deserved mystique is referenced suitably enough to send accusations of laziness redundant. Until Death Comes closes with two jaw droppers. “Straight Thin Line” possesses the shady evocation of Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” and the cerebral heart wrench of a top notch Radiohead B-side. A penultimate “The Modern” compares childbirth to a “new word for the modern…a second word for love,” and a way for the female to make a male pregnant. It could be top of the game Thea Gilmore.
This isn’t an album that jumps, hand raised to the listeners’ attention. The most deserved compliment is that it plays as though Frida wasn’t concerned about external perceptions. As a result Until Death Comes passes on its own terms. Given some time, it’s turned my head incisively. In a league of contemporary singer-songwriter albums, it’s up there with the best.
Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry
Judee Sill – Judee Sill
Kathleen Edwards – <>i>Failer