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Anders Holst is a regal contender to become the new crowned prince of contemporary romantic music. The original compositions across Romantika glide with the ease and beauty of a springtime drive through the countryside. Utilizing the gloss of majestic grand piano, breezy horns, sweet sax and whispering strings, Holst accompanies with a vocal style that sweeps the listener along, even as he offers a frank lyrical portrait of decidedly grown-up themes: love gone wrong, resulting sorrow and isolation—along with hints of resolve and redemption.
Ironically, while his life was always surrounded by music, the Swedish-born Holst was unknowingly destined to become a career musician. With a background in strategic management consulting, he eventually moved to the United States as co-chairman of the Ross Institute, which fostered international dialogue about teaching, healthcare and the environment.
But melodies pervaded his soul. Writing his first song at age 11 and performing for friends and family, in 2005 and by then living in New York, Holst released smooth jazz-infused debut EP Five, recorded in Sweden and Los Angeles. Among the highlights: “Until the End of Time,” which features tenor sax player Gerald Albright and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr.
Romantika ushers in a new chapter for the superlative singer, songwriter and producer, conjuring a varied palette of performers, including Alan Parsons, Seal, Sting and Chicago. The album was recorded in Stockholm and produced and arranged by Alar Suurna, Jerker Eklund, Mats Byström and Holst.
Highlights on the collection include the reflective “Two Sides,” exploring the idea that it first takes pain to journey into healing; jaunty “A Lonelier Laughter,” looking back on love that “We almost got right”; and the regretful, melancholy “Tainted Shots,” in which Holst sings, “Why didn’t we talk things over? Why didn’t we speak the words of truth/So many miles ahead, We will never walk.” He also serves up a cool, jazzy take on Billy Joel’s 1993 hit “All About Soul,” colored with sensual saxophone. Romantika closes with the beautiful “Lovers in the Dark,” a confessional treatise on the downturn of his ultimate love, with the poetic observation, “Autumn came around/Leaves on the ground/Follow them down?”
Among artists appealing to adult sensibilities—and likewise, adult sensitivity—Anders Holst understands that loss and hurting are as much a universal experience as the vulnerability that we must surrender in the eternal quest to share love and give into vulnerability. Through that, his themes across Romantika ultimately offer us all hope.
- Chuck Taylor
Senior Correspondent/Billboard Magazine, New York