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The Sting of Stockholm is back and this time he's singing about love. On Romantika, Anders Holst's follow-up to his debut, Five (Unheard of Music, 2005), the vocalist/composer sings about what can come with the experience of love: fulfillment, regret and longing. Along with Holst, longtime collaborator Mats Byström (who worked with Holst on Five) returns, once again stepping into his role as co-composer and producer. Together, the duo writes nine of the ten songs featured on Romantika, pairing simple lyrics with smooth instrumentals.
From start to finish the lyrics and music on Romantika come together for a mellow and easy sound. There's no scatting, no riffing and no holding of long notes. Holst sings like a man comfortable in his own skin. He does not try to fit into the jazz singer mold; he just sings his own song. Stand out tracks include "Tainted Shots," "Told You a Thousand Times," "Fight the Tide," and "A Lonelier Laughter."
Like on Five, Holst and the accompanying musicians work well together. While his lyrics suggest that he's acknowledged his shortcomings and is trying to find meaning in his actions for the benefit of regaining a lost love on "Tainted Shots," his singing is not desperate and the musicians play as though they sense his vulnerability. "Told You a Thousand Times" and "Fight the Tide" both have catchy, sing-songy melodies, while "A Lonelier Laughter" uses music to communicate the joy felt when reflecting on what's beautiful about love, even in the midst of it's loss.
In a time when musical references to love primarily address material possessions, Romantika brings the human element of love into the forefront. Maybe Holst would consider leading men on a journey from Mars to Venus?
Track Listing: All About Soul; Make it Shine; Tainted Shots; Told You A Thousand Times; Fight the Tide; Innocent & Blue; Two Sides; Across the Border; A Lonelier Laughter; Lovers in the Dark.
Personnel: Anders Holst: vocals; David Wilczewski: saxophone; Jerker Eklund: guitars; Mats Byström: grand piano, keyboards and synth bass; Thobias Gabrielson: bass; Per Lindvall: drums; Alar Suurna: organ, glockenspiel and percussion; Johan Setterlind: trumpet and flugelhorn; Mattias Ståhl: vibraphone; Jesper Harrysson: oboe; Stockholm Session Strings: strings; Jonas Lidholm: drums; Andreas Anderson: saxophone; Stefan Persson: trumpet; Magnus Wiklund: trombone; Dan Berglund: double bass; Jennie Löfgren: backing vocals; Henrik and Magnus Rongedal: vocals.