A little humble, more brooding than it has to be, and constantly reinforced by the texture of the instrumental play it’s surrounded by, Ann Brita Nilsson’s lead vocal in the new EP Eleven Something occasionally verges on countrified aesthetics tethering folk-rock and dark, post-new wave pop but it never becomes defined by scene politics. Although I wouldn’t describe Nilsson’s sound as fitting in with the lot of hybrid content coming out of the underground these days per se, there’s something special about her crossover songwriting in tracks like “Opening My Windows,” “Real Life,” and the titular “Eleven Something,” all three of which could make for some stellar singles. Eleven Something is a versatile piece and one I can verify as being hard to put down once you’ve given it a spin.
Self-control is a big part of the larger creative equation for this record, but I’d stop short of saying that Nilsson doesn’t know how to cut loose behind the mic. On the contrary, she’s putting up so much of her soul in “Are You Really Gone” and the aforementioned “Opening My Windows” that I don’t know whether or not she could replicate the emotion she has in the studio on stage – but I’m willing to find out for myself. she’s got a disciplined approach, even when she’s going wild with the lyrical depth she wields so elegantly in Eleven Something, and I think it’s one of the more impressive to come out of her corner of the underground this year.
Tonal warmth is another major ingredient here, and I think that it provides us with a stunner of a song in “The Shelter of Thieves” that makes this whole extended play worth picking up on its own. Every one of these tracks is single-worthy, but it’s easy to understand why this particular song is taking off as the most-streamed of the record thus far; between the compositional presence on its own and the fluidity of the lyrics Nilsson constructs out of bittersweet poeticisms, this just feels like it was meant to scale the charts on the back of little more than its ultra-keen melody. There’s nothing wrong with having a sweet centerpiece when it’s a song as provocative and sonically smooth as this one happens to be.
Emotional, fearlessly unguarded, and constantly drawing us closer to the personality of its creator more than it ever does the cosmetics of her artistry, Eleven Something is a pretty slick five-track record, and easily one of the best EPs I’ve listened to since the last year came to a close. Without borrowing too much from the hipster gods who came before her, Ann Brita Nilsson exploits some amazing and surprisingly inventive concepts beyond anywhere other artists have taken them in the past three years in this record, and I think that while it should be a standalone affair, this is a brisk taste of what her next full-length LP could sound like in an ideal situation. I’ll be looking out for its arrival, and you should do the same.