Last year, I fled dark and stormy Iceland and travelled to a nicer climate on the other side of the globe for the winter. However, for some unexplainable reasons, even while enjoying the sun on my balcony, I still get homesick! My cure for that horrid feeling: a five-track album called Songs 4 Crying, released in late 2019 by a relatively unknown artist. Her name is KARÍTAS.
The feeling starts creeping up on you from the very start, during the shadowy vocal echoes of the intro. By leaning into the melancholic hopelessness of the dark and gloomy Icelandic winter, I find the remedy for my homesickness. After a second listen, the singer’s references to the other songs on the album become noticeable, and all the admirable work that went into the debut EP of KARÍTAS is apparent.
Having such a developed and unique sound on your very first release is almost unheard of. It can be described as modern Portishead meets Nordic Billie Eilish. She’s mysterious like Sevdaliza yet serious and entertaining like Banks. Her producer, Dadykewl, is also doing some brilliant work with powerful rhythms staggering underneath distorted melodic synths. The mixing also deserves a shout out, as the vocals flawlessly blend in with the beat; they’re not just placed on top of it as is sometimes the case with new artists. The crackling electrical currents of the beat fit KARÍTAS enchanting Nordic voice perfectly. As you listen to these tracks with headphones, you will unfold new layers of music, as Dadykewl experiments with the panning busting pop sounds of an electric instrument being plugged in. He seems to seek inspiration from the likes of Massive Attack and Boards of Canada as the compositions express thrill and despair. These emotions are so often projected in Scandinavian storytelling, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard one of these songs on a Nordic crime fiction TV program, fading in as a depressed detective enters a crack den in slow motion to find a troubled loved one lying on the floor with a needle in their arm. A song like ‘Wear Somebody Else’ (the only single of the album as of February 2020) could lift that scene above the cliché and give it deeper significance.
In contrast to its title, the song ‘Burn’ expresses nothing but freezing cold Nordic misery. Not only does it show you heartbreak but also the social conundrums that come with the territory of dating in a tiny society. “You got everybody talking now, I never wanted the attention” verbalizes the feeling of not being able to remove yourself from your community after parting with your love interest. It’s incredibly descriptive of the snowed-in communities in the far North, the place where everyone is trapped and forced to take sides.
Another noteworthy song is the cover of ‘She Can’t Love You’. KARÍTAS is able to take the 1982 funk ballad by Chemise and make it her own. The action rises slowly but steadily, like a yellow storm warning, finally climaxing and escalating to a red alert mid-song with a shockwave of thumping drumbeats played – according to an interview in Reykjavik Grapevine – by Einar of Vök, also known as the gimp of Hatari. When Einar is let loose, it is yet another powerful winter storm, only this time, it’s banging on your speakers instead of your window.
If Songs 4 Crying is the start of KARÍTAS, I can’t wait to hear what else she has got in store. This album is one of my favourite debuts and it deserves your attention. Keep your eye on this girl; she is going places.
Words by Esther Thorvalds
KARÍTAS – Songs 4 Crying
2. Wear Somebody Else
3. She Can’t Love You
5. Snake Skin