When a-ha had their first break in the mid-nineties, songwriter and guitar-player Paul Waaktaar-Savoy founded a new band with his wife Lauren and fellow drummer Frode Unneland from Norway. The first album “Mary is coming” was a lot more indie-rock and guitar-based as a-ha ever were – a massive statement, that Paul has more to say musically than just writing “nice” songs. There were smashers like “Daylight’s wasting” or “Raise your sleepy head”.
On the other side there is one of the best ballads of all time on this album – “Velvet”: A perfect indie-rock ballad with D’Sound’s Simone Eriksrud on guest vocals.
After that, four more longplayers followed – and then ten years of no new songs.
Now Savoy is back with an album called “See The Beauty In Your Drab Hometown” and the sound has evolved from the ‘old’ days: Less smashing guitars, more fat synthesizers and with this the songs come closer to the a-ha sound.
The first single “Nightwatch” is what you can call “Dark Dance”: Tight drumsounds are the basis for guitar licks with a lot more echoes and effects, synthesizer strings and a thriving bassline. The dark voice of Paul brings the special melancholic feeling to it – whereas Lauren and Frode provide perfect matching backing vocals. Our highlight of the song is the weird synth-part at the end of the song, this is nothing expected from the band.
“January thaw”, the second single, plays in a more lighter area – you can hear that Savoy did, what they are known for sometimes: Lauren and Paul write songs – and the parts end up in the same song: So the verses are much more dark than Lauren’s chorus, which has a happy 60’s vibe in it. With her voice she brings a good contrast into the album.
These two songs describe the setting for the other songs: “A moth of sundays”, “Shy teens suffer silently” and “We’re the same way” are in a more dark mood. Lauren’s “Bump” and “Falls park” and “Sunlit byways” grab the 60’s vibe. Especially in “Sunlit byways” you can hear the light and very to-the-point drum-playing of Frode. His style is so unique, you can recognize it in various side-projects and bands outside of Savoy too (like the great “Evig Din For Alltid“).
There are two more “special songs” on this record:
The first one is “Manmade Lake”, which Paul released free some years ago under the moniker “Waaktaar”. This version is with less guitars and more vocals (without distortion effect).
And the last one is the song of the movie “Headhunters” which Paul put out some years ago with Jimmy Gnecco on the vocals – and this is again a proof of that killer-melodies Paul is able to write:
Out final thoughts:
This is a very interesting album with sounds we definitely didn’t expect. Paul’s songwriting is strong as ever – no doubt one of the best songwriters of our time. The songs – although some newer and some older – fit together very well in this setting.
Too bad we couldn’t attend the release concert in Oslo where they played a fantastic set of songs.