Ask Embla’s ‘Northern Light’ Is The Best Pop Album You Can’t Listen To Or Buy Anywhere But Norway
For the last week or so, I’ve had on heavy rotation Northern Light, the debut album from Norwegian duo Ask Embla: Comprised of singer-songwriter Ina Wroldsen and producer Arnthor Birgisson, they penned hits for Shontelle (“Impossible”) and The Saturdays (“Higher”) as well as tracks separately for Britney Spears, One Direction and Leona Lewis. Ask Embla’s debut single, “Father’s Eyes,” is a gorgeously moody, surging slice of Scandinavian gloom-pop that recently went to #1 in Norway, and the rest of the album is equally strong: “Winter” is as perfect a post-“We Found Love” dance single as any you’ll hear this year; the militant drums of “Writing’s On the Wall” lend the song the vibe of a lost Jordin Sparks hit; “Einn” is aching, haunting and eerie. There’s shades of Robyn, but it also feels more conventional, curiously, or maybe more American: These are classic pop songs, sad and glowing, with freaky-sharp choruses.
The only problem? You can’t hear it anywhere. As our friend MuuMuse notes, Northern Light is only available to order a physical copy via import on CDON, or on iTunes Norway. It’s not on Spotify in the United States and only a few songs are streaming on their official SoundCloud. This problem comes up more and more, as music becomes less and less defined by geographical boundaries; as with the dreaded “The uploader has not made this video available in your country” message on YouTube, it’s maddening to find yourself unable to lend commercial support to an artist who deserves it. They don’t have to do a big stateside push, but at least put it on iTunes, Spotify or SoundCloud. Refusing to do so just encourages piracy.
So if you can find it, Ask Embla’s Northern Light is one of the best pop efforts of 2013 (which has been a pretty dark year for pop LPs so far) — just keep crossing your fingers that someone makes it legal to acquire outside of Norway. Otherwise, I’ll see you in Oslo.