MEER - Playing House

Meer - Playing House

12 songs
60:21 minutes
***** ***


Starting as a duo in 2008, Norwegian band Meer grew steadily bigger until they ended up being an eight-piece performing orchestral progressive pop music. A first longplayer came out in 2016, but itís only now, five years later, signed to the renowned prog rock label Karisma, that their audacious sophomore effort shows the genius that this band can trump with.

Meer consist of a core pop quartet playing guitar, bass, piano and drums, plus a viola and a violin player, and then two vocalists who are brother and sister. And they share vocal duties among themselves, just like good siblings are supposed to do.

Playing House is a huge improvement on the debut. The arrangements are far more professional, with the band often putting many different moods into their best material. The album begins with Picking Up The Pieces, fronted by Johanne Kippersund, and her vocals are definitely out of this world. She masters everything from brittle fragility to roaring soulful explosions. Add to this the complex arrangements and skilful orchestration, and you will have an image of what progressive pop feels in contrast to progressive rock. The following Beehive, second single, also fronted by Johanne, has been already released in the past, but this new version has much more drive and drama. These two songs are among the best I have heard in a long time, and only maybe Bent Knee on a good day can compete with such quality. Up next come three songs fronted by her brother Knut, who has a more melancholic approach to his vocal delivery. Itís not necessarily worse, but I do prefer the unbridled energy of his sister. All At Sea for instance starts slowly and takes a little too much time to reach its roaring conclusion. Songs Of Us and Child also contain many soft and a few louder parts, with a certain indie folk mentality shining through. You Were A Drum is another Johanne song, a bit like a throwback to Eighties pop, nice enough but followed by another highlight. Honey is a masterpiece full of unexpected twists and turns, which is when Meer are at their most glorious. The vocals are divine, maybe reminding here and there of BjŲrk, but with a more organic feeling. Across The Ocean was the albumís first single, and is actually quite a winner. Like the preceding Knut tracks, it starts in a mellow way before erupting in a cinematic finale full of ecstatic soulful backing vocals. She Goes is a duet with kind of a funny chorus, but hey, people have to have fun occasionally. Where Do We Go From Here is another Knut ballad, before the album ends with two Johanne tracks. Lay It Down is not unlike the songs she excels at, except that the chorus feels not really in line with the rest of the track. And yet itís her incredible vocal performance that makes sure that this is still a winner. The album ends with a strange cover version of Whitesnakeís Here I Go Again, and while I am not a fan of David Coverdaleís antics, I have to confess that this toned-down version is also not really a hit, although it is a weird, and fun, way to end the album.

When Meer are great, they can deliver among the best music ever. They will move you deep within and not let loose. When Meer are only "good", they are still quite competent, except that it makes me yearn for more ear candy of the sort like Beehive, Honey etc. Norway has stealthily become the new nexus of quality progressive music, and Meer and yet another addition to the canon.

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