Someone needs to give Annika Norlin a hug.
Four years ago, Annika Norlin was a journalist in Sweden. Her father won a guitar in an auction (for almost no money) and gave it to her. Norlin started to play, wrote a few songs, recorded some, and posted a cheery ode to high-tech Peeping Toms called "High School Stalker" on the internet. When she had to choose a band name, Norlin picked Hello Saferide, which (depending on what version of the story she's telling) comes either from a Swedish service providing drunks with rides home on holidays or from the cheery greeting of a bus driver in suburban Connecticut.
Her smart lyrics, simple music, and naive, fragile, girlish vocals (which seem more plaintive because she clearly is not a native speaker of English) won her lots of fans on the Internet and then a manager and a Japanese record deal. In the last four years, she's toured the world, released two full-length albums and a bunch of singles and EPs. She's also made a series of stark, visually arresting videos (many of which mix unusual animation with live action).
Through Hello Saferide, Norlin seems bound and determined to bring heartbreakingly sad laments back to pop music. (Just look at some of her song titles: "Loneliness is Better When You're Not Alone," "Long Lost Penpal," "The Last Bitter Song," "I Thought You Said Summer Is Going to Take the Pain Away," etc.) Most of her songs plumb the endless depths of loneliness, despair, and love gone wrong (or just not gone at all). And when she's not writing about loss, she's writing off-kilter and darkly comic pop songs about OCD ("If I Don't Write This Song Someone I Love Will Die"), wanting your crush to be ill so you can take care of him ("Get Sick Soon"), or wishing she could give up men and fall for her best (female) friend (link for Gmail subscribers):
Hello Saferide has a new album called More Modern Short Stories from Hello Saferide. The sound is fuller (Norlin's embraced more of an indie rock sound and most of the songs feature electric guitars instead of the cheap auction acoustic). But the album has more than its share of laments, most spectacularly "Anna," which speculates on the amazing life a daughter she never had might have led (link for Gmail subscribers):
Annika Norlin has claimed in the press that her songs are just made-up stories sung over simple chords. Maybe in real life, she really is unbelievably happy, cheerful, and completely content. But, just in case, would someone in Stockholm please give her a hug?
IPO - Chicago; Saturday Night Preview
9 hours ago