Album Review: Louien – No Tomorrow EP

[Jansen; 2021]

Norway has one of the strongest folk traditions out of all European countries (including one of their finest exports, Kings of Convenience, who are returning this year after over a decade away). Live Miranda Solberg is the woman behind Louien, and she’d dearly like to be the next folk artist from the Scandinavian country to gain wider prominence.

Following up her debut album, 2019’s None Of My Words, is her new EP, titled No Tomorrow. The title fits because Solberg is concerned a lot with growth and change, with living life to the fullest and being the best you can be. These songs detail love and loss, hope and renewal. “I’d give anything to be a better woman,” she cries out in “Better Woman”, after unfolding a narrative about a woman having an argument with her partner and struggling to get through it.

It’s when Solberg goes for bolder sounds that the EP really thrives and these songs come at the start of the record. The melodic and lush Americana of “Deep Within” (she’s also a member of the Americana band Silver Lining, incidentally) is sweet and soulful, homely and comely, a subtle slide guitar enhancing the atmosphere. “Better Woman”, the centrepiece, borrows from the Laura Marling playbook of locating the rockier rhythm within folk, a surprising drum beat offering necessary energy that matches the story of a precarious love hanging in the balance. 

The last three songs all rise slowly, awakening gently from a slumber. They’re organic and dewy without ever fully grasping hold. The acoustic fingerpicking is precise in “Fire”, certainly, but her voice isn’t expressive enough to captivate above the sparseness; Solberg is undoubtedly a gorgeous singer when she wants to be, but she doesn’t appear to utterly commit in tracks like “No Tomorrow” and “Woke Up from the Dead”. A little more expression would have imbued them with more character and soul; mostly, it just sounds plaintive and timid.

No Tomorrow is a charming EP though, and there’s a vivid sense that Solberg does have plenty more to offer. The Norwegian singer-songwriter is clearly steeped in the traditions of folk and Americana and her knowledge should pay off on any full-length release, provided she heeds her own lyrics and commits fully.