Swedish chanteuse Casja Siik is something of a unsung gem in Nordic music. With glitter-gulleted vox and indie panache she churns out stunning melodic content and rocky twinges. She’s on the brink of releasing her second long-player Contra, a record with glistening pop charm that might drag her from the murky undergrounds into the bright lights and bigger cities.
Contra follows 2012's Plastic House. Like its predecessor, it's a pretty short-and-sweet full-length, numbering only eight tracks (one more than Plastic House), meaning it's easily digestible in one sitting. It's gone before you know it.
Almost certainly the highlight of Contra is “Higher”, a single that preceded the LP proper. Her half-hushed whisper croon bounds across moonlit funk guitars and choppy percussion, bursting with earworm-y wiggles. The motorik pace and addictive calibre is more than enough to keep your mouse cursor hovering over the repeat button. It's pop, pure and simple, but it's intelligent enough to know when restraint can deliver a KO-blow as opposed to a limp thwack of perpetual beltery.
There are plenty of other giant beacons of pop on the record though: “Inside A Box” melds Britpop guitars with '80s anthemics and Siik's breezy coo, and lead single “Relentless Delight” brandishes the jury-rigged trip-pop clank of dank piano jabs and stabs of swoony silk electro. “The Fix” – once more using a subtle funk to excellent effect – is less ostentatious, and despite sounding a bit much like Bon Iver's “Skinny Love” in the chorus, is more charming noise.
The Stockholm-based artist can tone down the timbres too. “Birds” tugs at your heartstrings like First Aid Kit at their most traumatic. Flickering guitar harmonics and sparse percussion build the foundation from which Siik can sing along with strings, and despite the clear path for the track to follow and ramp up into epic grandeur, it halts just short, showing restraint. It's uncharacteristic compared to the rest of the record and her penchant for yanking the ripcord on huge sound, but it works well as a counterpoint to the energy of the rest of Contra. One might say that it's a nice... Contrast.
Casja Siik's smorgasbord of wonderful audio delights is likely to pique interest. The calibre of the pop is fantastic, her ear for a sticky hook is as good as any other Scandinavian electro artist of the current era, and she manages to convey genuine emotion in her music. All the pieces are in the right place, ready to strike – they just need the signal.