For his latest solo record, Finnish singer/songwriter Marko von Konow has set out to create a project that encompasses a cultured perspective of art. Having travelled all over the globe, it is clear that von Konow is a seasoned artist who looks to incorporate these various cultural elements into his work. Von Konow is a classically trained musician himself and his diverse background has more than helped him create a specific image as a performer. Von Konow uses his classical training as the basis for his music and then adds a pop sensibility that makes his output even more accessible to curious listeners. In Lieder, von Konow offers listeners a view into his world which consists of a blend of various genres as well as some slight comparisons to notable performers.
When Lieder begins with “Cosmic,” the lavish sound that von Konow presents is something that is sure to encapsulate those who hear it. The popping string section throughout the backing instrumentation paired with the soulful lyrics make the track have the initial layer of being a simple love song, but the baroque style gives it a classier taste. Von Konow’s smooth voice carries a heavy amount of character and it draws comparisons to Anohni from Antony and the Johnsons. His vocal skills have levels of grace that makes his music have an impressively eloquent sound. The instrumentals in track two, “Horses Run with Me,” are astoundingly cinematic and sound as if they could be part of a movie score. Von Konow’s voice soars along the track and shows off an even greater depth to his musicianship. Particularly in this song, Von Konow bears a resemblance to Morrissey due to his voice being warm and charismatic but also slightly melancholy.
Track three, “Winter,” has a nice plucking of strings throughout the backing instrumentals which gives it a playful aesthetic. The production on this track is fantastic and it allows listeners to hear every small detail that each instrument contributes. This factor elevates the baroque pop style on this song as well as the rest of the album. Von Konow’s uniquely remorseful yet also slightly quirky persona here could draw some comparisons to David Bowie, particularly on Black Star. The dreary sound and darker lyrics on the tracks “Heartbeat” and “Hello” make them reminiscent of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, especially on his most recent record Skeleton Tree. The track “Castaway” has a dreamy sound and features von Konow’s charm at the forefront. This song is unapologetically operatic and has a depth of boldness that demands its listeners to pay attention to it. These various styles carry on throughout the rest of the album until it reaches the final moment, “Like a Vibe.” This track has a curious tone that is further exemplified by the layered choices of instrumentals. With instrumentation that ranges from xylophone, violin, and trumpet, von Konow has the perfect base to exert his smooth and dynamic vocal chops. This track glorifies passion and is the perfect choice for a closer in this album.
The main setback, albeit a smaller one, for this record is that it may in fact be too polished for some. Lieder is a graceful album though it definitely lives up to its baroque pop foundation and while that makes it a pretty listen, that shiny coating might be too glossy for some listeners to admire. For listeners who like a certain amount of bite to their pop music, then this album might not be the best choice.
Lieder is certainly an album to check out for those who like their pop music sumptuous. With gorgeous string sections and von Konow’s pleasing voice, this record is thoroughly lovely from beginning to end. The art pop roots might grow slightly tiresome for some listeners, but it still features moments that will surely be enjoyable for practically any fans of baroque music. Von Konow has created a wonderfully diverse album with Lieder and it definitely wouldn’t be surprising to see it gain momentum throughout the rest of 2017.