Hello Saferide is back, back, back
There’s always a danger when praising the work of Hello Saferide’s creative force Annika Norlin that you’ll slip into the kind of music criticism that amounts to little more than “Please touch my penis, quirky-but-cute Swedish indie girl”. Some people can manager it. Most can’t.
Whatever way it happens, dampen down your libido for a second and consider “Anna”, the lead single from her new album “More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide”. It’s ridiculously, unnervingly fucked up. I’d use the term damaged if I may. It plays out like a secular take on Lil Markie’s “Diary Of An Unborn Child”, as Norlin gets her jangle pop on recording the topic of her daughter’s guitar, hockey, and doctoring abilities. She then apologise in a broken voice to her daughter for never existing because her father broke-up with her before she could be spawned. Now normally tweeness and violent psychosis have been traits that meet only in my ex-girlfriends, but the silent laugh Annika pours at 1:26 here, just a few seconds before the feedback kicks in, has pretty much guaranteed that I won’t sleep again this month. Pretty powerful stuff for such a light song.
It’s great, but it isn’t her best though. And she has a history of this, she does fucked-up well. “Long Lost Penpal” makes Lilith Fair arpeggio pop about the charming story of a 46-year-old man pretending to be a teenage girl, possibly for the purposes of grooming, possibly just for shits and giggles, who accidentally saves his pen pal’s life.
She does storytelling well. “Highschool Stalker” is a song anyone who reached their sexual awakening around the same time search engines were coming into popular use will fully recognise. Heck, even the SEs she shouts out are late 90s (“I went on the Altavista/I went twice on the Yahoo!”). This was a blog hit back in the day which thankfully failed to crossover into HS doing mobile phone adverts and sharing spots on 4Music with Florence and the fucking Machine. There’s the argument, perhaps, to be made here that twee-pop is juvenile and a genre by the emotionally stunted for the emotionally stunted but, you know, fuck it. I don’t want to hear that talk any more. This is the greatest genre ever. “Yesterday passed me by, you nearly said “Hi”, I could have died, I swear to God I started crying”.
And then there’s, to my mind her current masterpiece, “The Quiz”. Whether or not it is deliberately a brightly coloured raincoat wearing take on Fiddy’s “21 Questions” is something I’m not 100% sure of. What I am sure of is that handclaps make mediocre songs good and good songs great. What I’m also sure of is that this does Seinfeld love-ins better than Wale did; Thompson Twins, Jens Lekman and Rickie Lee Jones sounds like a pretty weak CD collection; making the ongoing catchphrase/injoke throughout your entire career “scared of feet” is a brave decision; and nobody does vulnerable like HS. Like I say, this is the greatest genre ever. And Annika’s a fine ambassador for it.