Every year, there’s an artist who throws their genre into a spiral. Their music is so powerful or just makes such a strong impact that it leaves the world wondering. This year, that’s Aurora. Her debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend is perhaps the most perfect piece of pop 2016 will see. This Norwegian singer has the purest voice and doesn’t need sex appeal - though she is absolutely adorable - for her music or performances to catch your attention. It’s as pure and as true to heart as music can be.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done one, and every track on this album is oh-so-deserving of being talked about, so here’s a track by track review of the record.
1) Runaway - Beginning with an intro of epic harmonies consisting of Aurora’s calming voice and low bassy vocals, the album couldn’t start any more enchantingly. As is the case with much of the record, Aurora’s voice is the highlight of the track. The instrumental in and of itself is very minimalist: the beat isn’t flashy and the synths build from a relaxing harpsichord to an explosion of sound. The vocal harmonies act as an instrument: they’re brought all the way up in the mix. Aurora sings about being tired of her world and wanting to go “home where I belong,” though as amazing as the lyrics are, the melodies are what you’ll be focussing on. 10/10
2) Conqueror - A change of pace in the album; this one actually sounds like a pop track! Beginning with clean guitar, a thicker beat, and her voice in a major key, ‘Conqueror’ will get you dancing. It’s a pure, big, and fun pop banger that is just perfect to let go to. This fun song is about searching for someone to “conquer” you and give you what you’re looking for - to complete the challenge that is you. There’s a lot going on in the percussion that’s pretty hidden in the mix but adds so much color to the track. The giant bass synth in the choruses also elevate the song to its soaring levels. Again, Aurora’s voice is so pure you can feel the curiosity of the track in you. It’s the best pop song of the year so far - how it hasn’t taken over radio by storm is crazy. The final chorus is an explosion so grand that it’s appeal is just unarguable. It’s a great track. 10/10
3) Running With The Wolves - Returning to the subtlety, the title track of the Running With The Wolves EP that gave listeners the first taste of her album material, this track is deceptively quiet. It starts with the same quietness found in the verses of ‘Runaway’, but includes instrumentation of a guitar and piano instead of layered harmonies. The chorus explodes in a flash of synths, a confident drum beat, and a thousand voices singing altogether because flawlessly returning to the quiet verses. The bridge is a little strange, but still amazing with the almost possessed vocals over the driving beat. The backing vocals in the final chorus end it with a breathtaking finale. 9.5/10
4) Lucky - The first track that is exclusive to the album, ‘Lucky’ is a hard-hitter. It’s quiet, and the song is mostly Aurora’s singing over symphonic synths. It’s a song about escaping the darkness that takes over so many people. The harmonies are absolutely beautiful and compliments the minimalistic instrumental. The meaning of the song gives it so much weight, the ending has a sort of mysteriousness to it, as if saying that the full story isn’t over. But, I’m willing to wait for the rest of it to come given how wonderful this track is already. 10/10
5) Winter Bird - This song almost plays off of ‘Lucky’, in that it’s about feeling alive again with someone. The song’s instrumental makes it so huge - like a winter storm. It has the grace of a dove, the verses being very beautiful and the choruses grand. It has a certain sensuality to it that adds to it’s atmosphere. As typical with the songs on this album, the harmonies build the track into another flawless vocal performance. 10/10
6) I Went Too Far - This song is an apology. It’s also the most modern pop song on the album. It has the Aurora flair with vocal movements being a primary part of the instrumental, yet the piano intro shows shades of Adele and the choruses have swelling synths. Perhaps the most average song, as it leaves little to talk about, but amazing in the Aurora kind of way, all the same. 9/10
7) Through The Eyes Of A Child - This song is... interesting. Every listen makes you feel something different. It may be nostalgia, it may be sadness, it may be regret. There’s no one emotion you feel, there’s something new every listen. The song is one of the most simple on the album, too. It’s largely just Aurora singing over a piano that flows like a river. In her voice is a certain recollection that brings upon so much emotion that’s just unfathomably pure. The ending just swells with harmonies and emotion. It’s just a down to earth, beautiful track. It’s almost near perfection. 10/10
8) Warrior - ‘Warrior’ was the last teaser track before the album’s released. It begins with an eastern flair before a bassline and Aurora’s pure voice carry it into a soaring chorus. The verses have a particularly capturing melody. I can’t put it in words... there’s just a certain way her voice works with the eastern vibes that make it an entrancing moment. The choruses are huge with massive percussion and synths. It’s another track that has loads of appeal and would do insanely well on the airwaves. 9.5/10
9) Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) - This song is probably the most heartbreaking song you’ll hear all year. Just wait until I get to the acoustic version... The complete version still has a certain vibe to it that paints a haunting picture of its target: abusive relationships. This version lacks the intimacy of the acoustic version, but has a greater urgency. The choruses are soaring and full of noise, with a CHVRCHES-esque vocal line and an enchanting bell synth. The bridge is an explosion of emotion that just sends chills down your spine. There’s something just so intrinsically haunting about the lyrics and their delivery in this song that makes it unforgettable. 10/10
10) Home - After the explosion of ‘Murder Song’, ‘Home’ returns to the minimalism. The song builds the harmonies like that of ‘Runaway’, but it’s largely what makes up the entire song. It includes various layers of percussion and small synths, yet the song’s mainly built around the singing of a thousand layers of vocals. Luckily, Aurora’s vocals are beyond belief and we have another fantastic song. 8.5/10
11) Under The Water - Beginning with strings and Aurora’s flawless voice, this song can’t go wrong, right? Right. This is perhaps the “heaviest” song in terms of how huge it is. The chorus is best described as CHVRCHES meets industrial, huge drums accompanying you as you sink into an abyss that would leave Chelsea Wolfe breathless. The brooding chorus is tantalizingly immense, between pretty calming verses. This song oozes urgency and power, as if a force to be reckoned with. So massive. 10/10
12) Black Water Lilies - Right off of the oppressive choruses of ‘Under The Water’ comes the soothing piece, ‘Black Water Lilies’. I screams color and relaxation, like iamamiwhoami, but done better. The choruses show off Aurora’s falsetto and her voice soars high above the lower synths and piano arpeggios. This song is something you could play in a spa to ease tension - it’s so smooth and entrancing, it’s hard to not just feel cozy listening to it. 10/10
13) Half The World Away - The first of the album’s bonus tracks is a cover of Oasis’ ‘Half The World Away’. Aurora’s version places emphasis on the meaning of wanting something new but still not wanting to let go of the past through her voice. There’s just so much thought and emotion in her disposition, you wouldn’t even need the lyrics to understand the meaning. You can feel it. The song bares a full symphony (including a brass section hidden in there) that gives you the sense that you’re floating through space on a small planet with a piano, á la Muse’s ‘Explorers’. 9.5/10
14) Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Acoustic) - This version is a thousand times better than the already incredible studio version of the song. Seeing her perform it live adds a whole other dimension to it. The way she reacts to it, as if she’s fighting away the memories that have come back to attack her. The male harmonies are a welcomed surprise in this version, too, but that’s more of an afterthought. This song has the achievement of being the only one this year to make me cry. There’s something so powerful about it and in her delivery that is just so chilling, it’s indescribable. The line “I know he knows that he’s killing me for mercy”, and the crushing chorus that is probably my favorite vocal moment on the entire record, where she sings “he did it all to spare me from the awful things in life that come / And he cries and cries” ALWAYS get me. It’s just too flawless to comment on. This is the best song of 2016 to this point, and it’ll be hard to dethrone it. 10/10
15) Nature Boy (Acoustic) - This is a haunting song. The dark cello and Aurora’s disposition leave a very mysterious track. This kind of thing could be found in the soundtrack of a Lord Of The Rings film. It just has that feel to it - like you’re journeying through a thick forest towards some magic. It has something that’ll make you uneasy but entrance you all the same. A song very well performed on all ends. 10/10
16) Wisdom Cries - Björk is in the house. Aurora’s final track to offer (besides the remix at the end of the album) is dark and icily creepy. It consists of a disjointed electronic beat and a piano like that of ‘Bloom’ by Radiohead. The harmonies scream Björk. They’re dissonant but work so hauntingly. It’ll make you uneasy like ‘Nature Boy’ but in a very different way. There’s fear in this track, in its recording and its output. A chilling way to end this album’s deluxe version. 10/10
Aurora’s debut record can go down in the books as one of the strongest debuts of all time. You could put this on repeat for days and still need more. She has the most enchanting pop presence and the purest voice you’ll ever hear. So much emotion comes out in every track, it toys with you in a way. It’s perfection in music. Her career will be a gracious one, and I, for one, cannot wait for her future releases. There’s just nothing like her out there. A phenomenal debut from a phenomenal performer.
Favorite Tracks: Murder Song (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) (Acoustic), Through The Eyes Of A Child, Under The Water, Conqueror
Least Favorite Track: If I had to pick... Home