Sophia Blenda

Die Neue Heiterkeit

PIAS • 2022

Good times for art, or rather chamber pop: Lucrecia Dalt, Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden and Marina Herlop have recently shown that the balance between acoustic or classical instrumentation, unconventional song structures, lyrical ambition and, last but not least, catchiness is possible again and even offers a lot of potential for the future. Sophia Blenda’s debut album also formulates the implicit motto of these attempts in the refrain of the opener: »Weiter und weiter / Wir geh’n voran« (»Onwards and onwards / We’re going forward«). The artist’s real name is Sophie Löw and on these nine tracks she picks up where her band CULK left off: tense dynamics are enriched with discursive yet personal lyrics with occasional English-language parts. The musical palette, however, is different, although Löw pursues a comparable strategy of overwhelmingness. But here strings, piano and subdued electronic beats serve as a soundbed instead of post-punk-inspired rock music that moves forward in up-and-down patterns. Between disappearing whispers and expansive choruses, this gives Löw more opportunities to prove herself as a singer and to stage her lyrics a bit more forcefully, but just as invitingly. »Die Neue Heiterkeit« (»The New Serenity«) may be a misleading title, since as with CULK, sexist power relations and how they are being expressed through language, the male gaze and, in fact, the entire system continue to play a decisive role. But where on her band’s albums she mainly takes the analytical position, in pieces like »Schwester« (»Sister«) she hints at utopian perspectives. »Manchmal bedeutet Zukunft / Die neue Rückgewandtheit« (»Sometimes the future means / The new backwardness«), she sings on the closing title track. »Die Neue Heiterkeit« is an album that draws new strength from former breaches of convention, not only musically.