Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Meer - Playing House CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

3.80 | 59 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Norwegian folk-symphonic chameleons from Hamar are back with their sophomore release and boy! am I excited!

1. "Picking Up the Pieces" (6:15) Pensive piano. Accenting Bass. Strings and full band. One minute in and this is sounding good! At 1:15 I find myself elated to hear the dulcet tones of one of my favorite voices in progressive rock music: the voice of enigmatic and chameleonic powerhouse Johanne Margrethe Kippersund Nesdal. As the song unfolds it begins to sound very much like FREQUENCY DR?IFT's 2011 masterpiece, Ghosts.... where the magnificent voice of Antje Auer is teamed up with Andreas Hack and company. Unfortunately, that sentiment does not wane or change over the course of the song. Good song with solid performances throughout, just not as fresh and original as I was hoping. (8.75/10)

2. "Beehive" (4:37) despite the slightly-RADIOHEAD chordal sound of the piano opening here, the BENT KNEE similarities are inescapable--in the dynamic music as well as in Johanne's Courtney Swain vocal performance. It's a great song--would be one of my favorite Bent Knee songs were it one of theirs--but this is Meer, not Bent Knee; I need for Meer to sound more like their own entity, not just an imitator (albeit, amazing imitator) of other original prog bands. The orchestral and rhythmic forms and structures and rock and vocal performances are all exceptional-- incredible--and the lyrics quite clever and engaging--but there's something lost in the sound engineering--as if the song has been too compressed and therefore lost some of its dynamic edges. But, it is without a doubt a great composition; it's just that the rendering could have been ... fuller. One thing is certainly sure: This team is one amazing set of song-constructors! (9/10)

3. "All at Sea" (5:04) a more countrified/folk sound palette precedes and supports Knut Kippersund Nesdal in his first lead vocal on this album. His voice (and it's engineered rendering) has improved quite a bit. It's quite smooth and mellifluous. Nice! The chorus employs a full-band multi-voice approach (with Knut and Johanne mixed furthest in front). It's an okay chorus melodically though the vocal performances are flawless. Beautiful strings arrangement-- especially for the brief instrumental passage before the final chorus. (8.75/10)

4. "Songs of Us" (4:31) a song that feels very much like something from the current multi-voice bands coming from the Nashville Country-Western scene (sounding like something Blake Shelton's team members would come up with on The Voice--like the show's perennial ED SHEERAN cover songs. Granted Ed is an amazing songwriter, performer, and video/screen presence, and this song is exquisitely crafted: from the blending of the rock instrumentation with orchestral passages to the amazing vocal duet between Knut and Johanne, but I want to hear more of what's coming from deep in the souls of this band's songwriters, not imitations. (9/10)

5. "Child (4:22) lone pizzicato violin supports the eventual arrival of Knut and his tender voice. As drumming hits and fleeting bass riffs enter in the second minute, Knut continues his impressive performance--for all intents and purposes, carrying the entire song with his voice. Amazing! And then comes my favorite part: the dreamy passage around the three-minute mark--which then leads into the jazz-Reggae finish with layer upon layer of vocal thread woven atmospherically in the background. (8.875/10)

6. "You Were a Drum" (3:25) Johanne Margrethe delivers another incredibly nuanced vocal performance in what feels like yet another BENT KNEE-styled song. It's amazing ! I just wish I could get past my constant tendency to compare-- as well as my aversion to imitation (even when it's done this well!). (9.5/10)

7. "Honey" (5:49) A foundation of a techno-pop synth sequence! Despite the striking similarities between Johanne Margrethe's voice and that of Bent Knee's Courtney Swain, there is a certain breathy quality/ability that Johanne has that distinguishes herself from Courtney: something approaching Fiona Apple, Sade, or Eryka Badu while really being more akin to one of iNFiNiEN's Chrissie Loftus's abilities--or Marit Elisabeth Svendsbøe. Another song that could very well have come off of a Bent Knee or iNFiNiEN album despite its more pop-oriented FUNIN-like qualities--especially in that ramped up final minute. In any regard, this is a great vocal performance. (9/10)

8. "Across the Ocean" (4:43) Knut singing over some music that is quite reminiscent of the music of countrymates STILLEHAVET (as well as Stillehavet's previous form, FUNIN). I love these songwriters' abilities to creatively arrange their music into interesting, originally-nuanced forms. (9.25/10)

9. "She Goes" (4:16) BENT KNEE meets iNFiNiEN. Who wins? MEER! Taking the best of both! (9/10)

10. "Where Do We Go from Here" (4:53) Knut's far-forward breathy vocal sounds a bit like British phenom SAMPHA. Electrified and reverbed jazz guitar playing plaintively is Knut's only support for the first two minutes of this--kind of a reminder of old LANDBERK stuff. (8.875/10)

11. "Lay It Down" (6:44) great power opening settles back to solo piano chords supporting Johanne Margrethe's sultry power vocal! Man! There are so few who can sing like this! Johanne has the talent and ability to channel the same kind of force and energy as COURTNEY SWAIN: emotion-conveying torch singing with effortless transitions into power belting! Great lyrics here, as well. Though once again the song feels familiar--and the sound a bit compressed at the upper end--this song simply must be rated up for Johanne's vocal. (9/10)

Total Time 54:39

Despite Knut's wonderful singing, compositions and arrangements, I tuned into this in high hopes of hearing more of Johanne Margrethe's amazing voice--hoping for even more of her mesmerizing voice (as well as more creative and adventurous explorations of her instrument) than I heard on their excellent debut album from 2016. Unfortunately, I feel that her time up front here is actually less than the previous album--definitely less than 50%--or perhaps its more of my disappointment in her more "in the box" performances. Again, I mean no disrespect to Knut--his vocals have actually improved quite a bit--but when you have one of those rare, "generational" talents like Kate Bush, Elizabeth Fraser, Paula Cole, Anneke Van Giersbergen, Meg Baird, Elisabeth Pawelke, Chrissie Loftus, and Courtney Swain, as I believe MEER does in Johanne Margrethe Kippersund Nesdal, you want to hear more of her. From another perspective, I must say that the compositions on this album feel slightly less intricate, less-lovingly constructed and rendered: as if the symphonic approach often used on their debut album has been abandonned for the sake of more pop-oriented power-with-a-punch approaches to delivering their music. For me, this is a step downwards and, thus, a disappointment. Though the album continues to grow on me with repeated plays, I can't help but feel as if this album is a little less exciting, less original, more controlled, "produced," and processed. A sophomore slump or simply the case of a continuing evolution of the creative preferences of a maturing band? I'm not sure. I guess it will take a third album to find out. Here's one listener/consumer who awaits with great excitement for that possibility. I still think this is one of the best bands on the planet.

A-/4.5 stars; a minor masterpiece of leading-edge progressive rock music--despite its familiar/imitative sound and feel. There is so much to love and praise here but there is still so much untapped potential! This could be the best band on the planet--but they have to continue to figure out who they are and who they want to be!

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this MEER review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.