Are you into gut-churning, heart on your sleeve, full-throated “fuck you” howls of emotion and confusion? Is your personal tactic for confronting the darker side of life to throw on ball-bustlingly loud music until you’ve either reached catharsis or a new nadir? Well boy oh boy do I have an album for you: Norway’s top indie-pop export Marie Ulven, AKA girl in red, and her fantastic debut If I Could Make It Go Quiet.
Ulven has by now firmly established her rock ‘n’ roll and indie cool credentials: two self-produced EPs and a bunch of killer singles, including ‘We Fell In Love In October’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend’, have made her the leading voice in empathetic, all-welcoming devotion and despair. Her reputation as a forthright and frank songwriter has gained her enough hype and admiration to last a lifetime, even if she’s only in her early 20s. Now, Ulven has her first official studio album to collect all of that into a cohesive artist statement.
Opener ‘Serotonin’ doesn’t exactly ease you into the proceedings as much as it launches you straight into them. If you’re not down to take in quasi-dubstep electronic beats and indie rock guitar with stark deeply personal observations like “I get intrusive thoughts/Like cutting my hands off/Like jumping in front of a bus”, then If I Could Make It Go Quiet probably isn’t the album you should be listening to right now. But if it speaks to you at that moment, then a whole world opens itself up.
That’s not to say the album can’t be hilarious. ‘Did You Come?’, yes that “come”, is an interrogation in the form of a comedy roast, with lines like “I’m not upset/I’m fucking pissed/I spelled it out/You’re illiterate” taking a song about cheating and drowning out the sorrow by putting this hapless idiot on full blast. Self-reflection does eventually bubble up at the song’s conclusion, but the best parts are when Ulven is in full verbal flamethrower mode, which in my mind’s eye comes equipped with two middle fingers and a righteous snarl.
Other tracks like ‘hornylovesickmess’ and ‘You Stupid Bitch’ are comically unsubtle in the best possible way, almost as if they’re playing off of Ulven’s established lyrical persona by leaning hard into the “ripped straight from the pages of my journal” image and taking it to its logic, and lurid, conclusion.
The momentum doesn’t quite sustain itself through all of If I Could Make It Go Quiet, which occasionally meanders even at a brisk 33-minute runtime. Still, Ulven’s singular voice never loses any of its potency, and those feelings of being lost or circling the drain carry through to make a thematically concrete record that doesn’t drop the ball on any of its songs. By the time we reach the melancholic instrumental closer ‘It Would Feel Like This’, the pervasive aura is the same kind that you feel after screaming at the top of your lungs: a stillness, or a strange feeling of content amid the chaos.
At its worst, perhaps If I Could Make It Go Quiet can make you feel like you’re lonely, or depressed, or stupid, or angry. But it’s much more likely to remind you that there are times when you feel lonely, or depressed, or stupid, or angry, and that these are not unique feelings that you have to struggle with on your own. Maybe you can’t articulate those feelings quite as ornately as you wish you could, but you know when someone else is articulating those same feelings and can celebrate, or commiserate, together.
If I Could Make It Go Quiet is a companion piece, with Girl In Red saying the words that you wish you could say, just in a more compact, blunt, funnier, and oftentimes smoother manner. It cries when you cry, and soars when you soar. Sometimes you won’t feel on the same wavelength, but its there waiting to come back to, like an old friend. It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t try to be, it just says what it has to say and lets you project onto it. Maybe you’ll add to the story, or maybe you’ll just let it wash over you. Either way, it’s a genuinely affecting work.