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Stina Nordenstam


Country of origin:

Sweden

Type of music generally:

Ethereal jazz/folk/pop; later work has more ectronica touches and is less folky

Status:

Most recent release, The World is Saved (2005)

See also:

Wikipedia's entry on Stina Nordenstam

A Stina Nordenstam community page on Facebook

Comparisons:

Björk, Rickie Lee Jones, Alison Shaw of the Cranes, Lisa Germano, Jane Siberry, Kate Bush, Mary Margaret O'Hara

Covers/own material:

Own

General comments:

Speaks rather than sings the lyrics (in English). (Tim.Cook@Swift.Com)

I love her voice and her vocal style. If you put Björk and Rickie Lee Jones into a blender, you'd probably end up with Stina. She's not as strong and "clear" as either, and sings a bit higher than Björk with more of a little girl ethereal edge to her voice. Perhaps Alison of the Cranes should go into that blender too. It's unusual, but I like it. (vickie@enteract.com)

She's quite spooky and brilliant. She is ace. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)

How come no-one knows how brilliant Stina is? After releasing two excellent jazz/folk/pop albums worthy alone of a place in the pantheon, she then released what has to be one of the most interesting and awe-inspiring albums of the nineties in Dynamite. A totally original creative spirit. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Stina is pretty neat indeed! On the basis of the albums I have (Memories of a Color and And She Closed Her Eyes) I'd put her in the good but not heavenly league. I find her highly original and very interesting—I especially like the timbre of her voice (in album-sized doses). Quintessential Ecto fare, what my wife refers to as "another Ecto waif"! Maybe if I had Dynamite too I'd rate her even more highly. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

According to some of the recently floated definitions of goddesshood, Stina would definitely be one of mine. Dynamite was one of my favorite albums of that year, and Memories of a colour is one of my favorite albums ever. The Photographer's Wife is a brilliant little gem.
     I nearly squealed out loud when I heard "Little Star" in Romeo + Juliet; I still thought I was about the only person who'd ever heard of her.
     She's the creative offspring of Rickie Lee Jones, Thelonius Monk, Björk Gudmundsdottir, and Blossom Dearie. (lissener@wwa.com)

Stina Nordenstam is great. she probably falls into the same sort of cerebral intellectual musicianship artist category that people like Jane Siberry, Kate Bush, or Mary Margaret O'Hara falls into. but i wouldn't go so far as to compare her to them musically. she is certainly has carved out her own niche. she is quite amazing as a musician, a musical prodigy (much like Kate Bush) who has written literally hundreds of songs before putting out an album. unlike Kate Bush though, these songs aren't available via bootleg. :(
     thematically she treads the same sort of path that Lisa Germano does but not quite as emotionally raw or nerve wrecking as Lisa. her songs instead invoke complex moods and emotions, akin to a multilayered painting or watercolor, in which the longer you look at the piece, the more you can read into them. certain songs are quite composed, and the instrumental parts of the songs could easily fit into a musical score for a movie. albeit a dark movie about black-clad europeans who wander aimless about as their meaningless life unravels due to some strange coincidences of misfortunes. you know the kind of movie that would be hugely successful in europe, but would only show for a week at the local art house movie theater. :)
     Stina got a little exposure here in the US, because her song "Little Star"was featured in the movie William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (the soundtrack that basically also launched another Scandinavian group's career here in the US as well, The Cardigans). if you own that CD, you already have a little taste of her voice (which is pretty unique) and musical style (which is also quite unique). (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Let me recommend Stina Nordenstam. She's a Swede (singing in English) and has kinda childlike voice (i guess you either love or hate it), sort of half-sung half-whispered—for me it took for a while before i really got into it, but now i love it. You might have heard "Little Star" from the and she closed her eyes album which got a bit airplay on the Finnish radio stations. (tv56157@uta.fi)

Recommended first album:

Her first album Memories of a colour is probably her most accessible. each album after that (And She Closed Her Eyes and Dynamite) get progressively more disturbing, though they are quite excellent. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Recordings:


Memories of a colour

Release info:

1993—EastWest/Warner—4509-90767-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam—vocals, grand piano, keyboards

Guest artists:

Mats Persson, Magnus Persson, André Ferarri, Rafael Sida—percussion
Christin Veltman, Christian Spering, Backa Hans Eriksson—bass
Max Schultz, Ulf Janson—guitar
Henrik Janson—guitar, keyboards
Anders Persson, Johan Ekelund—keyboards
Johan Hörlén, David Wilczewski—saxophone
Lasse Andersson—guitars, cither
Per Hammarström, Ronnie Sjökvist—violin
Anna Harju—viola
Kerstin Isaksson, Katarina Wassenius—cello
Staffan Svensson—trumpet
Johan Ahlin, Jan Lejonclou—french horn

Produced by:

Johan Ekelund and Stina Nordenstam

Comments:

I'm trying to think of how to describe the music. It's slow, slightly jazzy (I doubt you'd find it in the Jazz section, or hear it on a Jazz program though) and features (varies from song to song) the instruments: saxophone, violins, pianos (electronic & grand—Stina plays the grand), cellos, trumpet (one song), french horn (one song), cither, guitars & percussion (much of it drum machine, but it's not overbearing). It definitely isn't New Age, Jazz or Pop, so I don't know where she'd be listed. Some of it reminds me of the soundtrack to the film Trouble In Mind. I guess the best way to describe it is to say that, if you like her voice, this is a wonderful album to listen to late at night when you're in a laid-back, kick-up-your-feet, want-something-slow-but-don't-want-to-be-put-to-sleep mood. There are no major changes in the music, it's all pretty slow, so some might find it boring, but I don't. It's a one-of-those-moods album.
     It can be listened to and enjoyed without getting into the lyrics, but there are quite a few interesting ones if you decide to delve. They range from non-cliché love & break-up songs, to a devastating song about a badly burned girl (it's not graphic, the lyrics are very subtle "If I were you Chrissie I'd rather not take this to stay alive, no I would rather die" :-( It's a beautiful song, but so sad).
     I like it a lot. (vickie@enteract.com)

her first album, and the only one that was released here in the U.S. is Memories of a colour and it is the most digestible, and the most beautiful. i would certainly recommend it, especially for the song "Soon After Christmas", which is quite achingly gorgeous. it may be hard to find (i am not sure if it is out of print or not here in the U.S.) but look under Nordenstam as well as Stina (as original pressings of the CD had her name as just Stina). probably the best one to start out with.
     Memories of a colour is quite beautiful, and there are songs on it that would certainly appeal to most ectophiles. beautiful sad and intelligent are probably the best descriptive words of the album.(iflin@speakeasy.net)


And She Closed Her Eyes

Release info:

1994—EastWest (Sweden)

Availability:

UK, Europe

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam—keyboards, piano, guitars, percussion, vocals, additional vocals

Guest artists:

Sara Hammarström—flute on 2 tracks
Jon Hassell—trumpet on 2 tracks
Martin Green—saxophone on 2 tracks
Johan Hörlén—saxophone on 2 tracks
Jocke Milder—saxophone on 1 track
Fleshquartet—strings on 1 track
Johan Norberg—guitars on 6 tracks
Jonas Arlert—guitars on 3 tracks
Popsicle—guitar & bass on 2 tracks, additional vocals on 3 tracks
Lars Danielsson—bass on 3 tracks
Sten Forsman—bass on 1 track
Simon Nordell, Karl Ljungberg, Joakin Slättergren—additional vocals on 3 tracks
Christer Linder—additional vocals on 1 track
Ken Gillström—additional vocals on 1 track
Erik Holmberg—keyboards, guitars, drums, percussion

Produced by:

Erik Holmberg and Stina Nordenstam

Comments:

Stina has a vocal style that must be second only to Victoria Williams in the "it takes some getting used to" category for some people. The songs here (sung in English) are simple acute observations of life and for me she uses her rather odd-sounding voice to great effect. (nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

:) That I can sort of agree with you on, though I usually make it through 3 1/2 songs before her voice sets my teeth on edge and I just have to turn it off.... (meth@smoe.org)

And She Closed Her Eyes was a bit of a transitional album from her first album and Dynamite. it has some of the same themes as Dynamite, but is much more jazz and folk-flavored (Stina originally was trained as a jazz musician) and not nearly as dark in mood.
     i am relistening to And She Closed Her Eyes. it has been awhile since i listened to Stina and i have to say that on its own this album is pretty good, but in comparison to the other two CDs i have, it is a very transitional CD i think. tinges of folk and jazz, but mostly just kinda haunting songs in general. i think i would actually place her as a second cousin to Lisa Germano maybe. i dunno. she's certainly a hard one to describe. but the CD is better than i remember it to be. i think i just was comparing it to the other two i have too much and not letting it stand on its own. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

And She Closed Her Eyes is nice (occasionally sublime, even), but probably an acquired taste I think. (ectophil@netlink.co.nz)

I got interested in this singer when someone here mentioned her, and I really liked her name. Well, I like the music too. There's something very whispery, almost child-like at times about the way she sings, and it's sort of not-singing too. Mostly gentle. Quiet, mellow. I like the jazz touches. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Dynamite

Release info:

1996—EastWest (Sweden)—06301 5605-2

Availability:

UK, Europe

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam—guitar, electric bass, vocals

Guest artists:

Jonas Sjöblom—drums, percussion, flute
Thomas Tjärnqvist, Anders Lövgren, Johan Dereborn—electric bass
Per Johansson—acc. clarinet
Bengt Söderberg—hi hat
Jonas Nyström—string arrangement
Elemie Genzel—flute
Jesper Harrsson—oboe
Johan Soderlund—clarinet
Morten Östergaard—bassoon
Henrick Nilsson—horn
Frederik Burstedt—1st violin
Martin Stensson—2nd violin
Jacob Ruthberg—fiolva, violin
Magnus Ekeborn—wide cello
Anna Wallgren—cello

Produced by:

Stina Nordenstam

Comments:

If you're unaware, Dynamite is a complete change of style for Stina. It's a dark industrial soundscape made out of scratchy guitars, blistering drums and swirling strings. The lyrics are depressing but fantastic. Definitely the best album of her career to date, although it takes some time getting used to. (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Dynamite is a marked departure from her earlier works, very creepy and claustrophobic. i wouldn't use the word Goth as a description, but certainly certain songs approach and evoked that sensibility. one of the strongest songs on the album is "This Time, John" which has the lyrics: "one of us will hit you / the others hold you down / we'll mark you, mud and soil you / we'll throw you in to drown...". (iflin@speakeasy.net)


The Photographer's Wife

Stina Nordenstam & Anton Fier

Release info:

1996—EastWest (Sweden)

Availability:

Hard to find

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Stina fans

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam, Anton Fier

Comments:

A brilliant little gem. (lissener@wwa.com)

People Are Strange

Release info:

1998—EastWest—3984-24506-2

Availability:

UK, Europe

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of Stina's work

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam—vocals, guitars, piano

Guest artists:

Robin Key—additional guitars, bass
John Tonk—drums, programming
Ian Caple—keyboards, programming
Magnus Lindgren—flute
Elnar Öhman, Magnus Petterson—french horn
Lotta Myrlund—cor anglais
Berit Mattson—violin
Monika Carlén—viola
Tommy Svanström—cello

Produced by:

Ian Caple and Stina Nordenstam

Comments:

I'd like to add another album of 1998 to my list of great 1998 albums. Stina Nordenstam's cover album People Are Strange is a brilliant, brilliant album which everybody here should buy before it most likely disappears.
     The problem with most cover albums, in my opinion, is that the artist tries to do homage to the song's original nature, but in their own nature, which means the actual song is a diluted composition of both artist's strengths and weaknesses. Stina however, like Tori Amos, feels no commitment to the original product and, again like Tori, keeps pushing for the emotionally harrowing core of the song in any way she knows how. Partly because her vocals and music are so distinctive, and partly because she completely deconstructs all of these songs, this can be regarded as a wholly new Stina album.
     Anyone who has Dynamite will have a good idea of what to expect from this album, but there are many surprises. Where Dynamite was quite focused musically (ingredients: one scratchy guitar, one moaning bass, one lumbering drum track, a handful of muffled percussion loops, one string quartet, three grams of oboe and a pinch of keyboards), People Are Strange takes the same sense of fear and enervation and applies it to a variety of different musical landscapes.
     The first song, "Sailing" (made famous by Rod Stewart) is a harshly recorded, simple, blocky piano number whose uncomfortable dissonance is only alleviated by splashes of strings and woodwind. "Purple Rain" (Prince) is almost slowburning trip-hop, Stina singing softly over slow programmed beats which sounds as if they're disintegrating. "Swallow Strings" is an instrumental break of shimmering, whooping violins. The title track is just a spare, reflective guitar strum (sort of like Cat Power), but with unsettling harmonies which make it closer to the original intention of the song than even The Doors could create. "Lonesome Road" takes this further, using a whooshing drum loop, a buzzing bass and some disturbing brass apparently taken from a western movie.
     Even the songs that are reminiscent of Dynamite show further growth and diversity, so while "I Dream Of Jeannie" (actually an English folk song) is musically and vocally similar to the title track from the last album, it also rocks more concisely and deliberately than anything Stina's done before. The one new song, "Come To Me", hovers in on the verge of a dream in a similar way to "This Time, John", but is even more harrowingly quiet, consisting of recorded traffic, keyboard washes played backwards (weird) and what sounds like an Indian snake-charmer's flute. It doesn't have a tune really, but that's not the point.
     My two favourites at the moment though, are the two Leonard Cohen covers, "Bird On A Wire" and "I Came So Far For Beauty." The first is solemn and ghostly (including, of course, actual birds), with Stina's multi-tracked vocals dominating to the point where it sounds more like the dark songs from Memories Of A Colour than anything from the last two albums. At the end Stina suddenly breaks into circular harmonies which remind me of the circus for some unknown reason. The second starts off quite straightforwardly, Stina simply singing over a single guitar line, but soon builds up urgently until it explodes, with driving guitars and wailing keyboards. It is probably the harshest thing Stina's done, but it's also very beautiful.
     Anyone who likes Stina's work should not hesitate in snapping it up. It's such an unlikely project that I can't see it remaining in production for long. Oh, another reason to get it is the wonderful design of the cd case (red) and booklet, which contains stylised photographs of Stina which are as always utterly disturbing, and a short explanation of each song which usually has nothing to do with the song itself. For example, for "I Came So Far For Beauty" she writes: "It was your birthday and you asked if I was a lesbian and although we were all drunk, the English were being very English and looked away, I said "let's go out and fight". They kept asking you about it. How straightforward we are." (afinney@ozonline.com.au)

Stina Nordenstam also sings "Like A Swallow" on her covers album—People are Strange. It's interesting—though I still have sort of a love/hate relationship with her. I much prefer Jane Siberry's version. (jjhanson@att.net)

this is completely covers (well i think there may be one original) that have been absolutely reworked, to the point, where you can barely tell what the original was. it pretty much was an exercise or experiment on taking songs that other people had written and stretching them to their breaking point, stripping them to the innate core, and then rebuilding them. i found her cover of Prince's "Purple Rain" quite haunting. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

People are Strange includes covers of songs such as "Sailing", "Purple Rain" and "Bird on a wire"—a total of 11 songs which all are great, hardly recognizable if you compare them to originals. (tv56157@uta.fi)


This is Stina Nordenstam

Release info:

2001—independente (U.K.)—099750 411827

Availability:

UK and Europe

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam—vocals, guitar, keyboards

Guest artists:

Brett Anderson—vocals on 2 tracks
Val McCallum—guitar
Davey Faragher—bass
Pete Thomas—drums
Mitchell Froom—keyboards

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom, Tchad Blake, Stina Nordenstam

Comments:

I quite liked her last album. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

The new album is brief, barely half an hour but sweet. The duet with Brett from suede is cool and "Lori Glory" sounds like an outtake from Low by Bowie. Otherwise Stina is the same as ever maybe poppier. (stjarnell@yahoo.com)


The World Is Saved

Release info:

2005—V2 Records—63881-27261-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Stina Nordenstam—vocals, guitars, keyboards

Guest artists:

Magnus Carlson—backing vocals (3, 6)
Goran Kajfes—trumpet
Björn Eriksson—French horn
Per Johansson a.k.a. Texas—saxophone, clarinet
Per Johansson a.k.a. Ruskträsk—flute
Jakob Ruthberg—violin, viola
Isabel Blommé—cello
Jesper Nordenström—piano, organ
Mattias Torell—guitars, mandolin, bass
Johan Berthling—bass, acoustic bass
Magnus Örström—drums
Jonas Sjöblom—vibraphone, drums, percussion
John Eriksson—vibraphone, marimba, funeral drum

Produced by:

Stina Nordenstam

Comments:

"Gorgeously mournful," a reviewer wrote, and that seems almost exactly right. This is a seductive set of songs, dark, but not in a brooding way, more in a late-night way. Stina's delicate, shivering vocals and the instrumentation (little bits of electronics, horn and string accents, and jazz touches) make it sometimes haunting and always compelling. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Thanks to Tim Cook and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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