Richard Öhrn – Sounds In English LP
The lush pop goodness of Richard Öhrn is about to drop and you should be ready to snatch it up in your preferred format in just two days! Known for his guitar and songwriting in the band In Deed, Öhrn steps out on his own here with a stunning collection of pop, Sounds In English (Out November 11th), which contains Love And Friendship (heard here). The results are a dozen tracks of uncompromisingly good music that make you think that in spite of the quality of the music that In Deed produced, perhaps Öhrn should have been doing a solo act from the very beginning. That’s probably unfair to In Deed, however, as he’s been working on this music for nearly a decade out of his home studio in the Swedish countryside. The attention to detail in each of these tracks is amazing! In addition, everything here is done by Richard, writing, arranging, and recording, all of the instruments and all of the harmonies. He is credited with the photos and artwork as well. This is truly a “solo” project.
Öhrn says that the name of the LP is a nod to both the way English words sound, as opposed to his native Swedish, and also relates to the English bands that he honors through the music he creates. While the sound here is polished, Richard notes that he isn’t a drummer or a pianist, so he had to keep those parts simple and, in some cases, use multiple tracks to capture the instrument sounds the way he wanted them. He also laments his struggle with mixing, calling it a fun process that he isn’t skilled at, BUT everything sounds well-balanced and mixed here from Vodka’s perspective.
So what about the music? As noted, everything here sounds polished and well-produced. Melody and harmony are king and queen in importance here, and the musical texture is so very good! Lyrically, many of the themes throughout are pretty familiar territory. They deal with the “struggle that comes with relationships” mostly because inspiration usually comes from these troubles and hardships.
Seal Your Move leads off the LP. Öhrn describes it this way:
“The title is actually a phrase used when playing chess, when the next move is sealed in an envelope to be opened the next day when returning to the game and the clock starts. In the context of this song, it has a similar meaning, to urge someone to think over a decision a little more. Yes, it’s a breakup song, and in the end she’s gone, but it all happened so quickly, I still have the flu she gave me.”
He admits that this song ends up unintentionally very Hollies-esque. The sound of the flute here is a sampled mellotron and gives the song a very retro feel.
5th Month Announcement is a song of wonder. It relates to the birth of Öhrn’s son. Neither his mother nor Öhrn figured out that there was a pregnancy going on until the 5th month:
“We were not aware
How you grew
Somewhere in there
Four months to prepare
Facing a new kind of care”
Musically, the song feels like an homage to the miracle, with guitars lightly picked that build a bit from the beginning, with Richard’s light vocal and harmony adding to the magic.
A nod to the music of the Posies, Times Not Running Out is a mid-tempo rocker. It’s another breakup song, but you feel good after listening to this one! This is followed up with the plodding, jazzy, Beatles influenced, The Coolest Manners. Richard describes the track this way:
“The lyrics are intentionally odd, but they circle around someone’s “too cool” behavior… good in some situations, but if you take it too far you’ll end up lonely.”
If you’ve ever regretted something you’ve done, then Someone To Forgive You is the song for you. It’s about gaining some comfort from your mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions. Musically this track has a very retro feel.
Love And Friendship is where we started (above). This is a joyous song about coming back together after a time apart. It’s a delightfully singable track and the one that Öhrn chose as the first single from the LP, partly because of its positivity. It has a playful feel, with a simple piano melody that intros and then moves to the background, popping again to the front when the lyrics subside:
“For any good reason here is
A vow to stay around
For all the love and friendship
The treasure we have found
We don’t need words to say it
I would if I would know
what those would be”
Sings Richard in the last verse. There’s no need for words, we don’t need to say them, because they are felt and commonly understood.
Take This Bottle is a true blender of musical influences, from Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen. For some reason, the sound of this track is one of Vodka’s favorites here. Lyrically, it’s about getting clear of someone who is failing to fully communicate, by talking but not listening. It’s a relationship-gone-wrong song for sure, but I love the sound!
Every Shade is stripped down musically and vocally. Not much layering going on here. It ends up with the feel of a very personal, confessional song. I Chose You starts out positive but spirals down when the relationship ends bitterly. Somehow the melody here uses a juxtaposition of instruments that plays a slightly discordant harmonic against the melody throughout, giving you just a hint of what’s to come. It’s a pretty clever compositional trick. When a relationship sours there can be a lot of unanswerable questions such as “what did I do wrong?” When you find yourself on the outside looking in, but not really knowing how you got there, that’s where Could Have Loved You More takes you. Somehow this line made me smile, particularly with the fun little melody that goes along with it:
“I wonder what keeps telling me
I could have loved you more
Something made you sick of me
How could I be so sure?
Could have loved you more”
The vocal on If I Could Read Your Mind is raw and deliberately over-mixed, as is the guitar here. This distortion makes the whole song feel more immediate. Pain is pain, no matter how you slice it. While Öhrn mostly hides his pain in the fun melodies on the other tracks, in this one, distortion lays bare the feelings beneath. No interpretation is necessary! Spanish Moon was originally conceived as an instrumental-only track. Playing around with the melody, Richard finally put together lyrics to go with it. The result is not nearly as sweet as the melody. The lyrics here are all about jealousy, discomfort, and pain.
Throughout these twelve magnificent tracks, Richard Öhrn proves that out of adversity and pain, comes inspiration. It may take nearly a decade to put it all together, but if you are determined enough, the end result will be great. A musician friend of mine used to write some truly great music. The lyrics were often sad or written from a position of pain. After ending her bad relationship and marrying again, she became enormously happy. She tried to write new music again with her husband, another musician, and found that she just wasn’t inspired. Happiness, it seems, is bad for creativity! From start to finish here, Richard Öhrn proves that this is mostly the case. These tracks are masterpieces all by themselves, but as a collection, they all work. Each one revels in inspiration from the likes of Tom Petty, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Elvis Costello, and more. They are all individually very modern, yet very retro too. The marriage of new sounds with the old is perfect here.
Mixing and production values are on par with some of the very best recordings in Vodka’s opinion. Öhrn deserves high marks for understanding the sonic boundaries that need to exist between the words and the music and the balance that needs to be maintained in order to produce a high-fidelity record without pushing everything to the top of the recording spectrum.
There’s not a ton of information out there for Richard Öhrn – no website and few socials. The best source of information is the Big Stir label page for the artist. You can do a pre-order of the LP there as well. He also has a Facebook page. From a background information perspective, the Big Stir page is the best resource, but considering this artist’s years of creativity, there is no really good biography that chronicles his life and musical projects. That’s a minor negative in Vodka’s view, but only in the context of marketing and information. It should play no part in your decision-making when it comes to purchasing this LP. Your chances to hear Richard Öhrn in action certainly don’t end with this wonderful collection. In Deed released Everest this year and is poised for more recording projects in 2023.
When music can be made with the attention to detail that Richard Öhrn has put into Sounds In English, and the results turn out like this masterpiece, there should be no doubt that this LP deserves a prominent place in your music library. As stated earlier, it’s not just the writing and music, but the mixing and production values that really set this album apart. While it certainly pays tribute to artists from the past, Sounds In English comes off as sounding fresh and modern too. It’s a big win for music fans! All you have to do is buy it!