Never before have I reviewed an album that had been recorded in a disused school. That’s until I came across Swedish band Thisell’s debut album, I. I was recorded in a disused school during a seven day period in August 2010. For seven days, Thisell, their friends, family and even pets ate, lived, slept and recorded an album in Lur village hall. Three years later, Thisell’s debut album, I, was released by German label, JellyFant Records in October 2013. This marked the final part in a story that began three year earlier in August 2010.
That’s when Thisell, a band founded by Peter Thisell, a songwriter and musician, headed to the village of Lur, in Southern Sweden. Accompanied by their friends, family and even pets, Thisell’s destination was a disused village school. It had lain unused and unloved since the sixties, when the Swedish government closed the school. Since then, the large red wooden building, had lain empty. However, although no longer any use for educational purposes, Lur village school could be transformed into a makeshift recording studios.
With a little imagination and effort, Thisell transformed Lur village school into a recording studio. Instruments and equipment filled part of the building. That was where the album would be recorded. Peter realised that this was the perfect space to record the album. The acoustics were good. It didn’t matter what the makeshift studio looked like. No What mattered what the music Thissell recorded sounded like. Other parts of the school were turned into a living space. That’s where Thisell and their friends and family ate and slept. As for Lur, it proved an inspirational plea. That was part of Peter Thisell’s plan.
Peter liked the idea of the band and their friends and family all living side-by-side. This was how albums used to be recorded. He wanted to return to this way of making an album. Lur was part of this plan. Recording an album in Lur, one of Sweden’s best kept secrets proved a stroke of genius. Near the makeshift recording studio was a lake, where members of the band could go and swim. In the evenings, having enjoyed home cooked meals, the band relaxed. They drank, swan in the lake or played played corrone. It was relaxed and informal atmosphere. This wan’t a rigid, regimented way of making an album. As a result, the album just evolved.
Over a seven day period, the eight songs that became I, were recorded. The relaxed atmosphere meant the album was recorded quicker. The session just flowed. Recording an album in such beautiful surroundings proved a masterstroke. Gradually, the songs evolved. Like a sculptor working with clay, songs took shape in the studio. Thisell worked away, gradually perfecting the songs. They took breaks for meals, returning refreshed and added the finishing touches to the eight songs. Then once this seven day period, the eight songs that became I were finished. Everyone thought that I would be released before long.
Sadly, that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t released until October 2013, when a small German vinyl only label JellyFant Records, released I. At last, Thisell’s debut album was released. It was critically acclaimed upon its release. By October 2013, the members of Thisell were living all over Sweden. They’d not seen much of each other since that week in August 2010. That would change though.
The only time the members of Thisell had spent any time together, was when they recorded the follow up to I, which is entitled II. This is the second part in what will be a trilogy of albums from Thisell. The first part in this trilogy is I, which I’ll tell you about.
Opening I is A Town Full Of Windows, which like the other tracks, is written by Peter Thisell. Wistful, melancholy and dramatic describes the arrangement. It’s slow, veering between ethereal and moody. Keyboards combine with drums. They provide the heartbeat while a cascading piano and melancholy strings tug at your heartstrings. Peter’s vocal is heartfelt, emotive and needy. He delivers the lyrics as if he’s lived them, and survived them. Full of imagery and emotions, ethereal, melancholy and beautiful describes this dramatic opus as folk and alt country unite.
Straight away, Bad Time has an authentic country sound. It sounds as if it was recorded in Nashville, not Sweden. Guitars weep, while the wistful rhythm section provide the backdrop to Peter’s vocal. With a pedal steel, fiddle and cooing harmonies for company, Peter’s delivers a weary and troubled vocal. No wonder. He’s confused, having spent time thinking. “What if love ain’t for me” Peter sings? Quite simply, Bad Time is one of the highlights of I. Not only does it showcase Peter’s skill as a singer and songwriter, but demonstrates how talented the rest if Thisell are.
Could You has a much more, understated and ethereal sound. That’s down to the guitars, strings and tender harmonies. They produce a heartachingly beautiful sound. Then when Peter’s vocal enters, it sounds not unlike Neil Young. His vocal veers between pensive and thoughtful to impassioned and heartfelt. With the strings and tender, cooing harmonies for company, the result is a truly beautiful paean.
Crystalline guitars open Into Hidden. They’re joined by an acoustic guitars, strings and Peter’s thoughtful vocal. Before long, unleashes an emotive, soul-baring vocal. It’s a tale of infatuation, and being ensnared by beauty. What follows is a cathartic confessional. Accompanied by guitars, piano and strings a mesmeric and captivating confessional that’s best described as heartfelt and ethereal.
Lay Here is another track with a country influence. Here, Thisell remind me of Wilco or The Jayhawks. That’s how good they are. From an understated arrangement, the song’s subtleties and nuances gradually unfold. The song builds, growing in drama and emotion. With the rhythm section providing the heartbeat, strings and a weeping guitar add to the emotion of this tale of what if. Peter’s vocal is tender, wistful and needy. He spells out how he loves this woman from afar, but sadly, can’t pluck up the courage to tell her how he really feels. Proof of this is the pay off, “what if I had the guts to believe.”
Just like other tracks on I, My New Best Friends has a warm, analog sound. That’s apparent from the opening bars of this ballad. Peter accompanied by piano and accordion delivers a slow, wistful vocal. His vocal is worldweary and troubled. You can imagine the lyrics unfolding before your eyes. Accompanied by harmonies, strings and guitars, Peter plays the role of the troubled troubadour to perfection. As for the lyrics, they’re among the best on I.
Over Years, Over Time is another track with an understated arrangement. Just the piano and strings accompany Peter. This means that Peter’s vocal takes centre-stage. Sometimes, he sounds not unlike a young Paddy McAloon, of Prefab Sprout. Other times, hr reminds me of Paul Buchanan of Blue Nile. However, centre-stage is where Peter’s vocal deserves to be. He goes on to delivers some of the best and most beautiful lyrics on I. They tell the story of a relationship gone wrong. It’s as if Peter has lived, loved and survived what he’s singing about. This results in a truly heartbreakingly beautiful tale of love gone awry.
Closing I is Towards The Warmth Of Life. Ethereal harmonies cascade and guitars chime, as space is left within the arrangement. This adds to the drama. So does the shredding electric guitar and deliberate drums. They set the scene for Peter’s heartfelt, seductive vocal. He’s accompanied by an arrangement where melancholy strings, cooing harmonies, scorching guitars and hypnotic drums combine. Against this backdrop, Peter delivers a poetic, seductive paean. As he does this, the rest of Thisell fuse folk, country and indie pop. This proves the perfect track to close I, as it leaves you wanting more. Much more.
Three years after Thisell recorded the eight songs that became I, in that disused school in Lur, in Southern Sweden, their debut album was released by German label, JellyFant Records in October 2013. That was game-changer for Thisell. No longer were they one of Sweden’s best kept musical secrets. Since then, Thisell’s music has found a wider audience. No wonder. From the opening bars of A Town Of Windows right through to the closing notes of Towards The Warmth Of Life, musical genres melt into one. Everything from Alt Country, Americana, country, folk , indie pop, psychedelia and classic rock melts into one. That’s why most critics were won over by I, Thisell’s debut album. Recorded in just seven days, it took three long years before I was released. It was well worth that wait.
Thisell are a hugely talented band. They were founded by singer, songwriter and musician Peter Thisell. He wrote the eight songs on I. Peter comes across as part poet, part philosopher. Tales of love and love gone wrong fill I. Full of imagery, the songs come to life as Peter delivers the lyrics. It’s as if he’s lived and survived the songs to tell the tale. He plays the role of troubled troubadour to perfection. A born storyteller, the characters come to life. Especially with the help of the other members of Thisell. Together, the members of Thisell have recorded what I’d describe as an old school album. It has a warm, vintage sound. So much so, that it reminds me of many albums recorded during the sixties and seventies. I has that classic sound that many modern albums lack. That’s why I’m already looking forward to the followup II.
The reason for this is simple, Thisell make great music. Thisell’s music is a fusion of alt-country, folk, country, psychedelia and indie pop. They’ve drawn inspiration from everyone from Neil Young, Jayhawks, Wilco, Gram Parson, Townes Van Zandt and troubadours like Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen. Sometimes, Peter’s vocal even reminds me of Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout or Paul Buchanan of Blue Nile. Peter’s vocal has a similar worldweary, troubled sound. All these influences have played their part in one of the best debut albums I’ve heard recently.
That’s why Thisell’s debut album I is an album I can thoroughly recommend. It’s a welcome reminder that there are still groups producing music as good as this. In an age when music has become almost disposable, Thisell’s debut album I, is album to cherish. The music on I is best described as beautiful, emotive, ethereal, heartbreaking, soul-baring and cathartic. Sometimes, there’s a confessional quality to the music on I. It’s akin to eavesdropping on someone’s inner secrets. Other times, you listen as someone’s life unravels. Betrayal or love gone wrong, you’re captivated by Thisell’s ability to bring these everyday stories to life. You’re captivated by the eight songs on I, which showcases one of Sweden’s best kept secrets, Thisell. Not any more. Thisell are established a reputation as a band with a big future ahead of them. Their debut album I features eight reason why the future for Thisell looks bright. Standout Tracks: