James Mellen
James Mellen

Bristol-based writer, specialising in musings on the world of music and fashion.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Label: The Nordic Mellow

Norwegian singer-songwriter extraordinaire Siv Jakobsen has returned with her fifth studio effort to date, ‘Gardening’. This time around, Jakobsen expands on her folk aesthetics further, refining and carving the sound, reinventing herself once again. 

‘Gardening’ is a record bathed in intricate acoustic guitar passages, a perfect match with Jakobsen’s ethereal vocals. Her soft croon and massive range is smoother than ever throughout this project, bolstered by spine-tingling harmony passages. ‘Most Of The Time’ is a prime example of this, a compelling dose of Jakobsen’s signature brand of folk. Driven by plucky guitars and a good helping of organic and textural background percussion and layers, the track winds around itself, delivering cinematic imagery as stunning as the music itself. The title track boasts percussive and expansive choruses, placed between the delicate verses. Closer ‘The Bay’ is concise and short, leaving no loose ends. It is a juxtaposition to the polish and sheen of the tracks prior to this one. This time around, Jakobsen delivers her talents in a more low-fidelity capacity, with slightly rawer vocals and natural, foley atmospheres. It slowly delves into an ambient passage, a brief but welcomed one. 

The track, and album, title is very fitting, serving as a spoiler; throughout the album there are constant organic textures, foley percussive elements, sounds of nature, topped with Jakobsen’s glistening songwriting. It elevates the project further into vividity, becoming continually cathartic as the record ambles along. Like on the opening track ‘Small’, Jakobsen makes haste of wearing her emotions on her sleeve with the lines “Pulled along by an invisible string, tied around my throat and gnawing at my skin, now I can’t even sing anymore, I’ve closed the door, you win”. ‘Gardening’ tackles relationships head on, with no romanticising but pure reflection on destructive, unhealthy or difficult relationships. It is a refreshing take on the classic, often worn-out theme of love and heartbreak. The transparency within Jakobsen’s lyricism is admirable, giving the listener the most vulnerable and open version of herself yet. 

Siv Jakobsen has redefined herself on ‘Gardening’ and set a new benchmark for modern folk records. The production throughout is goosebump-inducing, and Jakobsen’s vocals are fuelled with emotion and reality, masked discreetly by her graceful and elegant delivery and tonality. It’s early in the year to truly say, but it’ll take a lot to beat ‘Gardening’ as one of the best singer-songwriter and folk records of 2023.