That’s not to say there aren’t strong moments, but in an age of infinite music, it doesn’t provide much to hold on to. Unless you’re Norwegian-American–then you’ll think it’s hella cool.
Tune in to any American newscast for an hour or so and you’ll hear nothing but stories of a government that can’t seem to agree on anything, rising acts of racism and xenophobia, and a disenfranchised youth–a rather strange time to release an album about immigrating to this so-called “land of milk and honey,” but that’s exactly what Glenn Meling has done with his third album Minnesota. Hailing from Oslo and having travelled extensively across the United States, Meling tells a fictional but relevant story of a 19th century Norwegian who leaves the hardships of home to start anew in America.
“Brother Jonathan” is perhaps the most convincing of the narrative. In this mild and hypnotic song, Meling sings “I’ve got nothing left, but I’m free” in a voice both weary and full of hope. Other times there’s a barrier between Meling and the emotions with which he’s trying to empathize. On “The New Day” he sings straightforwardly “What will the future hold? What will this new life be / for people who only knew poverty?”–a valid question, but one which bears an unconvincing onlooker’s perspective. The celebratory instrumentation, however, makes up for this with its explosive horns, peppy guitar and background gospel harmonies that make any sort of grumpiness temporarily impossible.
Glenn Meling not only wrote the nine tracks on Minnesota, but he also produced them–and its clear he knows what he’s doing. The blending of the many instruments from funky guitar and bass to soulful backing chorus to sweeping synths is clean and powerful, and in the context of a mellow rock vibe and a general positivity evokes many comparisons to rockers like U2.
Ultimately, Minnesota winds up being a technically well-done and safe album. It’s an album you can put on while carpooling and no one will likely complain. That’s not to say there aren’t strong moments, but in an age of infinite music, it doesn’t provide much to hold on to. Unless you’re Norwegian-American–then you’ll think it’s hella cool.