The second album from Swedish songwriter Sara Forslund may have been three years in the making but musically it picks up from her debut Water Became Wild. Bringing together sparse arrangements and natural sounds, as well as co-production from John Wood (Nico, Nick Drake, Pink Floyd) Summer Is Like A Swallow is folk noir perfect for dark days and long nights.
Opening with the soft turn of waves beneath a gently picked guitar line the soft-vocal drifts through the nature imagery on ‘River of Dreams’. A familiar poetic lyrical style builds the sense of space, the vast landscapes of Forslund’s surroundings and the caverns of emotion we hold inside.
It is this dream-like way of exploring the intimate, of reflecting introspection in the expanse of the environment which was so well done on the debut, and here is rendered with growing confidence and curiosity around how to shape sound. The mix of electronic and more traditional instrumentation, as well as the tiny but present descriptors of her kitchen table recording set up (rain against window here, a creaking chair there) add a warmth to an album with many cool tones and nod to an artist embracing a DIY aesthetic by choice as much as need.
Title track ‘Summer is Like a Swallow’ remains gauzy and with a lyrical wistfulness, a reserved melancholy for the time passing. As imagery seagulls may not immediately spring to mind as birds of grace and freedom (perhaps – like most things – the domestic type is more uncouth than its continental counterpart) but in ’Seagull’, as the melody soars, there’s a rare but powerful romanticism conjured.
‘Hard’ is the highlight of the album – a more rounded sound and conviction strengthening the vocal. Here the rhythmic call of birds becomes part of the rhythm, and the magic and mystery found in nature and that which is created through music is bound tighter again. ‘Gone’ brings with it the feel of Both Sides Now Joni Mitchell while closer ‘Toad’ is a seven minute opus of overlapping melody; soft picking and lullaby refrains, gentle harmonies and again those nature sounds woven into the song and reflecting the lyrics.
Wearing its vulnerabilities openly and with a stark, unflinching honesty lyrically and a sparse take on folk in its sound Summer Is Like A Swallow repeats the themes and sounds of predecessor Water Became Wild, and like that record is an understated (and likely underrated) triumph for Forslund.
With echoes of Joni Mitchell, Vashti Bunyan and Marissa Nadler, this is an album you can sink into, cosseted by the intricacies and soft layers, as you become comfortable with your uncomfortable parts.
Find out more about Sara Forslund on her website now.