There’s a song on Björk’s 2001 album Vespertine called “Aurora” — it’s a typically wonderful, Björky creation about disintegrating into happiness. On it, the Icelandic songstress’ pristine voice effortlessly blends with delicate string arpeggios and the crunchy sounds of winter boots trekking in snow. When that tune was released, a fellow Nordic songwriter named Aurora Aksnes was just about four years old, but on her stunning debut album, All My Demons Greeting Me as a Friend, the now-19-year-old channels a similar magical vibe as the art-pop superstar.
Aksnes has a voice that is crisp and full-bodied — it doesn’t waft so much as soar — and on Demons, she delivers delicate production (cool electronic atmosphere; looped chorales) that accents it. On “Through the Eyes of a Child,” Aksnes effortlessly exhales in a way that her breath becomes part of the melody and on one of the album’s most compelling moments, the haunting ballad “Under The Water,” she harmonizes with herself as she romanticizes drowning. “Hearts will dream again/Lungs will breathe in Wash away the sin/It’s where it begins,” she muses. The effect is mesmerizing — as lyrics unravel, stories don’t so much fall out as inhale the listener, sweeping them into the wild tornado of her imagination.
Lyrically, Aksnes frequently meditates on death. “Water” is directly followed by “Black Water Lillies,” another rumination about drowning, and tracks brim with glowing images of wolves, evil captors, and the alluring call of a winter bird. While the storytelling has a child-like air, she comes off as preternaturally wise. But Demon‘s most intriguing aspect, of course, is that it’s merely Aksnes’ first act. “Take me home, home where I belong,” she begs on the album’s lush opener “Runaway.” If it’s alright with her, we’d rather her stay out here.