There are many stories about death. One tells us that death is so beautiful that when seeing her, your soul is pulled out through your eyes. And so, you die from beauty to great to bear.
The most beautiful things in the world are always painful, terrible and sad, like the majestetic mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb.
The most beautiful music then, of course, must invariably deal with the blues and with hopelessness, doubt and desperation, without shying away. I doubt anybody does that better than Stina Nordenstam.
I believe this, for the first time, really is Stina Nordenstam. Previously, on "Memories of a Colour", she was young and eager to go in all directions at once. It was beautiful, but perhaps a tad naive. On "And She Closed Her Eyes" she had sobered up, reflecting quietly on her life, on love and death in a way that had me instantly and attentively listening for clues about the mysteries of my own life.
Next then, came the breakdown that must have preceded "Dynamite"; an album reminiscent of a struggling, caged animal clawing at the steel bars and hurting herself in the process. Undoubtedly among the most sincere and powerful albums I have ever heard, this was not what Stina Nordenstam is all about.
Wisely she took a step back, recuperated and contented herself with the recording of a number of excellent covers in a sombre mood reflecting the dark currents still occupying her thoughts. That was "People Are Strange".
Now "This Is Stina Nordenstam" (containing a sombre guest appearance by Brett Anderson of Suede) finally captures her with her sight unclouded. Conveyed in the tense, fragile manner that Stina Nordenstam masters so well, the message is as searingly painful as ever: This is as good as it gets. This misery, this brief happiness, there is really nothing more to life than this. Suddenly, before you know it, it is over and there is simply nothing you can do about it. "Maybe week in Spain could do it for you, or a fridge of cocaine could do it" she sings on "Sharon and Hope".
But she knows there is no escape from life or death. And search as I might, for a glimmer of hope, I cannot find it on this album, or in life. Just a last, desperate promise: "I'll stay with you 'til the end".
And as "Sharon and Hope" - the last and most beautiful song on the album - fades, I realize I might never hear anything like it for the rest of my life.



Click to buy this CD directly: