REVIEW – SOHO SUITE
What happens when love grows up?
Popular music and the commercial airwaves are inundated with descriptions of love, delivered by teens and tweens barely out of short pants and schoolyard crushes. But what happens when you cycle through high school sweethearts, college steadies, post college one-night stands, living together, breaking up, moving out, moving on, marriage, divorce… suddenly the taut pop-tart’s description of sexy, obsessive attachment seems less relevant. Suddenly love can feel like more of a burden than a blessing, with the fight or flight impulse tilting towards taking off and cutting your losses. Cynicism creeps in, and it starts to make more sense to give up rather than take a risk.
Anders Holst understands that love matures, but he also understands that to simply give up on the idea is tantamount to a spiritual death. Holst has been around for a while; he had a successful career as a strategic management consultant and a prestigious gig at the Ross Institute and could have simply committed himself to his day job and played music in his living room. But he took the risk and recorded an EP, Five, which led to a full length, Romantika, which included nine original tracks and a brilliant cover of Billy Joel’s “All About Soul.”
Now firmly established as a musician and balladeer, on this album, he pays homage to Michael McDonald, as well as singing his own original compositions. Tracks like “Almost Forgotten” exhort listeners to keep the past in mind as they move forward, while “Love Surrender” speaks to being done with jumping from relationship to relationship and desiring commitment and stability. It’s a collection of tracks that, as cliché as it sounds, will make listeners believe again. It’s one thing to hear that love is awesome from a moppet-haired adolescent; it’s quite another to hear it from a grown man who has been around the block.
"Songs come to me when I least expect it; crossing a busy street; traveling on a train or taking a shower,” says Holst of his writing process. “A song comes to me in the form of a ‘download’: a melody line and some fragmented words attached to it; a hint of what the songs may be about. As the melodic line is developed into a musical structure of a song, the music and the scattered phrase that go along with it set the general mood and ambiance of the song. It’s like having two pages torn out of a movie script; something has happened and/or will happen and you are right there, right in that moment, and you have to tell the whole story in less than four minutes.”
In addition to having an emotionally mature take on the nature of relationships, Holst has an equally advanced take on music. You won’t find auto-tuned vocals or pounding beats here – Holst’s adult contemporary music glides along and goes down easy. It’s no surprise that he was nominated for a 2010 American Smooth Jazz Award in the International Male Vocalist category, alongside luminaries like Seal and Michael Bublé.
It’s not inconceivable that Holst could become an equally massive star with this album. The moment is right – classy chanteuse Adele tops the charts repeatedly while some pop stars sink from the number one spot after only a week. Josh Groban continues to sell albums and pack arenas, and the adult audience has finally spoken – they want their own music, which speaks to their own experiences. And Holst can be the one to give it to them.
Cortney Harding, Music Editor at Billboard Magazine
REVIEW OF ROMANTIKA BY BILLBOARD MAGAZINE
Anders Holst is a regal contender to become the new crowned prince of contemporary romantic music. The original compositions across “Romantika” glide with the ease and beauty of a springtime drive through the countryside. Utilizing the gloss of majestic grand piano, breezy horns, sweet sax and whispering strings, Holst accompanies with a vocal style that sweeps the listener along, even as he offers a frank lyrical portrait of decidedly grown-up themes: love gone wrong, resulting sorrow and isolation—along with hints of resolve and redemption.
Ironically, while his life was always surrounded by music, the Swedish-born Holst was unknowingly destined to become a career singer and songwriter. With a background in strategic management consulting, he eventually moved to the United States as co-chairman of the Ross Institute, which fostered international dialogue about teaching, healthcare and the environment.
But melodies pervaded his soul. Writing his first song at age 11 and performing for friends and family, in 2005 and by then living in New York, Holst released smooth jazz-infused debut EP “Five,” recorded in Sweden and Los Angeles. Among the highlights: “Until the End of Time,” which features tenor sax player Gerald Albright and guitarist Paul Jackson Jr.
“Romantika” ushers in a new chapter for the superlative singer, songwriter and producer, conjuring a varied palette of performers, including Alan Parsons, Seal, Sting and Chicago. The album was recorded in Stockholm and produced and arranged by Alar Suurna, Jerker Eklund, Mats Byström and Holst.
Highlights on the collection include the reflective “Two Sides,” exploring the idea that it first takes pain to journey into healing; jaunty “A Lonelier Laughter,” looking back on love that “We almost got right”; and the regretful, melancholy “Tainted Shots,” in which Holst sings, “Why didn’t we talk things over? Why didn’t we speak the words of truth/So many miles ahead, We will never walk.” He also serves up a cool, jazzy take on Billy Joel’s 1993 hit “All About Soul,” colored with sensual saxophone.
“Romantika” closes with the beautiful “Lovers in the Dark,” a confessional treatise on the downturn of his ultimate love, with the poetic observation, “Autumn came around/Leaves on the ground/Follow them down?”
Among artists appealing to adult sensibilities—and likewise, adult sensitivity—Anders Holst understands that loss and hurting are as much a universal experience as the vulnerability that we must surrender in the eternal quest to share love and give into vulnerability. Through that, his themes across “Romantika” ultimately offer us all hope.
Chuck Taylor, Senior Correspondent Billboard Magazine