Big Stir Records is thrilled to present the solo debut album from Uppsala, Sweden’s RICHARD ÖHRN, best known as the guitarist and one of the songwriters for indie pop darlings IN DEED. The all-new SOUNDS IN ENGLISH features the teaser singles “Love And Friendship” and “Take This Bottle” and sees release on CD and streaming worldwide on November 11, with pre-order and pre-save options live at www.bigstirrecords.com and everywhere now (with a limited edition vinyl run to follow). It’s a dazzling treasure chest of retro-modern pop-rock gems. A wide variety of styles, anchored in the swirling ’60s sounds of folk rock and chamber pop, shot through with the ’80s and ’90s alt-rock drive that fuels so much of In Deed’s music and reaching beyond for something new, unique, and wonderful.
Working alone for over nine years from his home studio in the Swedish countryside, RICHARD ÖHRN has crafted a set of 12 deeply personal but completely accessible tunes and framed them with the kind of classy, sophisticated arrangements that can’t help but evoke the ’60s. RICHARD ÖHRN takes a deeper dive into that era’s sounds than the usual megapopular influences. Richard’s sonic palette evokes The Hollies, The Zombies, Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, and Swedish touchstone artists like psych-folk heroes Tages (and from later eras, ABBA and The Cardigans). Melody and harmony are front and center and the guitars are by turns delicate (acoustic finger-picking and electric 12-string abound) and searing (lead breaks range from angular postpunk to biting blues in style). Richard deftly deploys a real piano found in a thrift store and personally restored. The production sparkles and each tune comes alive and connects.
RICHARD ÖHRN signals his intent with the opening track, Seal Your Move, which rides in on a ringing electric 12-string (that’s Öhrn’s trademark Burns), close minor-key harmonies in the vintage folk-rock style. 5th Month Announcement by the eerily sweet, intricately finger-picked 5 Month Announcement, adorned with more otherworldly retro harmonies. And then the sparseness gives way to the rush of the driving Time’s Not Running Out, perhaps the record’s closest evocation of In Deed’s power pop urgency. Other highlights include the pastoral, near-baroque beauty of the uplifting introductory single Love And Friendship and a pair of radio-ready pop rockers: Someone To Forgive You, which revs up the Hollies for some cruising with the radio on, followed by the chiming, irresistible instant singalong song, “Take This Bottle.”
The utterly hummable yet scathing Take This Bottle – a literal “hold my beer and leave me alone” earworm evokes Elvis Costello, who was an inspiration for the tune. But where words are concerned, the title of SOUNDS IN ENGLISH is a throwback to Richard’s youth. “As a kid in Sweden, I remember English sounding cool, much cooler than our native language, when hearing it on television or records. So, you just made up sounds that were English-like,” he explains—citing his musician father’s collection of Beatles, Stones, Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel LPs as keystones for his affinity for sonorous or evocative language over anything literal. He continues, “It’s been said that when listening to music, meaning is not as important as the sound of the words. I agree with this in many ways, and since I’m not a native English speaker, there is the freedom to make up lyrics that are first and foremost ‘singable,’ then perhaps add some meaning or logical sense.”
That freedom nonetheless results in some striking turns of phrase, as when Öhrn sings, in double-tracked harmony, “Deny all the needs with your chewing gum ease” over the slinky groove of The Coolest Manners. And the yearning for communication felt in Love, And Friendship almost mirrors the approach: “We don’t need words to say it, but I would if I would know what those would be.” That’s to say that Richard knows what he’s singing about – the pain, joy, regret and determination to do better that comes with relationships at all stages.
Nowhere is that so clear as when SOUNDS IN ENGLISH dives into the eclectic, vibrant end run of impassioned tunes that close it out. There, Öhrn takes on several pop-adjacent genres and makes them all his own. There’s the smokily soulful, Beach-Boys-harmony-laden Every Shade with its distinctive jangle-and-slide-guitar break (equal parts Petty and Harrison.) The Tages-and-Searchers-inspired “I Chose You,” is a stately, anguished melody underpinned by hammered piano, castanets and more 12-string. It gives way to the horn-driven country shuffle Could Have Loved You More and the passionate piano ballad If I Could Read Your Mind. Even as the song’s coda fades out, SOUNDS IN ENGLISH still manages to surprise and delight the listener by crossfading into the pizzicato string-led chamber pop of the enchanting Spanish Moon.
SOUNDS IN ENGLISH is a rarity in the modern pop-rock landscape where artists rush from release to release, barely giving listeners time to breathe. It’s a personal and captivating work crafted over nearly a decade while Richard applied his talents to numerous other projects, and the time and craft are immediately apparent. It must be said that the dedication and passion invested in its making are partly why Big Stir Records – we absolutely adore the record! — have committed to finding it a wider audience than perhaps its creator envisioned. “I don’t have any further ambitions but to get the music out there, no live gigs or putting together a band… it’s a studio project,” says Richard. “I just enjoy making music so much, I can’t stop it.” We’ll hear more from Richard Öhrn with IN DEED very soon, but his solo debut is a masterpiece in its own right that deserves to take the indie rock world by storm. Don’t miss one of 2022’s most tuneful and engaging surprises: SOUNDS IN ENGLISH from RICHARD ÖHRN.
At the end of the blog and the end of the day, I listened to the album from start to finish again as I wrote this, and I can’t say enough nice things about SOUNDS IN ENGLISH from RICHARD ÖHRN. On the album cover, we can see the studio he recorded the album in, a converted garage. I guess that makes him a one-man garage band. RICHARD played and sang all the sounds in the album. I’ll leave the last words to the man himself, RICHARD ÖHRN.
“I play all the instruments myself on the record. Since I don’t consider myself much of a drummer, I had to keep those parts simple. It took a lot of practice and patience to get it good enough, but I decided that was part of the whole idea, to improve as an all-around musician. Same goes for the piano parts… sometimes I had to use different tracks to record the chords/bass notes, and the higher stuff–my hands couldn’t always coordinate. I’m primarily a guitarist, but bass was the most fun to play and figure out the parts. As for the vocals, they’re all me. You can hear me refining my lead vocals over time, fitting them to the tunes and leaning into harmonies, layering and studio tricks to get that vintage sound.”
Norman again: those guitars a lovely. I could get lost in there with all that beautiful wood.