Tomorrow, In a Year

I was initially excited to find out that The Knife had released another album. Then I was kind of dismayed to see that it was an opera. But I still wanted to hear it anyway.

Tomorrow, In a Year is an opera based on Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species“. It is a collaboration between The Knife with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock.

The album features guest appearances by mezzo-soprano Kristina Wahlin Momme, Danish actress Lærke Winther Andersen (credited on the album as Laerke Winther) and Swedish pop artist Jonathan Johansson.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Here are some things I jotted down while listening to this for the first time.
CD 1:

  1. Intro
    Sort of makes me want to pee. Sounds David Lynch-esque.
  2. Epochs
    Kind of uncomfortable; meh.
  3. Geology
    Monotonous. I don’t know if opera is [The Knife’s] best genre.
  4. Upheaved
    Like this track from about the midpoint onward.
  5. Minerals
    I like this one better than the first few, which I suppose isn’t saying much. From what I can make out, someone is singing about rocks (unsurprising given the track’s title). I wish I could understand and/or appreciate opera singing a little more.
  6. Ebb Tide Explorer
    Synth: good. Vocals: bland, but sometimes sounds vaguely like Ben Gibbard and/or Chino Moreno.
  7. * Variation of Birds
    I like this a bit better.
  8. Letter to Henslow
    The idea of a bird composing this song as a letter amuses me. However this track comes just shy of establishing the solid rhythm I really wanted to hear.
  9. Schoal Swarm Orchestra
    Too ambient, too long for me.

CD 2:

  1. Annie’s Box
    Very refreshing to hear some singing again after the last track. The strings are quite pleasing.
  2. Tumult
    I like the last 10 seconds or so of this track, which really only serve as a lead-in to the next track.
  3. * Colouring of Pigeons
    Finally something I can really get into. This track is is by far my favorite. It’s so rhythmically fulfilling. And perhaps most importantly it features Karin Dreijer Andersson singing, which I had eagerly anticipated. Beautiful.

    Also I thought the backing strings sound a little like some of the guitar in Pink Floyd’s “Echoes“, which only makes it better.

  4. * Seeds
    I came to like the latter half of the track more than the first. Somewhat infectious throughout.
  5. Tomorrow in a Year
    The title track doesn’t really deliver. I found it scattered and much too busy.
  6. * The Height of Summer
    Doesn’t this sound like “Heartbeats” just a little bit? Anyway, it’s tasty.
  7. * Annie’s Box (alt. vocal)
    I might like this a little better than the original. (Seems to be more conventional vocals, as opposed to opera-style.)

(Asterisks denote what I thought were the better tracks.)

I really wish I could see the opera itself. I watched the few clips of it that are available online and I got the feeling that there’s a little more going on than the music. I don’t really see how it relates to “On the Origin of Species”, but then again I think I’m missing something having only heard it and not seen it.

According to its write-up on The Knife’s site, “Richard Dawkins’s gene trees have formed the basis of some of the musical composition”. Interesting tidbit, I guess. Can’t say I could really tell. Clearly the music undergoes a lot of subtle development over time, but I think this comparison might be a little stretched.

The album was almost entirely ornithological in theme. I recently have been watching a lot of David Attenborough documentaries on birds, so I was delighted to discover this. Apparently Olof Dreijer (half of The Knife) actually went to the Amazon rainforest to study bird calls. And of course the album’s cover art is pretty obviously bird-inspired.

To generalize, I think most of the early parts of this album were too elementally raw. I realize that may have been the point for an opera about evolution, but as I said, I don’t think I fully appreciated this without seeing it as well. Still, it has its high points.

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