Swedish singer-songwriter, rambler and travelling tattoo artist, H.B. Nielsen, follows up 2020’s debut album “Grand Opening” with his new EP, “It’s Today Again” which is out today. It’s a delicious slice of Scandinavian-infused indie folk Americana and a great addition to the phenomenal ‘Nordicana’ scene that includes the likes of First Aid Kit, The Tallest Man on Earth and Daniel Norgren.
H.B. Nielsen’s story is the tale of a modern vagabond, a wanderer who takes joy in the wandering and writes about his experiences as he moves from place to place, living and learning, loving and leaving. Henric Beckenäs (that’s the H.B.) Nielsen moved from Sweden to New York to play college hockey as a teenager but after a week in the States he picked up a guitar instead of a hockey stick.
Nielsen started writing songs for fun while he was studying poetry, fiction writing and playing college hockey and then his writing and music took a back seat as he picked up a tattoo machine and pursued a tattooing career that took him around the US, Sweden, the world, and eventually back to New York, couch surfing and song writing as he went. Those songs formed the bones of his debut album “Grand Opening”, released in 2020.
This EP – “It’s Today Again” – ploughs more of the same indie folk Nordicana furrow to deliver a lovely, melodic collection of songs with flashes of indie rock styling to give a much fuller sound; the production on this EP is really deft and manages to navigate the line between gentle folk and more urgent rock to perfection.
The singles “Can’t Seem to Recall”, “Heavy Bloom” and “Tomorrow Off Your Back” have already been released. “Heavy Bloom” is the EP opener and is a perfect indie folk number with a plentiful lashing of indie, reverb guitar to round out the sound. Nielsen’s vocals are a delight. They have a very slight rasp to them which gives them a lovely tone, a warmness and welcoming feel.
The songs here are about trying to be present but thinking about the future and longing for other things. Nielsen says:
I wrote Heavy Bloom late fall of ’19, In a way, the song was a way of processing the feeling of heading into winter while already longing for spring. Going into the darker, shorter days, but aching for the lightness of birds singing, nature turning green again, and falling in love.
“Tomorrow Off Your Back” starts with picked noted on an electric guitar and is joined by classic folk harmonica sounds but less classic guitar layers – less classic maybe but really easy on the ear. Musically, it’s easy to draw comparisons with countrymen Daniel Norgren and folk-giant The Tallest Man On Earth but Nielsen is no copyist and brings his own experiences and textures to bear on this collection of tunes.
“Can’t Seem to Recall” has a lovely, muted drumming pattern which is then covered with splashes of interesting guitar tones. There is some delicious slide guitar on this tune and another delightful melody. Around the 3 minute mark, the song bursts into a guitar solo which shimmers and shines and you don’t want it to end. EP closer – “It’s Today Again” – is a gentle number with acoustic picking but with the addition of some gorgeous brass to add a warmness that belies the more doubtful lyrics “I can’t tell if we’re barely hanging on. I can’t tell if the best is yet to come”.
The EP gives voice to doubt, and the “what now” feeling of getting what you wanted, only to find out it wasn’t like you had imagined. “It’s today again” has become a bit of a mantra, serving as a reminder to stay present.
Nielsen’s experiences on the road definitely influence the sounds on this EP which are much more than the standard fayre. If you boat is floated by warm, welcoming vocals and the sound of folk and Americana with an indie rock vibe then you will love what H.B. Nielsen has produced here.