Melodicism is the foundation of Ann Brita Nilsson’s sound, and in the new EP Eleven Something, she reminds listeners why it’s important to put more stock in simplicity than it ever is in complicated compositions. From the sweet “The Shelter of Thieves” to the inelegant pleas of “Real Life,” every track in Eleven Something stands as a testament to natural skill, not synthesized harmonies and plasticized hooks. Nilsson plays like an elite here, but more importantly, she sounds like an artist who lives the story of her songwriting rather than simply projecting a concept she wishes was her own.
The lyrics contained in songs like “Are You Really Gone” and “Real Life” don’t just touch on intimate subject matter; they’re thoughtful in a sense of being relatable and personal at the same time. We’re never made to feel like we’re listening to a fantasy; Nilsson’s recollections are clear and quite insular in spots, but never to the extent of sounding removed from the audience. Her protagonist in “The Shelter of Thieves” could just as easily be one of us as it is her, which isn’t something I’ve been hearing in the ever-constricted poetry of the alternative singer/songwriter movement in the 2020s.
Nilsson isn’t alone in generating a lot of magic in this mix; tracks like the title cut feature chemistry with her backing band which is all too uncommon among her peers right now. There’s nothing disjointed about the harmonies here, nor any pseudo-experimental links between otherwise conflictive aesthetical tent poles in Eleven Something – this is what cohesive pop songcraft is supposed to look and sound like, and I highly doubt many critics would disagree. she might not have been trying to accomplish as much, but this player reshapes her identity in this EP to the point of making her detractors seem very unfamiliar with who she is.
Eleven Something was mixed as to feel a little chaotic in spots, particularly the transition between tracks like “Eleven Something” and “The Shelter of Thieves,” but this only serves to play into Nilsson’s greater goal here. There’s a big picture to consider in these five songs, and it’s illustrated within the differences we hear from one track to the next as much as it is the lyrical commonalities binding every shorthand yarn with the one beside it. That’s progressive composing, sans the filler and theatrics normally associated with the term.
If this is just a sneak preview of what Ann Brita Nilsson’s upcoming output is going to sound like, my gut tells me her name will be turning up in the headlines a lot more often as the years ahead unfold. She’s the perfectly complete singer/songwriter in this piece, blending elements of rock, folk, indie pop, and a touch of progressive conceptualism to make every stitch of audio she presents feel righteous and heartfelt, and when placed side by side with her rivals on the mainstream side of the dial, I think it’s undeniable that she has the edge on her challengers right now.