Under the Aether by Nicolas Kröger was recorded outdoors in nature. He wanted to record in a setting that was beautiful and inspiring and I’m assuming he was hoping that was going to elevate his performance. Perhaps it did and while that could be true your recording gear isn’t going to care. Under the Aether is a demo quality album that touts extremely melancholy sad songs and really nothing else besides that.
I don’t think there is a big bigger trope in music than the sad singer/songwriter singing intimately and softly into a microphone while strumming his guitar. For better or for worse Kröger feeds this trope throughout the entirety of Under the Aether. There are eleven songs on this album and almost all of them consist of Kröger singing in a sensitive, sad yet reflective way (much like an early Conor Oberst) as if he is uncovering the truths of the universe and lightly strumming a simple chord progression or picking a serene melody. Kröger has some innate talent in this department but the fact that he doesn’t mix up the mood at all will turn off even the most die hard fans of the genre.
Listening to Under the Aether from beginning to end takes patience becomes it moves at a slow pace. The songs are pretty long with a good majority of them well above the four-minute mark.
The album start off promising with two songs “Every Bluebird's Song” and “Sugar in My Tea (ft. Lauren Close)” which out of all the melancholy songs are the two which feel a little less sad. After the title track each song is extremely somber with enough self-reflective reverence that you almost want to console Kröger.
From what I’ve heard Kröger is a decent guitar player and is a good songwriter and singer. That being said his album is in desperate need of variation. I don’t mind melancholy albums in fact I loved the recent release Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan Stevens and most of Bon Iver's releases. The thing is those albums changed it up in terms of textures, tones and sounds which made it manageable. I realize Kröger may not have the means to accomplish this at this point but it would definitely be something for him to think about.
I also think Kröger’s music would benefit from some levity. It doesn’t have to be over the top but between his soft intimate singing style that sometimes feels as if he is about to cry and the topics he chooses to sing about it wouldn’t hurt if it was used tactfully.
I’m willing to bet Kröger’s music will evolve and change as he gets a bit older. This album definitely gives you the feeling that Kröger is a young man in a college who is trying to make sense of the world around him and the feeling he has towards it. It’s not a knock and pretty much an essential stage you go through in your mid to early 20’s. With that I think this album will resonate with people around his age range.
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