Siri Byrkjedal is a Danish artist who goes by the musical name Siri Birk. Ways of Being is her second album, and became a collaborative project when Byrkjedal lost her studio time during Covid and had to record in her bedroom. Musicians in London, Paris, Oslo and Copenhagen all contributed remotely.
Besides singing and playing guitar, Byrkjedal is also a writer, painter, arranger and composer. She began her musical project four years ago, when she felt called to “use her music to create spaces for intimacy, vulnerability and honesty.” She states that Ways of Being is “a celebration of life’s journey through highs and lows, fuck- ups and flows, pain and love. The album is a poetic collection of stories, field recordings and soulful songs.”
“Homesick” introduces us to Byrkjedal’s sweet voice and gentle acoustic guitar picking, with varied background vocals, bass, cello and percussion slowly creeping in and embracing the song. For a song that was put together in sections and over long distances, the sound quality and mix are exceptional.
“Liza” starts at the beginning where “Homesick” eventually got to in the middle with the same easy beat, lovely vocals and spare percussion. There seem to be violins as well, which adds a classical touch. Byrjhedal’s voice has a similar quality to Joni Mitchell with maybe some of the rough edges sanded down. Love the whimsical imagery here: “With a summer dress on / Chewing a strawberry chewing gum / Running barefoot in the sun.” This song in particular was quite easy to float away to.
“Andy” starts out with a similar structure to Elliott Smith’s “Not Quite Right” before morphing into a mellow jazz lament. There’s a great moment or two where Byrkjedal’s vocals are matched perfectly by an accordion. Lots of playful moments from the other contributors within this song, who will burst into the song without warning and have fun playing around with the melodies. I previously mentioned Joni Mitchell’s influence on Byrkjedal’s vocals, but this song winds up sounding a lot like Mitchell from her jazz phase.
“From Earth To Hand” starts in an experimental vein, where it sounds like the wind is causing the string section to resonate. Byrkjedal’s folky vocal is quite intimate and direct with a hint of Sandy Denny. The arrangement for the strings has a classical complexity, and the mix features them prominently while still feeling expansive and airy, as if this song were recorded in a huge, open cave. “Doing” feels especially intimate with the acoustic guitar alternating between a major and minor chord and the vocals built up into an expansive, all-embracing choir; a true thing of beauty and an album highlight.
“I Needed A Hand, You Gave Me a Sigh” (great title!) is a field-recorded demo with Byrkjedal playing and singing “in the wild” complete with bird chirps. The intimacy of the recording matches the vulnerability of the heartbroken subject matter.
“We Got Lost” concludes with a classic yearning folk song that Byrkjedal begins solo, then ornaments with tasteful harmonies. “Thank you for the dance,” she sings at the end, “it was a lovely dance.” And indeed it was! This was such a lovely album that I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything it has to offer. Check it out!
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