Sometimes an artist plops into your musical sphere fully formed. In February of last year we here at the 405 wrote of a Norwegian singer songwriter that sounded '"'ike Andrew Bird, dancing with Sigur Ros whilst shaking hands with Sufjan Stevens." I assumed that this would be yet another indie folky follower and never really sought out his material. That string of momentous comparisons just seemed too insurmountable, but rest assured Chiaroscuro, the debut album from Einar Stray certainly lives up to, and surpasses in some cases, these aforementioned artists.

Stray is perhaps most ideologically similar to the aforementioned Sigur Ros. He deals in volume swells, in dramatic arrangements, in grandeur. Debut efforts so ambitious can often come off as bloated, or rambling, but Chiaroscuro doesn't feel that way at any moment. Certainly the tracks can get a bit lengthy, this is essentially a post rock album after all, but this set of songs has vision. Stray takes these long tracks and dramatic sensibilities of a Sigur Ros or a Godspeed You! Black Emperor and gives them structure. Even the nearly ten minute instrumental album closer 'Teppet Faller' doesn't feel masturbatory, its orchestral swells build and climax at just the right moment (subverting that familiar Los Campesinos! indictment of post rock).

The title track, though relatively similar to 'Teppet Faller', is most definitely the standout for me. From the moment this track was released, I knew there was something special about it. I left it on repeat blaring throughout my house for the better part of two hours, allowing its piano chords to fill up the rooms. It was a blissful morning and a perfect soundtrack, and yet after all those constant repeats it still seems to get better with each passing listen. The vocals in this song are most striking upon. With this sort of music, we're used to the silky pretty voices of Jonsi and Sufjan, but here Stray subverts our expectations. His voice stays mostly in the lower register, with a female vocalist taking over the higher parts. It's used to such great effect over the string section. It's just downright beautiful.

While some may argue that this album isn't blazing new paths or that it's just trudging along in the familiar boring tradition of post rock, Stray does what he does really well. Every song is outstanding in its own right. 'We Were The Core Seeds' is about as catchy as an eight minute song can get, 'Yr Heart Isn't A Heartâ' is sentimental in all the right places, 'Arrows' and 'Beast' are both astounding as well. My only gripe may be that this album isn't a bit longer. While it is 45 minutes, it blows by in a haze of violins and cymbal rushes.

At the tender age of twenty, Einar Stray has produced an outstanding piece of art and it fits right up there with any of the canonical post rock albums. If he's putting out stuff so brilliant now, it's hard to imagine how mind blowing his music will be ten years from now.

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