Many artists need at least a couple releases to find their footing, but some knock it out of the park with their first album. A smaller number don’t just have celebrated debuts, they have even-more-celebrated opening tracks to those debuts. Think Violent Femmes, with ‘Blister in the Sun’ on their self-titled album, or ‘Just Like Honey’ from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy. These aren’t the only great songs those artists recorded, but they hook you in such a way, it casts something of a shadow over their subsequent works.

You could play those two songs back and forth five times in a row, and it still wouldn’t match the length of the opening/title track of Hans-Peter Lindstrøm’s full-length debut, Where You Go, I Go Too. Though Lindstrøm had cut his teeth with compilations such as It’s A Feedelity Affair and collaborations with fellow Norwegian Prins Thomas, he now had the chance to show just what he was capable of. As a song, ‘Where You Go…’ feels years in the making, a 2008 space disco odyssey that makes full use of its near-30-minute runtime. It’s such an impressive work that the only arguable flaw with the album is that there are two other songs.

Since then Lindstrøm hasn’t reached the heights of ‘Where You Go…’ since that album’s release, in neither quality nor length. Six Cups of Rebel was chaotically busy and scatter-brained, in a way that was strangely admirable at times, but not in a way that encouraged revisiting. That same year, he released Smalhans, which was a definitive step-up. However, there were still pockets of dullness that made one long for tracks with lengths well into the double digits, so Lindstrøm could really show off his skills.

His latest, It’s Alright Between Us As It Is, turns out to be Lindstrøm’s best solo effort since his debut. The only thing it shares in common with that album is a long title, albeit one that flows much less well. It’s fitting, though, as it’s a title that reads almost stream-of-consciousness, and it’s an album that feels that way as well. It works as a corrective to Six Cups of Rebel, which seemed to mistake disorganization for fun. It’s Alright… is much more organized and also much more fun, though it also possesses some darker shades, which balance surprisingly well with the beaming and trilling synths.

Early on, Lindstrøm keeps himself in check and is able to set the tone for the album: jubilant but jaded (or, jaded but jubilant). ‘Spire’, the first proper track, has booming bass drum, agitated snares, and synth moans like wall clouds before a tornado. With chirpier synths and beautiful, swirling compositions, the track becomes celebratory but not gratingly so. It also splits off into a darker dimension at its conclusion and makes use of occasional handclaps that legitimately sound foreboding. Fittingly, the next track and album highpoint is titled ‘Tensions’. With its simple, repeating melody, it sounds like an electronic interpretation of compulsive behaviors while uneasy, as though Lindstrøm is pacifying himself on his own sounds. Some of the synths even sound like vocal exercises wrung from a nervous habit.

Scattered throughout this nine-track album (seven tracks if you don’t count the brief intro title track and the ‘Versatile Dreams’ interlude which is strong and long enough to be seen as more than just a bridge from side A to side B), are three vocal tracks. On ‘But It Isn’t’ synths fall into your ears like hail. With Frida Sundemo’s tender vocals singing “Rock me, slowly into sleep/ promise me to keep me safe from thunder,” and “Forgive me, save me,” in the chorus, it becomes a full-on dreamy ballad. So dreamy, it ends sounding like Sundemo is being tucked into bed by the glowing synths. Lindstrøm is also able to successfully integrate his space disco in the background. The production and pleading vocals from Grace Hall on ‘Shinin’ (“Ain’t nobody feels your soul like I do”) feel more than a little indebted to Kosheen’s first album, Resist. Then, on penultimate track, ‘Bungl (Like A Ghost)’, Jenny Hval reaffirms her status as a spoken-word MVP with a narrative about “black metal bulging behind blue eyes,” while also lilting into falsetto and back again. “This is my inscription/ This is my handwriting,” goes the refrain. The heavy drum machines and synth loops keep up even while some reflective piano enters the mix. Though it suffers from being longer than necessary, ‘Bungl’ is the best vocal track here as far as potential for a full-length effort between Lindstrøm and his collaborator goes.

One of the strongest qualities of ‘Where You Go…’ that It’s Alright… also possesses is the sense of exploration. Lindstrøm’s best works are enjoyable because he makes the journey as important as the destination. ‘Drift’ feels like a journey; its windswept synth landscapes and percussion that feels deliberately imperfect give it a poignant, earthbound quality, as though Lindstrøm is realizing we’re more or less tied to the rules of gravity. In terms of a voyage, it’s less of a shuttle launch and more of a moody dusk drive, but those can be just as spellbinding. It would serve as a better track for wrapping things up than actual closer, ‘Under Trees’. There, the stabbing piano chords are too prominent in the first half of its nine-minutes to work well with the cool minimalism of its drums. It does recover nicely, though, with some jazz piano, icy synths, and richly intimidating bass drum, before winding down to a logical conclusion.

”Logical” sums up It’s Alright Between Us As It Is as a whole, but that’s not meant to be a dismissal. There’s a balance to be struck between playing it safe and playing it smart, and Lindstrøm leans more towards the latter. If he occasionally veers the wrong way, he recovers handsomely. Even if it’s not as mesmerizing as his peak, he can still be captivating. He doesn’t need to mount colossal single-track epics to impress. He just needs to demonstrate how much his attention to detail adds up to wondrous works, one layer at a time.