Hajk’s self-titled album is a bit like a nesting doll -- on the surface, it’s happy and smiling, but the deeper you dig the more layers you’ll find. A strong, attention-grabbing debut from the five-piece Oslo-based band, Hajk immediately wraps you up in warm, intertwining male/female vocals, bright guitar riffs and positive piano melodies -- but the indie pop packs a surprising, underlying punch, touching on themes of heartbreak, nostalgia, and the reluctance of letting go of broken relationships.
The newcomers, helmed by Sigrid Aase and Preben Andersen (of Listening Hour alums, Death by Unga Bunga) have cited influences ranging from Dirty Projectors, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Father John Misty since they caught abuzz after landing their first show at Norway’s biggest music festival, Øyafestivalen, in 2016. They’ve charmed audiences across the globe with their intimate vocals and dynamic textures ever since -- landing attention from Vice’s “Noisey” and actress Chloe Grace Moretz, among others.
“Andersen has compared “Magazine” to ‘a simple painting that becomes something else when you are standing really close to it’, and this is true for the rest of the record. None of the tracks require much input to enjoy, but when honed in on, a mesh of pleasing textures and dynamics arise.”
While the group is fully capable of laying the sunny, cozy vibes on thick, the lyrical narrative throughout the album is not always a walk in the park. Kicking off with the breezy riffs and the shuffling beat of album single, “Magazine,” listeners are transported into the inner monologue of someone struggling with a frustrating relationship, as Aase croons “You’re the one I want / But you’re not what I need.” This feeling of uncertainty continues in lyrics of songs like “Common Sense” and “Nothing Left to Say,” wrapped up in wobbly synth lines, funky bass and driving rhythms that are as bouncy and positive as the meaning behind it are vulnerable and pained.
Though it would seem easy with all the uncertainty and disconnect to feel down and frustrated, the band deftly steers away from letting listeners sink into despair, instead steeping their instrumentation deeper in infectiously bright indie dream pop. As Line of Best Fit noted: “Andersen has compared “Magazine” to ‘a simple painting that becomes something else when you are standing really close to it’, and this is true for the rest of the record. None of the tracks require much input to enjoy, but when honed in on, a mesh of pleasing textures and dynamics arise.” Whether you’re hoping to connect your own feelings to the relationships described in the album, or looking for some beachy indie pop to bob your head to, Hajk has you covered.
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From the first hazy opening notes of “Magazine,” the song wraps listeners in the musical equivalent of a bear hug, complete with a steady, shuffling beat, reflective and relaxed female vocals and gentle waves of electric guitar. The lyrics hold the band’s signature melancholy underside, exploring feelings of frustration and distrust in a relationship, saying “I’m stuck in a bad dream, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to believe.” Yet, the group doesn’t leave you to linger in darkness for long, instead allowing the bouncy instrumentation and intimate vocals of the song let the sun shine through, leaving listeners in calm reflection.