By Helen Horn-Mitchem
Leaving on a Mayday, the third release by Swedish singer/songwriter Anna Ternheim, is overall a pretty melancholy affair but it still manages to pull the listener in with opening track “What Have I Done,” a song that combines ethereal vocals and memorable lyrics with music that holds an almost playful sense of importance. But rather than sticking with this ear-catching combination, Ternheim immediately moves on to far more raw, straight-forward songs.
As is the case with most female singer/songwriters, self-analysis and natural vocals take center stage for much of the rest of the disc. This stripped-down, melody-lite approach leaves the album structured around a strong core of primal emotion that’s been wrapped up in the traditional topics of heartbreak, love and loss. At times such a singular focus can be annoying, leaving the otherwise skillfully crafted release seemingly too narrow in focus, but the album manages to find its footing around its midpoint and Ternheim spends the latter half of the disc churning out track after track of soothing, autumnal, deceptively simple music. And unlike many albums which simply fade away into a balladic-morass after a strong center, Mayday goes out on its strongest track, the semi-narrative “Black Sunday Afternoon” on which Ternheim manages to be calming, creepy and depressing all at once.