You wouldn’t quite expect it from singer-songwriters hailing from coastal Denmark, but the Aalborg-centric Danophone take the greatest pride in developing wistfully lugubrious soundscapes reminiscent of the modern folk and blues that has acted as the backbone of American workingman music for centuries. In fact, they are almost as far removed from the soaring, heavy metal-edged rock and roll that the country has largely become known for in the modern Dane musical atmosphere, with bands like Volbeat and King Diamond soaring to avenues of international recognition.
Rather than go for the shock and awe that these bands go for, the members of Danophone—multi-instrumentalists Carsten Nielsen (vocals, guitars, bass, keys, and sax), Bertil Bile (drums, cajon, and percussion), and Tino Pedersen (backing vox, guitars, and bass)—would instead prefer their gutpunch to be that much more subdued. They want it to be something that comes from the heart, more along the roots rock of such legacy acts as Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne on their pop-laden numbers and the brooding blues of Josh White on their more acoustic outings.
For an area of Europe more known for its sunny disposition in the world among all else, Danophone’s music chooses to juxtapose itself well beside its place of origin by daring to embrace the flaws of humanity. Singing of distance both literal and metaphysical on the opening track, “Frightened For”, Nielsen pulls no punches in delivering an emotionally evocative lyric right out of the gate. Although more rollicking tracks are present and present the band’s more electric, party-friendly side (such is the case with “Copenhagen Club”), the opener promptly sets the scene good and well for the overall melancholic tone of the rest of the album.
It’s not all just a call back to dad rock and blues that make the band’s first record, Rerun, one to pay your attention towards, however. There is some genuinely enticing musicality present on the work, as well, aside from Nielsen’s compelling vocals or ability to deliver a well-written lyric. The instrumentation present on the titular track, for instance, between Bile’s syncopated cajon and some atmospheric guitar picking makes for an almost hip-hop-centered backbeat. The aforementioned “Frightened For” opens with a memorable guitar flourish, and “Written in the Sand” plays with a bass line and guitar solo that feels very close to being a full-on callback to the era of smooth, interpretive jazz.
All in all, if Danophone’s debut record is anything to go by, these rich and varied folksters should have quite the number of years ahead together as a band to remember.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm