Saturday, December 26, 2015

Friðrik Ómar-Outside The Ring (2012)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 26, 2015

My Christmas has come and gone, but there's still a few more gifts under the tree I've just unwrapped.....or waiting to be unwrapped altogether. One of those includes a special treat I'd gifted to myself: "Outside The Ring", the second English solo album by Icelandic pop singer Friðrik Ómar. The iconic face and voice of the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest held in Serbia was a recommendation to me about a couple of years ago, and that recommendation turned into an instant catch the moment my ears and eyes were treated to a live performance of Friðrik's heavenly dance hit, "Heaven Is Higher". With that, I'd crossed into new cultural horizons and gotten a rare taste of Icelandic pop music—well, halfway, anyways, as I've yet to hear any of his Icelandic language albums. But I can at least say that I've gotten more than just my feet wet with a singer of Icelandic nationality. Three times just this afternoon was the running count of the number of replays of "Heaven Is Higher", which I'd quickly recalled had been so catchy and appealing to me not just because of Friðrik's amazing voice, but the song's 80's-sounding synthesized dance beat, a production element which, in fact, is a predominant theme here on this album. The opening cut, "Outside The Ring", reinforces that notion with its thumping 80's-inspired rock beat backing the twinkly melody and his calming, lofty voice—a rather dreamy song that makes be think about Limahl's "The NeverEnding Story" somewhat. "Stronger" is a warming, positive song of self-confidence and self-triumph that kept growing on me the longer I listened until it too got the triple replay treatment from me! Again, it was that signature 80's synthpop arrangement, especially in the main chorus, which here reminds me of the production to the main chorus of Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero" from that memorable "Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome" movie. And yes, Friðrik's vocals are indeed very strong here as well. One of those songs with a pleasant melody that you can't help but hum along to both during and long after the song is over. Definitely 80's inspired are the mellow cut, "I Can't Rely On Luck" (I found the tender words in the songwriting here to be very thoughtful and imaginative), plus the dancey feel-gooder "Ready For Love" (that digitized beat is what sells the song here!) and the peppy song of love and confidence that is "Carry Me". Not-so-80's-sounding, but still tantalizing my senses with its cool production, is the fun, bouncy cut "You Caused The Fire"; it's always fun times tuning in to these that have the exotic, atmospheric musical arrangements, not to mention great backup vocals (the echoing 'ohhhhh-ohhhhhh-eh-oh-oh' makes the song feel almost spiritual at times). A shining moment on this album for sure is the touching "Set Me Free", where the Icelandic pop star demonstrates just how strong those vocals of his truly are with only a subtle beat and an elegant piano serving as his instrumental companions. My purpose for this particular feature is for Friðrik to be known to the world as more than just a Eurovision singer.....and I believe I've accomplished exactly that:

1. Outside The Ring
2. Stronger
3. Heaven Is Higher
4. Illusions
5. I Can't Rely On Luck
6. Ready For Luck
7. You Caused The Fire
8. I Want To Tell The World
9. Set Me Free
10. Carry Me

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