Be Here Soon by iamamiwhoami | Album Review
iamamiwhoami’s latest project is the richest, milkiest dream of indie-pop.
One thing I have noticed through my navigation of various indie-pop/experimental pop fields is that Sweden knows what’s it’s doing. Artist like Robyn and Tove Lo always seem to have something fantastic and different to give to the pop sphere. Another Swedish group who’s sound is worthy of calling out is iamamiwhoami (pronounced: I am, am I, who am I). I have to give a quick shout out to one of my favorite music reaction channel’s bennshouts for turning me on to the project. I was immediately struck by the smoothness of their sound. The creamy synths, saxophones, and purity of Jonna Lee (also known by the moniker ionnalee) stratospheric soprano feels like the best parts of Weyes Blood and Lana Del Rey put together. Jonna told Clash magazine:
“‘Be Here Soon’ is a story about meeting memories with new eyes while creating the present. It’s about the complexity of becoming a mother as a working artist. About the psychological, emotional and physical changes this means, and the choice to be open with these changes through my work process of making this audiovisual in relation to myself, my collaborators and our audience. It’s also about living with OCD and reevaluating my work/process and the level of sanity of it all while struggling with motivation in the current music industry climate.”
The album opens on “Don’t Wait for Me”. We are brought into the mindset of a pregnant Jonna she tries to clear her mind of the anxieties around the life of her unborn child. There’s a calming washing layered vocals, soft synths, and earthy woodwinds to give a light to this track. The saxes flutter like light through blowing tree branches. This calming mantra of “My touch disappeared/ It doesn’t mean/ That I’m not there/ That I am not near” and “Unclouded by fear/ Widening frame/ At beck and call/ Saying my name/ Along the shore/ Into the free” all seem to reach out to say “Don’t wait for something to happen, live for now. All is well.”
“Canyon” is call to pull yourself out of the hole you have mentally put yourself into. It’s a much more earthy tone as woody acoustic guitar glide you forward. As someone whose anxiety issues, it can feel alienating. I identify well with the lines: “Had a chosen ally but i lost her understanding/ Got lost inside the magic i constructed in a nightmare/ Arms outstretched forever fumbling in the dark you hid the feeling well.” It’s a call for help for when things grow overwhelming, “Trade me nights for where the days are long/ Keep the wolves at bay til’ summers gone.” The additional vocals of Lars Winnerbäck act like a friendly voice to pull you free of these moments get bleak. “Zeven” deals with the diagnosis of OCD. Jonna stated on her social media:
“‘Zeven’ reflects the impact of being diagnosed with OCD and the price i pay for the work i do.”
The song takes a gentle approach to its sound. Much of the instrumentation is delicate blend of acoustic guitar, bass, and drums. This is only broken by spacey synth tones towards the bridge of the song. The various moments of counting seem to act like a compulsion. There is a clever bit of humor in skipping a number on the chorus, “Six, zeven, nine/ Gotta synchronise/ Control each moment in time/ High roller I/ Don’t look for signs/ Though they’re everywhere.” All this shows her avoidance to trigger a compulsion. She alludes to one of these compulsive acts in the bridge, “Six, five, four, three, two, one vision/ One now undone, did you miss me?” She displays the action of buttoning and unbuttoning a button on her coat (along with various other compulsions) in the music video.
“I Tenacious” feels like a breaking free of the bonds that these mental shackles have kept Jonna in. I hear subtle hints of Bjork in her vocal performance. The delay on the vocals and instruments makes everyhting feel rather large. The addition of the saxophone melts everything together in a cool aqueous soultion. She’s no longer hiding her issues, but allowing these struggles to be discussed and healed, “Let them see you broken/ Silent no more/ Daughter of their sorrow.” It’s the shortest track on the album, coming in a just over 3 minutes. I do love Jonna’s soaring vocals against the cool woodwinds and meditative synths. I gives a sense of strength to her vulnerable state.
“Changes” is a reference to the numerous songs and artists that have kept Jonna inspired and grounded to do what she loves. We get a much creamier meld of synths that make for a floaty sensation. The hook of “Ch-Changes” keeps the song on the mind. You can hear that in the opening verse, “Rising from the ashes/ Diamonds from coal/ In their pale blue shine you/ Seem vacantly lost/ Singing songs to the masses/ What keeps that hunger warm.” The title of the track is in it of itself a reference to the David Bowie song of the same name. There are numerous other song references, from Fleetwood Mac to Portishead to Bon Iver. I love the lush hum of the cool neon-like synths that trickle through the song. “Flying or Falling” places us in between moments of clarity and dread. I appreciate the earthen tone of percussion. You get imagery of a woodland landscape as the synths and vocals paint colors into view. Jonna describes the constant tightrope act of maintaining calm in these moments of rising anxiety, “Flying or falling/ Follow or lead/ Connected interlaced… Like icy hail storms of my childhood/ Bite my lips to warm/ ’Til they turn blue.” There is an understandable underlying anger around holding this gate closed. Even though she fights these obsessive urges they always seem to win out, “I try to soften the surface… All my obsessions and fears/ Cut through the softening surface/ Smashing the pavement with tears.” “A Thousand Years” is a beautiful piano driven slow burn. The swell of backing vocals towards the second half of the song is a beauty to hear. Jonna’s vocal cadence is very reminiscent of Sia on how she falls on some of the verses. It works wonderfully on this pensive look at how time is working against us. This look at others reactions to her, solemn and sullen, seems to display her feeling around the anxiety brought on by OCD. The chorus, “All I need is more time/ A thousand years or more/ The only thing I can’t have,” gives us an impossible task of taking all the time in the world to heal. It feels hopeless.
Keeping on the theme of anxiety, “Thunder Lightning” focuses on the many intrusive thoughts and mental strain that can come out of nowhere. This constant alert sense of being as left an anger that boils underneath, “Got to break the stillness for a while/ Need to see dеstruction to feel alive/ And when I say sorry I’m full of lies/ Got a violеnt streak i’m not ashamed.” I love the calm momentum from the drums and warmth of the sax. The more lively pace is welcomed amongst the dreamy textures of the prior tracks. “Call My Name” continues the tortured feelings of obession. The anguish this ever constant need to compulsively act to quell an obsessive thought oozes from the opening verse, “There’s no forgetting/ No remedy/ Reaching for love/ Helplessly/ There’s no forgiveness/ No indemnity/ Live with the loss.” All this blooms into the repetitive chorus of “Call my name…,” that only highlights the burden to push back these thoughts. I love interplay between the Jonna’s lead and backing vocals here. My only issue with the track is how understated it is. It feels a little underdressed compared to the other tracks. This could be a need for some more drama. We close out our struggles with our mental health on “Walking on Air”. Jonna uses this moment to gather her footing. Although never truly defeated, she’s gotten a better grip on her obsessions, “Hope is reborn and promise dies, and you demand your ending/ But who are you? You got no right, I imagine and you ride.” Even in this state of reprieve, likely from the birth of her child, the ever looming compulsions threaten to take hold, “In between the lines, I lose my control/ Walking on air.” The track is a much more acoustically driven sound with moments of sparkle from the various synth textures and vocal dances. It’s a very cohesive closure on a album.
I had not heard any prior from iamamiwhoami before this record. I love the pure soprano Jonna brings to each song. The satiny textures of synth pads, creamy saxophones, and woodland guitars make for a very soothing experience. This is much more an album to close your eyes and let wash over you. Jonna’s themes of OCD and mental health struggle weave seamlessly throughout the project. My biggest issue is the need for a little more variety in the sound throughout. I could see how the folk/indie pop sound could become a bit one note by the end of the record. There were moments where I just wanted a little more kick or shine to give the softness just a little more brightness. As is, I think the record is a great listen. I can definitely see myself returning to my favorites. I will say, if you really enjoyed Bon Iver’s self title sophomore release, you’ll love the way this record sounds. My favorites:
- “Don’t Wait For Me”
- “I Tenacious”
- “A Thousand Years”
- “Thunder Lightning”
My overall rating: 6.5 out of 10.
iamamiwhoami - don't wait for me
don't wait for me Lyrics: Don't wait for me / Willows and pines / Thrushes and fields / Won't wait for you / I am…