The Simple Life, the debut album from Norwegian singer-songwriter Evan Johansen, who bills himself as Magnet, might not be an opus, but it’s far from bad. Chock-full of contemporary folk angst and nonlinear rhythms, The Simple Life is a fairly convincing piece of pop dynamism. Think Beck minus the cleverness.“The Gospel Song” is propelled by smooth melodic grace, along with a happy little harmonica line that teases Johansen’s crooning, “With your heart in the future and your head in the past / There’s nothing in between that’s gonna last.” His arrangement skills are in full flower on “Navigator,” a track built entirely from marimba and xylophone notes.
Although Johansen’s creativity is abundantly displayed throughout, the album has some flaws, mainly too many moments of forced emotion. “Count” rises among a beautiful bed of string parts and a haunting main melody, but trite lyrics and falsetto singing bring it down to cornball, Coldplay-ish territory. Johansen’s vocals are pleasant enough and even pretty at times but can also seem a bit generic and unoriginal. All is redeemed, however, on the closing track, “Lucid,” with its wide-open sound (a la Ryan Adams’ Love Is Hell or Radiohead’s quieter tunes) and simple, sweet melody. Johansen/Magnet needs to mature as a writer, but his aptitude for arrangements and melody are definitely already there. The Simple Life is surely worth a listen, even though it’s just a small sample of Evan Johansen’s awesome potential. — Joshua Loewen
The Simple Life