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by James Hawkridge

Swedish superstar Léon today releases her sophomore record.

Aptly-titled ‘Apart’, the 11-track album boasts a journey of introspection, of longing gazes from afar and of hands -almost-touching across the table. It’s a strikingly bittersweet collection of some of the most isolated fragments of the artists’ life yet; and in a critical sense, it’s a home-run and then some.

‘Apart’ was written as a response to a break-up. It was initially started in the Spring of 2019, and then put on hold as Léon toured during the fall and winter, returning to it naturally earlier this year as the world was put on hold.

Opener Head And Heart On Fire sets a tone of reflection and maturity, a pendulum which swings back and forth throughout as the artist tells in later tracks of cutting her hair, and taking up smoking purely out of spite. A lighter moment, the song allows just enough maturity to fool the listener into thinking we may reach the end without shedding a tear. If this is your initial mindset too, you are very, very mistaken.

Roaring into And It Breaks My Heart, the seductively-woeful energy we’ve grown to admire from Léon is based on a dinner with an ex, and all-important digestion of a relationship that has long since turned to ashes. Written mostly within just thirty minutes, an ample example of just the power that can be conjured from the truest shattering of a heart, even long after you’ve fooled yourself into thinking that the sticky tape will hold.

A theme that reoccurs throughout is mortality, as the artist questions whether she’ll experience such joy, if fleeting, ever again, and delves into previous selves as if she were dipping a paintbrush into different inks. On Chasing A Feeling (a personal favourite and clear stand-out even for a new fan), Léon unites a harmony of synths, gritty vocals and earth-shattering drums to build up to an anthemic moment that will leave you spinning.

She recalls sobbing in L.A. when she heard a final master (‘probably hungover’), realising fully that the track was going to become the heart of the record, the axis upon which the rest of the songs would spin chaotically around. It was written in the weeks penultimate to a break-up, and rings through with a perspective of reluctance… sat there, sobbing on the stage as the curtain starts to fall, begging silently for another act you now realise is never going to come.

Uniting every moment up to now in which the artist has felt inner-doubt, or push-back from an inner saboteur, Chasing A Feeling is a stark contrast from a usually broken and vulnerable heroine, and a grounding angle from which we begin to see a woman emerge; one who is no longer afraid to face the wolf within, whom has been clawing at the cage for so long.

In Sweden, the sun sets at around 3am, and so an emotional connection is formed between it and the natives. With longer nights are brought further opportunities to live, and to lose, all of which culminate on Seventeen, one of the later tracks on the album. Sweeter than other, darker moments, the track speaks of the revelling joy that can be found in longing, and the lust that can be felt in a wish for a little more time.

On track Crazy /Stupid, Léon stumbles accidentally into Shakespeare with a reference she didn’t even know existed until a later google to check whether the phrase had already been written. Admitting it is possible to be the ‘bad guy’ sometimes, humanity is called into play yet again, turning the tables and owning up to previous fault.

It’s not news that vinyl is in resurgence, and Who You Lovin’ comes in at perfect moment for those who will enjoy the record this way; as you flip the disc, the narrative mirrors, allowing a brief breath from the relationship in question and an outer sight into a wider universe that Léon inhibits.

Die For You comes in exactly when need, reminiscent of the haunting PTSD that a lingering past relationship can bring. Mourning over lost friends, family, and routine, Leon comes full circle in her search for answers, realising that sometimes, there just aren’t any.

Title-track and closer Apart was a late-bloomer for Léon; so late, in fact, that it was written after the rest of the album, and almost didn’t make the cut. Brought to her producer for a simple listen, they both agreed it needed to find a home on the record. With vocals recorded in just ten minutes due to time-pressure from other engagements, what was initially a tight squeeze becomes an elevating, and fitting end to a fragmented story, that culminates to provide a perfect photograph of a time In the artist’s life, long after she leaves this one for the next.

Apart may conjure up thought of a love lost, or a heart that is missing, but I listen to it and I feel a little closer to the world, and a little more found.

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