Oh Land’s third album, Wish Bone, is a study of contrasts. It pairs the diverse musical sensibilities of sparse instrumentation with lush surging vocals, and compares the fleeting physicality of man with eternal dreaming. In these contrasts Nanna Oland Fabricius, the musician behind Oh Land, finds a sense of peaceful discovery.
“In a literal way, the wish bone is one that you find in a chicken and I did consider the old adage that if you catch the long side of the bone, instead of the short that you get to make a wish,” Nanna explains. “I thought it was a fun contrast to wishes, which are in your head, and bones which are something very physical and a part of our all of our structure. In the end we are all just bones and meat, and we will all turn into dust, but our wishes, souls, thoughts and dreams and all of that just continue to float around. This album is about that kind of juxtaposition.
While touring extensively on 2011’s self-titled album, a collection of opulent, dream-like numbers, Nanna found herself looking to create something more minimalistic. She began working on new music in 2012, inspired by the idea of paring the music down to a sparser structure. The first track she wrote was “Renaissance Girls” after watching a group of young boys performing on the subway. Seeing them clapping and stomping and shouting, making music almost unintentionally, Nanna realized just how few elements are essential in the creation of a song.She put her own voice at the forefront of the music she was writing and replaced the string sections from Oh Land with brass instruments. “Strings are more a dreamy instrument,” Nanna says. “It sounds like I had woken up a bit – I wasn’t in dreamland anymore.”
Nanna, a former ballerina from Denmark who now lives in Brooklyn, connected with producer Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs) over this idea of sonic minimalism. The musician hoped to construct songs in a way that mirrored what was happening in her own life at the time, which involved leaving the major label on which she’d released Oh Land. Nanna took a collection of new music into Dave’s Los Angeles studio and the pair spent a month writing and working on what became Wish Bone in September of 2012.
“I wanted to do something that was more a sound that’s closer to the chaos that I felt I was in at the time, and not a romanticized version of life,” Nanna says. “I didn't want to make myself seem prettier or create an ideal version of myself,but instead I wanted to keep it honest and reflect the way that things really are right now. When I met Dave I explained what I wanted to do. He said ‘You want to do astronaut-ballerina-pop?’ Not a lot of people would know what I meant but he immediately knew. We didn’t have to talk a lot, we just started playing. It was fascinating to work with somebody you don’t know very well yet can completely know what you mean.”
“Bird In An Aeroplane,” a dulcet, chirping number, embodies the album’s theme of contrasts, depicting the dissonance between a bird and the comparable efficiency of machines. “Love You Better” stripped away almost everything but Nanna’s voice, her emotive croon narrating the moment when you want to give someone something but you’re not ready yet. “It’s a song that fast-forwards a bit,” Nanna says. “It says, at some point I’ll be able to give you this. I know that I can’t now but this is how I want it to be and I’m sorry that it can’t be like that now. I will do everything better when I get older.”
Wish Bone finds much of its tension in the music itself, veering from the buoyancy of tracks like “First To Say Goodnight” to the echoing quietness of “3 Chances.” The sparseness allows the listener searching for meaning in the moments of emptiness while Nanna’s affinity for occasional grandeur, aided by the brass sections, infuses the disc with a palpable sense of dynamism. “The album is definitely a little bit more minimal and direct than the other albums,” Nanna says. “We have fewer elements, but the elements that are in there are louder and bigger and grittier and noisier. It’s like a storm, but there are little silent moments in the middle of the storm.”
The album will be released on Dave’s own Federal Prism label. Nanna joined the label after being released from Epic, where she signed after releasing her debut album Fauna in 2008. Oh Land earned Nanna acclaim in the States and she performed songs from the album on The Late Show With David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The musician has toured with Sia and opened select dates of Katy Perry’s California Dreams Tour in 2011. Going forward, Nanna hopes to continue her collaboration with Dave in various ways. Wish Bone, for her, is an opportunity to strip away the things that she’s hidden behind on previous releases and stand forth as her own musician. In the music, Nanna has found cohesiveness in all these contrasts.“I feel like this album could be the most important album for me,” Nanna says. “It’s very uncensored. I’ve tried to not be too shy and hide behind effects and lots of choirs and strings and everything. I’m stepping out more on this album, both lyrically and vocally. I’m very excited to see how people will receive it.” –by Emily Zemler.