Review – Bjørn Riis – Everything to Everyone

Airbag co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist, Bjørn Riis is ready with a new studio album titled ‘Everything to Everyone’, his fourth full length solo record. Six epic new songs, clocking in at 50 minutes. 

In addition to Bjørn Riis on vocals, guitars and a wide variety of instruments, the album features Henrik Bergan Fossum (Airbag), Kristian Hultgren (Wobbler), Simen Valldal Johannessen (Oak), Ole Michael Bjørndal (Caligonaut), Mimmi Tamba, Per Øydir, Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes and Anders Møller.

‘Everything to Everyone’ deals with the toll that continuously having to meet the expectations of others takes on ones emotions, heightened by the fear of losing oneself in the effort to do so.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I am a huge fan of Bjørn’s wild and almost desolate soundscapes that tell of unspeakable beauty and the power of the vast landscapes of his homeland. While I also really like the music of Airbag, it is his solo work that I feel really shows us the true Bjørn Riis and his albums are most definitely some of the best that I own.

‘Everything to Everyone’ is, without doubt, this fantastic musician’s best piece of work yet. His immediately recognisable guitar is signature across the whole record, from the power and dynamism of the intro to opener Run, through the bewitching beauty of The Siren (one of the best songs you will hear this year) and all the way to the final track on the album, the triumphant title track Everything to Everyone. It’s not just the guitar that stands out though, it is the enchanting and enthralling songwriting throughout which, along with the standout collection of guests, makes this a release that really stands out.

Brooding, thoughtful and yet graced with a pared back elegance, this is music for the thinking man or woman. When Bjørn wants to cut loose then his prowess on the guitar is ultimately evident, he can make the instrument sing and, to my ears, is one of the foremost guitar players alive today. There is a gloriously emotive side to this man too and you hear it on the wistful, melancholic, wonder of Lay Me Down with its heartfelt, and heartbreaking vocals. The mesmerising languid guitar is superbly intense, as you would expect.

Every Second Every Hour has a calm and contemplative feel to it, nostalgic and beautifully compelling and Descending is soothingly hypnotic and dreamlike, a track that, as it begins, seems to exist in a place of serene tranquility. A harder edged middle section of the song threatens to disrupt the harmony before it closes on a sanguine note.

The stand out track on an album of superlatives is the spellbinding The Siren, As Bjørn explains:

Musically the song derives its inspiration from the more mellow side of Roger Waters, Richard Hawley and Tim Bowness, and is told from the perspective of someone observing a dancer. Lyrically it depicts how one can be easily misled by temptation and hurt by the need for approval.

It is just ethereally seductive and the guitar is utterly entrancing, almost painfully so, such a brilliant expression of the musical art.

Every good thing has to come to an end and the title track, Everything to Everyone, is another piece of inspired songwriting and delivery, it builds superbly to a heart-wrenching climax and, once again, the vocals lift this song above the mere mortal and Bjørn’s soulful guitar playing is just the icing on the cake.

Music can make a world that seems to be falling into monochrome light up and be revitalised with blazes of colour and vitality and this wondrous new album from musical maestro Bjørn Riis brings all that and more. Power, soul and grace are infused throughout its six tracks and combine to make it one of the outstanding releases of 2022 so far.

Released 8th April, 2022.

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