Sissy Wish
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Sissy Wish


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"Pitchfork Album Review"

Album Review
Beauties Never Die
Sissy Wish
Beauties Never Die
[Afternoon Records; 2009]

Siri Wålberg's stage name is both apt and a little misleading: "Sissy Wish" is a rough translation of Per Pusling, a character in a novel by Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author who created Pippi Longstocking. The pseudonym may initially evoke images of cardigan-clad musicians strumming playground-set songs, but Ålberg's music is anything but twee and naïve. Rather, the name Sissy Wish implies a combination of playfulness and wistfulness-- two qualities in good supply on Ålberg's third full-length. Originally released in Norway in 2007 and finally getting a U.S. release this spring, Beauties Never Die balances maturity and wonder as it takes a hard left turn away from the guitar-driven rock of the first two Sissy Wish albums. Instead, Ålberg and producer Jørgen Træn toy with computers, synths, and a few live instruments to animate these 10 inventive, diverse tracks. As such, the album shares some similarities with recent efforts by fellow Scandinavian dancing queens Annie and Sally Shapiro, but it sounds as though Ålberg has arrived at this new sound not through a well-stocked record collection or a thorough knowledge of pop history (although one expects she has both), but by giving full rein to all her personality quirks and musical curiosities.

Ålberg has plenty of both. Her voice is high and pinched like Karen O's or Cyndi Lauper's, and she writes wordy songs full of unexpected hooks and lengthy melodic phrases, mixing exuberant shout-outs ("Do a rockabilly dance, baby take my hand!") with quotable insights ("It takes a lifetime to find out if someone's happy to see you every day"). Ålberg even tapdances a solo on "Ya Ya Ya". Bolstering her charming eccentricities is an eclecticism that makes Beauties wide-ranging yet surprisingly cohesive, as if its emphasis on electronics has allowed her simultaneously to indulge and to give shape to her every whim. Each song has its own distinguishing sonic gesture: DIY girl-group drums add drama to that declaration-of-dedication title, "Milk" breaks for a steel drum solo, and "Do What They Say" revolves around the shouted dancefloor decree "Do what they say!" Doo-wop vocals and castanets lift the jumpy chorus of closer "Book", which may feature the album's most infectious hook. The wide range of styles evident on Beauties speaks less of someone trying to re-create the music of the past than re-imagining it in her own image.

Beauties, however, proves most powerful when it's most quiet. The acoustic "Music on the Radio" may get lost among the synth starbursts during the first few listens, but its halting, tender chorus is the album's best showcase for her vocals and the call-and-response between piano and guitar on the bridge is its most fragile moment. It's ostensibly about the intimate connection between performer and listener, but as hushed as the song sounds, Ålberg promises to dance: "I'd rather be dead than behave after what you'll be playing today," she sings teasingly. What comes through most on this and every song is a strong, multifaceted personality: Ålberg may have borrowed her stage name, but on Beauties she comes across as wholly her own person.

— Stephen M. Deusner, April 1, 2009 - Stephen M. Deusner

"Sissy Wish, Live at the Knitting Factory New York"

It's near impossible to be the only one enjoying anything in New York. There's an exposing article devoted to every sublime sandwich shop housed in the back of a Vietnamese electronics store, and supposedly secret sales have lines two days before they open their doors. It's might be even tougher to be the only correspondent reporting back from a worthwhile cultural happening. Bands who couldn't fill a community center in Des Moines see their tickets evaporate within seconds of sale and half the crowd seems to be recording streaming video that will be posted in hours. Greedy elitists one and all are forced to grumble and accept that some one else is hip to their find. That's just the way that it is. So, my initial reaction to being one of maybe 8 people present for last week's set from superb Norwegian pop duo Sissy Wish was selfish delight. The blog masses had devoured Robyn and exalted Yelle, but singer/songwriter Siri Alberg's sharp confection have yet to attract a line of online ants, I guess. But as the she and her Scandi bandmate promptly filled their opening slot last Tuesday night at the Knitting Factory's Tap Bar I couldn't help but feel sorrow that more people weren't present to witness such genuinely exciting and accessible music. Drawing heavily on last year's (domestically unavailable) Beauties Never Die, Siri's set was designed for a much bigger crowd. Though the music was generally filtered through one of the stages two present laptops, the setup was far more thoughtful than your usual Williamsburg Mac experimentalists. There were keyboards, electronic drum pads, and three vocal mics wired for different effects, as well as an electric guitar the striking Norwegian shredded at her discretion. The elastic beats of terrific single "Float" had real weight. The rock moments of Forkcasted anthem "DWTS" weren't canned at all. What impressed my most was that even in a relatively slick "pop" performance, she wasn't afraid of veering towards blasts of white noise for effect. It was sugary at times, but never safe. If some domestic record exec is trolling the web right now, looking for a readymade star, you can guess who I might suggest.

As big as the songs sounded, it was Siri's goofy intensity that sold the neglected performance. Starting in a frilly black jacket and gradually stripping down to an oversized "I [heart] Tech-No" tee, she was perpetually charming the room's void. As painful as it can be to take in a overreaching drone show in an empty room, it's perhaps even more awkward in a way for hits to fall to the floor unloved. As much energy as she could give her enthusiastic hip-hop dancing during would-be singalong "Yayaya," as much emotion as she could wrench from the winding chorus of "Table 44," it was still tough to watch her grasp for the reaction these tracks are sure to generate in the land of milk and herring. Despite the shoddy turnout Siri was cutely humble throughout. "We just met Mary-Kate Olson outside," she gushed. "I've only ever seen celebrities in the movies!" So if no-one but me was similarly giddy to be in her presence, at least the trip overseas wasn't a total loss. - Merry Swankster

"Sissy Wish, Live in Denver"

Earlier this month a not unexpectedly, though still embarrassingly empty Hi-Dive greeted Norwegian pop songstress Sissy Wish to Denver. At its peak not more than twenty-five people could be counted - including staff. It seemed even more empty with 95% of that crowd lurking far back from the stage in the dark shadows of the drafty venue. A Tuesday night booking in weather that, it goes without saying, was less than favorable probably didn't help matters. Unfortunately for the slumbering uninitiated and those who declined the guaranteed warmth of an early week Nordic pop exposition, they missed what very well could be the most strangely honest and surprising show of the year.

Sissy Wish's star is Siri Wålberg and her unique approach to live performance could not be better described than by simply taking accounts from the few witnesses who fell in love with her adorable goofiness. The way Wålberg's oddball bowl of a hairstyle betrays her perfect face-framing cheekbones is an appropriate analogy for her striking stage persona. While I'm told she enjoys massive success in Norway, similar notions get relegated to the proverbial 'big in Japan' for oversea audiences with no context for what that means. I might as well mention that Sissy Wish won a Norwegian Grammy in 2004 with her debut You May Breathe (true). Since both achievements are as relevant to non-Norwegians as the evil fun that can be had debating the hilarity of nationally tailored Grammys, it basically becomes a punchline. One that we should probably refrain from indulging in. Sissy Wish's live production provided a great case for why richly textured pop is a genre best enacted by professionals behind the cornucopia of a digital soundboard. When one can clearly tell there is more going on than just button pushing and rotating of knobs the experience of modern shows is enhanced. Of course, no manner of technical observation can make up for the missing energy that comes only from excited crowds. The swaggering "Yayaya" enticed as best it could for an all out dance party, but the toxic mix of painfully sparse space and extreme avoidance of human pack-breaking ultimately doomed one of Beauties Never Die standouts. Instead of wiggling masses of humanity we got to see the "magic" it takes to create Sissy Wish's music. It is cool though to see it happen before your very eyes. Call me old fashioned but I'm a sucker for organically grown electronic music. Organic electronic music. It's a brave new world. Wålberg embodies a convoluted mix of self-conscious awkwardness in this new bravery, like that of a hyper-observant, doe-eyed tourist constantly taking stock of its surroundings. Girly artifacts from Grease-era Olivia Newton-John distinctly permeated her singing. From her style to her looks, there was the appearance of unfaithfully backing away from awareness by overloading on helpings of femininity. Buttered together with goofy marionette dance moves, the result is something altogether original and impossible not to love. Her jerky dancing was nothing but infectious, evidenced empirically by a good quarter of the crowd boogieing along to the entrancing performance. While a fourth of < 25 people would typically be a sad showing, comparing proportionally, such an amount of people rarely exude such feedback. Even popular acts with familiar material often struggle to engage a similar crowd percentage. When complete unknowns like Sissy Wish do it, the entire experience becomes that much more genuine. There's no way of knowing if future forays through America will produce better door takes. It would be excellent to think so. Better still if more come out to feed back the energy that Siri so desperately begs to feed off from. - Merry Swankster


Happy Monster(2010/Under production)
Album - Beauties Never Die (August 4th 2009/ Afternoon Records USA)
Album - Beauties Never Die (2008/Flake Records Japan)
7'' - DTWS - (2008/Sissy Music)
7'' - Table 44 - (2007/Sissy Music)
Album - Beauties Never Die (2007/SonyBMG Music Norway)
Album - Tuning In - (2005/Tuba)
Album - You May Breathe - (2004/Tuba)
EP - The Six Feet Tall - (2003/Tuba)



In the Norwegian artist flora, Sissy Wish can be seen as pretty weird flower; not only does she refuse to play the piano and write joni Mitchell-ish ballads, but she´s also something as unique as an artist constantly trying to challenge herself, her music, her live-shows; the keywords are humor, an extraordinary talent for pop-melody, for catchy tunes and breathtaking arrangements, but always (remember!), always on the strange part of town, around streets and alleys full of people covered in glitter dust.

Sissy Wish made her debut with the stunning Six Feet Tall-ep in 2003, when she cut four tracks in two days with members from norway´s eclectic group Sister Sonny. jingle-jangle guitars blended with the rhythmic powers of The Bad Seeds ca. Tender Prey, seasick pianos and the voice of Sissy on top, being a poppy Kate Bush, without the flowery, arty clothes and mannerisms, but with a similar kind of deliverance and determination. Never before has an unsigned artist gotten so much attention and broadcasting on Norwegian radio.

The debut album “You May Breathe”, recorded with legendary Norwegian producer HP gundersen, showed that Sissy Wish just wasn´t satisfied; the album is a modern study of the Phil Spector Wall of sound of the sixties; re-introducing tambourines, maracas, twang-guitars and lots of background vocals to the Norwegian pop-scene.

The album got 6/6 in most newspapers and magazines, and ended up as one of the highest critically acclaimed debut albums ever to be released in Norway. After releasing her second album “Tuning in” just 11 months after her debut, Sissy was awarded with Norwegian Grammy (Spellemannsprisen) as the ”best female artist” in 2005.

Her 3rd album Beauties Never Die(US release August 4th 2009), was recorded in the legendary Duper Studio, in Bergen, with the Norwegian super-producer and wiz-kid, Jorgen Traen, best know for his work with Sondre Lerche, Kayzers Orchestra, Jaga Jazzist and Sister Sonny, but also for his work with hardcore underground stuff, like Jazzkammer, The Golden Serenades, Toy and a million of really weird projects. Gone are the banjos and the acoustic guitars and the jingly universe of the first releases, instead you find yourself in a world of cheap synthesizers, toy organs and fuzz-guitars; the songs are possibly the most daring pieces of music Sissy has ever delivered, and the record is filled with both complex structures, unexpected arrangements and ultra-catchy melodies, all backed up by hot, pumpy drums and basses. She recently scored 8.0 on Pitchfork for the album.

Sissy Wish and her band played concerts through 2007 and lately she has also been performing as a purely electronic duet or trio with some of her band’s members, showing that Sissy Wish never stays still, and that she is constantly seeking new ways to express herself through the music.