Few singers can command an audience's attention quite like Albin Lee Meldau. When I first saw him perform, at a church in Austin, Texas during South By Southwest last March, it felt like the entire audience was on the edge of its seat, hanging on every twisted word. His voice is breathtaking, soulful, thunderous and impossible to ignore.
Watching Meldau in this Tiny Desk set, the first thing you'll notice, apart from that voice, is how possessed he is by the music. The words and melodies seem to take hold of him while at the same time offering a release, if only for a moment, from the knot of emotions he's carrying inside. It's in no small part because Meldau's music is so personal, centered on desperate souls in deeply troubled times. "Lou Lou," the track he opens with and his most popular song, is a story of drug addiction and mental illness, inspired by a girl he knew while growing up in Sweden. He calls "Bloodshot," the track he closes with, "dark and horrible," about the wreckage of a tortured relationship and the crazed paranoia of jealousy. His other two songs, "Mayfly" and "Persistence," are more about hanging on when it seems there's nothing left to live for.
Meldau grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden the son of musical parents. His mother is a music teacher and jazz singer, while Meldau says his father is a "punk rocker." (Both write and record their own songs.) As a kid, Meldau originally played trumpet but mostly dreamed of being a professional soccer player. Now, as a full-time musician, he says his dream was to play the Tiny Desk.
"It's a deep honor to be here," Meldau told the NPR audience. "I've been to the BBC and now I've been here, so now I can die." So far, Albin Lee Meldau has released two EPs — Lovers late last year and Bloodshot, out today (July 21) on Astralwerks — with a debut full-length out later this year.
Bloodshot is available now. (iTunes) (Amazon)
- "Lou Lou"
Albin Lee Meldau (vocals, guitar); Kalle Stenbäcken (keys, drums); Simon Andermo (bass, auxiliary percussion); Simon Söfelde (drums)
Producers: Robin Hilton, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Tsering Bista; PA: Jenna Li; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.
For more Tiny Desk concerts, subscribe to our podcast.