Icelandic singer-songwriter Freyr Flodgren’s 2020 full-length EP ‘I’m Sorry’ is defeated only by the musical prowess in his newest addition to his discography — ‘Nicotine Bunker’. Freyr’s debut full-length album shines throughout in its traditional indie-folk characteristics accompanied in most songs with Freyr’s prototypical acoustics. In many ways, the songs in the album appear to the listener as episodic musical intervals of a larger romantic journey on the road, closely cradled within the lap of the Icelandic-Swedish countrysides. Each song seems to represent particular memories along the road and their associated emotions — giving the listener a seat in Freyr’s musical vehicle to go along with for twenty-five minutes on an acoustic adventure.
The album opens with Avalon, which had served as a teaser to the album before its release. The song characterised by its compressed percussive elements accompanied by Freyr’s tapping and plucking at his guitar. The listener is immediately captivated by Flodgren’s soft vocals, which narrate a romantic ballad of the road with one’s lover. In many ways, the romantic number can be perceived with undertones of heartbreak and a reminiscent past. The sway of the rhythmic melody in the song is perceived as the song breaks into its chorus at regular intervals, which warrants the gentle nod and foot-tapping while listening to the opener.
The gentle arpeggios scattered across the album first make their visit in Surveilling Sky, making it one of the songs people easily remember the album by. The song is a moody, picturesque conversation between two lovers who find themselves at crossroads with nature. One is immediately transported to Freyr’s production studio, where we can imagine a vast, uncaring Nordic skyline in audience to his guitar. The lovers’ conversation realizes that they are diminutive of larger cosmic insignificance, surrounded by far and lonely hillsides and a blanket of stars. Notwithstanding, as the song draws to a close, this realization is not lost in existentialist mourning, but almost in celebration of each other and everyone around them.
Following Surveilling Sky is the album’s title track — Nicotine Bunker — which is the ideal campfire number with friends and lovers if there ever was one. Without any instrumental overcomplications, the track is characterised simply by percussive elements and Freyr’s guitar, and the lyrics elicit a playful yet oddly melancholic longing for interpersonal meaning. In many ways, the track becomes a celebration of friends and lovers with the lyrics — “Tell me something sweet, something to hold on to / Tell me something sweet, something real”, where Freyr’s lyrics tell us of the narrator’s melancholy which longs for meaning from the people that surround him. The track is an innocent observation of the world around Freyr, where he looks at his own and realizes the music that surrounds him.
Permission To Lose borrows its structural similarities from Surveilling Sky, where both the tracks are characterised by the mellow warmth of Freyr’s vocals and the gentle reverb of the acoustics. Also an idyllic balladic setting, the song has romantic undertones of separation and longing. The following track American Poster features a more conversational storytelling with a recitative melody, telling a tale of a good time with friends. The use of the epithet ‘American Poster’ is perhaps symbolic of Freyr’s journey to the Pacific Southwest during the album production, in whose backdrop the song finds its setting.
You Want Love, with its very few lyrics,can be described mainly as an instrumental break to the album. The track is visual of a Nordic landscape with its stunning operatic outro that creates a natural ambience to Freyr’s own countryside, with dulcet background vocals. Modern Ages follows a similar structural apparatus as American Posters, an easy listenable pick-me-up track.
Freyr flirts with his musical genius in the closing track Departure. Besides the clever title for a closer, the song is a purely instrumental acoustic piece with the most foundational and quintessential of indie-folk elements, complete with percussive taps on the guitar, harmonic slides and neo-folksian riffs. Departure becomes perhaps the most important track of the album insomuch that it sums up entirely the album’s musical disposition, where the listener is not afraid to let themselves go to experience wherever Freyr’s music longs to take them.
As the album draws to a close and the music fades out, the listener can open their eyes and find themselves transported back to their room, reminiscent of a nostalgic road adventure that they went on with an Icelandic-Swedish man and his guitar. Before long, they can be expected again to be on that adventure again, replete with Freyr and friends, huddled together in a Nictone Bunker.