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Vök (IS) – “Erase You”

When we posted about Icelandic giants Vök last fall, we noted that the band seemed to be moving consciously towards a more readily accessible, pop-oriented sound. As we’ve inched closer to the release of the band’s newest album, In the Dark, via the Canadian label Nettwerk, we’ve seen more evidence to support our suspicions. “Erase You,” the most recent single from the album, is another testament to the strides Vök is making towards pop, but it also contains a cold, ghastly underbelly reminiscent of the style that first popularized the band.

On “Erase You,” Vök frontperson Margrét Ran and her two bandmates fuse steady kick drums, dawn-speckled oohs and aahs, laser-white synths, finger snaps, and echo-washed guitar notes into a soundscape as dreary as it is catchy.  Lyrically, Ran’s bitter reminiscing expertly matches the soft melancholia weaved throughout the song’s foundation: “You’re always on my mind, but you’re crushing it,” sings Ran, who’s notably one of Iceland’s relatively few openly queer pop musicians. Later, as the track moves from its verse into its chorus, she really goes for the throat: “You try to control me, to own me, so it backfires/The joke’s on you.”

Thematically, “Erase You” stands in stark contrast to many of Vök’s previous hits, just as its newly pop-focused sound represents an intentional departure from much of the band’s previous stylistic palette. Take “Show Me,” ostensibly Vök’s most popular pre-In the Dark song. On this track, Ran dreamed of spending more time with a romantic interest, getting to know them, doing all the little things that make a relationship special; any listeners not focused on the lyrics, though, might take the brooding, moody, trip-hop-adjacent sounds of the track as a sign that Vök prefers to mine romantic failure for its narratives. “Erase You,” far brighter and arena-friendlier a song, actually carves its story from what sounds like a pretty tense breakup. In the Dark suggests in title alone that we’ll learn more about this breakup very soon, but what we’ve heard of the music sounds like the title’s opposite.

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