Marie Dahlstrøm‘s new album marks growth in her writing since her 2017 EP, NINE. Like Sand spans emotions both joyful and more painful, the latter of which delivered with a thoughtful rather than angry edge. She claims inspiration from fellow Danish singer-songwriter Tina Dickow. “She makes beautiful lyrics that are reflective, not shaming. I’m not writing from such a reactive place. I’m more attracted to writing as a platform not to bash someone else, but to look at general tendencies and lessons learned with clear, retrospective eyes,” she says.
Dahlstrøm has refined her creative procedure over the last 10 years, and took advantage of the latitude afforded to independent artists in producing her own album. Like Sand features a number of collaborators in its 14 tracks. Some of the songs took shape in pieces over years, but others, like the catchy, upbeat You, were written in a day. Her pretense-free production plays her lucid vocals against the jazz and R&B piano and guitar, which edge away when her voice hits the high notes, smoothly turns through the melodies, or pleasantly surprises with a woozy, ethereal scat in Ordinary Love.
The guests who appear throughout further Like Sand’s elegant pensiveness. On the title track, Beau Diako’s guitar plays off Dahlstrøm’s light, steady crest into his expansive solo that captures more jagged emotion. The tension built throughout is satisfying, but more of his playing would be welcome. Dahlstrøm and Jeremy Passion sing aching harmonies Through Your Eyes, about a couple at odds seeking reconciliation. I Don’t Wanna Wake Up and I Want You feature James Vickery and Elijah Fox, respectively, each duet filled with longing vocals made more poignant in their restraint.
Notwithstanding the Home With You’s jarring, unnecessary autotune, a measured, contemplative ambience unites Like Sand’s 14 tracks. No Pair Without 2 and A Loveletter – An Improvisation are subtle celebrations in reaching equilibrium after the tumult and uncertainty recalled in the title track and “Wandering” (“Someday I’ll find my way through all of this, I’m wandering through the fog of my mind, do I know the way”). Lullaby, which she wrote with Charles Jaques, who together croon a gentle chorus interspersed with dreamy guitar strains. Dahlstrøm doesn’t leave us lulled, though. The breezy last track, Summer Evenings, features the rapper Aligo, whose smoothness rounds out the songs’ easy, wavy beat befitting the title and album ambience.