Written By Chloé Sautereau
With a voice that is breathily familiar and an emotive power that speaks volumes, Erika Sirola isn’t afraid of silence. Her recently released EP who? repeatedly features her vocal work acapella – moments where the singer-songwriter lets herself appear bare as can be.
The 23-year-old Finnish native’s sound is meticulously crafted for a record that is stirring. Signed to the label Elektra, Sirola put together who? in Berlin, collaborating with different producers, further proving the strength of her artistic identity. Accompanied by artwork designed by Sirola herself, the collection of titles is coherent in its eclectic nature. It is refreshing to be surprised by every bar while feeling profoundly understood.
Who? is the lyrical delivery of her own “backstory” as Sirola calls it. “Like many books, you get to know the history of the character first before you dive into the now, it lets you understand the process in a different light, and perhaps allows you to dive into the many layers just a little bit better,” the artist explains. And layers do not fall short on Sirola’s mini album. Each track is a painting of its own; human as can be in its complexity and fragility. While her wandering voice in the silence (“All in My Head”) or over a few piano chords (“End of the Day”) would easily stand on its own, the record’s intricate and cinematic sounds seamlessly weave themselves into each song for an unexpected, transporting result.
The opening track “All in My Head” on which Sirola worked with renowned writer/producer Fred Ball, is the epitome of vocal production with elegantly and daringly harmonized vocals that come together in a chilling way. The latter leading to the instrumental crescendo that supports the repetition of the common question “Is it all in my head? Nah nah” beautifully sums up what Sirola gets to in the bridge and on the album as a whole: being afraid to feel anything and the noises that come with sitting with oneself and the depth that can take.
In who?, the concepts are relatively simple, but Sirola’s perspective makes them poignant. “You go and I stay,” she repeats in “End of the Day.” An image that is then supported by the literal metaphor of “waiting for trains I don’t wanna take.” While she sounds grave at times – her voice almost metallic – the ephemeral nature of the production has the power to lift the listener up, offering an effective balance of dark and lightness. A balance between reality and the imaginary.
Her characteristic eeriness further surfaces in “Souvenir” – a more explicit showcase of that darkness in Sirola’s narrative. Glass breaks, something scratches rhythmically, meanwhile a loungey synth bounces back and forth. Perhaps the most “experimental” track on the album, it’s evocative of the European electronic, art pop, world the young singer-songwriter is emerging from.
Sirola wraps up the project with “A Little More” which, co-written and produced by Scandinavian producer Gustav Nystrom, truly speaks for itself in the emotion that emanates from its honesty and simplicity. The sound is wet in a lingering, contemplative way until it turns playful. Lyrically and sonically satisfying, the syllables and alliterations roll off the tongue. “Missed out on love, missed out on lies,” Sirola starts in the second verse, letting her prowess with words shine through in her ability to associate “good” and “bad” (love/lies) while annihilating their positive and negative connotations only to beautifully capture that essence of life as the sum of mistakes to be made and feelings to be felt.
Supported by a deeply nested bass line that provides as much gravity as it does comfort, Sirola is able to turn regret into lust, and ultimately into a sudden world of possibilities, hopefully giving her listeners a “little more love for life.”