Through a string of EPs, Swedish artist Alice Boman has gained a respectable following from her intimate songcraft and the emotive atmospheres her arrangements conjure. Bowman cites artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Portishead – two sides to her meditative brand of singer-songwriter music. Boman teams up with an unlikely production partner in Patrik Berger, someone who has made his name working with the likes of Robyn and Charli XCX. But while Berger brings in his pop experience into the creative process, it only works to increase the clarity of Boman’s richly detailed compositions instead of weakening the relative closeness that made her music compelling in the first place.
Boman has a true ability to produce warm, intoxicating soundscapes. On the opening track “Wish We Had More Time”, her hushed and rounded voice meets gentle, melancholic keys. Boman typically often leans into simple, repeated tones. On this track particularly, she repeats the title of the track in the chorus – it packs a lot of weight carrying its regretful tone. “Heart on Fire” is an infinitely relatable declaration of unrequited love. She avoids any amount of trivialisation due to the amount of empathy and care she puts into the lyrics and performance. “I know there’s some place place you’d rather be, somewhere else, not here with me,” she mourns. The song opens up on a strut, and just picks up the intensity less than a notch for the chorus. This is not the first time on the record she seems to creep into a peak or big moment, but never fully commits to it.
“The More I Cry” takes on more of a jangly, baroque pop character. Over dreary piano arpeggios, Boman demonstrates serious vocal restraint, never commanding more attention in the mix than needed. “Who Knows” is a ghostly ballad that considers the haunting realities of living in the present moment. “I am scared of dying, but most of all, I’m scared of living, never knowing love,” she states on the second verse.
An infectious walking bassline holds up some synth chords on “Don’t Forget About Me”. Much of Boman’s songs deal with time in some fashion. Some songs dwell on past relationships. This one is in future tense, considering restarting with someone, if that is in fact a possibility. The uncertainty she sings with is deeply affecting.
“Everybody Hurts” interpolates the R.E.M. song of the same name in its chorus. Starting off an a drum and synth instrumental passage that would sound perfectly at home on Peter Gabriel’s So (1986), Boman makes straightforward declarations of heartbreak. “Is she everything I am not?” she asks.
“Hold On” features a lush, expertly-constructed chorus involving beautiful harmonies, pronounced key flourishes, and light cymbal touches, something unique to this record. The drum style throughout focuses more an ethereal, hazy form of rhythm. Snares and toms are used sparingly.
The most ornate moment on the album comes by the way of “It’s OK, It’s Alright”. With tasteful touches of reverb, interlocking layers of synths help develop the track’s hazy feel. A deep longing for another person is described through lines such as “Everything has changed, it’s alright, I just wanted you to feel the same.” The title to an extent feels ironic, a brash denial of her very real emotions.
While starting off on steady, downbeat keys, “This Is Where It Ends” slowly builds. Subtle details are continuously added to the mix for the remainder of the song. Everything comes crashing down on the album’s devastating climax as a choir repeats the line “It’s over.” Finally, “Mississippi”, a lo-fi home recording, provides the album’s quiet coda. With just her voice and lightly strummed acoustic guitar, Boman sums up the record’s themes and heavy emotions.
Dream On is a promising debut from Alice Boman. She structures the track listing with cohesiveness, centring the tracks on themes of heartbreak, unrequited love, and regret. With so many singer-songwriter records coming throughout the year, Boman earns attention with her warm voice and the rich atmospheres she patiently allows to develop.