Le Days - Stuck In My Head (Album Review)

Le Days is the moniker of Swedish experimental musician Daniel Hedin, and his visceral new album "Stuck In My Head (Alternate Recordings)" takes the listener to the depths of his dark and troubled soul by way of abstractly constructed music-cum-performance art. Most tracks here are reinterpretations of songs which originally surfaced on the albums "We Are Nowhere" and "I Am Your King", and though the songs have undergone a transformation, they are darker than ever.

On "Mouthplay (Alternate Recording)", a meandering acoustic guitar, reverb-laden harmonica, sweeping cello, and sinister percussion lead to a primal scream; Hedin expressing his anguish through long, tortured wails. "23617 (Alternate Recording)" is a drastic turn to minimal and atonal piano keys played underneath intensely delivered spoken word ("When I close my eyes all I can see is you, whispering to me, 23617.") It's a cryptic message and one that leads to demonic chants closing off the track. "Red Little Hands (Alternate Recording)" is an intriguing song with lush piano, orchestral strings, and Hedin singing passionately and theatrically between the spaces. The music reaches such heights and depths that deep listening can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. There are echoes of Scott Walker in the oddity and professionalism, though it is not easy to directly compare this music. 

Cello contributions from Jonas Palm and Elin Wood form the textured foundation for the gorgeously creepy instrumental "Shadow King", yet it's the drums by Simon Bj√∂rck, sporadically hitting in the background that adds the tension; like the killer in a horror movie, knocking on the door. "My Mama Said (Alternate Recording)", featuring some nice guitar from Joel Andersson, is a heart-wrenching country-twinged ballad that shows that under Hedin's unbridled experimentalism is a true songwriter. Elsewhere, "Blood is Blood" sees broad strings ruminate as Hedin expresses the pain of involuntary celibacy ("Nobody touches me") and "In My Chest" features distorted vocal samples over wandering ambient piano. 

This album is dark and extreme from start to finish, though "We are Slaves" is perhaps the most remarkable track. There are disconcerting chord structures, screams, and a darkly atmospheric mix. This is an experience to be had more than a song to be listened to. The titular track, "Stuck In My Head", is a wholly resplendent piece, with sweeping strings, fireside acoustic guitar, and crooning vocals. Yet despite being the prettiest song here, it is also the most morose. 

In the notes accompanying this album, Hedin writes: "Close your eyes, close your mind, you are free, to live inside of me", and perhaps this is the best clue as to the album's theme. There is a transportive quality to the profoundly searching songs, and if one surrenders and lets themself be wholly absorbed in this world, they could see another side of life that had been hidden from them by their limited perspective. But not everyone will want to use music for this deep spiritual searching, and the originality, even beauty, found in the music is intentionally void of any joy. Like the way water contorts our visual reality (see the cover of this album), this music can awaken sleeping revelations in us, yet it's not for the faint of heart.