Until Death Comes gets off to an impressive start with the double-tracked vocals of the piano-driven “I Drive My Friend”, the finest of the ten tracks on Frida’s debut. Upon first listen, however, it wasn’t the lilting trot of the former, but the line “once I felt your cock against my thigh” that first grabbed my attention. The words came on the record’s fifth song, “Once I Was a Serene Teenaged Child,” and left me wondering if they were part of a larger example of rather brilliant observational songwriting, or simply a cheap attention grab. In all honesty, after several listens, it doesn’t really matter, as the awkward memories of junior high slow dances that it evoked served to break the relative monotony of the listening experience. That’s not to say that Until Death Comes is out and out bad—it just fails to live up to Frida’s potential.
Hyvönen is at her best when she’s penning tunes with the upbeat bounce of the album’s opener, but she never reaches the same level as “I Drive My Friend”. “You Never Got Me Right”, for example, starts off strong but withers after the first minute, slowly limping for another 53 seconds, and ending before it has a chance to take off again. Ironically, her slower numbers suffer from the opposite problem, with the very short “Valerie” (clocking in at a mere 1:34) standing head and shoulders above the rest of the more reserved compositions on the record, due in large part to its brevity. Conversely, “N.Y.” plods along slowly as Hyvönen plunks out chords, singing the praises of the Big Apple in uninspiring fashion, while some “tasteful” horns decorate the space around her. After four minutes of this, the off-beat bounce of “The Modern”—another one of the record’s highlights—is a welcome rescue.
On Until Death Comes, Frida demonstrates that she’s certainly capable of writing some rather stunning, ivory-laced pop songs. Unfortunately, the record is so uneven, it’s hard to recommend. The high points are good enough to rank with most of the finer releases I’ve heard this year, but they’re too few and far between. And while Frida’s voice is one of her strengths, she’s certainly no Cat Power, and can’t hide her somewhat rudimentary piano playing behind her pipes for the duration of a full-length.