SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

Royal – My Dear

Tooth and Nail Records is often unjustly categorized as just a Christian label releasing bland music like Thousand Foot Krutch and Hawk Nelson. Yet in the mid-to-late-90s Tooth and Nail was releasing a whole slew of interesting indie rock (what was, at that time, considered “alternative rock”). I mean, Tooth and Nail was the launching pad of The Danielson Famile for crying out loud. The Danielson Famile was directly related to the rise of Sufjan Stevens. Yes, that Sufjan Stevens. While The Danielson Famile has become Pitchfork Media indie darlings, there were many other deserving artists released through Tooth and Nail who never got the slightest attention from the mainstream media or the Christian media.

Royal was a band from Norway who released only one album. While they were never really signed to Tooth and Nail, it was Tooth and Nail who released the album to the United States. The album released without any real fanfare, other than a couple of good album reviews in the edgier Christian music magazines (Tidal Wave, 7 Ball). Their one claim to fame was that the one guitar player had been Extol’s guitar player before Extol was signed.

The core of Royal is the brother-sister duo Emil (the ex-Extol guy) and Elvira Nikolaisen, although the band is five members deep. Emil went on to form the noisy shoegaze band, Serena Maneesh (which, interestingly, did make one of Pitchfork’s yearly top-50 lists) and Elvira is now a Norwegian pop singer. Yet neither of them has managed to eclipse the grandeur that is Royal.

Elvira handles most of the lead vocals, a laid back croon that you might expect to hear with Over The Rhine. The music Emil backs her with is certainly a far cry from the folk pop of Over The Rhine. A cacophony composed of loud, roaring guitars and a crash symbol used so frequently that it could ring in the apocalypse.

Yet it will turn on a dime so suddenly that your head is left in a swirl. The roar drops completely and they craft silence. Not a pure silence as Elvira continues to croon and the drums tap out a bare bones beat, accompanied by a slowly plucked guitar. Time might be lost track of as things slowly build. All of a sudden three or four minutes have passed with this growing quietness before, just as suddenly, the roar returns.

My Dear can’t be listened to quietly. The stereo has to be cranked in order to prevent the quiet parts from fading completely away. I can’t think of any other album which has two completely distinct personalities and such a difference in volume. This makes comparisons difficult to come by, however, it is hard to imagine that Sonic Youth wasn’t a huge influence on what Royal accomplished. I would like to see someone slip Thurston Moore a copy with a request to re-release it. My Dear would be right at home on his record label while being different enough from Sonic Youth to be more than just a repetitive blip.

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September 5, 2007 - Posted by | Music

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