With his 8thth album release, Quills, Patrik Tanner offers what can arguably be called his most compelling and accomplished work to date.
Freeing himself from any expectation or constraint of pop, rock, country or other, Tanner has fashioned a cohesive and highly-stylized collection. Though he likens the record to what little he can remember hearing as a child on radio in his native Sweden (e.g., Barbro Horberg, Cornelis Vreeswijk, Svante Thuresson), the sound suggests sympathy with certain bygone popular institutions – vaudevillian saloons, maritime bands and parlor piano songs – yet his harmonic sensibility and refined phrasing lend a more timeless air. Throughout, Tanner serves as conductor, soloist and one-man pit orchestra alike.
Warm and imaginative, Quills plays as abbreviated epic by way of carefully-assembled, miniature portraits; the songs are at once deeply personal and poignantly universal. Tanner’s picturesque lyrics are exquisitely sung; his instrumentation approached with painstaking sensitivity – sparse, intimate, rustically elegant. Filled with childhood reminiscence and allusions to things gone-but-not-forgotten, Quills explores the terrain of human recollection, nostalgia and regret, all the while toeing the threshold where memory itself crosses over into fiction and rumor.
Without pride or pretense, Quills openly embraces resignation, uncertainty and loss, yet still manages to emerge somehow on the side of hope – with just a smattering of wry humor thrown in for good measure. In all, it is a triumphant musical exploration that reveals an innate honesty, humanity and depth of expression that belie Tanner’s still-young years. A one-of-a-kind, must listen album for 2009.