Finding time in his busy touring schedule to record a collection of songs on love and longing, Norwegian born and Cornwall-based Kaj’s second album Everybody Thinks You’re Great is the perfect soundtrack to a seaside Cornish summer. Although the lyrics are sometimes bitter, Kaj never loses the upbeat swing that gives the record hope and happiness.
Opener ‘Long Way Down’ is a great preface to the whole album, offering an insight into the strains of a fragile relationship, whilst simultaneously refusing to abandon it. With a melody that conjures fellow-Scandinavian The Tallest Man on Earth, it possesses a similar sense of motion and direction. The title track follows, and reads as a companion piece to strengthen the first – “honey ain’t that sweet” sounds like biting criticism, and suddenly ‘Everybody Thinks You’re Great’ seems more like a sarcastic observation than a statement of praise.
Throughout the album, reference points and influences begin to seep through the songs, whether intentionally or not. ‘Mermaid’, with subtle riffs that punctuate the chords, sounds like Bang Bang-era Dispatch, while the delicacy of ‘Moon Under Water’ shimmers like a frail Ryan Adams song. On the other side of the coin, ‘Love and Affection’ and ‘Humming Song’ square up alongside Jack Johnson and Newton Faulkner – all good fun but perhaps not something with lasting impact. ‘Bad Habit’ is the hardest to nail down – a sort-of acoustic-nineties-soul groove, or a Lenny Kravitz unplugged session, and that really is meant as a compliment.
For a contemporary release, each of the songs on Everybody Thinks You’re Great are rounded enough to feel like they exist within their own space and time, similar to the folk artists that birthed the genre – sometimes self-referencing, and often flecked with similes and common phrases. It never collapses into cliché, but it often sounds familiar, and that is credit to Kaj as a songwriter.
Everybody Thinks You’re Great knows exactly what sort of album it’s supposed to be, which means that although it’s tight and focused, it also rarely strays far from the beaten path. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – a lack of identity can be frustrating – but a bit of contrast or experimentation could have really opened things up. Luckily, with a running time just shy of thirty minutes, Everybody Thinks You’re Great is never in danger of becoming stale or tiresome, and is perhaps the album’s underlying strength. In fact, after revisiting the album, it’s surprising how deep those melodies bury themselves.
With the crisp, summer evenings stretching long into the night, there’s never been a better time for Everybody Thinks You’re Great. Grab your friends, some good food – everything you think is great – and catch Kaj while the sun continues to shine.