It was in 1996 that Jay-Jay Johanson, a young man from a cold climate, fascinated by the Bristol sound they called trip-hop
and Portishead in particular, first tapped delicately on our eardrums.
The intoxicating album that definitively put this rare and elegant Swede on the map was called Whiskey. It was the beginning
of an enthralling adventure. In only a few songs he revealed a family tree that spread its roots far and wide: on one branch
Lee Hazlewood, or pop from Talk Talk or Nilsson, on the other John Coltrane with Johnny Hartman, and a whole army of calm
jazz or symphonic recordings sampled from everywhere imaginable.
Almost 20 years later he has returned with an incredible new album. This new release is called Opium and it contains the very
essence of Johansons music: an ease with inventing melodies, a voice that gently caresses, and the jacked up, heady
rhythms that lift and carry the songs. From the peaceful harmonica opening of Drowsy / Too Young To Say Good Night to the
smoke-wreathed love song I Dont Know Much About Loving, via titles with a sporadic and light groove (NDE, Alone Too
Long), Opium is a courageous offering. Johanson opens his heart with fearlessness and modesty, gracefully lowering his guard
and evoking the questions that torment men of his age: love, solitude, immaturity. The songwriting is unerring, the words
have a suppressed poetry. This new Johanson is the work of a guy who has survived the avalanches, who is no longer looking
for answers and is content to sketch out the perspectives in as many songs. Some titles are serious (Harakiri), but others
immediately take up the reins casting a more gentle, peaceful light, like Scarecrow, a collaboration with Robin Guthrie that
would not have sounded out of place on a Cocteau Twins album, or of the strange positivity of Be Yourself or I Love Him So.
The strength of Opium is that it asks questions that dont necessarily have an answer; it offers a collection of songs
freed from any certitude but which convince through their modesty, through their precision. In short, Jay-Jay at his best.