Oh Land‘s Wishbone is for the weirdos.
For those expecting another ethereal, spritely pop song like “White Nights,” which made the TV rounds on “Girls” and “Teen Wolf” when it came out, fans were taken by surprise when the new album gave them “My Boxer” — Oh Land’s version of rap, supported by sparse, distorted, electronic beats. The song pounds and stomps as she yells through a megaphone and asks, “Does baby like weird?”
The video, shot on an iPad, follows the singer around on her bike, her dog sitting in its basket. Her cap, tied-back blue hair, crop top and printed pants are far detached from the felt hats, wispy blond hair and woolen capes that first entered her into the fashion world as a style icon.
Her signature dreamy ballads still exist in her new collection of music, and hints of mystical pop about rainbows and narwhals still peep though. But Wishbone, which dropped Tuesday, is aggressive, demanding and doesn’t make up any stories.
“It’s both very dreamy but also very grounded,” the singer born Nanna Oland Fabricius told MTV News, breaking down the title Wishbone. “I would describe my album as the conflict between the brain and the body. Wish is all your thoughts and your dreams, and bones, being like your very physical world.”
Nanna sings about her physical limitations in “Bird in an Aeroplane,” a song she told her audience at NYC’s Gramercy Theater on Tuesday night was inspired by birds that cause trouble on airport runways. “Iron steel and smoke,” she sings about the plane, which sucks up the unsuspecting birds in its motor. “Your power is endless, I’m only flesh and bones.”
And through the punchy beats that give the album a hip-hop feel, the earnest soul and sharp piano that brings out a little R&B, and the strums of rock highlighted by producer Dave Sitek’s guitar work, there’s no real way to describe Wishbone.
“I think it’s hard to put my music in a box, and I’m obviously not going to try to do it because a lot of other people will try,” she said. “But I think I have a lot of little boxes.”
Sitek, from the band TV on the Radio, paired up with Oh Land, releasing the album on his Federal Prism label. While they created music together, they didn’t try for a certain sound; instead, they just went with what felt was the best.
“Working with Dave has been really fun because he doesn’t have like any conventional ideas about how music should sound,” she said. “So it’s like really intuitive and creative and just about what we thought was the best possible sound. We didn’t really think about anything else.”
If there is a hip-hop influence, it’s for one simple reason: Oh Land likes to dance. And it’s hard to catch her not dancing — whether it’s onstage, in her music videos or at a party (she jumped onboard of a Colombian party bus on Sunday to celebrate her release, shouting her lyrics at confused tourists on Canal Street and shaking her thighs with her bandmates). “Renaissance Girls” comes with a fully choreographed music video, complete with NYU dancers and new moves — ponytail pulling, robotic self-puppeteering and rickety head movements.
“The whole hip-hop thing, like the beats, I think it’s just like, what better music is there to dance to? It’s all about the groove and the flow,” she explained. “As a dancer and a mover, I love hip-hop.”
Along with chaotic dance video, “Renaissance Girls,” the LP’s lead single, leads her fans through the movement of modern women, making a statement on society’s double standard of females. “I can be your darling cooking you dinner and soothing your heartache/ Having three kids and still remain a virgin/ It’s my version of a renaissance girl.”
For Nanna, all of these thoughts and feelings are very real, and music is the best way she can make herself heard. Her music — regardless of how mystical, dancey or hip-hop-laden it is — serves as her medium of expression. And tearing apart the stigma that may come with the pop genre she’s often pegged to, she says that no matter what you call her music, she’s just being herself.
“Pop music doesn’t necessarily have to be so simple. It could be many things, and you can express many different sides of your personality and you don’t have to make a cartoonized version of yourself,” she said. “I hope that my fans will listen to the album and feel like there are other weirdos out there, and I could be their partner in crime a little bit.”