Little is known of Kendal Johansson, the latest signing to Swedish label Sincerely Yours. But her rendition of Blue Moon, a Big Star track from the overlooked ‘Third/Sister Lovers’ album, stands out as one of my songs of 2010. Whereas the original is a simple heartfelt prayer to a loved one, here Johansson’s distant vocal and subtle use of rhythm transform the song into a haunting message from the other side.
We begin with a splintering drumbeat that remains solid through the whole track. A rising swirl of synths welcome a new day of peaceful calm, but when the piano begins its simple chord progression out of time, an uneasy air descends. Though the echoy tap follows the beat of the piano and verse, it’s overshadowed by that shattering ever-present beat, giving the track an agitated sheen. This nervous edge is heightened by Johansson’s vocal (strangely similar to those from a Generation Terrorist era James Dean Bradfield at half speed) which floats into view from above.
At under 3 minutes in length, this could seem incomplete. But rather than a solitary verse, we get the impression it’s a small glimpse into a never-ending reassuring message. As the music fades to a close it continues elsewhere, we’re just not privileged enough to be able to listen.