“Onwards and upwards, that’s what it is," is what Normandie’s frontman Philip Strand told us back in 2019 and since the release of their sophomore album White Flag, that’s exactly what life for the band has been.
The Stockholm trio, completed by drummer Anton Franzon and guitarist Håkan Almbladh, have managed to reach new heights with their latest musical offering, Dark & Beautiful Secrets. Put simply, this new album is amazing. There are a few songs that aren’t ground-breaking per say, with some tracks sounding like material from previous releases, but regardless, this is loveable with its huge choruses and catchy riffs; it’s quintessentially Normandie at their most streamlined, focused and adventurous.
Dark & Beautiful Secrets features plenty of big riffs, powerful lyrics, and stunning production. Both ‘Babylon’ and ‘Hostage’ are instant hits with their anthemic choruses, snazzy guitar riffs, and Strand’s signature vocals. Again, these songs feel similar to ones we’ve heard from Normandie before, but riffs and catchy choruses are always a favourite here.
‘Holy Water’ is the first song on the album that takes a step away from what we assume Normandie is. It is the true embodiment of “onwards and upwards” with its atmospheric beats and layered vocals carrying to the band to pasures anew. The power and pain in Strand’s vocals are at the forefront of this song. The lyrics are inspired by a pivotal moment in his life; where Strand turned his back to the church he was raised within in order to find meaning elsewhere. By drawing on this experience, Normandie have managed to create a song that no one else could. It brings together so many different elements without feeling overwhelming and shows just how far Normandie have come since we last saw them.
Themes of change and past experiences underpin Dark & Beautiful Secrets, Strand explained, because “a secret that comes to light can be a beautiful relief.” And relief is exactly what ‘Atmosphere’ offers to listeners. It’s delicate, with beautifully emotional lyrics, such a huge step away from what Normandie is known for. Synths swell and surround you with a gentle sweetness, while Strand’s confessions of “I can’t be alone” hit harder than expected at this lonely moment in time.
‘Chemicals’ is another song that puts heavy emphasis on Strand’s vocals and lyrics. It’s slow and buzzy, infused with poppy hooks and catchy choruses. It might not be the most dynamic track on the album per say but it offers infectiously enjoyable vibes that seep into one's cortex. ‘Chemicals’ is a song that’s easy to picture in a live setting, too. Normandie’s gigs are a wonder to watch, as Strand has a way of capturing any audience’s attention; the song would work well live because its choruses invite sing-alongs, which Strand is always so good at encouraging.
Dark & Beautiful Secrets sees Normandie create sounds and songs we didn’t expect to hear. From start to finish, the album is enjoyable and interesting; the music is the perfect combination of emotionally heavy rock and jubilantly bouncy pop, while the lyrics paint a new picture of who Philip Strand is.
Dark & Beautiful Secrets is released February 19th via Easy Life Records.