There are artists out there who are beautifully consistent with what they produce. It just seems like every album they release is unique, well-composed, and thoughtful. Isgaard is one of those artists. Her new album “Human” releases on October 11th, and it features some of the best songs she’s ever written.
Isgaard hails from Hamburg, Germany. She has been making music most of her life, though her debut released back in 2003. I’ve personally been listening to her work since 2014’s emotional “Naked”, and I’ve loved ever album since then. On “Human”, the primary musicians are Isgaard on vocals, and Jens Lueck on keys, drums, vocals, and production. Other musicians include Jan Petersen on guitars, Klaus Volland on acoustic guitars, Katja Flintsch on violin and viola, Annika Stolze on violoncello, Volker Kuinke on recorder, and Ekiss Giloc on bass.
Isgaard makes music that flows and sways with nostalgic warmth. Her style could be dubbed progressive pop, art rock, or post-prog, all of which seem valid. Her music is certainly eclectic, featuring many sounds and textures, and especially an overflow of emotions that tends to spill out during the climactic moments of the songs. You will hear a mix of emotional guitars, electronic swaths, lush piano, and gorgeous strings, all combined with subtlety and artistry. For some touchstones, you will definitely hear influences from Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, and Pink Floyd, and other sophisticated progressive pop artists.
“Human” is a great title for this album. While Isgaard’s albums always feel like a swelling of the human heart, this album in particular strikes chords of desperate expression and darker feelings. The mood overall is quite somber, as the lyrics confront scars of war, broken hearts, stubborn ignorance, and bigoted exclusion: things we see every day in our own worlds. The album, then, comes across as more personal than ever, and Isgaard’s abilities to produce various timbres and to stretch her range really flesh out the humanity of each song.
The album flows and weaves gently and vividly. I do have some favorite tracks, though. “See The Leaves Falling” is a passionate opening track with beautiful string accompaniment and a grand chorus. “The Sun Comes Up Tomorrow” dabbles with an electronic beat that plays on the edges of your mind. The song is actually more upbeat than much of the album, almost feeling hopeful and determined. The last couple minutes are especially climactic and good. “Black Swan” is easily one of my favorite songs Isgaard has ever produced. It is shadowy, poetic, and inner facing. The last half is eerie, darkly epic, and features an amazing chorus that gets into your blood.
The last three tracks on the album make up the “Borders” suite that follows humanity from its inception in untamed freedom into a modern prediction of walls and cages set up by humanity itself. The three part song is about 16 minutes in length, so you might call it an “epic” of sorts. The songs are a little different than the rest of the album, resting more in the prog rock end of things. You will hear multiple singers, some great guitar from ex-Sylvan guitarist Jan Petersen, and this overall sense of warning or urgency.
Isgaard has produced yet another fantastic album. In some ways, she has bested everything else she has every created, and you can see that in the progression of ideas and in her obvious ambition. “Human” hits perfectly on so many levels, musically and lyrically, and fans of progressive pop would be crazy not to take the plunge on this one.