Track-by-Track: Konradsen’s Sophomore LP ‘Michael’s Book on Bears’ Is a Cathartic, Shiver-Inducing Nordic Dreamscape

Konradsen © Marthe Thu
Konradsen © Marthe Thu
Nordic indie folk band Konradsen take us track-by-track through their soul-stirring sophomore album ‘Michael’s Book on Bears,’ a cathartic and smoldering seduction that captures the warmth and wonder of northern Norway as well as a singular sense of home and reconnection.
Stream: “I.O.U.” – Konradsen




Michael is all of us longing for home and those of us who are considering a change of course in life. He is a symbol of your childhood and your future.

Living so far north in Norway, away from so much of the world, you can feel a sense of isolation and disconnection.

Or, you can feel more connected to life than ever before.

This was the case for Konradsen’s Jenny Marie Sabel and Eirik Vildgren, who traded Oslo’s hustle and bustle for the quiet of the seaside, the epic grandeur of the mountains, and a warm sense of solitude that you can’t often find in a big city.

Returning to their respective hometowns, the core members of one of Norway’s most exciting indie folk bands found inspiration in their old stomping grounds – and they’ve channeled that sense of familiarity, connection, and homecoming into a beautiful, breathtaking sophomore album.

Cathartic and comforting, Michael’s Book on Bears is a soul-stirring exhale of intimate Scandinavian introspection: A sentimental, smoldering indie folk seduction that finds Konradsen at home and in their element, perhaps more than ever before.

Michael's Book on Bears - Konradsen
Michael’s Book on Bears – Konradsen
Felt like an avalanche
Like fire kissing smoke
A fragile yes
My naked dress
That second born child
sleeps on our porch side
Now I wake from dreams and scenes
Hand me the pieces
Loosen the leashes
Tonight I will play by your rules
Did I hold you back from all that true bliss
by causing a riot?
They’re calling me radical and all that same shit
Haunts me at times
– “I.O.U.,” Konradsen

Released March 8 via 777 Music, Michael’s Book on Bears is a shiver-inducing Nordic dreamscape. Arriving five long, life-changing years after 2019’s debut album Saints and Sebastian Stories, which Atwood Magazine called a “sonic and musical masterpiece,” Konradsen’s second full-length record is a reflection on the new – or are they old? – worlds singer Jenny Marie Sabel and multi-instrumentalist Eirik Vildgren have discovered over the past four years, as both left the Norwegian capital for their hometowns in northern Norway. Sabel returned to Storfjord, where she became a schoolteacher and she and her husband built a cottage in her parents’ backyard, while Vildgren came home to Senja, the mountainous island bordering the Atlantic Ocean and the Norwegian Sea.

Konradsen © Marthe Thu
Konradsen © Marthe Thu



“During the pandemic, we both made the decision to move back north where we both grew up,” the pair tell Atwood Magazine. “Jenny moved to Storfjord where her parents still live, while Eirik moved to Senja. We just finished our European tour for Saints and Sebastian Stories and arrived back home the 12th of March – the day when everything closed down. So we hadn’t started thinking of the theme for our next album, but we quickly realized that our next album should center around the new life back in our old places. We rented a small farm house from some friends, set up a little studio there and that’s where we wrote and recorded most of the music.”

“It was very clear from the beginning that the theme of the record was Northern Norway, and moving back to your hometown. We wanted the sound to be more raw, and more band driven. Make the drums and bass have a more leading role. We also wrote more of the songs together with others, including our band mates Erlend and Ivar. We started playing and working with guitarist Martin Miguel from Pom Poko, which was very good for our sound and adding something new and exciting, not only for the listeners, but also for ourselves. It’s so important to be excited about what you make, and to feel that you go to a new place, whether it’s lyrically, visually, or musically. I think we stayed true to the original idea. Details will always change over the course of creating an album, but the vision remained the same.”

Spending her time with the dogs out there
Making you think you would always fail
How do you rest without a key?
Hanging her medals on every wall
Christmas still haunts us across the floor
Singing those carols in early June
Gather all the village girls
Make a fire for the lonely
How will you define yourself
while looking at your mother lost and blue?
Hey let’s just blow up this life
Scandinavian dynamite
Even though your line is strong
Big girls move on
Let’s break our arms on that bike
Write a Dear John to Mike
Dump your heavy overload
Steal that car and hit the road
– “Scandinavian Dynamite,” Konradsen
Konradsen © Marthe Thu
Konradsen © Marthe Thu



Konradsen describe their sophomore album as sentimental, wry, and magnetic. The title, they say, is a reference to Swedish author Mikael Niemi’s much-beloved 2018 novel, To Cook a Bear – a book based, much like them, in the deep north.

“Our first record was Saints and Sebastian Stories, therefore we wanted the title of this record to include a name as well,” they explain. “Michael is a main character we follow throughout the record, and it felt necessary to use that name in the album title. Inspired by Mikael Niemi’s classic tale of northern Scandinavian intrigue, To Cook a Bear, we wrote the song ‘Thickest Birch,’ where Jenny sings, ‘Been reading Michael’s book on bears…’ and there we found the title. It’s a book everyone should read. It really captures something true to what it feels like living up here.”

“Michael is all of us longing for home and those of us who are considering a change of course in life. He is a symbol of your childhood and your future.”

Musically speaking, Michael’s Book on Bears is both an expansion and an evolution of the artistry we last heard on Saints and Sebastian Stories (and more recently, the 2021 EP, You Can Be Loved) – and yet, at its core, there still lies that same raw, unabating desire to capture the unfiltered, unadulterated charm and churn, beauty and pain of our shared human experience.




Album opener “Out in the Backyard” sets the tone of the record, itself a tender song laced with layers of gentle folk warmth and wonder. “I wrap my hands around every waist of home,” Sabel sings over a dazzling, yet hushed atmospheric array. Her soul-stirring voice falls sweetly on the ears as she begins to build a new life in an old, familiar place. “Been living like a stone whipped around the coast. Melt my mouth in sweet salty promise, honey we got our own set of trees, a brisk ocean breeze, spill that coffee on me…

So begins a record full of uncompromising passion and breathtaking poetry, beautifully raw vulnerability and aching intimacy. We feel Konradsen zeroing in on what it means to bet on yourself, make your house a home, and build life anew in songs like “Michael,” “I.O.U.,” “Thickest Birch,” and “Pillow Mountain” – all of which are must-listens on an album that consistently stops us dead in our tracks.

Konradsen © Marthe Thu
Konradsen © Marthe Thu



“We are very happy that Michael’s Book on Bears is the next record,” Konradsen smile to one another. “It encapsulates what’s happened the last few years very well. A lot of the themes on this record come from life up here, which feels right. It’s more grounded and there is less attention to the small details, but in a good way.”

“When you live in a quiet place, sometimes you want to make more noise, and then the opposite is also true. Living in the city where there is enough noise, you want to be quiet and make quiet music. In some ways you can hear it on this record compared to the previous one. Even though we live more quietly, there is plenty of sound on Michael’s Book. With Saints, we wanted to be in control of all the details, but on this one we managed to let more go, and that was a good thing.”

As far as highlights are concerned, the band cite “Michael,” “I.O.U.,” and “Dološ Viessu” – a visceral, brooding, and gut-wrenchingly beautiful collaboration with fellow Nordic artist Emil Karlsen – as three of their favorite songs of the moment (though they’re quick to admit, it’s always changing: “There are phases where some songs are more present and they stand more out to you, but you still care about all of them”). The songs “Out in the Backyard” and “Michael” are also home to some of their favorite lyrics:

Grow yourself some answers in that big pile of dirt” – “Out in the Backyard
“Out on the Island the cashier knows your name
back in the old shed you’ll find yourself again” – “Out in the Backyard
Hey Michael left his boat out
The slow tide is in sight
I caught you in a bad joke a thousand times
You gave life to my hive
” – “Michael




Konradsen © Marthe Thu
Konradsen © Marthe Thu

“We hope listeners can find some time to reflect while listening to this record, but also laugh. Perhaps some of the words and stories will resonate with them,” Sabel and Vildgren share.

“For us the making of this record has felt like growing up. It’s been useful and fun to make music about what’s happening in our lives right now. And it has helped us to trust more in the choices we have made. The second album is always tricky, but since this album was meant to be very conceptual it helped us stay focused during the writing process.”

Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Konradsen’s Michael’s Book on Bears with Atwood Magazine as Jenny Marie Sabel and Eirik Vildgren take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their sophomore album!

Michael’s Book on Bears is out now via 777 Music.

— —

:: stream/purchase Michael’s Book on Bears here ::
:: connect with Konradsen here ::
Stream: ‘Michael’s Book on Bears’ – Konradsen



:: Inside Michael’s Book on Bears ::

Michael's Book on Bears - Konradsen

— —

Out in the Backyard

This first song is about the process I’ve (Jenny) been going through over the past two years. I moved back to the village I grew up in, and it was exciting having to build something new among old memories. It’s about coming to terms with one’s own prejudices and the fear of being reunited with old classmates and the checkout lady who reads your shopping cart like a tarot card.

Scandinavian Dynamite

Many of us had a little gang we grew up with. Scandinavian Dynamite is a tribute to my childhood girl gang and all the laughter and all the tears. We all went our separate ways at one point, but we will always remember all the noise we made and each other’s stories.
We wrote this song together with Martin Miguel Almagro Tonne from the band Pom Poko, and that was a fun experience. He has a very different energy in his music than what we’ve previously done. It felt invigorating to just get some new sounds and expressions and ideas into our songs, and it felt like we touched a little bit of 90s rock’n roll – which was fun.

Michael

With Michael, we wrote this song that we really liked. From early on it felt like one of the stronger songs on the record. The verses came quite quickly and then we had to wrestle with the refrain, trying a number of different versions before ending up with this one.
After seeing the movie «Tree of Life» by Terrence Malick, so many powerful scenes got stuck on my brain. These images became an important inspiration lyrically when writing Michael. The song depicts scenes from childhood and it is a tug-of-war between the good and the bad memories.

I.O.U.

This song questions the individualism we live in. I believe it’s healthy if the choices we make in life are not only about ourselves, but also our children and the places we come from. In Norway I would say we are proud of the places we come from. Norwegian’s last names are often the names of the farm or valley their family came from – like Bjørndalen, Viken or Vildgren. Now most Norwegians have left these places and moved into the cities, but I think many still feel some kind of connection to their family homestead. We wanted to bring some local voices into this song, so we asked the members of Senja gospel choir from Eirik’s hometown to sing with us in the end of the song.

Maybe I Like Fermentation?

We smile when we think of this song. It’s supposed to be serious and funny at the same time. A song for those who sit in their apartments and scroll through advertisements of small farms and sourdough.

Let it Pour Like the Old Days

This song is originally an improvisation we recorded in our little studio farm house. A song that starts off as a quiet and simple piano ballad, and then transforms into a different sonic universe before it returns to where it started. It was supposed to stay simple, but we felt it needed some more, so we brought in some synths and changed the feel of the song in the middle. You can listen to this song when you are old and look back on life with your loved one.

Thickest Birch

The book “To cook a bear” by Mikael Niemi is a real northern gem that inspired the making of this song. When you read this book you feel a little touch of the northern spirit through the descriptions of nature and history. We wanted this song to be a tribute to everyday life, with an undertone of struggle in it. Put on this song, go out into your neighborhood and see the everyday magic, whether you live in Sápmi or Tøyengata. We are joined here by the Norwegian poet Fredrik Høyer and he shares all of his wonderful and insightful impressions and thoughts on everyday life.

Fieldfare

This song is a look back at a sad event, and a tribute to all the birds on earth. Even though the song has a sad undertone, the music has a lot of energy and hope.

Pillow Mountain

If you live in the North of Norway you got to love or at least like winter, since we have so much of it. Pillow Mountain is about everyone’s misunderstood friend: Winter. In Norway, winter is often embraced as a time to be “cozy”. We see it as a time to rest and be introspective. Not the absence of light and heat, but the presence of a different type of light and heat. The moon lights up the snow and bam! – you got yourself a type of light that is breathtaking.

Dološ Viessu

The title is Northern Sami for “the house from the olden times.” The whole thing is an improvised one-take in the old summer house the album was recorded in, together with our friend Emil Karlsen. “Old houses joik if you listen to the walls. This joik is the feeling of visiting a really old house with someone else’s history.” – Emil

Æ og Min Elskede

Terje Nilsen’s gem of a song that describes life in northern Norway. This is played both at weddings and funerals, and is a song that only those in the north fully learn to understand. We recorded this song in the studio farm house, where you can hear the squeaks and the road away in the distance.

— —

:: stream/purchase Michael’s Book on Bears here ::
:: connect with Konradsen here ::

— — — —

Michael's Book on Bears - Konradsen

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? © Marthe Thu

:: Stream Konradsen ::



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