The stunning and stirring ‘Pixie’s Parasol’ radiates passion and euphoria, love and hope, loss and pain as Smith & Thell embrace a breathtaking spectrum of emotion in a record of life lived in the moment.
Stream: “Year of the Young” – Smith & Thell
It’s song-by-song written on the way while we live, like a diary of thoughts from the last years.
If Smith & Thell’s debut album was “utterly human,” then their sophomore follow-up may best be described as “utterly emotive”: Three long years in the making, the stunning and stirring Pixie’s Parasol radiates passion and euphoria, love and hope, loss and pain as Smith & Thell embrace a breathtaking spectrum of emotion. Expressive lyrics, dynamic climaxes, and smoldering grooves capture life lived in the moment as the band dive into their depths with uncompromising strength, vulnerability, and finesse.
I’m gonna say what you said
I’m gonna do what you did
I won’t remember you died
I will remember you lived
You said don’t you stand by my grave,
no don’t you stand there and cry
I’m the trees and the birds
I’m the soft stars that shine at night
No I’m not there I did not die
No I’m not there I did not die
This year we lost more than we can count
The ashes we laid in the ground
Oh this was the year of the young
This year we look up towards the sun
And wonder where everyone’s gone
Oh this was the year of the young
Released February 5, 2021 via Playground Music / Arista Records, Pixie’s Parasol is Smith & Thell’s hotly-anticipated sophomore album and the long-awaited follow-up to 2017’s heavily acclaimed debut album, Soulprints. One of Sweden’s most sought after songwriter and producer combinations, Maria Jane Smith and Victor Thell introduced their own enigmatic brand of folk/pop with 2015’s debut single, “Statue (The Pills Song).” Beneath jangling guitars, dynamic percussion and a cinematic chorus lay an intimate story of struggle and perseverance – and thus began a career defined by empathic, provocative lyricism and equally compelling, emphatic, and warm melodies. Songs like “ROW,” “Feather & Gasoline,” and the album’s runaway hit “Toast” further reaffirmed the duo’s talents, remaining refreshing sources of inspiration and solace to this day. “Bold, catchy and all-encompassing, the band’s debut album radiates with warm energy,” wrote Atwood at the time. “Despite its varied tones, timbres and textures, it is an impressively cohesive work that finds Smith & Thell touching on ‘experiences from childhood and the naïve joy, to growing up and talking about real life everyday issues.'”
“A lot has happened since we released our first album, Soulprints,” Smith & Thell share. “That album barely had any listeners at first, but over time people seem to have found us and seem to continue to find us through those songs. Since the release of Soulprints, we’ve grown up and become less like teenagers and more like adults. Our career took off, we’ve toured for months on end, we have gone from being a couple to becoming best friends, we’ve won a Swedish Grammy, and we have gone through the devastating loss of loved ones. All this while, the music has held us together, both as individuals and as a unit. Soulprints celebrated life’s ups and downs, the rollercoaster we’re all on in this world. The new one might be an even wilder ride…”
The past four years may have felt interminably long, but Smith & Thell packed them with action; a slew of singles released in 2018 ultimately resulted in the EP Telephone Wires, some of whose songs make a well-deserved reappearance on the new album as well.
“We don’t work towards making albums with one specific sound; it’s song-by-song written on the way while we live, like a diary of thoughts from the last years,” the band tell Atwood Magazine. “These last years have been a rollercoaster of emotions: We lost a loved family member way too young, we went from being a couple to continuing the band as friends, our career took off for real, we toured the world… to just name a few things. So the album was written on the way while all these things happened.”
Life may have taken them on a wild journey recently, but sometimes it takes a little bit of chaos to assert your control and find your sweet spot – your balance. As they faced new obstacles, the band dove deeper into all those things that make their music resonate so deeply with listeners around the world.
“We can’t seem to get away from the sharp emotional turns in our music,” they explain. “This album, again, travels from the lowest pitch black bottom to the euphoric highs. [It’s] bipolar, if we may use that word to describe our music. Ironically, our world seemed to take even sharper turns the last two years than ever before, from sunny festivals in California, to breakups and the loss of loved ones. This album wrote itself along the way and we followed wherever the music took us. Song after song, one written in a trailer backstage at a sunny festival in California, and another beside a hospital bed watching someone we loved dearly fade away. All the songs are a story of their own.”
“Listening to it in full now, the big questions about life, death and love shine through. It’s no wonder that two people in a band will write lyrics about being lost in space when those two people broke up and then toured the world together, all while writing music about breaking up. Together. It’s no wonder they will name the album after a psychedelic mushroom, and write songs about cars driving through galaxies, and lovers trying to communicate while living in parallel universes.”
Songwriting is our diary, and life decides which songs are to be written. And maybe it’s no wonder that this album asks the big questions about life and death.
Creating in and around tumult and upheaval, Smith & Thell let life be their guide and music their means of processing.
An open-mindedness to change allowed them to expand beyond the Soulprints aesthetic – hence while there are certainly some echoes to that initial record, Pixie’s Parasol sounds and feels far more refined and focused, while still impressively expansive. “The only thing I know we decided from the start was that we didn’t want to limit the productions just to stay true to our ’folk sound’,” Victor Thell explains. “It was important for us to experiment and let creativity run free.”
“We’ve matured during this album,” he continues. “We’ve been through real grief and struggles throughout the process of making it and at times this album is a lot less naive than Soulprints. But the core of us is still there, the ups and downs and the combination of heavy lyrics in uplifting costumes.”
Both the album’s artwork and its title help capture the intense experiences that brought the music to life: “A pixie’s parasol is a blue little mushroom that grows out of dead wood in tropical forests. To us it’s a symbol for beauty and growth coming out of ugly things. The blue umbrella also is a symbol for loneliness. It means and symbolizes many things,” the pair We wanted to find something to visually symbolize the mixed emotions that went into making the album,” the pair says. “The deadwood where the mushroom grows represents sadness, and its beauty represents the light and hope that can exist simultaneously – that good things can exist even while bad things happen. Pixie’s Parasol.”
Highlights abound on an album full of heart: As lyricists, Smith & Thell cite the album’s early standout “Year of the Young.” “I think the most important lyric on the album is from “Year Of The Young”: ‘I won’t remember you died, I will remember you lived,'” Thell says. Dedicated to those they lost in 2019, “Year of the Young” is a resilient and resounding reminder that the ones we love “live within everything, and within us.” It’s poignant, yet uplifting; sad, yet nonetheless hopeful and empowered – a song for the lost and the living all at once.
While earlier album single like “Forgive Me Friend,” “Hotel Walls,” and “Goliath” have racked up tens of millions of streams online, the record’s deeper cuts are equally exhilarating. “Yatzy is a special song to us,” the duo share, referencing the album’s tearjerker ballad written about Maria Smith’s sister Jannah, who passed away from cancer in October 2019. A soft, tender, and heartbreaking ballad, “Yatzy” plaintively captures the emotions of going through a loved one’s cancer treatment, while trying to keep some semblance of life’s normalcy – an often impossible balancing act:
In a couple of weeks
Your hair will fall to the ground
All that silver and blonde
You saved for so long
And in a couple of months
We’re gonna walk through the doors
Inside the hospital walls
Your verdict will fall
But for now, we just keep praying
To a God we try to believe in
And there’s a lot of people saying
That it’s all ’bout positive thinking
So, I make you drink your vitamins
And we try to keep you laughing
And meditation helps
And have you ever felt
Two hands that practice healing?
Ah ah ah, ah ah ah
Then we cried, ah ah ah
Wanna ease your pain
But what can I say?
Wanna play a game?
And we played Yatzy
All night long
And just like with your life
Wе counted the odds
And the kids whеre laughing
When we let them win
And please have mercy
‘Cause they don’t know a thing
From the rejuvenating opener “Radiactive Rain” to the bittersweet, reflective finale “Parallel Universe”; from the glow of “Nangilima” to the swell of “Hotel Walls” and beyond, Pixie’s Parasol is an album of life lived. Smith & Thell capture the beat of every moment without sugarcoating the hard times, and that’s what makes their music so beautiful, relatable, and special.
“To the listener that is going through a hard time, we hope the songs can be a comforting hug, a pep talk from a friend, and maybe even help you cry the tears you need to cry,” Smith & Thell share. “A guide in grief in a way. Going through this ourselves recently, there’s probably a song on the album for every stage of the process.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Smith & Thell’s Pixie’s Parasol with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their sophomore LP!
Stream: ‘Pixie’s Parasol’ – Smith & Thell
:: Inside Pixie’s Parasol ::
It’s hard to see that something might be toxic if you’re in the middle of it. It might even feel wonderful and look beautiful at that moment. Radioactive Rain is a song about youth and love, a story from our own lives inspired by a scene in the fantastic series, Chernobyl, by Johan Renck. Right when the nuclear reactor blows up, the families come out to watch the beautiful burning sky, dancing in the ashes. Little did they know that moment would be their last.”
Year Of The Young
A song to the young people we and our friends lost during 2019. The lyrics are inspired by the poem of a woman called Margret Elizabeth Frye known as ’the famous death poem’. A reminder that the ones we love live within everything, and within us. With this song we comfort ourselves with the thought that the important thing is that someone lived, not that they passed. We all pass, but existing for a while in and of itself is the blessing.
Forgive Me Friend
The song that changed our career and made our lives totally crazy. A song about not letting someone into your mind only to then start to drift apart.
Nangilima is the name for paradise in the book ’The Brothers Lionheart’ by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. A beautiful and somewhat sad story about brotherhood and unconditional love. Our Nangilima is about sisterhood and keeping promises, If you jump I will jump too.
A song to a person we hold dear, Maria’s little sister Alice. A song to let her know that everything will be alright and that one day we will all live in one big house far out by the sea, just like I’ve promised.
Goliath is a song to the underdog, a reminder that no matter how small we feel, we all have the power to achieve great things. The verses are written as a riddle and this has made some people question the meaning of the chorus. We’ve actually been getting tons of emails from people that ’desperately need to know our thoughts behind this’, but to solve the chorus the verses have to be read first 😉
A song about the big questions of life and death that are hard to grasp. The hotel room is a metaphor for how life is for rent for a while and how we often forget that it isn’t up to us to decide when time is up. The verses are really a timeline from the first day in life to the last.
Maria: ”My sister Janna passed away in October of 2019, and this song was written just before summer the same year when we had understood that her cancer wasn’t curable. We didn’t know how much time she had left. We tried to keep things as normal as possible, doing the things families do together. One night we played Yahtzee with her kids and the similarities between the game and the odds in life hit me.”
A song about lack of communication between friends and about being too proud to say ”I’m sorry.”
This song questions the time in life when you met someone, thinking that later might have turned into forever.
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:: Stream Smith & Thell ::