Following on from 2017’s epic releases “Thinking Of You” and “Hope”, the young Swedish talent Elias follows up with “Focus”. A yielding slowburner that showcases Elias’ soulful and sincere vocals, personal lyricism and penchant for moving, perfectly-formed melodies, heard through a haze of modernist pop production. The single once again returns to a recurring theme of disharmony, of how through inner turmoil and conflicting life choices, one can move forward. As Elias explains in his own words:
“It’s about me leaving a relationship and getting on with my life. I’m conflicted about it, but I know that it’s something that I have to do – I think people can relate to that. Sometimes you have to choose to leave something behind when it’s not working anymore.”
“Focus”, along with past singles including breakthrough “Down N Out”, as well as the 2015 debut Warcry EP, further proves the rare and ever improving talent that this 20-year-old musician possesses. It’s a capacity that has not gone unnoticed. Making his first appearance in 2015 as a unknown teenager, Elias struck out with “Revolution”. Noisey described him as “a concoction of James Blake soulfulness and Bon Iver potential,” while i-D prompted comparisons with FKA twigs, Spooky Black, Anthony Hamilton and Sam Cooke as they praised his “gorgeously profound voice.” Not only that, but Sweden’s Grammy Awards also invited the young talent for an unbelievable performance in 2016.
Two years on, and it feels like Elias’s path has been almost pre-determined. “Did I have a back-up plan?” he ponders with the careful consideration that seems to inform everything that this artist asserts. “No, not really. If I don’t do music, maybe I could clean apartments. I don’t have a choice. I have to do this.”
Right now, the sole focus for this young musician is the completion of his first full-length record, which first began when Elias travelled from Stockholm to London to work with Paul Epworth (producer for Adele, Coldplay & Florence Welch) and long-time collaborator HYENA (who also produced “Revolution”.) Overwhelmed by Epworth’s genuine interest, those initial discussions between Elias and Epworth have very much shaped the thematic and sonic future of this album. It’s a record that also carries much influence from his modest background where he was exposed to rebellious worker’s songs thanks to his mother, which first raised his distinctive vocal. Later refined through the Tensta Gospel Choir (who you can hear on “Thinking Of You”), and very much informed on by the songwriting of King Krule and the production of James Blake.
Sharing his thoughts on the album, Elias says:
“I really wanted the album to be as pure and honest as possible,and that’s a pretty hard thing to do. There may be simple melodies, but to find those melodies you have to go full circle: discover the more atmospheric side at first, and then you come to the essence of the song. I also wanted to get away from where I was born and try to find my place in the world.”
One of Elias’ greatest strengths is consistency. From the debut “Revolution” to latest single “Focus”, here is an artist with a voice that was truly something else. Not only is it striking in its nuance and in its power, but it’s also the voice of a man who has seemingly weathered a lifetime’s worth of emotional upheaval, and has learned how to convey love, loss and devastation with utter sincerity.
“The main thing is trusting in myself and what I want to say, and to be able to rely on that and not hide away so much,” he concludes. “As for the album, I just hope that people are patient with it and will give it a chance.”