A playful step in a new direction
Tom Taylor
11:06 18th January 2022

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AURORA experiments with genre in her joyful new album, exploring morality and desire through the lens of Greek mythology. Delayed due to the TikTok-driven resurgence of her 2015 single ‘Runaway’ last year, The Gods We Can Touch hints at a new direction for the Norwegian singer-songwriter, but fans of her empowering electro-pop anthems are never left too far behind.

The album opens with delicate harmonies on ‘The Forbidden Fruits of Eden’, setting an explicitly religious tone for the rest of the LP. Each track takes inspiration from the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology and tells stories about how their flaws make them more human and relatable. In ‘Everything Matters’, AURORA argues that small moments of happiness are often lost in our busy lives with reference to Atlas, the god of endurance. It’s a strong start, with deft use of distorting vocal effects to allow a change of pace and a welcome verse from French singer Pomme.

Fans who discovered AURORA when late-bloomer ‘Runaway’ entered the UK Top 40 in 2021 will have already enjoyed the high-energy synths of single ‘Cure For Me’. Recorded while on tour in Australia, the song is a defiant challenge to those who inflict shame on people perceived to be different. It was written about the harmful, pseudoscientific practice of ‘conversion therapy’ used against LGBT+ people, which is still technically legal in the UK and Norway.

Most of The Gods We Can Touch found life in a converted stable on the grounds of a historic manor house, not far from Bergen where AURORA lives. She rented the castle for a month to work on the album, surrounded by rural Norway’s mountains and fjords. On tracks like ‘Exhale, Inhale’, it’s clear that this approach has given the singer time and space to experiment with different genres and play with a more folk-inspired sound. On ‘Artemis’, her soft harmonies are accompanied by Per Arne Glorvigen on the bandoneon, a sister instrument to the more recognisable accordion.

There are, however, a few forgettable missteps. ‘The Innocent’ attempts too much at once, launching early into a repetitive chorus and never quite catches its breath. ‘This Could Be A Dream’ is enjoyable enough, but lacks the spark which has made AURORA such a success. It’s refreshing to see the songwriter move away from making another album that—in her own words—“feels like nature and mother earth.” However, The Gods We Can Touch does still fall back on the dancefloor-friendly minimalist pop which drove her first three releases, rather than break that well-worn mould entirely.

Inspired by Persephone, the queen of the Underworld, the soulful storytelling and powerful chorus of ‘Heathens’ will no doubt be a regular radio staple, as ‘Running With The Wolves’ and ‘Murder Song’ were before it. But, whereas her earlier releases were anthems of longing and sadness, The Gods We Can Touch is filled with much more joy. “If I’ll be somebody, I’ll never let my skin decide it for me”, she sings on ‘Giving In To The Love’ and you can imagine the crowds on her upcoming world tour will throw their heads back to belt that one out.

The mythological theme keeps the album lyrically interesting, especially in ‘A Dangerous Thing’ which tells the story of a loveless relationship with reference to Peitho, the goddess of seduction and persuasion. AURORA explores how the ugliness of life is often disguised as beauty and laments how destructive behaviour is sometimes hidden behind romance. The track shows the singer’s impressive range as she effortlessly switches between feather-light harmonies and darker, deeper verses.

The album closes with ‘A Little Place Called The Moon’, a slower-paced folky track that continues the experimentation which sets this release apart from her first three LPs. While still reliant on the high-energy, electro-pop anthems that made AURORA a household name, The Gods We Can Touch is a playful step in a new direction for the artist and one which, for the most part, hits all the right notes.

The Gods We Can Touch arrives 21 January Decca Records.

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