Ahead of being a model, brand ambassador and part-time chef, Maya Vik is a veteran queen of funk. Her name might be lesser known outside of Europe, but her 2015 LP Beyond the Basics is a perfect introduction.
With an upbringing listening to the likes of Janet Jackson, Prince and Michael Jackson, it’s obvious how little this Norwegian has strayed from her initial attraction to the world of pop. After learning bass and dipping her toes in a handful of rock/pop bands (Furia, Savoy, Montée), it was time for Vik to discover her solo career as an independent singer/songwriter.
Beyond the Basics is Vik’s follow up to her 2011 debut solo release, Château Faux-Coupe. The album was written over the course of two years from 2013 to 2015 and feels like a fast-track back in time to the best of 80’s pop. From the opening track “Can I Feel”, a nostalgic Minneapolis sound lingers throughout the entirety of the record. To say Vik is an 80’s revivalist would hold some truth, however her 15-year career has allowed for a sharp, revitalised brand of synth-pop to develop.
Throughout the album, you find re-occuring melodies and dreamy choruses that float effortlessly via Vik’s bubblegum, Madonna-esque vocals. Glossy synths are also a common theme, heard in a number of styles and arrangements making for an almost inter-galactic, Cosmo’s Midnight feel, especially on the track “Young As This Night”.
In-between pure disco moments like “YMD (Young Michael Douglas)” and the upbeat pop anthem “On It (Kapow!)”, Vik offers a heavy dose of sultriness with airy vocals and slinky R&B beats in “Natural Selection”. Even the track “Young As The Night” weighs in at a slower tempo to break up the party, with the patient and amorous chorus line, “My body is yours.” This intimate side is completely alluring and shows a vulnerable side to Vik that can otherwise get lost in the confident stride of her dance-floor fillers, like “Going Insane (1984 Rehearsal)”.
Closing track “Oslo Knows” is a stand-out of the album and a shift in instrumental style. On top of the expected shimmering synths, a horn section chimes in and creates an unexpected texture of sound, lifting this track into something else. Some of the heaviest electric guitar chords on the album dip in and out and it feels like pure polished 80’s pop. This could be the track the last few couples left beneath the disco ball slow dance to at the end of the night, camera slowly panning away, eyes closing, confetti glistening on the floor.
Beyond the Basics is a nostalgic synth-pop dream. Anyone getting excited about bands like Client Liaison and Jamiroquai best be including Maya Vik on their playlists for a playful addition of European pop.
Review Score: 8 out of 10.
Beyond the Basics is out now.