It took Joel Wästberg some fifteen years of self-encouragement to finally release his music. But not only is he releasing music, with his new album, Holding On To A Dream, he is touring Europe. Growing up in a small town in a tiny village on the western coast of Sweden, his dream of music-making came to fruition with the release of both his 2016 EP Says Hi and subsequent debut album Digging A Tunnel in 2017. Holding On To A Dream is the apt follow-up, almost documenting his development.
After many years spent writing and recording entirely for himself, the reception to his work moved Wästberg, diluting the nervousness that had held him back for so long. “Making this album I felt less scared about being judged or measured,” he says. “I made my first album not knowing if a “real record label” would pick it up. I was shocked that so many people really heard my music – I still am.”
Negating the difficult-second-album narrative, Holding On To A Dream expresses his new-found confidence, the hurdles that he overcame leading to this open path of dense electronic pastures. It’s pretty clear from the first listen that this album of Wästberg’s new work is a celebration of self-conviction, experimenting with credence.
Written, recorded, and produced by Wästberg- then mixed, once again, by Henrik Alser in a small cabin in the isolated Swedish countryside – Holding On To A Dream is a detailed account of Wästberg’s own life, of relationships found and lost, but relativity creeps in with his themes, love, fear and connectedness.
An eleven track record, we are indulged with a plethora of glitch sounds, and a hip hop bass that grounds us. Fly Away is suggestive of him eventually finding his wings. No Giving Up is a haunting reflection on relationship losts, The Sun Will Shine is an enjoyable mess of keys, and monotonal vocals, evocative of life obstacles. Pin Me Down is the standout track with those dirty basslines, and lyrics such as, “you are the one with the voice, I know that I had to make my own choice…to use my own voice, that’s how my story goes.”
A hybrid album, fusing jazz, soul, hip hop and dream-pop, this second record is fresh, vibrant and an ambitious leap for someone finding their voice. I look forward to the next from sir Was.
Holding On To A Dream is out on 20th September, via Memphis Industries.