With a trio of solo albums under his own name and now two under his latest guise, Sweden’s Thomas Jonsson has delivered Avian, his second release as I’m Kingfisher. Eschewing the American perception of Swedish musical fare, Jonsson began building a solid foundation using the American indie-folk oeuvre with 2005’s Barely Touching It and 2007’s The Lake Acts Like an Ocean — the latter featuring collaborations with Rosie Thomas, Damien Jurado, Nina Kinert and Ned Oldham, brought Jonsson European acclaim. His 2010 release, Arctic — the first under the I’m Kingfisher moniker — added new musical textures to his mostly acoustic palette, creating a gelid ambiance.
Last night I woke up in the middle of the road
And I unplugged my lead I was stripped to the bone
I been aware all my breeding for an hour or two
And fully retracting I said to myself
I don’t think I’m able to do this no more
Avian maintains the starkness of the accusatory Arctic on songs like the timpani-dread of “Force of Habit,” the breathless enunciation of “Electric Forest Velodrome” and the tense anxiety of “My Beak May Break,” yet bears a lushness not heard on prior outings. The longing sway of the electro-R&B number “Lovely Myra’s Transmission Coat” juxtaposes melodic vibrance against Jonsson’s longing delivery. Bulking up the sonic plumage on the bouncing “National Pen,” with its stuttering drums and off-chord guitar flourishes, and synth-driven album closer “Lion’s Share,” Jonsson’s underlying lyrics are a cross-Atlantic echo of the aforementioned Oldham’s brother, Will — Bonnie “Prince” Billy — and his obtuse, first-person tales of sexuality and sacrifice.
I don’t put my trust anymore in loving you
But I trust you for loving me
And I’m sick of being horny and dry
Gonna stay, check my best egg
And you were fairly fine
Through its exploration of life’s migratory patterns, age expectancies and temporary nesting places, Jonsson’s subtle, imperfectly beautiful and often jarring Avian rests on a fragile edge not immediately evident. The second installment of a planned I’m Kingfisher trilogy, Avian is Jonsson’s most ambitious and consistent release — as well as his best.