Album Review: Jarle Skavhellen – The Ghost In Your Smile

Jarle Skavhellen’s debut album, The Ghost In Your Smile, is a masterfully authentic marriage of modern and classic folk. Heartfelt, hypnotic, and earthy yet ambient, the record holds a clarity and timelessness that reveals an intriguingly mature and seasoned artist in Skavhellen. While this is only his first studio released album, it is very apparent that music has always run through his veins.

The first song, The Ghost in Your Smile, starts off acoustically and is gripping off the bat, with a stable, atmospheric beat joining in periodically. To new listeners, his voice will instantly be related to that of the Tallest Man On Earth, but Jarle certainly owns his unique sound in this musical space. Now That I Know, a short tune that kicks off very up tempo with the banjo, has a mesmerizing, anthemic chorus that momentarily slows down the song before jumping right back into a country twang.

Coming Home is a beautiful song that shines a peacefulness on death, and conveys how a shift in perspective can turn what is usually seen as a terrible tragedy into tranquil acceptance, and in this case, an extension of love. The songs starts off gloomy, though ends on a positive and somewhat happy note with triumphant instrumentals, bringing a smile to your heart. Pilots is a song about a faded friendship, something everyone can relate to. While this is a natural course that many relationships face when the distance between two people grows, Jarle – through his somber yet sweet sounds – chooses to be empathetic and grateful for the good times, rather than resort to bitterness and anger. Final Days, one of the concluding songs on this album, blends melancholic folk with an etherealness found in its chorus, a contemporary take on tradition that Jarle pulls off so well.

It’s exciting to see the rise of this Norwegian artist as he shares his music with the world. Sung and written with passion and emotion, The Ghost In Your Smile is an exceptional debut for Jarle Skavhellen. Hopefully this is just one of many impressive works of art to come.

Julia Kwan