There’s a charm and a lightness to the music that okNoah is responsible for, a wistful bedroom pop that still manages to tackle the struggles in everyday life. Fuelled chiefly by guitar and the musician’s impressive vocal talents, the music has a heartfelt strength which is packed with hooks and warm harmonies.
Hailing from Bern, okNoah grappled with finding out where he belonged for a long time. The 21-year-old Swiss musician was born a woman, but had always felt like a man and gradually found the strength for acceptance. As a result, his music dabbles in the challenges and difficulties in relationships, culture, discrimination and life in general.
That could provide a recipe for a more moodier approach to musical composition, but while there’s quieter, more thoughtful moments lurking in okNoah’s music, there’s also a talent for melody and arrangement with a great use of harmony. Take ‘Sort It Out’, whose jangly guitar foundation keeps things busy while okNoah’s vocals have a laid-back insouciance about them. The song’s dreampop drive produces engaging couplets such as:
You tell me that you listen
But it feels like you’re intrigued
By everything, but me
Recorded and produced by okNoah himself, the end result is a wonderful slice of alt-pop that has a polish and a zip to it that manages to lurk around in your head for hours after listening to the song. There’s also some smart brassy fills thrown into the mix for good measure.
There’s a more sedate delivery on ‘Fun’, which tackles themes of identity and acceptance in a much more raw format. Lines such as “Just be like everyone else” are delivered with a soft hammer blow on an emotive arrangement that makes smart use of its slow guitar.
‘I Wonder What It Feels Like’ is a more stripped-down affair, which is also a lot more personal (“I was 17 and dumb/Didn’t know what the fuck was going on”) with just acoustic guitar and vocals doing the heavy lifting. Meanwhile, the breathy ‘I miss you’, has a haunting lilt to it which also offers a window into okNoah’s vocal range.
Now okNoah has a new single due for release, the dreampop rhythms of ‘Bitter Sweet’. An ethereal reverie on finding your place in the world (“Will I ever feel like I belong?”) which has elements of 60s bubblegum pop.
At times, okNoah’s music sounds like some lost imperial phase 4AD act – and there’s certainly something reminiscent of that 90s vitality seeping into the small, but essential compositions at his disposal. By rights, this is the sort of music that should be getting broader airplay, but on the quality of these tunes, it seems likely that okNoah’s star is on a rapid ascent.
‘Bitter Sweet’ is released 23rd July 2021: https://save-it.cc/ambr/bitter-sweet