Bellman is apparently one Norweigan guy named Arne-J Rauan. I've never heard of him, nor am I aware of any previous releases. This album is soft indie pop with a lot of classical influence.
The classical influence is noticeable off the bat, as the beginning of the album focuses on gentle string chords and a twinkling piano melody, accompanied by the lonely sounds of one guy with an acoustic guitar. This guy's voice is pretty easily distinguishable. It starts off strong and solitary, but as the album progresses it becomes an incredibly airy, wistful nasal exhale. It comes off soft and somewhat feminine. The second song, 'I Suppose', sounds like a true pop song, and a little after midway through, you hear the singer take out the air and put some power behind his voice. It sounds like he's actually singing instead of just breathing with words, which you will learn is uncharacteristic for the rest of the album. The Curse is littered with little pockets of the vocalist exhibiting his range and vocal chops only to slip back into his trademark whisper, which is disappointing to me, personally.
The third track, 'Olivia,' is the closest to 'upbeat' you'll hear at that point, yet it still retains the longing quality of the other songs. It's also another perfect example of real singing that suits him well. It's obvious that lots of orchestral backup pretty much dominates the various songs' direction and tone - epic, sappy movie score buildups which constantly sound like he's pining for someone. Every song seems to be about a girl. As I slip into 'Gasoline', I hear the loaded band set up but it's again directed by the continuous piano melody in the background that reminds me of Something Corporate. The next one, 'My Sound'? DOMINATED BY PIANO. This just makes it sound like pussy beta indie. It's not innovative or new or particularly exciting. It seriously does sound like a mix of Something Corporate and early Keane that's a lot simpler and has a weaker singer.
'85/40' is easily the best song on the album - it escapes the sad-bastard formula and actually sounds feel-good and catchy. The vocalist is channeling The Fire Theft a bit here and even though it's as simple as the other tracks, the hook stands out as an emotional earworm. He utilizes the other instruments at his disposal to such great effect, the song doesn't even feel like it belongs with the others. It quickly becomes a cruel joke, however, as Bellman slashes your hopes and goes straight into another plodding country-esque lonely-ass piano ballad plus strings where he croons 'See me tonight, I've got you anyway, inside.' It's so unbelievably corny and cliche that it's difficult to take him seriously. 'Inside' tries to pick it back up but ends up just being forgettable.
This album is a constant tug-of-war - you're always striving to notice the things that could save this album. The production is excellent, especially for one guy who, to the best of my knowledge, is playing all the instruments. There's no annoying interludes or intros. The instrumentation is spot-on and on time. Ultimately, though, these are bonuses or they're simply expected of normal musicians, and are not what elevates artists above the crowd. It's listenable, but not memorable in any way. Even the last track, 'Go,' is a real let-down - it's no different from the other piano ballads except it has a proper wrapping-things-up tone. After a few minutes of epic orchestral build up, he has the string section play two dull notes over and over for eternity into the fade out. An elementary school beginner's orchestra could play the fade out with zero problems. It reeks of boring non-creativity. That's great that you play violin, but I'm unable to care unless you write some interesting parts for it.
In the end, this is a light, safe pop record with no real curveballs, no surprises, and no saving graces. If this guy wants to stand any chance, he's going to have to find his voice and tinker with his formula a lot.
Here's a sample.
Here's the album. (320)
Here's the last.fm.
Decide for yourself.