You Are by Unicorn

Release date: December 7, 2023
Label: Self-Released

Hurling the sounds of progressive music, pop, new wave, ska, folk, and country, Tonje Ettesvoll has lit the fuse by bringing all of the ingredients to the forefront with Unicorn’s second album You Are. Launched in 1998, it is a project that remains dear to her. A survivor of childhood abuse, Tonje is a woman who fights for justice and brings the people who have hurt her, to show how much that she’s not backing down without a fight.

With the 2003 release of BeHold & BeHeld, Tonje takes her listeners on a journey to find their voice and standing up for themselves, letting them know that they’re not backing down without a fight. On You Are, it brings the emotional boundary by reflecting the sense of compassion and the experience of moving forward.

The galloping title-track begins to start the album with a bang. There are the high-rising sounds from Dan Johnsen, Storeng, and Minnemann’s militant drum techniques. And I imagine Tonje took admiration of the Italian psychedelic sounds of the mid-to-late ‘60s in which they used from the European spy / sci-fi film in that time frame, and evidential in the 2001 film, CQ directed by Roman Coppola.

‘Original Sin’ moves into a different direction as Unicorn goes into a Madness and early Oingo Boingo-like approach of the ska sounds in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, tackling themes of bullying. Tonje confronts the people that wronged her and shows how much stronger, smarter, and she can knock you down with a massive punch to the face.

Once she does that, you do NOT want to cross the line with her. If you do that, she will kick your ass like’s no tomorrow. The mournful string sections on ‘Honestly’ sees a young Tonje looking through the blue skies, knowing that she’s been through the suffering, the abuse, and the rough times in her household.

 

She knows that the door is finally opened and being free from all of the torture and never coming back, but the pain and suffering will haunt her. Listening to this track, it almost reminded me of Barbara Gordon’s return as Batgirl in the New 52 arc, written by Gail Simone.

After being paralyzed and tormented by the Joker in the 1988 controversial graphic novel The Killing Joke, she became Oracle. But finally learning to walk again three years prior to a clinic in South Africa. She returned to be Batgirl again. But the images for what the Joker did to Barbara, will haunt her for a long, long time.

In ’12 Days’ there are parallels of these train-chugging acoustic guitar chord strums, alternative motifs, Ettesvoll’s clarinet riding through the night, Minnemann’s brushing techniques, and a tribute to David Bowie’s Heathen-era that comes to mind while the harp techniques done by Sigrun Walstad that is detailed on ‘Star’, views the outcome on being famous.

Tonje channels the unsung sounds of Triumvirat’s ‘The Hymn’ from their 1977 album Pompeii and iamthemorning’s Marjana Semkina’s vocal arrangements. There’s the romantic side of it, but there’s also the tragic consequences on what happens when the lights begin to go out as they look at you being the prey the paparazzi take rapid pictures of you, nonstop. And then you become the talk of the town in tabloid magazines, talk shows, and on TMZ.

You Are is Unicorn’s journey coming to an end. For Tonje, she’s not just a songwriter, but a fighter as well. She’s bringing everything in what she sings. She’s not fooling around; this is her with brutal honesty on what she went through. And we, as listeners, have witnessed the story coming in full.

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