With apologies to Foo Fighters fans for the title’s lyrical bait and switch, this post is actually about Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora Aksnes, whom I finally saw live a couple of weeks ago. I cannot think of a more uplifting return to live music after the pandemic, and it was particularly fitting to see her at the Brixton Academy where I went to my first gig 20 years ago (Iron Maiden in March 2002).
I have been a fan since stumbling upon Aurora’s EP Running With The Wolves in 2015, though it was her debut album the following year that truly blew me away. All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend may have been an unwieldy title but its content was a sublime distillation of pain and hopefulness. The perspective she captured was that of having struggled silently for too long, fighting battles that others may not see.
And I was running far awayAurora, Runaway
Would I run off the world someday?
Nobody knows, nobody knows
In Lucky, she wraps it in a lyric simulateously beautiful and coldly isolated, “And I feel the light for the very first time / Not anybody knows that I am lucky to be alive.” The line resonated strongly with me, particularly in the place I found myself at the time. It is those early songs in particular that provide cathartic relief in her live show, a crowd of humans drawn to her music for that reason. Aurora used to joke about the lack of overtly positive songs in her setlist, though infectiously poppy tunes like Cure For Me and Conqueror provide a wonderful release of tension.
There is a touch of the fae surrounding Aurora, her love of nature filtering through to her lyrics as she performs with her entire body, whilst her impish playfulness makes interviews a delight. Another artist might adopt these traits as an affectation but with Aurora it appears an unfettered reflection of her personality, something that came through in unfiltered lo-fi live streams during the pandemic in which she would sing and chat. Indeed, as her popularity has grown, she seems genuinely concerned about losing the personal interaction with fans at shows.
When a human strokes your skinAurora, Through The Eyes of a Child
That is when you let them in
Let them in before they go
I would rather feel alive with a childlike soul
What Aurora reminds me above all is the strength in softness, that it is not a weakness to be open or vulnerable but quite the opposite — to allow oneself access to those vital human experiences requires greater fortitude than to harden or close oneself off. Her vocals are at once fragile and determined. The result is subtly powerful, and perhaps explains why her music has attracted a wide spectrum of fans including many from the metal community — indeed, Aurora is a professed fan of metal and created a compilation EP For The Metal People of songs “influenced” by the genre like Under The Water and The Seed. Whatever your musical preferences, then, I do hope you can take the time to listen to a few of the linked tracks because there really isn’t anyone else quite like Aurora.
Under the water we can’t be togetherAurora, Under the Water
Under the water we die
Then why do we jump in?