Swedish singer-songwriter Wilma Nea describes a complicated relationship on her newest single, “Stalemate,” released by artist-run Ish A Record Label.
Wilma Nea is something of a mythical wood nymph. Originally hailing from the forests of the Värmland province of Sweden, she began making music as a child, particularly favouring the piano. More recently, she has lent her creative energy to other projects, singing backup for band Children of the Sün. Her debut solo single “Kolgränd” allowed the singer-songwriter to spread her vocal and lyrical wings. Her newest single “Stalemate”– the first release since EP Issues, which featured Nea singing English by herself for the first time– forges a new path for an artist that is beginning to gain traction as a singer-songwriter to watch out for.
A track about a relationship that has reached an impasse, “Stalemate” encapsulates common frustrations that are uncomfortable yet not unfamiliar. Nea leads with storytelling, singing softly about an awkward conversation with a partner, “You called me up / Said I was good for a laughter / I never know what to say until way after.” She draws the listener into the moment, describing, “/ It’s quiet tonight. / This room is drowning in silence. / It’s alright. / Alright.” Complacency within a relationship can be comforting, and Nea perfectly paints a picture of this strange position that lovers often get themselves into. During the refrain, she performs in a layered, choral style, asking, “Ain’t it neat, / This net you’re laying in? / Can’t you see / You’re bleeding by your feet?”. The metaphor of one who is trapped yet unaware, wounded yet unfeeling perfectly plays into the theme of dull discontent portrayed in “Stalemate.”
Wilma Nea‘s previous releases have often put heavy vocals and piano at the forefront. Though confronting dark subject matter, “Stalemate” is a sonically lighter offering that’s almost indistinguishable from the rest of her oeuvre, with the track leaning more into a bouncy, bedroom-pop sound. With vocals that are reminiscent of greats like Feist or Ingrid Michaelson and subtle production that allows Nea‘s power as a performer to shine through, this shift is a surprising but welcome one. Though “Stalemate” is more understated than usual, the intimate performance allows listeners to truly appreciate the singer-songwriter’s tender power as a writer and performer.
Ultimately, this single is about a relationship between people who are struggling to communicate, yet still sticking around. Not a love song and not a break up ballad, “Stalemate” succeeds in the difficult task of portraying relationships as they really are– Complicated. Take a listen to the single below, and also be sure to check out the accompanying stop-motion music video.