Why is it so easy to feel so lost? This is the heavy question at the heart of the music that the songwriter Fredrik Eriksson has been making over the last few years as Mei River. After years producing off-kilter instrumentals for other artists, he decided to do something about the nagging feelings that have plagued him over the years, a dissatisfaction with the way life goes, a prevailing confusion about the state of things. For the first time, he decided to try to put his own voice into songs, and he ended up with something that reflected how he felt: lost, lonely, and heartsick. He sings often about not knowing what he’s doing, or where he’s going—a relatable sentiment for any young person afloat in the choppy waters of the post-millennial age.
Eriksson says that making these songs has been his way of “rehabilitating” from a period of intense stress and confusion. “I would say that during that time I was lost and so out of place that I didn’t think I would come out of it,” he says. Over time though he did, and even if there wasn’t clarity on the other side of that period, he’s found a way to talk about it. “I use music to say things I don’t dare to say in real life,” he says. “Instead of just saying, ‘I’m sad boohoo’ I try to build up that space of how I’m feeling and also channel how I felt, instead of saying it directly.”
Even though the words in Eriksson’s songs can be anxious and troubled, the music itself rarely is. His songs are sad, sure, but they’re colorful and vibrant, lush and lovely. There are shades of exotica and funk intertwined in with the blushing disposition and handmade qualities of contemporary bedroom pop. The songs shimmer and shine like every single one of them was recorded at peak golden hour. Drawing on his long history as a producer, he experiments wildly with prismatic vocal effects and ambitious arrangements—you wouldn’t necessarily guess, on first glance, that they bear such heavy themes.
It’s a subtle trick, but a useful one. The sweetness of his songs tempers the bitterness of the emotions contained in them. He says that this dual nature an especially Swedish disposition, but his approach mirrors a lot of musical greats from all around the world. His songs mirror the semisweet nostalgia of sophistipop greats Prefab Sprout, the stormy psychedelia of Tame Impala, the wheezy lo-fi of the Radio Dept., or even the wistful introverted electronic music of someone like Cashmere Cat. His songs are part of a long tradition, but his take is a powerful one. He sings of being overwhelmed by the world, but the beauty of the music runs in opposition to these feelings—it almost sounds like he’s learning in real time to be ok with being lost.
In a way, as unsettled as the lyrics can be, Eriksson’s music ultimately conveys a sort of hope and peace. In the beauty and complexity of the songs themselves, he presents a path out from under the burdens of the world. It may not be a roadmap for those lost in the wilderness, but it could be a comfort in a way. Even if you’re lost, there’s beauty to be found around you, you just have to look deeper.