Let me preface this by saying that I’m a big fan of Múm, who are a very experimental Icelandic group. I especially love their albums Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know and Summer Make Good. Some might think them too sparse or airy — or weird — but I find beauty in the simplicity of their songs. They’re also full of nuances, little details you only notice if you really take the time to get acquainted with their albums, allowing yourself to get fully absorbed by them. The trouble is that most people listen to them and decide that they don’t like them or they use them as background music for working or otherwise doing things where they can’t be an active listener.
The artists Múm are most compared to are Radiohead and Sigur Ros, but I actually prefer Múm. As for Kylie Minogue, well, I’m such a big fan that I have her logo from the album Fever tattooed on my left wrist. And yet I was nervous when I first heard about this collaboration, which was done for the “indie-lesbian-werewolf-flick”* entitled Jack & Diane. I suppose my anxiety might have been because I didn’t want to get my hopes up and be terribly disappointed by this track. But now I am happy to tell you that it’s nothing short of brilliant, one of the very best things either artist has ever done. (If I had to compare it to any of Kylie’s past work it would easily be the album Impossible Princess, which featured some fabulous electronica tracks. “Whistle” especially reminds me of the songs “Jump” and “Dreams,” Kylie songs that were very much ahead of their time.)
“Whistle” begins, like many Múm tracks, with the tiniest bit of electro-tinkering, but it’s only a matter of seconds before Kylie starts singing — softly, almost like a whisper — and haunting but beautiful strings are added to the mix. Gradually, gentle pitter-patter beats fade into the song not long before Kylie sings the chorus, part of which goes “and I believe a whistle at the rain, I’ll be friends with a girl again.” (I might be getting the first part wrong; I had to listen closely several times to make that out.) As the song progresses, the pitter-patter grows louder and piercing, somber strings are added to the mix, drowning out the strings that are already there. Eventually the pitter-patter reaches a climactic moment then stops. The song continues with similar rises and falls happening around Kylie’s precious vocals, which are arguably as haunting as the music. I especially love the inflection when she sings “but you know I’ll always believe in girls.” The way she sings the word “girls” somehow lifts the song from its melancholic state and gives it a sense of humor.
Ultimately, “Whistle” has this sort of fairy tale-esque quality about it. It is, perhaps, a fairy tale about losing in love then searching for it and, eventually, finding it again. But maybe you’ll extract another meaning from it. Like much of Múm’s music, it’s really left open to interpretation. All I know for sure is that it’s mesmerizing, gorgeous and glorious.