When it comes to commonplace tropes in storytelling, the line between a blessing and a curse can get thorny pretty quick. If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, for example, you are at risk of very literal brain detonation after having every available rendering of dragons, orcs, sorcerers, witches, assassins, knights, etc. ad infinitum crammed into your eyeballs following that earliest encounter with those sneaky little hobbitses all those many years ago. But humans are fans fantastical escape, so we keep coming back, despite a largely lopsided affair where, if we’re terribly honest, middling tales rule the game. And why exactly do we always return? Because there are, and will thankfully always be, those unique gems that continue to beam through the din and find incredible ways to reinvent the wheel. The tropes are largely still there, sure, but the knack for narrative mercifully eclipses dilemmas with highly over-worked footpaths.
But what if some outsider hit the desk with a work that focused on Tolkien’s realm outright—same lore, characters, beasts, etc., but perhaps from a different perspective, on par with, say, Grendel. That would be a red flag to some, most notably those who prefer creative ingenuity built from the ground up. But again, so very much simply depends on the strength of the narrative. Bottom line: Good storytelling transcends all.
Music is clearly analogous to this, which brings us to… Well, Pink Floyd.
Pink Floyd, the band that manages to transcend virtually all boundaries, with covers spanning from Voivod to Scarface to Easy Dub All Stars, and an invariable choice whenever your favorite artist showcases favorite records that stand as pivotal influences or immortal loves. The perpetual trend that crushes all cronuts, cloud breads, boozy seltzers, vegan platform shoes, Tell Me Without Telling Me TikTok vids in its implacable wake. Pink Anderson Floyd Council, baby.
Which begs the question, why are we not subjected to an endless parade of bands that sound extremely similar to Pink Floyd the same way we have photocopies of xeroxes of duplicates of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Cure, Motörhead, Entombed et al? Ye olde “who could possibly do it better” school of thought? “Easier said than done?” Well, sisters and brothers, allow me the honor of finally hauling Norway’s Bjørn Riis under the spotlight. If that name seems altogether unfamiliar, which seems at least somewhat likely, know that it was equally so to the crew of Last Rites before we collectively happened across the mystical realm of a band called, um, Airbag back in 2020, which happens to be Riis’ mainstay.
Great news, friends! Pink Floyd is not only clearly woven into the pattern for Airbag’s approach to modern progressive rock, it carries an even stronger conviction with Riis’ fourth solo record, Everything to Everyone.
Okay, it’s important to emphasize the following point straight away: Everything to Everyone is far from a Pink Floyd photocopy. That said, it would also be rather extraordinary if someone were to listen to the record and not wonder if Bjørn Riis grew up collecting every issue of Guitar Player magazine that featured David Gilmour on the cover.
Nevertheless, while Everything to Everyone clearly owes a great debt to the atmosphere and elegance of Floyd, it accomplishes its goal with a less psychedelic approach that feels modern and at times becomes quite riffy. The promo email for the record drops a “for fans of Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree” (they actually say “for fans of Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree, Bjørn Riis and Marillion,” which is rather hilarious), and that pretty much wallops the nail square on the head. There are moments here where the fretwork is harder than anything Floyd has done—the distinct Rush feel to the opening instrumental “Run,” for example; or the strong Porcupine Tree nod once the otherwise hushed “Lay Me Down” really starts hustling; and the hints of modern Opeth that manage to bleed into the 4-minute stretch of the album’s 13-minute epicenter, “Every Second Every Hour.” Main point being, the largely tranquil Floyd approach underscoring that unmistakable “honey in the veins” sense governs the full journey here, but there’s well enough modern piquancy to stack this record alongside contemporary works from projects such as Porcupine Tree, No-Man, The Pineapple Thief et al. This is, however, the most Pink Floyd of them all.
Fans of Floyd generally holster an endless array of reasons for their indomitable devotion, but one factor that so very often manages to stand out relates to the boon that is David Gilmour’s lead guitar work, and particularly the way his solos always manage to curl like sweet vapor around the otherworldly drift at the heart of so much of the band’s overall narrative. Gilmour’s style isn’t terribly flashy or inordinately noodly, he simply finds seemingly endless ways to pick the most perfect notes to string together, and the results are always ludicrously tuneful, lifting, and infectious. Likewise, Bjørn Riis’ soloing throughout Everything to Everyone is very much rooted in this approach, but it still manages to feel more like… “Okay, this guy clearly loves David Gilmour” rather than “Oh, this part sounds just like the 3:40 point of ‘Dogs’.”
Everything to Everyone offers up a worthy mixture of pace and mood, and outside of one sentimental ballad—the wonderfully heartening “The Siren”—the progressive face of Riis gets plenty room to play, with lengthy songs that feature numerous shifts and shuffles. Things always manage to circle back to that pensive and melodious coolness, though, and Riis’ skill as both a musician and keen songwriter is backed here by an impressive bevy of guests that include players from Airbag (Henrik Bergan Fossum), Wobbler (Kristian Hultgren), Oak (Simen Valldal Johannessen), and Caligonaut (Ole Michael Bjørndal), plus Mimmi Tamba providing a wonderful vocal accompaniment that adds yet another layer of Pink Floyd to “Lay Me Down” and the closing title track.
I realize how tiresome it must be for musicians to have their creative labors repeatedly paralleled to other artists such as this, because doing so implies some level of unoriginality and a lack of adventure. Nothing could be further from the truth here, though. Sure, a few spins of this record will undoubtedly transport the listener to a cozy Pink Floyd realm, but Riis’ sharp and inventive perspective on that extraordinarily unique texture and technique is a bonafide slice of good fortune that also ensures a high level of replayability. And in a world where so few artists are able to find proficient ways to embark on such a quest, it’s not only reasonable to celebrate individuals such as Bjørn Riis who manage it at a champ level like this, it’s vital. Do yourself a great favor and get to know and love Everything to Everyone.
1. Run [5:56]
2. Lay Me Down [11:40]
3. The Siren [7:20]
4. Every Second Every Hour [13:20]
5. Descending [4:33]
6. Everything to Everyone [7:28]
• Produced by Bjørn Riis and Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes
• Mastered by Jacob Holm-Lupo