Tango in the Night
Ola Frick describes himself as, at the moment, “pretty over-worked, but as far as the band goes things haven’t been better.” The band is Sweden’s Moonbabies, and it’s not hard to imagine him feeling stretched. Moonbabies have released two superb full lengths (2004’s The Orange Billboard and 2001’s June and Novas), along with four EPs and singles since 1999, and released the War on Sound Mini Album in May (late July in North America), while still in the process of working up a third full-length due late this year.
They’ve also formed their own label, Moonbabies Music, to release the album in Sweden, while partnering with a host of labels to handle release in other parts of the world, including Hidden Agenda/Parasol in North America. “Things weren’t really working out as we hoped and wanted with our former Swedish label, and it felt like the right time to really start pushing and planning for the future of the band. We had gotten to the point where it was, either to keep it like it was, or to try 100 times harder to do everything in our power to get where we want.” This has included more extensive touring in Europe, which required adding two more members, Markus Weitner and Anders Sejr Davidsen on bass and drums. Though it took Frick and partner Carina Johansson almost three years to get their first release off of the ground, time that was clearly well-spent, they’ve hardly stopped since.
Even the new “mini album” is characteristically ambitious. Frick is quick to correct me when I call it an EP; it’s eight songs in about 40 minutes with five new ones, two covers (including Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne”) and an alternate version of The Orange Billboard‘s title track. On their website, they call the new songs maybe the best they’ve done, and that’s more than encouraging. The Orange Billboard was a more focused success than June and Novas, and as Frick and Johansson continue to sharpen their skills, the records figure to just keeping better. Their brightest song glimpses can make you weak without tempting you to resort to words like “sugary” or “sunny” to talk about them. They’ve managed a handful of songs that flirt with being nearly perfect pop pieces, when even one such tune is more than can be expected of most bands. Moonbabies, though, are at an advantage, because their best is still in front of them.
Both albums due this year, as well as everything they’ve released, were recorded entirely by Frick and Johansson. While not entirely unheard of, this is especially noteworthy in their case, because the albums are spiraling, carefully constructed, and supremely executed nuggets. They also take on all of the writing and play more than the majority of instruments that make it into the mix. And again, while more and more bands are beginning to go down that road, it’s usually with decidedly mixed results on the whole. Moonbabies only occasionally slip into studio over-indulgence, but otherwise the world that they create is completely engaging and fully-formed. “I’m pretty sure Moonbabies wouldn’t have that specific sound, vibe, or song style, or whatever you can call it, if we didn’t do it this way. I think we’ve started to become rather good at knowing what we want at an early stage, instead of just experimenting behind the mixing desk for weeks without direction,” Frick explains. It shows.