Emerald Park are an indie-pop outfit from Malmo, Sweden. For Tomorrow, their second album, is full of bright, catchy songs and refreshingly free of artifice. The album doesn’t come with a built-in gimmick or a breathless press release proclaiming the band’s indie credibility. Instead, the band simply delivers 45-plus minutes of well-written, likable songs.
A short intro opens the album before the first true song, “The Commonfield”, gets going. Martina Johansson sings the first verse before giving way to Tobias Borelius, and the two trade off throughout the song. Johansson’s airy, pretty voice contrasts nicely with Borelius’s deeper, slightly nasal delivery. This singing all floats on top of a gentle acoustic guitar-and-keyboard groove. “Ume” is more upbeat, with a pair of clean electric guitars and a nice bassline accompanying strong vocal melodies from both singers. Subtle bongos add more motion to the chorus. “A Higher Loss” is a big chunk of power-pop that recalls the New Pornographers, but manages to hold back a bit, and the huge, in-your-face, instantly catchy chorus never arrives. Instead, the song climaxes at the end, after the vocals have faded and the volume on the guitars increases.
The rest of the album continues in this vein. Emerald Park use their singers to great effect, and the interplay between Johansson and Borelius never feels forced. They also expand on their basic instrumentation very successfully. “Värnhem”, named after a neighborhood in Malmo, incorporates whistling, violin, and simple piano, into a soft, wistful travelogue anchored by the line “Let me off at the next stop”. “Istanbul” is driven by a powerful bassline and loud, urgent vocals from Borelius (I think—it’s possible the band has a second male singer), but also from a pair of pounding timbalé drums. Later on, the dance-beat and ‘80s-synth styled “Pasadena” seems like a possible misstep. Despite the catchy, earnestly sung chorus “Pasadena, where are you gonna go?”, the song feels flat. It may be that the dance beat was a poor choice for this band. Or it may be that Johansson takes full vocal duties on the song and that her breathy voice works best in contrast to Borelius’s, and not on its own.
For Tomorrow recovers after “Pasadena”, though, and ends with a pair of strong tracks. “Lights of Sunday” has a quick opening acoustic guitar riff that sounds tailor-made for some corporation’s slightly dreamy TV commercial. But Borelius’s urgent chorus gives the song a lot of power and may be the album’s emotional high point: “He’s tired of himself / I don’t think sleep will help / You’re weary and you sleep / ‘cause you’re tired of yourself / When you’re sorry for yourself / You push your friends away / And when you push your friends away / You feel sorry for yourself”. The six-and-a-half-minute title track closes out the album, sounding at first like a continuation of the opening “The Commonfield”, but going off in its own direction with its wistful refrain of “I’ll save it for another day / I’ll save it for tomorrow”. Low, pulsing synths, high piano, and a whiff of strings keep the band’s penchant for subtle, clever use of expanded instrumentation intact on this final track.
For Tomorrow is a well-crafted album that doesn’t break any new ground. But Emerald Park consistently show a knack for getting the most out of simple ideas and pop song structures, and their hard work pays off with a strong collection of good tunes.