Emil Svanangen, better known to music lovers as Loney, Dear first came to recognition in the U.S. at the beginning of this year, when his third album Loney, Noir, was released by Sub Pop. On the back of that, the Swede’s fourth album is getting the reissue treatment, as well. Originally released in Sweden in 2006, the album takes its name from an agricultural region of France that pretty neatly sums up the focus here. That, or the bit on “The City, the Airport” when Svanangen sings, “The city, I don’t want another life that’s killing me.”
Sologne, following fellow Swedish folk group Amandine, builds literary-minded compositions with a pastoral outlook. If this is not as overt as the Lidman and Lotass-referencing Solace in Sore Hands, it’s useful to at least think of Loney, Dear as an emotionally labile fellow-traveler. Through soft layers of acoustic instrumentation and vocal harmonies, Svanangen creates a sustained and lasting representation of the classic emotions of regret, peace, and loneliness.
It’s not difficult to place Svanangen along with his contemporaries like We’re From Barcelona and Peter Bjorn and John from the timbre and accentuation of his soft voice, though musically Loney, Dear is more like Jim Noir or Tunng, or Adem’s first album. Svanangen sounds most convincing when he relaxes in his mid-range, like on “Le Fever”. “I’ve seen this before, like scenes in a film”, he sings and the ESL misstep is charming. Elsewhere, though, particularly when he pushes his voice to the very top of the falsetto range, Svanangen has a harsh quality that isn’t as compelling.
Loops of repeated phrases help build the atmosphere in many of Loney, Dear’s songs. Opener “The Battle of Trinidad and Tobago” is a standout. Lithely it repeats a couple of variations on a phrase, “I’ve been listening to your voice from the other side, I know you so well”, building layers of instruments and lapping waves of confluent backing vocals. “Grekerna”, an instrumental track, takes an organ melody from some familiar classical piece, adds bird noises and other extraneous sounds, and builds a mantra-like calm from the repetition. The melody is reprised for closer “Won’t You Do?” a fragile, splitting-apart ballad that’s a sweet and subtle farewell and a perfect closer.
The larger-scale crescendos and expanded sections of cacophony, the ending of “The City, The Airport”, or the opening of “In with the Arms”, occasionally feel a little forced, and the lapse back into soft folk is where Loney, Dear is most comfortable. Occasionally, though, the larger scale works brilliantly, as when the deep bass of an organ lifts “A Band” into a whole new place.
It’s great that U.S. audiences are being given the chance to get to know Loney, Dear’s music after the success of “I Am John” and Loney, Noir. Sologne is a sweet and soft ode to life away from the cacophony of the city. It won’t blow you away (it’s not meant to), but Svanangen’s soft sons will surely enrich your day whenever you hear them.