"Ba-ba-da," "doo-doo-doo" and "da-da-da-da" are phrases that look silly in print but have played an important role in the history of pop music. This sort of nonsensical expression has harmoniously supported bubblegum melodies throughout pop history, from doo-wop to the Beach Boys to the indie-pop of today. In that latter category lie The Shermans, a trio from Stockholm, Sweden. Their sound is firmly in the tradition of sugar-sweet classic pop, with melodies, harmonies and hooks galore. Yet as with the best music, there's more going on than first meets the ear. They take the catchiest, prettiest pop surfaces and use them to dive into authentic human stories of love, loss and alienation.
Falling Out of Love is a 5-song EP, a quick preface to the Shermans’ third album Happiness Is Toy Shaped, to be released soon on Shelflife. One track, the title track, is taken from that album; the other 4 are non-album tracks. Yet all five are equally superb, a fact that makes it likely that their upcoming album will be just as filled with top-notch material. Absolutely sunny in tone from start to end, the EP is a bouncy, energetic pop treat, but with lyrics that go much deeper than you might expect from music with such a pleasurably upbeat surface. Each song offers a deep, nuanced examination of human relationships and feelings. The band captures feelings of sadness, pain and despair through the lyrics and vocals, while keeping the music giddy at all times.
“We took turns to backstab and one day it didn’t hurt, as hollow as can be,” Ingela Matsson sings on the title track, describing the deterioration of love in honest terms. That sort of heart-baring honesty comes through on every song, including “Little Millie”, the story of a child ostracized from her peers at the playground, and “Shallow Smile”, a light, blissful tune with echoing vocals which convey disgust at the empty questions and meaningless niceties people throw at each other. The final track, “My Baby”, is a realization that being ditched by your lover might actually be a good thing, an opportunity for freedom. The song is also perfectly suited to radio (well, to 1960s AM radio, perhaps), with a perfectly classic pop feel.
The Shermans take after 50’s and 60’s pop in a musical way, but they also continue the tradition of pop music which deals with serious emotional issues in a seemingly simple way. The staying power of so much great pop music, from Motown to Beat Happening, lies in the ability to get at important, genuine human truths with a minimum of words, while entrancing listeners with lovely pop sounds. The Shermans do exactly that; their music is light on one level and serious on another, a perfect balance.
// Notes from the Road
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