For Those Who Like Their Swedish Pop a Little Darker . . .
The phrase “Swedish pop” has been known to confuse more than a few casual music fans.
For most, the first artist to leap to mind when faced with those two words is, invariably, Abba. After Agnetha, Benny, Bjorn, and Frida, it’s kind of a free-for-all for the next most-recognized Swedish group, but it’s probably a two-way tie between Roxette and Ace of Base, with the Cardigans trailing a distant third.
So, in other words, to look at the evidence presented to the general public (the casual observer who only knows what they hear on the radio and perhaps see on MTV or VH-1), Swedish pop would appear to consider of fluffy, lightweight songs along the lines of, to name a song by each artist at random, “Dancing Queen”, “The Look”, “The Sign”, and “Lovefool”.
As such, “Swedish pop” isn’t exactly a label that your more substantial bands would probably want attributed to them.
Still, if you’re from Sweden and your music can be classified as “poppy”, then, really, what would you expect people to classify you as? Besides, you could do a lot worse than being lumped into a category that also includes the Merrymakers, This Perfect Day, the Leslies, Brainpool, Beagle, the Wannadies, and Dorian Gray . . . to name but a few at random.
Starlet, while it might be overstating things to say that they’re in a class of their own, certainly aren’t as immediately cheery as most of the aforementioned artists. If those folks were inspired by ‘60s and ‘70s pop, then Starlet appear to take their cue from the Cure, the Smiths, and other semi-glum bastions of ‘80s college radio.
“Malmo”, the opening track of When Sun Falls on My Feet, starts off like a none-too-distant relative of the Cure’s “A Night Like This”, and, while the chorus does soar after a fashion, it’s not in a rousing, anthem-rock way; it’s in more of a “the verse was so dour that, by comparison, the chorus can’t help but seem like it’s soaring” way. The melancholy guitar on the album’s title cut sounds like it could’ve been done by Johnny Marr himself; it leads directly into an unexpected but nonetheless perfectly-placed trumpet solo. The Marr influence pops up again throughout the album, most notably on “Sunshine”.
Lead singer Jonas Farm’s Swedishness can be heard in his delivery of the English lyrics, particularly on “With Sand in My Eyes”. Actually, it’s not so much that he “sounds Swedish” as it is that his pronunciation instantly betrays someone who learned English as a second language; it’s something about the emphasis when singing certain words, I suppose.
There’s a whole lot of jangle to be heard on When Sun Falls on My Feet, but the additional instrumentation on many tracks fleshes them out in a subtle fashion. For instance, keyboard enters “And How It Breaks” during its last 30 seconds, only to bring it to a delicate conclusion. “Stop and Let It Go” is the big, epic closer to the album. The track betrays Farm’s limited range when he goes for the high notes of the song, but, somehow, it adds to the emotion of the track. Piano and percussion lead the song from beginning to end, and it’s a lovely finale to the disc. Whereas reviews of their previous discs would lead you to believe that only Belle & Sebastian fans need apply for Starlet’s albums, When Sun Falls on My Feet find a band learning the value of additional instrumentation and expanded arrangements . . . and succeeding with them far more often than not.
// Notes from the Road
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