The Legends, turns out, isn’t nine people at all, as was originally bandied about round the time their debut Up Against the Legends dropped in 2004. It’s just Johan Angergard, playing all the instruments and singing all the parts. So the whole conception of the band as this idealistic, conceptual collection of inspired amateurs was way off the mark. It was all a big ruse to get some interest from an Internet community that loves intellectualizing music. In this they were, at least, ahead of the curve. In these post-Funeral days you can hardly call yourself an indie band without at least eight members. But back in 2004 the group’s size alone was enough to fuel interest.
After careening from the fuzzy indie pop of their debut to the reverent pastiche of post-punk of their second album Public Radio, Angergard has settled back somewhere in the middle and it feels a lot more comfortable. Facts and Figures finally presents a musician at one with the idea of being a one-man project. Maybe it’s that Angergard’s familiarity with the studio software he’s using has increased. Maybe it’s just a perception thing, that now we know this is the work of just one man, our expectations have altered. Either way, it’s reassuring to now be able to place the artist together with other one-man purveyors of electropop like Young Love and Tiga. Though he’s more on the pop side than either of these artists, Angergard uses similar tools, and has a similar sonic palette.
He’s maturing as a songwriter, too. The Legends’ songs on Facts and Figures are somewhat constrained ambition-wise, never aiming for anything more than success as a mainstream pop song. This makes the material less consistently engaging than, say, Stars, who are playing in the same waters but continually mix up sounds and textures to create compelling and emotive indie pop. The Canadian group, too, never sounds programmed or robotic in the way that studio-based acts tend to do. And this is an area in which the Legends still have a little way to go. The squelchy drum machine and cheesy swirl background of “Lucky Star”, for instance, drifts unforgivably close to novelty song territory. As, occasionally, with Robyn, you can be disappointed when the choruses dip into predictability. If they’re ever going to become a big international group, the Legends may have to inject a bit more heart into their music, one way or another.
There’s still a pretty large dose of Phil Spector Wall of Sound going on in the material here—layers of synths, guitars, and voices play a prominent role in most songs. A constant undercurrent of swelling synth crescendos gives a sense of unease to “Another Sunday”, one of the album’s standouts. It’s part of a strong middle section that goes from the pulsing hip hop beat of “Closer” to “Disco Sucks”‘s menacing machine-gun bass and further to another high point, “Darling”. This firmly familiar New Wave-inspired electropop still tastes sweet; the melody has the same bittersweet feeling as the first track off the latest Figurines album, but in a completely different genre.
Johan Angergard probably does have the talent to pump out what the Swedes might call perfect popmusic. His songs are assured and interesting, but they don’t have the urgency of the best pop songs—the quality which coerces you to listen, to sing along, or to press repeat. It doesn’t matter that his style’s so chameleon-like. He’s arrived at a place that is perfectly agreeable. But to really stand out from the crowd the Legends might have to inject a bit more personality into their music.