I used to think of the Legends as Johan Angergård’s rock band, compared to his dancier, more overtly pop work with Acid House Kings and Club 8. I’m not sure why. It probably has to do with their sound and style when they started, on 2003’s Up Against the Legends and 2005’s Public Radio. There were leather jackets, traces of shoegaze, c86, etc. Or at least that’s how it sounded at the time. Then again, even the last Legends album, 2009’s Over and Over, came doused in feedback. But that was six years ago. This is now.
Their fifth album, It’s Love, begins with an instant reminder that the Legends are pop through and through. And not just that: it’s lush, ruminative, bittersweet pop music, perhaps the best kind. They also seem less a band than a one-man show; in various ways, the album feels like we’re living inside one person’s brain…his thoughts, his feelings, his dreams and, perhaps most of all, his memories.
The opening track, “Keep Him”, is a 2015 Swedish indie-pop version of a Motown lament for someone who “got away”, so to speak. Angergård’s soft whispery croon simulates a voice inside someone’s head—or, perhaps more accurately, one person sending telepathic messages to another. The chorus, even softer, more delicate and filled with longing: “when you’re lost and alone / do you have someone / to give enough hope to fill up all this time… well, I hope so”.
Drum machines, sparingly used synths, Angergård singing particularly softly and carefully (and occasionally warped in AutoTune-like ways that make him sound stranger but also even more filled with longing)—these are the building blocks of It’s Love, which was released this past summer on Cascine and is now seeing release on Angergård’s own label Labrador, with two extra tracks, making nine total. The album has been dosed with a shy, hurt romanticism that is persuasive and becoming.
In the songs, Angergård sometimes voices the perspective of a mentor/guardian angel, and other times it’s someone heartbroken, feeling at a distance from those around him. His vocals capture distance and intimacy at once. He sings often in the second person, delivering reminders, rejoinders and instructions to someone else, along with confessions and remorse. Some of the more extroverted songs imagine what might have been, like the almost disco “The Great Unknown”.
This “expanded” reissue is 28 minutes long. That brevity suits the album, as it accentuates the general feeling of loss, longing and romance. It plays up the perspective the album has that if you blink you’ll miss out on opportunities for human connection. They come, they go, they can’t be recaptured. It’s Love is a Valentine’s Day-ready “love” album—if you take for granted that love is sadness.
The album ends with a dirge titled “The Embrace” where Angergård’s voice twists and floats through heights of strange sadness. Almost (but not quite) a bit of Massive Attack-ish atmospheric trip-hop, it has an air of finality and insanity about it. The embrace that he sings of, alas, is one that he hasn’t been enjoying. Instead he’s haunted by bad dreams and visions of his intended in the arms of others.