The contributions that Sweden has made to pop music are underappreciated. From the colorful dance-pop of ABBA and Ace of Base to the light rock of Roxette and The Cardigans, Sweden has given the world some of the catchiest songs ever recorded. Waltz for Debbie draw on these Swedish roots while encompassing a wider worldview with their melancholy clubland anthems on the band’s U.S. debut Gone and Out.
Inescapably dance music, Waltz for Debbie’s dreamy loops and hyped-up beats are set against the wounded voice of lead singer Annica Lundback. The contrast of these two elements is beautifully compelling and gives Gone and Out a depth that either one would not have alone. Waltz for Debbie’s ability to balance these two components speaks to the skill of both Lundback and her bandmate Martin Permer.
Gone and Out soars inside its constraints as dance music, and while some of the beats and effects they use come across as a bit generic, Waltz for Debbie employ them to their fullest. While it would be easy for this music to come across as cold and overproduced, the band brings a very human vulnerability to these songs, from the complicated relationships in “You and I and Brett and Alice” to the longing of “Go into Reverse”. At the heart of these swirling sonic environments are refreshingly real emotions.
While lyrics are generally secondary and repetitive with most music of this sort, Waltz for Debbie fill them with surprisingly poignant moments. Lundback’s aching voice distantly recounts a one-night stand on “Fade Away”, singing “Left a note on the bathroom mirror, I called a cab and I was gone”. Later, on “Flowers First”, her defeat is apparent when she requests “If you try to cheat me, don’t do anything. Just pretend it’s easy and make me feel all right”. Although Waltz for Debbie have other strengths, the duo’s understated lyrical abilities are a reason to keep listening.
“Sun Song”, which is just Lundback singing with piano accompaniment, shows another dimension of Waltz for Debbie. Stripped of any of the artifice of electronics, this song demonstrates the band’s ability as musicians, while bonus tracks “I’ll Be King” and “My Angel” reveal the band to be much more than just a dance-pop outfit.
Waltz for Debbie should do Sweden proud with Gone and Out. They may not achieve the same status as some of their Swedish peers, but Waltz for Debbie have created an album of great elegance, and that’s enough for this duo to be a success.