For some reason, I always hold a special place in my heart for those artists whom I discovered entirely by chance. These are usually CD’s I pick up on a whim, for one reason or another—maybe the cover art was cool, maybe I know the label it was released on, maybe I recognize a name in the liner notes, maybe the disc was simply too cheap to pass up. Mans Wieslander’s CD Twin Piloda fit several of these categories for me. While digging through the budget section of a local record store a year or so ago, I happened across the disc for the princely sum of 99 cents. It was probably Mans’ unusual name that caught my eye at first, but a quick perusal revealed not only that he was Swedish (a plus in my book—it seems that Sweden is second only to Australia in the number of amazing pop bands it produces), but that his record was produced by Ola Frick, a member of another excellent Swedish band, the Moonbabies. With this information under my belt, the purchase was a no-brainer. Twin Piloda turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of last year—simultaneously lush and airy, this was simple, beautiful music. Weislander’s voice was supple and nimble, equally capable of gentle croons and more forceful declarations. This coupled with the excellent songwriting and creative instrumentation on display lifted Twin Piloda far above your garden-variety mellow indie rock.
Thankfully, Weislander has scored himself a US distribution deal through Parasol records, which means that his excellent material is no longer limited to those faithful fans willing to track it down on import (or those lucky slobs like me who find it in the budget bin for a buck). Yet is his first US release under this deal, and while it’s not quite as sonically impressive as Twin Piloda, it’s still an extremely worthwhile effort, and well worth investigating.
For Yet, Weislander seems to have toned down the sonic experimentation factor a bit. While Twin Piloda wasn’t exactly a Flaming Lips record, it found its creator a bit more willing to juxtapose ugly noises with the inherent beauty of his voice and guitar playing. Although that tendency is explored to some degree on Yet with songs like “Unsound”, which features squalling guitar noise on top of a lush bed of cellos and acoustic guitar. More common this time around, however, are gorgeous entries such as “Speedbump”, “Evil Eye”, and “October Quarterly”, which feature aching, swelling vocal melodies and fairly simple instrumentation (mainly acoustic guitar, bass light percussion). Weislander’s voice is put on full display in these songs, and he rises to the occasion magnificently. It is a wistful, autumnal instrument; a soothing sound that draws the listener in despite the fact that it isn’t singing about anything terribly profound.
That’s not to say that Weislander has nothing to say, it’s just that his vocal melodies are much more distinctive than his actual lyrics. All this means, really, is that you’ll be singing along to lines like “So be happy now, with your animated loss” (from “October Quarterly”) or “Evil eye, in the winter I’ll fry” from “Evil Eye”) without having the foggiest idea of what the author of the line is talking about. However, it’s not like this is anything new in the word of rock music, as over the years, we’ve happily sung along to the nonsense scribbled by anyone and everyone from John Lennon to Bob Pollard. While Weislander is certainly not as abstract as those folks are, the fact is simply that you’re not likely to find any great kernels of wisdom in these songs. And, hell, that’s OK: it sounds good, and besides, it’s just pop music anyway.
For some reason, with this release, Weislander has received numerous comparisons to the Go-Betweens. While I adore the Go-Betweens, I can’t help but think that someone who hasn’t actually heard much of their material initially made this comparison. Although his voice bears a passing resemblance to Grant McLennan’s, his songs are neither as wiry or tightly wound as the Go-Betweens’ best material. If anything, Yet bears a slight resemblance to McLennan’s more easily digestible solo work than actual Go-Betweens’ material. However, it’s certainly not as if that’s the first time inaccurate comparisons have been made by the indie music press this year (for the last time, Interpol aren’t ripping off Joy Division, they’re ripping off the Kitchens of Distinction!).
In the end, Yet is an excellent effort from a tremendously talented singer/songwriter who should find many fans on these shores. If it’s a tad less distinctive than its predecessor, it still easily holds its own, and can hardly be considered a disappointment—truly, if Yet was the first thing I’d ever heard from Wieslander, I’d still be as thrilled as I was when I first heard Twin Piloda. This is a thoughtful, beautiful record full of well-crafted songs that should appeal to anyone who tends to use those adjectives in the description of their favorite artists.
// Notes from the Road
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