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Club 8, Strangely Beautiful (Hidden Agenda/Parasol)
There is nothing inherently unlikable about Sweden's Club 8. They sing perfectly pleasant, airy pop songs with just the right mix of acoustic instruments and modern flair. Their lead singer, Karolina Komstedt, is a lithe beauty. If one of their albums came on at a dinner party, no one would leave. On the other hand, no one would notice them, either. They're pretty, yes, but unremarkable. Strangely Beautiful, their second album in 18 months after 2002's Spring Came, Rain Fell, will satisfy fans of the band's trademark soft pop, but it's not likely to make them many new ones. Like the album title states, the songs are indeed beautiful, but beautiful through a mother's eyes rather than a more objective observation. The arrangements are also shockingly abrupt, with several songs finishing cold after the chorus has played for the last time. Time seemed to be money when making this record, and it definitely feels like corners were cut. The one intriguing moment is "Between Sleeping and Waking", the acoustic instrumental performed by jack-of-all-trades Johan Angergärd. It sounds like something from a Windham Hill project, and as damning as that may sound, it's actually quite lovely. Perhaps that is a direction Angergärd can explore in a solo capacity in the future. It would certainly be preferred to clunky disco bits like "Saturday Night Engine", where Angergärd falls flat on the last note in the chorus by a good half step... every time he sings it. Instead of Strangely Beautiful, a more appropriate album title may have been Not Bad Looking, Not Great Looking Either.