[21 March 2007]
“Less is more.” Can someone translate that into Swedish, please? The whimsical twee-pop band I’m from Barcelona (who actually hails from Sweden) combine for a total of 29 members. 29! And although I’m sure there are many instruments to go around, I have a feeling that after the banjos, tubas, and kazoos are all handed out there are still about a dozen stoners standing around, clapping their hands and harmonizing about tree houses. I’m from Barcelona is more of a communal experience than anything else; more like a campfire sing-a-long than an indie rock group.
Emanuel Lundgren, who is the band leader and principle songwriter, may possibly have a case of Peter Pan Syndrome. The singer constantly tackles issue of pre-adolescence such as collecting stamps, building tree houses, and having the chicken pox. The singer didn’t set out to write an album about childhood, it just kind of turned out that way. It seems that his youth follows him wherever he goes.
While searching Google for a graphic design project, Lundgren came across images of tree houses and became fascinated with the elaborate structures people had built in trees, sometimes to escape their real homes. The song addresses the secrecy and seclusion of these elevated adobes. “Nobody can see us, ‘cause it’s a you and me house”, Lundgren explains. It a terribly obvious song about juvenile fantasies, but an endearing tune nonetheless.
“Collection of Stamps” was conceived when Lundgren was rummaging through some old things at his parents house and came across (you guessed it) his old stamp collection. Lundgren claims he didn’t collect these tokens for their inherent value, but because he was curious about all the different countries that existed out there. He taps into the inquisitive nature that exists within us, both as children and as adults.
In addition to the obvious childhood recollections, Lundgren also pens some incredibly delightful pop tunes. The album plays like 11 different versions of “Shiny Happy People”. The inclusion of horns, bells, piano, and glockenspiel adds a unique, cute quality to each song. However, the strength of the music seems to rely on Lundgren’s sweeping, catchy hooks and the symphony of singers who accompany him. Their annoying twee shtick may be a bit overkill, but the fact that I’m from Barcelona can actually overcome this hurdle is a testament to the quality of their music. Let Me Introduce My Friends is full of delightful tunes with a joyous, youthful bend to them.
The adorable atmosphere is portrayed in the music video for “We’re from Barcelona”, which simply shows three rows of musicians, sans instruments, swaying back and forth to the lines, “I’m gonna sing this song with all of my friends, cause we’re all from Barcelona”. The video looks like a school class photo, and actually might have been filmed in a high school gymnasium. The absence of instruments makes you wonder what these 29 members actually do (except provide a symphony of background vocals and a number of ironic tees).
So what’s the fixation with Spain anyway? Why does Lundgren use their fair city as his rhetorical focal point? The fact is, as Lundgren has admitted, that there is really no good reason he chose this city. Barcelona could be any city, or perhaps even a fictitious destination. Lundgren has created a setting where our childhood reveries thrive; a place where enjoying music is a shared experience and everyone is in the band. This place is Barcelona, and when we listen to Let Me Introduce My Friends we are all from Barcelona.