[10 March 2008]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Doctors and Dealers is actually one very bewitching Swedish chanteuse named Sparrow. Confessions of a Drunken Mind is a delightfully simple and utterly charming collection of slightly retro pop songs built around winsome keyboard melodies and Sparrow’s adorably lilting vocals.
She’s been compared to Kimya Dawson, Regina Spektor, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and Cake on Cake. She also shares some qualities with vocalists like Simone White, and Martina from Canadian pop group Dragonette, among others. Doctors and Dealers does have some traits in common with these artists, but is also quite original and independent. Besides a cello on one track, guitar on another, some claps and snaps across the album, and a brief vocal duet, everything is played and sung by Sparrow. She uses Casio keyboards, with all of the programmed beats and chintzy effects that implies, but her precious melodies, eccentric lyrics, and guileless delivery elevate the simplicity to the sublime.
Confessions of a Drunken Mind begins with the single “Social Skills”, which is already a hit in Europe and it’s easy to see why. “I’ve never been called a lovely person / Not been considered very nice / My social skills would fit good in prison / Until I met you”, Sparrow sings to a bouncing bass and whimsical melody punctuated by sprightly snapping fingers and an ambling beat. The chorus, “You’re the one that makes my heart jumping / You’re the one who keeps it pumping / A day with you saves my soul / From freezing”, lingers long after the first listen, which is pretty impressive for a silly little ditty clocking in at less than two minutes.
“Lack of Love”, a portrait of heartache and isolation, sounds simultaneously like a lost Zombies outtake and a medieval descant. It also would not seem out of place in an antique music box. “Snow Child” is the second single, and it’s again a bright, lively, tune with a fetching refrain: “No one could ever know / Why this girl likes to play with snow”. Its cheery disposition conceals some rather dreary lyrics, and that seems to be an underlying theme on this album.
“The Other Woman” is somber goodbye to a love not meant to be, but despite its sad subject, it still manages to be uplifting. “This Is the Year”, conversely is a song of hope that is all the more distressing for its sense of longing. This seeming dichotomy is perhaps most notable on the enchanting “Summertime Love”. The lyric “I know I can’t ever see you again / ‘Cause that will destroy all the memories I’ve got / Leaving you was not easy to do / But I must go back to loneliness and feeling blue” is juxtaposed against the sunny, swingy musical arrangement, which calls up images of romantic rendezvous and postcard-perfect lazy afternoons on beaches and boardwalks.
“My Mother Was a Dancer” is a humorously self-deprecating recitation of the talents of others and the envy engendered by feelings of inadequacy. It’s sad but cute, and funny because it’s true. “Steve McQueen” is another amusing musing upon envying the lives of others. This time though, Sparrow decides that “Wouldn’t it be boring / If we all looked like Steve McQueen / You live for yourself / That’s what Steve would say /And you don’t have to answer to nobody”.
Confessions of a Drunken Mind ends with the title track. “Oh I’ll never leave / You’ll be / To me / A drunken memory” she sings in a beautifully blithe ballad about how—no matter how hard she tries—somehow, the party never ends. It’s a notion that might apply to the album as a whole. Doctors and Dealers stays in the mind like one sweet and slightly hazy, happy high; it’s a mellow, mellifluous, memory.