The issue of being “lost in translation” is a reason why one of Sweden’s most popular artists is hardly known beyond the borders of Scandinavia -- but they should be…
En Plats i Solen (“A Place in the Sun”) is the ninth studio album by Swedish indie rockers Kent, first made available as an exclusive digital download via the band’s website on June 23rd, and elsewhere on June 30th. While Kent is one of the most popular bands in their native Sweden, they have yet to make a real break into the US/UK market, owing mainly to the fact that the majority of their music is still performed in Swedish. However, the band has not let this fact hold them back and continues to put out albums, generate top-charting singles, and take home a plethora of awards. The release En Plats i Solen comes just a few months after their previous album, Rod -- some of the songs were in fact left over from the recording sessions of that album -- and it continues the band’s move toward music which is more upbeat and less of an electronic-heavy sound than some of their previous releases.
While the band has been compared to other more well-known artists (such as Radiohead), Kent has most certainly found their voice by this point in their career, yet some songs on En Plats i Solen still show off some the influence that other bands have had on their music. “Varje gang du moter min blick” (“Every Time You Meet My Gaze”) has an epic, hypnotic sound along the lines of Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”. Other tracks like “Ismael”, “Gamla Ullevi” (“Old Ullevi”), and “Ensam lang vag hem” (“Lonely Long Way Home”) have a European-style synth-pop sound similar to artists like the Cure. Still others, such as “Skisser for sommaren” (“Sketches for Summer”), are more or less just straight-up indie rock. From front to back, this is an album that is very easy to listen to, and becomes a tranquil background for whatever other activity the listener may be doing at the same time.
Part of the appeal of Kent is that they still continue to do what they do best regardless of what might make them international superstars. They make great indie rock and they may have done it as well as they ever have on En Plats i Solen. This album is uplifting and often times mesmerizing, and the fact that all of the songs are in Swedish should not be a reason for English-speaking audiences to overlook it. While Kent may never achieve the world-wide popularity that a band of their talent level may deserve, one also must consider that that too much of the spirit of their songs might disappear if translated from Swedish to English, and that releasing an alternate language version of their album (as they have done in the past with Hagnesta Hill) just to appeal to a wider audience may not be in their best interest as an artist. Numerous others have achieved pop radio stardom in the US or the UK with a song performed in their native tongue (Nena’s “99 Luftballoons” certainly comes to mind…), and there is no reason that Kent can’t do the same if they are able to find an audience willing to look past the language barrier and just enjoy the music.