Johnossi: Transitions

Swedish duo does thoughtful rock right on their gleaming fourth album.
Universal Sweden/Caroline

Swedish rock duo Johnossi (John Engelbert and Oskar “Ossi” Bonde) are exactly the kind of outfit that seems to be in short supply in America these days: an earnest, classy, polished rock band untainted by unearned bombast. Their fourth album, Transitions, released in their homeland in 2013 but finally seeing an international release this spring, is a thoughtful rumination on entering one’s 30s — self-identity, defining success, maintaining friendships, the whole shebang — without ever getting ponderous. Big stars in Sweden (they recently won a Swedish Grammy for “Best Group”), Transitions is also a fine introduction to what a good band with a decade of success and growth can do these days.

Englebert and Bonde are tight bros from way back: they melded halves of their faces together for the cover of their eponymous 2005 debut, and Transitions’ cover evokes a Rob and Laura Petrie-style sleeping arrangement, for whatever that’s worth. More than a few of the album’s songs here nod to the importance of friendship — “Everywhere With You Man”, “Dead End”, “Roscoe”– and they’re all gleaming rock songs, abetted by executive producers Bjorn Yttling (Peter, Bjorn and John) and Pontus Winnberg (Miike Snow). A lot of the credit for Johnossi’s big, bold sound must go to a new Johnossi buddy, keyboardist Martin Hederos, whose instrument adds an edge to “Gone Forever”, “Seventeen” and who, crucially, played in The Soundtrack of Our Lives, a band that loved the epic side of the Who as much as the Johnossi guys do. Heck, Engelbert even sounds more than a little like Pete Townshend and damned if ethereal album closer “The Great Escape” couldn’t have come off of TSOOL’s cosmic swan song, Throw It To The Universe. It’s a whole different rock world on the other side of the Atlantic, one where bands can act their age, ask the Big Questions and still be successful.

RATING 7 / 10
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