Music

Division of Laura Lee: 97-99

Jason MacNeil

Division of Laura Lee

97-99

Label: Lovitt
US Release Date: 2003-06-16
Amazon
iTunes

Ah, to be in Sweden in the late '90s! The time and place of this region was the European equivalent of Seattle a decade before. With groups such as The Hives, International Noise Conspiracy, Sahara Hotnights, The Soundtrack of Our Lives and Division of Laura Lee were all in their infancy or, to a greater extent, about to be the next wave of "buzz" bands. But prior to the celebrity most of them have now, to one degree or another, these groups were toiling away with various albums, EPs and other recording sessions. Division of Laura Lee (DOLL) has released this album showcasing how they started, evolved and honed its craft to what you enjoy today. It's an interesting look back, if three to five years ago is considering to be "looking back".

Unlike some anthologies, this album starts in 1999 and works its way back to 1997. And although all of these have been previously released on 7" splits, compilation albums and the group's 1999 At the Royal Club, good luck trying to find them for a cheaper price! Beginning with "Guess My Name", lead singer Per Stalberg takes a verse to warm his wailing vocals up. The rhythm section of drummer Hakan Johansson and bassist Jonas Gustafsson weave some pretty audible magic on the song also. With a lo-fi indie rock sound, DOLL comes off as a garage rock version of Oasis circa Be Here Now. "She fucked my mind," Stalberg says in a subtle broken English. The ferocity of the sound is comparable to The Hives, but here DOLL opts for a louder yet spacey sound. "Love Stethoscope" is a full-fledged rock tune with a thundering bass line from the early to mid-'60s rock bands. The chorus might leave a bit to be desired as the lyrics are screamed more than sung.

One aspect that strikes the listener is that although the energy and intensity is ever-present, these songs aren't nearly as rough or unpolished as earlier tunes by their fellow countrymen. "Stereotype" is a perfect example here as it's plowed through but not for the sake of either showboating or going over the top. "Take it easy / Make it look alright," the singer says before the group take things down only to build it back up rapidly and lovely. And it ends just as quickly, with little or no fade out. "44", released as a 7" split with Impel on Carcrash Records in 1998, sounds like a band finding its feet. Not to say it's terrible, but the band opt for a hard and prodding metal like riff instead of the instantly contagious riffs on previous numbers. The song is more theatrical at times, having deliberate changes in pacing with little payoff. "Time to Live" is probably the closest DOLL will come to imitating The Cure, an intricate amount of chords and riffs while Stalberg pours his soul into the lyrics. The lengthy percussion conclusion seems at odds with the band's current stage act.

"Royal Club" is a stellar track, mixing the past of Zeppelin with the present of The Hives. The guitar work here and Johansson's drumming pushes the sonic envelope into a new and exciting area. And even at two and a half minutes, it makes a very big statement. The next two songs, recorded in 1998, are somewhat messy with a bad mix. "The Soul of Laura" begins with guitars that don't quite sound up to snuff, but it seems like someone was asleep at the knobs. "Chart Music" bristles with a tension teeming guitar riff before venturing into a quasi-psychedelic solo. These two songs show the band's warts and its assets.

Division of Laura Lee hit paydirt with "Stop!Go!", a tune with Stalberg being possessed one minute and oddly mellow the next. Just as schizophrenic is the support cast, who heads from a nu metal sound into a melodic prog rock interlude and then into the modern garage punk mode. The dichotomy mirrors the song title for certain. "Coffeemaker" consists of a thundering wail mixed with a Jimmy Page-like guitar arrangement. The last of the dozen is "How Good Are You", a question leaving little question as to what the Division of Laura Lee are now and what they could become if the stars and guitars align themselves accordingly. They are good to say the least, and only getting better.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta



19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller



18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr


17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr



16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image