Energizer-style, the Scandinavian stampede just keeps on going, huh. And truth is I’m loving it, because the new music reaching the U.S. out of this part of the world is sweet (Jose Gonzalez) and solemn (Jens Lekman) and twistedly addictive (The Knife). Go ahead and add revelatory to the list — Love Is All’s debut LP, Nine Times That Same Song explodes with joy, rattling post-punk excitement and insight.
Amid all the hype this band is getting, just let me point this out: this is one of those albums that, on first listen, you can easily pass over. But — and this, perhaps, is why critics have jumped all over the album — dig a little deeper, listen a few more times, and when they appear the buried melodies are beyond delightful, they are a revelation. The purposefully low-fi sheen that covers these songs — echoes laid over echoes, instruments turned back in the mix so that you hear, most of the time, just a single sound — makes it seem like you’ve stumbled in on a band’s practice session. Yeah; third listen, the sense of discovery is palpable.
Love Is All, a Swedish quintet formed by members of lesser-known indie group Girlfrendo, add a saxophone to the recognizable voice/keyboard-guitar-bass-drum lineup. But before you start screaming sax crimes, listen to the way the saxophone exemplifies confusion on the breakdown of “Talk Talk Talk Talk” or “Spinning and Scratching”. It’s precisely what the group is aiming for — confused/celebratory cacophany. Over it all, Josephine Olausson yelps in a shout that has drawn inevitable Karen O comparisons, but it’s higher-pitched/more girly and easily breaks into the band’s signature all-sing-together choruses.
As a band, Love Is All is into exposition, quick sketches of the contradictory feelings and moods of love. It’s reflected in the songs themselves, and in the album as a whole. Short and sharp, Nine Times That Same Song packs in 10 songs in just over 30 minutes. Like Is This It it’s the good kind of short, leaving you panting for more. There’s everything you want in a record like this — freakout breakdowns, sensitive ballads of resignation, and low-fi dance-rock classics.
“Felt Tip” is the album’s most immediately accessible song, and an indie anthem waiting to happen. “Come on kids, click your fingertips” Olausson sings, as the bass line chugs along and the guitar contributes some interesting glissando effects. “Busy Doing Nothing” is dance-rock drumming done right, the automatic soundtrack to an indie girl’s apartment party. It’s the “one hour in the shower, two hours shine your shoes” celebratory chaos of a love that is ultimately empty, but in the middle of it totally captivating. “Used Goods” ups the jangle-factor with a neat little guitar rattle and, by the time the chorus hits for the last time, the whole thing has almost spun out of control; Olausson sings ahead of the beat as if she’s so excited the instruments just can’t keep up.
The delicious details paint love as simultaneous highs and lows. On “Talk Talk Talk Talk”, the album’s opener, it’s entirely cynicism over a love that is all words; but on “Spinning and Scratching” immediately following, the chorus sings “tell me, tell me all” (the breakdown in that song reminds me of Go! Team’s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink attitude, but rawer). You realize: yes, they’re reveling in the contradictions, and it’s really disarming. The celebratory exuberance reminds me of Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet”.
As a rule the words aren’t easy to make out here, all clothed in echoes of vocals and echoes of guitars, but you’ll find yourself straining to hear them, catching phrases like “smudged lipstick on the sink” in “Make Out Fall Out Make Up”, and feeling the excitement of having found a simple answer — love is all this.
When he sang “Love is all my crippled soul will ever need”, Luke Jenner of The Rapture totally owned my conception of the phrase “love is all”. Now, there’s another group’s laid claim to it with indisputable authority. In this review, I’ve left out most of the real highlights of Nine Times That Same Song — go discover them for yourself.