The Cardigans have been in creative limbo since 1998's Gran Turismo, but not so its individual members. Following on the heels of projects by guitarist Peter Svensson and singer Nina Persson comes this solo effort by bassist Magnus Sveningsson, otherwise known as Righteous Boy.
These dozen low-key songs are mostly dark, emotionally wrought and intensely personal, chamber pop laden with Euro-lounge synths and then some. Sveningsson's voice often is a low rasp, a type of tuneful whisper that lulls you into paying attention, speak-singing confessions and observations.
Burnt out by touring and going through a difficult time, Sveningsson began working on these songs at Malmo's Tambourine studios when it was free from bookings, enlisting help from many of his musician friends. He hadn't written songs in years, and had never before attempted singing solo.
The results are moody, but not without charm, the kind of record that makes for great listening on a rainy afternoon. Helping out is Jens Jansson (Brainpool) on drums; Nathan Larson (Shudder to Think) on programming, some synthesizer, and backing vocals; Patrik Bartosch (Eggstone) on keyboards; and Henrik Andersson (Ray Wonder) on a number of instruments.
I Sing Because of You is chock full of reflections and accusations, assuming blame and then claiming blamelessness, a confusing jumble of mixed emotions. It is like having someone's personal diary set to music following a very painful relationship's end. The lounge-y single "Loved among Friends" takes heart in the knowledge that friends see the good in him that he is blind to on his own. "View from a Satellite" is a slow and trancelike musical haze, a confession of doing wrong mixed with an appreciation of a helpful friend.
The similarly slow-paced "No More Love" is a search for what is lost, a hanger's on wish to turn back time to undo errors made in a relationship. "Righteous Boy/Righteous Girl" examines another failed relationship, with the girl ending everything.
There's lots of soul in the minimalist "I Made It Hard for You to Love Me". This is the rawest of personal confessions laid bare in song, painful in its honest struggle to try and figure what happened. "All My Evils" continues this personal obsessing; Sveningsson now is beyond compassion, reduced to acting like a rock, eager to have his evils gone. "I'm Not Shielded" tells us this: she moved on and he hasn't. "Elephant Man" continues this melodrama -- he revels in his self-pity, sees himself as a freak on display.
This loner's self-alienation is echoed in "I Feel Apart": "I feel apart / But I try and I try for you / What a large defeat / When I'm measured there beside you / Such indifference / Aren't we treasured there inside you".
In an interesting musical transposition, Sveningsson takes the relatively upbeat "Loved Among Friends" into a slowed down and somber "Lone among Friends". This is a further trip down into depression and feeling alone, a low point that has "never happened before".
However, by "Straight Song" he is at a crossroads, pondering whether time will help heal his wounds: "There's an ocean between what you perceive and how I feel / I reason differently / But if you could see me through and if I let you to / I got lots of lots of love for you / Equal blessing, equal curse / Will I grow from here or to the worse".
By CD's end, Sveningsson is ready to advise others not to make the same mistakes he has made. In the soulful "You Better Do Good", he warns that only good will lead to having someone to hold, and asks others to "Better do good before you're bitter and alone".
Throughout, small elements -- Wurlitzers, synths, loops, trumpets, and the trippy female backing vocals so popular in Europe -- add charm to these otherwise downtrodden songs. These varied elements are mixed well by Michael Ilbert.
If sad heartbroken musings of achingly honest pain set to chamber pop music is your thing, Righteous Boy is manna from heaven. This mellow collection has delicious moments that elevate it above mere moping; it's great for that rainy day. I Sing Because of You lets us know that not only was Magnus Sveningsson hurt, but that he also has the talent to turn it into likeable fare.