Most indie rock just isn’t so important anymore. It’s a yawn, mostly, but the music is still there for its purpose. And what is that purpose? Political Statements? Escape? Well, Swedish indie rock group, the Shout Out Louds, have never been one to make statements, but their new album, Ease My Mind is kind of about our current hot-button-issue political times. Actually, it’s a reaction to these times, like when you just want to crawl under your blankets and take a break from all the mess on your TV and outside your window. They’ve made an album mostly about escape, and it’s comforting at times. Unfortunately, It’s also a little mediocre at times as well.
The Shout Out Louds are veterans at this point. They’ve been through many of the typical stages of a working band that has had critical acclaim in their career. They popped into existence stateside during the Swedish invasion years of the early 2000’s, being labeled as ‘twee’ and mostly rightfully so. Later, they added orchestral arrangements and sophisticated production with their sophomore release, Our Ill Wills, with much success. Their next album, 2010’sWork was billed as their growing up record, but it was mostly just a practice in pulling back, simplifying their sound. It didn’t get good reviews though, so, the band regrouped with the lushly orchestrated Optica, in 2013. Four years later, we get Ease My Mind, an album that falls somewhere in the middle of this back-and-forth game they’ve been playing with their sound.
Ease My Mind gives the impression of a record made by musicians finally comfortable with their place in the world. Whereas past albums seemed like jumps into a new sound or else a reaction to a past choice, Ease My Mind feels comfortable, lived-in. That can be a good thing, as in when the band allows the closing track, “Souvenirs”, to stay simple and quiet, creating one of those late night songs for the feels. It can also be a bad thing, as in a song like “Angel” that offers very little outside of a melody as substantial as a single shot of Febreeze.
Lyrically, the album is focused on the good stuff in life, with a little bittersweet mixed in. Overall it’s a tour of good feelings, as would be expected from an album with such title. The opening track, “Jumbo Jet” is a one about the good stuff, wherein lead singer, Adam Olenius details falling in love with someone who lives half a world away: “This is just the beginning. This is just the start.” On the flip side is “Throw Some Light”, which is again about traveling for love, but here’s the twist: it’s about returning home after the trip. “Somebody throw some light on me,” Olenius sings. We all know the feeling.
As I was preparing my review to this album, I made a trip to spend some time with some family. After the long drive, I put this album on and tried to take a nap. I drifted awake to the beginning notes of the closing track, “Souvenirs”. I woke up slowly, letting the song play out, and I ambled outside to be greeted by my nephew wanting to play fight. After goofing around for a few minutes, these lyrics from the song came back to me: “Some nights are brighter than others, some nights souvenirs.” It’s a reminder to cherish some moments, even the ones that seem small at the time. Ease My Mind isn’t the best album you’ll hear this year or even this month, but its heart is big and if you’re looking for a little escape, here’s an album for you.