Music

Shout Out Louds: Our Ill Wills

Dan Raper

This sophomore album from the Swedish indie pop group was produced by Bjorn of Peter, Bjorn and John fame.


Shout Out Louds

Our Ill Wills

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2007-09-11
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

I have to admit, when I first listened to the new Shout Out Louds record, Our Ill Wills, I thought of a great angle for this review. It was going to go with this: One day, Shout Out Louds are going to have a truly amazing Best Of compilation. Each of their two albums to date have provided us with two or three knockout tracks and an album's-worth of mediocre material to back them up. The two early standouts on Our Ill Wills were to be, "Tonight I Have to Leave It", the first single and lead-off track, and "Impossible", already remade and remixed and released to the blogs.

It turns out, Shout Out Louds have a bit more up their sleeves. The Swedish group is not showy about their indie pop, and so they've fallen into this expanding mid-flight of bands like Hard Fi, Figurines, and the Boat People, who do an essentially within-genre thing, but with an easy expertise that keeps you wondering how sunny melody continues to reinvent itself. The prototype band is always the Shins, and while some Scandinavian bands recently have managed to twist the formula to poppify drones and other New Wave elements (I'm thinking of that little band with that little song "Young Folks"), Shout Out Louds walk a straighter, closer line. Critics tell us we only like it because the singers have the soft consonants of Scandinavia; we allow what is essentially derivative pop to charm us out of proportion to the quality of the songs, but so what -- it's charming, we're charmed, we bop along.

So anyway, back to Our Ill Wills. The band's actually moved closer to the pop side of things on this album, relative to Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. That album shares the band's love of melody, but the instrumentation's more straight rock -- electric guitars rule the day -- and simper. The band, by then, had already perfected this strung-out glory come chorus-time (as on "The Comeback", for instance). Our Ill Wills finds the band more introspective, using more synth, piano and acoustic guitar to accompany their signature woodblocks and cowbells.

You know how some songs seem to capture something essential about a certain moment, or feeling? It's why so many latched hard onto "All My Friends", with its nostalgia/regret at turning 30. But Shout Out Louds might have a competitor in "South America", in a totally different context. Over a peppy drumbeat and a pretty orchestral hook, vocalist Adam Olenius laments the jealousy and apprehension of seeing an ex-girlfriend out at a club -- and gets that combination of insecurity and love's ruined aftermath. He talks himself around towards something resembling confidence, telling himself he's ready to see her out, but it's the realization that, "There's a chance that a look from a stranger can give you so much more", than what they had hits hardest, and directly.

As mentioned up top, there are a couple immediate standout tracks on the album -- "Tonight I Have To Leave It" and "Impossible". The first is classic SOLs in the tradition of "The Comeback" and "Very Loud" -- catchy, melodic rock with the whole soaring violin counter-melody thing, and a sensibility that's becoming pretty identifiable as Shout Out Louds. In contrast, "Impossible" is expansive and sedate, the kind of lazy summer song that fools you into thinking it's simpler than it is. But unlike on Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, the good songs don't stop with these two front-runners. Throughout the album, the band manages to shift between shades of regret and celebratory carelessness with a growing expertise. Shout Out Louds may not be topping many year-end lists for originality, but my guess is they'll continue to churn out ever-improving indie pop that, yes, will still charm us. And one day, their "Best Of" will be a great listen.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

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