Shout Out Louds: Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

Kevin Jagernauth

The Shout Out Louds will break your heart and put it back together again with a potent mix of garage, pop, and wide-eyed wonder.

Shout Out Louds

Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2005-05-24
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

Breaking into the American music market from overseas is hardly an enviable task. Not only are American and European tastes distinctly different, but some acts may already have an established following, and thus the album that is slated for an American "debut" often loses context with group's larger body of work when left on its own. Howl Howl Gaff Gaff certainly isn't a "new" album. The disc first appeared in Scandinavian music stores in 2003 as an independent release on Bud Fox. Now, two years later with a newly inked deal to Capitol, the Shout Out Louds are ready to bring their brand of drowsy garage pop to the other side of the ocean. In a wise move, the band has slightly rejigged the tracklisting for Howl Howl Gaff Gaff to include songs from all of their assorted Scandinavian releases. Thus, the American version of the album serves not only as a debut, but a working best-of compilation of the group's material to date.

Though the group hails from Sweden, it ain't no retro rock act. The Shout Out Louds' shaggy Velvet Underground-inspired stomps are embellished with strings, xylophones, and synths, and the result has more in common with Belle & Sebastian and (dare I say it) the Arcade Fire than anything from the mean streets of New York. The disc starts with a series of bloops that recall the starting light signals of the Sega video game Hang On (and with that I've officially confirmed my nerd status). These few seemingly innocuous notes segway beautifully into the opening of "The Comeback". Equally powered by a Strokes-esque rhythm guitar and a swooping synth line, it serves as a guiding light for the rest of the disc. Heartbreak is the main course of the day, and the Shout Out Louds have it in spades.

If the Shout Out Louds break into something huge, it will be because of the disc's second song, "Very Loud". Already touted by Rolling Stone as a must for iPod hipsters, the song's marching band percussion, accordion whooshes, and soaring choruses that nearly reach the heavens find the Shout Out Louds at their best. The album wallows in sorrow, but never does it give up hope. "Oh, Sweetheart" finds its narrator no longer listening to the advice of his friends and trying to win back his lover. "Please Please Please" is naked in its emotion (what else could the song be about but pleading for a lover to come back?), but succeeds because of its sincerity. What keeps these songs on the side of hope are the Shout Out Louds' penchant for penning catchy hooks, and wonderfully rounded-out instrumental arrangements. Unless you actually listen to the lyrics, you'd be hard pressed to find a more buoyant number than "Oh, Sweetheart" with its chorus of punchy strings, a well placed wash of synth, and call-and-response vocals. In the final act of "Please Please Please", xylophone and synths coalesce into the song's pulsing rhythm in a stunning, fired-up finale. Even the vague lyrics and dispirited atmosphere of "A Track and a Train" rise to a beautiful crescendo with tambourines and xylophones finding their way through the fog. If the Shout Out Louds' hearts are breaking, they're not going down without a fight.

But the Shout Out Louds aren't all melancholy, and choose two of their most upbeat and unbelievably catchy songs to help close out the album. "Hurry Up Let's Go", with its handclap intro reminiscent of the Shins' "Kissing the Lipless" is all Modern Lovers chord progressions and Lucksmiths sunshine. "Love is all we got" is the song's credo, and goddamn if you don't believe it yourself at the end of the song's two-minute running time. "Shut Your Eyes" swells until nearly bursting as overlapping keyboard and guitar lines whirl and pirouette gracefully in and out of the song. The effect is wonderfully dizzying and instantly danceable. In case it hasn't been apparent until now, the Shout Out Louds' sophisticated arrangements and broad musical palette is simply awe-inspiring.

As the disc comes to a close, the only question listeners will have is: "What next?" Howl Howl Gaff Gaff contains songs that are at least two years old, and the American version of the disc has set the bar high for the Shout Out Louds' next effort. Conversely, though these songs are only hitting American ears now, they remain as vital and fresh as they were when first released. It is with a certain amount of wonder that I anticipate where the Shout Out Louds will go next. Will they abandon their pop leanings and indulge in the darker corners of their songwriting or continue to delicately balance the two? For now, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff's exuberant sadness will be the soundtrack to my summer. And for anyone who is still in doubt, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff is simply one of the strongest debuts -- and best albums -- I've heard so far this year.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

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

​'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

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

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
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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