Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 27

Who decided which ones got to be painted for the cover?

You'd wonder why, in the long and nearly distinguished history of low budget indie bands attempting to make pocket symphonies, nobody had come up before with the idea of just getting everyone they know into one project. By the same token, at this point in alternative's timscale an act doing such could only have come from Sweden, current alpha base of sun-dappled melodies, unashamedly non-posing attitudes, community spirit through guitars and glockenspiels, no genre groupings at all and songs about mundane things. You, the listener, is having fun because they, the 29-member, Andrew Sachs name-inspired band, were set up for the precise reason that everyone was enjoying things too much to waste the opportunity. While the last band to encourage everyone to sing along as stage congregation, the Polyphonic Spree, were quite measured in the way they pitched their sound between Broadway and underground, the I'm From Barcelona ethos comes across as a sounding board for deceptively simple melodies, layering underneath anything that can be played with, shaken or generally makes an agreeable sound.

There's an inclusiveness at heart too, made explicit in sleevenotes that finish "now you're from Barcelona too!" and indeed We're From Barcelona ("I'm gonna sing this song with all of my friends, and we're all from Barcelona") and Barcelona Loves You. Rather than homages to Catalonia it's merely an everyman umbrella, Emanuel Lundgren not coming across as the desired leader of men that (here we go again) Tim DeLaughter aims for but just the bloke who pulled all these people around him so might as well be at the centre of the sound. We're reminded of last year's Boy Least Likely To album in the way the faux-naivety of the surface ideas, primary coloured chords (the two share a love of the banjo) and lyrical imagery mask something truer and universal, even if an idealised version thereof. Note the extended coda of Treehouse where school percussion meets swaying slowed down rhythms meets full throttle chorality, Chicken Pox expressing broken hearts in the language of childhood illness and how opener Oversleeping sounds like a mid-80s indie version of Pavement. It doesn't pretend to break down boundaries, possibly apart from the fan/band one, but rare is the album that enjoys its world so much.

LISTEN ON: Treehouse
WATCH ON: The lesser-seen Collection Of Stamps video; We're From Barcelona live on Swedish daytime telly
READ ON: Italy's Polaroid Radio interviews some other members, in a curious turn of events. Watch for that Manuel explanation.

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