Monday, December 11, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 21

Sometimes you go with your instincts in design. Sometimes your instincts are just silly

Great as it is, were the whole of the third album by Messrs Morén, Yttling and Eriksson like summer hit manque Young Folks we'd have every reason to kill them. The whistling hook is almost the least significant thing about it as Victoria Bergsman puts in a better vocal performance than she ever managed on the last Concretes album, intimate and warm against the skittering percussion and multicoloured explosion of joy of the chorus. In fact, as we intimated in the I'm From Barcelona bit, there's something about this sound in 2006 that could only have originated in Sweden, joyously shaded and impossible to remove from earworm duty. But as we say, a whole album of it would be pushing things. Luckily, the great strength of Writer's Block is its versatility. Although the source elements are much the same - unshowy crisp drumming, close-miked echoey vocals, early 90s guitar sounds - the way they're used, and the influences brought to bear on each track, ensure that while it runs smoothly as an album its moods and ideas shift from track to track, all three writers ending up somewhere between ADD and elegaic while always being filed under pop.

Objects Of My Affection, the first proper track, attempts to encapsulate all this in microcosm, martial drumming, urgent strummed acoustic, solo vocal Simon & Garfunkel vocal arrangements and phases of shoegazing guitar redefine the term 'dreampop'. Meanwhile Amsterdam, the other side of that track and Young Folks, conjures images of love in isolation amid a lazy beat and keyboards driving the melody. Paris 2004 is a simple folky lament (even if there are shadows of that hateful last Kooks single but one), Up Against The Wall latterday New Order running a speed lower than usual, Start To Melt pitches Kevin Shields into the Wall Of Sound, The Chills is a lo-fi shuffle driven on a bed of synths and actually sounds a little like the eponymous band. The overall impression is of simple structures crafted in an intelligent fashion given a wide-ranging sonic treatment on a lo-fi budget, the sort of tricksiness that seems enveloped in the best of this new wave of Scandopop. Despite excellent efforts this isn't quite it, but the country is building a hell of a hand.

LISTEN ON: Amsterdam
WATCH ON: Let's Call It Off video; Young Folks live in Glasgow with Victoria Bergsman dropping by
READ ON: Peter talks to The Torture Garden about titles and books


Ben said...

Just got this in the last couple of days. Quite an odd mixture - not quite sure what to make of it yet. I like 'Up Against The Wall' and 'Objects Of My Affection' a lot though - but then I guessed I might from your descriptions...

Simon said...

There's two albums in the 21-30 range (oh alright, the other's Absentee) that we're now wondering whether we'll look back on this list next year and wonder why they weren't in the top 20, but we were tinkering so obsessively with placings for this that we had to guillotine the decision making process off somewhere.

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