Friday, February 23, 2007

Album Review- Loney, Noir

Loney, Dear
Loney, Noir


Hand claps are cool. Shouts? Yeah. Ecstatic, under-stated rhythms? Hell yeah. But the Clarinet? Of course. All of these are the secret weapons of Loney, Dear a.k.a. Emil Svanängen's Sub Pop debut Loney, Noir. The instrument made popular by seventh graders is used, ingeniously, by Svanängen to guide you through this quick and seamless album in less than 35 minutes. The instrument is in no means used as a gimmick or a crutch, it is simply used to underscore and highlight beautiful and oddly familiar melodies.

One of the obvious highlights of Loney, Noir; "I am John", is so infectious it's hard to sit still. The songs easy and natural build is reminiscent of the best Kings of Convenience. Though by two and a half minutes into the song Svanängen's falsetto harmonies, eyes-closed happy drumming, and seemingly lo-fi layers gives even Broken Social Scene and Neutral Milk Hotel a run for their money. He croons "I've got a feeling of you and we danced for so long/I want your arms around me like lovers do, and I'm never gonna let you down" in a magnificent head-voice like it's the only thing he can do to get it out. Be sure that your air bag isn't very sensitive, 'cause you'll be drumming along like it's nobody's business.

You may have noticed… "I've got a feeling of you and we danced for so long…" It doesn't really make sense. Well, he's Swedish. Like Jens Lekman and Jose Gonzalez before him, there's a distinct accent and rhythm used to elide lyrics and tell the story he'd like. Truly, these Swedes baffle me. How is it they write such prolific, interesting, and story worthy lyrics in a language that isn't even their own? What's more, they are stars in their own country. We've got Jessica Simpson. They've got Jens Lekman. Sorry…side bar…anyway. It's something to keep in mind as you listen to Loney, Noir because of some of the interesting rhyme schemes and the dialect he has. It's not forced or pretentious. It's earnest and kind of cute which he uses to his advantage.

The "Cute" factor might get on your nerves a bit though. Svanängen's high, but solid voice is a familiar trend among the indie crowd. Loney, Noir's first track "Sinister in a State of Hope" hits you right away with the limits of his voice. It's not grating, though it is not beautiful like Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros, and it's certainly not twee…which is where I'll insert the inevitable Belle and Sebastian comparison. Though, unlike some of his colleagues, there's a certain gravitas behind Svanängen's voice. In another highlight, "The Meter Mark's Okay," he splays the songs theme right out in front of you in the first line; which is the songs title. Along with the muted electronic and acoustic tones that accompany him, his slight vibrato is devastating in a song that is either about settling and mediocrity, or running out of gas.

The album is thick with sound. A bedroom orchestra made possible with the wonders of today's technology. According to legend, Svanängen only recently retired his lamp and bought a mic stand which would suggest another bedroom recording of which Sub Pop has had no qualms with releasing in the past (i.e. The Thermals More Parts Per Million). Though, Loney, Noir stinks of studio time and well thought out harmonies. Blending electronic and acoustic beats with woodwinds, like in "I Won't Cause Anything At All".

With its thirty-four minute running time, Loney, Noir is easy on the ears and will grow on you with each listen. Only time will tell if this is only a wisp of aural pleasure that will fade with time, or a glimpse into something great. Meanwhile, start dusting off that old clarinet that you accidentally never returned to the rental place and start rockin' out to the sweet sweet sound of Sweden.

"I Am John" [Download]

"I Will Call You Lover Again" [Download]

No comments: