Aural Pleasure

Granted, Adam
Olenius’s airy, melancholy croon is particularly well-suited to the album’s reigning Robert Smith imitation. Album opener “Tonight I Have to Leave It” is indistinguishable from a Head on the Door track, echoing “Close to You” in its jangling guitars, swooning synth, and percolating, dance-floor-ready beats. It’s more than a little disorienting to anyone expecting more of the catchy, energetic indie pop of their debut, including a follow-up to the anthemic, near-perfect single “The Comeback.”

Which is not to say it’s bad, just drastically different. All the hooks are still there, swathed in the gloomy late ’80s new-wave ambience of acts such as the Cure, New Order, and Echo & the Bunnymen. It’s abetted by production from fellow Swede Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, which clothes the songs in an icy, velveteen shimmer appropriate to their frigid home.

The album is highlighted by two tracks that bear the mark of their irrepressible pop craftsmanship. “You are Dreaming” is a powerful kiss-off in which the narrator warns his ex-lover not to return to Stockholm, singing, “Say what you say/I am listening/I am all ears/But if you still believe I’m still thinking of you, you’re dreaming.” Its counterpart is the aching “Impossible,” where caught in a doomed relationship,
Olenius asks that they not fall asleep together like they used to, because he doesn’t want “to wake up knowing I don’t have a future.” It’s tender, heartbreaking stuff that’s perfect grist for idle, lovelorn scribbling in spiral notebooks.

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