Our Ill Wills, the second full-length album from Sweden's utterly wonderful Shout Out Louds, was one of this year's surprises...not so much for being a good record, but for being a lotdifferent than what was expected. The band's debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff was a wonderful mixture of pop and crunchy indie-rock, and it owed more than a bit of a debt to Pixies. This time around, the harder rock elements are gone, and in its absence is sophisticated, intelligent, lush, downbeat pop.
Over the course of 48 minutes, Adam Olenius leads his band through tales of woe and sadness. The songs range from the deceptively upbeat ("Tonight I Have to Leave It"), to melodramatic ("You Are Dreaming"), with themes of jealousy ("South America"), regret ("Normandie"), nostalgia ("Your Parents Living Room") and even that long-lost musical theme, the car accident weeper ("Time Left for Love"). Unlike their previous work, the musical backing is very lush, soft, and dreamy; mixing orchestration throughout, at times, the music is so damn dreamy, Olenius and pianist Bebbon Stenborg's vocals lose out to the music behind them. "Impossible" is the kind of pop song that don't get made any more, with a gorgeous fade-out and an ethereal dance beat. The epic "Hard Rain" closes the album, and it feels more like a quiet hurricane than a hard rain; while it's not noise, it's a quiet-loud ending that leaves the listener white-hot and bothered in a melancholy way.
Merge Records once rescued another band with a Pixies fixation from the major-label rejection pile, and they subsequently turned them into the Big Thing. Our Ill Wills proves that Merge may well have struck gold again; saving this Swedish band from obscurity was a smart move, and this record is one of the best of 2007.
Listen To: You're Dreaming
Labels: best of 2007, Merge Records, Shout Out Louds