What is it about Sweden that produces such dynamic and effortlessly cool indie artists? Perhaps it’s the exorbitant amount of money their government pumps into music and arts, the thriving and enthusiastic local scene or the fact that they’re desperately trying to break away from the rest of the Scandinavian pack and shed their global muppet-esque stereotype. One thing’s for sure, the Swedes are no longer known for their hilarious accents, penis enlargers and low priced furniture alone. Stockholm’s staple indie folkpop outfit The Shout Out Louds have returned to carry the flag for Sweden in the international music stakes, asserting themselves once again as global musical exports with album number three, Work.
A sweet blend of stripped back ballads and intricately arranged folk anthems, the album has a knack of juxtaposing the oh-so-popular synthesizer with a good old acoustic guitar. Every tune has a unique and catchy-as-fuck beat. The tunes are simple, with layered complexities and hidden sounds (wind gushes, symbols, synth stabs) behind the melody that aren’t necessarily too obvious at first listen.
Keeping in the simplistic theme, the band’s two singers complement each other well, producing smooth harmonies and fitting call-and-response lines. Frontman Adam Olenius’ dominant male vocal is balanced by the refreshing addition of keyboardist/accordian/moog player Bebban Stenborg’s feminine tones, ensuring the sound does not fall into the endless whirlpool of generic indie-boy voices.
Contrary to their moniker, these Swedish folksters are anything but loud and shouty. The tunes are upbeat but gentle, coupling brilliant pop licks with the seamless ebb and flow of a good, relaxed indie album a la Oh Inverted World, which is no surprise considering this little gem was produced by Seattle based Phil Ek, who has worked with indie royalty by the likes of The Shins and Fleet Foxes.
Work is very much a contemplative record. In its emotive lyrics, pace, darting guitar parts, ambling strings, layered melodies and climactic chorus lines, it tells a story of loves lost and journeys travelled. The theme of the album reflects its name and more specifically, how to escape the mundane effects of life’s work culture; a polite ‘stick it to the man’ sentiment, conveyed perfectly on the fourth track, ‘Walls’. Opening tune ‘1999’, with that trademark sharp beat, layered keys, building guitar slides, subtle 80s synth action, poppy melody and no shortage of ‘ooh oohs’ is an instant winner. ‘Fall Hard’, the second track on the album exhibits dappled and darting riffs, a super catchy melody and whimsical lyrics. “If you fall hard, I’ll fall harder” cries Olenius, in this unassuming anthem of distant adoration, a mature take on broken hearts with a “she’ll be right” attitude to love.
At risk of sounding like an old timers radio station, Work is ‘easy listening’ at its best. Shout out loud? More like politely hum and head tap so as not to disturb the neighbours. Subtle but charming… If you dig The Shins, Local Natives, Bright Eyes, Pheonix and Cajun Dance Party, you’ll like these kats.