February 12, 2009

Test Spin: Loney Dear

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Loney Dear has lost the comma for their second U.S. release, Dear John, which lushly layers the multi-instrumental talents of Swedish pop troubadour Emil Svanängen with a few friends and guests. His indie folk lyrics offer macabre, nostalgia-tripping introspection, but the rhythms often sail along with uptempo synth beats as if Nick Drake were reincarnated as a remix artist. In a song like “Under the Silent Sea,” for example, the galloping percussion suddenly disappears to allow the background vocals to range in long atmospheric chords that conjure the months-long darkness of Scandinavian winters.
In “Distant,” Svanängen’s breathy, injured voice declares, “Nights, almost endless nights I try to look back / But not too far just enough to change, what I didn’t do /… / Now I try to hold your hand but I fail,” demonstrating how the inflection of an inexplicable comma can be woundingly sublime. But the most harrowing moments occur with the eruption of a tragically-angelic opera chorus that seems plucked out of Carl Orff, textured over delicate chimes and cascades of techno rhythms. The music propels heartrendingly onward, yet suspends its listener in the glimmering amber of time past.
It’s the musings about lost love and suicidal mood swings on “Harm/Slow” and the eponymous track’s dirge march that predominate, but for those who prefer the more recognizably twee sound that characterized many songs in Loney, Dear’s first album Loney, Noir, “Summers” offers gleeful pop melodies with warm brass tinged with the whispery intimacy of his falsetto. “Airport Surroundings” combines an under-track reminiscent of Brian Eno with jazzy instrumentation and a very simple dance beat. All in all, this is music to “get low” to, in both senses of the term.