Invigorating as a blast of Scandinavian air, Loney, Dear (otherwise known as Emil Svanängen) makes his Sub Pop debut with Loney, Noir. This is power pop mellowed by chamber pop sensibilities, but Svanängen shouldn't be confused with other indie multi-instrumentalists. In opposition to the typical "more is more" attitude of American indie acts like Sufjan Stevens (the artist to whom Svanängen will probably be likened, for better or worse), the throaty flutes and clarinets, optimistic handclaps, and tambourines embroider these songs rather than dominate them. As with other like-minded Swedes (Timo Raisanen, Jens Lekman, and Hello Saferide, just to name a few), Svanängen is a hook-builder, and his sophomore effort is built on breezy, straightforward pop rather than Stevens-esque orchestral noodling. Svanängen, like Raisanen, is blessed with an unbelievably high falsetto, especially apparent on "Saturday Waits." He also possesses a peculiar, rasping voice (when he isn't singing falsetto) and an apparent love of Brian Wilson, as demonstrated by the tight, soaring harmonies. The best moments on Loney, Noir are glowing, rushing, and immediately infectious. The album's first single, "I Am John," encapsulates this with its ebullient drums and breathless, surging vocals. It's the kind of song that becomes the soundtrack for an entire summer. Loney, Noir is an adolescent album, not because Svanängen hasn't yet reached his full potential as a songwriter, but because these songs are deeply interested in adolescent experience ("I'm a teenager, I'm anxious"). More than anything, Loney, Noir is almost ridiculously sweet, and this is by no means a bad thing.
© Margaret Reges /TiVo