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$7.49

Pop - Released January 1, 1996 | Universal Music AB

$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Universal Music AB

As Nina Persson's velour-smooth vocals prove, Life is much sweeter and more profound than a simple a box of chocolates. Her gorgeous voice is the perfect complement to the rest of the Cardigans' jazz-tinged retro sound. Straight out of Sweden, the quintet plays a unique hybrid of confectionated pop and space age bachelor-lounge music. The lush arrangements are festooned with vibes, horns, bassoons, bells, strings, and futuristic synthesizers, leaving one with the incorrect but plausible impression that these intensely creative Scandinavians have kidnaped Burt Bacharach and looted his back catalog. Amazingly, there's not a sample to be found on the entire disc. The bureaucratic FDA has yet to develop (let alone, approve) an inoculation strong enough to resist the highly infectious pop of "Daddy's Car" or "Rise & Shine" from attacking your pop immune system. The flute refrains on "Over the Water" and "Sick & Tired" (the first single) are pure Ennio Morricone spaghetti western kitsch, while the trip-hoppy "Our Space" could be a track on a Portishead album. With nary a lame song to be found on the entire 14 tracks, Life is worth living over and over again.
$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal Music AB

With "Lovefool," the Cardigans catapulted from a cult favorite to an international phenomenon. Instead of being happy with their success, they fretted about their artistic credibility, concerned that they were seen as merely a light pop band instead of an ironic pop band. This is usually a danger sign for any young band, since it results in a self-conscious departure from form -- and that is exactly what Gran Turismo, the follow-up to First Band on the Moon, is. There are still elements of the group's appealing melodic style, but they have trimmed away their sense of humor and style, adding vague electronica experiments and mildly distorted guitars in their wake. Truth be told, there were always hints of despair beneath the Cardigans' shiny surface, but they often sound as if they're trying too hard to be serious throughout this labored, self-conscious album. Since the band has talent, there are not only hints of past glory, there are suggestions where the group intended to go, but too often Gran Turismo sounds like diluted Garbage, not new-school Cardigans. It may simply be a transitional album, but it's a dispiriting listen, nevertheless. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | Universal Music AB

If any clue were needed to confirm a new direction for the Cardigans -- that is, other than the music itself -- it's the change of hair color for vocalist Nina Persson. Previously an icy blonde that approached white (best flaunted on the cover of Life), Persson's hair is now jet black, a color that matches her confessional mood and conflicted feelings about love on the Swedish group's fifth studio album. Produced by Per Sunding (career-long collaborator Tore Johansson left after an initial session), Long Gone Before Daylight is understated and well-designed, a musicians' record, one that sounds more like an MTV Unplugged session than the high-energy chamber pop of their early recordings. Unfortunately, it's also over-produced to within an inch of its artistic life, and lacks the quality songs and exquisite productions that the group had made a hallmark. Persson composed all the lyrics, rewriting the Spector standard "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" into "And Then You Kissed Me" (sample lyric: "Baby you hit me/Yeah, you punched me right in the heart/And then you kissed me...and then you hit me"). Guitarist Peter Svensson took care of all the music, relying on familiar pop archetypes but forswearing the catchy hooks in favor of carefully constructed songs. Still, the Cardigans don't have enough musical personality on their own to carry these songs; they've always been a surprisingly workmanlike band -- their performances here are sympathetic and intricate -- but they simply can't rise above this subpar material. [The American release, which followed over a year after the Canadian and European issues, included a bonus DVD featuring three videos and three live tracks, plus interviews.] ~ John Bush
$14.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2008 | Universal Music AB

Unfortunately, the Cardigans are best known in the United States for their 1997 single "Lovefool," a fluke Top 40 hit thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann's splashy updating of Romeo and Juliet. In that context, the Swedish quintet came off as Europop lightweights, Ace of Base with a bit more indie cred. This truly did the group a disservice, because as Best of the Cardigans reveals, Nina Persson and company were a truly gifted pop band that delivered some of the most intoxicating singles of the '90s. Proceeding in chronological order from 1994's Emmerdale through 2005's Super Extra Gravity, the 22 tracks are front-loaded with many of the band's finest, from their winsome debut single "Rise and Shine" to the tongue in cheek lounge pop of the singles from 1995's Life, the glorious "Carnival" (arguably their career high point) and "Daddy's Car." A more conventional alt-rock sound enters circa 1997's First Band on the Moon's bitter kiss-off "Been It," and by the time of later albums like the electronica-inspired Gran Turismo and the moody Long Gone Before Daylight, the Cardigans seemed stung by misapprehensions about their earlier work that had overlooked its ironic humor and seen only the bubblegummy surface. That seems to have changed, however, if the 22-second long "Bonus Track" and the glitchy dance-rock take on Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House," with guest vocals by Tom Jones, that end the disc are any indication. ~ Stewart Mason
$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1994 | Universal Music AB

Though the sky is sunny on the cover, Emmerdale is quite a melancholy affair. First song "Sick & Tired" (the single) hints that all is not well in the Cardigans' camp, and later songs ("Black Letter Day," "After All...," "Cloudy Sky") also capture a depressed mood which conflicts with the mostly upbeat and positive arrangements. Of course, all but two of the original songs were written by a converted metal fan, bassist Magnus Svenignsson. In keeping with that fact, the cover of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" shouldn't surprise anyone, though its clever arrangement and the touching vocals of Nina Persson -- even though she's throwing around Ozzy Osbourne lyrics -- render the song practically unrecognizable. In the end, the battle between positive arrangements and melancholy lyrics creates a wistful mood that suits the Cardigans well. ~ John Bush
$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Universal Music AB

$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2003 | Universal Music AB

$12.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2002 | Polydor Associated Labels

If any clue were needed to confirm a new direction for the Cardigans -- that is, other than the music itself -- it's the change of hair color for vocalist Nina Persson. Previously an icy blonde that approached white (best flaunted on the cover of Life), Persson's hair is now jet black, a color that matches her confessional mood and conflicted feelings about love on the Swedish group's fifth studio album. Produced by Per Sunding (career-long collaborator Tore Johansson left after an initial session), Long Gone Before Daylight is understated and well-designed, a musicians' record, one that sounds more like an MTV Unplugged session than the high-energy chamber pop of their early recordings. Unfortunately, it's also over-produced to within an inch of its artistic life, and lacks the quality songs and exquisite productions that the group had made a hallmark. Persson composed all the lyrics, rewriting the Spector standard "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" into "And Then You Kissed Me" (sample lyric: "Baby you hit me/Yeah, you punched me right in the heart/And then you kissed me...and then you hit me"). Guitarist Peter Svensson took care of all the music, relying on familiar pop archetypes but forswearing the catchy hooks in favor of carefully constructed songs. Still, the Cardigans don't have enough musical personality on their own to carry these songs; they've always been a surprisingly workmanlike band -- their performances here are sympathetic and intricate -- but they simply can't rise above this subpar material. [The American release, which followed over a year after the Canadian and European issues, included a bonus DVD featuring three videos and three live tracks, plus interviews.] ~ John Bush
$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1998 | Universal Music AB

$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1994 | Universal Music AB

$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 1996 | Universal Music AB

For listeners who had caught up with the Cardigans on their breakout album, Life, the group's third album was a confusing pastiche which included several conventional pop songs, but also added tracks with left-field arrangements and some (comparatively) disturbing lyrics. In reality, however, the group had simply returned to the mood and feel of their debut album. On Emmerdale, the melancholy was personal and solitary in nature, but here depression is focused on unfaithful lovers -- in both the songs which vocalist Nina Persson helped out with lyrics and those written by the rest of the band ("Choke," "Step on Me," "The Great Divide"). Even the single, "Lovefool," is a depressing lament of unrequited affection, and the presence of another Black Sabbath cover ("Iron Man") certainly isn't an immediate upper. Still, First Band on the Moon is saved by the Cardigans' core strengths: Persson's vocals and Svensson's arrangements. ~ John Bush
$9.99

Pop/Rock - Released May 25, 2004 | eOne Music

$12.99

Pop - Released January 1, 2005 | Universal Music AB

$4.99

Rock - Released January 1, 2003 | Universal Music AB