Shout Out Louds
Feb 26, 2010 Issue #30 - Winter 2010 - Vampire Weekend
On "1999," the opening track of Shout Out Louds' third album, singer/songwriter Adam Olenius sings that he "never felt so alive since 1999." That was two years before Shout Out Louds was formed in Stockholm, Sweden. A decade later, the band found itself in a different place. Literally. Olenius wrote most of Work in Australia, keyboardist/vocalist Bebban Stenborg spent her time between albums in Los Angeles, and Work was recorded in Seattle with Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins, Built to Spill), the band's first ever non-Swedish producer. So, perhaps not coincidentally, "1999," an effervescent pop melody with jumpy piano and a rambunctious guitar workout, is the one song on Work that truly harkens back to the band's earlier days.
Press materials suggest that the album title reflects that music is the band's work. Unfortunately, for much of the album, it sounds that way. Missing are the lively, percussion-driven textures and tense sonic urgency that made the band's last album, Our Ill Wills, so exciting. For Work, Olenius and company have stripped the songs down to their most unadorned. Such tracks as "Fall Hard" and "Play the Game" nicely expose depressed sentiment and emotional longing, but too often the musical backdrop lingers on downbeat textures and bored affectation. "The Candle Burned Out" is a languorous drumbeat-led, ethereal slow burn that can't be saved even when the track kicks up (relatively speaking) at the three-and-a-half minute mark. On "Throwing Stones," over an easygoing acoustic guitar rhythm, Olenius states that despite the looks of things, he's not slowing down. Unfortunately, it's hard to believe him. On Work, Olenius doesn't sound angry. He doesn't sound disaffected. And he certainly doesn't sound happy. He sounds resigned.
Our Ill Wills was a statement of purpose, the sound of a band perhaps on the edge, but definitely on the verge of something terrific. And in that context, it's hard not to view Work as a bit of a letdown. Sure, Shout Out Louds have a gift for melody, and they use a light pop touch better than many. But after their masterwork, one expects more than 10 easygoing melodies. (www.shoutoutlouds.com)
Author rating: 4/10
Average reader rating: 6/10