Someone take me to Sweden. It seems like the indie music world is starting to be flooded with Swedes. And they're all fairly awesome. One of the country's most notable exports is Emil Svanängen, or as he's referred to here, Loney, Dear. "Loney, Noir" was my first introduction to the artist, and I must say that I'm fairly impressed. In the relatively short time that the album runs, I found myself captivated, impressed, and wanting to take that trip to Sweden more than ever. By the end of it, however, I was at peace. "Loney, Noir" is one excellent album.
It begins with the solemn, yet hopeful "Sinister In A State of Hope." Svanängen's voice is strong in character, yet utterly fragile; sounding like you could shatter it with the slightest breeze. A breathy tenor, he sings earnestly, "All I want is a state of hope," and your heart breaks. The first single from the album, "I am John" is a much more upbeat affair, but no more uplifting lyrically. Svanängen mutters, "And I told you, I was never gonna let you down, never gonna let you down. But I will always let you down." The song climaxes with the smooth roar of a clarinet, drums, and tenor-goodness. It's a beautiful song, and a wonderful introduction to anyone who hasn't heard the artist yet.
"I am the Odd One" begins with the artist lamenting, "I am sorry, honestly I'm sorry, I ruined your day." The song continues with subtle whistles, the familiar clarinet, and a gentle guitar progression and is both inspiring and depressing when Svanängen sings "You got it wrong, you took a glance at me, said I'm the odd one" in the chorus. It's followed by the standout track on the album, and the incredibly remarkable "No One Can Win." The melody here is gorgeous and slowly builds into an all out heartbreaker. A line like "The sun never reaches here. The shadows have won, " is standard whiny indie rock fare, but when Emil sings it with every last bit of humanity within himself, it comes off as poetry of the utmost grandeur!
The album continues with short reflections like "I Will Call You Lover Again" and "The Meter Marks Okay," while also adding in another captivating song in "And I Won't Cause Anything at All." It possesses a steady electronic beat that complements Svanängen's voice perfectly, each at their most-subtle. The album seems to begin like a breath of fresh air. It ends here like a much-needed exhale. Softly, it is released, and it is gone. The experience of listening to "Loney, Noir" is just as refreshing.
The album bleeds with his frailty, and one can't help but think that that's part of it's appeal. While people could compare him to Bright Eyes in many ways, Conor Oberst seems almost fraudulent when compared to Loney, Dear. Perhaps it's just his more-accessible voice, but Svanängen has surprised me by crafting an album that is not only beautiful, complex, and gut-wrenching, but undeniably charming. 2007 continues to impress with so many stellar albums being consistently released. "Loney, Noir" is one of the best so far. I've still never been to Sweden, but I feel about as close to it as ever.
Recommended for fans of Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, I'm From Barcelona, and anyone who needs a breath of fresh air in music form.
1. "Sinister In a State of Hope"
2. "I Am John"
3. "Saturday Waits"
4. "I Am the Odd One"
5. "No One Can Win"
8 out of 10 Stars