Strangely Beautiful was my first exposure to the Swedish duo comprising of Johan Angergård and Karolina Komstedt. And it's been a sweet albeit mildly apprehensive journey ever since. A friend once told me that the quieter you become the more people will strain to listen to you, and that's part of Club 8's allure.
Their 5th album opens with my favorite all-time Club 8 track: "As Lights Go Out" - a superbly crafted mid-tempo pop song about the erosion of time and it's effect on fading love. The lush synthesizer drone wraps around a listener like a luxuriant coat before Komstedt's now established reverberating hushed vocals enters. Angergård's tremeloed guitar follows, emanating ethos against Club 8's arch-enemy, the ever advancing time.
Vulnerable, honest, a touch of neediness born from doubt, this song gently opens the vista into Club 8's world.
"What Shall We Do Next" picks up the torch and follows the same tempo leading into the lines "we want someone to long for, we want them here, all we can strive for, we want it now, and when it's here, we don't know what to do next."
"I Wasn't Much Of A Fight" gains momentum. Though drama is sung about, small musical elements weave together to make a polish pop song: minimal trumpets, expertly placed tambourines, doubled vocals in radio voice, all around a whispering voice.
In the unique style that only Club 8 can evoke, "Stay By My Side" is a slow love song of longing, sung with a saccharine sweetness. Listen carefully however, and you will hear these devilishly cynical lines:
"stay by my side
as we hope for someone to show
don't leave my side
though it's not what we hoped for
you may take what you need when you want to
and use me up if you wish
feelings stay the same as i'm asleep"
(Stay by My Side)
"Cold Hearts" moves in a stately Bergmanesque procession towards an even slower, ruminative short acoustic guitar instrumental "Between Waking and Sleeping." The latter is a track that serves as a prelude to the fugue that follows: "This Is The Morning," a wonderful and gorgeously fleeting acoustic song lead by Angergård, joined by Komstedt.
"This Is The Morning" not only shows the musical daring of Angergård: the pause after the lines "follow the stars of the light" is held longer than is safe, until one almost thinks the song is over (classical fans will be reminded of Claudio Arrau's heroic pause in the intro in Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto or Ruth Laredo's first movement in Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Chopin), but it also displays one of the most endearing qualities of Club 8; their songs, like Swedish design philosophy, exhibits chaste economy, never needing to be longer than is necessary. There is never a moment of overindulgence where the same lines are repeated ad nauseam.
"The Next Step You'll Take" carries their signature tradition of coming off like some cheery Mary Tyler Moore soundtrack with the jarring lyrics:
"we'll look out for you.
it's not so young here...
surely time will come to an end soon
but it's still on your side
and everything must come to an end here
but you can still leave gracefully"
(from The Next Step You'll Take)
"The Beauty Of The Way We Are Living" is pure popcraft; paternal, concerned, benevolent, inviting listeners into their accommodating club. "Saturday Night Engine" is a raucous lo-fi rock piece featuring Angergård doing a strangely beautiful Swede Cockney in radio voice.
"We Move In Silence" features a plangent organ above the band, leaving us with the final closing admonishment that until the next Club 8 album, time is steadily gnawing at the gates:
"by doing it right now
we're not counting the time
and we won't measure
what we feel inside."