For those of us who don’t know much about Sweden and aren’t afraid to cast broad aspersions it might be acceptable to suggest that the Swedes are great with at least two things. The first is putting together flat-pack furniture that needs a special tool. The other, at least in an Anglo-centric view of the world, is pure, unadulterated pop music.
It’s unlikely that Lake Heartbeat will ever be as invasive a radio presence as ABBA, The Cardigans or even Roxette, but being released by indie label Service (Jens Lekman, Studio, The Embassy) in all likelihood they aren’t searching for that kind of infamy. The band certainly knows how to construct a proper pop song. Not only that but they can string enough of them in line in such a way as to create an album that is put together even better than your EXPEDIT bookcase or that BJURSTA dining table.
Mystery, the opener for their debut album Trust In Numbers, begins with an electronic wash that quickly fades into a fast, folky acoustic guitar riff with a soft dance beat behind it and J Kasks’ breathless vocals kindly asking if he might be able to help us out with a few things. Pipedream follows, which has more of a singalong hook to it than almost anything else on the album, the chorus claiming “I’m killing off a pipedream/I need a witness” ad infinitum.
It’s clear through the first half of the album that producer Dan Lissvik (The Cr�pes, Font�n) has created a sound as icy-cool as the Swedish climate. It might be a weird Scandanavian joke to coincide the album’s release in time for the northern hemisphere’s winter. This is a time when we could all do with some warming up, but twangy, undistorted guitars bounce off programmed beats that sound like blue chrome. Little wonder then that the beach and ocean depicted on the album cover are only illusions, merely a mural painted on a cold concrete wall. The band’s stark website mostly contains similar images of blank walls and abandoned or empty homes, each completely devoid of any sign of life.
Once Blue Planet, the first single off the album, has reached an end you’ll be ready to crawl under a duvet with a chocolate drink and a hot water bottle. Only then does the standout track of the disc, Golden Chain, bloom into life with a big, warm Friday I’m In Love-type riff. Seven songs in to a 10 track disc, it comes at the perfect point in a journey through Swedish pop. The slightly less warm Making Conversation follows, and it has the same big drum sounds as the previous track, but only a hint of guitar, the rhythm in the track coming mostly from heavily synthesised keys playing broadly drawn chords.
The final two songs continue the gradual loss of warmth. The penultimate track Between Dreams mixes elevator Muzak synth with Kasks’ whispering Pet Shop Boys singing style followed by Let It Die, which is about as cold a song title as could be hoped for.
Seen as a set of 10 single songs, there is a lack of hooks and variety precluding the album from being a classic or essential purchase. But as a whole, there’s a journey to be had here. If you enjoy dreamy meanders through an Arctic tundra dotted with the occasional shaft of warm sunlight, you could find your own piece of flat packed heaven here.