While Sweden seems to have cornered the market in either sleeky electro-pop (Lykke Li, Niki & The Dove) or winningly winsome folk (First Aid Kit), their Scandinavian cousins over in Norway appear to hark back to the early ’90s tradition of staring at their shoes.
There’s a new album on its way from Oslo four-piece Maribel, who specialise in reverb-soaked guitars and narcotically blissful vocals – territory that The Megaphonic Thrift also trawl over very successfully.
The quartet are described in some quarters as a ‘supergroup’, although that definition is possibly dependent on whether you’re familiar with the ouvre of Stereo 21, Low Frequency In Stereo, Casiokids and Young Dreams. If not, then think My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth – fuzzy guitar-led melodies with some askew time signatures.
This second album follows less than a year after their debut full-length record Decay Decoy – whereas that album was possibly a little bit too much in thrall to its influences, the follow-up establishes Megaphonic Thrift’s sound a lot clearer.
While there’s still plenty of noise-pop here – opening track Tune Your Mind opens with a squall of feedback before spiralling off into a guitar riff that J Mascis would be proud of – there’s more interplay between lead singer Richard Myklebust and Linn Frøkedal. The latter’s vocals lend a much needed degree of light to songs that could easily become too sludgy at times.
The band’s commercial nous avoids that trap too – Fire Walk With Everyone is built on a lovely bassline that just floats along beautifully, while Raising Flags is guitar pop at its finest, shot through with an adrenaline-fuelled guitar riff that raises the hairs on the back of the neck.
The quieter moments are dealt with well too. Closing track Spaced Out is an appropriately named number with some angelic vocals from Frøkedal, and I Wanted You To Know is possibly the closest thing the band have to an acoustic ballad (albeit with some spooky ambient noises gurgling in the background).
Some of the tracks do seem a bit half-formed admittedly, with the second half of the album sailing a bit too close to filler for comfort. It’s probably not helped by Mykleburst’s vocals, which can sound particularly reedy at times, especially over the course of a full album.
Yet there are enough bright spots here to suggest that The Megaphonic Thrift, if they continue on this trajectory, could well become more than the sum of their substantial parts.