The Scandinavian nations have in recent years seen an explosion in acclaimed pop-oriented acts, with the likes of Ida Maria, The Kissaway Trail, The Concretes, Jens Lekman, Robyn and Northern Portrait giving but a mere flavour.
Danish four-piece Treefight For Sunlight are the latest product from the northern European climes with their debut, self-titled album. Indebted more to the US West Coast pop stylings of The Beach Boys than their compatriots, their record has a feel similar to that of Hal or a richer sounding approximation of The Thrills.
The record doesn’t get off with strongest of starts, with A Dream Before Sleep. It maintains a teeth-rottingly sweet impression of an escaped fairground calliope while simultaneously going nowhere.
Thankfully, You And The New World picks up the baton and runs with it. Its incessant, infectious piano line and hypnotic, euphoric multi-part harmonies overcome the opening track’s shades of novelty; and thus begins a series of songs which show Treefight For Sunlight’s songwriting at its finest, balancing those West Coast influences with a pop sensibility all of their own making.
The Universe Is A Woman is the moment on the album where the band sound most like The Beach Boys, with its lazy, warm tones and use of vocal harmonies being accompanied by the equally warm and rich tones that remain prevalent throughout the record as a whole. They Never Did Know offers a surprise candidate for this year’s best summer driving song, as suited to a jaunt through the Cotswolds as much as California.
But it’s lead single and album highlight Facing The Sun which steals the show. Ditching the West Coast influences for a pop sound all of their own, with a gorgeous chiming melody and staccato vocals forming a listening experience which is a joy to behold right through to its concluding rolling piano line.
After a strong run of songs, it’s inevitable that at somepoint the album will have a downturn in form. What’s surprising is how little the form actually does dip. Aside from the 90-second instrumental of Tambourhinoceros Jam and the disposable Riddles In Rhymes, the second half of the album stands up on its own remarkably well, with closing tracks What Became Of You And I and Time Stretcher showing a subdued, more mature songwriting style than is otherwise prevalent throughout the album.
This is an album that isn’t afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve, yet still offers something with enough originality to place it above criticism of being generic or plagiaristic. While the high-pitched vocals won’t be to everyone’s taste, Treefight For Sunlight have a genuine ability to create instantly arresting melodies that – on the whole – don’t sound overly sweet. And the album’s close points to a potential new direction for the future. Recommended.