American ex-pats Dag För Dag seem, by virtue of their biography, to teeter precariously close to a number of popular music pitfalls. First of all, they’re a brother-sister duo, Sarah and Jacob Snavely. The only thing more readily twee is the married couple duo. Secondly, they’re Americans who’ve taken up residence in Sweden, and their music is channeled through the lens of disjointedness with their surroundings; they’re the fabled strangers in a strange land. Interesting for them, sure. But what does this mean for their music, or for their listeners?
Dag För Dag literally translates to “day by day” in Swedish, so they can be forgiven the mysterious pretension of their seemingly arbitrary umlaut. And, as mentioned above, they do tread dangerous ground – but they do it deftly and with just enough personality to keep things interesting to someone other than their mum.
Boo is the duo’s second attempt at a debut. Their previous effort was pared down and released as an EP in 2009 (Shooting From The Shadows). This time round, they’ve recruited producers Richard Swift and Johannes Berglund – the latter of whom succeeds in invigourating the album with a decidedly Scandinavian frostiness – to balance out the sound. The result is a proper debut that’s obsessive in its presentation, and surprisingly consistent given its backstory.
Jacob and Sarah trade off vocal duties. Jacob’s voice is ultimately middle-of-the-road enough so as to be largely forgettable, somewhere between Interpol‘s Paul Banks, a sedated Jack White (most notably on Boxed Up In Pine) and Chin Up Chin Up‘s Jeremy Bolen (especially with his faux southern drawl on Silence As The Verb).
Sarah seems a bit more willing to explore her vocal range, and as such comes off as the more intriguing vocal presence. She’s at times even downright arresting, as on the stunning acapella ending to Silence As The Verb, sounding a bit like The Cranberries‘ Dolores O’Riordan. They often blend well, as on the stellar Hands And Knees, which shakes under the weight of its pounding drums and guitar feedback.
Musically, Dag För Dag is all American pop song structure bathed in a frigid Scandinavian winteriness. The result is an album that is at once accessible and appealing for the casual pop listener (see the excellent lead single, Animal, which features a rousing refrain by Sarah: “Let’s go!”) but also disconcerting and difficult in its seemingly intentional aloofness.
The guitars and drums generally appear front and centre with feedback grandeur and squealing pitch-bends from the former, and alternating levels of pounding, rollicking freneticism and icy understatement from the latter. Favourable comparisons can be made with the output of both The Magic Numbers and their direct Scandinavian peers Thus:Owls.
Boo’s most endearing moments come when the Snavelys allow their Swedish surroundings to bleed into the mix the most: quiet moments with piano, strings, and hushed vocals (the haunting Came In Like A Knife). But while Boo is not a bad album by any means, Dag För Dag’s brand of Scandinavian Americana (compelling though it may be) just isn’t enough to set them apart from everyone else – at least, not yet.