Ryan Gosling. Junior Senior. At first glance, the Hollywood heart-throb star of Drive and Crazy Stupid Love may not have much in common with the Danish duo who had a big hit with Move Your Body in 2003 and then promptly disappeared from sight, but Lars Vognstrup is the unlikely figure who connects them.
For Vognstrup has been something of a Zelig figure of late, from being a touring member of Junior Senior’s live band for a few years, to hanging out in Los Angeles where he DJ’d, joined Alex Ebert’s pre-Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero‘s band IMA Robot and played with Gosling’s inevitable musical project Dead Man’s Bones. And as if all this isn’t enough for Vognstrup, he’s also got his own band.
Baby We Could Die Tomorrow is the second album from Lars & The Hands Of Light and sounds pretty much what you’d expect from a Scandinavian who’s been dwelling on the fringes of various music scenes. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing – the songs collected here are strong, confident and possess that peculiarly Nordic trait of sounding world-wearily melancholic and on the brink of euphoria at the same time, but there’s also a strange lack of identity running through the album.
Opening track Time To Glow has an uplifting, sunny atmosphere with a terrific clipped guitar sound, a sound that’s repeated on Kiss You In The Doorway – a strange if beguiling mix of disco and indie pop with Vognstrup’s oddly mournful vocals holding sway. It’s even better when Vognstrup’s sister Line takes lead vocals, with How Much We Fell being a particular highlight: gorgeous, swooning orchestral pop with more than a nod to compatriots The Cardigans.
Yet these moments of inspiration are sadly matched by a fair degree of filler, especially in the album’s mid-section. Hollywood I Know She Would is a dirge of a ballad, while Herd is sadly unmemorable, despite an intriguing opening lyrical salvo about “Celebrities visiting soldiers on the front line”. The title track ends the album on an oddly meandering note, while End Of Summer is so reminiscent of Doves, you almost think you’re listening to an outtake from The Last Broadcast.
Maybe the problem is with Vognstrup’s rather too gloomy vocals as when Line takes over, the entire album seems to come alive. The aforementioned How Much We Fell is good enough, but Shiny Bright Star is exactly as its title implies – big, sparkling and, yes, bright, with Line Vognstrup sounding a dead-ringer for Nina Persson. Next time round, a few more moments like that should see Lars & The Hands Of Light step up from a pretty good band to a great band.