Over the course of the past four years, one Emil (eemeel) Svanängen (sva-nengen) has put out four self-released albums of orchestral indie pop that doesn't betray his rather modest recording set-up. Recorded in a small studio apartment and in the basement of his parents house when he found the time, his albums are a giddy mixture of guitar-based pop tracks with flourishes of everything from clarinet to organ to strings and chimes. Loney, Dear is never really rocking, but at times it's definitely exuberant, as the young Swede not only has a wide vocal range, but a real ear for melody and a great sense of developing his songs.
Loney, Noir was one of two albums that Svanängen originally released back in 2005 and the second to get a proper CD release (Sologne was re-released last year on Dear John Recordings). He's been compared to Sufjan Stevens, and that comparison is somewhat apt insofar as the two creating slightly rough, ornate pop music. Loney, Noir is a short album, with ten songs clocking in at just over thirty minutes, but it makes good use of that space with a nice amount of variety.
"Sinister In A State Of Hope" opens the album and is one of the more traditional sounding tracks on the album as it builds with quiet keyboard and guitar instrumentation with a small curl of horns at the end that make it an ideal introduction. Things pick up quite a bit on the delightful "I Am John," and Svanängen really shines on the track building the song slowly over the course of three and a half minutes. By the time it's reached the end, some wheezy bass synth, chimes, horns, and multi-part vocals (including a falsetto that sounds strangely like Barry Gibbs of the Bee Gees) have all come together in a joyous little rock out moment..
The rest of the album is nicely varied while keeping a loosely similar feel. "I Am The Odd One" is a slightly more melancholy track that waltzes along with flutes, chimes, keyboards and a marching rhythm section while whispered, understated vocals tell a song-long apology. As with the previous track, most of the lyrics on the album deal with relationships in some way or another, but everything is handled in a playful and/or personal enough way that it never really gets too sappy or weepy. It helps when the music behind it all has a playful touch, and the 8-bit keyboards and horns on "I Will Call You Lover Again" are a perfect example. At just under four minutes, "Carrying A Stone" is another standout on the album, as the track progresses like one big crescendo, rollicking and rolling while adding horns, chimes, fuzzy bass, multi-part vocals, and snappy drumming. It definitely wears its heart on its sleeve more often than not, but it's a tribute to Loney, Dear that it never feels like a chore. Loney, Noir is an excellent little album and a great precursor to spring that seems so far away right now.