elle Carlberg, lead singer of Swedish indie popsters Edson, sounds anxious. One minute into his debut solo album and we find Carlberg watching a documentary on the death of Warren Zevon and pondering his own demise: Would his friends be sufficiently glowing in their eulogies? Would they remember him as “he who wrote all those wonderful songs about being smart / Songs that were witty and pretty”? Judging by Everything. Now!, the answer to the latter question has to be an emphatic yes. The album is indeed frequently pretty and always very witty—and that’s exactly how he gets away with the sometimes-excruciating levels of self-awareness throughout.
Carlberg sings with a soft, malleable voice that’s rather like a lisp-free Stuart Murdoch; if the aforementioned “Musikbyrån Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack,” with its tender acoustic opening and expansive chorus doesn’t make you think of Belle & Sebastian, “Bastards Don’t Blush” soon will. An early highlight, its tale of an overconfident rival comes complete with cute incongruous swearing, even cuter phonetic pronunciation of “corduroy,” and bright, jangly guitars that put musical exclamation marks in all the right places. It couldn’t be much more like the Scots, in other words. Unlike most imitators, though, Carlberg has a lot more in common with the Trevor Horn assisted B&S of Dear Catastrophe Waitress than with If You’re Feeling Sinister, and, over the course of an album, his rich pop exudes enough joy and confidence to carve out a personality of its own.
That personality is characterized by Carlberg’s sharp, wry humor—one of the album’s strongest selling points. Together with the wounded beauty and perfectly placed “bom-bom-bom-bom” backing vocals of “Go To Hell, Miss Rydell,” it’s a humor that makes it hard not to root for him even as he takes a critic to task for her harsh words. Well, that and the fear of being next.
Carlberg is 37, as you can work out from his exuberant, mock nostalgic “Summer of ‘69” (no, not that one) and its celebration of the months just before he was born. It comes as a bit of a surprise. He doesn’t sound it, and given twee-pop’s celebration of the childish you might expect him to have grown out of it by now. On reflection, though, it makes sense; one of the things that sets Carlberg apart is his maturity and his aforementioned self-awareness.
To Carlberg’s credit, Everything. Now! works even when he finally takes things seriously. The spoken interludes and mournful strings of “Mind the Gap” capture perfectly the tragedy and absurdity in the everyday (a train driver warning of beggars, a teacher espousing misguided philosophy) while he ruefully questions his inability to find solutions or act. It’s all too easy to relate to, making for a sobering end to a very enjoyable record.
Reviewed by: Iain Forrester
Reviewed on: 2006-11-09