Loney, Dear
Loney, Noir
Sub Pop
2007
C



it’s been good lately for the kind of cuddly indie-pop that Swedish singer/songwriter Emil Svanängen makes. First, Belle and Sebastian released The Life Pursuit, which brimmed with the effervescent spirit of the best ‘60s pop. Then, Jens Lekman emerged with Oh You’re So Silent Jens, a winsome bedroom-pop record that charmed your pants off with harpsichords, chiming guitars, handclaps, and lyrics about lovelorn tomboys and vegan pancakes. Now, Svanängen—aka “Loney, Dear”—debuts on Sub Pop with the entirely self-produced Loney, Noir. It is a sweet and guileless set of acoustic indie-pop, and it is immensely charming. You will instantly fall in love with it, trip over yourself to share it with your friends, and then burn out on it in three weeks.

Svanängen’s world is uncomplicated—one where there is no problem that a profusion of clarinets, flutes, handclaps, and “sha-la-las” can’t solve. “Open your mouth and speak, while your heart’s full,” he urges on “Carrying a Stone.” There is something emotionally stunted about him, a quality he shares with fellow bedroom geniuses Badly Drawn Boy and Lekman. “I climbed a tree / The high kind,” he informs us on “And I Won’t Cause Anything,” sounding like a conspiratorial five-year-old.

His very grown-up, obsessive work ethic, however, drives the sound of the album. Svanängen endlessly embroiders his folk-pop ditties with layers of backing harmonies and instrumentation until they drip with ornamentation. His gods are the usual pop-auteur suspects, and on Loney, Noir, he borrows from a jukebox-full of well-loved sources—the pastoral charm of Village Green-era Kinks; the preternatural (and creepy) innocence of Brian Wilson; even the creamy falsetto of early Elton John. But all these august influences are subjugated towards achieving one goal: the sugar rush.

The best example is first single and blogger-favorite “I Am John.” The song breezes in on strummed acoustic guitar combined with some falsetto “na-na-nas” and Svanängen’s high, winsome voice. Then, slowly and gracefully, the song gathers momentum: a percolating bass line bubbles up, hushed clarinets and bassoons enter, all of it accented by chiming glockenspiel. Shuffling drums kick in, and everything rushes excitedly toward the sun-burst moment when Svanängen’s voice rockets up to a falsetto and the song hits an ecstatic girl-group climax. It is an irrepressibly joyful pop tune, infused with a giddy, forward swoosh that hits you in the pit of your stomach.

More or less every song on Loney, Noir chases the same high. Even relatively melancholy tracks like “I Will Call You Lover Again” end up charging off into the glorious California sunset, flutes tootling and falsettos “aahh”-ing. After the surface allure dissipates, there’s not much left to do with Loney, Noir save to marvel at Svanängen’s gift for melody, which showcases itself on throwaway moments like the infectious “da-da-da” sing-along that erupts halfway through “Hard Day 1,2,3,4.”

The biggest problem with Loney, Noir, ultimately is Svanängen’s persona. There’s no room for adult regret in his enchanted wonderland, only boyish yearning; the endearment he appends to his name—Loney, Dear—may tell you all you need to know about how he thinks about himself. Jens Lekman abjectly lusts for our affection in a similar way, but he at least injects a note of grown-up weariness into his voice. By comparison, Svanängen is a chirping sprite. Rarely does an album ingratiate itself so immediately and so quickly wear out its welcome. Spending time with Loney, Noir is like having a wiggling puppy frantically licking your face; adorable and disarming for a second, then, abruptly, cloying and overbearing.



Reviewed by: Jayson Greene
Reviewed on: 2007-02-06
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