Thursday, January 22, 2009

Review: Loney, Dear - Dear John (* * * *)

Emil Svanängen, the driving force behind Loney, Dear, is releasing his latest effort next week entitled Dear John. Although only his second album to hit the U.S., this is actually the Swedish musician's fifth offering of shoegazey, electro-folk tunes. It's unlikely that most of us have heard Loney, Dear's entire catalog, but apparently Dear John is the final piece of a "five-album puzzle" that doesn't mean the end of the band but the "end of this particular journey."

Dear John contains a mixture of angst, loneliness, and heartache similar to the band's previous work, but the overall tone this time around is decidedly more sinister and dark. The occasional glimmer of hope can still be found, but they occur less frequently and feel dulled by the noisy, swirling buzz of electronics behind many of the album's 11 tracks. Svanängen frequently treads the line between intimate and epic, taking songs that feel private and lonely and filling them almost uncomfortably full with layers of sound and thundering climaxes. His unique approach, while not easily digested upon first listen, provides a strange and exciting journey throughout Dear John.

The brooding, complex sound carries a hefty emotional weight throughout the record, starting with the first single and one of several upbeat tunes, "Airport Surroundings." The song begins with a simple bass/percussion line before adding layers of synth, guitar, and vocals behind Svanängen's unsettled lyrics. Following is the equally tumultuous "Everything Turns To You," with an intro of hazy static and distant electric guitar slowly expanding into a noisy, angry anthem. Elsewhere, he showcases his more delicate side with the warmer, more hopeful-sounding "I Was Only Going Out" and the hauntingly beautiful closer "Dear John."

Svanängen's exploration of more distinctive styles pays off especially well on "Under a Silent Sea" with its electronic foundation eventually growing into a full-blown techno explosion, and "Summers," a celebratory tune with wistful harmonica, gorgeous harmony, and more organic percussion. In fact, he sounds so at peace (relatively speaking) that you may find yourself wishing he could lighten up more often.

Taken as a whole, Dear John is perhaps one sad, lonely ode too long, but Loney, Dear have created a striking collection of song that shows the band taking risks, moving forward, and refusing to take the easy way out. The album drops January 27th on Polyvinyl.

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Loney, Dear's homepage