Loney Dear – Dear John
Polyvinyl Records – Jan. 27, 2009
By Matthew Ralph
“With you inside my ears, with your words print to my eyes. And it’s so hard to change, from wrong to everything O.K. It’s so hard to change, when everything turns to you. Violence, come closer. Believe in me. I’m rowing, on a sea so wide. Dove into a river, wider than we had seen. And you, you.”
I usually chalk it up as a good sign when a song at the back end of an album ends up being the song with the most plays on my iPod.
The above lyrics, from the song “Violent,” capture what for me is a culminating moment of Emil Svanangen’s latest Loney Dear recording. While the caffeinated opening track, “Airport Surroundings,” is the song making the Internet rounds in promotion of the album, it is the next-to-the-last song “Violent” that provides a clearer window into a record that should earn plenty of high marks. The song starts with the sound of a woodwind, gives way to a tender harmony and slowly budding percussion that is driven home with the soaring falsetto delivery of the word violence. Words like enchanting, cathartic and hypnotic come to mind as it plays over my headphones.
All are words I’d use to describe an album with a presentation similar to when Mr. Svanangen’s handle still had a comma — a graceful blend of richly textured keys, woodwinds, percussion and horns backing Svanangen’s falsetto-prone tenor. The difference might be more experience in the studio or a more ambitious effort and grandiose vision because the Sub Pop debut Loney, Noir doesn’t sound quite as heady or mind-boggling by comparison now.
Whether it’s the soaring chorus of voices on “Distant,” the distinct pipe organ intro and harmonica sounds throughout “Summers,” the techno vibe of “Under a Silent Sea” or the build-up from single-voice lullaby to full-blown instrumentation of “Harsh Words” this an album populated with moments where those of us who appreciate heady and aesthetically provocative music can rejoice.
Repeated listens (the album has basically been on repeat since I received an advance copy last week) have done little to diminish the overall impact of an album that for me at least has pleasantly surpassed expectations. Of course, the fact that I can recite lines from the end of the album almost as easily as the beginning probably already gave that away.