The Swedish band's sophomore effort and Merge debut is the follow-up to 2005's critically acclaimed "Howl Howl Gaff Gaff" on Capitol. "Our Ill Wills" is a collaborative effort between the group and producer Bjorn Yttling (of Peter, Bjorn and John). This band is all about the rush, the emotion, and the infectious melodies that along with youth, good hair, and the endless pursuit of love, make up the foundation of all great pop music.
In a sense, after a slew of EPs, singles, and 2005's Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (the U.S. version of which was reorganized and augmented with various tracks from said EPs and singles), this is Shout Out Louds' first proper full-length, and the incessant touring seems to have aged their sound like a fine wine. While Howl Howl Gaff Gaff reaped much of its flavor from twee indie pop and sheer ebullience, Our Ill Wills dives headlong into the new wave influences that previously lay beneath the surface. The inspiration is immediately apparent--Brit classics like The Cure, The Modern Lovers, The Smiths (one song--not a cover--is even titled "Meat is Murder"), et al. OK, the accent's different, but the upbeat-but-melancholy hop is undeniable. The pop perfection here is due in no small part to the man behind the boards, Björn Yttling (he of the sandwich-acronymed Peter, Björn and John). Simple string arrangements and washes of texture are draped over each song. Percussion by Yttling's bandmate, John Eriksson, perfectly augments most songs (further solidifying those Head on the Door era Cure comparisons). Witness the woodpecker woodblocks on "Impossible," or the the samba-esque a gogo bells of the first single, "Tonight I Have to Leave It," cleverly decorating its dour sing-song. "You Are Dreaming" is a slinky, tom-driven, lost-love rocker. Later in the album, playful but gut-wrenching naïve pop songs recall Moe Tucker's vocal on the Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking with You," like "Blue Headlights," with keyboardist Bebban's cracking question, "We are good people, aren't we?," and "Meat is Murder," a simple tearjerker with acoustic guitar, bells, and Adam Olenius' wistful tale. "Hard Rain" closes the album, its Cars keyboard lead no indicator of the upcoming noise jam to complete the album. Say what you will about influences on sleeves, this is pop music at its best: nostalgic and angst-ridden, but ultimately life-affirming. Shout Out Louds have found a winning formula. --Jason Pace